6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2013
This started as a very entertaining book, well-written for (I assume) the young adult market. The theme was very clearly about copyright issues on the Internet. Very interesting and topical. And made some excellent points in a compelling way. I liked the politicisation of the lead character and the range of issues and struggles he had to manage. Also the discussions about art, and what creativity is.
However, around (just over?) half way through, the book became a repetitive one-sided treatise against internet copyright restriction, and every single character seems to give exactly the same speech over and over again. Not subtle; not nuanced; not in any way enlightening - let alone entertaining. Tediously boring, in fact. Which is such a pity, because the first half of the book is particularly enjoyable.
It's very rare indeed for me to abandon a book before its end, not matter how bad it is. But this one has indeed been exceptional.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2012
I'm a big fan of Doctorow and really like how he's done YA work - such as Little Brother - that doesn't talk down to its audience (& as a result makes good reading for not not-Y A's out there). But this is just a bit leaden, with characters too often suddenly regurgitating the author's essay work on topics like Trusted Computing and copyright law. Suddenly the novel seems to have turned into a public service announcement for a while.
So this is a bit disappointing, largely because of the high expectations set by Doctorow's much more deftly-executed work around some of these same themes.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2012
I'm Cory Doctorow fan, having loved Makers,Little Brother, and For the Win: A Novel.
Like Little Brother, we have another young adult protagonist and his super-smart female love interest and their tribe, who become outraged at government and corporate interests and take action to improve the world.
As in other Doctorow novels, we get great, really rich settings. This one takes place in London's street/squatter scene. It's hard to imagine that Doctorow could write this stuff without having lived it himself. I'd love to spend six weeks with Doctorow and see what his life is really like.
In Pirate Cinema, the technology and the morals take place front and center, as they do in most Doctorow novels. This is about intellectual property rights, their effect on creativity, and the rights of corporations versus people. In his earlier books, Cory's prose sometimes read like an academic paper when he's talking about the serious stuff. This is still here, but I think he's done a better job of blending it in, and the fact is that I really don't mind the lectures: they're fun and educational, even for someone relatively conversant in the space.
I don't want to give too much away, but I laughed out loud and had to immediately text a few friends when I get to the scene on panhandling A/B testing. If you know what A/B testing is, I promise this scene will crack you up.
In short, if you liked Little Brother, Makers, or For the Win, you'll love Pirate Cinema too. If you haven't tried any of Doctorow's fiction, I highly recommend it. He writes about important issues in a fun and entertaining way. You can read for the fun or the lessons or both.
(Note to parents: my kids are still in their single-digit ages, but when they hit their teens I hope to feed them a steady diet of Doctorow novels, including Pirate Cinema. The language, street living, and drugs might be slightly edgy, but the lessons about corporate interests and activism are right on.)
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2012
I am about 95% aligned with Doctorow's beliefs on copyright. This book, however, is so unsubtle a polemic that anyone, including Doctorow, should find it embarrassing to the "cause".
Characters break into long dogmatic monologues at the drop of a hat, dialogue that comes across as artificial as the faux-dialogue in student educational films.
The characters manifest skills in gourmet cooking and construction rehabilitation that are incredibly rare amongst the populace and quickly demonstrate said skills at genius levels that normally take a lifetime of work to develop.
The trash becomes a very obvious deux ex machina that drops absolutely anything the characters need into their hands as easily as the Enterprise's synthesizer. (I'm surprised they didn't just nick a few pallets of gold that the Royal Treasury was throwing out for being scratched.)
The subject matter is treated only with jagged strokes of black and white. The antagonists are portrayed as so evil that I'm surprised their lawyer wasn't twirling a Simon Legree mustache between two fingers. There's no character who examines or argues the opposite viewpoint in any sort of reasonable way.
And as his story universe's God, on multiple occasions, Doctorow allows remarkable but unrealistic coincidences to perfectly fall into place as needed (such as the hobby of the protagonist's movie star idol).
One might argue that some of these are permissible when writing for young adults, but pre-teens and teenagers are sophisticated enough to both notice and have problems with each of these issues. Read anything from Diane Duane's Young Wizardry series if you think the label of `young adult' excuses these sort of problems.
Doctorow once could be relied upon for writing touching character pieces that were set in environments created by creative, insightful, predictive yet mostly optimistic worldbuilding set in our near- or near-far future. Read "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" or "Makers".
With "For the Win", "Little Brother", and now "Pirate Cinema", Doctorow's work now is usually comprised of brassy action pieces, marching down the middle of the road proclaiming their theme simply by loudly shouting it, with characters that are so un-nuanced as to seem laughably, inhumanly zero-dimensional. Doctorow has become a Michael Bay parody of himself.
After "For the Win", "Little Brother", and "Pirate Cinema", I doubt Doctorow can find his way back to how he used to write. Writing polemical fiction is probably a lot easier and a lot more fun. But it's also a lot less readable and a lot less powerful. Whose works will be best remembered in 50 years, those of Martin Scorsese or those of Carrot Top?
I hope I'm wrong, though. I'd like to see something written with the skill, shading, and thoughtfulness Doctorow used to employ. It's been absent for a long time now.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2013
I bought PC after reading Big Brother from the same author. While with BB I was hooked from the beginning until the end PC fails to engage the reader and it all has a sense of deja-vu. If you have not yet read BB (read it!) your feeling might be different.
