Friday, January 22, 2010

Book 8. Pirate Latitudes

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 November of 2008. Hmm. Completely missed it, but then that may because I have read absolutely nothing that he has written. ER was the only acquaintance I had with him and that 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 they are going to do stop selling certain books? Are the digital version is 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 born. 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 scifi 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 block buster riddled with CGI and some milquetoast actor as Hunter. I hope that this scenario does not play out.

There was bit more blood and guts than I 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, Pirate Latitudes: A Novel gets the thumbs up.

Hell. Book 7. No really, the title is Hell.

So I finished this sometime in mid Dececmeber, but as usual, I put off the reivew. I have found that I have been to busy at work flirting with a Canadian over email and reading Pajiba to write the review, oh and do any actual work.

At any rate, from what I remember Robert Olen Butler’s Hell is well written and quite funny. Hell, in his imagination, is a thoroughly modern place with all the amenities of today’s society. It seems everyone is there from the obvious, Stalin, Hitler, Henry the VIII, to the less obvious Bill Clinton (who is compelled to pull down his pants everytime a woman enters his hotel room), Shakespeare (his writing is doomed by the Blue Screen of Death), and a manical Nixon as a chauffer. I seem to remember the Bee Gees being there. Huh.

So the premise is this, Hatcher was a newscaster in life and is now one in hell. He lands the interview of the his afterlife with Satan for his on going series “Why Do You Think You Are Here?”. Though this interview is just a small portion of the book, I found it to be the absolute funniest part. To aviod giving too much information, I will go on to say that as a result of this interview Hatcher figures out that he still retains his own free will and that his thoughts are his own, Satan is not in on everthing. From this discovery he begins to formulate a way out of Hell. With the help of Virgil, Anne Boylen, his exwives, and many other guest appearances he eventally finds what he is looking for.

Again, engaging, well written (unlike this review), and somewhat thought provoking. From Bulter’s comments on society, to the “cameos” this is one of those books that you read the frist time for the content and the second time to pick up all of the humor you missed on the first pass. Kind reminds me of An Evening of Long Goodbyes and Good Omens (funniest book ever, and I missed 99% of the British Humor).

So yeah, that is it on this one. I would read Olen’s other titles. In short, thumbs up – from my perspective. Oh yeah, one problem. The Kindle version was kind of jacked up. The ‘y’s were cut off at the bottom and would show up in random places leading to confusing formatting at times. And that is my only gripe. On this topic.