Book Review: Silver, by Edward Chupack

Edward Chupack’s Silver takes place long after the adventure on Treasure Island. Long John Silver has been captured, and is confined to his cabin, bound on his own Linda Maria to England and the hangman’s noose. Ever the narcissistic rouge, he drafts his memoirs as an address to the Maria‘s new captain, a former hearty of Silver’s. Chupack’s novel (as it is written in the moment) takes place entirely in Silver’s cabin – he never speaks directly with the captain, just the cabin boy Mollett as he brings Silver his daily meals and Silver sends him back with the pages of this memoir, subtitled “My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder.” And Silver does tell of murder, as well as the sea, and the men he has met, and the treasure he has found, lost, and finally reclaimed and hidden.

Chupack’s depiction of Long John Silver is clever and consistent. He has a strong voice that never wavers through the telling of his story. Chupack also succeeds in preserving the somewhat romantic qualities of pirate life – the freedom, the honor among thieves, the glory of the open seas. Even though the body count resides somewhere in the triple digits by the end of Silver’s tale, it should be noted that the violence is not graphic and is often glossed over with something as simple as, “so I slit the tar’s throat.” The way Silver tells it, it’s less like murder and more like an occupational hazard.

Despite the wit and charm of this book, I still feel there were a few weak spots. Early in his epistle to the Linda Maria‘s new captain, Silver condemns the fever that has started to grip him. What begins as a mere annoyance seems to become a real threat to his health, both physical and mental. He drifts frequently from his tale into self-absorbed rants and eventually hallucinations. At these points in the narrative, there is nothing much for the reader to do but soldier on, as there is little purpose or plot to follow. I was equally disengaged by the repetition of the clues leading to Silver’s grand treasure. First the cipher means this, and then it means that, but it could perhaps mean something else altogether. Frankly, Chupack lost me in this wild goose chase, and I just floated through to the next spike in action.

I did find myself invested in the different vignettes Silver painted. I enjoyed reading how he came to be Long John Silver, and not just another boy living off the pity of others in Bristol. I enjoyed the many scenes aboard the Linda Maria as Silver moves from cook to captain, and the depiction of each of Silver’s questionable mates. I also appreciated the subtle revelations near the end of the book, and how they tied so many pieces of Silver’s history together.

I have read some complaints about Chupack’s lack of loyalty to the Treasure Island story, but I was not affected by this in the least – probably because my only exposure to Treasure Island involves singing Muppets. If you are adamant about the two books being in harmony, then you might give pause before diving in to Silver. But if you can forgive some zigzags in plot and pace, and you enjoy a fun pirate tale, then this is certainly an enjoyable read.

Thank you to Sarah at Book Trib for this review copy.

Book details:

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Format: Hardcover Book
Publish Date: 02/19/08
Pages: 288