Thursday 23 November 2017

All Rights Reserved: A New YA Science Fiction Book by Gregory Scott Katsoulis (Book Review)

This is easily my favourite book of the year.

It reminds me a lot of Orwell's 1984 (which I've actually never read, but know enough about to make it feel like I have).

In the distant future, all forms of communication are copyrighted. A shrug more than 2.5cm high costs you money. Crying or laughing, unless you can prove it's involuntary, costs you money. Speaking costs you money. The word "Sorry" costs a flat $10, and is considered an admission of guilt which opens you up to an InstaSuit from the person you're saying it to. The value of other words fluctuate wildly, depending on the market, and some people make it their business to scour those markets and use the cheapest possible words to say what they want to say (which change from day to day).

It's not just communication - all forms of expression carry a cost. There are a few hairstyles still in the public domain, but wearing your hair in any other style incurs a monthly fee. Likewise with clothes.

And the penalties for copyright violation are far-reaching. If your great-grandparents once illegally downloaded a song, you can be held liable to pay damages, or be carried off into lifetime servitude if you can't afford it.

That particular part of the book fascinated me, because the whole idea that people should be held liable, and have to pay for something their long-dead ancestors did reminds me of what's happening in South Africa right now with land reform and Black Economic Empowerment. I know that's not the intent, and in South Africa's case, the motivation is ostensibly more altruistic, but it goes to show how easily things can get out of control.

And everything in this dyspotia is out of control. And it's not too far-fetched, either. A couple of tweaks to copyright law here, a few fudges of Free Speech there, and we're on a slippery slope. You already can't technically sing the melody to "Happy Birthday" without paying someone royalties. All the rights holders need is a way to enforce it so that it's not prohibitively expensive to collect, and you'll have to pay $100 whenever you sing it at someone's birthday party.

Scary stuff.

Editing-wise, it's no worse than some of the bestsellers I've read, and it's better than most. But I long to read a flawless book again. It's been a long time since I've clicked that fifth star....

My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Click here to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

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