Dickens World could usher in bad theme parks

The boat ride at Dickens World was inspired by Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations.

Buy your tickets and book your passage, because the amusement park that celebrates criminal activity, questionable hygiene and novels that are about 300 pages too long opens south of London next month.


Inspired by the life and work of Charles Dickens, the park, imaginatively called Dickens World, attempts, according to a Reuters report and the attraction's Web site, to re-create the sights, sounds and smells (the park's promise, not mine) of Victorian England. Imagine, finally your dreams of hopping over puddles of raw sewage while having your pocket picked by a malnourished street urchin can come true.

Among the attractions are a Fagin's Den play area (where I suppose children will play in ball pits and learn the fine art of lifting pocket watches), a Christmas Carol-inspired haunted house (sure to be a favorite in July) and Europe's longest dark boat ride, inspired by the novel Great Expectations, which was also very long and dark.

Though he is not my favorite writer, I do have a great deal of respect for Dickens and the lasting contributions he made to English literature. I'm certainly happier to see his accomplishments celebrated than, say, Thomas Hardy's. Let's face it, Far From the Madding Crowd would make for one boring roller coaster.

Just because I recognize the importance of Dickens as a writer, however, doesn't mean I want to immerse myself in his often dark, very damp and very dirty world. As much pleasure as I might derive from reading about the unjustly imprisoned, plucky orphans and crazy old women in wedding dresses, I don't want to blow a day, and my weak American dollars, on them.

I sound dismissive, but I'm actually fearful that Dickens World will succeed. After all, what sort of precedent might this set? Will other great authors be so "honored" with thrill rides and concession stands?

Can we expect a Jack Kerouac On the Road ride, which goes on and on without much ever happening? How about a Philip Roth roller coaster, which sends riders through a series of emotional ups and downs with a drawn-out conclusion? I'm an enormous John Steinbeck fan, but that does not mean I'm ready to ride with the animatronic Okies on their slow, sad procession west.

Champions of Dickens World (which is to say paid employees) have touted the attraction as a way to bring the writer's work to life for a generation that seems to have lost touch with his prose. By their assertion, fewer and fewer people can actually name five Dickens novels.

David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, The Pickwick Papers and A Tale of Two Cities: There, am I excused now?

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.


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