Review: On Stranger Tides

Rating: ★★★★☆
powers-strangertidesThis may well be the greatest pirate book I’ve ever read.

My discovery of On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers was a strange one. First published 20 years ago, it’s largely flown under the radar amongst the pirate crowds. I’d never heard its name uttered amongst fellow enthusiasts swapping their favorite reads, I’d never heard murmurs of it being made into a movie, never saw it pop up as an recommendation – it’s honestly a miracle I discovered it at all.

It was while reading an old interview with Ron Gilbert – creator of the first two Monkey Island games – that I first learned of this book. The Pirates of the Caribbean Ride has largely been attributed as the inspiration for these brilliant games, but in this interview Gilbert indicated that it was actually the book On Stranger Tides that spurred the creation of Monkey Island. Now, the PotC rides were indeed key to my early love of pirates, and the Monkey Island Games were themselves key during my teenage years. So to learn that there might be a third part of this equation – well, I certainly had to check it out. Continue reading

Review: Raising Black Flags

Rating: ★★★½☆

Close your eyes and picture a pirate sitting on a beach. Let your brain relax and let the pirate be himself and watch what he does. Does he take a swig of rum? Start singing sea shanties to himself? Shout peculiar-yet-salty insults at whoever happens to walk by? Read from a book of poetry?

Odds are that final option isn’t one that sprung into your mind – pirates, as a rule, aren’t really considered to be history’s great poets, nor were they exactly patrons of the written arts. In fact, letters – save those of “marque” or “x” – were generally pretty useless to them. But this is probably because it wasn’t until 2008 that someone got around to collecting an anthology of pirate poetry. Had such a thing existed in the 1700’s, I’m sure many pirates would have taken their literary studies far more seriously. Continue reading

Review: She Buccaneer

Rating: ★★★★☆

Let’s face it – it’s not exactly unheard of for a couple of folks to come up with the not-quite brilliant idea of, “Hey, let’s create a movie / comicbook / game / whatever starring a pirate chick with huge boobs – the plot will work itself out somehow, I’m certain.” And it’s for this reason that I’m always a tad skeptical when I see a cover that so prominently features a chesty she-pirate as the primary sales pitch.

I’m delighted to say that The Voyages of She Buccaneer is a comic that successfully dodges the above scenario. True, our heroine is quite the fetching lass with an ultra-healthy chest that constantly threatens to burst free of its scanty pirate-flag inspired captor, but the writers of the series wisely depend on sex-appeal far less than you might expect. Instead, The Voyages of She Buccaneer focus primarily on pirate action, exotic locals, and more than a little mysterious – if historically unlikely (though no more so than She Buccaneer’s attire) – supernatural elements. The artwork is attractive and vibrantly colored, and the content is surprisingly substantive, with a full mini-adventure per issue (commendable in these days when comics seem to be getting shorter and shorter.) Continue reading

Review: Pirates vs. Ninjas

Rating: ★★★★☆

It seems that it’s been a thousand years since pirates and ninjas first took to bickering, so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to make a comic book out of it. But don’t expect any solid answers regarding which side is superior from Pirates vs. Ninjas – much like the Freddy vs. Jason film, to draw such a conclusion would not only end the series, but certainly alienate half the audience (assuming ninjas made up anything close to half the audience, which naturally they don’t but we’ll be diplomatic.) Continue reading

Review: The Stowaway

Rating: ★★★☆☆
In my time, I’d say I’ve read my fair share of pirate novels in a variety of genres. Historical fiction and non-fiction, of course – but also comedy, self-help, sci-fi… even mystery and instructional. But I didn’t much fathom the notion of reading a pirate book that was true, unadulterated fantasy. As in Dungeons&Dragons, Forgotten Realms type fantasy. Dark elves and trolls, demons and clerics – and yet that’s exactly what The Stowaway by R.A. Salvatore is.

