By Dan Hanks
Author: Dan Hanks
- ISBN: 9780857669384
- Published: November 2021
- Pages: 370
- Format reviewed: E-Book
- Review date: 15/11/2021
- Language: English
Nostalgia is a dangerous tool to use in a novel as what people think happened is not always the case. They prefer to see the past through rose tinted glasses. The 1980s can be seen as an era of Nintendo playing and Bermuda shorts, but that was not my 80s. I remember the Spectrum, my milk being stolen, and riots. Dan Hanks takes on this prickly challenge in Swashbucklers and succeeds by sprinkling the nostalgia with a dose of contemporary reality. How are a bunch of people heading towards their 50s meant to save the day when they need ten minutes just to rise out of bed?
Cisco Collins has moved away from his hometown 30 years ago, but now he is back. No one except him remembers the extraordinary events that made him leave. Whilst Cisco recalls an army of inanimate objects and creature of the imagination attacking the town, the locals just remember it as a gas leak. With his young son in tow, Cisco feels compelled to return as the attacks are starting again. Can he convince his childhood friends to take up arms and fight once more against an enemy they thought killed decades earlier?
As a slice of nostalgic fiction Hanks does the right thing in Swashbucklers and commits to it fully. I have read other extremely popular nostalgia fair that piggybacks on yesterday's ideas and has none of its own. Hanks pays homage to what has gone on before but creates an epic action novel in its own right. There is more than one level of nostalgia included. There are references to 80s toys, pastimes, and media, but the book itself also has the structure of that era. You could imagine this book as a film of the era.
What does that mean? Action set pieces. Hanks is not an author that will keep a reader waiting long and early in proceedings there is a massive set piece set in the Christmas markets of Manchester. Cisco and his childhood crew must remember the past quickly if they are going to survive. Seeing the shoppers at the Arndale Centre being attacked by animated Christmas decorations sticks in the memory, but there are also several other fun sequences in the novel.
Hanks never forgets to entertain the reader, but the book also has a strong character dimension. Cisco is no longer a child, but a man with failed marriage and child in tow. He returns to his hometown to old friends he abandoned. Where does he fit in their world, and will they forgive him? The book also poses an interesting quandary – would you save the world or your child? I think many parents would take the selfish option. Swashbucklers is one of the first novels I have read that feels contemporary and takes note of the pandemic and societal shift we have seen in recent years. At times Cisco questions if the people of 2021 deserve to be saved again. This bleakness prevents the sense of nostalgia from feeling saccharine.
There is an interesting narrative tweak in Swashbucklers as it reads like a sequel to a book you have not read. It is the second part of It, without you having the chance to read the first. The past is instead told thorough the memories and dialogue of the adult characters. It seems like any prequel would be just as action packed and the way that this novel is written, it is possible for it to happen and remain fresh.
Hanks is an author who likes to write larger than life fantasy action. There is no small here. If you are a reader who loves their action set pieces to be on a huge scale, this book is for you. Hanks seems to write in techno-colour and surround sound, all you need is someone to throw sweet popcorn as you read, and you would have the perfect movie in a book.
Written on 15th November 2021 by Sam Tyler .