Hello all! I’ve desperately fallen behind with blogging and thus am giving you an in-depth review of The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan while I catch up. I was supposed to read this as my Library Scavenger Hunt book for October, but I didn’t finish it until the beginning of November. 😦 This was initially going to be a mini-review, but I had so many thoughts about this short story that it turned out to be a bit too long for my monthly wrap-up post (which is coming soon). 😀 Thus, here we have my first proper review:
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
I went into this story not knowing what to expect. I knew that The Thirty-Nine Steps was a thing because I’d heard of the film and knew it was on at the West End also. But I knew nothing of the plot.
This book follows Richard Hannay, a Scottish mining engineer living in London. He is a worldly man and finds the city of London – and his life there – boring. :O The day after he declares he will leave if nothing exciting happens to him, guess what? Something exciting happens. A journalist, having uncovered an anarchist plot, asks for Hannay’s help. Said excitement ensues.
The story is told from a first-person point of view and it is not done well. It reads like a list, e.g.: “I did this, and then this happened. Then another thing happened and I did this improbable thing and escaped. Then this happened…” et cetera, et cetera. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Hannay is caught up in a lot of sticky situations and manages to get himself out of them EVERY TIME. Not only that, but most of the solutions he comes up with (as well as some of the plot points) are totally implausible or down to old fashioned good luck. It makes for an utterly unbelievable story.
This may seem like a rather scathing review, but I think the book deserves two stars rather than one because I can see some merit in it and I can understand why some people would like this story. Published in 1915, this book’s storyline couldn’t have come at a better time with readers feeling particularly fearful of invasion or somesuch. Thus a book about political tensions and international relations would have been received well at the time of the First World War. Also, I can see how this book would be a precursor to a new kind of literature such as the stories of Ian Fleming which I have not read, but I have played Goldeneye on N64 so if The Thirty-Nine Steps helped lead to one of the best games of the 20th century, I see some good in it.
4 player ‘slappers only’ mode, anyone?
I hear that the various screen adaptations are a lot better than the book; this is not surprising as many changes are made to the plot. (This information is from the reliable source that is my mother). I fear that this has had an impact on the views of the source material being better than it actually is. 2/5
Thoughts? Opinions? Tell me in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
SSJ Time Lord