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Reading Little Brother. And other Things

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Hum. It is one AM and I am up reading the review copy of Little Brother that came with the UPS truck today. This isn't particularly non-standard behavior for me, what with the 1:30 AM average bed time. I'm going to post sometime soon about my thoughts about accepting a book that I want in exchange for agreeing to read the book (oh no, not the briar patch!) and talking about it either online or in the physical world. Unfortunately, I'm still figuring out my thoughts on the subject. I think they'll mostly be shaped like "I'm fine with it, but I do wonder if how much my perceptions are being shifted by the fact that I was given a shiny object that I wanted very much right before I started reading the book. And by the standard "wanting to do things that please the people doing the study/promotion/what have you" response that almost every human gets when they are asked questions or given things.

Now I'm going to play with metaphor.

So far (138 pages in) this book is reading like very good Neil Stephenson. (Cory Doctrow writes like the better parts of Stephenson's work in general. So I could have said "this reads like Cory Doctorow" but since this is a Cory Doctrow book, that would be less than useful.) Take Cryptonomicon. Make it more accessable. Double the amount of Civil Liberties stuff in the book. Make the character a particularly un-annoying 17 year old. He's brash and arrogant, he's a smart 17 year old after all, but he's a lot less annoying than most of the smart 17 year olds I've met recently. Update the pop culture references to today. Update the tech to today. Make it a shorter book, one short enough not to suffer wrist damage while reading it. (Cryptonomicon is one of the strongest arguments for e-paper. Gah that is a monster.) Up the fun by a bit. You have Little Brother.

I keep seeing reviews from people who use words on paper as a professional medium that say this is one of the most important books they've read. Usually folks who aren't neophobes. I think they might be right. The message is definitely incredibly important. There are some other books in the genre, including some that were published before the inception of the DHS, that say the same things this book is saying (as of 1/3rd of the way through.) This book is saying them though, in a manner that may well get them read. Concrete example. I think that Crypnomicon had the message and the information, but it lacked the accessibility to bring this to the people who need it. I was pretty much exactly the right audience for Stephenson's Book. Anyone who had a little more trouble following the plots, was a little less interested in any one of the stories, found the explanations a little harder to follow, thought the book needed to be a little shorter, or had less tolerence for a multiple page discussion of how to eat a perfect bowl of Captain Crunch probably didn't finish the book. That limits the audience, especially the young audience, to a particular set of subsets of nerdy geeks. Crypto geeks, WW2 Espionage Geeks, Geek Culture Geeks, and Hardware Geeks are all likely to finish Cryptonimicon with smiles on their faces. Broadway Musical Geeks with short fingers? They'll probably hurl the book against the wall out of sheer boredom and hand cramps after 50 pages. On the other hand, I have it on good authority that they readily and rapidly devour Little Brother. Additional Jokes Temporarily Suspended

Ooh! I'm a big fan of how the world and how the tech works exposition if done well. Stephenson, Lynch, and Heinlein come up as my first thoughts of examples of people who can do it right. Doctorow does it almost flawlessly throughout the book. All other lesser writers? I want to point out something that these people almost never do that you do and need to stop doing. Some asshole writing teacher sometime in the past told people never to put exposition in the text. Make it part of dialog. That can work. Except when you are explaining basic pieces of the setting by having two people talk. The "As you know" monster will come and beat you in the night with a rock if you do that. If you have to choose between An as you know style passage and just having the narrator have a half page or page segue, well the segue is much better. I am now typing with my eyes shut. I am done. Good Night.

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