You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pirate Freedom

I've come to enjoy Gene Wolfe very much. In fact he is now one of my favorite authors. His book Pirate Freedom is much like his duology The Wizard Knight, which I read a few years ago. Like in the latter work, Pirate Freedom is a first person narration of a young man taken out of his world to a strange reality where he performs heroic deeds.

The narrator is Chris or Chrisoforo. He is a young monk who leaves his monastery in Cuba rather than take the vows. When he reaches the nearest town he finds he has been transported to the world of the Spanish Main. He soon finds work on a ship and finds that he enjoys it well enough though the men are rough. On a stay in Spain he meets a young woman named Estrellita, but leaves her when he discovers she and her mistress have been beaten because of him. On the way back to the Caribbean, his ship is captured by pirates led by Captain Burt, an English pirate captain. Captain Burt recognizes Chris from an earlier visit where Chris helped him, and since Chris knows several languages and can navigate. But Chris demurs, so Burt keeps him in chains. Eventually he lets Chris take a prize back to port for sale. But even though Chris gets a taste of the pirate life when they capture a slave ship, when he sees Burt again he tells him he still doesn't want to join him. So Burt leaves him alone on an empty beach on Hispaniola with a rifle and some supplies.

Chris becomes a buccaneer, hunting with other buccaneers for meat that they sell to passing ships. But the Spanish soon come and capture them. He is incensed that his money is stolen. He round up his surviving buccaneers friends and they paddle over to the nearest Spanish port where they capture the Spanish ship there. He also finds a young sailor who turns out to be Estrellita, whom he now calls Novia. The group of them become pirates, capturing ships for their cargo and prize money.

There is also a big mystery about one of the ships they carry. It is cursed, and he believes someone is hiding aboard and killing people. He also finds another Estrellita, and has to sort out the two women.

Before long they run into Captain Burt and join forces with him. Burt wants to attack a large town and capture all the silver and gold. Between them they have about eight ships and several hundred men. When they finally make an attack they are successful, but much of the silver escapes into the jungle. They track it across the isthmus of Panama, but are ambushed and betrayed. Finally Chris escapes with Novia and they start to settle down. There is a last twist where Chris's story and his interleaved comments start to connect.

There is much more to the story; it is action-packed and well written. Chris is a smart man and a good storyteller. Wolfe does a good job with Chris's narration as he talks about leaving out stuff, or inserting comments that won't be explained for several paragraphs or chapters. There's so much that sometimes one has to retrace Chris's steps. There's always good suspense, especially around the mysteries of Estrellita and the cursed ship, which turn out to be related. It's got romance, mystery, and a lot of action. Wolfe is at his usual great storytelling. A-


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