Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers (unabridged audio book read by Bronson Pinchot)

This review was originally published on SF Site.

John Chandagnac, son of a puppeteer, is still mourning his father's death when he sets out for Jamaica to get back his inheritance from the uncle who stole it. To this end, he charters the Vociferous Carmichael but gets to see another side of sea life when it is attacked by Phillip Davies, privateer and captain of the sloop Jenny.

Chandagnac gets on the wrong side of a pirate captain (by defeating him with sword techniques learned for puppet shows) and is offered the choice to either join them or die. Now christened "Jack Shandy," he discovers that the people he thought were on his side are simply out for themselves (isn't that always the way?) — including one's strange plan for the legendary Fountain of Youth, which has very different powers than usually supposed.

On Stranger Tides, the 1987 novel from author Tim Powers now available in audiobook form, is also the source material for the fourth film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, gladdening many of Powers' fans since that will undoubtedly bring his work closer to the mass appeal they have long felt he deserved. The option apparently existed long before it was revealed, since the third film in the series most definitely foreshadows this book's Fountain of Youth plot.

For those who have not experienced his work before, Powers is a discovery. On Stranger Tides combines the mundane and the supernatural into a gripping narrative filled with high adventure. It has the potential to please readers of most forms of genre fiction, with plenty of gunfire and swordplay alongside voodoo, zombies, ghost ships, and sorcery, with numerous startling twists that never stretch the bounds of plausibility. There's adventure, revenge, romance, and intrigue all folded together into a cohesive whole as Powers never loses sight of his primary goal of telling a ripping yarn. He maintains a consistent level of tension throughout, along with a great deal of humor, toward a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

Another discovery made through listening to On Stranger Tides is the highly advanced narrative skill of actor Bronson Pinchot. Pinchot is probably still most widely known for either his seven-year stint as the pseudo-Greek naïf Balki Bartokomous on the situation comedy Perfect Strangers or for his scene-stealing turns as Serge in two Beverly Hills Cop films. But his deft handling of unplaceable accents in those roles does not prepare one for his reading of Powers' work. The sheer number of accents Pinchot tackles is impressive, and his ability to distinguish characters while juggling various dialects within a single conversation is nothing short of astonishing, making the audio rendition a much fuller experience than the text alone could provide.

1 comment:

Mike Shaffer said...

If you're at all interested, I conducted a conference call interview with Tim Powers a few months ago on the writing podcast I host: Farland's Authors Advisory. Here is a link to Tim's episode:

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