14 January 2013

On Stranger Tides: Is an eBook worth it?

I posted my farewell to physical books a few weeks back. Well, last night I finished reading my first ebook!

While I love the texture and smell of a real book, here’s what I like about ebooks:
  1. Carrying a whole library in your pocket wherever you go is hard to beat (makes me feel like Merlin from The Sword in the Stone). 
  2. It’s not heavy or cumbersome to hold above your head as you lie on your back.
  3. If you use your phone, you can read at night without a light.
  4. You can press-and-hold any given word to see the dictionary’s definition.
  5. You can highlight a passage even when there isn’t a pen or pencil in this entire stinking house, much less one within leaning distance.
  6. Your bookmarks sync to the cloud, so you can throw your phone in a river (if you’re the adventurous type) and still not lose your spot!

Now, let me tell you about the book I read:

It’s called On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers.

I’d call the book a thriller, which is my favorite genre. It’s basically a serious version of the Monkey Island games (which I loved as a kid, and played again last year on my iPhone)—it has pirates, swordplay, sea battles, and—most of all—voodoo magic. Tim Powers truly makes you feel like you’re there (like the scene in the storm with Venner clomping slowly after you, cutlass in hand, as the waves wash over the gunwale and push your blade further away across the deck).

The characters are beautiful and interesting too, and they stick in your mind—characters like Jack Shandy, Skank, Woefully Fat, Governor Sawney, and of course Blackbeard himself.

It’s obvious Powers did his research. You learn nautical terms because Powers uses them so much. He weaves in history too, including Port Royal falling into the sea, the government offering all pirates a general pardon, and the death of Blackbeard (he also includes cameos from Anne Bonny, Calico Jack, and Juan Ponce de Leon). But don’t think this is historical fiction—the voodoo is at the heart of the story.

Oh, and as with all good pirate books, there is some colorful content you might want to skim past as you read—or caution your children about. Ye be warned!

If you remember, Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was subtitled On Stranger Tides. However, tragically, that’s about the only thing the screenwriters took from the novel (a pox upon ‘em). But it’s not the first time an excellent book has turned into a horrible movie (have you read and seen Michael Crichton’s Timeline?)

On Stranger Tides is an awesome pirate book. It isn’t perfect, by any means, but if you like adventure, you’re sure to love it. In fact, I liked it so much when I was a teen (this is my second time reading it) that I even sketched a few of the characters. For your viewing pleasure:


  1. I resisted e-books for a long, long time. I finally read the (unabridged) Count of Monte Cristo on it. I found it was a very enjoyable experience and now I always try to read my books on my tablet. Same goes for my phone.

  2. You make a convincing case for ebooks, point 5 especially. You have nudged me a little closer to the edge...


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— J