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Review: Daniel Handler’s We Are Pirates December 4, 2014

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews.

Another Netgalley review. It’ll be interesting to see whether the January launch of Handler’s novel will be affected by his big dumb racist joke about black people and watermelons at a book awards event.

Well, this was a strange, disturbing, and somewhat disjointed book. Much darker than I expected. There are two main characters: Phil Needle, whose viewpoint sections are strongly reminiscent of the hapless protagonists of Philip K. Dick’s mainstream novels, and his daughter Gwen, whose story of becoming a San Francisco pirate is a lot less fun and carefree than the description of the book suggests.

This book is going to take some time to process. Phil and Gwen don’t always seem to be in the same novel. The supporting characters aren’t developed in depth. There’s a narrator who makes odd comments about how the world used to be back when these events were occurring. I can see some people loving this book; whether it’ll be a cult classic or a mainstream success, I don’t know, but it’s a more real world kind of series of unfortunate events than any Lemony Snicket fans may be expecting. There’s a lot more to be said about the book, about middle-aged desperation and teenage desperation, family, violence, and, yes, pirates. The reactions should be all over the map.

Oh. Did I like it? I think so, but give me more time to be sure.

And now that I’ve had time… reading this once was enough, even though I suspect I missed a few things the first time through. I won’t be buying a copy later. The book doesn’t really cohere. The Philip K. Dick stuff and the gonzo kid pirates stuff would probably be better as separate novels.



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