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.
PIRATE UTOPIA / AUTHOR: BRUCE STERLING /
PUBLISHER: TACHYON PUBLICATIONS / RELEASE DATE: 8TH NOVEMBER 2016