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Set the Seas on Fire Paperback – September 4, 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Roberson adds a pulpy twist to Napoleonic-era naval adventure as the crew of a damaged English frigate finds both paradise and hell on a pair of uncharted Pacific islands. First Lt. Hieronymus Bonaventure, last seen in Paragaea (2006), serves gamely aboard the HMS Fortitude, but longs for something more exciting than harrying galleons across the South Pacific for an aging captain dreaming of padding his retirement stash. When the Fortitude is badly damaged and blown into mare incognita, the unknown sea, the crew manages to reach a tropical island where the natives are friendly and the ship can be repaired. An attack by bat-winged creatures foreshadows the danger awaiting on the forbidden island of first volcano, where Bonaventure leads his men when his native lover, Pelani, is kidnapped. Roberson delivers a fairly standard but well-crafted adventure story for most of the book before delving into the supernatural. The novel is a good bet for adventure fans who want more than your average Horatio Hornblower clone. (Aug.)
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About the Author

"Chris Roberson's novels include HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE (Pyr, 2005), THE VOYAGE OF NIGHT SHINING WHITE (PS Publishing, 2006), and PARAGAEA: A PLANETARY ROMANCE (Pyr, 2006), and he is the editor of the anthology ADVENTURE VOL. 1 (MonkeyBrain Books, Nov 2005). Roberson has been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and twice for the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Short Form (winning in 2004 with his story ""O One."" He runs the independant press MonkeyBrain books with his partner.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Solaris (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844164888
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844164882
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,428,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By SciFiChick VINE VOICE on September 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
In the early 1800s, young Hieronymus Bonaventure is a lieutenant aboard the HMS Fortitude. His ship encounters two extremely ill Spanish sailors, spouting danger about a nearby island. But as the HMS Fortitude is damaged, the crew must seek refuge on the closest island, and meanwhile try to uncover the truth from the Spaniards. The island on which the British crew arrives is a seemingly tropical paradise, complete with friendly natives. But when the British express interest in the volcanic island nearby, the natives warn them that the island is forbidden and dangerous, of supernatural proportions.

The story jumps back and forth between Hieronymus as a young boy, just beginning to learn swordplay, and as Lieutenant aboard the Fortitude. From his early years, we learn about his excitement for adventure and what has shaped him into the man he is to become. Following Hieronymus' adventures as a man, we're treated to a swashbuckling good time. With action and suspense a plenty, Set the Seas on Fire is a wonderful adventure on the high seas.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is unclear why the publisher used two different covers, but I assume the content is the same (although one is listed as having more pages). This is a different type story if you are used to the usual fare from C.S. Forester, Richard Woodman, etc. A boy aspires to be a swordsman and seek a life of adventure. He joins the Royal Navy as a midshipman at the advanced age of 21 during the Peace of Amiens in 1802, expecting that Napoleon will start the war again. Most of the story is either about his training as a swordsman, or his adventure in the South Seas aboard a British frigate as the ship's first lieutenant during the final days of the war.

The ship is in pursuit of a Manila Galleon, and must put into an uncharted island for repairs. There is a lot about the sojourn on the island, and interactions with the natives. The chase continues when they learn that the damaged galleon has also put into an island, a volcanic island with bad karma. So there is the British naval crew, native warriors, remnants of the Spanish ship's crew, and dangerous strange creatures. The ending seems a bit anticlimatic.

The novel is written at about the teenage to young adult level. One might guess that the author has a sequel in mind, but the war with Napoleon is ending. The main character, perhaps just past 30 at the time of the story, still has potenial.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Early in Chris Roberson's "Set the Seas on Fire" (Solaris 2007), an intellectual debate breaks out among the crewmen regarding the question: is there one ocean or many on this watery planet of ours? The protagonist of the novel, Lieutenant Hieronymous Bonaventure, takes the position that "There is, I put to you, but one ocean, around which the lands we know are arranged like a necklace of stone and tree. A true orbis terrarium, the circle of lands of which the ancients spoke, and which we are just now rediscovering to be the truth." Later, at the end of the novel, Bonaventure speaks again of the watery world: "Bonaventure knew well that there was but one sea, vast and unending."

Within the image of the "unending sea" we have the metaphor of the novel. Bonaventure as hero is, in a sense, "unending." As he should be, because, after all, he is a "pulp fiction" hero. However, there is another more important meaning in the image of the unending sea--a literary conclusion about the nature of genre, which I contend is Chris Roberson's true subject. In other words, in his literary weltanschauung there are no boundaries between the various genres. A historical novel can easily morph into a tale of horror and a hero in a tale of horror can step through a portal into another world. So "Set the Seas on Fire" is a "genre" bender, a mélange of pulp fiction tropes.

Chris Roberson, like Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, is working within the confines of pulp fiction. Pulp fiction arose in inexpensive magazines in the 1920s and continued through the 1950s in mass market paperbacks. Pulp fiction contained a wide variety of genre topics: fantasy, detective, western, science fiction, adventure and westerns.
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