Teen Tech Weekis here! The theme this year is Geek Out @ Your Library. But let’s be honestâ€”a lot of us do just as much geeking out at home, alone, in front of a computer. Lucky for us, libraries are online, too.
The word “hacker” started to strike fear into the hearts of mothers everywhere in the early 1990s, and there’s a cheesy Angelina Jolie movie about elite high school hackers to prove it. But not every member of the computer underground is seeking world domination and destruction (that’s only the black hats). Some are technological superheroes fighting crime and seeking justice (white hats). And others are somewhere in the middle (grey hats)â€”not causing big damage, but not feeling too guilty if their skills allow them to, say, hack into the school’s system to change that B+ to an A-.
The characters in these books are black hats, white hats, grey hats, and completely-unaware-there-are hats. Some are new, and some are old; some are fiction, and some are non fiction; but they are all packed with very real hacker-style adventure. Read on for the list!
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: Marcus, aka w1n5t0n, is your average teenage hacker until a terrorist attack hits San Francisco and the Department of Homeland Security apprehends him and his friends, believing they have a connection to the event. When Marcus and his friends are released, they vow to use their hacker sensibilities to take down the surveillance state that has grown out of hand in the aftermath of the attack. Doctorow has some hacker sensibilities of his own, and believing in freedom of information, has this book available for download free on his website.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: This 2012 Alex Award winner is set in a grim future where people escape reality by spending their time in the OASIS, a virtual utopia created by billionaire genius James Halliday that lets you be whoever you want to be. When Halliday died, he told the world that he was leaving his fortune to the person who could crack a series of codes and puzzles hidden deep in the heart of OASIS. Five years later, teenager Wade Watts is the one who stumbles across the first clue, setting off a brutal competition with the eyes of world watching.
Neuromancer by William Gibson: This is considered one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, the original work of hacker fiction, and the book that coined the term “cyberpunk” in 1984. Case was the best hacker in the business, linking his consciousness to the “Matrix” and stealing information for the highest bidder until he crossed the wrong people and had his skills taken away bit by bit and was left trapped in his body, unable to connect to the network. That is, until a mysterious employer gives him a chance to get his power back in exchange for one last big job. This is definitely an adult book, but it is a fast-paced thriller that would appeal to older teens.
Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace by Michele Slatalla and Joshua Quittner: The idea of a cyber gang war in the early 1990s may seem as quaint as an early Atari, but the feud between Legion of Doom and Masters of Deception was no joke. The two crews of hackers stole celebrities’ credit card histories, took down AT&T’s long-distance phone network, and caused enough havoc to bring unprecedented Secret Service action over a two-year investigation. Who were Masters of Deception and Legion of Doom? Two groups of teenage hackers living in New York and Texas.
Feed by M. T. Anderson: In this satire, Titus is your average, vapid teenager just looking for a fun trip to the moon with his friends when a hacker infiltrates the system and causes all of their feeds to malfunction, creating a silence in their brains where the constant noise of the Internet used to be. The crew waits out the silence for days in the hospital. All Titus wants is his feed backâ€”that is, until he meets smart and sexy Violet who thinks they should fight back against the feed’s constant control over their thoughts. This book was voted to be one of ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults in 2003.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: This classic, pre-hacker science fiction novel takes on issues of virtual reality and online identity that are still as fresh and shocking today as they were in 1985. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is a genius third-child chosen to be part of a new Command School that is training the next generation of fighters in an intergalactic war between Earth and the Formics. Students learn to fight through video-game-like simulation, and Ender’s skill at the exercises sets him apart from his peers. But does Ender want to play their game? This novel helped Orson Scott Card win YALSA’a prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Award in 2008.
Kingpin: How One Hacker Took over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen: Max Butler was a real-life cyber supervillain, secret identity and all. By day, he was prominent and well respected computer programmer “Vision” who consulted for big businesses and even the FBI. By night, he was “Iceman,” a hacker who infiltrated countless networks, hacked fellow hackers, and consolidated his power to become the ruler of the cybercrime underworld. This book tells Max Butler’s story, giving a look into the anonymous world of hacking where ordinary teens work side-by-side with hardened gangsters.
Brainjack by Brian Falkner: Online gaming is the activity of choice in this dystopian future where Las Vegas has been destroyed in a terrorist attack and the United States is essentially a military state. Keyboards are old technology, and people access the Internet with a headset that connects their mind to the system. Sam Wilson is a talented teenage hacker that gets unexpectedly recruited by the government. But in doing so, he comes face to face with the terrifying reality that linking your brain to technology could allow hackers unprecedented access to your mind.
Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick: This is the true story of hacker-extraordinaire Kevin Mitnick, told in his own words. He is now a highly paid security consultant who is famous in the computer world and has even testified to Congress. But for years, he was the FBI’s most-wanted hacker, pulling off feats online that no one thought possible. This book tells the tale of some of his most impressive hacks, including how he stayed one step ahead of the authorities for so longâ€”and how they finally caught him.
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks: Cadel Piggot was hacking into major corporations by the time he was seven, which is to be expected from the evil genius son of criminal mastermind Dr. Dakkon. Cadel is being groomed for terrible things at Darkkon’s Axis Institute, but an unexpected encounter on a fake online dating service he set up starts making Cadel question how he uses his powers.
— Annie Schutte, currently reading The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
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