Peter Wicked, by Broos Campbell

February 9, 2011 at 19:33 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , , )

5/10

Campbell is a good writer, but it is debatable whether he is quite as good a storyteller. For the first half of this book, very little happens. The characters do not grow, the pace does not change and the story does not develop. Taken in context with the other books in the series, this might be an intentional and legitimate decision, but it is hard to imagine how. The ill-favoured protagonist bumbles and blusters for a great deal of the book’s beginning, sounding something like a Holden Caulfield who expects life to simply give him his dues. In fact, both Matty and the eponymous Peter Wickett (a fun but unexploited and ultimately obscure reference) are empty of either nihilistic and villainous impulses or heroic flights of valour. They are hard to place as heroes or antiheroes, being as they are dull plastic things that even the author seems to tire of.

With such a poor outlook, entertainment must be found elsewhere. Wickett is certainly an interesting will-o’-the-wisp to chase through the book, but is anticlimactically found to be a depressed and suicidal nonentity, with no defiance in him and no effort by other characters to even see him hanged, as they intend. Graves is an uncertain and unsympathetic bully, a cad, and rather incompetent at all that, owning that his exploits were mostly down to the sort of luck that has none of the star-crossed romance but only unhappy accidents to its credit.

Despite the book’s poor array of characterisations and its even more lackadaisical attempt (given up about halfway through) of portraying some sort of supporting cast, when Campbell thrusts this sorry ensemble into the heart of the action and begins to paint an image of the high seas and piracy and mutiny, he does so with a passion and an incredible degree of skill. For his capable and rich descriptions of his ocean adventure this book (and probably others in the series) are worth a read.

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