Tuesday, December 25, 2007
It is rather fitting that on the twelfth and final day of my countdown of the twelve best 2007 releases ends on Christmas Day with this particular book. Over his long and illustrious writing career, Gene Wolfe often has mixed in elements of Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection in symbolic and/or allegorical forms into many of his most famous novels. And here in his latest, Pirate Freedom, the Christian elements stand out the most.
As I said in my earlier review, the main character, Christopher, is a priest from the early 21st century who somehow finds himself transported back to the Caribbean world of the late 17th to early 18th century. A world full of cultures clashing, mixing and mingling to form outlaw bands on its murkiest and most hidden shores, this provides the setting for a tale that not only explores the development of the pirate mythos, but it also deconstructs many of the legends that have grown in the succeeding three centuries. But more than even that, there is this sense of a Confession here, not just of Father Christopher confessing his deeds and misdeeds as Pirate Crisofóro, but that of a deep sharing of one's life for another to behold and to judge. While that might sound like a harsh bit, it is far from it and this sense of Christopher's life being laid out for us to judge makes for a more straightforward tale than what is usually Wolfe's wont.
Pirate Freedom is not Wolfe's deepest or most powerful work. But it is an extremely well-done work and is more "accessible" for the general reader than many of his longer works. It is for the typically high quality of the prose and characterization, not to mention the sometimes poignant confessions that occur throughout the novel, that it has made my Best of 2007 Countdown.