Make no mistake, Crichton’s posthumously published Pirate Latitudes is an adventure book. This book has everything you’d expect in a pirate adventure; pirates, warships, KRAKEN!, cannons, lewd women, drunken brawls, and hurricanes. However it still manages to lack a certain sense of wonder or tension.
This may perhaps be because of popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean and the harsh edge of a good pirate story worn down through comedy relief. A pirate story filled with peril isn’t one that you generally sweat over any more. Perhaps if this book was published in the 1950s it would be much more exciting – but in today’s market (at least in this reader’s imagination) the pirate story has been worn down to the nub.
This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it because Pirate Latitudes has its moments. While Crichton has written about voyages on the sea in the past (the most notable of which comes to mind is in Eaters of the Dead and perhaps the young T-Rex’s chase near the waterfalls in Jurassic Park) he certainly didn’t get to go into as much detail as he was able to with Pirate Latitudes. You get the sense that these men really felt much more at home on the sea than they did on land. They were their own society, as it is put in the book, with their own rules, their own code and their own objectives. They knew their craft (one of the characters being called a sea artist) and knew their seas. In this sense Pirate Latitudes was a fun read and I even found myself wishing that Crichton found a way to put even more of the nitty gritty sailing details into the book.
Unlike Prey, this story ended pretty strong and I would actually recommend reading it if you like a good pirate story.
Here are more of my reviews of books by Michael Crichton.