Overall I found Pirate Cinema to be a neat, crisply written page turner.
Even if you’re a little older and a lot more jaded than the members of Doctorow’s prime target audience, “Pirate Cinema” offers plenty of rousing action and passionate debate. It’s a strong antidote to the YA market’s current glut of vampires and postapocalyptic wastelands (or vampires surviving in postapocalyptic wastelands).
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.
Perhaps the most original theme, however, relates to the definition of creativity. Such a rethinking of this central and eternal trait of our species lies at the heart of this book, which strives to find a place in the over-regulated world for maximal expression of individual human spirit. When, midway through the book, Trent generously defines creativity in its baseline form as “doing something that isn’t obvious,” the book explodes into new philosophical realms. The outcome is less strident and melodramatic than Little Brother, more balanced and accepting of an imperfect world — while still holding aloft an idealistic torch.
It’s generally accepted that fussing with computers is a narrative buzzkill, yet Doctorow’s unrivaled verisimilitude makes every click as exciting as a band of underdog warriors storming a castle. It’s not exactly Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book (1971), but with its delirious insights into everything from street art to urban exploring to dumpster diving to experimental cinema, it feels damn close.
Rich characters, well-rounded — a success as a story. For computer-savvy kids who like to think.