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The Thirty-Nine Steps (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 24 Jun 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 193 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (24 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441177
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 388,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"It is the dimension of the mysterious that makes Buchan's writing so unfailingly compelling."

It is the dimension of the mysterious that makes Buchan's writing so unfailingly compelling. (John Keegan, from the introduction)

Book Description

The original and best adventure story ever told, with spies, thrilling chase scenes and explosions --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
First published in 1915 when Europe was locked in conflict triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in the Balkans, John Buchan's Thirty-Nine Steps takes the tensions and conspiracies which led Europe to war as the backdrop for his timeless adventure story.

The lead character Richard Hannay, is simply a bored Gentleman in London pining for South Africa and his native Scotland until a man is murdered in his flat after pouring out in panic the details of a conspiracy which threatened war against the United Kingdom. Richard Hannay effortlessly takes up the dead man's position as he attempts to prevent national disaster whilst hunted by foreign conspirators and British police alike.

The author describes his novel, in a dedication to his friend Thomas Nelson at the beginning of the book, as a ``shocker' - the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible'. Certainly Richard Hannay has a remarkable ability to extract himself from the most difficult of situations throughout the tale.

The Thirty-Nine Steps is truly an adventure story because it takes an ordinary person as its hero. Richard Hannay is plunged into the adventure as suddenly as the reader and so there is an immediate connection. The author shamelessly betrays his love for the genre citing Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle as masters of adventure and crime writing within the book. This passion for the genre is very apparent and Buchan writes with a subtle humour throughout, evidence of how much he clearly enjoyed creating the story. Equally apparently is his love of the Scottish countryside which is described delightfully throughout and poetically at times, as are the host of minor characters which populate the landscape.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This must be the third 39 Steps Kindle book I've reviewed this week, but sometimes it is worth making a point -- especially when such a terrific work of literature is at stake. This is not quite as bad as the two other editions I reviewed. But it is, again, the same text stolen from Project Gutenberg and without any typos or formatting issues corrected.

Ugly sepia stills from the film have been interspersed throughout. They do not improve matters.

I think 'one-click' purchasing is all that keeps some of these appalling editions alive. There are one or two very attractive, carefully edited and formatted editions of the 39 Steps available. A quick 15 seconds of clicking through Amazon search results will reveal them to you. This is not one of them.
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Format: Kindle Edition
It's a classic story which I hadn't read for years, and since I got a Kindle (a wonderful product!!) thought here's an opportunity to read it again.

The words are certainly there, but what happened to any formatting? Chapter One ends, the next line is Chapter Two's heading, but without any spaces goes straight into the text..... I thought my Kindle was acting up, so did the old computing trick of going back a page then reloading it - no difference!! I'd noticed a few instances of missing spaces in Chapter 1, but by this point was just becoming an irritation and taking away any sense of being involved with the story.

So, checked out an alternative edition (see all the reviews) which somebody had taken the bother to do a little work on the layout and then deleted this version.

Now back into enjoying the story and a learned a lesson in trying before buying....
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Format: Paperback
Absolutely terrific harmless boys-own guff of the first order. Chases, disguises, escapes, monoplanes, heavy tweed jackets, pipes, fisticuffs, explosives, dastardly foreign conspirators and well done the British, old chap. Raced through this in 2 sittings. Nice work by penguin on the retro-look jacket also.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Small as it is (barely a hundred pages), this book amply makes up for that lack of quantity by its sheer quality. Richard Hannay has just returned from South Africa and is barely back in London when a man is found murdered in his rooms ('There was a long knife through his heart which skewered him to the floor.' Don't you just love this kind of stuff? I know I do!). He sets out for his native Scotland, always just a step ahead of the police... not once does the pace of the story slacken until the very end, and you'll be reading it teeth on edge.

'The thirty-nine steps' was first published in 1915, but in my opinion it's still one of the very best suspense stories ever!
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Format: Paperback
There is a plot spoiler in the following review.

Written in 1915 as he convalesced, The Thirty Nine Steps was the first of what John Buchan called his `shockers', or adventure stories.

Set in the months preceding the outbreak of the first world war, the novel introduces us to Buchan's enduring hero, Richard Hannay. Coming home one night he finds a mysterious man on his doorstep asking for his help. Being an adventurer and recognising someonein true need he lets him in. This leads to a whole series of adventures as the mysterious man is murdered and Hannay finds himself on the run from the murderers (who fear what he knows) and the police. Buchan then writes a brilliant story of a cat and mouse chase across the highlands of Scotland, as Hannay fights to remain free of capture by either side, and tries to work out just what is at the heart of it all. That particular mystery leads him to a deep plot that strikes at the very security of the county, breathtaking in its magnitude.

It's a classic piece, and we really get to know (and like) Hannay. OK, so a lot of the time he has extraordinary luck as well as his wits (a room the villains lock him in just happens to contain a handy store of torches and explosives...) but the adventure is so full of charm, and the stakes so high and the story so exciting that you can forgive its few shortcomings. It's a classic, no, THE classic adventure story of one man on the run fighting against all the odds. 4 sequels were to follow featuring Hannay, and many authors attempted to copy the style, but no one ever really matched the verve, vigour and excitement of the original. 5 stars all round.
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