“On Stranger Tides” by Tim Powers

Nope, Tim Powers has never been published in Black Static though I live in hope. Today I should have gone to see Pirates of the Caribbean 4, which is based upon, though almost certainly will be nothing at all like, Powers’ 1987 novel. I didn’t go to see the film for reasons we won’t go into, so to console myself I’m going to type up a review of the book that I wrote for my eyes only back in 1989/90, and give you a privileged view of the kind of crap I come out with when I’m not in an ‘official review mode’ (ORM).

John Chandagnac is en route to the New World to confront his scheming uncle, but a shipboard romance with Beth Hurwood leads him to throw in his lot with pirates in league with her father Ben. He is accepted by their leader Blackbeard, and taken on an expedition to the magical fountain of youth, where Blackbeard, Hurwood and his accomplice Lee Friend all gain supernatural powers. John realises that Hurwood is seeking to raise the spirit of his dead wife and use Beth’s body as its vessel. He must gain magical powers of his own and command a pirate vessel to defeat the schemers. Fortunately he has the help of a powerful spirit, intent on foiling Blackbeard’s plan for a Caribbean empire.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. This is a compulsive page turner and would make a marvellous film. Powers’ writing is unbelievably vivid. You can hear waves crashing and taste the rum, smell sea breeze and feel the ocean rolling beneath your feet. This is writing in technicolour. His magical guidelines are thoroughly worked out and adhered to rigidly. The battle between Hurwood and Friend is a tour de force, the best occult confrontation I’ve ever read. It fits seamlessly into the narrative, but as the highlight is a magical firework display. The characters and their motives all ring true. The action never lets up. Please Mr Spielberg option this story now, before some lesser talent screws it up.


I note that I was prescient on the possibility of a film, though slightly surprised to recall that there was a time when I didn’t consider Spielberg to be anything other than the king of schmaltz (but of course, he made Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Schindler’s List). I wonder if Disney have screwed it up. Anyone seen the film and have an opinion?

I’ve been writing reviews for my own use ever since the early 70s, inspired by an English teacher who thought it was a good idea for his pupils to formulate why they liked the books they read. I have thousands of them hanging round here and there.

All my published reviews start off as what I refer to as ‘book notes’, written solely for myself. To turn them into actual reviews I cut down somewhat on plot synopsis (obviously when writing for myself I don’t have to worry about plot spoilers) and expand on my reasons for liking/disliking the book. And then I try to turn it into a piece of writing that I wouldn’t be ashamed to have out there in print or online.

Okay, we’re done. Carry on with your business.

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1 Response to “On Stranger Tides” by Tim Powers

  1. Pingback: “On Stranger Tides” by Tim Powers | Trumpetville | Pirates of the Caribbean 4 ------- On Stranger Tides

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