(I received a free copy of Don Quixote and Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age to write an honest review on The Silver Petticoat Review. and was not financially compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.)
I enjoy reading classic literature. I also love novels that take the characters and tropes of classic literature and turn them on their heads. When I heard about Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, & El Dorado in the Digital Age, I thought that it seemed like my kind of novel. I was correct.
The novel follows the adventures of Candide and Don Quixote (or Don) when they meet in Spain. The two decide to go on a quest to visit El Dorado, or Las Vegas, in America. Since it’s a dangerous journey across the ocean, the two are excited to embark on an adventure through uncharted territory. Candide keeps a blog about their adventures, while Don tries to avoid his old enemy, Merlin, with mixed results.
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Through the novel, the two men travel around the world, where they find adventure and some surprising and familiar faces. Seeking advice from Sherlock Holmes, they ride the Titanic, meet the crew of the Enterprise, and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn swindle them. They meet old friends in Las Vegas, run away from mobsters, and meet Captain Nemo. They land in the Bermuda Triangle, meet old friends and enemies, are captured by pirates, help save Darcy and Elizabeth from pirates and a life of slavery in a Turkish court, and help Sherlock catch a murderer. Basically, it’s a fun adventure story with characters from classic literature living in the modern world.
Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, & El Dorado in the Digital Age reminds me a lot of the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. This made me love the novel even more since I am a fan of literary references and dry humor. Both have those elements. Stephen Soto writes from the point of view of Candide, giving readers a first-hand account of the trials that our characters face. I found myself laughing through most of the book. It was especially funny when Don and Candide, characters from different times and philosophies, were trying to do what they thought was right. This irritated the other, led to confusion and chaos, and I found it hilarious.
The biggest issue that I had with the book was that Don and Candide got caught in a time loop of sorts. It also took me a minute to wrap my head around the crew of the Enterprise traveling through time and space, saving everyone. When I finished reading the novel, however, I saw how Soto had put it all together. It was a little strange at first, but it comes together in the end. As a reader, I appreciated that.
Candide’s frustration with Don’s idealism, his own shallowness, and the interactions that the two have with each other and the other literary characters are written in such a way that you can empathize with the two characters. At the same time, there is no shortage of humor in the book. The two characters are very different from each other and the others that they encounter on their journey
I have never read either book, but the characters seem to be faithful interpretations. They interact with other characters in their books. The two also complain about the way their biographers wrote their stories. By making these characters ageless and real, Soto is able to have a bit more leeway in how he has them interact with each other and the settings. Candide starting a blog and tracking his followers, and Don Quixote respectfully replying to each piece of spam email he received, both made me laugh and helped keep the characters in their new setting.
The supporting characters all seemed fairly true to what I’ve read and seen. The Star Trek crew, Elizabeth and Darcy, and Sherlock Holmes all fit into the established literature about them, while Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn as swindling craft operators and used car salesmen was genius.
Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, & El Dorado in the Digital Age could be a very difficult book to adapt to the big screen. Stephen Soto would need to be a part of it. There are lots of settings, time travel, and general mayhem that might not translate well to the big screen. Despite that, I would love to see this movie. It would be quite awesome to see Elizabeth Bennet trying to escape from Long John Silver!
If I were to adapt this book for the big screen, I would want to use a format like BBC’s Sherlock. The book is told from the point of view of Candide. One of my favorite things about it is Candide’s blog. He blogs about the adventures he and Don have. Sherlock used John Watson’s blog as a wonderful device. I especially like this because Watson narrates the original Sherlock Holmes stories, and I think it could work well for this story too.
When it comes to casting, I have some ideas. I think it would be neat to use the actors who portrayed each of the literary characters on screen before to bring an even higher level of comedy. That means we could have an older Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Tom Sawyer. Unfortunately, Brad Renfro tragically passed away so would not be able to return as Huck Finn. Perhaps Elijah Wood who also played the role before would do well! Carmen Argenziano or John Lithgow could be Don Quixote. The cast of Star Trek could join in. The film could also use one of the casts of the three recent Sherlock Holmes adaptations. And Colin Morgan, Sam Neill, or both could bring Merlin to life.
I would also bring in Tim Curry to play Long John Silver. Finally, Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen would play Elizabeth and Darcy. Sadly, there has not been a recent film version of Candide. There would have to be some casting for that. I have to be honest; I kept picturing Michael Fassbender as Candide.
Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, & El Dorado in the Digital Age reminds me a lot of the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. It’s full of fun references to literature and pop culture. Even though I have not read Candide or Don Quixote yet, I was still able to enjoy the story. This novel actually made me even more determined to finally read both books. Seeing some of my favorite characters from literature interact with the modern world was fun as well. At times, the story felt a little ridiculous, but I think that is part of its charm.
Overall, if you enjoy adventure stories, classic literature with a twist, fish out of water tales, or stories full of literary characters in the real world, you might really enjoy Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, & El Dorado in the Digital Age. Stephen Soto writes with a sense of humor and an understanding of the characters he’s referencing. This is one book I will definitely be picking up again and again.
Content Note: There is some risqué humor, a few brief mentions of sexual situations, and some language.
Would you like to see actors revisit their parts if they made a film version, or should they introduce new faces? How do you feel about mashups of classical literature? Let me know in the comments!
“You had me at hello.”
ABOUT THE BOOK (OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION):
After years of living off their celebrity, Don Quixote and Candide join
forces to seek adventure in the modern world. In this re-imagining of literary history the two meet Cyrano De Bergerac, Merlin, Sherlock Holmes, the crew of the Starship Enterprise, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Dean Moriarty, Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennett) Mr. Darcy and multitude of historical figures, and share unexpected encounters with people from their past. While Don Quixote remains rooted in days of yore, Candide is preoccupied with exploiting all things modern. This rollicking fun-filled tale will entertain the well-educated and erudite reader with tongue-in-cheek humor. You are cordially invited to join Don and Candide on their quest to find truth, justice and El Dorado in the digital age.
STEFAN SOTO was raised by a Romani Princess and a Ukrainian circus performer. He resides on an English canal and has no known address. His early works were banned by most right-thinking European powers. The author invites readers to investigate Cervantes and Voltaire’s original treatments of the title characters.
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