By Ian Beck
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 0 7475 8173 4
Theme parks are all over the news at the moment, with the planned Shanghai Disneyland and Florida's Harry Potter Park causing quite a stir. But what would be the ultimate theme park? Ian Beck has come up with an intriguing suggestion to this question in his spooky and original new novel, Pastworld.
It's the year 2050, and London has been converted into a gigantic Victorian theme park, complete with beggars, murderers, fog and everything else we know about what the city was like during the reign of Queen Victoria. All the modern buildings have been torn down - the city is so authentic, some inhabitants don't even know they are living in a theme park.
The park is controlled by the mighty Buckland Corporation. Airships silently glide into Pastworld London carrying hoards of tourists from the middle of the 21st century.
Once in Pastworld, a tourist has to fit in with Victorian London and forget all links with the outside world. And at the moment, the theme park is a very dangerous place because a Jack the Ripper figure is stalking the fog-encased streets committing appalling murders.
In a ramshackle house up a dismal back alley, teenager Eve lives with her guardian, a mysterious blind man called Jack. Eve has always known Jack was not her father, but who is he? The young girl has no memories of her childhood and this worries her.
When her guardian is murdered, Eve decides it's time to find out who she really is.
At the landing dock in the middle of Pastworld, another airship arrives and another party of tourists excitedly climb out into Victorian London. Teenager Caleb has been looking forward to the visit for a long time. He arrives in Pastworld with his rich father, who knows more about the secrets of the theme park than he is letting on.
When his father is attacked and kidnapped by a gang of ruffians, Caleb finds himself on the run, accused of murder. By chance, he comes across Eve, another teenager alone and scared in Pastworld. But is it a chance meeting? Or is there some secret that links these two frightened youngsters?
Pastworld is a terrific and inventive thriller that promises a lot and delivers on all fronts. Part sci-fi thriller and part Victorian mystery, Ian Beck's first book for older teen readers is highly addictive. The plot is pacy and ingenious, even though the connection between Eve and Caleb isn't difficult to work out. Bursting at the seams with originality and atmosphere, this will keep you right on the edge of your seat.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com