Pastworld: Great ideas, shallow characters

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Ian Beck PastworldPastworld by Ian Beck

Pastworld is a theme park that is run by the Buckland Corporation. It is a complete authentic reproduction of 17th century London. Everything is authentic: the dress, the lack of electricity, even the 17th century laws. Everyone who visits Pastworld has to be authentic as well, right down to the luggage they carry and the toiletries they use.

But despite the fact that Pastworld has a few electronic security measures, crime runs rampant within the park. Underground “unofficials” beg and steal from the “gawkers” or visitors to the park, and sometimes do worse than just steal. There is a notorious criminal that is terrorizing the park. He’s known only as the “Fantom” and he murders his victims before removing their organs and heads to terrorize the city. But the Fantom has more in mind than just causing some discomfort to the park gawkers. He’s looking for someone. A young girl who has no idea she’s living in a theme park, someone who can help him carry out his evil plot…

To start off with, I liked the general theme of Pastworld. It sort of reminded me of a cross between “The Truman Show,” Charles Dickens, and a Sherlock Holmes mystery. I thought Ian Beck had a lot of good ideas going for Pastworld.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsHowever, I just could not get into Pastworld. First off, I felt that it was overly violent for a YA audience. I get blood, that’s fine, but dismembering, decapitations, and removing organs? Really? I got the idea with the murders; I felt the extra embellishments of violence were unneeded to make the point.

I also felt zero connection to the characters. I found it annoying that the character of Eve, someone who was central to the entire plot of the book, was only written about in diary format. Pastworld kept skipping from third person to first person and it distracted from the plot as opposed to adding to it. I just felt that the characters were sort of glossed over in an attempt to further the plot. I didn’t feel like any of them had any depth and because of that, I really stopped caring.

Overall, I found Pastworld to be pretty disappointing. It’s a shame really, because Ian Beck had a really great and original idea that unfortunately just didn’t come to fruition for me.

Pastworld — (2009) Publisher: What if all of London were really an amusement park — a whole city returned to Victorian times to entertain visitors from the twenty-first century? That’s the wildly original premise of Ian Beck’s Pastworld, a high-stakes mystery set in a simulated past. Eve is a lifelong resident of Pastworld who doesn’t know she’s living in a theme park until a mysterious threat forces her to leave home. Caleb is a visiting tourist who finds the lawlessness of the past thrilling — until he suddenly becomes a fugitive from an antiquated justice system. And in the midst of it all, in the thick London fog adark and deadly figure prowls, claiming victim after victim. He’s the Fantom, a creature both of the past and of the present, in whose dark purpose Caleb and Eve will find their destinies combined. Page-turning, complex, and haunting, Pastworld masterfully exposes the human experience of the past, of violence, of technology, and of entertainment.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsJulie Waineo, one of our earliest guest reviewers, earned an MBA at Bowling Green State University. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a minor in French. Now living in Virginia with her husband and dog, Julie is an avid reader of not only fantasy, but historical fiction, the occasional “chick lit,” and children’s literature.


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