Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review: The Pyrates

If you're looking for an historical novel, accurately depicting 17th Century piracy, then The Pyrates by Flashman creator, George MacDonald Fraser (GMF), is not for you.

The Pyrates is a swashbuckling farce.  It's as if GMF wrote a book about a pirate movie instead of any real, or imagined adventure.  The characters are mere caricatures and the story is chock-full of anachronisms.  All this was deliberate, to either entertain the reader or defy historical novel writing conventions.

Probably both.

I'm a fan of GMF's Flashman series and I found The Pyrates entertaining, but a bit annoying at the same time, primarily due to the anachronisms I just mentioned.  In the parts where the author is adressing the reader, I thought this technique was funny and refreshing:  Such as using 20th Century movie stars to describe the characters and fight scenes in cinematic, choreographic terms.  But I found it jarring when things, such as:  Credit cards, headphones, outboard motors and condo time-shares are placed in the action itself, or the characters mention such items outside their timeframe.

In short, I feel GMF overdid the anachronism schtick.

I must admit though, a lot of my feelings about the book are based on my bias.  While I like a good comedic movie, I'm not a huge fan of spoofs and The Pyrates would certainly fall into this category if it were ever made into a film.  To me, spoofs are "one trick ponies."  You watch, you laugh, you never view it again--unless it was produced by Monty Python or Mel Brooks (exceptions to the rule and all that).

So I'm giving The Pyrates a three star rating--it's first on  It's a good yarn and you can tell GMF had fun writing it.

As to the rest of the ratings: 

Out of 33 reviews so far, a whopping 30 are 4 & 5 star ratings.  The remaining trio are 1 & 2-star reviewers who didn't care for the book at all.

And as an aside:

It is said that you can't judge a book by it's cover.  Well, with the latest editions of The Pyrates you almost can't...

Do I detect a hint of political correctness maybe?  Especially when compared to an older, alternative cover...

You can't say you don't know what you're getting into with a cover like this!


DeanM said...

Cool images, Ted. I have to admit after looking at the first stylized artwork, I thought of that SNL skit with Will Ferrel playing Robert Goulet - Red Ships of Spain :) Dean

Ted Henkle said...

You're comparison to the SNL skit isn't far off the mark. This is an outrageous/silly adventure worthy of SNL, Monty Python, or Mel Brooks. "It's good to be a pirate..." :)

Merkwürdigliebe said...

Yep, very silly. At times brilliant, other times hard to figure out what GMF was thinking or intended.

But having read enough interviews and other writings by him, it's pretty clear he likes to tweak convention and could not care less who he offends by doing so.

Ted Henkle said...

I believe you're right Herr Doctor. I think he wanted to write a zany story to amuse himself in his dotage. His later book, "The Reavers" is definitely cut from the same cloth.