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Echopraxia by Peter Watts

Echopraxia by Peter WattsReview: Echopraxia by Peter Watts (Tor, 2014)

Note: Thanks to NetGalley and Tor for providing the ARC of this title.

So, a couple of weeks back I reviewed Peter Watts’ Blindsight, which I drooled over on account of its multiplicity of serious scientific and philosophical themes underlying the sci-fi dressing. Plot-wise it told a first-contact story, an alien intelligence arriving first to take a snapshot of us from orbit using countless tiny, disposable probes (Firefall) and then simply content to linger in the cold outer reaches of the solar system. Inevitably a recon mission was launched, teamed by genetically altered human beings and a vampire (go read the review) and powered by a beam of anti-matter sent by Icarus, essentially a giant solar cell in close orbit around the sun. Things… don’t go to plan.

Rewind the tape a few years. Echopraxia kicks off in the deserts of Oregon in the aftermath of Firefall and the subsequent attempt to contact the force responsible. One of the few non-altered (‘baseline’) humans left, Daniel Brüks is a biologist running from a shady past and consigned to a hermit’s life tracing modifications spreading through the DNA of wild animals. Unfortunately he finds himself in the middle of a crossfire between a religio-scientific order in their tornado-powered temple and an escaped vampire with a bodyguard of philosophical zombies. Before he knows it he discovers they’re all really on the same side, the common enemy being non-baseline humans, and he’s caught up in their flight from a devastating biological agent launched into the compound. Confused and angered in equal measure he’s nonetheless stuck with his saviours/captors as they head for Icarus and escape from those hounding them. Icarus will be safe. Icarus will be empty. Or will it?

Echopraxia isn’t quite the extreme mindfuck that was Blindsight, where heavy-duty idea-cannons blasted you from every page. There’s a lot more straight-up story-telling here, much in the same ‘creeping horror in confined spaces’ vein of it’s predecessor but lightened with more in the way of action and pacing. It’s pure sci-fi which is very much enjoyable for its own sake, regardless of whether you’re up to speed with its history. There’s a lot going on here, from the mysterious monastic superhumans to the vampire and her entourage, from Brüks’s interaction with the crew to the mysterious marine Jim Moore. And once they reach Icarus and the shit hits the fan then it switches gear into full-on space thriller.

That’s certainly not all though. Peter Watts seems to be Neal Stephenson-esque in the wealth and diversity of knowledge he brings to his writing. Here we’re treated to a more detailed exploration of his vampire concept, a truly original and refreshing one. There are more musings on alien anatomy and the potential forms which life may take, stretching the very definition of the word. There are spacecraft and power sources, genetic jiggery-pokery and cybernetic augmentation. Basically twice as much standard fare as you’d expect in any book this size.

It’s the more philosophical meanderings which really rope me in though. This time he engages the intellect on two main fronts; free will and faith. On the first topic he comes down very much in the camp of accepted scientific opinion. Free will, as much as we would love to possess it, is purely illusory and something which we cling to out of habit rather than as a reflection of how the universe really operates. We behave as though we can make choices independent of the stimuli presented to us, we expect others to do the same as evidenced by our justice systems, but this is all purely anachronistic. Not a popular viewpoint, but truth isn’t democratic. No disagreements from me on this count.

His exploration of the nature of faith as opposed to reason is very interesting. In fact it almost infuriated me at times when he seemed to be genuinely propounding faith as a virtue, as opposed to the harmful vice I believe it to be. It wasn’t until reaching the end of the book that I discovered he seems to share my mischievous joy in playing devil’s advocate and chasing any line of reasoning to its ultimate end. The notions he raises, of reason reaching an impasse and being supplanted by something far more akin to religious faith are interesting enough in themselves to be able to suppress my natural revulsion at the thought.

Anway, long story short – Echopraxia is a very worthy successor to the wonderful Blindsight and one which may be more accessible to casual readers. It’s not shy of asking you to engage your brain at a serious level but certainly not to the point where it’s going to burn you out before the end. If anything it’ll leave you refreshed and churning with fresh ideas. Oh, and the notion of reality and an operating system, consciousness as a bug and god as a virus? Well played sir, well played…

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Blindsight by Peter Watts

Blindsight by Peter WattsReview: Blindsight by Peter Watts (Tor, 2006)

“The signal is a virus.”

