Pirate Cinema

Pirate Cinema

4.5 2
by Cory Doctorow, Bruce Mann

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Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by sampling and reassembling footage he downloads from the net. In the near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; if you’re caught three times, your entire household is cut off from the Internet for a year, with no appeal.…  See more details below


Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by sampling and reassembling footage he downloads from the net. In the near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; if you’re caught three times, your entire household is cut off from the Internet for a year, with no appeal.

Trent is sure this won’t happen to him; he’s too clever. Except it does, and it nearly destroys his family—his father’s living, his mother’s health, and his kid sister’s studies all depend on Internet access. Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London where he learns how to stay alive on the streets. This drops him straight into the city’s always-rambunctious street scene, a demimonde of artists and activists who are fighting a new bill that will criminalize digital copying even more harmless than Trent’s, making millions of people felons at a stroke. The government is in the grip of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers that be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a movie to change people’s minds. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
In Doctorow’s novel set in the not too distant future, 16-year-old Trent McCauley gets his family in big trouble due to his unrepentant Internet piracy. With things going badly at home and the family banned from the Internet, Trent opts to run away to London, where he learns to live on the streets. In this audio edition, narrator Bruce Mann—whose native British accent is ideal for the story—does his best to embody Trent but turns in a middling performance. Though his interpretations of the supporting characters, particularly Trent’s mother, are believable and understated, the majority of his reading sounds forced and unnatural. At times it sounds as if he’s reading rather than performing. Mann seems unable to really let himself get lost within the story, and because of his reading listeners will suffer the same fate. Ages 12–up. A Tor hardcover. (Oct.)
Publishers Weekly
Doctorow (Little Brother; For the Win) returns with another down-and-dirty tale of technological guerrilla warfare. Set in a near-future England where Big Entertain-ment is pressuring Parliament into criminalizing illicit downloading and handing out jail sentences to those who do it, the novel concerns 16-year-old Trent McCauley who obsessively samples old films to create new works of art. This gets his entire family barred from the Web for a year, rendering his parents virtually unemployable and derailing his sister's education. Running away to London, Trent falls in with a group of young, high-tech squatters and anarchists who begin a David vs. Goliath war against the establishment, hoping to free the Net for creative use by the common people. Doctorow, a noted free Internet advocate (and PW columnist), handles his topic with great passion, creating engaging and believably geeky characters who share his fervor for both the Web and the new forms of art and communication it has made possible. Though the story can be talky and didactic, fans of the author's earlier work will find it a winner. Ages 13–up. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. (Oct.)
VOYA - Debbie Kirchhoff
The consequences of intellectual property theft in the near-future setting of this book are extraordinarily severe. The threat is not of a fine or jail time; it is virtual exile to the land of no Internet access not just for yourself but also for your family. It is understandable then that Trent McCauley sees no other way to react to the shame he feels for what he has done to his parents and his sister except to run away. He begins a new life on the London streets. After a harsh lesson in the dangers of the city, Trent finds friends, a new name, a place to live, and a cause to believe in. This is an important, dangerous book. The danger does not lie in the glorification of the London subculture of runaways and homelessness. It does not lie in the casual sex and drug use. The danger is that of a talented writer's ability to persuade. By the end of Pirate Cinema, the FBI and Interpol copyright infringement warnings seen in our present time displayed before every movie will be viewed in a much different light. This is an important book for young adults because much thought will be required of them to determine what creativity will come to mean in the age of electronic technology. This book offers a controversial viewpoint that needs to be considered. Reviewer: Debbie Kirchhoff
Children's Literature - Shirley Nelson
In a not so distant future, the laws against downloading movies or music from the Internet are strongly enforced. However, sixteen year old Trent downloads bits of movies to create his own "original" movies. Despite his cleverness, when Trent is charged with his third violation, his entire family loses Internet access for a year. His father cannot do his job, his mother loses her medical benefits, and his sister will not be able to complete her school work. Feeling like a failure, Trent runs away to London where he meets Jem Dodger who teaches him how to live on the street. Trent meets other teens including the mysterious "26," who becomes his girlfriend. Trent and his cronies, who call themselves the Jammie Dodgers, find ways to obtain castoff computer equipment and Trent begins making movies again under the pseudonym of Cecil B. DeVil. Together the teens start a movement to fight the large corporations and change the laws concerning Internet downloading. At first, they show movies in sewers and cemeteries as an underground movement to provide entertainment. But as they gain supporters throughout the country, Trent creates his masterpiece—a work that will send their message to the populace. Readers will find themselves questioning intellectual property and copyright laws as they cheer for this innovative group of teens. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Trent McCauley, 16, makes films. The problem is that his films are composed of bits and pieces of other copyrighted material. He's a thief of intellectual property and in this near-future Great Britain, the consequences for this sort of action are severe. He leaves home for London after his online piracy has caused his entire family to lose their vital Internet connection for a year. He soon meets Jem, who shows him the ropes of being homeless, and in no time they are sharing a posh flop with Trent's new mates. Back online, he makes films that are a smash hit on the underground scene where he rechristens himself "Cecil B. DeVil." He falls in love with beautiful and brilliant 26, who opens his eyes to the political ramifications of his filmmaking. Soon Cecil and his entire crew are in a political and artistic fight to dismantle legislation criminalizing their type of creativity, legislation written by film studios and passed by the studios' Parliament lackeys. This amazing book combines young love, terrific humor, great British slang, and crazy parties with astute commentary on intellectual property and emerging modes of creativity. Doctorow's characters are well-defined individuals, all with some facet, quirk, or activity to give them color. Language-arts and civics teachers could co-teach the heck out of this novel, and debaters will find a goldmine of monologues. It's funny, thought-provoking, and glorious.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Kirkus Reviews
The near future's oppressive copyright laws criminalize creativity in the name of protecting it. Trent McCauley has an irrepressible drive to create, carefully splicing bits and pieces of movies together into entirely new films. However, he gets his footage through illegal downloading, and when he's caught, his family loses their Internet for a year, nearly ruining them. His mother can't get her benefits, his father loses his job, and his academic sister is cut off from her homework, all in the name of miniscule amounts of corporate profit. Guilt-stricken, Trent runs away to London, where he's taken under the wing of streetwise Jem Dodger, learning Dumpster diving, squatting and panhandling. After Trent builds a family of fellow outcast kids, his creative urge leads him into an underground subculture of pirate-created movies in makeshift venues. There, he meets 26 and creates the persona Cecil B. DeVil. Pulled by 26 into the politics of copyright and the lobbyist money that purchases laws, Cecil becomes a creative figurehead for reform against escalating laws that aggressively jail kids. Doctorow (For the Win, 2010, etc.) isn't subtle with his stances; characters often seem to be giving campaign speeches. Fortunately, those rich characters are well-rounded enough and the laws close enough to already proposed measures that the agenda detracts minimally from the novel's success as a story. For computer-savvy kids who like to think. (Science fiction. 13 & up)

