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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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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