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Pastworld Hardcover – September 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up—In 2050, civilization has become sterile, controlled, peaceful, and very, very boring. In an effort to capitalize on the ennui of the rich and famous, Buckland Corporation has created the ultimate vacation destination: Pastworld, a city modeled after 19th-century London where visitors also known as "gawkers" can immerse themselves in a Victorian world complete with grueling poverty, near-primitive medicine, lawlessness, and a casual disregard for human life. When 17-year-old Caleb Brown enters Pastworld with his father, one of the theme park's creators, he is unwittingly embroiled in a Scotland Yard investigation of a series of Jack the Ripper-style murders. Befriended by a young pickpocket and a beautiful girl with amnesia, he fights for his life and future in the dark underbelly of Pastworld. Readers who enjoyed Eleanor Updale's "Montmorency" series (Scholastic) will find this novel equally suspenseful and gripping. This spellbinding page-turner will keep readers on the edge of their seats.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK
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From Booklist

Beck takes the idea of historical fiction transporting readers to another time and literalizes it in this intriguing bit of science fiction. In the not-too-distant future, the city of London has been transformed into a massive Victorian theme park where Gawkers (tourists) can rub elbows with the grimy beggars and haughty gentry (most licensed to live out their roles) that visitors expect. Of course, no nineteenth-century London would be complete without a mysterious murderer lurking in the shadows, nor an innocent beauty in need of rescue. But the savage Fantom and delicate Eve seem to operate outside of the corporate-controlled construct of Pastworld, and Beck weaves a suitably foggy, intricate story around them. Rote characterizations and chunky dialogue dilute this jaunt into the past via the future, but much in the same way that Pastworld delivers Gawkers the expected delights of living historical fiction, so does Beck reward his readers with the requisite Victorian elements, that despite a lack of originality, are no less satisfying. Grades 7-10. --Ian Chipman

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 880L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; First Edition edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599900408
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599900407
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,638,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Julieosis on November 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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, right down to the luggage they carry and the toiletries they use, the entire theme park has been designed that way.

But despite the fact that Pastworld has a few electronic security measures, crime runs rampant within the park. Underground "unofficial" beg and steal from the "gawkers" or visitors to the park, and sometimes do worse than just steal however. There is a notorious criminal that is terrorizing the park. He's known only as the "Fantom" and he murders his victims before removing 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" and a Charles Dickens/Sherlock Holms mystery novel. I thought Ian Beck had a lot of good ideas going for Pastworld.

However, 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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. B. Hoyos VINE VOICE on January 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The year is 2050. After the great financial apocalypse, Buckland Corporation built a sky dome, hundreds of feet tall, over London. The city was converted into a theme park designated as Pastworld. Wealthy visitors known as Gawkers travel there to watch its citizens live in the recreated Victorian squalor of the 1800's. It is a primitive world where visitors hope to satisfy their perverse, morbid curiosities by witnessing hangings, amputations and brutal murders, especially murders committed by the Fantom.

The Fantom is a mysterious, black caped figure who disembowels and dismembers his victims. He escapes his pursuers by leaping from tall buildings. He controls the ragged men, an army of street beggars and thieves. He searches for a young girl named Eve who, until recently, believed she was actually living in Victorian London, unaware of a modern world existing outside the domed city. A young visitor, Caleb Brown, is framed by one of the ragged men for murder. With the help of Eve and her circus friends, he tries to escape the hangman's noose as well as escape the clutches of the Fantom.

Dorothy traveled to the Land of Oz, experienced numerous adventures, some of them heartwarming and some of them horrifying, and eventually said, "There's no place like home." When will people learn that happiness can be experienced at home with family and friends? Dreams of traveling to other worlds, whether they exist in the past or the future, can turn into nightmares. This idea has been expressed before in Michael Crichton's "Westworld" and Richard T. Heffron`s "Futureworld" where lifelike androids provide entertainment for wealthy patrons; unfortunately, something goes amiss in these theme parks and there are horrifying consequences.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Clinton A. Wilson on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I went into this purchase intrigued with the concept that I read on the preview here on Amazon. While at times it was somewhat hard to follow where teh author was going in the book there was enough mysticism to get me through to the end.

After I read it and let it begin to sink in I found that I enjoyed the book even better as I reread some of the chapters that at first seemed somewhat fuzzy when reading it though the first time.

While I would recommend this for older young adults (14-17) due to the complexity of plot and some macabre I feel that the journey is worth it.
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Format: Hardcover
This looked like an exciting read, with a fresh and surprising slant on a version of "Old London" in future England. A vast Dickensian "theme park" is created, complete with era-accurate businesses, residents, crime, and law enforcement. The author seemed to have done his homework; and thoughtfully constructed the "theme park" setting, laws, costuming, controls, security, etc. I quite enjoyed it, until halfway or two-thirds in...

The story's barely-explained evil presence (the "Fantom") generates not just the generalized violence might be acceptable to parents of young readers; there is also decapitation, dismemberment, and grisly organ theft. (This gratuitous gore was unnecessary; Beck could have used those paragraphs to create more mystery, in raising the villain above comic-book level.)

More disturbingly: Toward the end the story takes a weird turn toward sadomasochism. It doesn't make the FULL turn, but the book's resolution relies heavily on the hints of why certain characters were genetically engineered to crave violence from each other. These are NOT elements geared for young readers.

The book's resolution (which happens far too quickly) also leaned heavily on illicit "murder tours" — but IF important, why were these barely mentioned, or glimpsed by the reader, till the end? They could have been worked in far earlier, to develop suspense.

In the whole final third of the book, the story just seems to collapse in on itself. Disappointing, because Beck seems to be a skilled writer capable of greater things. Until the unsavory elements mentioned above, I would have been willing to follow a whole SERIES of stories set in the "Pastworld" theme park.
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