Letter from a young Homeland reader

As you've no doubt gleaned, I'm on tour with my new novel, Homeland. A lot of people commiserate with me about the grueling pace -- and it is! a new city practically every day and nowhere near enough sleep and continuous interviews and presentations from o-dark hundred to late at night -- but for all that, it's actually something I love. That's because I get to meet readers, especially young readers (I do a lot of school presentations) and readers tell me about how my books have affected them, and it's generally both humbling and delightful.

But every now and again, I hear from a reader whose description of her or his experience with my work leaves me, well, speechless. This is one such letter, from a young man named Brian, who emailed me this morning, and graciously gave me permission to post his letter. I'm posting it to let you know -- and to remind me -- that for all that touring is sometimes a lot of work, the end result is that my books end up in the hands of people for whom they can be revelatory. It's such an awesome responsibility, and such a wonderful one. Thank you, Brian.

I started reading Homeland the day it came out, and finished it the day after. I had it on pre-order on my kindle, which I proceeded to bring with me everywhere for the following two days. I have read Little Brother, For The Win, Pirate Cinema, and Chicken Little. Each one amazed me (though Chicken Little is slightly less related to my point). By the time I got to the last page of Homeland, I was incensed. I didn’t have time to read the afterword, I was going to get started right away!

I looked up TrueCrypt, and was shocked to find it actually existed. Immediately downloaded. I had known about TOR before, but hadn’t thought much about it. My next move was to install it into my TC drive and begin using it. I found out about the CryptoParty movement, and I’m trying to figure out a Party in my hometown.

My point is, your book introduced me to practical cryptography and to a side of the movement for “freedom of people,” as you called it, that I had never before seen.

And then I read the afterword.

Related to my cryptography search, I had recently re-read some of the news articles and documents pertaining to Aaron’s suicide. The moment I saw his name on the afterword, I put the book down and started crying. I’m not normally a person to cry, but I couldn’t take it right then. Slowly, I picked my kindle back up and started reading again. As I read, tears welled in my eyes. I was very moved by your book, but (with all respect), these words from beyond the grave – from a real person beyond the grave – affected me more than any book ever could.

I didn’t know Aaron personally, but even so that passage made me cry. I can’t say I know how you felt, but I can say that I think it would have been hard for me to include his afterword. I’m damn grateful you chose to keep it. It is even more important now. When I read it, I was touched, but I was also pissed. My immediate, gut reaction was that no one has the right to do that to someone. The attacks and case against him were ridiculous, and I hope those who targeted him feel ashamed. My ensuing reaction was to do something, to really get out and do something. What, I’m not quite sure: I don’t know many internet activists, and my hometown isn’t exactly the center of internet activism, but that’s what the internet’s for, isn’t it? The internet lets anyone anywhere join in global movements that impassion them, and now I’m ready to join in a global initiative toward freedom on the internet across the world.

So, to summarize: your book worked. I read the Huffington Post article of an excerpt of their interview with you. Well, I am your ideal kid: I’m 14, here in 2013, and I my reaction was to “rush to a search engine and figure out proxies, free/open operating systems, freedom of information requests, local makerspaces, campaigns for political accountability…the whole package.” (Well, really I’m still working on some of those.)



  1. Wait…so is his name Brian or Anonymous? I’m so confused!

    Also, I just got back from your Tempe visit. The last part of your speech brought tears to my eyes. You’re doing a great thing and you have all my support.

  2. “We know things are bad – worse than bad! They’re crazy! It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore! We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’

    Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone! I want you to get MAD!

    I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get MAD! You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’.”

    – Network (1976)

  3. i’ve never understood why you get listed as science fiction, i’d call it more social commentary from the digital edge.  i remember reading little brother the first time and recognizing that little hack to get around monitoring systems as something i’d seen before, you sprinkle search terms liberally and do it well.  Homeland was if anything even more on point.

  4. Go, Brian!

    Just got home from Changing Hands. Cory, thank you for the talk; for making Aaron’s story so much a part of your message (even though I cried three times), and your gracious time with all of the fans. Jimmy was ecstatic about hearing you speak and meeting you; so much so that he forgot to tell you that you and Neil Gaiman are the chief reasons that he is an (published!) author. I wanted you to know that.

    Thanks again…going to go immerse myself in Homeland in 3…2…1….

  5. I’m afraid that eventually, owning or even  _reading_ this book will be considered a subversive act by the people in Washington.

    1.  Probably, and so what?
      The sort of people who will consider it a subversive act have already decided we’re all guilty anyway. When your career and livelihood depends on finding miscreants, you’ll find them.

    2. This is one of the things that I have wondered about at times with the trend to the cloud.   We have had laws to protect our privacy in regards to video rentals and library books for example.  Netflix for one is asking for these to be changed.  With the kindle and nook, all your purchases are stored in the cloud under your name   No means exists to buy a book anonymously. Same with the cloud music storage, and videos.   No real way to delete the record, the retailers keep them pretty much indefinitely now.  Look at how Amazon just went back to review and add all cd purchases available under the new auto mp3 program from 1999 on.   Only books that are on pirate sites or available for free downloads will have any chance of being obtained and read anonymously in ebooks.

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