Pirate Latitudes

I’m again, unsurprised about the slow start. It’s easier to imagine the evil villains as dark, Disney cartoon versions making it more amusing and tolerable. Governor Almont is a selfish, fat, diseased man whilst Commander Scott takes on the similarity of the “poor, evil sidekick” who I imagine as gangly and tall and can scarcely tolerate his master’s foolery barely hidden beneath the surface.

Some slave women are introduced, amongst them a young teenage girl who is the main fascination since her crime involved witchcraft heresy; But, unfortunately Crichton falls into debasing poor Anne and turning her almost interesting character into a simpleton. Besides her though, the Jew reminds me of Mel Brooks straight out of any of his movies, except contrived, always repeating himself, even a bit Woody Allen, then. It’s something I’m letting slide to get to the coming “good bits” I’ve been promised by the one who recommended it to me.

Once the violence starts though, this is where Crichton shines. He takes a step back with his worn road of tricking the woman whilst she bathes though; it seemed on the side of jilted Shakespeare or Quixote by then, but it gets better. I also notice myself being able to skim and forgive myself for it, since most of the skimming has to do with ship facts which I had enough similar moments in True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

I must admit, Crichton sure does take out one kid in a pretty brutal, and almost comical, in a Jim Carrey death-throes sort of way. Over-the-top tortures continue through some chapters. It’s sad to say, but I catch myself being able to skim lightly through these middle chapters, so far. I’m not impressed by this writing style, he’s repeatedly used the same phrase in two sentences consecutively! Did I need that? The answer should be clear. The story is still attempting a build-up which I hope arrives soon, otherwise I’m starting to become disenchanted.

It seems a little like Crichton was borrowing from Count of Monte Cristo with Cazalla dreaming of revenge by duels of his enemies, etc. Unfortunately, my having yet to be impressed, continues its slow trod. Until Cazalla, in thinking of killing an English pirate until one squeals the information he’s looking for, senses something amiss with the motion of the ship. He’s told the guards were killed and the pirates escaped and their ship is seen leaving and puts Cazalla in such a rage, he sends the messenger sprawling across the ship with Cazalla’s response to his news. He then becomes wise as to the pirates destination when they leave Cazalla’s view.

Hunter’s point of view and his conversation with Sanson is then shown, and how much of a head start they may have, leaving us with knowing: The race is on. And on to Part III. There is still plenty of foreshadowing to the main setup which I impatiently await. One thing’s certain, Crichton is into torturing any and every character in some fashion, regardless of their state of morality, it seems. The men, when they reach the island, get blasted with mosquitoes for hours, so they awaken, transformed to each other, which to them is amusing, in a sad and uncomfortable way, I imagine. They begin to get hungry and hope to come across a boar or to have a monkey appear close enough to shoot. No luck: A running theme, perhaps? They reach Mt. Leres and Bassa signs they should wait until morning to climb, due to the conditions and the wind being strong regardless of time, only by a slight difference in daylight.

Unfortunately for them, Hunter doesn’t believe they’ll have enough time to wait, due to a storm coming conveniently in near enough to possibly jeopardizing their time, which due to the fickleness of the ocean storms/weather gives Crichton a much-needed placement of logical doubt. So they make ready to climb later in the night. Bassa climbs first and helps everyone else. Lazue is pulled up after him, then the Jew. Sanson and Hunter come last and Hunter makes a sound choice, since he also gets to deal with the rope being frayed from all the previous crew going before him and it starts to stretch. He gets one hell of an endurance trial because of it, as well. He survives, which is the important part, also slightly meaningful, it being the next most exciting moment to happen so far. Although for Hunter the moment significantly impacts his sense of survival since he was blindly unaware of finally being rescued from his perilous journey up the rest of the cliff-face. He becomes extensively damaged by the haphazard climb, with his whole body aching, his face numb, stiff, and unable to eat, drink.

