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On Stranger Tides Hardcover – Oct 1987

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Ace Books (October 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441626831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441626830
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. World Fantasy Award–winner Powers (Three Days to Never) demonstrates a precise control of complex narratives in this reprint of his rollicking and enchanting 1987 novel. Puppeteer John Chandagnac, bound for Jamaica to recover stolen money from his uncle, becomes Jack Shandy after pirates attack his ship and force him to join their crew. Shandy's struggle to accept his new life grounds the story for readers, even as Blackbeard and vodun magicians whisk everyone away to dreamlike lands where the Fountain of Youth itself awaits. The chaotic sea battles sing, though at times key events happen so quickly that they get lost in the shuffle as Jack tries to comprehend where he's going and what's at stake. This dark fantasy tale will appeal not just to pirate fans but also to anyone who appreciates Powers's talent for blending the most unlikely elements into a brilliantly cohesive whole. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“One of the most original and innovative writers of fantasy currently working….The quality of Powers’s prose never falters….His writing defies characterization and he never repeats himself.” (Washington Post)

“[On Stranger Tides] promises marvels and horrors, and delivers them all. You’ll love the characters, you’ll stay awake all night reading it, and when you finally do sleep, you’ll find this story playing through your dreams.” (Orson Scott Card)

“Tim Powers is an uncommon literary talent….Exceedingly readable….If heavenly muses were to put Dean Koontz, John Le Carré and Robert Parker into a creative blender, then molded the mix into a brand new writer, the result would be something akin to Tim Powers.” (Denver Post)

“Powers [has] considerable gifts.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Powers has forged a style of narrative uniquely his own, one filled with sharply drawn characters, fully imagined settings, elaborate underpinnings that pull all rugs out from under us and let us glimpse terrible, ragged floors beneath.” (Los Angeles Times)

