Friday, March 19, 2010

Pirate Latitudes, by Michael Crichton

Pirate LatitudesGet ready to buckle your swashes, folks, Crichton has created a fun and quick read in this historical novel, found as a completed manuscript after his death in 2008. Unlike Timeline, this one actually made sense. It was definitely brutal, as one might expect from a realistic tale of piracy, but an enjoyable read, nonetheless.

The action begins in Jamaica, in the town of Port Royal, the seedy underbelly of British colonialism and privateering. The governor, Sir James Almont, is in it up to his eyeballs, though officially he cannot condone piracy against the Spanish, as the two empires are not at war. But the Spanish have a much larger presence in the Caribbean and Americas, and their share of the loot from the New World is quite tempting to men with the bold and ruthless spirits to go after it.

An expedition of privateers is formed by Captain Charles Hunter, a man of questionable morals, but a certain “honor among thieves” sense of ethics. Their target is Matanceros, an island occupied and fortified by the Spanish, commanded by Cazalla, whom Hunter holds a grudge against for the torture and murder of his brother, anyway. A treasure galleon has been sighted in the harbor there, and Hunter has a plan to take it away.

There’s some good sub-plots here, involving the governor’s new secretary and his wife, recently arrived from England, and some of the island’s more “respectable” citizens, and some backstabbing by various members of Hunter’s pirate crew. Hunter’s crew, by the way, is filled with an interesting assortment of scurvy knaves you’re gonna love…or hate.

Plenty of adventure, lots of fighting, rape, plunder, and pillage in this one. The nautical aspects of this tale seemed quite realistic to me, though I’ve never sailed, and the only thing that rang a little bit false was the encounter with a hungry kraken at one point. A quick, fun, bloody read.

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