Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review: Treasure Island

TREASURE ISLAND: The father of Pirate fiction

            Whenever I hear the word ‘pirate’, the first thing that I picture is a one-legged man with a parrot on his shoulder, yo-ho-ing in the middle of a seafaring adventure with his mates. He holds a treasure map marked with an X on one hand, and a bottle of rum on the other. Even though others will not picture the very same image, they will surely conceive of something that is not far from this. This is because of the fact that countless movies and books have featured these seafarers, and so each one of us has a general perception of what they are like. However, one would wonder where these weird features come from, and, with enough digging in the archives, he will discover that they originate from Treasure Island, a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The story is about young Jim Hawkins, who discovers a treasure map in a pirate’s chest. This draws him into an adventure of treasure hunting, betrayal, and murder. Even though the book is only about 200 pages long, it is divided into 6 parts and 34 chapters. This means that each portion is very short, and this results into a huge number of breaks. This feature makes Treasure Island very easy to read, for the chapters are short enough to cater to those with short attention spans. I must add that this shortness doesn’t ruin the structure of the story at all. In fact, it makes it better! It renders the book very well paced, and episodic in a sense.

Everything is told in a voice that is very prominent nowadays in pirate fiction -- with the usual grunts, yo-ho’s, and broken English that give the story a very nice touch. This last feature actually made me struggle between the lines. Sometimes, I just couldn’t make out the words because they are too broken. Otherwise, I have no other problem with the writing style.

            The real problem, at least for me this is the problem, is the direction of the story. At the beginning of the book, the story holds so much promise of adventure. I must admit that I was very excited for Jim Hawkins to set sail to the Caribbean to look for the buried treasure. But the story fails to deliver this promise. Instead of utilizing elements that could make the story more adventure-like, the story turns into an awkward internal conflict between the pirates. This results to a series of battles that is stretched out and quite boring to read. What makes these battles even more boring is that I can’t really sympathize with the other characters, so their deaths really didn’t affect me. Speaking of characters, I find them to be uninspired, save for a few distinct ones like Ben Gunn and Long John Silver. Some characters are so uninspired that I can’t even have a clear image of them in my head, despite the author’s descriptions.

The only redeeming factor of the direction of the story is the part from the final climax to the ending. It features several twists and turns that rouse my interest once again, no matter how little that interest might be.

I think the reason for my overall disinterest is that I just expected too much from this book. I expected a long adventure where the characters are going to develop. So when the story turns into a series of battles, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

Judging the book as a story, it is a mediocre piece. The only thing that makes this special is the fact that it has created the fundamentals of our modern perception of pirates. Maybe, just maybe, if I read this in a time when my perception of pirates hasn’t been washed by the sensationalized media, I would’ve found this book to be really imaginative.

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