________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 7 . . . . November 23, 2007


Sporeville. (The Wellborn Conspiracy, Book One).

Paul Marlowe.
Sackville, NB: Sybertooth, 2007.
215 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-9739505-4-0.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Jen Waters.

* /4


As a trickle of people wandered silently away, with no greater sense of urgency than if they'd been out for a Sunday stroll, Elliot began to get a terrible inkling that they were all asleep or otherwise not in control of themselves. It wasn't right. Towns just didn't all head off into the night like … like the man on the road. Insensible. But this town did. And what was more, everyone seemed to be drawn by something. They were all flowing towards the lighthouse.


The year is 1886. Elliott and his doctor father have left Kingston, ON, to take over the medical practice in Spohrville, NS, in part to escape the terrible memory of Elliott's dearly departed mother whose ship recently sunk and partly to clear Elliot's weak lungs with the brisk sea air. While they were expecting a sleepy little town, what they instead find is a town of thieves, madmen and sleepwalkers, and unexplainable goings-on in the night. Behind it all is Professor Heywood Strange, who not only survived the same shipwreck that claimed Elliott's mother's life, but he also seems to control the town from his mysterious house in the Bay of Fundy, a house which contains a laboratory full of Island of Dr Moreau-type experiments as well as a good number of other secrets.

Paul Marlowe gets marks for creativity as this is almost certainly the first time in fiction I have witnessed a villain control the people of a town by using a machine to pump out poisonous mushroom spores, but I often found the limits of believability to be stretched too far, and questions are left unanswered (such as why are all the clocks and watches in the town stolen, and how and why did Strange orchestrate an entire ship’s sinking just to kidnap Elliott's mother and take her back to his mysterious house?).

Sporeville occasionally reminded me of a watered-down, teen Canadian version of the television show Deadwood, albeit a little less interesting (probably because there is a distinct absence of sex, excessive violence and profanity). Similarities are seen in the town of colourful characters: the DeLoup family and their stately house, the former doctor who overdosed on cocaine, and Elliott (who is highly educated for a 15-year-old in 1886, well versed in astronomy, acts as his father's medical intern and is familiar with such words as somnambulism and heterochromia iridum). There is also a lawless quality to the town where attempted murder, thievery and general lunacy are not out of the ordinary. One wonders if characters of future books in this series (book two of “The Wellborn Conspiracy" is already in the works) will discover gold or, at the very least, open a saloon. It seems as though Marlowe attempted to make a relatively dry part of Canadian history a little more interesting and failed as I do not personally know of many young adults who would willingly pick up a book such as Sporeville.

Not recommended.

Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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