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Review: Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton is best known for writing sci-fi and medical thrillers with dinosaurs or advanced technology. Now he's added a swashbuckling 17th century pirate adventure to the list.
Pirate Latitudes was allegedly discovered on Crichton's computer after he died in 2008 and published a year later. So much for the old pirate saying that dead men tell no tales.
Arrrr, it's got pirates and a cool looking cover so it must be good...right?
Summary of "Pirate Latitudes" - What's this book about?
Port Royal, Jamaica, 1665.
English privateer captain Charles Hunter is given an unofficial mission to capture a Spanish treasure galleon, the El Trinidad. The galleon's taken refuge in a heavily fortified harbor on the island of Matanceros commanded by a ruthless and brutal Spanish officer.
Against such a powerful enemy, this will be Hunter's most dangerous voyage. But the rewards are great if he can capture the loaded treasure ship and get her back to Port Royal. He recruits an expert crew to carry out the daring raid.
Along the way he must defeat Spanish patrols, the elements, enemies in Port Royal and even members of his own crew to survive.
But there are some lovely English ladies in the Caribbean with a thing for pirates so the job has its perks.
Thoughts About "Pirate Latitudes"
Many people will enjoy this book. It's an interesting story with lots of action...and it's got pirates. For those new to naval adventures set when tall ships ruled the seas, this is probably a good introduction to the genre.
If you're looking for a pure outlaw pirate adventure like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies you may be a little disappointed. The characters in Pirate Latitudes straddle the line between pirate and legal privateers. There's not a lot of "yo-ho-ho", walking the plank and some of the other popular stereotypical pirate stuff.
This is the first tall ship adventure I've read that wasn't written by Patrick O'Brian since I finished reading his awesome Master and Commander series. So it was tough to read Pirate Latitudes without comparing it to the rich story telling in O'Brian's works.
The plot of Pirate Latitudes was good and definitely kept my interest but the story telling and character development fell way short of the high bar O'Brian had set. I liked that the story dealt with a little known historical area...the sometimes blurry line between privateer and pirate.
If you're a fan of the Master and Commander series, then Pirate Latitudes may leave you wanting more.
While reading Pirate Latitudes I had to continually fight the urge to go play Pirates! on the computer. Reading about capturing prizes and the naval battles really got me psyched up to play the game.
Crichton's writing style in Pirate Latitudes seemed superficial. The book's plot was interesting but several of its characters and scenes weren't believable.
Many of the members of Captain Hunter's hand picked crew were experts in some field or had a unique skill. Sounds plausible. Unfortunately, their abilities seemed too perfect and not believable. It's a common problem in action/adventure novels...the author has to present characters as skilled and able to handle tough situations without going too far. Authors like Tom Clancy and Patrick O'Brian are able to skillfully pull it off...Crichton doesn't in this book.
Crichton's out of his element with describing the battles at sea. One of them in the book could not have happened the way he wrote it...the ships were in the wrong positions. I reread that scene multiple times and acted out the ships with my hands to better visualize the engagement. But it's not possible given the positions and conditions he describes for each ship.
The few sex/romantic scenes in the book were written like what I'd expect to find in a Harlequin Romance novel. Lady meets pirate. Lady wants pirate. Lady surrenders to pirate's charm. Pirate does lady. Pirate leaves. Rinse & repeat.
On a positive note, Crichton does do a good job with describing most of the other scenes. It's easy to picture the characters, the town of Port Royal and the fortress on Matanceros.
What I Liked About "Pirate Latitudes"
- Action. There were several battle scenes in the book...on land and at sea.
- It was an entertaining read.
- The privateer vs. pirate element in the plot. It gave the story an extra dynamic and more historical interest.
My Rating of "Pirate Latitudes"
Even though the plot had potential and I enjoyed the book, there wasn't enough solid story telling and realistic character development for me to give Pirate Latitudes more than 3 stars.
This is a good book for when you're looking for something different yet easy to read.
How Do You Rate "Pirate Latitudes"?
Want To Be A Pirate? - Play Pirates!
Sid Meier's award winning Pirates! video game is one of the best ways to role play as a pirate. Terrorize the Spanish Main as a pirate captain engaging your prey in fierce battles and capturing prizes. You could even romance a few governors' daughters.
I used to play this game a lot and reading Pirate Latitudes made me want to play it all over again.
Other Books by Michael Crichton
Another Crichton work that was found after his death. This one was first published in 2011.
1655 Caribbean Pirate Map available at Art.com
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - Jack Sparrow available at Art.com.
Thanks for reading my review. Now it's your turn...what did you think of Pirate Latitudes? Have you read any other Michael Crichton novels? Please leave a comment below.