Monday, September 1, 2014

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow


Title: Pirate Cinema
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Delacorte
Rating: WARTY!

I've never read anything by Cory Doctorow before this - nor by EL Doctorow for that matter who despite the unusual name (EL!) is no relation to Cory. The reason that I picked-up this one is that the plot was interesting to me, and it actually turned out to be interesting to read, to begin with. The author clearly has lived in London long enough to develop an ear for Brit-speak.

The novel is technically well-written, but after a while, once the newness wore off, it became a really tedious read with the same repetitive and rather uninteresting things recurring over and over again. I was losing interest in it because nothing worthwhile was happening.

Right at the point where I decided to drop it, the main character's younger sister unexpectedly showed-up in the story, so I continued for a while thinking this might shake things up, but it never did. The story continued to be small, and limited, and cramped and boring, and the ending was a complete fade. I can't recommend this at all.

The novel revolves around Trent, a 16-year-old runaway from his family home in Bradford in the north of England. He's brought shame and disruption to their home when their Internet service was axed because of his piracy, so he took the chicken way out and continued to be a chicken throughout the rest of the novel.

How exactly his Internet service was cut-off isn't explained. It's been a long time since I've lived in Britain so maybe this can happen. I don't know, but it bothered me that this is simply assumed as a given. He hasn't called home since he ran away, and when he does call, he starts crying because his younger sister is now struggling in school, supposedly owing to her diminished Internet access! That sounded far too pathetic for my taste. What, she has no friends? No Internet access at school or the library? No print books? That was way too much to be credible.

Trent is supposed to be some sort of a hacker, but we see no evidence of this. He offers no help to his sister on how to skirt the Internet ban so she can study. There's no explanation given as to why his family is still cut-off now that he isn't even resident there any more.

He was supposedly stealing whole movies for no other reason than to sample them for his own movie projects. Never once did he consider going the proper way and writing for permission to use a clip, or of simply sampling the thing from a rented disk, or streaming video, or You Tube as "fair use". Instead he stole it and then he gets in with these people who think that the laws against theft are wrong?! Huge Whiskey Foxtrot Tango there.

Trent never learns a single thing. Instead of trying to find honest work, he lives the free-loader life of the homeless, begging, borrowing, lifting things, taking food from garbage skips. He occupies a pub and generally shows himself to be quite incapable of stepping up, taking life by the horns, showing responsibility, of getting a job, or of redressing the mistakes he's made.

Trent takes up residence in a squat in London and has, despite his runaway status, managed to acquire a laptop (no explanation) which he uses to create satirical movies instead of looking for work. These videos bring him a certain minor (and very local) celebrity status and it's through this that he meets 26, his female interest. She has her handle because there are 26 letters in the alphabet, although how this relates to her and her having this name isn't ever explained - not in the part I read. The two of them start hanging out together, although why she would be interested in him remains a mystery.

At first she seems pretty decent, but she merely makes Trent worse. When his sister shows up, 26 lectures her inappropriately so I went off her pretty quickly at that point. That's pretty much when I decided I couldn't stand to read any more of this, and gave it up. Life is too short to waste on boring and pointless novels which offer nothing new, and take you nowhere interesting. Craphound is definitely the right name for Doctorow's website.


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