Wednesday, September 17, 2008

 

Mission Burritos

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen, 2008) is chock full of information, of which some will be useful, some eye-opening, some confirming, to some-to-most readers: but I'll wager only a San Francisco thirteen-year-old who likes Mission burritos will find the two paragraphs dedicated to Mission burritos interesting, because they will provide an opportunity for self-congratulation. Now, I am the parent of a 13-year-old, and have been a 13-year-old, and I know how precious and necessary a little self-congratulation can be at that age; but there's too much extraneous explanation in this useful, eye-opening and confirming novel, choking the life out of an otherwise gripping story.

In its own way, the book is a graduate of what I like to call the Barbie School of Writing--you know, where the heroine doesn't just toss her hair, but tosses her golden, shimmering hair that bounces from a long session with a blow dryer and just the right amount of [au courant product name here]. Let's call this the Star Trek 401, though—where every bit of tech is explained, whether the explanation is necessary or not. It's cool to know that you know that bit of tech already; and sometimes it's cool to be taught (there's a few things I'll be Googling, that's for sure) but I really can't stand the author explaining things just because it's cool for him or her to explain them.

You can call me shallow (I've never got through a Great Russian Novel for all the damn philosophy those characters were always yammering on about); I agree with the writer in Wired who said that science fiction is the last bastion of idea novels, and I really appreciate all those ideas. But that writer also pointed out that the genre tolerates execrable writing (he really used that word!) and though the writing in this book is far from execrable, it could be a lot tighter. I blame the editors, or lack thereof. I mean, no one should be allowed to get away with a sentence like this (coming from the 17-year-old narrator who lives and is on good terms with his parents): I never watched TV, but I knew my parents did.

All of that said, I am not flaming this book. It's very very nice, and not just if you like that sort of thing. I'll give it to 13-year-old Son, and recommend it to High School Teacher Sister.


Comments:
I agree with everything you said about this book. Not only have I already read it, I have also convinced several other teachers at my school to read it, and our teacher librarian to purchase it. :)
 
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