Summary: Elliott Graven and his father, the doctor, have moved to Spohrville, Nova Scotia in response to a job offer for the position of town physician recently made available by an untimely death. Turns out the previous doctor’s death is the tip of the iceburg in Spohrville – a man named Professor Strange is controlling the whole town through mysterious means, using the townspeople to work in his silver mine and submit to his cruel experiments against their will. Elliot’s allergies end up protecting him from Professor Strange’s mind control, and together with a local named Denis and a werewolf name Paisley, he sets out to end Professor Strange’s evil plans.
Number of Pages: 204
Age Range: 13-15
Review: Jaunty, funny, exciting and disturbing are a few of the words I would use to describe Paul Marlowe’s Sporeville, the story of Elliott and his father moving to smalltown Nova Scotia after the death of his mother in a shipwreck. Set in 1886, it’s an adventure with cannons, secret liars and zombie-like villagers as well as a mystery wrapped up together, and while at times my reading was motivated by a morbid fascination with Professor Strange’s evil ways, I truly enjoyed this clever and engaging book.
Paisley, of course, was my favourite character, although even though I knew there was something supernatural about her, I didn’t realise she was a werewolf until Elliott figured it out himself. I loved her spirit, intelligence, and loyalty to Elliot, even though she’d only known him a few days before she needed to rescue him.
I also appreciated Marlowe’s well-developed sense of humour throughout the novel. At times I was sick to my stomach when I read about all of Professor Strange’s experiments, but Marlowe seemed to know just when to lighten the mood for his reader. I laughed out loud more than once, and I included a couple of the quotes in the Memorable Quotes section.
According to Marlowe’s website, Sporeville is considered to fall under the Steampunk genre. I’m not too familiar with the Steampunk genre myself, but if this is it, I can’t wait to read more. Good thing it is the first book in a series.
“Being a man of science, or at least hoping one day to become one, Elliott had a brain which didn’t believe in such things as ghosts, or corpses walking around abroad in the world, and yet his body was rather less decided on the matter. More or less of their own volition, his feet backed away from where the person or thing had disappeared, while his heart and stomach fought to get away faster by way of his throat. Or so he would have described the sensation had he tried to analyse it. Instead, his mind was busy trying to settle the rest of his parts down with reassuring assessments of the situation.” – from Sporeville by Paul Marlowe, page 14
“Paisley had by now retreated to the main hallway, from which she was regarding events with that bemused satisfaction that one has when watching one’s parent’s drive someone else mad for a change.” – from Sporeville by Paul Marlowe, page 19
“‘Y’understand, of course, there’s always a certain failure rate whenever you’re breakin’ new ground. Twenty percent, as ah recall, were successful.’
Just what success was in this case, Elliott hesistated to guess. Unfortunately, Strange filled in the void that Elliott’s imagination preferred to leave blank.
‘That’s to say, twenty percent forgot which side they were on, rather than forgettin’ how to hold a musket, or stand up, or breathe, for example. Complicated thing, the mind. Even a Yankee mind.'” – Professor Strange from Sporeville by Paul Marlowe, page 139
“Survival of the fittest, Strange had said. He must have lifted that idea from Charles Darwin, who had written something of the sort. Only Darwin had never meant to suggest that only the strong, or the cruel, or the selfish survived; merely the successful creatures did, whatever means they might use to win.” – from Sporeville by Paul Marlowe, page 141
“‘The table should absorb most of the damage,’ Mr DeLoup consoled his wife, who was mournfully patting the doomed furniture.
‘Why couldn’t it have been the lacquered wardrobe?’ Mrs DeLoup asked her husband. Or perhaps she was demanding an answer from Fate. She spoke in tones of such dismay that Elliott could almost imagine her standing over the dying hero of Trafalgar, on the deck of HMS Victory, wondering why the bullet hadn’t struck down some louse-ridden sailor instead of the Admiral.
‘Desperate affairs require desperate measures, my dear.'” – conversation between Mr and Mrs DeLoup from Sporeville by Paul Marlowe, pages 180-181