Skip to Content

Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

Author: Gideon Defoe
Originally Published: 2004
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

The Pirates! In An Adventure with ScientistsI picked up this book in the bargain section of Chapters about a year ago, and it’s been sitting on my self since then. I really really wish I had read this before now. Really wish that.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists was originally written to impress a girl, apparantely. From what I can see, this is the first of Defoe’s books, even though it references other adventures The Pirates have been on. In this particular story, The Pirates sale to the Galapagos Islands in search of adventure. In search of gold, actually. Instead of gold, they meet Charles Darwin. However, Darwin is not doing the whole evolution deal, but is actually training the first Man-panzee. A monkey that he’s dressed in human clothes, domesticized, and taught how to communicate with the use of flash cards.

The church wants to keep this Man-panzee stuff all hush-hush, because of the Bishop’s nefarious plans – plans to take the essence from beautiful young women so that he can always look young and beautiful.

Of course, once The Pirates friend young Darwin, and learn about the Bishop’s schemes, they set out on an adventure to help Darwin introduce his Man-panzee to London society.

The cover of this book proclaimed it to be similar to Blackadder. I could not disagree with that one bit. If there was a season of Blackadder about pirates, I could easily see some of these events happening. Absolutely hilarious, it was. So many funny parts. It was both snarky and very smart humour. And I loved the different spin that it had to Darwin and why Darwin was sailing tothe Galapagos Islands.

It was a little disconcerting at first that none of The Pirates had actual names, but by the time a few chapters passed, I didn’t really notice that much anymore. Unusually for me, I loved this book even though I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters. Don’t get me wrong – they’re funny and I like them, but none of them really stuck out in my mind. The only one with a real personality was the Pirate Captain himself. Surprisingly, that didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the book.

A few of my favourite quotes are as follows. The first is when the Pirate Captain has one of his crew dress up in a sheet and pretend to be the Holy Ghost, in order to trick the Bishop into confessing:

‘That’s not the Holy Ghost,’ snorted the Bishop dismissively.

‘Yes it is!’ said the Pirate Captain, a bit put out. ‘Look how tall he is! He’s a giant! And he’s covered in a sheet! Just like it describes him in the Bible.’

‘The Bible says nothing of the kind. Where on earth did you get the idea that the Holy Ghost is a giant? He’s the same size as Jesus. That’s the point – he’s just a creepier version of Christ.’

‘Are you sure?’ frowned the Captain, wondering if his research had let him down. ‘Doesn’t he fight Goliath at some point? I’m sure he does. He throws a leper at his face.’

The second is when the Pirate Captain comes across one of the members of his crew, who just happeend to die of scurvy:

‘What’s up with this swab?’ asked the Pirate Captain, nudging him with the toe of his shiny pirate boot.

‘He died of scurvy, sir,’ said the pirate with a scarf.

‘Aaaarrr. I hope that’s proved a useful lesson to you. Ham is all well and good, but make sure you get your vitamins! Scurvy is no laughing matter,’ said the Pirate Captain. ‘Except in those rare instances when a fellow’s head swells up like a gigantic lemon,’ he added as an afterthougth. ‘Which I grant can bring a smile even to my salty old face.’

As you can see, it is quite amusing. There were so many passages that I wish I had gone through and marked off for myself to easily find again. But in all honesty, there were just SO MANY that I could pretty much open up almost any page and find something that will make me laugh.

The Bottom Line: DEFINITELY a winner. I was snorting and laughing out loud over this, and am interested in Defoe’s other books. Would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys stuff like Monty Python, Blackadder and the like.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:03 pm August 9, 2009.
Category: Historical Fiction
Book Author(s):