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The Reavers by George MacDonald Fraser

As noted in an earlier post, this was George MacDonald Fraser’s last book.  Fraser is best known for the wonderful Flashman novels, recounting the adventures of Victorian era swag Harry Flashman, who was, certainly not by his bidding, involved in nearly every conflict of the 19th century. Besides the Flashman novels, Fraser wrote several other novels. The Reavers is closest in style to his earlier romp The Pyrates.  Derivative? Perhaps. By his own admission in the forward, Fraser took his old novel The Candlemass Road and redid it in the tongue-in-cheek style of The Pyrates.The present book is very similar in style to The Pyrates, even containing the striking paragraph spanning giant sentence similar to the former book. Fraser delights in egregious anachronisms while at the same time correcting some minor historical inconsistency in a footnote. It is completely over-the-top, replete with political incorrectness that might be upsetting to some. Fraser himself pointed out in an article published not long before his death that his Flashman novels, well received 20 years ago, began to get the cold shoulder from some critics as times and attidtudes changed, because of the blatant racism of the books’ hero. Of course, Flashman is depicted as a total poltroon throughout the books, cowardly, cruel, despicable really, so no one (I suppose) could read into his racial attitudes (which were common at the time) anything but yet another blight on his character. The present book carries these stereotypes to an extreme, which I think is a way of mocking racial stereotypes, but not everyone will think it funny I suspect.

Harry Flashman is one of those immortal characters like Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and James Bond, who develop an existence independent of their creator. I wish Mr. Fraser had one more Flashman in him: I was really looking forward to the oft-alluded-to Flashman in the Civil War, but it was not to be. This last book made me smile, as all his previous books have, and I am grateful for it and for all of them.

By mannd

I am a retired cardiac electrophysiologist who has worked both in private practice in Louisville, Kentucky and as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. I am interested not only in medicine, but also in computer programming, music, science fiction, fantasy, 30s pulp literature, and a whole lot more.

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