Friday, 7 July 2017

Last Voyage a the Vengeferth, by G.A. Schindler - 5 Stars

I’ll give you an assessment at the start, which isn’t normal on my blog except when I’ve found a hum-dinger: This book is the best possible present to give anyone for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (19th September each year) and it is for exceptional and unusual books like this that I want to continue reviewing indies. There you go. Stick it on the back.

“’tis a tale far more enjoyed in the telling than ’twas in the living through.”

I’m an independent reviewer and although sent an ebook for free to critique, by the time I had read to page one hundred I was into the story enough to go online and buy the paperback for my permanent collection. The only negative thing I can point to is the use of kilometres, not miles and yards. Oops? Although the km was invented in France in 1793, the rest of the world didn’t start using it until the middle of the next century, which I believe would be after the golden age of piracy. I could be wrong. Having got that oarless gripe out’a the channel, I have to say the rest deserves none of my usual sarcasm. Oh, and you do need to read it slowly because that’s really the only way to soak up the words of this coral tongue, so zippy speed readers shouldn’t touch this.

“Then very slowly a half vague, ghostly crow’s nest began poking up from the mist dead ahead… Soon Gorden’s sharp gaze read from her bow “Crazy Cousin” and we all fell about laughing.”

The subject? Well, if you can’t tell from the cover, it engages with every idiomatic aspect of the pirating experience in a neat little rowing boat of a book and all expressed in the authentic language of “Ah-Har Jimlad”. Super. A heaven full of parrots, rum and salty coves.

The “piratese” language is a tradition in itself, as used by Tom Baker as the mad ship’s captain (Blackadder, 1986), Spike Milligan in the Q Series (Long John Silver’s dialect becomes infectious and goes down a chorus line, c. 1970s), Jim Carrey (A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2004), Douglas Adams in his first appearance at the Edinburgh Festival (An Unpleasantness at Brodie’s Close, 1976), Graham Chapman and rest of the Monty Python team (Yellowbeard, 1983), plus of course in Moby Dick (1851) – but the most famous source is of course Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883). I wonder now whether this language in its entirety came from fiction first or whether it was genuinely how criminals at sea spoke and then one fictional character, Long John Silver, popularised it around the world? In other words, fiction owns it now, so we all love pirate talk and long may it prosper. This book deploys the language of the blue sea, burning sun and privateer freedom, which has already earned its wooden legged and eye-patched place in the history of entertainment. Is it a serious book though? Yes, but does it have to be?

“Though lightened, Vengeferth was no feather.”

There’s a quite brilliant conceit in which a small boat is “rescued” by a sinking ship full of trusting Christian missionary passengers who have no crew aboard. Having decided that the crew were unacceptable to them because they were swearing too much, they had packed them off with a lot of money to hire a new crew and send them back to the ship instead. They’ve been waiting for quite a while now but the new crew are sure to be along any time…

“The Captain’s condition worsened due to lack of alcohol.”

I liked the metaphors and the best of those is for “a wall” (rogue wave), which is described as God’s hand moving across the sea, brushing the crumbs off of the table. Equally, this book seems to be spilling off the top of a wave of independent publications that sometimes seems too large for readers to tackle alone and the fact that no independent reviewer at all has rated it on Goodreads yet is saddening as it could have gone completely unnoticed. Message in a bottle?

“So the party was on. We drank rum, swam, played runabout, ate meat, drank rum, sang, told stories, drank rum, sang, ate meat, played games, slept a spell an’ went back at it.”

Without giving the plot away, if you want to have your confidence restored in the mercurial bounty of indie writers and what they can come up with, you do need to add this book to your collection. If you read it and don’t agree with me, I’d be very surprised. If you don’t then think it would make the perfect entertainment present for your mates on Talk Like a Pirate Day, they deserve a lick’o-the-cat. Not literally. Cats taste awful, unless you’re stuck in a row boat fer forty days, in which case they look mighty pleasin’ t’ the eye. Jim lad.

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