Crichton is one of the most versatile writers of our time. His incredible and unequalled career was cut short when died at the early age of 66 in 2008. A fully completed novel was found in his office: Pirate Latitudes.
After reading just about all of Crichton’s novels, and enjoying every one of them, this was, of course, a must-read for me. It was particularly attractive to me after reading several non-fiction books about piracy, including Under the Black Flag and Empire of Blue Water, and after summarizing my thoughts in this post.
Having somebody like Michael Crichton interested enough in the subject to build a novel around it was exciting to me, and I must say he did a great job.
The story shows how piracy was created in the Caribbean in the 1600 by the relationship between the Spanish and English crowns, the local bureaucrats and governments, corruption in those governments, and the immense plundering and raping of the local resources by the Spanish over the course of the centuries. Where there is great wealth floating around on the oceans in Spanish ships, there will be others who want to get their hands on that wealth. Privateering was the legitimate answer to this, and piracy was the almost inevitable outcome.
We follow a group of privateers on their mission of plundering, brutal murders, subterfuge, outright cunning, battle, heroic and almost superhuman endurance. We see them brave hurricanes, dangerous waters, hunger and exhaustion, just to come back home and be betrayed by their own.
There is no good or evil in this story. Everyone is corrupt. The story is told from the perspective of the pirates, so of course I rooted for the pirates and I enjoyed their successes against the Spanish and against the corruption of the English colony. However, the pirates murder, lie, steal and brutalize each other and in the name of fiction and entertainment, they became my heros while I was reading the story. Perhaps the moral is that you just can’t win in life if you play by the rules?
Piracy comes to life in this book and I found myself thoroughly entertained.