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Product Details

Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Pirate Cinema

By Cory Doctorow, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2012 Cory Doctorow
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4318-5



My "adventure" wasn't much fun after that. I was smart enough to find a shelter for runaways run by a church in Shoreditch, and I checked myself in that night, lying and saying I was eighteen. I was worried that they'd send me home if I said I was sixteen. I'm pretty sure the old dear behind the counter knew that I was lying, but she didn't seem to mind. She had a strong Yorkshire accent that managed to be stern and affectionate at the same time.

My bedfellows in the shelter — all boys, girls were kept in a separate place — ranged from terrifying to terrified. Some were proper hard men, all gangster talk about knives and beatings and that. Some were even younger looking than me, with haunted eyes and quick flinches whenever anyone spoke too loud. We slept eight to a room, in bunk beds that were barely wide enough to contain my skinny shoulders, and the next day, another old dear let me pick out some clothes and a backpack from mountains of donated stuff. The clothes were actually pretty good. Better, in fact, than the clothes I'd arrived in London wearing; Bradford was a good five years behind the bleeding edge of fashion you saw on the streets of Shoreditch, so these last-year's castoffs were smarter than anything I'd ever owned.

They fed me a tasteless but filling breakfast of oatmeal and greasy bacon that sat in my stomach like a rock after they kicked me out into the streets. It was 8:00 A.M. and everyone was marching for the tube to go to work, or queuing up for the buses, and it seemed like I was the only one with nowhere to go. I still had about forty pounds in my pocket, but that wouldn't go very far in the posh coffee bars of Shoreditch, where even a black coffee cost three quid. And I didn't have a laptop anymore (every time I thought of my lost video, never to be uploaded to a YouTube, gone forever, my heart cramped up in my chest).

