Home > Book, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Reviews, Thriller > Book Review – ‘Pirate Latitudes’ by Michael Crichton

Book Review – ‘Pirate Latitudes’ by Michael Crichton

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Synopsis:

From one of the best-loved authors of all time comes an irresistible adventure of swashbuckling pirates in the New World, a classic story of treasure and betrayal.

The Caribbean, 1665. A remote colony of the English Crown, the island of Jamaica holds out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, its capital, is a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses. In this steamy climate there’s a living to be made, a living that can end swiftly by disease or by dagger. For Captain Charles Hunter, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking, and the law of the land rests with those ruthless enough to make it. Word in port is that the galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is awaiting repairs in a nearby harbor. Heavily fortified, the impregnable harbor is guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, a favorite commander of the Spanish king himself. With backing from a powerful ally, Hunter assembles a crew of ruffians to infiltrate the enemy outpost and commandeer El Trinidad, along with its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloodiest tales of island legend, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he even sets foot on foreign shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry stand between him and the treasure. . . .

Apparently, no one really knows when Michael Crichton actually wrote ‘Pirate Latitudes‘, but the complete manuscript was found after his death, and voila! we now have a posthumous novel AND a Steven Spielberg movie coming right up! You betcha this’ll be a summer blockbuster in the near future – and come on, there can only be one Captain Charles Hunter and his name is Johnny Depp…

Now, going back to the novel … I’m not so sure that Michael Crichton’s perfectionist streak would’ve allowed him to publish this novel as is. It really reads to me like a late draft of what could be a really good Crichton book – after some judicious editing of some parts and fleshing out of other parts. Pity that. But having said that, it’s still a marvelously entertaining adventure story about pirates that can provide you with hours of fun this holidays – and seriously, who can resist a good pirate story? – oh yeah, except that they refuse to be called pirates in this novel and are instead ‘privateers’ (a.k.a. the legal kind of pirates).

Anti-hero Captain Charles Hunter goes after the seemingly impossible prize – capture a Spanish galleon under the protection of an impregnable fortress (think trying to break into Alcatraz) and a psycho of a Spanish villain Cazalla (think of the bad guy in Zorro (the movie), only more evil). And to do that, he recruits his gang of (unexpectedly likeable) expert misfits (think Danny Ocean and his little gang – only not as debonair and with the blood-thirstiness multiplied n-fold) and off they set on their (not very) merry way. Blame that on Crichton who makes things very very ‘interesting’ for Hunter and his men (and one woman) as they try to not just gain the galleon, but also be able to bring it safely home.

You’ll be swept up helplessly as a different Hollywood!Epic Scene!Crisis! come up again and again and again … Seriously, the novel practically screams Summer!Blockbuster! with Epic!Special Effects (I do apologize for all the exclamation points). There are sword fights, sea battles, sea chases, hurricanes, mythic sea creatures, cannibalistic tribes and surprise!betrayals! a-plenty. All that non-stop action keeps you turning the page just to find out how the hell Hunter will extricate himself and his men from the situation (think always-getting-himself-out-of-a-fix MacGyver). Hunter is not just any old pirate – excuse me – privateer – he’s actually Harvard-educated and he succeeds not just because he can wield a sword, but because he can use his coconut even when faced with mortal peril – extremely swoon-worthy indeed.

And since this is a Crichton novel, you’ll be coming off it with new and random knowledge about 17th century Jamaica, Spanish warships & ships in general, gunpowder & fuses & cannons, and naval navigation – but it’s all introduced subtly since there’s no Ian Malcolm here to give lengthy lectures 😉

Yes, ‘Pirate Latitudes‘ isn’t going to be the best Michael Crichton novel you’ll ever read. But if you just get through the (unwieldy) first quarter of the book, the rest makes up for it just from sheer action alone. It ain’t deep man, but it sure is a fun ride. RIP Michael Crichton – your fans will miss your writing terribly.

Pirate Latitudes: A Novel‘ is available on Amazon as a Hardcover ($13.99, 50% OFF, very good deal!), Paperback – Largeprint ($18.47), Kindle Edition ($9.99) and Audiobook ($23.09)

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