Monday, June 29, 2009

Review of Porto Bello Gold, a prequel to Treasure Island

My review of Porto Bello Gold, by A. D. Howden Smith

Porto Bello Gold an alright story in its own right, but it is not very satisfying for the dedicated Treasure Island fan. I have read Treasure Island over and over since I was a young child, both abridged and unabridged as I got older. I can honestly say Treasure Island is my favorite book. Porto Bello Gold, while ok on its own, does not really do justice to the characters created by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Without revealing too much of either book, I'll say that in this book, Flint is not the character that Stevenson built him up to be. Ben Gunn and Darby McGraw are also not characterized in a satisfying way. Israel Hands is completely absent.

In some respects it seems as if the author took some of the locations and ideas from Treasure Island and worked backwards, and the result is sometimes too convenient. As vividly as he wrote, Stevenson left much of the past to the readers imagination, feeding and fueling it as only he could. Smith on the other hand seems to have felt to need to explain the origin of every unexplored detail. Some things are best left to the imagination (for example, how the stockade came to be or the identity of Darby McGraw). If anything, I would say the original Treasure Island should be read first.

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