I watched the people streaming down into Old Street Station, clattering down the stairs, dodging the men trying to hand them free newspapers (I got one of each to read later), and stepping around the tramps who rattled their cups at them, striving to puncture the goggled, headphoned solitude and impinge upon their consciousness. They were largely unsuccessful.

I thought dismally that I would probably have to join them soon. I had never had a real job and I didn't think the nice people with the posh film companies in Soho were looking to hire a plucky, underage video editor with a thick northern accent and someone else's clothes on his back. How the bloody hell did all those tramps earn a living? Hundreds of people had gone by and not a one of them had given a penny, as far as I could tell.

Then, without warning, they scattered, melting into the crowds and vanishing into the streets. A moment later, a flock of Community Support Police Officers in bright yellow high-visibility vests swaggered out of each of the station's exits, each swiveling slowly so that the cameras around their bodies got a good look at the street.

I sighed and slumped. Begging was hard enough to contemplate. But begging and being on the run from the cops all the time? It was too miserable to even think about.

The PCSOs disappeared into the distance, ducking into the Starbucks or getting on buses, and the tramps trickled back from their hidey holes. A new lad stationed himself at the bottom of the stairwell where I was standing, a huge grin plastered on his face, framed by a three-day beard that was somehow rakish instead of sad. He had a sign drawn on a large sheet of white cardboard, with several things glued or duct-taped to it: a box of Kleenex, a pump-handled hand-sanitizer, a tray of breath-mints with a little single-serving lever that dropped one into your hand. Above them was written, in big, friendly graffiti letters, FREE TISSUE/SANITIZER/MINTS — HELP THE HOMELESS — FANKS, GUV!, and next to that, a cup that rattled from all the pound coins in it.

As commuters pelted out of the station and headed for the stairs, they'd stop and read his sign, laugh, drop a pound in his cup, take a squirt of sanitizer or a Kleenex or a mint (he'd urge them to do it; it seemed they were in danger of passing by without helping themselves), laugh again, and head upstairs.

I thought I was being subtle and nearly invisible, skulking at the top of the stairwell and watching, but at the next break in the commuter traffic, he looked square at me and gave me a "Come here" gesture. Caught, I made my way to him. He stuck his hand out.

"Jem Dodger," he said. "Gentleman of leisure and lover of fine food and laughter. Pleased to make your acquaintance, guv." He said it in a broad, comic cockney accent and even tugged at an invisible cap brim as he said it. I laughed.

"Trent McCauley," I said. I tried to think of something as cool as "gentleman of leisure" to add, but all I came up with was "Cinema aficionado and inveterate pirate," which sounded a lot better in my head than it did in the London air, but he smiled back at me.

"Trent," he said. "Saw you at the shelter last night. Let me guess. First night, yeah?"

"In the shelter? Yeah."

"In the world, son. Forgive me for saying so, but you have the look of someone who's just got off a bus from the arse-end of East Shitshire with a hat full of dreams, a pocketful of hope, and a head full of grape jelly. Have I got that right?"

I felt a little jet of resentment, but I had to concede the point. "Technically I've been here for two days," I said. "Last night was my first night in the shelter."

He winked. "Spent the first night wandering the glittering streets of London, didn't ya?"

I shook my head. "You certainly seem to know a lot about me."

"Mate," he said, and he lost the cockney accent and came across pure north, like he'd been raised on the next estate. "I am you. I was you, anyway. A few years ago. Now I'm the Jammie Dodger, Prince of the London Byways, Count of the Canalsides, Squire of the Squat, and so on and so on."

Another train had come in, and more people were coming out of the station. He shooed me off to one side and began his smiling come-ons to the new arrivals. A minute later, he'd collected another twelve quid and he waved me back over.

"Now, Master McCauley, you may be wondering why I called you over here."

I found his chirpy mode of speech impossible to resist, so I went with it. "Indeed I am, Mr. Dodger. Wondering that very thing, I was."

He nodded encouragement, pleased that I was going along with the wheeze. "Right. Well, you saw all the other sorry sods holding up signs in this station, I take it?"

I nodded.

