With the passage of the Patriot Act of 2009, all electronic communication devices used in schools will have a Mind Police chip that automatically sends logs to the school’s office of testing and assessment, the vice-principal’s office, and the Department of Homeland Security for data-mining. Of course, all students have discovered how to disable the chips. Turning the Page (E-books and their impact on libraries) School Library Journal, November 2004.
On Tom Hoffman's recommendation. I just finished reading Cory Doctorow's intriguing book Little Brother (free dowload here). Authored by a former director for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, the book is a cautionary/action/YA novel about a young San Franciso hacker pursued by the Department of Homeland Security after the Bay Bridge suffers a 9/11-type attack. Caught in their sweep, detained and humiliated by their officers, and concerned for a friend who was not released from "Gitmo-by-the-Bay," Marcus uses his hacking and gaming skills to foil the heavy-booted authoritarianism that descends on his city.
I really enjoyed Doctorow's Department of Homeland Security villains. No monstrous Ian Fleming psychos here, but the post-graduation "good" sorority and fraternity Buffys and Kips from Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds. These are the same Young Repblicans sent to rebuild Iraq and run the Department of Justice. Clean-cut patriots who Doctorow has very believably waterboarding Americans, patriotically and without remorse. Very scary indeed.
I also was fascinated by rhe technology Marcus's near-future school uses. His heavily monitored school laptop well fits into the category of a "creepy treehouse" technology - a term I've just recently stumbled across. (Sorry, I forget where.) One of the term's definitions is:
n. Any system or environment that repulses a target user due to it’s closeness to or representation of an oppressive or overbearing institution.
Marcus, of course, simply boots his machine with a monitor-free OS from a flash-drive to avoid unauthorized use detection. He avoids the "gait-recognition" software of his school's video monitors by putting pebbles in his shoes. He and his friends create their own network using GameBoy-like devices running an OS called ParanoidLinux and using unsecured wireless networks around the city. I suspect it will be the adult readers, not teens, that will be amazed by any of these "hacks."
There is no political subtlety about this book. It's an outright condemnation of the fear tactics used by current politicians. Doctorow effectively argues that the terrorists win when we lose our personal Constitutional freedoms. It makes a great companion novel to Anderson's YA novel Feed. In Feed, the teens are controlled by their digital networks; in Little Brother, the teens use the network to fight against control.
And it's fun and fast-paced. Buy it (or download it) for your YA fiction readers. And maybe slip it to any security obsessed tech directors you know.
I found it interesting that while Little Brother is a Creative Commons download in a host of e-book formats, Amazon does not sell the book for its Kindle. I wonder if that was the author's or Amazon's decision?