Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Phantom Ship

By Captain Marryat

The good thing about old books is that they seldom conform to formulaic modern ideas of story telling. The bad thing is, they often ramble down side tracks and go on about all manner of clap trap (just read '20,000 Leagues under the sea' for example). 'The Phantom Ship' was first published 172 years ago, so its pretty old, and it doesn't conform to any modern notion of story telling, though the blurb on the book insists it has inspired such authors as Conrad and Woolf. It also rambles, a lot!

Rambling isn't such a bad thing, only for much of the novel, Marryat rambles on about the religious fall out of the protagonist's quest and since the protagonist is a the son of the captain of the Flying Dutchman, and is set on saving his father, but is a Catholic, and married to a Muslim convert's daughter, and is often travelling in the company of a ghost, and is friends with two different religious nutters, and whose best friend is haunted by a were wolf's curse... well sometimes, it gets a bit tough to chew through.

I wouldn't mind the constant side tracking, except for the fact that the book was meant to be a maritime classic, and whilst its true enough that the characters do sometimes find themselves on ships, these vessels play no part in the story and are merely a means of moving from A to B. Several times the protagonist leaves Holland only to arrive at South Africa within the space of a single sentence. This is particularly disapointing as the author was an experienced sailor, and coupled with the religious navel gazing was too much for my patience to bear. I finished the book eventually, but I didn't care for it.

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