Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Stranger Tides - the novel

The novel On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers was re-released to go with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The two have very little to do with each other except for the inclusion of Blackbeard and the use of magic. I read the book when it first came out in 1987 but I didn't remember a lot about it. I did remember that it featured a puppeteer who became a pirate, a trip to the Fountain of Youth, and a few other details.

The novel was one of several that Powers wrote dealing with magic in a historic setting. These are not alternate histories where major events are different than in our world. Instead they include historic events. The first of these novels, The Drawing of the Dark, centered on the Siege of Vienna (one of them, there were several). The Anubis Gate was the best of these and is considered an early Steampunk novel. On Stranger Tides is not as epic as The Anubis Gate but it is still a good book.

On Stranger Tides takes place at the tail end of the Golden Age of Piracy. It follows John Chandagnac, the son of a puppeteer who is traveling to the New World on family business. His ship is taken by pirates and he is forced to join the crew. The pirates decide that his name is too long and he is soon rechristened Jack Shandy and made the cook. He learns about ships and works his way up the ranks.

During the voyage over, Jack became friends with fellow passenger Beth Hurwood. Her father and his companion, Leo Friend are both sorcerers who have come to the New World where magic still works.

Magic is in great supply in the Americas and all of the pirates have picked up a few tricks. Some are very powerful, especially Blackbeard. It is possible to become even more powerful by traveling to the Fountain of Youth.

The book is well researched and manages to shoehorn the historic Blackbeard's actions into the novel. His eccentricities, things like drinking rum and gunpowder and wearing smoldering slowmatch, are done for magical reasons.

One constant in Powers's books is that nothing comes easy. Jack Shandy may triumph at the end but he will pay for it with pain and blood.

Interesting side-note - the novel was a major influence on the computer game Monkey Island which in turn influenced the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

1 comment:

Michal said...

I'm stuck imagining your note about Monkey Island and Pirates of the Caribbean. Out of curiosity, how did you come about the connection between On Stranger Tides and these other two pieces of media?