The new posthumous thriller from Michael Crichton, one of the most famous authors in the world
Jamaica, in 1665 a lone outpost of British power amid Spanish waters in the sunbaked Caribbean. Its capital, Port Royal, a cuthroat town of taverns, grog shops and bawdy houses – the last place imaginable from which to launch an unthinkable attack on a nearby Spanish stronghold. Yet that is exactly what renowned privateer Captain Charles Hunter plans to do, with the connivance of Charles II's ruling governor, Sir James Almont.
The target is Matanceros, guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, and considered impregnable with its gun emplacements and sheer cliffs. Hunter's crew of buccaneers must battle not only the Spanish fleet but other deadly perils – raging hurricanes, cannibal tribes, even sea monsters. But if his ragtag crew succeeds, they will make not only history ... but a fortune in gold.
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For many years, Michael Crichton's name was a byword for intelligent, cutting edge fiction, frequently utilising striking new developments in science as the basis of his narratives, or (most famously in Jurassic Park) extrapolating scientific possibilities into highly exciting (if implausible) tales of adventure. After his recent death (at a relatively young age), it was salutary to remember that his writing career had been a very long one -- so that when he took a concept that he might have used before (i.e., high tech amusement park goes disastrously wrong with fatal consequences for visitors) he could ensure that there was a lengthy gap so that people barely noticed (look at the plots of Westworld (1973) and the aforementioned Jurassic Park). And now we have his final book, published posthumously, Pirate Latitudes. For once, though, it looks as if Crichton were following the pack rather than leading it -- but things are not that clear cut as they might initially have seemed.
Pirate Latitudes takes the reader back to 1665, when Charles II’s Jamaican colony is under serious threat, besieged on every side by the voracious Spanish empire. At the centre of this troubled outpost is its crowded capital, Port Royal, a lively (if festering) hangout for criminal dregs, who inhabit its taverns and brothels. This is the time of the privateer, when (with tacit royal sanction), ship's captains could make sorties against Spanish ships and outposts, plundering at will -- just so long as the Governor and King Charles are taken care of. Michael Crichton's protagonist in this colourful mix is Captain Charles Hunter, educated at Harvard and a man with keenly developed survival instincts. He is made aware a treasure galleon, which is at anchor in the heavily fortified Spanish island of Matanceros, and Hunter’s interest is piqued -- not least because this means he will be able to take on Philip of Spain's most ruthless enforcer, Cazalla. The stage is set for what will either be a glorious bit of naval smash-and-grab or that will end in the ignominious death of Charles Hunter and his motley crew.
All of this, of course, suggests that Crichton (always a man aware of the commercial possibilities of any material) had been looking at the phenomenal success of the Pirates of the Caribbean series of films, and there is no doubt that some of the spirit of fun to be found here echoes that of the Johnny Depp-starring movies. But Crichton clearly remembered an earlier era, and the swashbuckling style of the (less parodic) Errol Flynn adventues is actually the template here (you'll notice the comparisons drawn here are cinematic rather than literary -- but Michael Crichton always straddled the two fields, and was a successful film director as well as novelist). Perhaps Pirate Latitudes isn't the final triumphant legacy we might wish for from Crichton, but (taken in the right spirit) it's uncomplicated, fast-moving fun. --Barry ForshawReview:
Praise for Michael Crichton:
'A wonderful farrago... marvellous' Evening Standard
'A satirical black-comedy thriller... Crichton writes likes Tom Wolfe on speed... completely brilliant’ Daily Mail
'A gripping, impeccably researched thriller...we don't get much politically engaged fiction these days. Here is a fine example' Evening Standard
'Exciting...a master storyteller' Sunday Telegraph
'Terrific fun. The pages whip by' Independent
'Intelligent, readable and guaranteed to get the grey matter going' Mirror
'One of the most ingenious, inventive thriller writers around... another high-concept treat...written in consummate page-turning style...fascinating’ Observer
'This is Crichton on top form’ The Times
'Mixing cutting-edge science with thrills and spills, this is classic Crichton’ Daily Mirror
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Book Description Harper-collins Publishers. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0007329083 Ships promptly from Texas. Bookseller Inventory # GHT6382.2ANLC050616H0279A
Book Description HarperCollins, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # ABC675637
Book Description HarperCollins, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Brand new book. Fast shipping form our UK warehouse in eco-friendly packaging. Fast, efficient and friendly customer service. Bookseller Inventory # 9780007329083N
Book Description Harper-collins Publishers, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0007329083
Book Description 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 240mm x 159mm x. Hardcover. best tradition of Crichton's storytellng powers. Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 320 pages. 0.567. Bookseller Inventory # 9780007329083
Book Description Harper Collins Publishing, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. Published In 2009 : 1st. Edition : 1st. Printing : Harper Collins Publishing : Light To Faint Face Rubbing To The Dust Wrapper + There Is A Faint Writing Indentation To The Bottom Of The Front Face : Otherwise, As New Throughout : Price Reduced Accordingly : Overall, A Very Nice Book : Bookseller Inventory # 22 - 19022
Book Description Harper-collins Publishers, 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110007329083
Book Description 2009. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 240mm x 159mm x. Hardcover. best tradition of Crichton's storytellng powers. Shipping may be from our Sydney, NSW warehouse or from our UK or US warehouse, depending on stock availability. 320 pages. 0.567. Bookseller Inventory # 9780007329083