PrintE-mail Written by Callum Shephard

Whether or not you enjoy Pirate Utopia will depend upon one thing – How well you can appreciate an unconventional approach to stories. The very name and idea of this book is an oxymoron after all, combining Eden with a bunch of pillaging, raping corsairs seems like something which would only end in disaster. However, Sterling approaches this to explore a few personal views on the subject of politics and societal evolution, resulting in a remarkably unique book.

In the middle of the Adriatic Sea, the world is changing. In the Regency of Carnaro, a population of futurists, dreamers and raiders seek to make their make upon the world. Going so far as to raid their European counterparts, they seek to oppose capitalist and communist governments alike in a bid for world dominance.

The nation itself is founded upon a union of complete absurdity, twisting certain historical figures and names until the book’s world is both familiar and alien at once. Almost reflecting the sort of “What if?” nature of comic books, you frequently find characters playing out wholly different roles than what life had planned for them. In this case however, it is used to explore themes of possibility and rising power. It’s oddly entertaining in its own way without coming across nearly as pulpy as you would expect, both due to Sterling’s own narrative skills and often focusing upon lesser known figures. It helps make his messages clear without entering the usual filibusters which typically ruin such tales.

However, this book is also a very difficult one to get through for a few reasons. Foremost among them is the books structure, both in terms prose and simple presentation. The sentences themselves are extremely brief, as are chapters, meaning you’re rarely given enough time to truly immerse yourself in a particular scene before the book moves on elsewhere. What’s more, the characters themselves can often seem fleeing at times, to the point where the book struggles to balance out such a large cast, and a few key moments are delivered with a surprisingly heavy-handed approach to storytelling.

Overall, it seems that Sterling’s ideas can be appreciated far more than the actual book itself. What he crafts here is truly remarkable, offering a fascinating look into a rising society; how civilisation can be forged in blood and the danger of demagogues to such a place, dooming it even as they raise it to new heights. Yet, despite this, the story in question can be awkward to read and often heavy handed, with a difficult prose to navigate. Read a few extracts and consider its themes, but seriously mull things over before you decide to buy this one.


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