I’ve said before that one of my greatest joys is finishing a book only to discover that doing so has massively increased my reading list. When an author has me chomping at the bit to explore every nook and cranny of the arguments they’ve made or the concepts they’ve considered then I truly feel I’ve got my money’s worth. But this is usually something limited to non-fiction titles – science, history, what have you. I’m a bibliography hound, sniffing out every paper trail till I get to the end. But how many sci-fi books contain such a detailed list of references? Well, Blindsight for one…

Blindsight is a hard sci-fi novel by marine biologist Peter Watts, author of the Rifters trilogy. Near-future Earth is a place populated by a very different variety of humans. Augmentations and genetic improvement are the norm, increasing specialisation to the point where it takes a special class of being simply to convey to others what is going on with the rest of their species. Siri Keeton is one such being, a synthesist, called into service for his race following Firefall, our first hint that there might be something out there other than ourselves. The incident, essentially a harmless intergalactic candid snapshot, spurs a mission to the outer reaches of the solar system in order to initiate first contact, understand the threat (if any) and take the necessary steps.

As soon as the crew – Keeton, a vampire (to be explained…), a one-man army, a sense-enhanced biologist and a linguist housing several distinct personalities to allow for parallel problem solving – make contact with the alien entities they realise that there are several insurmountable problems, chiefly involving communication. Their position in the Oort cloud denies them contact with Earth (a seven-month signal delay isn’t ideal). Furthermore the alien craft announcing itself as Rorschach seems to be talking but the linguist seems to be convinced it’s little more than a philosophical zombie at best, something displaying outward signs of consciousness but lacking any true conscious experience. Communicative or not, the crew soon makes exploratory forays into the massive ship/being and things rapidly deteriorate from mysterious to oh-fuck-let’s-get-out-of-here. Except they can’t, and the vampire crew member is acting a little… odd.

So that’s the set-up but it honestly doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s going on in Blindsight. The characters and their situation do their job in moving the story forward – and do it truly beautifully thanks to Watts’ compelling writing. The action is seen through Keeton’s eyes in a rather unique fashion. Chosen for the mission by virtue of his skills at communicating the motivations of others and dispassionately observing events around him, he is the natural choice for the book’s narrator. As the action wears on though his neutrality and reliability come under the scrutiny of the vampire Sarasti, folding the narration in upon itself. However this is just a backdrop for the real content. It’s a book of huge and intellectually taxing ideas, truly deserving of the hard sci-fi tag. There is no aspect of this world left unexamined and it’s certainly not done in a patronising ‘Alien Taxonomy For Dummies‘ kind of way. No, the meat of the book feels more like an in-depth discussion with a specialist in a bewildering variety of fields.

I’m not going to hammer on at length but there were a few real highlights for me. Firstly his conception of Rorschach and the developments which take place through its growth and eventual maturity are staggeringly original and quite unsettling in their implication. The craft’s attempts at communication seemed to echo in my head with the voice of HAL9000 and that was the best of it. This living ship, soon replete with its own hive-minded ‘crew’, for some reason had me thinking of Event Horizon and the unease which that movie stirred. It’s from this thread that I gleaned the line at the top of the review – it’s possible that our very act of broadcasting meaningless conversation through the ether might be misconstrued as a hostile act by an alien creature.

And then there’s the whole vampire thing. Yes, I’m sure that put some people off but bear with it. Blindsight‘s take on the evolutionary origins of vampirism, right down to the scientific explanation behind their aversion to crucifixes, is a masterstroke far above the lower depths of modern bloodsucker fiction. But why include them in the first place? Well, vampire genes implanted into normal humans (remember their longevity?) is a great way to get around the temporal restrictions of long-distance space travel…

The icing on the cake though is the main intellectual thread continuing through the entire book, a debate on the concept of sentience as opposed to intelligence and on the nature of consciousness itself. What is this thing we call consciousness? Is it really there at all, is it just a self-emergent phenomenon arising from particular configurations of matter, and above all what the hell is it for? This is no superficial treatment; as a philosophy graduate I can tell you he gives the topic a hell of a beating and should have you pondering it a long time after the last page. And this is what I mean by the increasing reading list – I’ve tagged three books on the subject of consciousness alone for future consumption on the basis of his very welcome explanatory appendix.

