Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (April 26, 2011)
First, let me just say that...I like pirates. There's just something about a swashbuckling adventure that I can't help but love. So, obviously, I had to try very hard to put my nerdy love of pirates aside and make at least a half-hearted attempt to review the book as a book and not as, "Dude, it's got pirates."
On Stranger Tides is a novel by Tim Powers. Qualifications? Yep, he's got 'em. Two World Fantasy Awards, and this novel was optioned for adaptation as the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. After reading this book, I could easily see why.
All the elements of a great pirate movie are there. Humor, action, and a surprising amount of dark magic are contained in this 300 page novel. I felt that the pacing of this novel was excellent and the characters were deep and enjoyable creations. One thing that disappointed me a little bit was the characterization of Beth. To be honest, she felt a little too flat for me, being the only female character with more than 3 lines, but I was willing to forgive her, since for large portions of the novel she didn't really have much of a chance to stand up for herself and really be a strong character.
Also, I have to say that the ending of the book didn't really appeal to my need for completion. I'm the kind of guy that, if I can get it, wants every loose end tied up nicely. However, given the way the novel ended, I can understand that Powers was going by the old adage, "In late, out early." The main conflict was finished, and everything else after that couldn't have possibly been as exciting, so he gave us a little bit of closure and dropped the curtain. I don't really think tying up all the loose ends would have made it a better novel, and it certainly could have made it worse.
Overall, I'd say that if you're a fan of high seas action, dark voodoo style magic, or Monkey Island (yes, the creator of that game sites this as a big influence) you owe it to yourself to give this book a go. For me, this book was an excellent way to discover Tim Powers. Obviously he has other novels that have met with greater critical acclaim, but this was fun, well written and enjoyable. This book definitely convinced me that I've been missing out on a great writer.
Final Score: 8.5/10. An exciting, well paced swashbuckling adventure that's deserving of a movie all its own.
- The action and adventure on the high seas. Dude, it's got PIRATES!
- Powers' ability to suck a reader into the story.
- The ending without enough closure for yours truly
- The fact that I kept seeing stupid Johnny Depp in my head every now and again while reading it.