From the groups vantage point, they can see Cazalla and his soldiers searching the beach for them with no luck, due to the storm covering their tracks. There’s one piece of evidence of their whereabouts which is mentioned, but won’t be useful unless the men reach the mountain, which takes a day’s hike and would be difficult to spot, so it’s told. When Cazalla gets in Hunter’s way when he docks his ship blocking his own, Lazue sees a struggling woman with him, which intrigues Hunter. After they identify Bosquet, Cazalla’s 2nd in Command they await to continue the rest of their plan and contemplate the fight ahead whilst listening to Spanish campfire chatter and food smells. The next chapter is more gratuitous fluff to do with a poisonous snake and Lazue’s pants. She continues to be put through overtly sexual ploys to support her character’s need in being useful in a way only a woman can. So, half nude, she dispatches some soldiers to help the “plan” begin to take effect. So in the best of cases, perhaps lower quality The Whole Nine Yards applies. It does have another bout of violent adventure throughout this longer chapter. Another unnecessary repeated phrase, otherwise Hunter saves a prisoner of Cazalla after he takes him out in a semi-sedated, compared to most, way. They escape without much fuss and make their way as far from Matanceros as their ship can go. More about Lady Sarah is shared and how superficial and lacking in substance she seems, in Hunter’s eyes.

A sea monster to “liven” the story up is related before a ship is seen to be following, and so Hunter decides to make for Monkey Bay. Lady Sarah offers plans which make her look ignorant when she was so pleased to have thought of something she found clever: Pointless. They recognize it’s Cazalla’s ship which is following and it’s left abruptly with Hunter following Lazue’s directions to fix course and Part IV begins. Lazue is seen as someone to be envied in having on board since she is eagle-eyed-like in her ability to help direct course into the sun, as seen through Sanson and his helmsman’s perspective. Now Lazue seems to have developed in an interesting direction due to her talent of gauging depths of water by the colors of the sea; and like her, Enders was the same way in regards to the ship, knowing the smallest changes and how much he could push its capabilities or when something in the ship shifted, another very impressive and valued skill. Together, one would think they’d be unbeatable; for Enders, the thought of having to rely on someone else, no matter how talented made him nervous since he couldn’t sense whether it was right, so he followed her directions, blindly and with great apprehension. Lazue is now directing the ship’s course from memory of where the coral outcroppings were an hour before. This bit is the second most exciting and technical part in the story. Now Lazue is straining with the sun to discern her land and sea-marks to line the ship up to narrowly pass the coral obstacles. They run into little mishaps, but ultimately make it through. One hopes the El Trinidad doesn’t make it as well, but they follow close enough and perhaps for other unmentioned reasons, make it through. Both ships anchor and the chapter ends.

At the start of the next, the El Trinidad is made to run aground due to necessity. Hunter isn’t worried since he can get out easily enough. Since he relied on the fact the crew had the ability to detect food and fresh water, they could stay for months if need be or at least until a storm arose. Hunter tried to guess what Bosquet would do and decided he’d probably attack at morning. Hunter prepares his men as needed. At dawn there is an attack, which is said in such a way as to not be exciting at all, but almost with the same indifference I’ve written about it. With men falling and “screaming to the deck.” Blah, blah, whatever. Then silence and then several minutes later new crews are seen working on the decks. Crichton continues to make musket and other violence easy on himself to describe. They catch more gunfire and more silence ensues. The ship moves away from the gun chatter, “…protecting the bay”. Making it so they can’t get in and the others can’t get out. Crichton seems as bored with his violent asides as I am since he doesn’t linger on them, due to their filler-like quality. He must have been trying to hit the valued word-count or he tried and seemingly failed a new writing style, the descriptions not making much of an impact very often.

