Doctorow strikes a successful balance between agenda and story in his newest near-future, pre-dystopian thriller.
Marcus Yallow is at a loss; he’s dropped out of college because of finances and struggles to find employment in a terrible recession. Through a lucky encounter and thanks to his reputation as a technological guru and activist—a reputation left over from Little Brother (2008)—Marcus lands a job as webmaster for an independent politician campaigning as a reformer. Even as Marcus works to effect change through legitimate channels, he grapples with an ethical quandary. Frenemy Masha has given him some confidential information as insurance to release should anything happen to her—which it does. He’s tasked with sorting through the massive potential leak, making sense of the secrets revealed, and coming up with a method of release that is credible, will attract notice and won’t be linked back to him. After all, the secrets contained reveal large-scale privacy breaches and government corruption that involves military contractors like the intimidating figures following Marcus around. Such nerd-favorite icons as 3-D printers, Wil Wheaton and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic serve as in-jokes, but the concise explanations of real-world technology and fast pace make it accessible to less technologically savvy readers.
Outstanding for its target audience, and even those outside Doctorow’s traditional reach may find themselves moved by its call to action. (afterwords, bibliography) (Science fiction. 13 & up)