On Stranger Tides

Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 16, 2010

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

Twelve people gathered at the Milwood library to discuss On Stranger Tides, the pirate novel that will serve as the basis for the next Pirates of the Caribbean film. Eight of us had read Tim Powers before. Nine of us started the book, and seven finished it.

One reader totally enjoyed the action-packed story filled with swordplay, and plans to see the movie. She learned some history from the book. She liked that this book had elements of Caribbean magic, but felt that that Nalo Hopkinson handled this element better (in Brown Girl in the Ring, written much latter but recently discussed by the Reading Group).

Another member had read the book when it was new. He found that it was a quick, enjoyable read. He was amused by the puppetry element and the book’s gratuitous references to pirate movies and novels.

One member enjoyed the book a great deal. His favorite character was the pirate captain. He thought it was clever how everyone had ulterior motives in the story, but it all came together in the end.

A couple of us commented that Powers’s writing is just not enjoyable to read, with a prose style they felt did not flow naturally to them. They kept finding things to distract them and set the book down every few pages. One of these people commented that he’d enjoyed his first Powers novel (The Anubis Gates) but had started and not finished at least four others since.

One person struggled with the book initially because she tried to read it as a Pirates of the Caribbean novel. (The book was years before the first Pirates movie.) When she gave up on the Disney mold and started reading the book on its own terms, reading went much better. She’d read the book while waiting for jury duty.

Other readers were big Powers fans but felt this was the author’s weakest book. One found it interesting to reread in the context of “How are they going to make a movie from this?” Another liked the surreal flashbacks.

Near the end of the meeting, we discussed other good pirate novels. Recommendations included the work of Jeffrey Carver, Jack Vance, Robert A. Heinlein, Elizabeth Moon, David Weber, Steven Barnes, Gene Wolfe, Greg Keyes, Robin Hobb, Michael Crichton, Neal Stephenson, Kage Baker, and Nalo Hopkinson.

After the meeting, many of us had a nice dinner at Culver’s.

–A.T. Campbell, III