Typical of Michael Crichton the book is accurate both historically and told in great detail. It's a great read for anyone who likes adventure yarns and period pieces (17th century) not his best, but then as it was published after his death, I wonder if it was fully finished. Maybe it had a ghost writer? (Sorry!!) Well worth reading.
Found after the death of Michael Crichton this is something that the author may have spent years going over and altering, as he did himself apparently say that he was working on a pirate novel way back in the Eighties. The actual inspiration behind this though could have come from a nowadays little known incident that really took place.
With controversy surrounding when this story was first started and finished there is of course the possibility that Crichton had written this and was dissatisfied with it, thus not putting it forward for publication, and it has to be admitted that this is far from his best work.
Set amongst the inhabitants of Port Royal, Jamaica so Captain Charles Hunter comes up with a daring plan to invade an imposing Spanish fortress in an effort to steal a treasure ship that sought harbour there. Picking his crew, he also has the backing of the Governor, Sir James Almont.
And thus we have a fast paced tale of the adventures and problems this band of pirates run into, especially as their task hasn’t been thought out that well. In many ways reading this is like reading a number of clichés as so much happens here that has happened in pirate novels and films from the past. With the appearance of a kraken so we are reminded of those old sea legends, although in fact what was probably seen was a giant squid.
There is some silliness here as well, after all we read of an incident where one pirate kills ten Spaniards as they sleep off their drunkenness, and in another part we read of how the female pirate amongst them flashes her boobs and thus manages to silently kill three soldiers straight off. On top of this although this is not for children due to some of the content this does feel like a boys’ book, although Crichton does bring home the squalor of the times and area he was writing about.
In all then this is nowhere near Michael Crichton on top form and it is a bit silly, but for some it will work for some good escapism – provided you don’t actually think about what you have read.
Unless, by some miracle, a full manuscript is found in one of Michael Crichton's old filing cabinets Pirate Latitudes is his swansong. It's a rather frustrating novel, not in any narrative sense, but in its straight-forwardness and adolescent attitude. Apparently Crichton had been working on this novel as far back as the late 70s, but even then he'd be about 36 years old, yet it has the quality of a writer who is still learning to properly define himself. Perhaps this is why he never had it published while he was alive - it just feels like it isn't refined enough yet.
In 1665, on the island of Jamaica, Captain Hunter (obvious subtext right there already) gathers together a bunch of rogues to launch an attack on a remote island fortress operated by a sadistic Spaniard, and steal his treasure. Some live, some die, some double-cross, many cannons send balls back and forth, and a lot of wood is splintered. It's never once boring, however some little trims could be made here and there. Crichton is always good for well-researched details, but not all of it utterly relevant. What Pirate Latitudes lacks is a social commentary or ironic message. It doesn't HAVE to feature anything like this, but from Crichton I've come to expect more.
As I said, you WILL have fun reading this novel, even if the deflating epilogue ends it on a downer. Crichton's best it ain't. His epitaph, like it or not, it shall remain.
I so wanted this to be a great book, Crichton is such an excellent author and who can turn down a book on pirates? But every page i turned i looked fr the story to get better and it didnt, it was wooden, 1 dimensional, there was no taking the reader along and allowing them to become one with the period and the sounds and sights and smells, it was just words on a page. I finished the book really fast, normally the sign of a good book, but in this case a sign that i was almost scan reading in the vague hope that something would happen and something would improve.
Do you like fast-paced historical adventures? Do you like pirates? If (like me) you answered yes to both questions, this book is definitely for you. If you answered yes to only one of the questions, it's probably still worth trying for 20-30 pages to see if it sucks you in. If you answered no to both, well, then this book isn't for you. Pulled off the hard drive of the deceased Crichton, this posthumous adventure is the first book of his I've read and it's a surprisingly good update on the swashbuckling pirate yarns popularized by Rafael Sabatini back in the 1910s and 20s (Captain Blood and The Sea-Hawk being the most famous). To be sure, Crichton has amped up the violence, sex, villainy, and gadgetry to meet the expectations of modern audiences, but at the core, it's an old-fashioned adventure.
The story takes place in the Caribbean of the 1660s, during a time when England and Spain had a very shaky peace treaty in place. However, the British privateers who previously held letters of marque allowing them to attack Spanish ships in the name of the Empire were somewhat disinclined to be bound by this treaty. The most daring and dangerous of these men is the Charles Hunter, who is the kind of daring, dashing, charismatic, cunning, witty, hunky pirate whom we all wish we could be. The British governor of Jamaica enlists Hunter in a scheme to steal a massive shipment of gold from an impregnable Spanish fortress commanded by a true sadist. Where it gets a little more interesting than a standard pirate tale (rather more like a heist film or Dirty Dozen war ensemble film), is that Hunter needs to assemble a special crew for this job. There's the wheelman (master sailor/pilot), the bruiser (a mute Moor), the explosives expert (a Jewish alchemist), the cold-blooded killer (French, naturally), and the sniper (a transvestite) to supplement Hunter's own considerable skills.
Once this piratical A-Team is assembled, Hunter leads them on the bold raid, dispatching all manner of obstacles and setbacks along the way. As with a lot of modern historical fiction, Crichton weaves in all kinds of interesting period details without it becoming too much of a lecture or diverting from all the killing that goes on throughout the book. And one hardly needs to add that there's a beautiful damsel in distress thrown into the mix, not to mention a twist or two in the ending. Is this fine writing or great literature? Of course not -- but it is an example of masterful storytelling and pacing that's tons of fun.