Sunday, August 30, 2009

1763: Reading about it is nice, but I wouldn't want to visit.

I just completed Gideon The Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, and I really regret not having checked out the second book in this trilogy, The Time Thief (published under the title The Tar Man in the UK).

And let me just take this moment to say that I am tired of publishers changing titles of books when they publish them in the States. The Tar Man is a far far better title, especially if you already know this character from reading Gideon!

Okay, back to it. In Gideon momentum builds slowly, the author taking care to develop characters and relationships. It's a time travel story about two 21st-century teens, Peter and Kate, sucked back into 1763. They receive the aid of Gideon, a former thief but gentleman, as they search for their time machine, stolen by the treacherous Tar Man. Buckley-Archer goes into fascinating detail to depict 18th-century England, as well as a few famous persons and places. Obviously I've never been to 1763 (I know you're all surprised by this), but I have one bone to pick. Peter and Kate would suffer dysentery for a week or more after eating the food and drinking the water back then!

That is my one small criticism, as I enjoyed everything else about the novel. The prose is elegant, there is occasional humor and plenty of suspense involving highwaymen, horse races, and science fiction-y stuff. Yes, it seems like it wouldn't all go together, but Buckley-Archer manages to make it work. I especially came to like the character Parson Ledbury, whom I feared at first would be a Falstaff-like buffoon or a judgmental buffoon (some kind of buffoon). He was neither and was a character who displayed greater depth and change, as well as humor and mercy, as the book progressed. What a pleasant surprise!

The cover design of the hardback edition is wicked cool. The spine looks like an 18th century volume, but the cover has a cutout crack with an eye peering through it. I picked it up at the library simply because the cover design captured my interest!

Note [added 8/31/09]: The American edition of Gideon The Cutpurse is titled The Time Travelers. I think the UK title and cover design are more interesting, but the artwork on the North American editions is still rather nice. The third Volume, The Time Quake, will be released in the U.S. in October.


Felix Grant said...

OK ... ordered both Gideon and The tar man!

On title changes as a book crosses the Atlantic (in either direction): I agree. It seems condescending.

Felix Grant said...

Today I've read Gideon.

I have a couple more reservatons that you, on top of the one about dysentery (and as someone who has, working in Africa, suffered dysentery more than once, I do feel that one!)... but it was nevertheless an excellent read and totally engrossing.

As with all the best young people's fiction, it presents questions – moral, philosophical and scientific. I intend to use several passages from it with a group of 12/13 year olds in a session later this week.

I've also been sucked straight on to read the first thirty pages of The tar man, and that one is (so far) even more involving. It also continues the active questioning. The conversation in which Drs Dyer and Piretti discuss whether or not the rescue of Peter can be weighed against harm to the human race is a wonderful statement of the "Foot's trolley" thought experiment. On to the rest of the book tomorrow... and roll on paperback publication of Timequake.

Thank you for the recommendation!

Watoosa said...

Felix, I'm glad you enjoyed Gideon.
My husband the philosopher has told me about the Foot's Trolley argument, so I'm actually familiar with that one!
I'd be very interested to hear what your 12/13-year-old think about Gideon.