Saturday, 5 May 2012

Review: The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe

Hardback book cover of The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe
I was so desperate to read The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists, that when my reserved copy at arrived at the library I did what I never do - I read two books at once. I know, I know, I understand your shock and your disapproval. I'll do better in future. In my defence though, I'm currently reading Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore and it's long. Plus it's mostly dialogue based so it's slightly slow going at places... more to the point, I really wanted to read this one! It's short and light, so it didn't detract from that much Bitterblue time... *coughs* Anyway, it was worth every second, because I LOVED this book!

Plot summary: Worried that his pirates are growing bored with a life of winking at pretty native ladies and trying to stick enough jellyfish together to make a bouncy castle, the Pirate Captain decides it's high time to spearhead an adventure. 

While searching for some major pirate booty, he mistakenly attacks the young Charles Darwin's Beagle and then leads his ragtag crew from the exotic Galapagos Islands to the fog-filled streets of Victorian London. There they encounter grisly murder, vanishing ladies, radioactive elephants, and the Holy Ghost himself. And that's not even the half of it.

I first saw this book in the Borders store years and years ago (long before any mention of the movie, thank you very much!) and I really wish it hadn't taken me this long to get round to reading it. The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists is the start of a five book-long series, starting with this one and ending with the newly released ...with the Romantics (because I REFUSE to type it out every time). It's a tiny, light-hearted book that more than brightened up my gloomy day with its typically British (read: 'awful') weather.

So, the basic premise has the Pirate Captain and his crew going on adventures, shockingly. In this one, they are led to believe by their arch nemesis, Black Bellamy, that there's a ship from the Bank of England carrying tons of gold across the Ocean and they set off in search for it. Except perhaps Black Bellamy is not quite as reformed as they have been told, because the ship in question turns out to be the HMS on their second voyage to the Galapagos Islands!

It's got a very simple tone - verging on clunky at times, but never quite crossing over the border. It never seemed to take itself seriously - it's just a good, funny story told for a laugh. Very few people actually have names and there's hardly a great deal of time invested in character development, but it just adds to the whimsical nature of ...with Scientists.

'Living at sea tended to leave you with ratty, matted hair, but the Pirate Captain somehow kept his beard silky and in good condition, and though nobody knew his secret, they all respected him for it. They also respected him because it was said he was wedded to the sea. A lot of pirates claimed they were wedded to the sea, but usually this was an excuse because they couldn't get a girlfriend or they were a gay pirate, but in the Pirate Captain's case none of his crew doubted he was actually wedded to the sea for a minute.'

It's not laugh-out-loud funny, but there are a few paragraphs that made me smile. Gideon Defoe (I've looked and looked, and it really does seem to be his real name) has a knack for using a sardonic, conversational tone that reminds me a little of a simpler Terry Pratchett, which can only be a good thing. I love how he brings in historical characters like Charles Darwin and Robert Fitzroy, who I didn't know much about but was apparently the Captain of the HMS Beagle, and his work in the meteorology field is responsible for the accuracy of weather predictions today.

The author even uses footnotes in a similar way to Terry Pratchett, although to enlighten us with factual asides, not to amuse. For example, apparently the HMS Beagle was only ninety feet long and notoriously unseaworthy - in his notes Darwin described the voyage as 'one continual puke.' I've wandered off to check the accuracy of a few of these facts so I don't look like a complete moron believing made-up things meant only to entertain, but no, they're true. They aren't frequent enough to really be annoying but they do add a nice happy bonus to the book :)

I got my copy from Sheffield Library, but I have every intention of purchasing this book and the next four in the series the second I get paid next week. I need my own copy to nuzzle and smile at lovingly! It's just so, so good!

Visit Gideon Defoe's website here, or find him on Twitter.


  1. That book looks like a lot of fun! :) Thanks for the review. I'd seen clips of the film and reviews of that but hadn't seen anything on the actual book.

  2. This sounds like a fun read! I never read two books at the same time either, so it must have been a special book :P

  3. The idea of reading two books at the same time makes me feel a bit queasy.

    I saw the film adaptation with Andy a few weeks ago before I even knew that there was a book! Then when I was looking at reviews of the film (which, for some reason, is something that I do after watching something), I saw someone comparing it to the book.

    Apparently the film misses out a lot of the book, which might be annoying if you've read and loved it so much. It is funny, though, in a happily juvenile sort of way so I kind of fancy reading the book. Pirates are fun - fact.

    1. I've seen the trailer, but quite a while ago now so I don't remember it THAT well. I'm pretty sure it's absolutely nothing like the book though. I did have a vague interest in seeing it at the time though, so maybe I'll rent it when it comes out.

  4. This book looks great .And the cover looks like beautiful.
    The cover of the book reminds me "how to train your dragon."
    Great review!I'm willing to read.
    Mariana - World of Tori Vega.

  5. I haven't seen anything about the movie or the book before, but it sounds highly entertaining!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  6. I hadn't realised the film was based on a book (bad bookworm) but this sounds like a fun read, and a sneaky way learn a few interesting facts.

  7. I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately, rereading a bit but not feeling inspired to open any of the books on my to-read pile. But I saw this in Waterstone's and remembered your review and bought myself a copy. Only read one chapter so far - in a coffee shop and finding it difficult to suppress the giggles - but it looks like it's doing the trick. Thanks for the review :)

  8. Each time you commit words to paper in your own inimitable style, you declare your character and personality traits, your talents and abilities, even your current mood.
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