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Hamish X and The Cheese Pirates of the Arctic

by Sean Cullen

As the title suggests, Hamish X and the Cheese Pirates of the Arctic is a very silly book. This is not a bad thing – witness the inspired silliness of Lemony Snicket and Monty Python – but it must be done with care.

The world of Hamish X is an odd place, where cheese factories are run by evil capitalists, worked by orphans, and terrorized by zeppelin-borne cheese pirates, while all of this is controlled by a shadowy organization that supplies the orphans and keeps track of Hamish himself.

Hamish has magic boots, no past, and an intensely boring book about plumbers that somehow holds the key to discovering the identity of his mother. In comedian Seán Cullen’s first novel for young adults, and the first in a series about Hamish, the boy and his companions must trek through the Arctic, defeat the villainous pirates, and free the kidnapped orphans.

The problem with silliness is that it must be maintained: no one can die from natural causes, they must be crushed by falling tapirs or swept from an oil rig in the Caspian Sea. This occasionally gives the story a strained quality or sets it at a level too young for the intended audience, as when someone is called “a big poo.”

Footnotes, which are scattered distractingly through the text, are a strange mix of interesting fact and fiction. Not only will readers have difficulty distinguishing the two (the origin of fake is not from fakir), but some of the facts are misleading (Amundsen was not the first man to reach the North Pole).

At its best, Hamish X is inspired silliness and very funny. It cannot sustain a high level the way Roald Dahl did, but it will appeal to a large section of its target audience, who will eagerly await the next installment of Hamish’s madcap adventures.