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on February 13, 2011
Pastworld is a "theme park" set in the Victorian times of London. The visitors, called Gawkers, get submerged in that lifetime. They must follow strict rules to keep to the authenticity.

The story is about Eve, a girl who was shut away in a house in Pastworld and only let out with her guardian, who runs away to join the circus. She doesn't remember much of her childhood, but she dreams of being free. The story is also about Caleb, a visitor to Pastworld whose life is turned upside down when he's a witness to a murder. Before long, he is labeled as the murderer and his father is kidnapped right before his eyes. He is taken in by a pickpocket named Bible J. And then there's the Fantom. He is a serial killer with a gruesome calling card.

These three characters are all involved in some way - a very shocking way!

PASTWORLD was definitely...interesting. Working for Disney, I saw that this was about a "theme park" and was excited. But I wouldn't exactly call Pastworld a theme park; it's just a city set in the past.

You could definitely tell this book was written by a guy, since it was really gory. I wasn't expecting that, but it didn't turn me off from my reading. Sometimes, I didn't really care about the characters. While I wanted to care about Eve, I didn't feel like there was enough about her for me to feel sympathetic about. That being said, this was a good science fiction/mystery book. I spent a lot of the storyline trying to figure out what was going on, and I would say that about two-thirds of the way through, I finally figured it out. And it was a good twist!

I feel that the ending wrapped up too quickly, as I would have liked to have read more about what happened at the end scene with the Fantom and Eve. Still, a good read overall, though.

Reviewed by: Andrea
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on December 23, 2011
Lots of good about this book. Interesting premise, well-done background and description of the creepy amusement park setting.

The only downside is what I complain about all the time. Too many words. Many of the passages and scenes felt repetitive. I lost forward motion in a few places. Sort of like slogging through the swamp hoping to find the elusive rare orchid. I persevered, but I really wish it was cut by a few thousand words. The ending was neither surprising nor dramatic given the premise.

If this were a self-pub, then I could be more forgiving, but it's published by Bloomsbury. What exactly are their editors doing? Clearly not cutting the chaff from a book that would have been better with a scalpel-like editing. After all, the Fantom would have done so.

So I'm waffling here. Good enough to finish because of concept and delivery, but not good enough to be enthused.
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on November 5, 2010
Pastworld is a "theme park" set in the Victorian times of London. The visitors, called Gawkers, get submerged in that lifetime. They must follow strict rules to keep to the authenticity.

The story is about Eve, a girl who was shut away in a house in Pastworld and only let out with her guardian, who runs away to join the circus. She doesn't remember much of her childhood, but she dreams of being free. The story is also about Caleb, a visitor to Pastworld whose life is turned upside down when he's a witness to a murder. Before long, he is labeled as the murderer and his father is kidnapped right before his eyes. He is taken in by a pickpocket named Bible J. And then there's the Fantom. He is a serial killer with a gruesome calling card.

These three characters are all involved in some way - a very shocking way!

PASTWORLD was definitely...interesting. Working for Disney, I saw that this was about a "theme park" and was excited. But I wouldn't exactly call Pastworld a theme park; it's just a city set in the past.

You could definitely tell this book was written by a guy, since it was really gory. I wasn't expecting that, but it didn't turn me off from my reading. Sometimes, I didn't really care about the characters. While I wanted to care about Eve, I didn't feel like there was enough about her for me to feel sympathetic about. That being said, this was a good science fiction/mystery book. I spent a lot of the storyline trying to figure out what was going on, and I would say that about two-thirds of the way through, I finally figured it out. And it was a good twist!

I feel that the ending wrapped up too quickly, as I would have liked to have read more about what happened at the end scene with the Fantom and Eve. Still, a good read overall, though.

Reviewed by: Andrea
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on October 29, 2010
This book was definitely...interesting. Working for Disney, I saw that this was about a "theme park" and was excited. But I wouldn't exactly call Pastworld a theme park...it's just a city set in the past.

You could definitely tell this book was written by a guy. The book was really gory. I wasn't expecting that, but it didn't turn me off. And I didn't really care about the characters. While I wanted to care about Eve, I didn't feel like there was enough about her for me to feel sympathetic about.

That being said, it was a good mystery book. I spent a lot of the book trying to figure out what was going on and I would say that about two-thirds of the way through, I figured it out. And it was a good twist! I feel that the ending wrapped up too quickly though. I would have liked to have read more about what happened at the end scene with the Fantom and Eve.
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VINE VOICEon May 23, 2010
If you like Running Out of Time or The Truman Show then you'll probably like this.

I don't have much to say about this book. It took me a MONTH to read. Because, while the premise is really interesting, it's a slow read. I reads kind of like film noir. Flashing from character to character while to try to solve this "mystery" of the Fantom.

I'm not unhappy that I read it. I still enjoyed the book, I just wish it had been a little less confusing and a little more cohesive.
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on April 26, 2010
I must say that this is a good book, bordering on great. I love the setting, 'Victorian' London and I can really see such a theme park being created. I also really enjoyed the fact that the theme park had evolved. It wasn't 100% controlled by the Company. The story idea was fun, and Ian Beck's writing style quickly drew me into the setting and story.

