The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics, or: Prometheus Versus a Terrible Fungus

Gideon Defoe. Vintage, $14.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-345-80290-3
In Defoe’s rollicking fifth novel in the series, the pirates are delightfully irreverent, inane, and idiotic. Previous adventures have involved Napoleon, “the Communists,” famous scientists, and Captain Ahab, but this outing begins with a trip to the pirates’ private bank in Geneva, where they are seriously overdrawn. A newspaper ad connects them with three emblematic figures from the romantic movement who are looking for “exotic adventure”: poets Byron and Shelley as well as Mary Godwin, who will soon write Frankenstein. The “Pirate Captain” (his mates go by equally generic names, such as “the pirate with gout”) offers the services of his ragtag crew and his ship, and the odd, but consistently comic adventure gets underway. The plot, ostensibly the search for a “lost Socratic dialogue,” takes them to London (where they pick up mathematician Charles Babbage), Oxford, and eventually to the Carpathian Mountains and the home of “Count Ruthven” (an obscure reference to an early vampire novel by Byron’s mistress, Caroline Lamb). Sophomoric and knowing, equal parts satire and farce as if written by Monty Python, the novel proves Defoe to be clearly on more than familiar terms with the romantics, and he skewers everyone and everything in a laugh-out-loud performance. Agent: Eric Simonoff, Janklow & Nesbit. (Sept. 1)
Reviewed on: 07/16/2012
Release date: 08/21/2012
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