Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder
by Edward Chupack
Silver is a fictional autobiography as penned by none other than Long John himself. Starting with his roots as a back-alley thief and working up through common pirate to eventual captain, it traces his entire life in shameless detail. Long John delights in every crime, every murder, every maneuver for advantage against his adversaries and allies alike.
The first thing a reader needs to understand is that this is not the Long John of Treasure Island – Disney or otherwise. Rather, it’s a new perspective of this same character – more sinister, more murderous. Throughout, many important details of this account won’t quite match with John Hawkins’ own famous telling – this is intentional, as the author states his purpose to create a new story inspired by the Long John Silver, rather than a mere prequel limited by the exact characters and events of Treasure Island. This is important to note, because otherwise a reader might go nuts over several apparent discrepancies (Long John’s missing leg, the origins of the treasure, the role of Hawkins, etc.)
So, knowing that we must evaluate Silver as a standalone novel, how does it measure up? Not bad, actually, although I did need to grow accustomed to two key issues before I could fully enjoy this book. The first was Long John’s manner of speaking (or more accurately, writing.) This is a novel written from beginning to end by a pirate, and it reads as such. But mind you, this isn’t the typical pirate writing, n’which tha author jus trim’is words ta try’n emulate a pirate-like accent, but rather, it’s written with an educated pen, rich with metaphor, slang, and bravado. It makes for a colorful read, but does take some time to get used to. The second issue that took some time was Long John himself. In Treasure Island, he comes across as a clever rogue and a master of manipulation, but he’s also warm and oddly paternal. Not so in Silver – in this story Long John has a heart of ice. Murder is the key to his success, and he delights in indulging in such. Where the Long John of Treasure Island was sort of an anti-hero, in Silver he’s just an out-right bastard. And the sooner you stop trying to “like” him, the sooner you can enjoy the tales of his exploits.
As a story, Silver is enjoyable, if somewhat drawn out. It makes for an interesting read, but it’s difficult at times to know where it’s all heading, save towards Long John’s end, whatever it may be. But there’s another factor involved, one that may be of special interest to those who enjoy mysteries. In the telling of his tale, Silver recounts his own pursuit of Treasure Island, and the clues to its discovery hidden within a bible he’s come to possess. It’s riddles within riddles, full of cyphers, codes, and misdirection. It’s the sort of stuff that boggles my own mind – I’ve no head for such things, so can’t state whether the riddles could be plausibly solved, or whether I’m just too dense to keep up. And of course, there’s more to the riddles than originally stated, but for that you’ll have to read it yourself.