Pirate Cinema – Cory Doctorow

I got the DRM-free ebook version of this in a rather nice bundle deal from Humble Bundle, where the deal is that you pay what you want to for the current offer. A proportion of the money goes to the authors (or developers when the deal is for software) and some to charity. You even get to choose how much of your payment goes where.

Anyway, this reached the top of my virtual reading pile the other day, and grabbed my attention immediately. Like Cory’s earlier Little Brother, which I neglected to review when I read it, it’s what publishers like to call a Young Adult (or even YA) novel – aimed at the more or less teenage market. But that shouldn’t put you off, even if you’re a wee bit past your teenage years, as I am.

It’s set in a near-future Britain, where some legal trends have got a lot worse. Get caught downloading too much copyright material and without so much as a sniff of due process, your internet connection will be cut off. And that’s an even bigger problem than it would be right now, as many people work online from home doing low-paid call centre work. Not to mention that if you don’t have a job because you don’t have an internet connection, you’ll have a bit of a problem applying for benefits because all the forms are online only. And if you’re a kid studying for exams, well, guess what? It’s not as if the public library was open for anything approaching useful hours…

So when Trent, a 16 year old obsessed with the work of actor Scot Colford, and who creates videos from downloaded material manages to get his family disconnected from the internet, everything falls apart.

Trent runs away to London, where, after the usual trials, not to mention tribulations, finds new friends and some serious purpose. Adopting the alias Cecil B DeVil, he makes better movies, and gets into some serious activism, just in time to fight the latest piece of deranged legislation.

It’s all nicely told in the first person. Trent/Cecil makes a good PoV character – he’s a smarter and better person than he thinks he is, which makes him someone you actually care about. He makes some mistakes, he makes some movies, and he makes a lot of friends. But can he and his friends overcome the power of the law? You’ll have to read it to find out.

It’s a good story well told, and kept me up far too late at night, eager to learn what was going to happen next.  It even manages a shout-out for the wonderful Rumpole of the Bailey, which earned Cory at least 50 extra points from me.

About the only negative comment I have is that Cory’s conversion from Canadian to Brit isn’t quite complete. At one point, he has a character say

I did just write my A level on phyiscs

which doesn’t sound at all right in UK English. I know that Canadians refer to “writing” an exam where Brits would say “taking”, so I recognised the idiom. And at another point, some one uses the phrase “swear darn”, which sounds very odd indeed. I’ve heard “swear down”, which is itself odd, but makes some kind of sense. Hint: if a Brit says “darn”, the next word is likely to be “socks”. But these are minor quibbles, and they didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all. I’m sure Cory will become more authentically British after a few more years.