Friday, January 20, 2012

Under the Black Ensign - Audiobook Review

Title: Under the Black Ensign
Author: L. Ron Hubbard
Narrator: Multicast
Unabridged Length: 2 h, 0 m
Published by Galaxy Audio, 2008
Genres: Pulp Fiction

From the Publisher:
Tom Bristol barely escapes an unjust death sentence aboard the British HMS Terror when the ship is overtaken by pirates. Soon enough, Bristol is stranded on a desert island for stopping a pirate mutiny. When Lady Jane Campbell joins Tom at sea, things really set sail in this swashbuckling adventure.

My Review:
Under the Black Ensign is a Caribbean Sea adventure set in 1680 when the British, Dutch, French, Danish, and Spanish were fighting for control of the islands and the rum and slave trades.

It is the story of Tom Bristol, the former first mate of the Maryland-based bark Randolph who is press-ganged into British naval service while in port in London. The story begins not far off St. Kitts with Tom now a crewman of the British man-o-war HMS Terror, sailing in the Caribbean, taking the Lord High Governor from England back to his residence on the British held island of Nevis for his wedding.

Tom is working high in the lines with a marlin spike, splicing rope. He accidently drops the tool which nearly hits the Lord High Governor who is standing far below on the deck with the captain. Immediately Tom is accused of attempted murder. He is sentenced to 100 lashes, a certain death sentence, to take place immediately. Just as this is about to start, the HMS Terror is attacked by pirates, overrun, and Tom is saved and invited to join the pirate crew.

A number of sea battles, plot twists, and even a love interest all combine to make Under the Black Ensign a fun and fast moving piece of pirate escapism.

This entire adventure takes place in a relatively small area of the Caribbean, from Nevis to the Anegada Passage east of Puerto Rico. Hubbard’s attention to seafarer detail is amazing, given the relatively short length of this adventure.

Simile and metaphor abound in this story. Here is Hubbard’s description when we first meet pirate Captain Bryce, when he captures the HMS Terror. “Through the wreaths of powder smoke came a gigantic figure, like the devil himself, striding through the fumes of brimstone.”

The performances by the full cast are all well done, albeit somewhat over-the-top which is fitting for pulp fiction. R.L. Daley does a great job in the “narrator” role of the story. The sound effects are superb and the original music between chapters fits well with the adventure.

This book was originally published in the August 1935 issue of Five Novels Monthly, during the Golden Age of pulp fiction.

If you’ve never listened to any of the Golden Age classics from Galaxy Audio, you really need to, and Under the Black Ensign would be a great place to start. This is pirate escapism at its best in audiobook form. Yar!!!

A review copy of Under the Black Ensign was provided by Galaxy Audio through the Solid Gold Reviewer program of Audiobook Jukebox.

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