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4.2 out of 5 stars
28
The Ghost Pirates
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TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 December 2016
Originally published in 1909 'The Ghost Pirates' is an account by Jessop, the only survivor of a doomed ship on its last ever voyage, and his explanation of strange apparitions and weird and wonderful events on board. The mystery builds until, in the distance, another ship is spotted and a battle begins between Jessop and his crew as 'ghost pirates' or 'sea devils' determine to drag them and their ship down to the bottom of the ocean.

The clever thing here is the sparse account of the 'ghosts' which remain enigmatic and shadowy. It's hard to tell if they are in fact ghosts in the traditional sense or something altogether different. That sense of ambiguity works well and the sparse writing style and lack of detail gave William Hope Hodgson plenty of space to create a sense of eerie, claustrophobic tension. Nothing here is ever really fully explained and there's little if any obvious motive or reason given for what happened and why.

'The Ghost Pirates' is a classic tale of haunting made even more creepy by the ocean setting. The only elements of the story I found disappointing were the cliched 'pirate dialogue' and the differing regional accents given to the characters. Doesn't read so well now but would have been perfectly acceptable at the time of writing and publication.

Pirates of the Caribbean it isn't but this is still a great little story for horror fans.
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VINE VOICEon 19 May 2014
This story takes the form of a sailor's account of an increasingly spooky voyage, around the end of the nineteeth century. On watch one night a boy thinks he sees a figure hiding in the shadows, and then our narrator himself glimpses an unnatural stranger crossing the deck. The incidents escalate in frequency and significance, horrifying in due course the entire crew.

Two of Hodgson's four novels eschew dialogue entirely, so it's surprising to find that this one is built around the worried conversations among the sailors, and that the author actually has a very good ear for this stuff. If anything, there is too MUCH naturalistic dialogue, as the repetitions and hesitations of the sailors occasionally hold back the story. Another cavil is that Hodgson's nautical experience leads him to include a great deal of ship-board detail, such as:

"It was much as I had supposed; the spectacle was all right, but the pin had gone out of the shackle, and the shackle itself was jammed into the sheavehole in the yard arm."

Although this stuff adds to the authentic seafaring flavour, Hodgson rarely 'throws any rope' to the reader, leaving this one sometimes a little 'at sea'...

However, Hodgson's disturbing and very original imaginings are at play and the gradually rising menace is very effective, though I found the climax just a little abrupt. (The epilogue, added for realism, is more of a nuisance than a boon.) In Hodgson's books, it is the lot of humanity to pit their resources against forces that can never be perfectly understood, and his refusal to dispel the mysteries he weaves leaves them haunting the reader's mind like ghosts on a ship...
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on 3 May 2011
This is from 1909 and is a tale of supernatural phenomena set aboard a sailing ship.Strange,shadowy figures are seen climbing aboard the "Mortzestus",a clipper in the vast Pacific.Inexplicable accidents,strange mist and fatal falls from the rigging unsettle the superstitious crew,who consider mutiny as the deaths mount.

This is from William Hope Hodgson the British writer of the wierd and horrific.One of the best "unknown"writers around.The tale is told by a traumatised sailor and clearly gets over a sense of slowly accumulating dread.The shadow men from the sea are terrifying creations,With Hodgson's descriptive restraint allowing the reader's own imagination to do the scaring.The highlights include frantic nighttime searches in the rigging for missing crewmen,while being attacked and pulled by half-seen hands.Hodgson always surprises and unsettles with his vast imagination,the mist or disturbance of the air which hides the ship from view is memorable.This curtain of mist sometimes opens a tiny bit allowing the men momentary views of other ships in the outside world which does much to confuse and add to the terror.

This is a cut above most scary fiction and shows off Hodgson's particular approach well.The title is bad though,it sounds like a pop-up children's book.Should have been called "The Mortzestus" or "The Shadow Men"

This strikes me as an ideal introduction to W.H.H.Also recommended are The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural) and The Night Land
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VINE VOICEon 18 December 2012
Regarding the book itself, I needn't add much to what other reviewers have said; it's a cracking little nautical ghost story, much more readable than the same author's 'The House on the Borderland' or 'The Boats of the Glen Carrig', but it does tail off a bit towards the end. There are a lot of specialist nautical terms used but I managed to get the gist without resorting to a dictionary, and the attempts to render accent and dialect are less painful than in many other works (some by modern authors).

As regards the Kindle edition, it's pretty good. I found no typos or formatting problems except at the beginning, where there is a 'sea chantey' which is a bit garbled by the formatting; but you can skip that without losing anything, as the thing is irrelevant and in fact quite excruciating. And it's free, too!
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on 25 February 2013
This is a bit of a cross between a boys' own adventure story with lots of stiff upper lip and "jolly well pull yourself together" and a good old fashioned ghost story. In the end I felt the supernatural element won out as the atmosphere created by the mists, the mysterious shapes in the water and the grey men together with the contrast between the vast open space of the ocean and the claustrophobia of the ship as the men start to disappear really created a nice tense feel to the story. It was a but reminiscent of Stoker's Dracula in the Ship's log section of the story but a bit more developed with some pleasing characters and enough salty sea dogs to cheer any reader up. A good ripping yarn - free on kindle so don't miss out
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on 26 November 2016
The title is deceiving only in it's blandness, like Turn Of The Screw the story gently slides you into a tale of uncertainty, escalating horror and despair. The first mention of top gallants gave me Moby Dick flashbacks but the nautical terms are relevant and not so heavily sprinkled, you won't have to wade through statistics or find a dictionary :) I was very pleasantly surprised by WH Hodgson, writing style and the story itself. This would be such a good film...
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on 27 April 2016
Spooky story from a great but little-known author, try it you'll like it
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on 15 December 2013
there was an era of high horror and mystery, lovecraft is the king but his leading brit challenger is Hope Hodgson. this is one of his lesser works but still atmospheric and of its time, but the gothic has aged very well and a good yarn for you. as long as it is free or cheap...
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on 21 October 2013
A very atmospheric story with some genuinely chilling moments. There is a great deal of maritime terminology though and this makes it a bit hard to read. Fans of The Fog will like it.
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on 6 July 2016
a relaxing read of ghosts
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