Title: Pirate Latitudes
Author: Michael Crichton
Source: The library where I work
Challenges: Read 'n' Review challenge
First Sentence: "Sir James Almont, appointed by His Majesty Charles II Governor of Jamaica, was habitually an early riser."
Summary (From book flap):
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...
My Two Cents:
I'm a pretty solid Michael Crichton fan, so I was thrilled when they found a complete manuscript after his death. I was also pretty excited that his last book wouldn't be sci-fi (Even though I adore sci-fi), and would instead be a period piece about pirates. I mean, how many pirate books can you think of? I'll be the answer is not many.
The book starts out really strong. It's got all the hallmarks of Crichton -- great writing, solid characters, a compelling story. I think I read about half the book in no time flat, surprised at how swiftly everything moved. I had really high hopes for the second half, while simultaneously wondering where we could go from here because the characters seemed to have achieved their original goal.
But then, all sorts of strange things started happening. The last half of the book seemed, to me, like all three of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies stuck together without all the humor and no Johnny Depp. Every ridiculous, legendary thing that can happen to pirates happened to this particular band of pirates on one trip (A long-lost cannibal Indian tribe and a kraken? Seriously?), and I just kind of started to lose interest.
The characters also seemed to take a backseat to the action, which can be OK at times, but when all sorts of crazy things are happening one after another, the characters are just there to advance the plot and nothing else. There were characters that I would have liked to see a lot more of and to know more about, such as Lazue and the Moor, but they were just relegated to their functions in the plot.
One can only hope that these huge plot holes and issues would have been resolved had Crichton lived to polish the manuscript into a finished piece.