I’m just beginning to realise that I can’t truly do this book justice in a short review. It’s sci-fi for thinking types, that’s for sure – a background in basic biology, physics, computing, psychology and philosophy will serve you well here, although that list is just for starters. It’s clever, dark, funny and still very human despite everything else, plus it’s packed with little references to genre classics for the eagle-eyed reader (They’re made out of meat!). Give this book a try and give your mental musculature a well-deserved workout. I’ll be back in a week or two with a review of the soon-to-be-released sequel…

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Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Spin by Robert Charles WilsonReview: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (Tor, 2006)

It was a night like any other. Until the stars went out…

Privileged siblings Jason and Diane and their friend Tyler, harbouring an adolescent crush on Diane, had snuck outside to avoid the adult party going on indoors when it happened. Just like that, the sky was black. No stars, no moon, no planets. Nothing. The following day the sun rose on cue but it was not the same; a smoothed-out, blemish-free caricature of its former self, yet thankfully sustaining life all the same. The Earth had become trapped in the Spin and nothing would be the same again.

Robert Charles Wilson is renowned as a master of hard scifi yet this was the first of his works I’d read. Wow. Spin is the kind of book that leaves you reeling, sledgehammering idea after idea into your brain until you’re forced to put it down and take a breather. Told from the perspective of Tyler it describes, on the surface, the phenomenon of the Spin and its effects on humanity. After some investigation is transpires that the Earth has been cocooned in a kind of membrane which not only obscures it from outside eyes but also has the effect of massively slowing localised passage of time. A day on Earth now equates to almost a million years in the universe at large. The effects of the massively concentrated amounts of solar energy and cosmic radiation we should be receiving are somehow ameliorated by the Spin membrane itself. So it seems there is no immediate danger, but as we all know this sola system won’t last forever and the sun will eventually become a red dwarf, expanding to devour the inner planets including our own. A fate from which we were previously separated by an unimaginably vast gulf of time now seems to be approaching within a lifetime.

Against this background, Wilson begins a masterful examination of human nature, persistence and our place in the universe. The concepts raised along the way are as exhilarating as they are mind-bending. For example, given that Earth’s scientific community has a mere few decades in which to attempt a solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem, what could they possibly do? Well, why not outsource the problem? By seeding Mars with the ingredients necessary for life, and eventually with human volunteers, then our new Martian neighbours could not only observe the Spin from the outside at a normal galactic pace and eventually return their findings to us. A year passing in Earth time would equate to over a hundred million years of Martian progress and evolution. This should give some idea of the kind of scale Wilson toys with in Spin.

However, at its heart Spin is essentially a very human love story spanning a whole generation. Tyler’s distant yearning for Diane, eternally beyond his reach, plays out in parallel with an intelligent discourse on the relationship between science and faith. Also falling into the ‘human interest’ category is the conflict between the gifted Jason and his overbearing father E.D., not only a study on the age-old idea of youth forever struggling to break free of parental chains but also a comment on the destructive nature of conservatism and authority.

As I mentioned before, at times it’s hard to keep going with a book this densely crammed full of information and speculation. Fortunately Robert Charles Wilson is a gifted enough writer that the story manages to keep flowing and never crushes you under the weight of its ambition. By the time the incredible climax arrives you should be happily keeping pace with events and will almost certainly wish he’d kept going for another four hundred pages. And on that note I’m off to seek out more of his works.

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The Waking Engine by David Edison

The Waking Engine by David EdisonReview: The Waking Engine by David Edison (Tor, 2014)

Note: Thanks to Tor Books for providing the Advance Reading Copy of this title

First off, apologies to the kind folks at Tor who sent me this ebook gratis, only for it to languish in my virtual bookpile while real life took precedence. A few gigs for my band and, more importantly, a burgeoning relationship with a wonderful girl, got in the way. So my best-laid plans to have this finished, reviewed and posted before the February 11th publication date went awry. However it’s finally done, so without further ado…

The Waking Engine follows Cooper, an average New Yorker who awakens one day to find himself in a completely alien city and being investigated by two strangers. The mysterious pair, Asher and Sesstri, take Cooper back to their lodgings to help him recuperate and continue their probing. Having ascertained that he is not the man they’re looking for they toss him into the unfamiliar streets to fend for himself.

Cooper stumbles around his new surroundings in a disoriented daze, trying to make sense of the new world in which he’s been unceremoniously dumped. After run-ins with undying prostitutes and beer-soaked soldiers he recruits a young Richard Nixon to help him find the two miscreants who first stumbled upon him. Nixon is only too happy to offer his services in exchange for a Danzig t-shirt. On returning to their abode, Asher and Sesstri explain the situation.