“Tim Powers has long been one of my absolutely favorite writers, those whose new books I snatch up as soon as they appear….The qualities I most admire in him [are] intelligence, narrative sparkle, great dialogue, speculative imagination, and emotional power.” (Peter Straub) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is one of those books I find myself reading over and over again. The historical detail sucks the reader into a fascinating "secret world." I read this book when it originally came out in the 80's and have continued to enjoy it ever since. It's like a vacation for your brain.
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Format: Hardcover
Other reviewers have dealt with the plot in great detail, so I'll limit myself to saying that the cross-over of genres between voodoo and piracy is brilliantly executed. This is, in my opinion, the best book by Tim Powers, with the possible exception of "Declare." That "On Stranger Tides" may be sold for almost thirty dollars in "acceptable" condition shows the tremendous demand for it by cognoscenti.
Blackbeard the pirate with slow matches smouldering in his beard -- a terror to behold. He's even more terrible when you learn WHY he keeps those matches smouldering, and why he's made common cause with an insane one-armed widower who carries his dead wife's head in a box, ably assisted by a lecherous "student" whose has two main aspirations: to win the love of the widower's bewitched daughter, and to ... well ... to become God. Opposing them is reluctant puppeteer-turned-pirate Jack Shandy, who wants nothing more than to claim his stolen inheritance ... and to win the girl, of course.
This one proves the rule that "price denotes quality" -- of the text, if not the physical medium. A beat-up paperback priced more than a new hardback? That means "classic." I strongly reccomend it to all, me 'earties. Aargh!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 140 reviews
99 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Giving Stevenson a run for his money Dec 28 2000
By Beau Yarbrough - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Sure, "Treasure Island" is the best pirate story of all time -- but it's by a narrow, narrow margin. While Stevenson was a heck of a fantasy writer -- check out his "Bottle Imp" if you doubt it -- Tim Powers is perhaps the best fantasy writer most fans have never heard of.
And in typical Powers fashion, in "On Stranger Tides," he tosses in everything he thinks he might need in a pirate novel -- historical figures, naval action, a noble man in a bad situation, voodoo, jungles and so on -- and a few things only he would think to link to the rest and comes up with another hit, and my favorite Powers novel.
The action here careens back and forth across the Caribbean and if Powers isn't wrestling crazy ideas to the ground as he does in "The Stress of Her Regard" or "The Anubis Gates," it's only because, this time around, the play's the thing.
This is a book I loan out to all of my sea-loving friends, knowing that they'll devour it and hand it back to me, more battered than ever, but it's a book I can't keep to myself. Now, if only a hardbound edition would come out, so that I have a chance at actually having a copy in decent condition.
This is a "grab it if you see it" buy for fans of fantasy, pirates or wild adventure stories. "On Stranger Tides" is a dynamite novel by one of the best genre authors working today.
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another rip-roaring yarn. . . July 17 2001
By Mary Jacco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
My friend Dean and I regard Tim Powers as one of today's best writers that hardly anyone knows. We can only hope loyal readers such as ourselves using forums such as this one can get the word of Mr. Powers vast talents out to the masses!!
Interestingly enough, though this is one of Mr. Powers' earlier works, it's the one I waited the longest to read. No apparent reason, but I wish I wouldn't have waited so long. It fits right in with the author's penchant for offbeat plots. In the past, Mr. Powers has written about ghost hunters, gamblers with a sense of the occult, and other eccentricities. "On Stranger Tides" introduces us to the world of Caribbean pirates with a bent for the occult. It is not as dark as other Tim Powers novels, but is every bit as powerful and entertaining.
The story takes place in the early 18th century and is a confabulation. That is, it is a work of fiction that includes in its cast, actual, historical personages who lived during the time. In this book, one-time Bahamian governor Woodes Rogers, infamous pirates Stede Bonnet and Edward Thatch a.k.a. Blackbeard, Colonel William Rhett, the Receiver General of the Carolina Province, and a wildly anachronistic Juan Ponce de Leon, cross paths, and sometimes swords with the unlikely buccaneer, Jack Shandy, Phil Davies, the pirate with a heart of gold, and Benjamin Hurwood, a one-time Oxford don gone insane with grief over the death of his wife Margaret. As always, Mr. Powers' research and attention to detail shine through as we are given lessons in history, geography, and voodoo while we follow the romps of the picaresque heroes of this book. Yes, the pirates are the heroes. . .
Which brings me to one of my favorite characters of the book, Jack Shandy, who was born John Chandagnac, spent time touring Europe with his father as Shakespearean puppeteers, became an accountant when his father died, and, finally, became the most unlikely pirate captain to sail the seven seas. Forced to run afoul of the law in order to protect the beautiful, yet innocent, Beth Hurwood from the evil machinations of her deranged father, Shandy espouses the philosophical side of this novel. Jack means to remain a law-abiding citizen, but, when given the chance, he seems to always make the legally-wrong-yet-morally-right choice. In that sense, Jack's plight rivals that of Scott Crane in Mr. Powers' excellent "Last Call". Mr. Powers captures the essence of the less-than-pure hero as well as anyone writing today. In his world, Everyman can shine, even if his intentions are not always pure and noble.
My only gripe, if I can call it that, is that, like in his other novels, Mr. Powers delves into a level of esoteria and detail that only a historian or shaman can appreciate. It's almost like he's telling his readers that, no matter how much they know, he knows a little more. But, that's a small price to pay for the chance to enjoy some of the most innovative fiction being written today. If you've never read any of the works of Tim Powers, this is a fine place to start.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Average Powers still better than most Dec 21 2002
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For some absolutely bizarre reason some person gave this book to my grandfather (whose favorite book is Popular Science) thinking that he might like it. So that explains how I wound up with this novel, which I had actually been seeking out for some time. And it turns out to be an awful fun read, not as consistently dazzling as The Anubis Gates or Last Call, but definitely falling into the solid entertainment catagory. Powers turns back to the clock to the time of the pirates, and into that pot throws voodoo magic, zombies, sorcerers and the Fountain of Youth. His plotting remains are deft as ever, although everything feels relatively straightforward this time, most of the major twists you can see at least a portion of them coming from somewhere, there isn't a huge amount of complexity going on and overall it's probably safe to say not a lot really happens. But even Powers on auto-pilot has much to offer and his depiction of the pirate community is great fun and the introduction of the fantasy elements never feels forced or contrived, the journey to the Fountain of Youth is one of the book's creepiest and most magical moments. And even though there's not a huge amount going on, Powers keeps the action coming and moves things along swiftly enough that at least you're rarely bored, even if you're being more entertained than amazed. To date, Powers hasn't written a bad book and he still has tons more imagination than most of his writing peers so that his novels are at the very worst merely interesting instead of jaw droppingly good. That's the case here, you'll find the book a pleasant enough time but it certainly doesn't rank with his best work. Still, it's great fun and who said being merely entertaining was bad? This should be next on the list after you've whetted your appetite with The Anubis Gates or Last Call. You won't be disappointed.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some strong elements sit uneasily alongside weaker ones April 28 2011
By A. Whitehead - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Caribbean, 1718. Jack Chandagnac - Jack Shandy - is sailing to Haiti to reclaim some property when his ship is boarded by pirates. Shandy is recruited onto the pirate crew and becomes aware of a bizarre conspiracy that is unfolding between one of the passengers, Benjamin Hurwood, and the feared pirate Blackbeard, involving Hurwood's daughter Beth and the mythical Fountain of Youth. Shandy is soon drawn into a strange and magical quest set against the backdrop of the dying days of piracy in the Caribbean.

