WARNING: Ripping Book Reviews are solely the judgments of Professor VJ Duke on an unlucky book that has caused him much repulsion—in one way or another. Therefore, blame must be put on the author and nobody else. With that in mind, read on—if you are brave enough to take it.
PIRATE CITY by R. M. BALLANTYNE
First, a disturbing picture. It had the professor shivering. And this was before I knew he was 19-years-old:
What a mustache!
One more picture of Mr. Prolific Mustache. Can you spot him? I should say, can you spot his mustache?
This little vexing book begins with a description of a little old lady.
What a way to begin. First a disturbing picture, and then a description of a little old lady.
The professor was interested immediately.
Here’s the description:
This little old lady was so pleasant in all respects that an adequate description of her is an impossibility.
Well, then, don’t try. It would have saved the reader much unpleasantness.
Her mouth was a perfect study.
Incredible! But please, could we study it another time?
It was not troubled with anything in the shape of teeth.
Now that was a bit befuddling. What’s it supposed to mean, I wonder? Too scary to think on.
It lay between the delicate little down-turned nose and a soft little up-turned chin, which two seemed as if anxious to meet in order to protect it.
The imagery is disturbing here, and it’s also misleading. You see, the author said the old lady was pleasant.
The wrinkles that surrounded that mouth were innumerable, and each wrinkle was a distinct and separate smile; so that, whether pursing or expanding, it was at all times rippling with an expression of tender benignity.
It should be against the Book Law for authors to lie in such a brazen manner to the reader.
The next sentence sums up this little crime perfectly:
The little old lady plays no part in our tale…
How horribly vexing! After all the scary description, after all that anguish, after all that dadblamery, we find that it means nothing.
Moving on before the professor explodes.
Basically, Mariano (the strange mustachioed fellow in the beginning) is our hero. He gets captured and imprisoned in the Pirate City, Algiers.
The book is about his escape.
But, in reality, this professor didn’t care if he ever escaped. You see, it was much better when he was stuck in the city. One with such facial hair should be kept in a cage, I think.
Now, this is how the professor was introduced to a new character, Ted Flaggan.
Before I quote this dull soul’s letter, you must understand this is stupidity at its finest. He doesn’t even know how to spell his name:
Sur i’m an irishman an a salier an recked on the cost of boogia wid six of me messmaits hoo are wel an arty tho too was drowndid on landing an wan wos spiflikated be the moors…
The professor won’t torture you with the rest, but it ends with this:
…yoor onors obedient humbil servint to command ted flagan.
The professor would give Mr. Mustache’s mustache to know what boogia and spiflikated was all about.
You see, the author enjoyed lying to the reader, and the above excerpt proves that he also enjoyed torturing the reader.
But, it gets even worse. The author lies to himself.
This is one particular scene:
Laying the man on the ground with his face downwards, the officers of justice sent away two of their number, who speedily returned with a blacksmith’s anvil and forehammer. On this they placed one of their victim’s ankles, and Flaggen now saw, with a sickening heart, that they were about to break it with the ponderous hammer. One blow sufficed to crush the bone in pieces, and drew from the man an appalling shriek of agony. Pushing his leg further on the anvil, the executioner broke it again at the shin, while the other officials held the yelling victim down. A third blow was then delivered on the knee, but the shriek that followed was suddenly cut short in consequence of the man having fainted. Still the callous executioner went on with his horrible task, and, breaking the leg once more at the thigh, proceeded to go through the same process with the other leg, and also with the arms.
And the author has this to say:
We would not describe such a scene as this were it not certainly true; and we relate it, reader, not for the purpose of harrowing your feelings…
I feel for Mr. Ballantyne. The man lies to himself. It was quite obvious that he enjoyed this scene immensely. And I believe he wanted to go on about it.
You see, Mr. Ballantyne delights in discussing awful topics (like the old lady) in the disguise that it is something sweet or improper.
The professor can’t do anymore.
One last thought.
The book should have been called: The Escape of Mr. Mustache.