The Story of Robinson Crusoe may be the first independent novel ever written, and for that invention alone we have Daniel Defoe to thank. Inspired by the account of the castaway Alexander Selkirk (of which this edition includes appended) it nevertheless deviates completely from Selkirk's account to tell a moralistic story of high adventure.
The story begins with Crusoe at 19, coming from a well-to-do family with an education and prospects, who nevertheless shuns his fortune to risk his life at sea. His subsequent misfortunes are carefully designed by Defoe to both educate Crusoe in those skills necessary for a life of abject solitude, and to variously spare him and deliver him into the fortunate circumstance where he can learn particular moral lessons.
The moral lesson that Defoe is most interested in conveying (sometimes ad nauseum) is that Protestant interpretation of Christianity which promotes the beneficial relationship with God, whereby His divine providence clearly rewards those who sufficiently attend to their worship, are sufficiently thankful in their contemplations and content with the gifts and opportunities with which they have been provided. Those who do not, are adequately punished.
As such, it reads like the Old Testament Book of Job. The story runs as if the entire world is set up expressly to teach Robinson Crusoe particular lessons. This would be fine, if not for the fact that countless other innocent souls are incidentally condemned to death just to set up Crusoe for redemption. Even accounting for the fact that God should be able to manipulate all the threads of life in the Universe to a just end, it really does appear in the book that several of those who come to the "period" of their lives seem quite innocent of any sufficient iniquity to justify the loss of their existence, merely to contribute to Crusoe's theological betterment.
As such, the story is distinct from Selkirk's in that where Selkirk had a rough time of it on an almost uninhabitable island, Crusoe met with every bit of good fortune possible, with abundant space, fertility, food, water and animal life, and any tribulations he encountered were invariably of his own making or due to his own shortcomings.
Despite all this, and despite that fully half the book feels like it is given over to sermonising, the story remains absolutely fascinating. In spite of the almost literal deus ex machina that Defoe continuously employs to move the story along according to his design, despite the sometimes fantastic luck that Crusoe undeservedly gets, and the dramatic exaggerations Defoe sometimes employs concerning his hero and the forces arrayed against him, it's still a captivating (if you'll pardon the reference) castaway story that has me hooked every time I read it.
Even the endless sermonising, the assumed cultural superiority, the casual acceptance of slavery and the often disgusting racism didn't phase me. The book is merely a product of its times (and for all that is reasonably progressive given that context) and in any case, serves to illustrate the unenlightened, negative attitudes and assumptions of the people who lived in the 18th Century. On the positive side, it does reflect the progressive attitude of the reformation versus the primitive superiority of the Catholics of those times, comparing the terrible way in which the Spanish used (and destroyed) the natives of America, with Defoe's own ideas on how those 'less blessed' should be treated (forcibly converted and enslaved, apparently, though he eschews wanton cruelty).
I love this book, both as a landmark in human story telling and in being a moral stepping-stone on the way to modern ethical (and even economic) discourse. The aged language is a pleasure to read. The shame of it is that so many present-day Christians have regressed in their attitudes to the point where their prejudices would bring a blush to the cheeks of even the semi-enlightened Defoe.
This Kindle edition is perfectly acceptable, though it is unfortunate that several pages are missing (I can but hope this will be rectified at some point in the future) but for a rock-bottom price of nothing dollars, we can't complain too much. Further, there are a few OCR-related mistakes on occasion, over and above those differences between Defoe's spelling and modern English, but neither of these harm the reading experience. I cannot recommend it enough.