On Stranger Tides is arguably Tim Powers' most well-known and influential novel. Published in 1988, it has been quoted as one of the primary inspirations behind both Ron Gilbert's splendid Monkey Island computer games and also the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, to such an extent that the film producers bought the rights to the novel and the imminent fourth film in the series is both named for and draws on some of the plot elements of the book. Yet it's not quite the swashbuckling, good-time adventure that the those later works would suggest.

On Stranger Tides is rich and full of vibrant colour that brings alive the setting, but it's also weird, offbeat and often downright bizarre. Jack Shandy is a reluctant hero who spends a fair amount of time moping around and musing on his bad luck rather than getting on with business (especially in the second half of the novel, dissipating dramatic tension rather than building it up) whilst Beth is a fairly weak character lacking much motivation, rather disappointing given there aren't many female characters in the novel (in this regard the inspired works have done a better job; Beth is no Elaine Marley and isn't even an Elizabeth Swann). On the plus side, the likes of Blackbeard and Davies make for more interesting characters, though as one of the main villains Ben Hurwood lacks any real defining characteristics beyond being insane.

The writing is crisp, clear and flows nicely, with Powers conjuring up some dark and threatening vibes whenever seriously weird voodoo goes down. He's also good at the skirmishes, with cutlasses flashing in the sunlight and pirates and navy crewmen urgently reloading their pistols and boarding one another's ships with wild abandon. There's also a nice maudlin feeling evoked at the dying of the pirate culture in the face of increased colonisation of the islands from Europe, though Powers never lets the reader forget that, for all its romantic image, piracy was built on theft, pressganging and murder.

On Stranger Tides is thus a mixed bag: the central plot starts and stops a bit erratically, and some well-rounded, three-dimensional characters with well-explained motivations sit uneasily next to cliches and cyphers. The dark and foreboding atmosphere evoked by the magic is impressive, but then tends to be undermined by the 'science' of voodoo, which sometimes reduces it to just another fantasy magic system. The action sequences are rousing, but infrequent. But overall the novel has a strange, offbeat atmosphere that is interesting and, if the plot doesn't flow as well as it could, the weird collection of characters and their antics makes for an enjoyable, if not entirely page-turning, reading experience.

On Stranger Tides (***½) is available now in the UK and USA.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never throw a dead bocor into the sea . . . July 30 2003
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For the past couple of years, I've been re-reading all the earlier Tim Powers novels -- the yarns that got me hooked on his writing in the first place. He has a way of interweaving tidbits of "real" history with fantasy and mythology, resulting in a "secret history" novel that can have you questioning what's *really* real. In this one, John Chandagnac, son of an itinerant French puppeteer, most recently a bookkeeper in London, discovers that his late father's brother is a wealthy merchant in Port-au-Prince because he embezzled the elder brother's inheritance. John intends to journey to Haiti, get his late father's money back, and see his crooked uncle hang. And the transatlantic voyage is made more enjoyable by meeting young Beth Hurwood and her father, a one-armed Oxford don. But then life takes a turn. The merchant vessel is waylaid by pirates -- and Hurwood turns out to be in league with them. John is pressed into the pirate crew, is renamed "Jack Shandy," and discovers why Blackbeard twisted smoldering slow-match in his hair and beard. Then the plot really starts to move, with pirates who make everyday use of voodoo (now virtually extinct in the Old World), and a quest for the Fountain of Youth, and a quest to rescue Beth from her father's evil designs, and a renewed quest to even the score with his uncle Sebastian. The last third of the book is narrated at a dead run, as everything comes together and explanations are made for some of the story's more puzzling earlier events. And Jack's skill as a puppeteer comes in very useful indeed. This is one of Powers's best.