Top critical review
A poorly written novel that is preachy and manipulative
on 8 October 2016
There is most definitely a line between using your novel to explore a subject and using your novel as a way to push your own views of that subject on your audience. Sadly, this book falls into the second category.
As a result this book very much reads like a long political statement and propaganda. As with Little Brother and Homeland, two novels that I very much enjoyed, Cory Doctorow has taken the very current subject of privacy in regards to technology as well as modern copyright laws to an extreme in order to create a theme for his novel. However, unlike with those other two novels where I felt the story came first and the message second, this book seemed to be the other way around.
This meant that reading this book felt very much like I was being preached at. Whether it's listening to politicians, getting the sales pitch at a car dealership, or reading novels, as soon as I feel like someone is trying to push and manipulate me into feeling and thinking a certain way, I very quickly want to get the hell out of there.
Now, this point of view is coming from someone who has very similar opinions on these subjects as Mr Doctorow. I have read his non-fiction work, somewhere where this kind of message should be found as it isn't hidden and manipulative, and I enjoyed those books thoroughly. However, those were the books for that kind of message, not this novel aimed at young adults. This just felt subversive and manipulative which is why I can't bring myself to give this more than two stars.
Though that is my main gripe with the story, it was not the last. The protagonist is a bit unsympathetic and the story takes its sweet time getting to any kind of point. I stopped reading this novel at the 50% mark and so far the concept of a Pirate Cinema had barely been touched on. It certainly didn't seem like some kind of central issue. I got the impression that the story didn't know what it wanted to be.
So overall I can't recommend this book. It doesn't read well as a story and it is incredibly subversive, so it is just 2 stars this time round.