Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wish I had loved it: Capt. Hook by J.V. Hart; Illustrated by Brett Helquist

Here was the promise of all things good in the world.

A book about Captain Hook, written by the screenwriter of the movie Hook, and illustrated by Brett Helquist.

This blog has only been up for a few days and I’ve already proclaimed my love of Peter Pan, the movie “Hook,” and the illustrations of Brett Helquist; so I was there.

Neverland is purposefully set up to be every kid’s dream.  Yes, it’s tailored a little more to boys interests what with the pirates and Indians, but there are also mermaids and fairies there, not to mention that these days you’ll find as many girls who love pirates as boys.  Problem with Neverland is that Peter Pan is in it, and he’s sort of a jerk.  All kids are jerks around Peter Pan’s age, but we don’t like to know it.  I’m sure that I’m not the only one who saw Captain Hook in his smashing pirate garb and thought, “I think I might be on his side.”  The movie “Hook” only re-enforced this, because Peter Pan was an even bigger jerk in that movie and Dustin Hoffman played a cool, humorous, charismatic Hook.  I even remember trying to make “Bad form” happen as a catchphrase at my school. (So cool, I know.)

So why didn’t I love this book?  I desperately wanted to.  The story follows the School Age years of James Matthew, the illegitimate son of Lord Byron, at Eton School.  The Eton section is long with a lot of boarding school hazing, Eton ritual, and general Britishness going on.  Some people felt that would be a turn off for young American readers, but it certainly didn’t bother an Anglophile like me.

The main problem with the book isn’t the setting, the future Captain Hook himself.  He’s a proud, arrogant character, phased by nothing.  I’m certain this was done on purpose, paralleling Peter Pan himself.  Thing is, because he is phased by nothing, there is no real conflict.  It’s like playing pretend with a friend who is God-moding the whole time.

“You can’t beat me; now I’m the greatest swordfighter in the world.”

It all gets very dull because nothing seems to be a challenge or excite this character who I would also describe as a sociopath.  Even Peter Pan, arrogant and fearless as he was, bit off more than he could chew sometimes and was humbled a bit by it.  I think this is the main reason the pace feels so slow, not because of wordiness or bad setting but because one doesn’t desire to keep reading about him.

Also, this uber-capable Captain Hook confuses me, doesn’t this guy spend the rest of his life fighting an enemy half his age to no avail?  I love Captain Hook, but let’s face it, he’s a bit of a loser.

Helquist’s name is featured prominently on the cover but don’t look for his illustrations to save you some word count, there are far less than in the average Lemony Snicket book.  You can count them on one hand.

I think what happened is that J.V. Hart fell as much in love with his “Hook” character as I did when I was a kid, and wanted to give him a heroic back story (which he frankly doesn’t need/deserve).

Bad form, J.V. Hart.  Bad form.

No comments:

Post a Comment