Monday, October 4, 2010


Pastworld - Ian Beck
Genre: YA Speculative Fiction
# of pages: 355
Publisher: Bloomsbury
The premise of Pastworld is incredibly engrossing - it's like a historical version of Jurassic Park: the idea is that a park exists in modern day London that is a living recreation of Victorian England, packed with "official" pickpockets, beggars, and a psycho killer running around who's a throwback to Jack the Ripper.
Incredibly interesting premise.
However, the execution was a disappointment for me.This book was just bizarre on so many levels. The way Pastworld is set up is, in my opinion, not a very good way to tell a story. It alternates between a third person "report" and a first person diary-format narrative...incredibly random, and the chapter transitions were incredibly choppy and didn't follow any sort of pattern.
My biggest complaint, though, is in the novel's characterization, or complete lack thereof. Character actions were presented in a very wooden, flat way, and the book never really explained any sort of character motive or emotional depth, which was really disappointing. For example, early on in the story one of the main characters, Eve, decides to run away from home. No reason is given, nor any emotional insight. There's just a major detachment between action and any sort of depth. Also, two characters 'supposedly' fall in love, and yet they never once - never once - have even a private conversation together, nevertheless kiss. It was just weird. And the Jack the Ripper-esque killer just runs around mutilating people...for no real purpose.
The problem with presenting part of the story in the format of a 3rd person "report" is a lack of a connection between cause and effect...

This book did have some noteworthy positives, though. There is a great deal of historical detail in Pastworld, and a lot of really interesting facts relating to Victorian England, and the author did a good job of bringing that aspect of the story alive. But unfortunately, Pastworld is not a textbook, nor is it a travel brochure. It is a novel, so aspects of storytelling like plot and characterization need to be really strong. And they really weren't, which was too bad.

I really, really wanted to like this book. While there's nothing in it that would prevent me from recommending it to you, I can't exactly thing of any reason why I should recommend it, if that makes sense. It was a great idea that was very strangely and bizarrely put together.
Final Grade:

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