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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Homeland - Cory Doctorow I don’t really seek out overtly political books—mainly nonfiction, but when I come across a fiction book that’s very political, I tend to side-eye it a little more. There’s a reason why books like Fahrenheit 451 works so well is that the politics they discuss aren’t so topically specific. And as a personal preference, I don’t really seek out books that I know I’m going to disagree with or something that’s way more extreme than I believe. (I consider myself a moderate, for the record.) While I consider Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother a great discussion of American security and psychology post-9/11, Homeland feels more like a personal manifesto for Occupy Internet. I didn’t think it works as well—my own misgivings of “A sequel to Little Brother? Really?” aside. (Not that I scoffed at it, just that I wasn’t jumping up and down for “MORE MORE!” )One of the big problems I had overall was the retreading of major plot points from the first book. I do like Marcus is still dealing with the massive psychological trauma inflicted on him from Little Brother and that it’s not just touched on once or twice, it’s fully explored. I wasn’t as big of a fan of the fact that his torturer, Carrie Johnstone, was dragged back into the plot as one of the main antagonists’ lackeys. I wouldn’t have minded it if Marcus had thought he saw Johnstone at Burning Man, only for him to mistake another woman for her. I actually didn’t mind it when the hackers taunted Marcus with her hacked files and his ‘cowardice’ for not making them public. But having her as a player in the larger events didn’t sit well with me, and it does feel like Doctorow’s rehashing here. My other major problem is that I really don’t know what the book’s message is. Going in, with the opening chapters set at Burning Man and the implication of sensitive leaked documents, it feels like that the core of the book is going to be about information and it’s widespread availability. (The post-script by the late Aaron Swartz also nods towards this.) But a quarter of the way in, it begins to turn into a rail against the American two-party system and for that, I think it loses its focus. I’m not being critical about Doctorow’s own political beliefs, but this is where the book turns from discussion to manifesto—I never felt like I was reading about a character whenever Marcus was attending the various protests and I was really taken out of the story. And for as much as Marcus rants on big corporations ruining the economy and forcing people to lose their jobs, it’s an extremely privileged ranting. There is never a discussion on poverty nor homelessness or what cash-strapped families are actually like, and if renting out driveaway space is considered drastic measures by Marcus’s standards, that is not even lower middle-class. My family’s income is about the same as Marcus’s and dude, that’s not what being cash-strapped is like. (Allow me to say that I’ve been very fortune with my family’s financial situation, and I acknowledge that.) This is not completely disagreeing with Doctorow’s points, but in Little Brother, Marcus did come to a conclusion at some points that his knee-jerk reactions are probably not the best way to go about starting a revolution. There’s none of that here. Marcus is (rightfully) more jaded in this book, but even when he tries to work within the system, he ultimately throws up his hands and goes “Nope, can’t work. I’m done.” There is a bit of middle ground with his working with independent Senator Joseph Noss, but by the end of the book, even that’s been chucked. Homeland’s main strength, however, is showing us how the central core of Marcus and his friends have evolved since the events of Little Brother. I liked that Jolu was ready to help Marcus after years of minimal contact, and that Marcus was willing to reach out to Darryl and Van. And while Ange is still a largely supporting character that doesn’t do much aside from help out Marcus, I do like that she finally calls him out on a lot of his faults and ultimately breaks up with him. As I mentioned above, I liked that Marcus is confronted with a bunch of immature hackers who try to rile him up and post damning files about Marcus’s former foes. (I actually liked that the self-proclaimed master hacker of the first book gets hacked; it’s a nice touch of hubris.) But unfortunately, a lot of this takes a backseat to the larger political discussion at hand. While I’m not completely opposed to the idea of a Little Brother sequel in general, Homeland doesn’t make as good as a follow-up. It’s not to say that it’s a bad book overall—as I said, I liked how Marcus’s PTSD was handled and how he’s still haunted by his past. But the message just didn’t work for me at times, and it felt like a retread of the first book at points.