On Stranger Tides Paperback – 26 April 2011
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- Paperback : 322 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062101072
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062101075
- Product Dimensions : 13.49 x 1.92 x 20.32 cm
- Publisher : Harper Paperbacks; Reprint Edition (26 April 2011)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
"Tim Powers is an uncommon literary talent....Exceedingly readable....If heavenly muses were to put Dean Koontz, John Le Carré and Robert Parker into a creative blender, then molded the mix into a brand new writer, the result would be something akin to Tim Powers."--Denver Post
"Powers has forged a style of narrative uniquely his own, one filled with sharply drawn characters, fully imagined settings, elaborate underpinnings that pull all rugs out from under us and let us glimpse terrible, ragged floors beneath."--Los Angeles Times
"Powers [has] considerable gifts."--San Francisco Chronicle
"[On Stranger Tides] promises marvels and horrors, and delivers them all. You'll love the characters, you'll stay awake all night reading it, and when you finally do sleep, you'll find this story playing through your dreams."--Orson Scott Card
"Tim Powers has long been one of my absolutely favorite writers, those whose new books I snatch up as soon as they appear....The qualities I most admire in him [are] intelligence, narrative sparkle, great dialogue, speculative imagination, and emotional power."--Peter Straub
From the Back Cover
Aboard the Vociferous Carmichael, puppeteer John Chandagnac is sailing toward Jamaica to claim his stolen birthright from an unscrupulous uncle, when the vessel is captured . . . by pirates! Offered a choice by Captain Phil Davies to join their seafaring band or die, Chandagnac assumes the name John Shandy and a new life as a brigand. But more than swashbuckling sea battles and fabulous plunder await the novice buccaneer on the roiling Caribbean waters-for treachery and powerful vodun sorcery are coins of the realm in this dark new world. And for the love of beautiful, magically imperiled Beth Hurwood, Shandy will set sail on even stranger tides, following the savage, ghost-infested pirate king, Blackbeard, and a motley crew of the living and the dead to the cursed nightmare banks of the fabled Fountain of Youth.
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I love pirates, I wish there were more novels surrounding pirates, (anyone that wishes to point me in the right direction please feel free). However, the few I have read, all seem to leave me feeling the same.
It is very rare I finish a book and can't decide whether I enjoyed it or not. "On stranger tides" joins this list. Like other pirate novels I have read, there were moments where I really enjoyed the experience and other moments where I was reading but not really taking the story in.
For example, the whole Fountain of Youth episode stood out as a really good piece of writing, Tim Powers really portrayed a great sense of atmosphere and claustrophobia. The sense of voodoo magic poured through the swamp like settings and the character's distress at their real or imaginary visions was quite disconcerting. However, if you asked me what the purpose of the whole scene was and what the characters achieved, I would struggle to tell you.
There are also some good characters. The pirate captain Phil Davies, the evil Leo Friend and the loyal Skank spring to mind. However it is difficult to route for the main character Jack Shandy who spends long periods feeling for himself and drowning his sorrows.
I think the biggest problem with the novel is the lack of direction. I like my plots to be clear, I don't mind complicated but I like to know the motivations of the protagonists and their overall objectives. With "on stranger tides," the main character "Shandy " seems to stumble from one scene to another with no real purpose. There is some vague mention of an uncle he wishes to confront and then later he wants to rescue a girl who at the beginning of the novel he did not care for.
The timeline is never consistent. A chapter might end and the next may start up immediately after the event or some months after. I found myself not discovering which until I had read a good few paragraphs of the chapter first. This is probably summed up in the loosely entitled epilogue, which is really just the final chapter of the book taking place seconds after the ending of the previous chapter and in no way representative of an epilogue whatsoever.
It sounds as if I really didn't enjoy the book, but I don't think that is a fair reflection. I just felt the story was more of a mesh of cool scenes loosely tied together than a clever tale. The only constant being Shandy's half hearted pursuit of a girl he did not want to encourage in the beginning. Overall, I enjoyed it then... I think.
But I found myself very pleasantly surprised with the result. The actual similarity between the book and the film is limited to the name, the fountain of youth, and the involvement of Blackbeard. If the film had been more like the book, then it might not have been the disappointment it turned out to be.
So why did I like "On Stranger Tides" so much? Well, the first thing it has going for it is excellent characters. The pirate genre lends itself to colourful, imaginative and exciting casts, and Powers doesn't disappoint. Main character Jack Shandy is the classic character who never really wanted to be a pirate, but found an outlaw life thrust upon him, whilst Blackbeard manages to be engagingly bad, but more than simply a cardboard-cut-out comic villain. Add to the mix a host of brash but morally-questionable buccaneers and you couldn't really want for better pirate fare.
One thing that I was a little less passionate about was the ending. Throughout, Powers keeps the story fast paced and exciting, with the action running right up to the end. Which is great, but it makes the ending feel rather abrupt. To go from full-throttle to over zap quickly killed the mood a little, but I couldn't say what I would have changed and it didn't damage the reading experience too much.
Overall I would definitely recommend this book. I was somewhat sceptical at first, believing that pirate stories were something of a genre cul-de-sac, but Powers' excellent writing and brilliant story converted me very quickly.
There were lots of great action scenes and it was very atmospheric. The exposition scenes were kept to a minimum and I had the sense that the book was set in a fully realised world and that everything made sense.
The magical and supernatural elements were fully developed and didn't overshadow the rest of the plot.
There are some great characters and that includes the main character. In fantasy novels they can often be a bit dull but that wasn't the case here.
There were plenty of flashes of humour and despite being fairly long I found this to be a quick and easy read.