By Cory Doctorow
In a near-future England 16-year-old Trent McCauley is busted by the Internet police for illegally downloading and re-mixing film clips. Upset, he runs off to London to join the cyber-underground, and gets a heady taste of first love and idealistic politics leading the fight against the jackbooted, corporatist police state and its draconian copyright laws — a cause near and dear to the heart of author and activist Cory Doctorow.
Whatever the merits of that cause, and they get a full airing here in several set-piece speeches, Pirate Cinema has to be judged a very irresponsible book. Not only does Doctorow shamelessly flatter his target teen-hacker audience by pandering to their already well-developed feelings of being smarter and more important than everyone else, he also peddles a dangerous fantasy, especially for a YA title: Trent is a kid who runs away from home to the big city, where he is immediately adopted by a lovable street-wise buddy and gets to enjoy a comfortable life of petty crime, playing around on the Internet, casual drug use, and sex with a cute anarchist girl, before becoming an overnight hero and global celebrity by splicing together a bunch of video popcorn (apparently this is the only thing artists are capable of in our age of cannibal culture).
The fact that Doctorow is a good writer with a large following only makes it more essential that he take a big step back and think a bit more about what kind of message he’s sending.