Review: Attack Surface

Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was a Kickstarter backer on this book/audiobook

I think there’s a side novella or short story I haven’t read in the Little Brother series/universe, but as far as I know, this is the first one that isn’t from Marcus Yallow’s perspective. Instead, this one is from Masha Maximov’s point of view. She was mostly an antagonist to him in the previous books, although meant to be a sympathetic one vs her bosses at DHS, or whatever agency she was working at.

The narrative bounces between the past and present. In the present, Masha works for a contractor that provides spying gear and tech to any buyer. Think of The NSO group in the real world. To ease her conscious that she sometimes is working as a contractor for dictators she sometimes helps the dissidents that are being spied upon to get smarter about avoiding the surveillance. In the past, we see how she went from one of the in person RPG folks on the day of the bay bridge terrorist attack to working for Ms Johnson and then to her current employer. At some point she ends up back in America and deals with things here.

As usual with the series, Doctorow touches on surveillance and the slippery slope as well as police accountability. To this he adds the corporate dimension via contractors, both overseas and in America. In the America sections he also touches a bit on some of the housing, homeless. and gentrification issues in the San Francisco Bay area.

As a work of fiction, I think Cory Doctorow balances narrative tension, his desire to get the reader to understand the points he’s trying to make, and realism vs happy outcomes. I happen to be incredibly tech savvy and follow these topics, so I am not the best judge of whether some of the technical portions are still too technical, but I think he does a good job of making the info dumps mostly make sense as conversations. (In other words, avoids a lot of the “As you know, Johnson,…” conversation patterns) I think it works well standalone, but you’ll be missing out on a lot of the relationship between Masha and Marcus.

As an audiobook, I thought the voice actor did a good job distinguishing voices and accents. They also did a good job conveying emotion where the characters got emotional.

I’d recommend it, especially if you’re either a Doctorow fan or have read the Little Brother series.

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