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Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

By HarperJay | Books | February 15, 2010 |

By HarperJay | Books | February 15, 2010 |

Not really sure where I have been, but as it turns out Michael Crichton has died. A quick scan of Wikipedia tells me that this happened in November of 2008. Hmm. Completely missed it, but then that may be because I have read absolutely nothing that he has written. ER was the only acquaintance I had with him and it was years and years ago when I watched that. So yeah, I have never seen Jurassic Park, sue me. What led me to Pirate Latitudes? I honestly have no idea. Maybe it was on some Kindle list? New releases? All I know is that unlike most of the things I buy (I am a total Kindle Hoarder, like what are they going to do stop selling certain books? Are the digital versions going to sell out? Jesus, get a grip) I read this right away. I must have been in the mood for some pirates, sea monsters, cannibals, and corrupt government officials.

This was good stuff. You know how some books make you want to hop in your time machine and in this case your sex-change machine and be the main character in the book? Or even a supporting character? I totally wanted to do that. I wanted to be a pirate in the 17th century. These weren’t Disneyfied pirates, they were womanizing killers and thieves. I don’t know if it was the plot, the descriptions, or a combination of the two that made me want to be there. Whatever it was, it made for a really good read.

The book starts in 1665 in Port Royal, Jamaica. The governor, Sir James Almont, is on his way to attend the hanging of a man convicted of being a pirate. In this colony privateering is a completely acceptable profession, but pirating will get a guy hung. The difference between the two is all semantics. A merchant ship arrives in the bay carrying Almont’s new secretary, Hacklett, his wife, and group of female English convicts meant to be wives for the men on the island. Almont hears that on the trip to Jamaica the people aboard the Godspeed saw a Spanish galleon at anchor in the bay of Spanish controlled island. A plan is hatched. Enter Hunter, a well respected privateer with a small sloop. At the behest of Almont he gathers together a crew and they set off to capture a seemingly uncapturable Spanish treasure ship. In the course of the narrative, Hunter and his crew are captured, there is sword fighting, cannonball fire, sinking ships, treasure, sea monsters, cannibals, oh my. When he and his crew finally return to Port Royal the situation is not as they had hoped.

Admittedly, at the first sighting of the sea monster all I could think was, oh crap, this is turning into some weirdo sci-fi gig. It conjured memories of that horrid made for TV movie about the giant squid. What the hell was that tripe called? Not important. I also kept thinking that this was total Hollywood material that would no doubt be presented as a summer blockbuster riddled with CGI and some milquetoast actor as Hunter. I hope that this scenario does not play out.

There was a bit more blood and guts than I’m accustomed to in my usual fictional fare. On the flip side there was a good deal of pirate superstition and nautical folklore. Which I find to be interesting. All in all, a really good adventure story. In the future I do not think I will be sliding into any other Crichton works only because I don’t find the subject matter particularly intriguing. As it stands, however, Pirate Latitudes: A Novel gets the thumbs up.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of HarperJay’s reviews, please check out the blog Cannonball Read and Other Junk.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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