Castaways of the Flying Dutchman
Brian Jacques

Flying Dutchman #1
Category: Children's, Fantasy
Morality: B
Writing: B-

Ben and his dog Ned find themselves aboard the ship the Flying Dutchman, in 1620. The ship’s crew is a wicked lot, and the captain the worst of all. So when Captain Vanderdecken blasphemes God, an angel appears and condemns the ship’s crew — dead and alive members — to eternal wanderings on the seas. Ben and Ned escape the cursed ship, but they’re still immortal. Following the commands of the angel, and gifted with telepathic powers and impressive intuition, they travel the world, bringing help and comfort to various people. But always the time comes when they must move on again.

Most of the book centers around Ben and Ned helping a small English village in the late 19th century. The village is threatened by an evil businessman who wants to turn it all into a factory, and Ben and Ned and their friends must save it. The book is pure adventure, with a treasure hunt and a complete lack of realism, but it’s fun. Jacques is dependably clear in his good-and-evil distinctions, which is nice for a children’s book (which this definitely is). There’s a fair amount of semi-religious content — the town’s name is Chapelvale, and the treasure hunt turns up religious artifacts, one for each of the four gospel writers. And of course there’s the angel whose commands Ben and Ned follow, as well as the punishment for blasphemy at the beginning. But the book isn’t religious in focus — it’s just a good old-fashioned adventure novel at heart. The cursed ship is traditional fare, and while it may seem unjust that Ben and Ned must also suffer immortality, they don’t seem to mind — and they use their powers for good invariably.

The writing is fairly solid, although Jacques has a tendency to employ sentence fragments and use commas incorrectly. Maybe the convention is different in England, but I found an awful lot of commas separating independent clauses, which bugs me as a punctuation freak. Other than that, though, there’s nothing wrong with the writing; it’s simple, being geared toward kids, but acceptable.

Posted by Sasha | April 10, 2005

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