Sometimes it's great when you turn to this website after having read a book and you discover that a lot of the things that you felt reading it struck the same notes in other reviewers.
Water Music is a wonderful book, the kind of book that takes hold of you and sucks you into its world, making you think and dream of Africa. Someone compared it to the Indiana Jones movies and it's really this kind of story, moving from one desperate situation to the next. It reads like a movie script at times, albeit one for at least five movies. Boyle never forgets his characters, though, which are wonderfully detailed and interesting. I loved the dry humour of the book, even though at times the calamities the main characters got into seemed to be a bit too much.
Even though Boyle deflects criticism at the very beginning, claiming he changed historic facts as wished to, this only rarely leads to errors I could catch (but Africans giving the finger in 1800 I coudn't quite imagine).
As in other books of Boyle (Riven Rock comes to mind), I didn't like the ending much. Maybe it's because I cared too much about the characaters not to have every fate explained (I don't like it when fascinating characters simply disappear from view). For the ending provided, I agree to the other readers claiming that the last 100 pages build up to something they don't deliver (a feeling I got at the majority of Boyle's short stories, too). But it's an engrossing book nonetheless and I would recommend it to everyone preferring their adventure stories to have some finesse.