Then another useless violent death of one of Hunter’s crew, when given to satisfy the extra need for more specific violence, someone whom has no name given, but is introduced for his brain splatter, at least, “Hunter knew him slightly.”, to prove his lack of importance, even to the main character. He explains this needless slaughter to Miss Almont who is angered by the display, as if we’re supposed to care about Miss Priss’ opinion. (We barely visit her, which is part of the reason this book is maddening and yet I continue on since I’m so close to the finish now and I’d be annoyed having written this review at all if I were to stop here; also, I’m probably dragging my feet to finish due to this.) Then Crichton gives Hunter a little play, making Miss Almont look more like a ditsy slut who can’t keep her head out of her ass. Then she wags her booty away and Hunter is reminded of a painting in Cazalla’s cabin which is high-lit to be somehow “possibly” important. Then Hunter makes a connection between the painting and a motto stamped on the postern of a cannon, Semper Vincit. As he’s deep in thought he’s fired upon and the chapter blessedly ends and I take another much-needed break from drivel-town. I’m beginning to realize Crichton picked a slightly, unexciting subject. Anyways, Hunter is surprised by the Spaniard’s attack and we are given another pirate set aflame and throwing himself off-board, and yet it still isn’t entertaining or at least thrilling to me. Hunter and Sanson each led longboats to continue the attack. Also, instead of showing the reader the “nightmare” of this hour-long attack, he says it’s so. Under-bloody-whelming.

Sanson awakens Hunter to be given the new “something”, to whet our appetites for the discovery of what it could be. Turns out they were shot, the ship, specifically and they didn’t have a cannon to make use of to defend themselves. Then Hunter is shown a small cannon which assists them in future attacks. They attach it to their ship and now, Hunter decides is the best time to use it. He settles with hitting them whilst it’s still dark and the ship starts moving as if to flee. The ship, anchored further away which they learn when the sun rises. Hunter sees most of the damage made seemed minor and is quite depressed. Then he discusses the fair wind with Ender’s and how it might last a day more and how it bodes a hurricane to come, when Sarah comes out to request to go to shore to search for edibles for her vegetarian lifestyle which Hunter is loathe to accommodate at this time, so she arrogantly tries to insult him, after which he tries to relay the situation to come, to which she is too jaded to comprehend their predicament. Although he does start to realize she’s been treating the ship-mates who took on wounds all night and he had no real reason not to accede her wishes and his concerns had nothing to do with her. He apologizes and makes arrangements for her to go ashore. He then gets an idea from Sarah’s mentioning an artist who is also a vegetarian.

Don Diego, the Jew is summoned and Hunter confides his plan. He at first isn’t convinced, but on further detail leaves to think of the possibilities of success. Ender has more issue with it since it’ll make the ship list to one side when they try to sail past the coral. In the end, he does agree to his ability to sail the ship well enough to do as asked and Hunter retires. By dawn Bosquet’s ship is gone and Hunter wonders of his plan in disappearing or if he’d done more damage than he realized. Hunter decides to try for an escape and Enders is having concerns steering with the cannon where they are and using positive sounding tactics to get Hunter to move them for easier navigation what with the hurricane getting closer, but Hunter is convinced Bosquet is out of sight and refuses to be swayed. After seeing Bosquet reappear Hunter starts planning the next phase of attack with Don Diego, repeatedly being called the Jew (why did I even bother learning his non-Jew name?). Don Diego (which from here on out I’ll only be calling the Jew), helps solidify his plan which includes the use of Lazue’s perceptive range of sight.

Now, Crichton brings in a sort of excitement he shouldn’t have saved until this point of the book, but I understand now my boyfriend’s fervor. It’s begun to take on some tension building due to Lazue’s expert count of distance between Bosquet’s over-eagerness. Then right when I expect the opposite, we get more grotesque narrative of damage when cannon-fire finally meets the ship. Hunter takes on a bit of destruction this time around, but due to his cool head, comes out of it with a hit of his own, after of course more bloody report of nameless crew being brutally killed, which is easier to overlook since now having more adventure occurring. This bit of it is a race against whose ship will recover first and Hunter hasn’t good luck at the moment, but tries a “mad” move which succeeds and more slaughter is depicted and by the end of the chapter they’re dealing with the coming storm.

