Tom Doherty Associates: NY, 2012.
As I started to get into this book, I thought it might be a modern day Catcher in the Rye. At that point, Trent is trying to figure out how he is going to survive on the streets of London, after having left home. Going home is not an option. He meets Jem, who is an expert and waiting for someone else to train and share his ambitious idea of a squatters' home that can be improved and livable.
Homelessness is one of several central issues. In a time when so many buildings are abandoned, it seems natural that they could be put to better use. Jem has contacts that can help with the livability issue. Resources are not a problem, because of the abundance thrown away.
After their livelihood is no longer in question, Trent's mind turns to the reason he left home, his family's loss of internet due to his illegal usage. From there the story follows two more threads: piracy and the affects of new legislation. The question of piracy has to do with Trent's activity and that of his friends in London. The legislation which prompts Trent's leaving home is extreme to begin with. But as the law fails to control piracy, the production companies push for more injurious laws, with the possibility of hurting nearly everyone. At first, Trent just wants to continue the behavior that started his troubles. As his work becomes more artistic, he is compelled to share it and revel in others' pieces. Things become more serious as repercussions are felt.
The story is set in the near future, but a future envisioned if a law such as SOPA, CISPA, or ACTA were to be passed. Some of the realities in the book already do exist. Doctorow has not extrapolated much. After having fought off SOPA, there is also the knowledge that politicians are biding their time before they push another law at the behest of the production companies. One of my Senators is very much in favor of these laws. She claims that regulating the internet is a national security issue. It is only the massive negative reaction of the public that ended SOPA.
The story is brilliant and creative! I was impressed with the meshing of several social issues in a very real story. The young people are not just homeless victims, accepting whatever happens to them. Though there are glimpses of harsher reality, they use their minds and creativity to form a life for themselves. Risky and not something to be chosen by everyone, but still an enriching experience for those at the center of it. At least, as a temporary choice. I also like that it connects Trent and his friends with people that might be able to help them within the system: parents, activists, lawyers, and some political representatives.
The story makes a fairly strong case (though mostly an emotional plea) for usage that at this time is in a grey area. It might be considered fair use, but copyright holders want it to be illegal. The law so far has concentrated on attacking people who make the downloading that Trent does possible. There is also a plea for citizens to become more vocal towards their representatives.
Cory Doctorow provides Pirate Cinema free to download, besides book format. His activism within the internet realm is worth reading about.
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