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Pirate Cinema Hardcover – Oct 2 2012
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“Doctorow is indispensible. It's hard to imagine any other author taking on youth and technology with such passion, intelligence, and understanding.” ―Booklist, starred review on For The Win
“Generally awesome in the more vernacular sense: It's pretty freaking cool... He's also terrific at finding the human aura shimmering around technology.” ―The Los Angeles Times on Little Brother
“A believable and frightening tale of a near-future San Francisco… Filled with sharp dialogue and detailed descriptions…within a tautly crafted fictional framework.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Little Brother
“Doctorow pays homage to  with an impassioned, polemical consideration of the War on Terror that dovetails with themes of teenage angst, rebellion, and paranoia ... Little Brother should easily find favor with fans of M. T. Anderson's Feed, Janet Tashjian's The Gospel According to Larry, and Scott Westerfeld's So Yesterday.” ―Horn Book(starred review) on Little Brother
“Readers will delight in the details of how Marcus attempts to stage a techno-revolution… Buy multiple copies; this book will be h4wt (that's ‘hot,' for the nonhackers).” ―Booklist (starred review) on Little Brother
About the Author
CORY DOCTOROW is a coeditor of Boing Boing and a columnist for multiple publications including the Guardian, Locus, and Publishers Weekly. He was named one of the Web's twenty-five influencers by Forbes magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. His award-winning novel Little Brother was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It’s not without it’s flaws however. At times I felt a little dragged down by the amount of legal and technical detail in the book. He didn’t always find that balance between informative and preachy. Also many of the characters were homeless and I found he depicted their life through rose coloured glasses. Other then a few occasional troubles, their life of the streets didn’t seem to bad – in fact it often seemed better then my own. They were a very colourful and charming bunch of characters, however, and given that it was based in London it had a very Charles Dickens feel to it (just much more cheery).
Pirate Cinema is a timely and informative and most of all important book. It’s not perfect by any means but if you can get past all the legal and political jargon I think you’ll feel better informed having read it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However, around (just over?) half way through, the book became a repetitive one-sided treatise against internet copyright restriction, and every single character seems to give exactly the same speech over and over again. Not subtle; not nuanced; not in any way enlightening - let alone entertaining. Tediously boring, in fact. Which is such a pity, because the first half of the book is particularly enjoyable.
It's very rare indeed for me to abandon a book before its end, not matter how bad it is. But this one has indeed been exceptional.
So this is a bit disappointing, largely because of the high expectations set by Doctorow's much more deftly-executed work around some of these same themes.
Characters break into long dogmatic monologues at the drop of a hat, dialogue that comes across as artificial as the faux-dialogue in student educational films.
The characters manifest skills in gourmet cooking and construction rehabilitation that are incredibly rare amongst the populace and quickly demonstrate said skills at genius levels that normally take a lifetime of work to develop.
The trash becomes a very obvious deux ex machina that drops absolutely anything the characters need into their hands as easily as the Enterprise's synthesizer. (I'm surprised they didn't just nick a few pallets of gold that the Royal Treasury was throwing out for being scratched.)
The subject matter is treated only with jagged strokes of black and white. The antagonists are portrayed as so evil that I'm surprised their lawyer wasn't twirling a Simon Legree mustache between two fingers. There's no character who examines or argues the opposite viewpoint in any sort of reasonable way.
And as his story universe's God, on multiple occasions, Doctorow allows remarkable but unrealistic coincidences to perfectly fall into place as needed (such as the hobby of the protagonist's movie star idol).
One might argue that some of these are permissible when writing for young adults, but pre-teens and teenagers are sophisticated enough to both notice and have problems with each of these issues. Read anything from Diane Duane's Young Wizardry series if you think the label of `young adult' excuses these sort of problems.
Doctorow once could be relied upon for writing touching character pieces that were set in environments created by creative, insightful, predictive yet mostly optimistic worldbuilding set in our near- or near-far future. Read "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" or "Makers".
With "For the Win", "Little Brother", and now "Pirate Cinema", Doctorow's work now is usually comprised of brassy action pieces, marching down the middle of the road proclaiming their theme simply by loudly shouting it, with characters that are so un-nuanced as to seem laughably, inhumanly zero-dimensional. Doctorow has become a Michael Bay parody of himself.
After "For the Win", "Little Brother", and "Pirate Cinema", I doubt Doctorow can find his way back to how he used to write. Writing polemical fiction is probably a lot easier and a lot more fun. But it's also a lot less readable and a lot less powerful. Whose works will be best remembered in 50 years, those of Martin Scorsese or those of Carrot Top?
I hope I'm wrong, though. I'd like to see something written with the skill, shading, and thoughtfulness Doctorow used to employ. It's been absent for a long time now.
Like Little Brother, we have another young adult protagonist and his super-smart female love interest and their tribe, who become outraged at government and corporate interests and take action to improve the world.
As in other Doctorow novels, we get great, really rich settings. This one takes place in London's street/squatter scene. It's hard to imagine that Doctorow could write this stuff without having lived it himself. I'd love to spend six weeks with Doctorow and see what his life is really like.
In Pirate Cinema, the technology and the morals take place front and center, as they do in most Doctorow novels. This is about intellectual property rights, their effect on creativity, and the rights of corporations versus people. In his earlier books, Cory's prose sometimes read like an academic paper when he's talking about the serious stuff. This is still here, but I think he's done a better job of blending it in, and the fact is that I really don't mind the lectures: they're fun and educational, even for someone relatively conversant in the space.
I don't want to give too much away, but I laughed out loud and had to immediately text a few friends when I get to the scene on panhandling A/B testing. If you know what A/B testing is, I promise this scene will crack you up.
In short, if you liked Little Brother, Makers, or For the Win, you'll love Pirate Cinema too. If you haven't tried any of Doctorow's fiction, I highly recommend it. He writes about important issues in a fun and entertaining way. You can read for the fun or the lessons or both.
(Note to parents: my kids are still in their single-digit ages, but when they hit their teens I hope to feed them a steady diet of Doctorow novels, including Pirate Cinema. The language, street living, and drugs might be slightly edgy, but the lessons about corporate interests and activism are right on.)
If on a narrative-level the book somehow fails to deliver a great reding experience on the other hand if you, like me, are sensitive to the issues of copyright and IP you will resonate to the protagonists' adventures.