He is now a citizen of the City Unspoken. Death, it transpires, is not the end. We all live countless lives, floating from one universe to another in a near-endless series of rebirths. However, we all must experience True Death eventually, and when our time is up we arrive at the City Unspoken for our final journey. But there’s a problem. An occurrence known as the svarning is under way. People are no longer dying and the city is becoming choked with souls who can no longer move on. Bound to their bodies, the populace can die over and over again in any fashion imaginable, only to find themselves back in the same old flesh, same old city. Stranger still, the former lords of the City Unspoken have been enclosed in the Dome at the heart of the misshapen metropolis. Aristocratic insanity reigns within, exacerbated that one of their number has found a weapon which allows its victims to experience True Death and is using it to trim the ranks of their peers.

No sooner is this exposition out of the way than Cooper is kidnapped, forcing Asher and Sesstri into action. They must recover their newfound friend whom it transpires may after all have been the one they are looking for. And then there is the matter of the svarning to deal with. What is it, what caused it and how can they reverse it before the world they know is destroyed by the overflowing legions of undying?

The Waking Engine is David Edison’s debut novel and it’s a very impressive one for that. It’s a dense, intricate read which crams you full of new information on every turn of the page, but despite that it’s a beautifully crafted, flowing novel. The world-building put me in mind of a bastard hybrid of China Mieville and JG Ballard and the very tone of the story is reminiscent of the same pair. It has a sparse and bleak but urgent quality to it, apparent in the plot as well as the prose itself. Edison seems to be a fiend for detail and takes great pleasure in fleshing out every aspect of the universe he has created, using a true talent for words to perfectly sculpt his world.

Admittedly the very weight of the text can start dragging. It took me a long time to really get into the swing of things, having to wade through detailed descriptions of a scenario in which I wasn’t yet fully invested. The first fifty pages or so were a slog to be honest. It pays off though and before long I was steaming through the pages at full speed, even having to remind myself to slow down and appreciate the writing instead of wolfing it down. Another slight downside was the character of the protagonist, Cooper. He seemed a little flat for a starring role and I found it difficult to connect with him in any meaningful way most of the time. Asher and Sesstri are another story though, much better written and easier to identify with their motivation.

There’s a lot to recommend The Waking Engine. Okay, it may not be the best title to go for if you’re looking for something to while away a long plane journey. However if you want a slice of urban fantasy/sci-fi that you can really sink your teeth into, or if you just want to enjoy some extremely accomplished writing for its own sake, then it’s well worth a read.

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The Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tegillis

Bitter Seeds by Ian TregillisReview: The Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis (Tor Fantasy, 2010-2013)

An admission first: half of the books I have read since become an ebook convert have been chosen on the recommendation of a single source, Boing Boing. Their chief reviewer and hugely talented author in his own right, Cory Doctorow, has tastes so perfectly in alignment with my own that I barely even bother to read the details, I just dive right in. So obviously when he highlighted the closing chapter in a trilogy based around an alternate history of World War Two, one in which the Axis had access to superpowered Ubermenschen while the Allies pinned their hopes on more traditional warlocks, I was all in. The vision in my head was of a ludicrous, action-packed piece of sci-fi/fantasy nonsense, utterly lightweight and throwaway yet enjoyable. Next time I’ll read the review…

The Milkweed Triptych, comprised of Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War and Necessary Evil, begins shortly before the opening stages of the Second World War. The prologue introduces us to the key players on opposing sides, firstly a tough, opportunistic London orphan known as Raybould Marsh who is taken under the wing of government operative John Stephenson. On the other side are a pair of gypsy siblings, Gretel and Klaus, delivered into the hands of mad Nazi scientist Dr von Westarp by an unscrupulous farmer.

The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis

Fast forward a decade or so and Europe is on the verge of breaking out into war. Von Westarp’s brood have developed remarkable powers, variously able to become invisible, or even totally incorporeal, to start infernos, to crush tanks like paper models with thought alone or even, in Gretel’s case, to view all the potential twisting strands which the future might take and select the one with the most favourable outcome to follow. Marsh, now a spy moving up the ranks of the secret service, becomes aware of Germany’s new secret weapon through a bizarre and fatal encounter with a potential defector. The situation soon escalates and Stephenson, compelled by Marsh’s revelations, creates Project Milkweed, tasked with countering Germany’s now unstoppable advances using a force of warlocks rounded up by Marsh’s unlikely best friend, the aristocratic Will Beauclerk.

