Book #57: Homeland (2012)

smallHomeland_Jun_19_2012Author: Cory Doctorow
Language: English
Length: 725 minutes (12 hours 5 minutes)
Finished listening on: 14 April 2014

This is the sequel to a book I read last year by Cory Doctorow, Little Brother (I reviewed it on this blog already). Doctorow, ever the crusader, refused to publish any more audiobooks on Audible due to their DRM system – credit to him, I guess, but Audible is the most popular site, to the extent that publishers won’t take the risk of producing an audiobook if you are not willing to publish via Audible. Instead, this was published as an exclusive for the Humble Bundle (anyone else seeing a pattern to my habits?). Since I enjoyed the first book, I decided to get this one too and have a listen.

I don’t know how they produced this audiobook, but there were definitely things that annoyed me about its production. There is a loud theme song played at the start of every chapter (this is very unusual, although it’s a nice clear signal that the chapter is over), and the voice actor, Wil Wheaton, is not very talented at doing alternative voices, so all the characters sound the same (this can make or break an audiobook, perhaps unfortunately, although here it wasn’t too bad). It also descends into narcissism and/or nepotism when Wheaton is name-dropped in the story, along with the main character gushing that he loves and admires Wheaton and a few other people that Doctorow knows in real life.

That kind of sums up a lot of the story, to be honest: gushing. I probably mentioned so with the last book in the series, but the main character frequently takes asides to soapbox about some hobby or science fact, such as his favourite way of brewing coffee (utterly uninteresting for someone who doesn’t like coffee). At times this could come across as obnoxious, and I suppose I should be charitable and say that it follows what I should expect from the character, rather than simply Doctorow soapboxing himself, although I suspect there is not a large separation between the two.

The story follows on, roughly speaking, from the previous book – this time it starts in the Burning Man exhibition in the salt flats of Nevada, and involves the main character becoming the leak for a grand-scale conspiracy theory, and the IT guy for a political campaign for an independent candidate. It’s roughly based, this time, on Wikileaks and the Occupy protests, although both of those are named explicitly, so it’s not exactly a stand-in per se. It is odd that the two are named explicitly, though. I don’t think I ever quite worked out what the real time setting for Little Brother was, as it seemed to be something that could happen in the future, but there were five years between the publications of the two books, and yet the main character is still a teenager, so he can’t have aged that much between the two. Of course, some of the technology that is used in the book is still fictional, so it’s not entirely real, and not really worth worrying about.

It managed to hold my interest, despite the frequent soapboxing, and the fact that I don’t think Doctorow knows how modern teenagers actually speak – the main character’s thoughts include words like “pwned”, “lulz”, and other little gems that sound both slightly out-of-date, and too slangy to be appropriate for prose. This did provide me with an excuse to crack up on my bike, though, so maybe I should encourage it. But I could have done without the theme tune.

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