Everything you have come to expect revolving around the mythology of pirates is in here: raping (a lot of raping), privateering, sea battle cannons, sword fights (only one or two) and even the damn Kraken. But it all adds up to very little. These little snippets and scenes come together to form a story that more as an NC-17 version of Pirates of the Caribbean, rather than an original and engaging Crichton book.
And let me just say that I am an avid Michael Crichton fan who has come to love his tense, page-turning adventures that explore the fiction of science and technology. But that is what is missing from Pirate Latitudes. None of the technology that pushes the realm of human morality. None of the science that is easily laid out for any common reader to enjoy. And none of the carefully constructed plot that prevents the reader from ever putting the book down. While the book does go into some detail about the engineering of the ships, and the economics and geography of the Caribbean, and the natural materials used in everyday life, Crichton is never consistent in what he goes into detail about. Sometimes the description gets so bogged down that it becomes incomprehensible, and other times it feels as if the author does not think it matters. For me, it was a weird feeling of wanting to understand more but not really caring if I did.
The story itself was pretty straightforward and predictable in most senses, but I still found myself wanting to see what happened next. As we follow Captain Hunter's journey to Manteceros to steal a Spanish galleon full of treasure, I was rooting for him and hating the bad guys. In general, I did like all the characters no matter how far Crichton pushed them into the stock, stereotypical realm. I wanted them to succeed, but I do not feel the same connection with them then I have in other books by him. What it boiled down to was me wanting to find out what was around the corner, but the actual happening of events did not live up to what was waiting for me.
That being said, I did not hate reading the novel. It was just lacking some of the elements that are the staples any Crichton books. Maybe this is because it was published posthumously. I don't know. One example of his patented suspense writing is of Hunter trying to make it up a cliff in the middle of a storm. Stupid, simple, nail-biting. My favorite part is of two ships trying to outrun a man-of-war. The are trying to reach the island before sunset into shallower waters but have to come up with a method of sailing into the blinding sun. The sequence balances science and methods while giving way to a chase scene that jumps around scenes from different character's perspective. This kind of stuff would satisfy any Crichton fan.
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