On Stranger Tides

Tim Powers
On Stranger Tides Cover

On Stranger Tides


A while back I picked up On Stranger Tides. I had heard that it would be the template for the next installment in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (#4) and because I'm such a huge fan (not, really). It was a whim, one I thought that would pass after just a few pages, as whims often.

Boy, was I wrong.

Within just the first couple pages, John Chandagnac has been captured by pirates, stabbed and nearly killed the pirate captain, and been "invited" to either join the pirate crew or, proverbially speaking, to walk the plank.

"Adopt our purposes as your own," the bleeding pirate tells him, or die "where you stand." Pretty standard pirate fare, right?

The plot only gets weird from there. But I shouldn't be surprised, right? Because we're talking pirates, right?

Before he knows it, Chandagnac, or Jack Shandy as he is dubbed by his new crew, is plotting his escape back to respectability and lawful society, hoping to take with him the lovely, and also kidnapped, Beth Hurwood. Just as he's about to effect his escape, he finds himself, unwittingly, the quartermaster to his captor embarking on an expedition to the fabled Fountain of Youth.

With stops to Jamaica, Haiti, Florida, the Carolinas, and an odd assortment of Caribbean blink-and-you-miss-it islands, not to mention a supporting actor/villain/antagonist role played by the most famous pirate of all-Blackbeard-On Stranger Tides proves to be a creative ride of a story that I thoroughly enjoyed. If it's not one thing happening to Chandagnac, it's another, and the leaps are as fantastical as any that made their way into Disney's adaptation. Powers has a talent for showing with subtle but colorful language that reflects end of an era at the closing of the 17th century and the birth of the 18th. Or at least it so seems to this reader, separated by several centuries from Caribbean swashbuckling in the dawn of the New World.

My only regret? That Disney would be working its limited magic to diminish the fun and fantastic that Power's pirate tale gives to the reader. It's unfortunate, and it is why I suspect that this is one book that cannot be improved by cinematography or Johnny Depp. (Spoiler alert: the book is much better than the movie)