Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Pirates! In an adventure with literature.

Arrrr!  Though I missed the Talk-Like-A-Pirate-Day connection by several weeks, this still felt like a great time to finally read a pirate-themed book, after having devoted so much time and space to a book about zombies.

"The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists" is a fun, quirky little book.  It's just a bit over 100 pages long, and the pages are very small.  As with "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," I think that the title helps the audience self-select.  Do you like the idea of reading a book about pirates going on a romp that, somehow, incongruously, includes scientists?  If so, you will not be disappointed.

I really, really liked the writing style of this book.  It's simple without being dumbed-down... it feels like the author is winking at you throughout the whole book.  There are lots of funny bits: none of the pirates can remember each others' names, so every pirate is referenced descriptively, as in "The Pirate Captain," "The pirate with an accordion," The pirate with a red shirt," "The pirate with a hook for a hand," and so on.  These are the real characters, too.  You get to feel affectionate towards the pirate with a scarf, a loyal and hardworking man who patiently deals with the excesses of the Pirate Captain.

The other notable aspect of the book is its copious use of footnotes.  These are great, always accurate and almost completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.  They cover things like the atomic weights of various metals with complete soberness.


It turns out that the pirates are really having an adventure with a scientist, not so much scientists in general.  That isn't a bad thing, though: the scientist in question is Darwin.  The pirates board his ship as he's returning from Galapagos, and soon we see that the fractured aspect of this story isn't confined to its depiction of life on board pirate vessels.  Darwin is on a scientific quest to show that a monkey can behave like a perfect gentleman.  He has trained a monkey to wear a gentleman's trousers, dress shirt, top hat, and monocle, and to converse through the use of flash cards.  This "man-panzee" will astound English society.

There's a catch, though.  The sinister Bishop of Oxford is a major backer of Barnum and Bailey's Circus, who is attempting to corner the market on man/animal hybrids with such exhibits as the Elephant Man.  The Bishop has kidnapped Darwin's brother Erasmus, and is holding him in a secret location (later revealed to be Big Ben).  The pirates volunteer to help Darwin rescue his brother and foil the Bishop's evil plan.  Right after they play at the arcade.  And finish a game of miniature golf.  And eat some cotton candy.  And attend a pirate convention.  You get the idea.


Great stuff... I get the sneaking suspicion that this book might have been written for children, but anyone who enjoys zany pirate escapades will get a kick out of it.  Highly recommended.

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