I have been a fan of Michael Crichton's work since I read Jurassic Park in the fifth grade. He is my favorite novelist and I have read all of his fiction (and I hope to read his nonfiction works as well). So, it was for slightly selfish reasons that I was greatly saddened by his death last November--I didn't want to never read a new Crichton novel again. So, when I heard that they had "discovered" a completed manuscript and an unfinished work after his death, I was thrilled. I recently picked up a copy of Pirate Latitudes and over the last few days, devoured it.
For those of you who are a fan of Crichton's science-fiction works, like Sphere or Jurassic Park, be forewarned that, as the title suggests, it is more of a historical novel, so it is more like The Great Train Robbery. As expected, Crichton must have spent a ton of time in research about seventeenth century colonial life in the Caribbean, especially conflicts between the Spanish and English over land, wealth, etc., and the use of piracy . . . um, sorry, I mean "privateering" by the British.
The novel follows the exploits of Captain Charles Hunter and his ragtag crew as they go on a sea voyage to attack the Spanish outpost of Mantanceros, commanded by the feared Spanish commander Cazalla. While the novel has some of the usual elements of a pirate story, like a hurricane and a giant squid, it is not written in a cheesy fashion. While it is true that pirates are in fashion now (due to the Pirates of the Caribbean films and even a pirate exhibit at the Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg a few years back), the novel is not a "trendy copycat." Like many of Crichton's novels, it is an exciting pageturner. I could barely put it down; especially the second-half. It's not my favorite Crichton novel, but Pirate Latitudes didn't disappoint. I gave it four stars out of five on the weRead scale on Facebook.
The Pirate Latitudes wikipedia page says that Steven Spielberg is going to adapt the novel to a film, with David Koepp writing the screenplay. IMDB has it listed as a 2011 release. I'm looking forward to it.
*** Note: just as a side comment, the book is probably the most violent of Crichton's books, so if you get queasy, you might not like it.