Alan J. Levine,
The Adventures of Short Stubbly Brownbeard
(iUniverse, 2006)

Avast, ye maties! This here be a thrilling tale of unequalled derring-do, timber-shivering adventure, rapacious skullduggery, etc. Here be not only pirates but witches, trolls, a scurvy feline navigator, lots of men hitting rocks with big sticks, monsters, child-enslaving scalawags, some of the most ornery numbers you've ever seen (that number 4 is a saucy little landlubber) and more gold and trinkets than even the great Blackbeard has ever seen.

Speaking of Blackbeard, he's here, too. Short Stubbly Brownbeard, you see, is Blackbeard's cousin. He didn't start out as a pirate, though. After his education was complete, Brownbeard settled in to a promising career as an accountant in Charleston -- until a late-night attack by a murderous gang of numbers deprived him of an eyebrow (which he soon replaced with a papier mache one) and convinced him to give in to the pirate blood that coursed through his veins.

This was to be no ordinary pirating adventure, however. The For Sale, the ship Brownbeard was fortunate enough to borrow for two years, would sail the high seas of the Milky Way itself, thanks to Brownbeard's newly discovered patron, a winsome little sand witch named Hazel. It has long been Hazel's dream to become part of the most daring, fiercest, well-known pirate crews of all time. For her, looting and pillaging in the Caribbean is just too darn easy. She has her sights on the vast wealth of the richest kingdom in the galaxy, the Empire of Sa'Laam. So off Brownbeard goes, hitting the intergalactic sea lanes with a souped-up ship, a sand witch and a crew consisting of a pet-loving cat named Kumquat, a troll named Wilbert and a mute carkey gremlin named Schmoor.

Brownbeard quickly makes a name for himself in Sa'Laam, where power and authority are determined by how far you can hit a stone with a stick. With a little enchanted help from Hazel, Brownbeard's stick-swinging prowess precedes him into Sa'Laam, so much so that he is immediately challenged by the emperor upon his arrival -- with the entire empire watching. And this is just the beginning of Brownbeard's pirating adventure. While beating a hasty retreat from Sa'Laam, he and his crew seek refuge in the castle of the King of Clouds (or Elvis, as he currently calls himself) before taking on a powerful sorceress (and her weremonsters) in the Land of Longing. And if that weren't enough, Brownbeard and Hazel have to deal with their burgeoning feelings for one another.

Landlubbers of all ages should get quite a kick out of The Adventures of Short Stubbly Brownbeard, but the novel should prove particularly appealing to young-adult readers. There's plenty of action, the plot never gets bogged down and humor is scattered liberally throughout. Just remember that this is primarily a work of science fiction and fantasy. Ergo, you won't find any ships exchanging cannon fire on the high seas or gallant swordplay or buried treasure -- not even a single case of walking the plank. As an accountant-turned-pirate, Brownbeard doesn't really throw a lot of pirate lingo at you, either, and the closest thing he has to a patch is his papier-mache eyebrow. Never fear, though, because Blackbeard shows up to help meet all of your traditional pirate needs.

Basically, what I'm saying is that an enjoyable pirating adventure is had by all -- and only the scurviest of scalawags would want to miss out on all the fun borne of Alan J. Levine's wild imagination.

review by
Daniel Jolley

4 August 2007

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