Vintage Vision: Pirates, Ships, and Treasure REVIEWING Treasure Island

Hi there! Welcome back to The Real World According To Sam. Today's post is yet another classic (I've been reading quite a few of them lately) and's VINTAGE VISION time!!

I have been trying to read this book for years now. I would constantly pick it up as a kid, read a couple chapters, and then end up reading something else and not finish this one, then it'd be time to return it to the library. We ended up buying it when I was in middle school and took it with me to a TAKS test to read when I finished. That didn't happen however because someone stole it on that very same day. On one of our many trips to the local library, I saw it again and decided it was finally time to read it, once and for all. Here we are at long last:

Treasure Island

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Genre: Classic Adventure
Year of Publication: 1883

Treasure Island is a classic adventure story that has been around for over a century. It is a story about a young boy named Jim Hawkins who finds himself in possession of a map that leads to treasure. He ends up on a ship, with a crew who turn out to be pirates, all on their way to find the buried treasure of Captain Flint, their previous captain. They are mutinous and under the leadership of Long John Silver, the ship's cook who appears to be rather friendly and an overall good man until his true colors are shown. Jim, Captain Smollett and Squire Trelawney have to find a way to get the best of the pirates, get the treasure, and get back to jolly old England. 

Treasure Island
This book has to be one of the most referenced books I know. I am a huge fan of Disney's Treasure Planet, a space version of this novel. I also love the use of the story in The Pagemaster. It was those movies that made me want to read it so bad. Now that I've read it, I'm almost a little disappointed. I'm not going to lie: I was expecting a lot more. That's not to say it was a bad book. I'm intrigued by pirates and won't pass up a good swashbuckling story on the high seas very often. That being said, this book is very slow and not as adventurous as I'd hoped or as it has been made out to be by various media. I understand that it was written at a much different time. This book came before the invention of the television and people probably had more patience back then. Treasure Island is a good way to escape, but it won't make you grip your seat in anticipation of much. Its not highly suspenseful. 

One thing I noticed was the constant description of the ship and what is done or needed to be done on it. Now, I don't mean ship duties, like swabbing the deck or sitting up in the crow's nest, I mean that ship terminology was used quite a bit and if you don't know the parts of a ship, you might get a little lost. I live in a desert and I've been on one steamboat and a few ferries. I've never sailed long term or taken tours on old galleons. I can imagine a standard ship, but start saying bowline, bulwarks and coxswains, and its decently easy to get lost if I hadn't been able to keep a reference image pointing every part out for me. Maybe back when it was written people knew more about this kind of thing, but I sure don't, and I doubt very many modern readers do. The ironic thing is that a similar technique is used in Jules Verne's novels. He includes oodles of abstract information about geological features, rocks, marine organisms and submarines....yet it isn't as disruptive as here in Treasure Island. I think I would assign this issue to writing style. Overall, the style is pretty simplistic. You follow Jim's narrated adventure and he tells you how it goes down, in a very straightforward manner. Once I get something like that, I expect everything to be consistent. Then out of nowhere come these naval terms and I'm forced to pause and get my bearings. In Verne's novels, its all pretty complex so its almost expected for the reader to be given large amounts of jargon,....but Verne's complexities are explained. The submarine is explained and so are the geological aspects. With Treasure Island, I was not prepared for being left to fend for myself, expected to know every element of an old time ship. I know starboard from port and I know how a ship generally works, as well as what some parts are, but not all of them. Perhaps this is more of a fault on me and my personal experience than the book itself, but it did turn me off quite a bit as I was reading. 

The other issue I had was the lack of piratical adventure. Because of the straightforward style and attempt at simplicity, there isn't very much suspenseful detail or action. I would've really liked some of that because I feel like it would've really enhanced the experience. Now I know that if I want something like that, I should just watch Treasure Planet

That's not to say the book isn't good though! Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. It was mildly entertaining and I'm not AT ALL upset that I read it. I'm glad I did and that I was finally able to get through it. I've been waiting for a long time to accomplish this. Ultimately though, the expectation I had was not met and Treasure Island is an average classic, in my opinion. I almost wish I had no expectation coming in, but at the same time, it wouldn't have changed the pacing or the lack of true suspense. The hunt for the treasure wasn't nearly as impressive as I felt it should have been. It happened rather quickly and was over just as soon as it had begun. That was a major disappointment. I feel like this should have been a really big point in the book and it was just glossed over. It was TOO simple and straightforward. These pirates have been waiting a long time to get the treasure and for it to happen the way it did was not at all satisfying. There were no booby traps or hard times locating the treasure. Captain Flint is made out to be this really bad guy, yet he wasn't evil, only harsh and fearsome. None of this comes out within the actual details and plot of the story. If he was so protective of his treasure and if he was such a fearsome captain, he should have had booby traps in place and it should have been near impossible to locate, even with the map. The map should just make it a bit easier to get bearings. I mean, the book is called TREASURE Island. I personally thought that there should be a larger focus and emphasis on all the occurrences that involved treasure and being on this particular island. Its a good book, but it definitely isn't the greatest pirate book or the greatest classic written. There is a lot that could have been improved on to make it a more enticing and satisfying story. 

In the end, I liked Treasure Island, but it doesn't appear to reach its full potential as a novel. There were many lacking points and the simplistic style wasn't always highly effective for this particular story. Its a good book that can serve as an escape from the modern world or to get a glimpse into the kind of adventure we don't have too often these days. Its fun, but don't expect a high adrenaline action tale, because that isn't what Treasure Island is. Expect plots, sailing, and simplicity in narration, because that is what you will get. It isn't necessarily a bad thing if that's the kind of book you enjoy or what you need at the moment. I'm giving Treasure Island a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯ out of 5. I love the escapism and the simplicity, but I also yearn for a good pirate tale that will send my imagination into full sail. If you want to read it, but also are not very familiar with ships, make sure you keep a tab open with a diagram, or print one out to stick in the pages until you need to reference it. 

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