"None of 'em is making a penny. None of 'em know how to make a penny. That's cos most of the people who end up here get here because something awful's gone wrong with them and they don't have the cunning and fortitude to roll with it. Mostly, people end up holding a sign and shaking a cup because someone's done them over terribly — raped them, beat them up, given them awful head-drugs — and they don't have the education, skills or sanity to work out how to do any better.

"Now, me, I'm here because I am a gentleman of leisure, as I believe I have informed you already. Whatever happened in my past, I was clever and quick and tricksy enough to deal with it. So when I landed up holding a sign in a tube station hoping for the average Londoner to open his wallet and his heart to buy me supper, I didn't just find any old sheet of brown cardboard box, scrawl a pathetic message on it, and hope for the best.

"No. I went out and bought all different kinds of cards — bright yellow, pink, blue, plain white — and tested each one. See?" He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and drew out a small, worn notebook. He opened it to the first page and stuck it under my nose. It was headed "Colors: (HELP THE HOMELESS)" and there were two columns running its length, one listing different colored cardboards, the other showing different amounts.

"Look at that, would you? See how poorly brown performs? It's the bottom of the barrel. People just don't want to open their wallets to a man holding a sign that looks like it was made out of an old cardboard box. You'd think they would, right? Appearance of deserving thrift an' all? But they don't. They like practically any color except brown. And the best one, well, it's good old white." He rattled his sign. "Lots of contrast, looks clean. I buy a new one every day down at the art supply shop in Shoreditch High Street. The punters like a man what takes pride in his sign."

Another tubeload of passengers came up, and he shooed me off again, making another twentysome pounds in just a few minutes. "Now, as to wording, just have a look." He showed me the subsequent pages of his book. Each had a different header: HOMELESS — HELP. HUNGRY — HELP. HELP THE HUNGRY. HELP THE HOMELESS. DESPERATE. DESPERATE — HELP. "What I noticed was, people really respond to a call for action. It's not enough to say, 'homeless, miserable, starving' and so on. You need to cap it off with a request of some kind, so they know what you're after. 'Help the Homeless' outperforms everything else I've tried. Simple, to the point."

He flipped more pages, and now I was looking at charts showing all the different things he'd given away with his signboard, and the combinations he'd tried. "You gave away liverwurst?" I stared at the page.

"Well, no," he said. "But I tried. Turns out no one wants to accept a cracker and liver-paste from a tramp in a tube station." He shrugged. "It wasn't a great idea. I ended up eating liverwurst for three days. But it didn't cost me much to try and fail. If you want to double your success rate, triple your failure rate. That's what I always say. And sometimes, you've just got to be crazy about it. Every time I go into a shop, I'm on the lookout for something else I can do. See this?" He held up a tiny screwdriver. "Eyeglass tightener. You wait until sunglasses season, I'm going to be minted. 'Free DIY Spectacle Repair. Help the Homeless.'"

"Why are you telling me all this?"

He shrugged again. "I tell anyone who'll listen, to be honest. Breaks my heart to see those poor sods going hungry. And you seemed like you were fresh off the boat, like you probably needed a little help."

"So you think I should go make a sign like yours?"

He nodded. "Why not? But this is just a way to get a little ready cash when I need it." He carefully rolled up the signboard, emptying his cup into his front pocket, which bulged from the serious weight of an unthinkable quantity of pound and two-pound coins. "Come on, I'll buy you a coffee."

He walked us past the Starbucks and up Old Street to Shoreditch High Street, then down a small alley, to a tiny espresso stand set in the doorway of an office building. The man who ran it was ancient, with arthritic, knobby fingers and knuckles like walnuts. He accepted two pound coins from Jem and set about making us two lattes, pulling the espresso shots from a tarnished machine that looked even older than he did. The espresso ran out of the basket and into the paper cup in a golden stream, and he frothed the milk with a kind of even, unconscious swirling gesture, then combined the two with a steady hand. He handed them to us, wordlessly, then shooed us off.

"Fyodor makes the best espresso in east London," Jem said, as he brought his cup to his lips and sipped. He closed his eyes for a second, then swallowed and opened them, wiping at the foam on his lip with the back of his hand. "Had his own shop years ago, went into retirement, got bored, set up that stand. Likes to keep his hand in. Practically no one knows about him. He's kind of a secret. So don't go telling all your mates, all right? Once Vice gets wind of that place, it'll be mobbed with awful Shoreditch fashion victims. I've seen it happen. Fyodor wouldn't be able to take it. It'd kill him. Promise me."

