A For Anonymous: How a Mysterious Hacker Collective Transformed the World

Authors: David Kushner, Koren Shadmi (illustrator)
Year: 2020
ISBN: 978-1-56858-877-3 (e-book)
Publisher: Hatchette Book Group
Goodreads Rating: 5/5
Content Warnings: Rape, Pedophilia, racism (Mentioned)
Purchased or Received Copy: Recieved copy from Netgalley
Photo: Warren Wong

A For Anonymous follows the actions of Anonymous, a group of “hacktivists”. David Kushner, the author and a character in the story, interviews a hacker known only as “Commander X”. Kushner tells X’s story while following the history of Anonymous. From an abandoned slaughterhouse in Lubbock, Texas to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri to Libya, Morocco, or Egypt, X describes the actions of Anonymous, or anon.

Kushner sets up what seems like a biography of a memer of anon, but rather X is something of a mouthpiece so that we get a more authentic persepective. I like it, and there’s just enough information about X to let us sympathize with him without distracting from anon itself. The shifting back and forth between the group and the individual works well, so it isn’t jarring.

While I enjoyed Kushner’s writing, my strongest praise is for Koren Shadmi’s illustrations. It’s difficult to make concrete something as abstract as the internet, but I enjoyed how A For Anonymous handled the subject. Online anonymous discussions become an almost matrix-like space. The Guy Fawkes mask associated with Anonymous remains on, denoting both main characters and background extras who identify with the group. Shadmi personifies concepts like 4chan, an anonymous image board as a swamp creature, an image that I think describes it perfectly.

One thing that I don’t know if I can comment on is how they describe internet history to the uninitiated, as I had the knowledge going in. I knew about Habbo Hotel and 4chan before I started reading the book, so I don’t know how this book would appeal to somebody that doesn’t spend the majority of their day in some way connected to the internet, but I’m curious to see. Still it seems to be coming from an effort to establish a baseline of context for everyone.

As somebody that’s interested in modern activism and how people use technology for political change, groups like Anonymous fascinate me and I was excited for this book going in. I’m happy to say that it lived up to my expectations.

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