The Pirates! by Gideon Defoe


Last week I described the Eddie Dickens Trilogy as “over-the-top farcical romps” for children; a mix of Dickens, Monty Python, and Lemony Snicket.  Gideon Defoe’s The Pirates! adventure series is in many ways an adult version without the Dickens and with pirates instead.

I stumbled upon The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists at Half Price books.  As I am always on the lookout for short, well packaged, and humorous reading material I picked it up.

It wasn’t very long before I was laughing out loud as I read it.  And when I laugh out loud while reading my wife always makes me read the passage out loud to her (she hates to be left out).  Soon I was practically reading the book to her.  Luckily, the book was short.

The plot is rather hard to describe, but it involves The Pirate Captain and his band of merry men sailing the high seas arguing about shanties and looking for adventure.  Led to believe that the HMS Beagle is full of gold bullion from the Bank of England the captain and his crew sail to the Galapagos Islands to attack the famous ship.  But they are disappointed to find no gold but the young scientist Charles Darwin instead.  embarrassed at having attacked the research vessel they agree to give Darwin a ride back to London.  And soon find themselves embroiled in a battle with the Bishop of London.

One of the many twists involved, however, is that Darwin has a slightly different quest in the book then he does historically.  Here is how he describes his important theory in the book:

In short, I believe that a monkey, properly trained, given the correct dietary regime, and dressed in fancy clothes, can be made indistinguishable from a human gentleman.

As this should make clear, the books are silly – even a little absurd.  But I enjoy that sort of thing.

For more on this series click below.

PiratesAhab.jpgIn the next book in the series, The Pirates! In An Adventure with Ahab, The Pirate Captain finds his ship failing apart around him and his crew restless.  Rather than look bad in front of his arch nemesis Capitan Bellamy, he buys a expensive ship on credit from Cutlass Liz who threatens to do great bodily harm unless he makes his payment on time.

After an unsuccessful attempt at a Las Vegas style show – Bellamy strikes again – the captain decides the only way he can pay off his debts is to capture the infamous White Wale and earn the bounty from the moody Captain Ahab.  The book flap describes what happens next:

Chaos ensues, featuring the lascivious Cutlass Liz, the world’s most dangerous mosquito, an excerpt from the Pirate Captain’s novel in progress (a bodice ripper, of course), whale ventriloquism, practical lessons in whale painting, a shanty-singing contest in a Las Vegas casino, and a dramatic climax in which the Pirate Captain’s Prize Ham saves the day!

The third book find the captain in London shopping for a new jacket only to find himself arrested.  It turns out thePiratesCommunists.jpg Pirate Captain looks a lot like Karl Marx.  After Marx’s sidekick Frederich Engels clears up the false arrest, the Pirate Captain and his crew stumble upon a sinister plot to frame the Communists and ruin Marx’s reputation in London.

The captain is forced into an philosophical showdown with none other than Frederich Nietzsche in the from of a gigantic mechanical steam powered robot monster.  And just like in real life, it all comes down to impressing a girl.

As should be clear at this point, these adventures are far from serious literature.  But if you like what Booklist calls “outre British humor” then you should enjoy The Pirates! and their adventures.  They are short enough to read in an afternoon – or in snippets before bed as I did – small enough to carry with you on the commute or any other time you need handy reading material.

As the Bilgemunky noted in his review:

This book is a definite treat. If you’ve been overdosing on dry historical novels of late, you might find “The Pirates! In an adventure with scientists” a refreshing change of pace.

Even if you haven’t been reading “dry historical novels” this series will bring a smile to your face; and maybe even cause you to laugh out load so that those around you ask you “What is so funny?”  And who couldn’t use a little comic relief these days?

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.