18. REVIEW: Pirate Comic Fiction by Gideon Defoe


Or should that be ‘Arrrrrrfternoon’, being that this is a pirate-related blog?

FINE, okay,  you’re right. It should never be ‘Arrrrrrrfternoon’.  Mumble mumble spoilsports mumble.

Today, continuing with the LOL WEEK theme, I am reviewing Gideon Defoe’s The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, bought for me by the very same Madeleine that brought Rocky and Balls into my life on Sunday. Only, this particular gift was for my birthday about five years ago. It has been a firm favourite ever since.

Very few books make me ‘LOL’ – (that’s ‘LOL’  in the proper ‘laughing out loud from your mouth’ way, rather than that inward chuckle you do when you’ve run out of interesting things to type on msn), but this book made me laugh – so inappropriately  loudly, in fact, that I embarrassed myself on the train – from the first page to the last.

Basically, a team of pirates – led by the fetching Pirate Captain who is very good at pretending to be a good pirate but not much else – help Charles Darwin and his pet monkey Mister Bobo when his brother is kidnapped by an evil soapy Bishop. If you don’t love it already, you… well, should.

Aside from being written in a way that means almost every word leaves you tickled, the story itself is actually quite clever, and not half as predictable as it is ridiculous.

Being a very silly story, the characters are of course very much two-dimensional, but this is twisted into another amusing feature as none of the pirates have names: they are instead referred to in terms such as  ‘the albino pirate’, ‘the pirate with a nut allergy’ ‘the pirate in green’ and ‘the pirate who was prone to exaggeration’.

The factual elements of this story (such as the history of piracy, and Darwin’s work with The Royal Society) are incorporated into the plot and highlighted in sweet little footnotes  – you’re laughing and learning at the same time. Well, a bit.

But it is the points where real-life figures such as Darwin and FitzRoy (author of The Weather Book, published in 1862) are made to behave ridiculously that really left me snorting helplessly into my shoulder (trying to avoid the attention of the disgruntled passengers opposite me that were trying to read their copy of the Metro).

For instance,they are introduced aboard The Beagle about to have a duel over a lady, only she is killed by being smashed by a cannonball as she tries to tell them pirates are attacking. They stand in shock staring at her smooshed body, before:

‘Well. I…’
‘Should we…?’ Darwin gestured at his gun.
‘Hardly seems much point.’
‘What a damned fool I’ve been!’ laughed Darwin.
‘Oh, I’m just as much to blame, ‘ said FitzRoy with a grin, pocketing his pistol, and slapping his friend on the back. They would have hugged right there and then, but were interrupted by a further crash as first another cannonball and then a pirate screamed in through the window. The two men stood stock-still.
‘Don’t make any sudden movements,’ whispered FitzRoy to his companion. ‘Remember – he’s more scared of us than we are of him.’
‘That’s bears, you idiot,’ hissed Darwin out of the side of his mouth, ‘I don’t think it applies to pirates.’

This is the perfect example of the story’s very own brand of nonsense-funny mixed with the well-written, descriptive prose that characterises this book.

Analysis and evaluation aside, this is a good fun book – one that you will want to recommend to everyone you meet for weeks after you read it – and one that you will read again and laugh just as hard.

The best news is there’s a whole series of these delightfully silly stories – all of which you can buy on Amazon. Or Arrrrrmazon. Yeah, I said it. Deal with it.

Image nicked from Amazon. If you hadn’t already guessed because of the massive ‘LOOK INSIDE’ thingy. Duh. Just go buy the book from them already so I don’t get told off.


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