Never before have I read a book so bad that I actually felt compelled to finish it ... until now.
***WARNING - REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS INCLUDING SEMI-GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF RAPE, VIOLENCE, ABUSE, TORTURE***
If this book were to be summed up with a single sentence, it would be: FUCK YEAH I'M A PIRATE - NOW BEND OVER.
You know a book is ballsy when it starts out with racism, threats of rape, violence, and gore. AND THIS IS JUST A SAMPLE.
Oh, gentle reader, you cannot imagine the horrors that await you. But you will. You will.
So our main character, Maynard, is a suffering freelance writer. His wife left him because of his dead-end job, but Maynard is convinced - absolutely convinced - that his shining star is going to pop into view at any moment, because hey, if you've sucked at your job for ten years, things could change for the better any time. Right? Right. Makes perfect sense. For this book, anyway.
(By the way, get used to the way logic works in this book - because FUCK YEAH, I'M A PIRATE - THE ONLY LOGIC I NEED COMES OUT OF A BOTTLE.)
I've only read two Benchley books, but he's got this habit of dragging in (what I assume are) his sexual proclivities. And he appears to be hardcore interested in BDSM. Like, move over Christian Grey. This wasn't so prominent in Jaws, although there is a pretty big adultery subplot and the two extramarrital lovers spend a whole chapter talking about rape fantasies and ... it gets squicky fast.
One of Maynard's colleagues is apparently a sadomasochist, and Maynard spends a lot of time thinking about her in fascination because she's pretty and he can't help but wonder what goes on in that lifestyle. He ribs her about it a lot, and there's this pretty gross-out scene when she comes to work in a scarf and he's like "WHY?" And she's like, "Bites." And he's all disappointed, like, "Hickeys?" And she's like, "NO, MOTHERFUCKER. BITES." And lo and behold, there's these lacerations that are described as lacerations filled with blood, like she was fucking a shark.
(Note to self: Do not look up any sequels to Jaws.)
Back to business.
So Maynard finds about all these boats that have been disappearing in the Turks and Caicos islands, like 600 in the last few years, and decides that this is his next Big Story. Even though his boss doesn't approve, and insinuates that he might even be fired if this pushes into his work time, Maynard is like, FUCK YEAH, PIRATES, and goes ahead and books himself a flight -
- Oh, and he takes along his twelve-year-old son because ... HE'S A GOOD PARENT. Lolz.
There's a lot of Family Tension because apparently the kid (whose name is Justin)'s mother has been telling the kid that her ex-husband is a deadbeat who acts more like a boy than an adult. Maynard is infuriated by this, but not so much that he actually lets it impact his behavior. Indeed, during a stop in Florida, Maynard buys his TWELVE-YEAR-OLD SON a semi-automatic from a shady gunsalesman with a fake sales receipt while the gunsalesman tells them how they can sneak the firearm aboard the plane past the guards (although when he finds out that they're due headed for the South Pacific, he's like, "LOLZ. GUN CONTROL. WHAT'S THAT?"
The end of this chapter also features a page-long digression which may or may not have been sponsored by the National Rifle Association, which talks about how guns are useful tools that don't kill people and blah, blah, blah, guns rule, FUCK YEAH, PIRATES, blah blah blah.
Oh - but before I continue, let's talk about the rape. This book ... it's a fucking rape-wagon of rape (to steal a shelf-name from one of my GR friends). Because pirates = rape.
There are passages like this:
|"As she knew they would, as they had the last time, they forced her onto the table and raped her, once each. They were not gratuitously brutal. Her feeble resistance was quietly accepted and easily overcome. The knife held to her throat was more a gesture than a necessity...and when they were done, they helped her to her feet."|
Except ... then the pirates take a twelve-year-old girl away to be raped immediately after...
Nobody is safe. The pirates have this weird rape culture where there are all these guided ethics about how, when, and who to rape.
1. Raping virgins without their permission = death for the rapist because virgins are a valuable commodity.
2. When women are scarce, it is okay to fuck men because without fucking morality is low. But sodomites are frowned down upon, and the catamites/man-whores have zero respect.
3. Women, once their virginity is spent, can either be mothers or whores. Motherhood is permitted for thirteen years, and then they are "sages," or respected members of the community. Whores are whores. You have to buy their favors, and if you kill them, you lose a hand.
4. Once the pirate captain has had his fill of a wench (i.e. she was a virgin who bore him a kid), he then gives her to the crew to be gang-banged. Repeatedly.
5. Captured men of pirate lineage (i.e. Maynard) may be given to a woman as an impregnator (read: male rapee).
I know, right? What. The. Fuck.
This isn't even getting into the real nasty stuff. Like the pirate who finger-fucked one of his captives to "take her measure" to find out if she was a virgin before killing her. Or the fish oil enemas (that's right - fish oil enemas). Or the brawl between the male and female prostitute that the pirates bet on which results in a missing nipple, a missing earlobe, and a severed penis (and death).
The sheer amount of sexual violence in this book was just ... shocking. I mean, rape is bad enough. But this is just twisted and disgusting and gross, and the fact that there are children involved ...
