Pirate Cinema

I'm a big fan of Cory Doctorow's fiction and was delighted when I heard he had a new book coming out, one which could be seen as a sequel to Little Brother if you squint a little (as could also be said about For the Win, another novel I enjoyed a great deal). I bought it as part of the Humble Bundle, which was a fantastic deal, and it's the first new book from that lot that I've read. If the others live up to the brilliance of this one my purchase will be proof of my own personal brilliance when it comes to financial decisions.

Pirate Cinema is about the imbalance of power, laws that harm citizens, growing up, being true to yourself and following your dream. The story begins with a family disaster. Trent lives in an estate (which I think is the UK version of the projects) with his disabled mom, his underemployed father and his genius sister. Trent is obsessed with making videos, but not the kind you shoot yourself, the kind you make using bits and pieces of other projects.

Unfortunately his mash-ups are in violation of copyright and just as he's working on a new masterpiece the authorities come to shut off the family's internet - for an entire year. This doesn't just mean that he can't download new clips or upload his films; it means his entire family is going to suffer tremendously. His father works via the internet so he won't be able to work, his sister won't be able to study or do her homework properly and his mother won't be able to properly care for her medical problems.

Engulfed in guilt, Trent feels worse than worthless. If he was merely worthless his actions wouldn't have helped destroy his family’s ability to survive and thrive. In a despondent fit he runs away from home, landing in London with more determination than cash. He's not there long before he realizes his particular skill set and age (17) hasn't prepared him for being on his own in a strange city. Luckily for him he runs into a fellow young man called Jem, who has made a science out of living by his wits.

Jem teaches Trent, who starts to go by the name Cecil B. DeVil, how to make a little money, get free food and lodging. Once Cecil is feeling somewhat more secure he goes back to his true love, editing. Unfortunately for him a new, even more draconian law is about to go into effect, which jails anyone caught "illegally downloading" material.

What follows is a fascinating mash-up of politics, art and growing up. Cecil meets a young lady called 26, who is brilliant and dedicated to politics and righting wrongs. Cecil isn't that interested in politics, although he really should be, but he goes along with it because he cares about 26. Meanwhile he is busy creating and showing his projects to live audiences as well as online. (This is actually how he meets 26, at the IRL premier of his work.) But as his visibility grows so do his chances of getting caught downloading again, and this time the stakes are even higher.

I liked Pirate Cinema best when it focused on Cecile’s day to day life, living without a parachute, essentially homeless, eating food nobody else wants, but making it work and constantly making are. I know some oregano as they're called in the United States, and it was particularly interesting to me to compare the differences in what you can and can't do in say, New York versus London.

I liked it least when it was preachy. The author is writing about a subject that is very near and dear to his heart and he goes somewhat overboard when hammering home how unethical, senseless and unfair copyright protection can be. I read the book in pretty much one go, which makes the repetition and preaching that much more obvious. Maybe if I'd read it a bit at a time I wouldn't have noticed it as much.

But if I was going to give this novel a grade I would still give it an A, just an A minus because of how this one aspect got on my nerves. The characters are beautifully developed and flawed realistically. Cecil has a bit of a hot head and makes some huge mistakes while still showing us his big heart and his passion for art. His group of friends and compatriots, called the Jammy Dodgers, are lovely, creative, and strong and fragile at the same time.

As with his previous works, Cory is releasing this novel under a creative commons license and you can download it at his website, http://craphound.com/pc/download/. It is available in a number of formats. Hopefully you'll like it enough to buy it and if you like you can buy copies for needy libraries, etc.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a response to the weird accusations that crop up from time to time, which state that beautiful women only pretend to like science fiction, fantasy, comics, video games, etc so they can trick men into paying attention to them. Not only is this ludicrous and insulting to women's intelligence and passion, but since when do beautiful women lack attention? They usually suffer from too much attention, not not enough. Since the latest rants are against women who cosplay, this comic addresses the facts at the root of the accusations. http://oxboxer.tumblr.com/post/36080273132/i-know-why-everyones-so-scare.... It is hilarious.