The year is 2048. The place is London. But unlike the rest of the world, London has not progressed. London, better known as Pastworld, was long ago converted into a theme park where the key word is "authentic". The entire city of London was reverted back to the Victorian era, and is now a place where people from all over the world can come for a vacation of thrills and chills.
Most of the natives of Pastworld know they aren't actually in Victorian London. There are the legal natives who live there all the time. Then there are the illicit beggars, known as the Ragged Men, who aren't supposed to be around but are anyway. And then there's Eve. Eve is a native, supposedly legal, but she doesn't know that she lives in a theme park. She only has a few years worth of memories, and her guardian, the near-blind Jack, hasn't told her much. But as she learns more, she finds that someone is after her, and so in order to protect Jack, she runs away and joins a circus where she discovers her strange ability to dance on a tightrope.
Caleb Brown is a Gawker, a visitor come to enjoy a few weeks in Pastworld. His father is Lucius Brown, one of the imagineers who first created Pastworld. Caleb, though he doesn't want to show it, is thrilled to finally visit the city his father helped make, but the 'vacation' turns into a nightmare when a blind man is killed in front of him and his father is kidnapped by ragged men. Caleb disappears into Pastworld, struggling not only with his conscience, but the basic neccessity of staying alive.
The Fantom is a cold blooded killer who's been missing for years. Gawkers, and even some of the natives, don't believe he really exists, and just think he's a story created to add a hint of danger to the theme park, but he is more than real. And he's returned to Pastworld in search of Eve.
In one sentence, Pastworld is: a very unique book that is both dystopian and steampunk about a killer modeled after Jack the Ripper, a young girl with strange powers, and a few other dudes. And the cover is beautiful. Thank the Lord the book lives up to its cover and description.
So yes, this book actually was surprisingly good. I figured out the mystery of Eve and the Fantom very early on, and I don't know if that's because of a slightly similar plot I've seen or if it's just a transparent plot. But that certainly didn't make me stop reading. It has a great atmosphere and none of the characters are irritating enough to make the book unenjoyable. The basic problem is that it feels like it should be more complicated than it is. It feels like there should be violent plot twists, darker mysteries, and more intensity. Perhaps if this had been geared towards a slightly older audience, it would've been so.
Really, the only thing that bugged me was the punctuation. There were not nearly enough commas in the book, and there were a few random question marks where periods should've been. I was hoping this was just because it was Ian Beck's first novel, but turns out it isn't, so I'm not sure what his problem is. And the ending is a bit...anticlimactic. You know me and endings.
To conclude, Pastworld is a unique novel (set in the future but at the same time set in Victorian London) that, while it isn't going to win any rewards in my log, is definitely worth a look (at least gaze at the cover for a little while).