30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Dystopia, Teen Books

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow, 384 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/24/2013

Calling all remixers, hackers, activists, freedom fighters and rebels! Your book has arrived. Cory Doctorow hits it out of the park again with another scathing indictment of government surveillance and corruption. Our protagonist, Trent (aka Cecil B. DeVil), is your average teenaged bloke. His main distinguishing characteristic involves his obsession with remixing the films of his favorite movie star. When his hobby gets his entire family kicked off the internet for copyright violations, Trent/Cecil decides to leave home and head for London. In London, he meets a colorful array of characters, including the unflappable Jem, who teaches Cecil all he needs to know about Squatter’s Rights and dumpster-diving (i.e. how to be homeless with class). Eventually, Cecil gets a new laptop and begins to remix again. He’s getting increasingly popular online and is developing something of a fanbase. He joins up with a couple of other remix artists and become part of a network of “pirate cinemas” (film screenings in random locations like graveyards and abandoned sewers) across London. As his popularity increases, so too does his rap sheet. The British government is in the process of passing even more draconian copyright laws and they (or, rather, the large media corporations who hold the rights to Cecil’s downloads and have massive influence at the governmental level) are not happy with Cecil’s work. Cecil and co. find themselves drawn into the fight against criminalizing artists who use previously copywritten material as their artistic medium. Is Cecil a criminal? It certainly doesn’t appear as such. He merely views his art as putting things together that no one ever thought to combine before. And honestly, is that really so different from any other modern art form? Isn’t everything a remix at this point?
This book is every bit as much a call to action as it is a fun, well-written coming-of-age/speculative narrative. Cecil grows as a person, meets other fascinating and well-written characters, and learns a lot. Readers will learn something new, guaranteed. The book may be set in the not-too-distant future, but it’s certainly not a future that would require binoculars or any other corrective lens. This is exactly where we (not just Britain, but every copyright-obsessed nation) are headed. And it isn’t pretty.

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