Wednesday 16 May 2012

The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists, Gideon Defoe

Apologies for the lack of recent reviews. I'd been in a bit of a reading slump, having £20 to spend in Waterstone's and not finding anything I wanted to buy with that money! It is a strange feeling for me, and quite unnatural. But upon seeing The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, I remembered Hanna's review and thought this might well be the thing to make me want to pick up a book again. It seemed to work. My next stop was a coffee shop, where I proceeded to embarrass myself by giggling a lot at this book.

"Ship's biscuits? I've got ship's custard creams, and ship's bourbons."

The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists is a rollicking adventure featuring a crew of very stupid pirates who find themselves... surprise, surprise... caught up in an adventure with scientists. Namely, a young Charles Darwin, along with his trained monkey, Mr Bobo. I think every child at one point in their life has a dream of becoming a pirate, and Gideon Defoe plays with the childish impression of piracy on the high seas - lots of roaring "arrrgh!" to fill in time between adventures - and thumbs his nose at the idea of any kind of realism. The Pirates!...& Scientists is written in a very simplistic style of prose, packed with deliberate anachronisms for comic effect. The whole thing read like a cross between Monty Python, Lemony Snicket and the Them's version of the Spanish Inquisition in Good Omens. (Art thou a witch, Viva Espana?)

Although it reads rather like it was written by an overimaginative ten-year-old making things up as s/he goes along - which is not meant as a criticism, because ten-year-olds have not yet grown out of pure creativity - there was just enough satirical commentary beneath the silliness to demonstrate that it was not as simple as it seemed - though mostly it's just a very enthusiastic adventure, with a bit of innuendo, a lot of slapstick and a couple of lines that had to be references to popular culture, such as the Pirate Captain's "brilliant impression of what a lady sounded like," and his failure to spot an approaching hurricane.* The Pirates!...& Scientists is a quick read, slightly surreal, very silly indeed, and simply a lot of fun.

The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists has been adapted as an animated film by Aardman (the people behind Wallace and Gromit) with an all-star cast headed up by Hugh Grant as the Pirate Captain and David Tennant as Charles Darwin. I'm wondering if this might be a good use of my Cineworld gift card... (Elsewhere the movie is called The Pirates! Band of Misfits for some mysterious reason.)

*In 1987, Michael Fish, a BBC weatherman, infamously reported: "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't."

There was.

(Well... not technically a hurricane, but the worst storm including hurricane-force winds that Britain's known in my lifetime.)


  1. Well, between you and Hanna you've definitely persuaded me to go back to the beginning and read more PIRATES! (I just finished 'In an Adventure with Communists' which made me chuckle) and that trailer has ALMOST persuaded me to watch the movie too. Arrrr. :D

  2. YES! I got SO excited when I read this review because a) I love it when I've influenced someone to read something because of a review anyway and b) I'm pretty much trying to inflict this book on everyone I can!

    I'm reading The Pirates! In an Adventure with Moby Dick now, and it's just as good :)

    Apparently the film uses the first TWO books, so things make a lot more sense now I'm reading the second.

  3. Oh oh oh! I just watched the trailer above and I've never seen that particular one before :) Makes me want to watch it more than I already did!


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