With a set-up like this we should be en route to mindless carnage, no? Surprisingly Ian Tregillis takes an altogether different tack with The Milkweed Triptych – it is a dark, bleak and thoughtful exploration of the lengths people will go to to fulfill their desires and the consequences thereof. Key to this is the mechanics of the warlocks’ particular skillset. Rather than typical magic they utilise a proto-language known as Enochian to communicate with the Eidolons, creatures who know no spatial or temporal limitations and whose abilities to warp the fabric of reality is matched only by their hatred of humanity. Unable to locate us (Will likens their efforts to trying to pinpoint one particular ant which could be anywhere on the globe), they demand blood prices for their favours, blood which forms a map leading to the human realm. Two things follow inevitably from this premise: the blood prices escalate the more we demand of them, and with each blood map they come closer to finding us. A recipe for disaster indeed.

Necessary Evil by Ian TregillisFurther complicating matters, and crucial to the entire plot of the series, is Gretel and her ability to divine and manipulate the future. Her ability, one employed, is apparently infallible and raises an important question – if the future is set, or at least chosen by Gretel, then do we have any free will? Marsh steadfastly rails against this, saying “I refuse to live in a clockwork universe”, a thought I’m sure we all instinctively cling to no matter that all scientific evidence is stacked against it. Will shares his conviction but Gretel’s wonderful response is simply “Of course you’re free little rabbit. Now hop along. Hop, hop, hop.” No matter your own personal position on the determinism vs free will debate you will still be entranced by the slow, disturbing development of Gretel’s character and the extent of the webs she weaves.which could be anywhere on the globe), they demand blood prices for their favours, blood which forms a map leading to the human realm. Two things follow inevitably from this premise: the blood prices escalate the more we demand of them, and with each blood map they come closer to finding us. A recipe for disaster indeed.

So, The Milkweed Triptych is far from the brain candy which I had anticipated and is an altogether more heavyweight and thought-provoking work. I have one major bone to pick with Ian Tregillis though and that’s the language employed in the dialogue throughout the book. Yes, I realise we’re dealing with a certain historical period and that anachronisms should lend it more authenticity but it tends to sound more like something out of a movie than actual conversation. Did anyone ever really say “Bloody hop”? And as for the character of the Scotsman, Lorimer, and his penchant for calling the apparently handsome Klaus a ‘minger’? ‘Minger’ is a Scots word specifically referring to an ugly person, certainly not a general derogatory term. Not a huge criticism and one which the majority of the book’s readers will be blissfully unaware of but it rankled with me enough to distract from the flow of the book. Thankfully his historical research is far better than his forays into Scots vernacular.

On the whole though The Milkweed Triptych, once I adjusted to the unexpected darkness of the tone, was a very enjoyable read and one which I steamed through quickly. History buffs will get a lot of mileage out of the attention paid to the details of WW2 and beyond, fantasy fans will love the concept of the Eidolons and their blood prices, while sci-fi (and probably comic) aficionados will find plenty to keep them occupied in Von Westarp’s lab-created superhumans and their insanely destructive powers. For the general fiction reader there’s a story of love, desperation, fall and redemption hidden behind the window dressing. Something for everyone in other words.

 

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Pirate Party

Pirate Cinema by Coy DoctorowReview: Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen, 2012)

(Note: This was originally written for The Mountains Of Instead but turned out too long. I had to use it, especially in light of the recent death of Aaron Swartz. The themes of this book are very relevant to the case)

The year is, well, not so far from now. Life in the UK is much the same, only the technology has changed. Even in that sense society is entirely recognisable, with the only significant difference being further reliance on the internet: for study; for work; for recreation; even for claiming benefits. It is against this background that nerd icon Cory Doctorow sets his latest YA novel, Pirate Cinema.

Pirate Cinema opens with Trent McCauley, a nondescript 16 year old Bradford schoolkid, indulging in his hobby. Trent is a remixer, downloading any appearances of fictional actor Scot Colford which he can lay his hands on and rearranging them into his own wildly creative and popular montages. Unfortunately for Trent, the entertainment industry takes a dim view of such activities and under the draconian laws of the land his family have their internet service disconnected.

Even today this would be a blow to many people – one year without access to email, Facebook, YouTube and everything else. In Trent’s world it is nigh a death sentence. His younger sister is cut off from vital educational resources in the middle of her schooling. His father, barely scraping by at an online temping gig, has his sole source of income removed. His mother can no longer apply for benefits to aid her crippling leg problems, nor can she find any online help. Trent, shocked by the consequences of his innocent downloading, flees home and heads for the bright lights of London.