The hurricane then hits with ferocity. Everyone knew the worst was to come with the storm lasting hours if not days. They worked desperately to fix the damage, the worst of which was moving the cannon which is hard in calm waters, but needing to be done now if they were to live through the storm. Hunter directed his men, trying to call the right timing to work with the pitching ship. Two cannon ended up making trouble for them taking one more man out in the job. Meanwhile Hunter anticipated the length of the storm.

They were sailing with three sails which is unlucky and the crew began reverting to superstitious prayers and other rites for fear. Even Hunter goes to his cabin and prays. He then hears Sarah screaming and wrestling out of sailors grasps. Apparently they started thinking she was a witch and needed to be pitched overboard, hilariously. Hunter tries to get the main man to explain why, without luck and they all release her, but with him repeating, “mark me.”, to prove her witchery; psh. Hunter then commands her to lock herself in her room and not to come out. He goes out to ask Enders how he’s doing and how long he thinks the storm will last. Enders, no worse for wear, also feels the storm is waning, but still have awhile to go.

Meanwhile, Almont makes a pentagram for fear and popularity in France, mentioned to her by a woman who practiced it, as well. She does her little “magic words” bit and begins to believe a force is entering her, also realizing the storm is abating at the same moment; ignorant hussie. Hunter is woken and they perceive a small island which they guess might be near Boca del Dragon, not a fortuitous happenstance after being knocked off course, but at the moment the water there is calm enough which didn’t help too much with the battered condition of the ship, but they made it safely to a cove and the exhausted crew went ashore to rest. Sanson is mentioned again giving one the “hope” of his possible survival and which Hunter’s men took indifferently (as do I). Hunter also drifts to sleep; we skip to the next three days being consumed with ship repairs and the weather being fair. They had no extra wood so had to make do with substitutes, which were few. Enders calculates the whereabouts of the nearest islands. Hunter was paranoid of attacks, but for naught since the island and the ones nearby were uninhabited. They did sense a hostile air about the place, though; ooOOoo, scary.

It was constantly windy with bird cries, whilst the men worked and slept. Hunter put up guards around the camp and ship for safety, he had misgivings about their position. He was a part of the night watch and one night he sends a man to fetch Bellows, his relief, but the man doesn’t detect him so Hunter sends him to look once more to no end and does a head count of the crew. The rest of the night is normal; hooray. The next morning they go in search of wood to no use, neither island had any. They did learn the next island had campfires, though; Hunter sure doesn’t know much about anything, stupid smart-ass. They cross to it and see an empty village, which proves to be exactly as it seems, when one of Hunter’s men’s muskets discharges accidentally and no one appears. The village’s small boats were still docked so no one had escaped by water, which would have been the obvious route of fleeing. They notice some puzzling footprints where five deep trenches for narrow boats would be, accompanied by reddish stains which the crew wondered was blood or not. They also happen upon a church with the interior trashed and walls which are certain to be covered in blood; walk me through it, Crichton, please. They also locate an inexplicable crocodile skin, since they don’t have them in the area nor not nearly of the size described. They notice the smoke from the other island dispersed and faint drums could be heard. They retreat and ascertain signs of life left near their boat, along with a gift sticking out of the sand next to it. They go back to the ship and Lazue brings to light the people who would leave such a gift for them. The people have been wiped out for some time, but apparently have resurfaced here. Then it’s mentioned Miss Almont had left in the afternoon to gather berries and fruits for her veggie diet and hadn’t returned, to the teller’s misery, so now they have another option of possible risk by cannibalism; yummy.

