While attending the Burning Man festival, Marcus receives a USB drive from a hacker, Masha, with more than 800,000 incriminating government documents, and she advises Marcus to publish the material if anything happens to her. Meanwhile, a contact at the festival recommends Marcus to California Senate Independent candidate Joe Noss as a webmaster, and he has his first real job, but can he fulfill his promise to Masha and keep his new position? Doctorow sends readers into a world of Darknet secret websites, Occupy protests, kidnapping and interrogation, and hacking.
Clearing out my queue of “young adult” novels, I just finished “Homeland,” Cory Doctorow’s sequel to “Little Brother.”
“Homeland” starts out at Burning Man, which was timely since the festival just ended a few weeks ago while I was reading (you can check out some cool videos here and here). 19-year old Marcus Yallow, the protagonist from “Little Brother” runs into his old nemesis Masha who gives him a thumb drive with over 800,000 incriminating government documents with instructions to publish them everyone if she should disappear. The next day, at the end of the festival, Marcus sees Carrie Johnstone, the former DHS agent who waterboarded him in the previous book, snatching Masha right before an explosion rocks the playa.
Back in San Francisco, Marcus and his girlfriend Ange struggle with how to review and anonymously release the trove of sensitive and controversial documents without being snatched themselves. Marcus finds himself walking a fine line when he gets a job as the technology ninja for the independent Joe Noss Senate campaign, trying to use the documents to further Joe’s campaign against the established parties without implicating himself (or Joe) in their release. Government interests, politics, large corporations, kidnapping goons, occupy-like protests, rootkits, paranoid virtual machines, and cool hackerspace technology all play a role as the story unfolds.
I read “Little Brother” over four years ago, so trying to recall some of the plot lines, characters, and their relationships was difficult. That being said, you don’t have to have read “Little Brother” to enjoy “Homeland.” Having read it right after “Pirate Cinema” I was stuck but the similarities: a male, teenaged first-person narrative involved in somewhat underground and political movements trying to change society for the better with a healthy dose of current events and technology. It’s another timely read, given the recent controversy around the NSA’s PRISM program and other world events.