By the end of his first night he has lost his laptop (using it as a pillow while sleeping in a park was perhaps a silly idea) and is reduced to begging for change. Fortunately he is adopted by Jem, a genuinely altruistic old hand at this life and Doctorow briefly transforms Pirate Cinema into Oliver Twist. Jem introduces Trent to the smart (and honest) way to live on the streets, with the principle of sharing their gains with those less fortunate at the forefront of their minds. Before long they are squatting in an abandoned pub and renovating it, transforming it into a veritable palace.

Trent soon finds his internet feet again and is continuing his remixing under the alias Cecil B. DeVil. This soon lands him in hot water yet again and matters escalate to the point of a legal battle and a grassroots war with the entertainment industry and the corrupt politicians whose pockets they are filling to ensure their laws pass. The ongoing collaborations with Trent and his new-found activist friends, set against the scheming and machinations of the executives and politicians, form the meat of Pirate Cinema, with Cory Doctorow subjecting his characters to all manner of mishaps and misadventures before reaching an exhilarating conclusion.

Pirate Cinema is a great little read. My only real gripe was his often embarrassing attempts so conduct dialogue using teenage slang. Canadian Doctorow has been resident in the UK for several years but his grasp of kidspeak is tenuous at best and makes for some unintentional giggle along the way. Seriously, I have never seen anyone say “Cor!” outside of the Beano.

On the plus side, it never takes itself too seriously and plays about with pop culture references, pokes gentle fun at its geeky excesses and manages to entertain and ultimately educate at the same time. It’s suited perfectly to an audience of an age with its protagonist and any references to sex, drugs and swearing are subtly glossed over. It’s possible that some may find Doctorow’s style overly preachy, an accusation levelled at his previous YA effort Little Brother (a book which made me wish I had been born 20 years later so I could be reading it as a teenager today). However, as an avowed copyfighter this was not an issue for me personally. Overall it delivers exactly what one would expect from a YA novel with this premise – a funny, rousing techno-fable which should please a wide audience, especially among computer-literate teens.

So that’s the meat of the review. Now for the Public Service Announcement. Pirate Cinema is a fictional novel but the world it depicts is most assuredly not. The legal battles, political maneuvering and lobbying which form the heart of the story are based, with very little exaggeration, on events occurring right now. UK readers may be familiar with the Digital Economy Act which passed in 2010 and handed unbelievable powers to rights holders to prosecute those they believe to be infringing copyright, even without evidence. France recently introduced a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule identical to that used in Pirate Cinema. The copyright battles in the US are probably well known to everyone with an internet connection.

There is a mammoth power struggle going on and unfortunately consumers and artists are getting the short end of the stick due mainly to simple lack of funding. Multi-billion dollar industries whose profits continue to grow year on year – despite deepening recessions – would have us believe that those who would dare to remix existing works and share them without charging a single penny are on a par with organised criminals like the mafia and should be jailed. People like me, who buy an ebook at Amazon for an insanely inflated price and are forced to use third party programs to strip its DRM and read it on the device of our choosing, are lawbreakers – a threat to the entire publishing industry.

This is not hyperbole. This is real. This is how the situation is portrayed to MPs by lobbyists with pockets full of party invitations and brown envelopes. People like Cory Doctorow are trying to help the situation by informing and educating.

And yes, he is a man with the courage of his convictions. Pirate Cinema is available for free download at his website, along with all of his other novels. Contrary to what the industry would have us believe, he conducted his own experiment and, in line with what other similar studies have shown, found that offering free downloads with no DRM at all actually increased sales of paper and electronic copies alike. Sharing is good. Sharing works.

(Okay, the free copy has regular ‘commercial interludes’ reminding you that he has to eat but this is a small price to pay. If so inclined you can choose to donate a copy to a school or library via his website while retaining a free copy yourself. This is very, very good thing.)

So there we have it. Call Pirate Cinema a simple novel, in which case it is a wonderfully enjoyable David and Goliath tale. Call it an educational supplement, opening people’s eyes to the goings-on around them. Call it a call to arms for today’s young generation, warning them of the need to exercise their rights and maintain eternal vigilance. Whichever way you look at it, Pirate Cinema is a gem of a book for any tech-oriented, creative or even vaguely pro-active mind.

Download Pirate Cinema: http://craphound.com/pc/download/
Open Rights Group: http://www.openrightsgroup.org/
Electronic Frontier Foundation: https://www.eff.org/

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