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Mike Riley

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Hackerteen: Internet Blackout, Volume 1 Review

May 03, 2008

When O'Reilly sent a press release mentioning the company's uncharted foray into the world of graphic novels (OK, comic books), I had to see what they were up to. My first impression upon seeing Hackerteen's cover was realizing how bold a change this represented, coming from a company that built its business on technical references with animals being the most distinguishing part of its cover marketing.

Hackerteen is author and Linux marketing entrepreneur Marcelo Marques' attempt to bridge comic book characters with the pleasures and perils of computer hacking. In an attempt to address what the author sees as three growing social problems (excessively playing computer games at the expense of meaningful, real-world education and social interaction, cyber-security crimes and the growing lack of young people seriously considering a career in computer technology, networking and security), Marcelo's Hackerteen adventures try to lead by example in a colorful teen-accessible way.

Since I am not the target market for this title, I enlisted the help of my 14-year old daughter Marielle who recently acquired an eeePC for her birthday/graduation gift. In less than two weeks, she has become fairly adept at using this Linux-based sub-notebook, right down to hitting Ctrl-Alt-T to bring up the terminal window to execute shell commands. Marielle is also a huge Manga fan and a budding graphic artist in her own right, so she expressed considerable interest in reading Hackerteen and, consequently, wrote the following mini-review (yes, that's my daughter's own artwork posted above her review):

"This first comic of the Hackerteen: Internet Blackout series is about a young boy named Yago who apparently is extremely good at working with computers. Yago is a boy who spends all his time on the computer mostly playing games, but after a while his parents get tired of this and decide to take him to a place called Hackerteen where his knowledge of computers is used for useful good things. Later on in the story, Yago's skills improve and more people try to take advantage of his knowledge for evil purposes.

This book is very interesting and can be nice to read when you have extra time. The storyline is intriguing but tedious at times, especially when there is a private conversation being held between two people and you don't always understand what is going on. I would suggest this book to anyone who is interested in computers or knows a lot about them because that is what the story basically revolves around. For those who don't, the book supplies lots of little suggestions at the bottom of the pages to help teach people who would like to understand more about the technology used in the story."

When I asked her if she enjoyed the book, she smiled, shook her head and said she was curious to know what was going to happen in Volume 2. When I asked her if she would pay $20 for Hackerteen's cover price, her tone quickly changed. "It's an interesting story, but it's too expensive for me to want to buy." So while Hackerteen is one of the first books geared toward the technically engaged youth entertainment market, it's brevity and cover price will likely limit its exposure and success among that audience.

If fellow Dobbscodetalk readers found this post useful and prefer more like it, leave a comment and let us know what you think. If the reaction is positive, the next technically-accurate fictional story that both myself and my young book reviewing assistant plan to read and review together is Corey Doctorow's Little Brother.

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