After the success of Little Brother and For the Win, bestselling author Cory Doctorow returns with another young adult novel about an oppressed youth who is looking to change the world for the better in an uncertain near future. This time Doctorow jumps across the pond to Britain, where he spends a good portion of his time, and writes about the subject of internet piracy.
In a near future, Trent McCauley is a smart sixteen year-old who does his school work but spends most of his time downloading videos of a fictitious celebrity and creating vids about him using clips from all the movies the person has been in, telling a specific story, usually played to music. He has a lot of fun doing it and there’s definitely an artwork and talent to it. Then the internet is cut off in the household under the recent law for internet piracy, and the family is now severed from the internet at home for a whole year; which is really important. Trent’s sister needs it to do all her school work, she simply won’t pass her classes without it; his mother needs it to get support for her medical condition; and his father needs it because he’s unemployed, and needs to claim his unemployment checks, as well as look for jobs. It puts the family in a dire situation, with Trent feeling really guilty about the whole thing.
So he does what any teenager would logically do: he runs away from home. He arrives in London with high hopes of living on the street, which are soon dashed when his belongings are stolen and he finds himself hungry and terribly alone, and wondering if he’s made a terrible mistake. But he soon makes some new friends who show him the ropes and how to get by pretty easily in London, eventually leading them to squat in an abandoned pub, where they get the power back on, the internet going, and life begins to go pretty well.
Their goal is to have lots of movie viewing parties via a secret internet website that gets people together, to support the vid-making industry and create awareness about what they’re doing and why it isn’t wrong and shouldn’t be illegal. They’re also looking to fight back against the passing of a recent law in Parliament that is now imprisoning teenagers and children for internet piracy. Their numbers begin to grow, and gain support; the question is how they are going to make this change happen, without coming off as a radical group of homeless people.
Pirate Cinema feels a lot like the British version of Little Brother, as Doctorow has done his work with how the government works and how the internet is used and perceived in Britain. He even goes so far as to use a British vernacular, with plenty of slang thrown in. The weakness of the book is in the conflicts and issues the main character has to deal with. Trent definitely gets himself into some direct situations and problems, but they’re never really that hard or tough, and he always gets out of it real easy. It still makes for an enjoyable story that is lacking in potential dramatic tension. Readers — especially teens — will nevertheless enjoy the book for what it’s trying to do.
Originally written on December 5, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.
To purchase a copy of Pirate Cinema from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.
You might also like . . .