“Little Brother” Grows Up

Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother series has been a young-adult sci-fi bible for teen hacktivists. But with the latest and darkest book in the trilogy, it’s all grown up.

In Little Brother, the series’ first book, Doctorow’s narrator was the idealistic and ultimately naive crypto-rebel Marcus Yallow. In Attack Surface, the latest, it’s the realist, cynical, ethically compromised spy, Masha Maximow. But Doctorow doesn’t want the reader to choose between the two. He wants you to see yourself in both Marcus and Masha, equally, to live out his morality tale from both perspectives. And he argues that second perspective may be far more relatable: His latest book is designed not for the fresh-faced Marcuses who are still ethically unblemished, but for the far larger population of Mashas who have already made moral compromises in their tech careers—who already work at a privacy-invasive social media giant, an adtech firm, a surveillance contractor, or an intelligence agency.

“I want to reach people who are maybe belated Robert Oppenheimers, who are thinking about whether or not it’s a good idea to be running this Manhattan Project to manipulate people or spy on people or control people,” Doctorow told WIRED in an interview last week ahead of Attack Surface’s release. “If you found yourself in tech because you were excited by how much self-determination and power and pleasure you got from mastering technology, and then found your entire professional life devoted to ensuring that no one else ever felt that, this is the time for your moral reckoning.”

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