Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book review: Fiddler's Gun/Fiddler's Green by A. S. Peterson

These books follow the adventures of Fin Button as she goes from being abandoned at an orphanage to becoming a legend.

The first part deals with Fin's life in the orphanage. She is a tom-boy in her late teens who hates the orphanage. She hopes to help build the new church. Instead she is assigned to help the old cook. He teaches her to cook and play the fiddle. When he dies she inherits his fiddle case which also contains a blunderbuss pistol named Betsy.

The Revolutionary War intrudes and Fin has to flee. She becomes a sailor and discovers that she loves the sea. As the war progresses her crew becomes privateers. It turns out that her captain and the old fiddler are connected. This leads to conflicts both with the British and her captain. By the end of the book Fin is voted captain.

In Fiddler's Green, Fin and her crew are offered a deal by Congress. They will be pardoned for past of offenses if they save a countess from the Barbary pirates. It soon becomes obvious that they have bitten off more than they can chew.

These books are readable and fairly well researched. The story drags a bit at the beginning but picks up when Fin goes to sea. Some of the plot twists are predictable - almost painfully so. This is mainly true in the first book. The second book is an improvement. Few of the plot twists in the second book are telegraphed.

These are not happy books. Most of Fin's companions die along the way which Fin blames herself for.

A few notes on the premise:

Women sailors disguised as men existed. There were even more women disguised as soldiers from the Revolution through the Civil War so Fin passing herself off as a young man is quite possible.

The book has several ships of the line taking part in the Revolution. I don't think the author realizes just how big and powerful these ships were or he would have used "sloop" or "frigate" instead of "ship of the line". This and Ben Franklin's use of "kilometers" are the biggest historic goofs that I noticed.

Fiddler's Green is a special heaven for sailors. The song is from the 20th century but the legend goes back at least to the 18th century.

The books are available through the official site and through Amazon. Both books are available in the Kindle format. Only the first one is available as a Nook book.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


So, what to make of Syfy's Neverland?

Obviously the movie was a prequel to Peter Pan. Not so obviously, the producers probably did not pay royalties so the production was a little strange.

The main characters were Peter (I don't think that we got his last name) and James Hook (who did not wear a hook and was never referred to as "Captain Hook", even after he took command of the pirates). Instead of being Blackbeard's quartermaster and a look-alike for King James, this Hook was a Victorian fencing master and thief. He did eventually pick up a red coat.

Instead of pixies and fairy dust, we had tree spirits and mineral dust.

Peter did learn to fly. Instead of whistling, he carried a tin whistle. Instead of green, he wore his London clothing. He did lose his shadow at the end but not in a Victorian nursery. In a nod to the book, Peter was cursed to lose his memory and be eternally innocent (that was his description in the book). It wore off.

Peter had a band of orphans with him but they were never called the Lost Boys.

Plus there were pirates, indians, and a giant, eight-legged crocodile (this was a SyFy production, after all). There was also a giant scorpion that could spin webs.

The pirates had a nice ship and looked ok (except for one who looked like a Jonny Depp impersonator). The pirates were led by a woman and was probably inspired by a couple of historic pirates.

The whole thing was a two-night, four hour (including ads) production. The problem is that they only had enough plot and special effects money for two hours so they padded it with a lot of talking followed by more talking.

Bob Hoskins reprized his role as Smee which he played in Hook, another production that ran too long. He was generally wasted as was Kiera Knightly as the telepathic voice of Tinkerbell.

The concept was good but the production was too serious. A lighter touch would have helped a lot.

When I first watched Hook, I ad a hard time rooting for Peter Pan. I knew that I would fit in better with the pirates. The same was true with Neverland.