There are a few things that take away from the book, making it merely 'good'. First, while the story draws you in, it's hard to stay because the characters lack depth. Eve, a central character, is only ever written through her diary. Interesting, but it gets old really fast. The other characters are some what easier to get into, but not by much.

Conclusion: This quasi-steampunk book is a fun read and worth the time to read through. Don't expect it to be something you'll reread over and over again, but it does deserve a spot on your bookshelf.
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on March 4, 2010
The title, cover, and book jacket description drew me in, and I tried hard to get into and enjoy this book. I like well-realized stories about Victorian times (see the Montmorency series by Eleanor Updale), so I had high hopes, especially since there was also the promise of some science fiction in the mix. I spent most of the time being either repulsed by the gore, confused by the various plot devices, or distracted by the writing style (many run-on sentences and other somewhat sloppy constructions -- makes me wonder more about the editing than the writing, though). Since other reviewers have recommended other books by this author, I'd like to give him another chance.
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I was very eager to read Pastworld. I thought the entire premise was very creative and being a fan of the steampunk genre, I thought this was going to be right up my alley. In this book, we have evidently turned London into a giant theme park, retro fitting it back to Victorian times. Everything is authentic to the period all the way down to crime and criminal justice. Pastworld even has it's own version of Jack the Ripper. People pay lots of money to go and visit even with the threat that they might be hanged for any criminal offense, real or trumped up. The author never really explains what's so bad about society in 2048 that would make people want to do this. There is gruesomeness here by way of the "Fantom"; a killer who likes to dismember his victims. I'm not sure why the author felt the need to include all the gruesome details because they seem so out of place with the language of the rest of the book. It just doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the story, and seems to have been added merely for shock value. With all of the innovations that the author has come up with in setting, and all the different themes he seems to have been going for, the plot is rather thin. I did not feel any build up of suspense, and for some reason, the "Fantom" never serves up much terror. I felt rather confused through alot of this book. I think I can understand where he was trying to go, but it just never got there for me.

Other reviewers have remarked that the characters were not well developed and I would have to agree. I think the story would have been so much better if the author would have just spent more time with Eve. I found myself having to work hard to finish this book, because I really didn't care what happened. I won't spoil the ending, but my sci-fi lovers brain was very unsatisfied with some of the lack of explanation. I think that you have to do a better job with the science than that even if it is a YA book.

I won't be recommending this one. I have a hard time imagining any 12/13 year old hanging with this long enough to get into the story. Check out this author's other books! His Trueheart stories are great.
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VINE VOICEon January 22, 2010
Review in 75 words or less: Beautiful and elaborate world. The novel has interesting characters; however, the world that Beck has created is sadly more memorable than many of the novel's main characters. In addition, as a reader, I was frustrated in that the main action does not occur until the last hundred pages of the novel. The previous 250+ pages merely gives the reader crumbs of intrigue to keep them interested. A good, but not great read.

Final verdict: I wanted so much to love this novel, but much of the novel fell flat. This would be a great read for lovers of the Victorian era or crime/mystery fans. Yet for everyone else, you may want to proceed with caution.
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VINE VOICEon January 7, 2010
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.

Ian Beck's superb science fiction horror novel "Pastworld" is a youth-oriented version of "Westworld" and "Futureworld." The central characters are young people, Eve, Caleb, Jago and Bible J, who are all approximately seventeen. They are trapped in Victorian London, victims of a simulated, artificial world controlled by computers. Because Pastworld is covered by a dome, I had fond memories of the classic "Logan's Run," which also involves trapped citizens who endeavor to escape a city of domes.

"Pastworld" is one of the most bizarre, intriguing novels I've read for young adults. Though it is primarily a science fiction horror novel, it has strong elements of mystery and romance. Fast paced and gripping, it raises a lot of moral and ethical questions concerning what vacationers deem as entertainment. Is it moral to keep humans trapped in a world without the modern, technological advances of transportation, education and medicine? Pastworld reminds me of a zoo where visitors goggle and stare at the misfortunes of others. Similarly, many people today enjoy traveling to third world countries where they satisfy a morbid curiosity by watching the suffering of the impoverished.

I grew up enjoying the Hammer horror films that were popular in the sixties and seventies, especially the ones with gothic settings of foggy London during the 1800`s. Frankenstein, Dracula, Jack the Ripper and other supernatural creatures haunted these films. Therefore, I was compelled to read "Pastworld." In a way, I am as guilty as the wealthy visitors who pay to visit this theme park. One of the characters, the Fantom, especially intrigued me since he was dismembering his victims like Jack the Ripper. Other mysterious characters of interest were the beautiful, tightrope walking Eve, the thieving street urchin Bible J, and Caleb Brown, the wealthy young lad who is framed for murder and whose father has been abducted by the Fantom. Who (or what) is the Fantom? That is the mysterious question that compelled me to keep reading.

"Pastworld" is highly recommended reading for all science fiction horror fans ages thirteen and above. With its many hidden dangers, Pastworld is one theme park I do not wish to visit. I'm quite happy living in the year 2009. I'll find happiness with my friends and relatives in the present. Perhaps I'll visit Walt Disney World. At least I don't have to worry about the exhibits eating me ("Jurassic Park"), shooting me in a gunfight ("Westworld") or replacing me with an android ("Futureworld").

Joseph B. Hoyos
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