Hunter and crew follow the sound of the drums until they reach firelight inland. Lazue makes another fun fact known it’s clearly back down to one possible risk of cannibalism; Crichton, seriously, I’d bad mouth you worse than I am if you were still writing this junk-fiction, but it might be possible the editors didn’t want to change this until more perfectly honed which wasn’t possible. Anyways the Jew has a delicate package which Hunter is also acting gingerly towards. Hunter and crew make it closer to the Indians campsite where chanting is heard now, as well. They all begin to notice the object of their chanting and where Sarah has been put, looking quite dead. Hunter and the Jew plus one other, move toward one of the huts to set off a bomb with an effect which surprises the natives and then another one is set off not long after the first. After, less descriptive deaths of the natives, Hunter and crew grab Sarah and retreat, *Mocking deep reporter voice*, “without further incident”; sigh.

Sarah gets a decent bill of health when they return to the ship and Hunter gets the crew to work the rest of the night and repair the ship whilst posting a watch, on the off chance. When it’s still dark Hunter is helping one of his men with a task when he drops dead after believing being bit by a mosquito, this after hearing drums start up again for a short time during their sleepless night, which had the desired effect of scaring the bejebus out of the crew to stop their work until being convinced by Hunter to keep going. Anyways, Hunter loses two men to the death “mosquitoes” and decides to wait until morning to finish repairs since he’s down to thirty men. When dawn comes, the natives appear and the crew open fire until they fall back. As the crew get back to work, Hunter checks on Sarah who’s acting like a comatose zombie. The natives periodically loose their poison darts on the crew, but with no casualties and Enders is now satisfied with the repair work. They make it out of the bay and Hunter orders most of the crew to sleep, including himself with only a few to keep watch which Enders believes curious since they seemed to have made a safe retreat.

Hunter tries to sleep in his cramped and tightly sealed quarters and is awoken by Lazue, who’s at the helm, to let him know they are being tailed by “the Dragon”. Whatever the creature was, it also had tentacles. The creature picks up Hunter in it’s tentacled limb which freezes him with fear until he’s airborne and then he attacks with his dagger, it finally lets him go, but another crewman isn’t as lucky when another tentacled arm throws him overboard. Hunter remembers Lady Sarah and tries to get her to leave her room, but doesn’t succeed before seeing another tentacled arm crash inside. It regains purchase of Hunter, which makes Sarah scream and he is dropped atop deck once more, whilst hacking at the tentacle which finally lets him go. Hunter is busy staring the creature down, when horrendous suckers come at him unexpectedly. He is right near some crew shooting at the creature from above and when locating it, becomes aware he is armed and stabs said creature in its eye-hole. The creature fakes a retreat which leaves Hunter shouting for help to no avail and now, since he’s thrown into the air and returned to the back of the creature, Enders and Bassa (The Moor) jump on the creature’s back with Hunter and begins stabbing at it with lances. This makes the creature retreat, seriously this time (I’m hating Crichton giving his main crew alternating names). All three are now pulled back on deck.

They make it to Port Royal, but with no fanfare which is odd since the celebration usually lasts a couple of days. They are approached a couple of hours later by an office of the King’s militia, known to Hunter and who’s put on a formal attitude oddly, bewildering him and then being told of his arrest on piracy charges; ha. The acting Governor is hanging other captains like he wants all the biscuits at tea-time. The preceding Governor took ill which was the reason for the drastic change and warrant on Hunter. He’s taken to jail and is told his trial is the next day. The window in his cell is high up and a “bed” of straw keeps him company. During his trial, which consists of giving a reason for his sinking the other ship (which I don’t remember the name of) and also pillaging villages etc., it’s determined his accusers all stood to gain from his conviction which is a “travesty” in normal trials of this 1600s time-frame. He pleads not guilty assuming one of his crew must have talked under torture since no one else knew of the ship he attacked. During his defense and retelling of what happened at sea, they finally get to the first witness and to Hunter’s surprise, it’s Sanson. Hunter’s story doesn’t reflect his testimony, since he decided to confess the truth, without a hint of despair, right in front of Hunter. He then relies on Lady Sarah’s version, which to his misfortune, isn’t in his favor, but the impression stated she was afraid for some reason. She also didn’t mention their run-in with the sea monster and when Hunter shows the men the marks left by the suckers, they all looked convinced, but the main speaker said otherwise, delivering the death sentence and being heard cackling as Hunter’s removed from the court.

