Jean-Paul’s Rating: 2/5 stars
It is the near future and copyright laws have gone from insanely restrictive to ludicrously restrictive. It is a world where the Internet is not a luxury but a necessity. Family’s lives are ruined because their children illegally download copyrighted materials which causes them to lose their Internet connectivity. Teenager Trent McCauley’s obsession with remixing the works of a famous writer/director/actor into new art gets his family kicked off the Internet for a year. Guilt-ridden for destroying his family’s livelihood, Trent runs away to London where he meets like-minded kids as he learns to survive on the mean streets of the city.
It is an interesting premise for a book and about the first half or so is lots of fun as we follow Trent’s adventures in London, learning the science of begging and finding the best dumpster food in the city and navigating the finer points of squatting in abandoned buildings. That’s all pretext for the main story which is, unfortunately, Trent and company’s attempts to overturn the egregious copyright law which caused Trent’s family to lose their Internet in the first place.
Copyright law and a free and open Internet are topics that are often covered by Cory Doctorow and what he has to say about the topics is well worth reading. They should not be the subject of a young adult fiction book, however. The thing is, all the copyright stuff is incredibly boring. You can try to hide your copyright talk in the various misadventures of teenagers all you want, it doesn’t make it any more interesting to read about.
Aside from the copyright stuff, there are some interesting topics covered from what art is to what ownership means to living on the streets of London to the hosting of pirate cinemas in the sewers to the prevalence of the surveillance state. The problem is the rest of it is just kind of thrown in there and nothing really ties together. Even the ending seems kind of just thrown together. When your bright idea is showing a pirate remix on the side of Parliament to help sway the vote of a law meant to make copyright law less egregious, you may not have thought your ending through enough.