Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon—Gideon Defoe


This was a book that was on the "New Arrivals" bookshelf at the library. I was first attracted to it because it has a bright yellow cover. I'm a sucker for yellow things. Not to mention that the title has an exclamation point in it. Also, it's a relatively short book, so I figured that it would be a quick-ish read. Unfortunately it's been sitting in a pile waiting to be read for the past month as I was distracted with the amazingness that is Netflix.

I finally started reading it three days ago. I was laughing out loud from the dedication, and it only got better from there. I can't wait to read the other books in the The Pirates! series.

It begins with a table of contents that doesn't actually have anything to do with the book, but it has a list of modules and...sub-modules?

The premise of this particular The Pirates! adventure is the Pirate Captain hopes to win the award for "The Pirate of the Year," while seemingly having no legitimate pirate skills. The pirates don't have proper names but instead names that indicate characteristics. For example, the Pirate Captain, or "the pirate in green." This is with the exception of Jennifer, the one female pirate who was previously a Victorian lady and retained her name.

The Pirate Captain is melodramatically narcissistic. He prepares for "The Pirate of the Year" competition, which seems to be much like a beauty pageant, by talking about his own glorious features. When prepping with his pirate crew, the Pirate Captain is asked a question that he had not written in advance, and it is actually about pirating. The Pirate Captain is incredulous and ends the prep.

In a not-so-surprising, but hilarious, twist, the question he was asked by one of his crew members is EXACTLY the question he is asked at "The Pirate of the Year" awards. Needless to say, the Pirate Captain has no answer because he is so self-involved, and he loses the award. Experiencing an existential crisis, the Pirate Captain decides to retire to an island sold to him by his archenemy, Black Bellamy. It is called St. Helena.

Those of you who know your history, or at least your Napoleon history, have already made the connection between the title of the book and the name of the island. For those of you who are not history nerds, St. Helena was the island that Napoleon was exiled to the second time, after he had escaped from Elba and tried to reclaim some of his old glory.

So back to the plot of the book. The Pirate Captain goes to St. Helena, an island he believes he owns, to begin his new career as a beekeeper. The crew arrives at the island only to find that the "natives" are actually British citizens because St. Helena is owned by the British Empire. The Pirate Captain behaves in a characteristically childish and naive manner, especially when the new guy, Napoleon, shows up. Napoleon is even more famous than the Pirate Captain and the Pirate Captain's ego cannot handle that. A vicious battle ensues between the Pirate Captain and Napoleon, which is a majority of the book. The actual residents of St. Helena get caught up in the battle, not to mention the poor members of the Pirate Captain's crew who have faithfully followed their captain to the island. In the end, Napoleon and the Pirate Captain get into an actual physical battle which drags them out to sea, only to return three months later, after everyone thought they were dead, as bosom buddies. Napoleon, according to the book, returns to his life of "trying to conquer the world once he's finished his memoires." The Pirate Captain finally goes back to pirating, an action that Jennifer has been pushing for since pretty much the very beginning. Hopefully this leads to another The Pirates! adventure.

Following the end of the book is an index that doesn't actually relate to the things in the book but was hilarious nonetheless.

Big bonuses of this book: It was a short, quick read which left me laughing out loud multiple times a page. As mentioned before, the cover was yellow. There was some history thrown in...and by some, I mean very little but still enough to make a history nerd like myself happy.

Down sides of the book: Absolutely nothing. Hilarious.

Favorite quotes: Following a knock on the Pirate Captain's door while at sea: "The only things that tended to turn up unannounced at sea were bouts of dysentery and the occasional albatross." (65)

"The man doffed his hat and bowed. 'Behold Napoleon!' he exclaimed. 'Unjustly deposed Emperor of the French, King of Italy, Mediator of the Swiss Confederation and Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine.!"
"'Aarrrrr,' said the Pirate Captain, a little flustered. He bowed back, because he couldn't think of what else to do in the circumstances. 'Well, behold me. Bronze swimming certificate. Owner of several hats. Protector of, um, some bees.'" (67)