15 September 2005

15. South Sea Tales by Robert Louis Stevenson

Finally, a new entry. I haven't really sat still this past summer so I didn't get to read many books. I guess I did a medicore job in July, but August was just terrible (for reading).

This was a great book and I definitely recommend it.

There are five small stories and one longer story in the Tales. I absolutely loved the short tales, but I didn't care much for the longer. Actually, the end of the long story left me unsatisfied, but the action and suspense leading up to the last paragraph was great.

The first story was called "The Beach at Falesa" and concerns a British trade official who starts off his new assignment on the wrong foot with the locals. He winds up in a little battle with another trader, one who is in with the locals because they think he's capable of powerful magic.

Second is "The Bottle Imp" a great little story about greed, love, trickery, and magic. There is a magical bottle that will grant you wishes. You can own the bottle as long as you want, but if you die while you possess it you go straight to the Devil. You can't give it or throw it away, but you can sell it. The catch is that you have to sell it for a loss. So if you buy it for $10, you have to sell for at most $9.99. So the guy buys it so he can make himself rich and attract the attention of the Big Chief's daughter. He succeeds, they get engaged, and he sells the bottle. On his wedding night he discovers he's got leprosy. He manages to buy back the bottle and wishes his leprosy gone. He sells the bottle and then discovers he needs it again. And on and on until he owns the bottle, but can't sell because there isn't a lower currency. Oops! But then he confides in his wife and she tells him of lands where there are such things as currency lower than a dollar. They travel on, and the wife manages to get a proxy to buy the bottle from the husband, who she then buys it from. He figures out what she has done to save them and manages to get a proxy to buy the bottle from her and he buys it back. It's love. And I won't reveal the ending.

Next is "The Isle of Voices," another very cool story with some magic in it. On an island lives a very rich and powerful wizard. He has a very tough reputation and is not to be crossed. He also pays for everything in brand new gold coins. Where does he get the coins? His lazy-ass son-in-law is let in on the secret. Seems the wizard has a spell that takes him to a beach. They go and the son-in-law discovers that the shells of this beach turn to gold coins with the magic. So he tries to use the secret as leverage on the old man wizard who doesn't like it much. Wizard dumps him in the sea. Son-in-law is rescued by a passing merchant ship. He escapes the merchant ship and is abandoned on a small island, the same island the wizard visits. Mmmm intrigue. How will it turn out?

And the last real story is "The Ebb Tide" which is about some beachcombers who go on a very serious misadventure.

The book has two more very short little stories in it, which are more like fables than anything else. One is called "The Cart-Horses and the Saddle-Horses" about prejudging, and the other is "Something In It" which I am still thinking about. It's not a particularly deep story, or especially intriguing, it just seems so, I don't know, I can't quite put my finger on it.

Anyway. I have read Treasure Island and Kidnapped and really liked both of them, so I guess that makes me some kind of Stevensonian.