Cory Doctorow’s new novel, Attack Surface, is inseparable from the zeitgeist—both are riven by insurrection, corruption, misinformation, and inequality—and the near-future it portrays illustrates how technology and politics are inseparable. The story follows a self-taught hacker from San Francisco who helps build the American digital surveillance apparatus out of a genuine sense of patriotism, only to discover that she’s propping up exactly the kind of unjust, predatory system she’d set out to defeat. Computers play a role as important as any other member of the diverse cast, and computing is treated with a rare technical rigor that reveals the extent to which our tools shape our lives and world.
Having established that dystopia is a state of mind and how to fix the internet, Cory uses Attack Surface to explore what it means to build a better future. This is a novel about reinventing democracy and imagining new institutions for the internet age. You will cringe. You will grit your teeth. You will keep turning pages late into the night because this is the kind of fiction that creates space for truth to reveal itself.
Over in the Los Angeles Review of Books, I asked Cory why cryptography is a crucial political tool, what tech workers can do to take responsibility for the systems they build, and how the manner in which Attack Surface was published evinces the precise themes the story grapples with.
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Eliot Peper is the author of nine novels, including Cumulus, Bandwidth, and, most recently, Veil. He sends a monthly newsletter documenting his journey as a reader and writer, tweets more than he probably should, and lives in Oakland, CA.