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On Stranger Tides

…And unmoor'd souls may drift on stranger tides
Than those men know of, and be overthrown
By winds that would not even stir a hair …

–William Ashbless–

The next Tim Powers novel to hit the shelves was On Stranger Tides. This superb fantasy adventure takes place during the early years of the nineteenth century in a Caribbean fertile with voodoo magic. Once more the author takes as his framework the rich history of his chosen period and binds a fiction around it so tightly and so seamlessly that you'll find it hard to believe that was not his version of events that actually occurred. On Stranger Tides sees Powers return again to some of his favourite obsessions. This book is positively brimming with raw magic and as in other Powers stories, we see the cost of sorcery to those dabble in its arcane secrets. Here, as in The Anubis Gates, we have a central protagonist forced by circumstance into lifestyle alien to him, and here also Powers continues to explore his fascination with the concept of body switching. Add to this recipe the author's knowledge of swordplay, sailing and puppetry, not to mention the way he manages to immerse his reader in the salty waters of the time and the result is a thoroughly exotic and satisfying read.

US Editions

US Editions

On Stranger Tides was first published in hard cover by Ace in November 1987. ISBN 0-441-62683-1. The cover price was $16.95. Copies of this first edition are widely available in varying conditions. The wonderful cover art was by James Gurney. There was also an uncorrected proof state issued in yellow wrap which even to this day is reasonably easy to get hold of for collectors. Follow these embedded link to ABE for the proof and the hard cover states.

US Editions

Ace issued their mass market paperback edition in November 1988 at a price of $3.95, ISBN 0-441-62686-6. This release used the same artwork as the original hard cover, but as you can see, featured a slightly different cover layout. I do not believe this edition was reprinted. Copies of the various Ace releases of On Stranger Tides are frequently offered on eBay.

In 2006, after some delays, Babbage Press finally released their long-awaited trade paperback reissue of On Stranger Tides. This edition was priced at $19.95, ISBN 978-1-930235-32-8. The cover art by by publisher Lydia C. Marano. This edition is still widely available via

Subterranean Press

In spring of 2008, Subterranean Press issued a new edition of On Stranger Tides, although they did so using the original James Guurney cover art – also seen on the Czech edition. This reissue appeared as a hard cover trade edition priced at $18.75 – you can order a copy directly via this link to Also issued were 250 numbered hard cover copies signed by Powers – these featured a variant cover layout to the trade edition and included "an exclusive portfolio section of piratical illustrations by Powers, as well as previously unpublished sketches by James Gurney.". Copies were issued at $75.00 and both states carried the ISBN 978-1-59606-167-5. Check out this link to ABE for available copies. An uncorrected proof copy was also produced and a lettered state was announced, but at the time of writing (May 2008) has yet to appear.

Ultramarine Limited Edition

Ultramarine Ltd Edition

Published at virtually the same time as the Ace first edition was a signed limited edition issued by Ultramarine Press, NY. This specially bound variant was produced under contract with Ace and made up from the same sheets printed up for the Ace release and has the same copyright page. However over time, though the bindings remain bright, those original poor quality mass produced Ace pages have tended to brown and become brittle, leading Powers to comment that this edition is "…simply a fancy cover attached to the humble, acidic Ace pages! The editor told me 'That binding will be in libraries two hundred years from now!' — and I said, 'Yes, and between the covers will be three tablespoons of brown powder.'"

This edition was issued in hard cover two states. There were 150 copies of bound in quarter red Morocco leather and 16 copies bound in full orange leather with gilt stamping on the spine and front cover. All were signed by Powers on a limitation sheet and were numbered or lettered as applicable. These highly collectible volumes were all hand bound by Dennis Gouey.

In spite of their limited number (and perhaps due to the paper quality) the quarter bound state can be acquired fairly easily on the collector's market. The full leather editions are, not surprisingly, far scarcer and far more pricey. Check availability via this link the Advanced Book Exchange.


On Stranger Tides received the following accolades.

UK Editions

UK Edition

The UK first edition came out both in hard cover and trade paperback from Grafton – a British imprint now long since consumed by HarperCollins. Both books were issued simultaneously in August 1988. The hard cover carried the ISBN 0-246-13152-7 and cost £11.95. Only 2000 copies were printed, making this edition now quite scarce. The trade paperback edition cost £6.96 and carried the ISBN 0-24613236-1. The extraordinary cover art – one of my favourite Powers cover images was by Richard Clifton-Dey. I am lucky enough to own the original artwork!

The UK mass market paperback edition was published by Grafton in August 1989. This edition carried the ISBN 0-586-07282-9 and cost £3.99. It featured the same artwork as the other Grafton releases. Here is the ABE link to find copies of the British editions.

Foreign Language Editions

French Editions

  • French Sur Des Mers Plus Ignorees. First published by J'ai Lu as a mass market paperback in 1988 using artwork by David Hardy that was hardly representative of the novel given that there was a whopping great space ship shrieking through the scene! J'ai Lu's 1994 paperback reissue corrected this embarrassment, replacing the Hardy artwork with a new image, this time by Don Maitz.

Italian Editions

  • Italian Mari Stregati was first published by Fanucci Editore as a trade paperback issued in 1994. A mass market edition followed in 1998.

Spanish Editions

  • SpanishEn Costas Extrañas. First published in Spain as a trade paperback by Ediciones Martinez Roca in 1990. A later edition (above centre), also trade paperback, was published by Gigamesh in 2001 and they reprinted this edition with new cover art in 2005.

Russian Editions

  • Russian Na strannykh volnakh. Two editions have been published in Russia, both hard cover released with illustrated boards. The first was released in 1997 by AST, Moscow. The same publisher re-released the novel in 2005, though this later edition featured a new translation of the novel.

German and Japanese Editions

  • GermanIn fremderen Gezeiten. Published as a mass market paperback edition by Heyne in 1988.
  • JapaneseGenei no Koukai was released as a small format paperback edition with a wrap around cover in 1991.

Croatian Edition

  • CroatianNa Cudnijim PlimamaA hard cover edition with printed boards, published in 2001 by Zagrebacka Naklada. The cover art is by Don Maitz (who also provided the cover art for the 1994 French Edition) . Reportedly only 800 copies were issued.
  • Czech Proudy podivna. A Czech edition is due to be published in late 2007 by Laser Books of Prague. This will be a small format paperback edition. More details and cover art will posted as soon as I have the relevant information.

Serbian Edition

  • SerbianNa čudnijim plimama. The Sirius Publishing House of Branislav Kuzmic in Belgrade (Serbia) has published On Stranger Tides in the Serbian language in 2011. The cover art was done by Željko Pahek and the translation by Sebastian Adanko. It's available at Tardis Publishing House & Bookshop.