Premise: When terrorists attack San Francisco, killing thousands, the city becomes a police state. Techy teenager Marcus and his equally savvy friends are caught in the middle, interrogated by the Department of Homeland Security for crimes they did not commit. When Marcus is finally released, he decides to show the DHS why their invasive tactics fail.
About: I was super excited to read this book, having recently heard a lot about Rand Paul’s filibuster on civil liberties. I confess, though, when I first read this book, I rolled my eyes at all the talk about a “police state.” But a few days later, the San Bernardino shooting rocked my state and this book became a little more relevant.
In this book, Marcus argues that terrorists are only getting better at avoiding our counter-measures. And unless we are improving at the same rate or more quickly, how can we expect to stay ahead of the game? We can’t. So when US-loving hackers like Marcus, the thoroughly teenaged rebel protagonist, find ways around security, we should be grateful that they pointed out the loophole before a terrorist did. This is one of the points Marcus tries to make to the DHS. They don’t appreciate this work, however—they bully him for making their jobs more difficult.
Overall: I honestly found Marcus more than a little obnoxious, but, well, my husband is in law-enforcement. Other than the lack of character sympathy (character-development took a backseat to worldbuilding and thematic development), this novel sports great techno writing, a believable (and foreseeable) Dystopia and an unusual take on civil liberties, hackers and whistleblowers. There’s nothing else out there like this book, for teens, that’s for sure.
Recommendation: YA, Adults-who-YA, Dystopia-addicts.
***3/5 STARS for uniqueness
Awards: Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008), Locus Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Book (2009), Golden Duck Award for Hal Clement Award for Young Adult (2009), Sunburst Award for Young Adult (2009)