When Hunter’s returned to jail to a different cell, he thinks he’s in quite a dilemma and is dropping off to sleepy-land when he hears a familiar hissed-whisper of his name. Then we witness a slapstick comedic moment which is too ridiculous to be considered accidental, but I’ve not known Crichton to be touched so close with the gift of comedic timing. Hunter realizes it’s someone he knows, either as Whisper, or trying to spare him being identified, calls him as such and learns he’s not only in the cell across from his own, but he also has been sentenced to a life-claiming sentence (how quaint), but for a different crime. I’ll give Crichton this, I don’t believe I’d have been able to use as much constraint in describing when Whisper whispered…as one can see. Through Whisper, it’s found out of some contradicting facts of Sir James and why Sarah lied, all very seemingly to move this sucker to its hopefully satisfying conclusion. Then we are taken to Sarah Almont and Sir James, her uncle, who is not quite in the condition mentioned by Whisper, as we are continually mislead to an eye-rolling amount of times and he wants nothing more than to get Hunter free and apparently, so do the citizens of Port Royal.

Now the plot slightly thickens to include an Emily Hacklett who has a man enlist the help of a known courtesan to get into the prison and accepts, seeking the consequences of her involvement. Then, back to the prison with Miss Sharpe doing what she does best, as she gets to Hunter, plus some goodies for his current predicament and exchanges a few easily detected double entendres. They work over the guard with an outcome shown to finality and another plan to escape is set into motion, with an easy and violent-less success. On Mrs. Hacklett’s return to her husband and Commander Scott, they are toasty drunk to the point of Hacklett being a true dick of the times and negotiating a price on selling his wife, pimp-style to Scott. When she refuses, he gives her a good smack, not regarding she’s pregnant, most likely due to who the “baby-daddy” is. Scott slowly accepts the transaction and cut-scene; psh. Meanwhile, Governor Almont wishes Scott to take out the guard, and boy, did Almont get what he wished, but cripes, this is seriously the most tasteless of Crichton’s work. Hunter meets up with his men and after a generally planned and hit list is considered, heads back to town.

Then, to-the-point updates are gone through (it’s been taking me out of the story consistently, mostly because one doesn’t get proper acquaintance with those we should be interested in seeing die, but it gets a little easier, if not on the stereotypically “cool” seeming one-line punches). Also mostly every character is almost too stupid, the pointless yammering described until violent death occurs. Hunter’s sentence is then overturned by Lewisham and Sir James is brought back to power. Hunter is now on the lookout for news of Sanson, who fled and soon a madam of a whorehouse approaches him with the information he’d been searching for, a tale of deception and malice the survivor of which had shared with the madam; he gets twelve more stories on his whereabouts after, but Hunter gets the truth from Enders. He thinks over his next course of action because of Sanson’s “clever” ruse.

Hunter threatens a conjurer into revealing to him the secret to his craft, then gets Enders to locate Anne Sharpe to help in his plan to get to Sanson. Sanson was mostly confident in getting out of his predicament alive, but knew Hunter was more clever than he and so wondered if his plan would work when he was approached by Hunter and Sharpe by boat. Sanson became more tense from Hunter’s demeanor, but he gets back at Sanson for trying to kill him and then story updates about what happens to Sarah Almont and her Uncle, whether Hunter detects his hidden treasure which Sanson etched on a coin around his neck, the fate of Mrs. Hacklett, the careers of her two sons, one of which was Hunter’s, as well as Sharpe, Enders, Bassa, the Jew, Lazue, and a final mention of Hunter. Blah, I’m glad I got through it, especially since it will become a movie at some point; now, on to better stories, and hopefully I’ll forget this one and remember Crichton’s better work.

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One thought on “Pirate Latitudes

  1. Pingback: Sacré Bleu | Book Fiend

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