"I promise." I was really starting to enjoy his overblown, dramatic way of speaking. "On my life I doth swear it," I said. I didn't mention that the only coffee I'd ever drunk was Nescafé.

"You're overdoing it," he said. "You were doing okay until you got to 'doth.'"

"Noted," I said. Personally, I liked "doth."

"Here's the thing," he said. "Most of the poor bastards who end up on the street never really think it through. It's not a surprise, really. Like I said, people usually get here as the result of some awful trauma, and once they're on the road, it's hard to catch your breath and get some perspective. So nothing against them, but there's a smart way to be homeless and a dumb way. Do you want to learn about the smart way?"

I had a pang of suspicion just then. I didn't know this person. I hadn't even noticed him in the shelter (but then, I'd spent my time there trying not to inadvertently provoke any of the boys with eye contact, especially the ones talking about their knives and fights). Everything I knew about being homeless I'd learned from lurid Daily Mail cover stories about poor tramps and runaway kids who'd been cut up, fouled, and left in pieces in rubbish bins all over England.

One word kept going round my head: "Groomer." Supposedly, there was an army of groomers out there, men and women and even kids who tried to get vulnerable teens (like me, I suppose) to involve themselves with some dirty, ghastly pedophile scheme. These, too, featured prominently in the screaming headlines of the Daily Mail and the Sun, and we had an annual mandatory lecture on "network safety" that was all about these characters. I didn't really believe in them, of course. Trying to find random kids to abuse on the net made about as much sense as calling random phone numbers until you got a child of your preferred age and sex and asking if she or he wanted to come over and touch your monkey.

I'd pointed this out once in class, right after the teacher finished showing us a slide that showed that practically every kid that was abused was abused by a family member, a teacher or some other trusted adult. "Doesn't that slide mean that we should be spending all our time worrying about you, not some stranger on the net?" I'd got a week's detention.

But it's one thing to be brave and sensible in class; another thing to be ever-so-smart and brave as you're standing on a London street with less than thirty quid to your name, a runaway in a strange city with some smart-arse offering to show you the ropes.

"You're not going to cut me up and leave me in a lot of rubbish bins all over England are you?" I said.

He shook his head. "No, too messy. I'm more the cement-block-around-the-ankles-heave-ho-into-the-Thames sort. The eels'll skeltonize you inside of a month. I'll take your teeth so they can't do the dental records thing."

"I confess that I don't know what to say to that."

He slapped me on the shoulder. "Don't be daft, son. Look, I promise I won't take you inside any secluded potential murder sites. This is the Jammie Dodger's tour of London, admission free. It's better than the Ripper tour, better than one of them blue disk walking tours, better than a pub crawl. When you're done with the Jammie Dodger tour, you've got knowledge you can use. What say you, stout fellow?"

"You're overdoing it," I said. "You were doing okay until you got to 'stout fellow.'"

"It's a fair cop," he said. "Come on."

* * *

Our first stop was a Waitrose grocery store in the Barbican. It was a huge place, oozing poshness out into the street. Mums with high-tech push-chairs and well-preserved oldies cruised in and out, along with the occasional sharp-dressed man in a suit. Jem led me through the front door and told me to get a shopping cart. I did, noting that it had a working checkout screen on it — all the ones back home were perpetually broken.

As I pushed it over to him in the produce section, one of the security guards — cheap suit, bad hair, conspicuous earphone — detached himself from the wall and drifted over to us. He hung back short of actually approaching us, but made no secret of the fact that he was watching us. Jem didn't seem to mind. He walked us straight into the fruit section, where there were ranks of carefully groomed berries and succulent delights from around the world, the packages cleverly displaying each to its best effect. I'd never seen fruit like this: it was like hyper-fruit, like the fruit from films. The carton of blackberries didn't have a single squashed or otherwise odd-shaped one. The strawberries were so perfect they looked like they'd been cast from PVC.


Excerpted from Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2012 Cory Doctorow. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Pirate Cinema 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I had great difficulty putting it down. I would describe the book a little but its so much greater than the sum of its parts. I would not do to it justice. Give it a shot.
Anonymous 5 months ago
At Cory Doctorow's website. Google it if you don't believe me.