Okay. Right. Where was I? Gun control. Florida. Children with firearms.
So Maynard finds it hard to get a plane chartered to the South Pacific, and ends up flying with Hindenburg Airlines (not the actual name), which is piloted by a fucking albino (that's right) who likes to get drunk while he flies. Because this isn't dangerous at all - no, seriously, that's what cruise control and twelve-year-old boys are for ("here, Justin, fly the motherfucking plane while I go get smashed"). Seriously. That seriously happens. And Maynard is just like, YOLO.
(Because FUCK YEAH, PIRATES.)
Of course, the albino ends up crashing the plane and goes off to have sex with a loose island native. Maynard ends up meeting this really creepy guy who calls himself Windsor, and gives a rambling chapter-long rant about his weird and fatalistic personal philosophies. I couldn't help but be reminded of Robert A. Heinlein; Heinlein always had one old, sagely character to act as his mouthpiece and spew weird sexual and sociocultural philosophy. Not sure what Benchley's personal philosophies are (and I don't really want to know), but yeah ... disturbing.
Anyway, Windsor calls Maynard's son a "catamite," and Justin's like, "What's a catamite, dad?" And Windsor's like, SOMEONE WHO PADDLES A CATAMARAN (AND BOY DO I WANT TO PADDLE YOUR CATAMARAN).
Seriously, rapist vibes all up in that joint. I'm surprised Maynard hasn't taken the boy back home (and so is his mother, because by this point it is now Monday and Justin is missing school, and the words "kidnapping charges" are being bandied around back in the States as his mother tries frantically to figure out where the hell her ex has gone).
OK. SO NOW WE ARE AT THE PART WHERE THEY ENCOUNTER THE PIRATES.
It turns out that these pirates are actually legit pirates who have been living in relative isolation since the 1600s. They speak like the 1600s, live like the 1600s, and dress like the 1600s.
So naturally, they are ignorant and unintelligible, they stink, and they are filthy.
Following lots of gory death threats, the fates of Maynard and Justin are eventually decided. Justin is innocent and therefore "pure," and is going to be trained as a pirate. Maynard is old and worthless, but because he has the same last name as a famous pirate, he's given to a woman as a sex slave in order to get her pregnant with noble pirate babies. As soon as she's preggers, though, Maynard will be killed. UNTIL THEN
Maynard has tons of sex with Beth (the aging woman (read: by aging, I mean young twenties. FUCKING CRONE.)), and she tells him a bit about the workings of the pirates. He spends most of his time chained up, but because they used a combination lock (wtf) he manages to get free (the code was 0-0-0 - smart they are not, but who cares FUCK YEAH, PIRATES). He then finds all these papers that pretty much say, "We are pirates. Fuck yeah. We rape and pillage and we have rapethed and pillagedeth since it was 1600. FUCK YEAH, PIRATES."
Maynard is like, Holy shit! I'm being held captive and raped by museum exhibits!
Meanwhile, Justin is being brainwashed. Pirate grog must be strong shit, because before long, he's treating Captain Nau like he's the number one Pimp Daddy and he's Bottom Bitch, strutting around in pirate bling, killing people with the gun his dad bought him, and getting wasted. At one point, Captain Nau takes one of the whores and orders her to have sex with Justin so he won't be a boy.
Oh, but then there's our trusty deus ex machina, the Portuguese boy from the beginning! Manuel! He is afraid that if Justin stays there he will be Captain Nau's replacement and Manuel wants that position for himself so he is going to try to help Justin and Maynard escape. But Justin is like:
So he gets knocked unconscious.
AND THEN THE FUCKING MARINES COME. Windsor is like, "Captain Nau, you don't fuck with the marines!" And Captain Nau is like, "DIE!" And kills Windsor like a bitch before taking two marines prisoner. But while the marines are getting their butts handed to them by the pirates, Maynard and Justin manage to get aboard the warship. Captain Nau chases them and gets the shit beaten out of him by an angry Maynard who suddenly develops fatherly instincts.
Nau is like, "NO BITCH. I DECIDE WHEN I DIE."
And he fucking self-eviscerates himself pirate hara-kiri style.
And many many many expensive therapy bills, pending criminal charges, later, Justin and Maynard live happily ever after, I kid you fucking not. Seriously. It ends with them holding hands.
This is probably one of the most disturbing books that I have ever read. It's like the author just decided, HEY. I'M GOING TO WRITE WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT AND YOU BITCHES ARE ALL GONNA READ IT BECAUSE I'M PETER FUCKING BENCHLEY, STEPHEN KING OF THE 1960S! It's bad - terribly, horribly, I-just-shit-myself bad.
But it wasn't badly written. And I kept thinking, Okay, so he's now done ______, no way can it get any worse. But it could, and it did, and by the time I got to the end of the book, the Mane Six of Equestria could have flown in and started getting their clop-clop on and I wouldn't have batted an eye, because FUCK YEAH, PIRATES. It's a train-wreck and I couldn't look away.
Read this at your peril - just be prepared for your scurvy stomach to keelhaul your dinner, you swab.
1.5 to 2 out of 5 stars.