Review: Pirate Cinema

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Pirate CinemaPirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
Published by Tor Teen on October 2, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central

Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In near-future Britain, this is more illegal than ever. The punishment for being caught three times is to cut off your entire household from the internet for a year - no work, school, health or money benefits.

Trent thinks he is too clever for that to happen, but it does, and nearly destroys his family. Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London, where he slowly he learns the ways of staying alive on the streets. He joins artists and activists fighting a new bill that will jail too many, especially minors, at one stroke. Jem introduces him to the Jammie Dodgers, beautiful brilliant "26" to love and cemetery parties.

Things look bad. Parliament is in power of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers-that-be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a gripping movie to change people’s minds ...

First Sentence: “I will never forget the day my family got cut off from the internet.”

Up to now, my only Cory Doctorow experience was with Little Brother, because of course I would start with a dystopia. I read it before I started blogging, so I don’t have a real review to consult. From what I recall, I really liked it, but I remember being more into the concept than the characters or the writing. Now that I’ve read Pirate Cinema and quite enjoyed it, I definitely need to be reading more Doctorow.

For those who don’t know, Cory Doctorow is an activist about copyright as it pertains to the shift to digital. He supports Creative Commons licenses, and even offers some of his books for free in ebook format. All this is to say that Pirate Cinema clearly touches an issue close to his heart, that of the freedom to create, even if it requires ‘illegal downloading.’ Basically, he obviously feels, and I agree, that there’s clearly something different about digital consumption, and that the laws do not properly reflect this change.

His writing really appealed to me, funny and a bit gritty. Trent, the MC, comes off as rather a stereotypical nerd, very focused on making his videos and in search of a lady love. I suspect some readers could be offended by some of the sexual references or the way he thinks, but it seemed like typical boy behavior to me, and much more honest than most of the male POV books I’ve read. The  book’s set in Britain, an interesting change since Doctorow is Canadian; the slang sounded fine to me, but I only know it from pop culture, so who knows.

Pirate Cinema definitely is unlike any of the other books I’ve read. At the beginning of the book, Trent’s family’s internet is taken away by the government for a full year, as punishment for Trent’s illegal downloads. Yikes, right? His father’s job, his mother’s health, his sister’s education and his access to videos to remix relied on the internet.

In this future, the media companies essentially control the government, offering money and vacations with glamorous starlets in exchange for getting the parties to vote their way. The copyright law worldwide has become increasingly draconian, as the corporations that make the films, music and video games feel increasingly threatened by illegal downloading of their content. Having the internet shut off was a fairly common measure in this future. And, sadly, this future does not seem impossible by any means.

Trent, feeling awful about what his love of creating movies using clips of actor Scot Colford’s films has done to his family, hoofs it, hopping a bus to London. Once there, he is promptly robbed and homeless. Luckily for him, he meets the artful Jem on his second day in London, who teaches him how best to live as a homeless person, explaining where to find the best food in garbage bins, how to get people to give you money when begging, and how to find a proper squat. The homeless lifestyle isn’t one I’ve really encountered in fiction, and Doctorow makes it sound like something not to be pitied interestingly enough. Jem and Trent can find anything they need from high-powered electronics to gourmet food to a decent home, all without spending any money.

While I did really enjoy it, the downside of the book is how political it is. I suspect the publication date being before the election was intentional, as it’s all about political activism and making a difference. The overall tone does get a bit preachy, but the writing, hellishly possibly future, and Trent’s obvious passion for movie-making save the book from feeling like solely a political tract. The characters feel pretty realistic, and run the gamut of races and backgrounds, which made a nice change from the usual middle to upper class white kids that dominate YA. There is romance too, but that takes a backseat and doesn’t follow the usual YA patterns either.

I’m one of the apathetic that the kids herein would despise, but I still really liked this book anyway. More politically-minded teens and adults, particularly those interested in the way the copyright laws regarding digital content might evolve, should most definitely read this book.

Favorite Quote:

“In the films, they always say that you’ll never forget your first kiss. In the films, you first kiss is always perfect. In the films, everyone participating in the kiss always knows what to do.
In real life, my first kiss was wildly imperfect. First, there was the business of noses. Hers was small and round and adorable, like a Bollywood star on a poster. Mine was a large, no-shape English nose. both of them tried to occupy the same space at the same time and it didn’t really work out.
Then teeth. The sound your teeth make when they knock against someone else’s teeth is minging, and you hear it right in your head, liek the sound you get when you crunch an unexpected chicken bone. And it seemed that no matter where I wanted to put my teeth, she wanted to put her teeth.
And tongues! Christ, tongues! I mean, when you see them going at it in videos, they’re doing insane things with their tongues, making them writhe like an eelmonger’s barrow. But when I tried to use a bit of tongue, I ended up licking her teeth, and then I had the realization that my tongue was in another person’s mouth, which was nearly as weird as, say, having your hand in someone’s stomach or your foot in someone’s lung.
That was only the first realization that entered my head. After that it was a nonstop monologue, something like Holy crap, I’m kissing her, I’m really kissing her! What should I be doing with my hands? Should I put my hands on her bum? I’d love to put my hands on her bum. I probably shouldn’t put my hands on her bum. Oh, yes I should. No. Wait, why am I thinking this, should the kiss be, like, all-obliterating and occupying 300 percent of my total consciousness, transporting me to the Galaxy of the First Kiss? I wonder if this means she’s my girlfriend now. i wonder if she’s kissed other blokes. I wonder if I’m better at it then they are. I bet I’m rubbish at it. Of course I’m rubbish at it. I’m spending all my time thinking instead of kissing her. For God’s sake, Trent, stop thinking and KISS.

4 responses to “Review: Pirate Cinema”

  1. Nori says:

    I have Little Brother, and I really remember liking it, but I read a super long time ago too (also before blogging). So, thanks for inspiring me to go back to this author! Also, I remember listening to an interview with this author on the radio and he sounded like the world’s most interesting person. Seriously, he sounds like a person anyone in our generation would want as a best friend.

    • Christina says:

      I saw Cory Doctorow speak at ALA in 2010, and I’m pretty sure he is in fact the coolest. He’s also fighting for our rights with digital content, so holla.

  2. I haven’t read anything by Doctorow but I did see that Giselle got this one the other day and the ideas behind it definitely got my attention. I like that he had pretty racy teenage boy thoughts, I always hate when they are portrayed as so innocent and pure, because if there is anything the majority of teenage boys are NOT, it is innocent and pure. I think I could really like this one! Great review, Christina!

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