If on a narrative-level the book somehow fails to deliver a great reding experience on the other hand if you, like me, are sensitive to the issues of copyright and IP you will resonate to the protagonists' adventures.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2013
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2012
Pirate Cinema was an extremely entertaining read. It was well written and had a lot of thought provoking ideas that helped in my own thinking about these topics. However, some of it did seem a little to good to be true, such as being able to live with easy internet access and food and comfort if you just knew your way around the garbage bins of London. While it is not exactly true that you can live like homeless teenage royalty if you know what do, it provided a good and entertaining setting through which to tell his story of creativity and piracy.
Cory Doctorow has always had strong opinions about copyright laws and intellectual property (IP). Since his first book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, he published using the Creative Commons license, which allows people to redistribute freely and non-commercially, so long as attribution is given. He is on the forefront of writers that use this kind of licensing, and it certainly fits with his philosophy of IP. This being Cory's view, the book was clearly biased toward the free and open information side of this argument. It painted a vivid picture of the `big, evil corporation' against the indie artist who just wants to make art. This is often the stance taken by free information devotees, and while it may be imbalanced, that doesn't imply that it is not true.
Doctorow's stories are well known as examples of futuristic societies after the singularity, the point where technology and humanity blur into one. This is set before the singularity, which actually makes it even more relevant to the modern reader. The fact is that the laws that he describes in the book actually exist in Great Britain. Households can have their Internet shut off if they have been accused of digital piracy, even without proof. Cory wants to demonstrate through this book that the way IP is treated, and the way people are treated because of companies vested in IP is unacceptable and a major reform needs to happen to get laws back on the right track with technology and society. Whether or not his picture is a little over-the-top, it doesn't change the fact that a lot needs to change to accommodate both sides of the issue, and we need to be a part of making that happen.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2012
Anybody who has been to the movies might have ideas about how they could make it a little better. Trent McCauley, the protagonist of Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow takes it one step further. He's become an expert at making his own movies by splicing together footage of his favorite actor. There's a catch though, the film is copyrighted, and that makes his hobby illegal.
Trent could have gone on this way for a long time, but then it comes down on him, and the police inform his family that due to his illegal activities, they will lose their internet access for an entire year.
This has an immediate effect on his family; Trent's sister can't do research for school, his mother doesn't have access to health care benefits, and his father can't do his telecommuting for his job. Trent's little hobby has made it difficult for the rest of his loved ones.
Instead of doing something conventional to fix the problem, Trent responds in a very adolescent way, and runs away from home. Instead of finding himself in a bad situation on the streets, for Trent, the streets of London are a bit of a Neverland. After only one night of roughing it on his own, he finds himself falling in with a bunch of fun, street smart, and snarky street people. Thanks to them, Trent is soon eating good food, living in an old pub, and are even careful about their drug use. To say this is an idealized image of homelessness is an understatement. The realities of living on the streets never intrudes in any way that would make Trent unhappy, and young readers will be left with the impression that if they can only run away from home, their lives will be similarly idyllic.
While Trent is learning to survive without his parents; one wonders why he would ever go back home if he has this sort of life to enjoy, the British government continues to enact increasingly strict copyright legislation. After all, that's the point of this book, and the villain of this book is the restriction of information and copyright laws.
Trent's girlfriend is well-written enough that it would be nice to see her in her own book, without her boyfriend tagging along, and hopefully the author writes some worthwhile adventure for her.
It's clear, that the author frames the message he wants to communicate within a YA plot in order to engage younger readers, and motivate them to act. It would be more powerful if there were discussion about both sides of the issue, instead of presenting all people who break copyright law as artists, the lack of opposing perspective weakens the argument that all laws are evil.
For anyone not familiar with British slang, the language may take a little bit of time to get used to, but is a necessary aspect of setting the scene correctly. The problems I had with the story were the unbelievability of Trent's street life, the fact that he and his friends are able to get away with things with virtually no consequences, and the inability of the author to trust that readers will understand the conflicts of copyright law. All of that aside, this is a story that may get people thinking about these issues in more detail. Hopefully the author will improve on the weaker elements in future books, making the world all the more interesting, and the stakes higher.
(Reviewed for A Book Obsession..)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2012
I am a big fan of Cory Doctorow's YA novels, but found Pirate Cinema to be a little too clever for its own good; basically it is a forum for his personal views on digital copyright, a topic that most teens don't understand, don't really care about, and won't relate to. The characters are fairly one dimensional, the conceit of being homeless and living the posh life in pilfered property while dining on gourmet garbage is totally unrealistic, and the premise of renegade teenage cineastes waging guerilla warfare against the film industry and digital copyright law is a stretch. As important as the topic is, the story ends up being didactic rather than thought provoking. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn't get invested in it. But anything Doctorow writes has its moments, however unbelieveable, so I'll give this three stars. Looking forward to his Homeland in 2013 and hoping it lives up to Little Brother.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2013
This book is essentially a lecture on how government and big data abuse copyright and other laws to control content and maximize profits at the expense of society, thinly veiled as a novel. Although I agree with the author's political views on copyright and related technology issues, the preachy tone throughout the book borders on the shrill and ruins any enjoyment of the perfunctory and unlikely storyline.