Pirate Latitudes, Michael Crichton (Harpur; 2010).

Cover of "Pirate Latitudes: A Novel"

Cover of Pirate Latitudes: A Novel

Grade: Δ — Solid read, but only buy it if you like the genre.

In brief:

A swashbuckling adventure from a master of Ripping Yarns, Pirate Latitudes does not quite fulfill its potential, nor does it live up to the quality of Crichton’s usual writing.  Indeed, reading the teaser excerpt from The Great Train Robbery in the back of the book, one cannot help but contrast the two novels and feel Pirate Latitudes comes up somewhat wanting. [1]

Setting:

The Caribbean, 1665-1666.

In Depth:

One cannot argue with the quote on the cover that bills this as Michael Crichton‘s ultimate adventure, but that is only because he died before it was published.  Sadly, that shows.  This book was found as a ‘complete’ manuscript in his files, but in this instance, I suspect that complete is different than finished.  Many of the elements that earmark Crichton’s works are missing in this novel, and I cannot help but feel that he intended to turn back to this manuscript and add both detail and depth. 

As a result, while this book is filled with action, it is missing the description that draws one into the adventure. Similarly, the characters show a promise of depth and sympathy that never fully develops in the book.  To me, this is a clear sign that Crichton had not finished with the manuscript, for strong sympathetic characters were always his strong suit. 

Having said that, there are many elements in this novel that still manage to live up to the author’s best attributes. This historic detail is solid, if not completely accurate. Though inconsistent, the dialogue in parts shows Crichton’s humor and genius.  In short, this book could have been brilliant had Crichton had the chance to give it one more polish.  Having said that, it still be the skeleton that could be fleshed out into a wonderful screenplay.  

 ____________________

 [1] Yes I know, this books does not technically fit into the categories that I normally review: but it is the last novel of a wonderful action adventure writer who penned some of the greatest Science-fiction pieces of the twentieth century.

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About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
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4 Responses to Pirate Latitudes, Michael Crichton (Harpur; 2010).

  1. JoJo Jensen says:

    I didn’t even know about this book — and Michael Crichton does write exciting stuff!

    Thanks!

    • Thomas Evans says:

      Crichton was a great writer, but this one just really wasn’t up to his normal standard. If you love pirate stories, it’s fine, but otherwise, I wouldn’t really recommend it too highly.

  2. Rob Chellis says:

    I was disappointed by this book….I even took it to Key West to read in the right atmosphere 🙂
    It had some fun parts and all, but it almost seemed to tramp to the end in a series of genre cliches as though Crichton was just trying to get it done and over.

    • Thomas Evans says:

      I agree. What is more, for a topic that has so much color, the whole story seemed a bit black and white for me. So much to describe and so little description. That’s why I think it was a draft version of what he actually intended to write. Possibly even with a ghost writer to polish off the last bits.

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