The tale begins with a boy, Maimun, who’s being interrogated by pirates, and then continues with a series of flashbacks – recent and distant – that recount the tale of his life. And occasionally we return to the present for a brief glimpse at his pirate captor, who is indeed the sort of salty swab one would expect from a pirate novel of any genre. Continue reading

Review: How to Speak Pirate

Rating: ★★★★☆
How to Speak Pirate: A Treasure Chest of Seafaring Slang
by Geordie Telfer

I’m going to just lay it out there – I did not expect to like this book. Why not? Because I’m biased. I think Jack Sparrow has become the lazy man’s jolly roger – a way to ride Disney’s coat tails to try and siphon off a little of their merchandising power. So combine this book’s Jack Sparrow lookalike on the cover with the fact that lexicons of nautical terms already exist (very few of which make for an interesting read) and you can see why I assumed it might be garbage.

And so it was to my happy surprise that How to Speak Pirate: A Treasure Chest of Seafaring Slang turned out to be not merely decent, but actually quite brilliant in its own right. The secret? As is so often the case it’s the ever elusive thing I like to call “good writing.” You’d be amazed at the difference it can make. Continue reading

Review: Pirate Code

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Pirate Code
by Helen Hollick

Having previously read and reviewed Sea Witch by Helen Hollick, I was looking forward to checking out its sequel, Pirate Code, which seems to begin mere moments after Sea Witch concluded. We immediately join up with the tale’s protagonists, pirate Jesemiah Acorne and his – well, girlfriend I suppose (being as they’re so devoted to one another, girlfriend seems too weak a term. But since she’s married to another, she really can’t be otherwise), the witch Tiola. Tiola and Jesemiah are well occupied dealing with the difficulties of Tiola’s husband, who refuses to grant a divorce – but this distraction is soon eclipsed by the larger issue of England going to war with Spain, followed by Governor Woodes Rogers’ revocation of pirate amnesties for the purpose of pressing all able seamen into service. Continue reading

Review: Capt. Hook

Rating: ★★★★★

Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth
by J.V. Hart

I loved this book. I freakin’ loved this book.

I’ll be honest – I’ve rarely given Captain Hook much thought. I’m not a particular fan of the Peter Pan story, and most depictions of its famous villain have left me rather indifferent. Jason Isaac’s incredible 2005 portrayal was a notable exception – but exactly that, an exception. So Hook in general? Meh.

All this has changed due to Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth. This is the story of Hook before he was hook – back when he was merely James Matthew, the bastard child of a British Lord, and a new student at Eton. Continue reading

Review: Nick of Time

Rating: ★★★★½
Nick of Time: an Adventure Through Time, by Ted Bell, is an aptly named book. Not only because its story involves time travel, but because the book itself seems like something from decades past. This is a proper boys’ adventure, full of ships, daring, submarines and heroes. Its very nature hails from an earlier time, making it a thrill and a delight to read.

The majority of the story takes place in England, in the years just prior to the full breakout of World War 2. Nick and his younger sister, Kate, reside with their parents on Greybeard Island – a quaint, sleepy sort of community that’s also full of history, reefs, and shipwrecks – and also happens to be strategically useful to the growing Nazi threat. It’s troubling times, made all the more so by the political bickering in Parliament regarding what to do about the impending danger, or if such danger even exists at all. Continue reading

Review: The Pirate Life

Rating: ★★★½☆
The Pirate Life: Unleashing Your Inner Buccaneer
by John ‘Ol’ Chumbucket’ Baur and Mark ‘Cap’n Slappy’ Summers

My sister-in-law is a nurse. For those of you readers who prefer visuals to help in all matters, she’s the redhead posing on the Bilgemunky Swag page. But do bear in mind that if you just now went to the swag page to sneak a peak, you’re morally obligated to buy a shirt. I’m just sayin’.

Anyways, my sister-in-law is a nurse. And the problem with nurses in the family is they have this thing – it’s called “wellness.” The concept behind wellness is that you’re supposed to think about your health all the time. You’re supposed to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and try not to put any crap into your system – i.e. anything fun. Proponents of wellness fail to grasp that the whole point of an annual checkup is so that you don’t have to think about these things the other 364 days of the year. It seems these people think that getting poked and prodded by someone with an “M.D” after their name one day each year is no longer enough, and that all matters regarding our health should somehow infiltrate the rest of our lives. It’s a right crying shame, if you ask me. Continue reading