Historically fairly accurate, well-written, some interesting characterizations. MUCH better than the movie which conflated several books and was simply confusing if you hadn't read the books. Anyone interested in the politics of the British navy through the Napoleonic wars (how one got a commission, moved up, made money, etc.), the details of different kinds of ships and how they sail, tensions within Britain in terms of class and ethnicity (Irish vs. English), will find interesting material here.
I've read a couple series of nautical, historical fiction. This one jumps right to the complicated language of the sea on page one. However, beyond my general lack of understanding of the nuances through much of the book, I found this a very enjoyable book. I will be ordering the next in the series directly.
I really liked this book. It was a bit slow in places, and it used a lot of nautical terms I didn't know, but overall a good story and pretty easy to read. I was pleasantly surprised. It does have some differences from the movie, but most do. Enjoy!
I picked this nautical adventure up after seeing the movie, which I thought was quite entertaining (and had Excellent sea battle scenes). It's the first of a very long series of similar adventures by the author. After reading it, I could see how the series could stretch on - it doesn't really have a tightly crafted plot, but is more of a realistic account of events at sea: "this happened, and then this happened and then we met this ship, and then this battle happened, and then we went somewhere else, and then..." etc.
O'Brian definitely did his research - the life at sea seems believably detailed, and he says that all the battles he describes, etc, are based on actual incidents of the time period.
However, to me, the style of the novel was a bit lacking in, well, romance and adventure. And emotional interaction. Things will happen, but you don't really see them happening, or ever find out about how the people involved felt about it. Some of the incidents are quite, umm, salty. (Including whoring, venereal disease and even bestiality (death penalty for that one!)) But it all happens off-screen as it were, and the reader feels very removed from it.
Perhaps this is why (to be stereotypical) these books have traditionally been more popular with male readers? I don't know.
Glad I read this, but I don't feel the need to seek out the rest of the series.
Compelling story, old fashioned writing style. Read the Hornblower series or Bolitho series or Biddlecomb series first.
Im on pins and needles writing this review. I dont want to write a crappy review only to discover that the series gets better, but I also dont want to steer you wrong by saying this is a great book when its not. Many people who I respect a lot think that the sun rises and sets on this series, so I do want to read it and find out why. So far with book one, Im unenthusiastic.
Why didnt I like it? There are a lot of reasons. The style of writing makes it hard to read, and the immense level of detail makes it hard to keep reading. The book uses an old style of writing where paragraphs are haphazardly used and its very hard to find the lede. Couple this with technical jargon (about sailing ships and the navy) and historic accuracy, you get a book that is dangerously close to bringing death by boredom. Fortunately, its a compelling story, and I found myself wanting to continue reading, despite all the obstacles that the author put in the way.
So far I have only read this book, which is the first of around 20 in the series. People have asked how it compare to other books in the same time period like Horatio Hornblower (by C.S. Forester)or Richard and Adam Bolitho (by Alexander Kent) or Richard Delancey (by C. Northcote Parkinson) or Isaac Biddlecomb*** (by James L Nelson). I think its far closer to the Richard Delancey series in that it has gotten off to a rough start because its too technical and spends a lot of time on historical detail. As it turns out, the Richard Delancey series became much better with each book, and Im hoping that is the case for this series.
NOTE: all these characters are British with the exception of Biddlecomb who is an American.
I would urge you to start with the Hornblower or Bolitho or Biddlecomb series first as they are more readable.
Triggers: Its a book about naval warfare in the 18th century; the bodies stack up like cordwood. Its all violence, no sex. There is some off camera sex which results in the execution of one man and a goat and a separate act results in an STD to a main character. There is a reason people think that sailors and marines have colorful language, and in this book the language is colorful. (The author does tone some of the language down, its not the worst I have ever read.)
The story telling is good, the characters interesting and I did care about what happened. I just wish it was easier to read. Hopefully the series gets better.
Captain Jack Aubrey is ashore on half pay without a command, until Stephen Maturin arrives with secret orders for Aubrey to take a frigate to the Cape of Good Hope under a commodores pennant, there to mount an expedition against the French-held islands of Mauritius and La Réunion. But the difficulties of carrying out his orders are compounded by two of his own captainsLord Clonfert, a pleasure-seeking dilettante, and Captain Corbett, whose severity pushes his crew to the verge of mutiny.
This, the first in a splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Capt. Aubrey, Royal Navy, and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against the thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of life aboard a man-of-war in Nelson's navy are faultlessly rendered: the conversational idiom of the offers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as the great ships close in battle.
"The best historical novels every written." NY Times.