Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates: Attack of the Giant Sea Spiders by Gareth P Jones
Do you know what steampunk is? I didn’t, and nor did my huge Collins dictionary. Turns out neither of us is very hip, because steampunk refers to a subgenre of science fiction that brings together technology from steam-powered machinery and conjoins it with mere mortals. Gareth has rather cunningly exploited this sub-genre, given it a twist by applying it to pirates, and concocted a neat little adventure series that has piracy, machines and humour all tied up together.
I stepped into the book a little jaded of ye olde piratey tales with their pieces of eight and swashbuckling sea dogs and landlubbers, but was won over within pages. Not only is this a tight plot well told, but it also zips along with innovation and irony – after all who else other than Gareth P Jones would create sea-journeying pirates made out of metal machines, a material that sinks and rusts, and machines that rely on a fire inside to work! So for little ones reaching for their plastic dastardly daggers, this will go down a treat.
Attack of the Giant Sea Spiders portrays our Steampunk Pirates (led by Captain Clockheart with a (yep you guessed it!) clock for a heart), looking to land some treasure by spying on some French enemies. But when they set sail with Captain Inkybeard on board, they might be in for more than they bargained for. Not only does he turn against them, but it turns out the French are making giant sea spiders to serve as their army. Will the Steampunk Pirates be able to get away with all their clockwork and machinery intact?
There are many devices that delight here including the author’s penchant for interrupting the story and referring to himself in the third person (just for fun), the chapter headings, which all summarize what’s to follow in true Winnie the Pooh style, eg. “In which our heroes set off on their secret mission…secretly” rather like an amuse-bouche before the main meal; and of course, the odd pirate ditty thrown in for good measure.
For a newly independent reader, or any youngster looking for an inventive fun book, this delivers in style. Chapters are short and well-contained, the action and dialogue is fast-paced and witty, there are numerous well-crafted illustrations, and of course pirate banter a-plenty. Lastly, it’s a series! And, here, in a MinervaReads exclusive, is an extract.
Extract from the middle of Chapter One: In which we find our heroes, the Steampunk Pirates in Barbary Bay, a famous hideout for scallywags, scoundrels and salty sea dogs.
A black-bearded man entered the alehouse. He wore a large three-cornered hat with two small holes cut into the material, as though he had a pair of eyes on top of his head. He glanced around the bar, brandished his cutlass and shouted, “Good news, you washed-up sea dogs! Old Inkybeard and Nancy are recruiting again. If you want adventure and riches, step forward now and join us.”
“Join you?” shouted one drinker. “I heard you set fire to your last ship.”
“It wasn’t even yours to sink,” said another.
“And your crew was still on board when it went down,” said a third man.
“Now, Nancy, don’t listen to the nasty men.” The pirate removed his hat to reveal a squid sitting on his head, with its tentacles wrapped around his neck and shoulders. “For those of you who are unfamiliar with my wife, this is Nancy.”
The squid blinked.
“Evening, Inkybeard,” said Mrs Smellgrove. “A bowl of mussels for Nancy, is it?”
“That’d be smashing, Mrs Smellgrove,” he replied. “But it’s the Dread Captain Inkybeard, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh yes, of course. Sorry,” said Mrs Smellgrove.
“Hey, laddie, why have you got a squid on your head?” asked Gadge.
Inkybeard caressed a tentacle draped over his right shoulder. “Old Nancy’s black ink helps keep my beard from going grey, don’t it, girl? Now, we don’t need to ask who you are. The ocean is awash with rumours of you metallic marauders. What will they think of next, Nancy?” Inkybeard walked around the Steampunk Pirates, inspecting them carefully.
Highly recommended for ages 6+. If your landlubber likes the sound of this one, you can buy it here or on the Amazon sidebar, and also treat yourself to the first in the series here, Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates: The Leaky Battery Sets Sail.
Number three: Clash of the Rival Robots publishes August 2015. With thanks to Little Tiger Press for providing the review copy and giving permission for the extract.