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Showing posts tagged: Patrick O'Brian click to see more stuff tagged with Patrick O'Brian
Wed
Apr 25 2012 2:00pm

I recently read and really thoroughly enjoyed C.J. Cherryh’s latest book in the Atevi series, Intruder. It’s book thirteen in the series, and I’m not actually sure it’s a book at all. It would be an impossible place to start reading, and it would little sense to a new reader — this is a very complex world and a lot of things have happened in the previous twelve volumes. But more than that, excellent as Intruder is, it’s not complete in any sense. It has a beginning and a middle and an end, sort of, but it’s not only looking back to the previous volumes it’s also reaching forward to forthcoming volumes. A lot of this book is set-up for what’s coming. It has plot, but it’s not the plot of this book so much as it’s some plot as part of a much wider arc. The first six books of this series are self-enclosed, they have volume-completion. Subsequent to that what you’ve got is not so much a book as a chunk of an ongoing story that fits conveniently between covers.

Thinking about this led me to thinking about another book I thoroughly enjoyed but which is much more a chunk than a novel, George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons. And this led me to think about series again.

[Read more: Series classification revisited]

Mon
Feb 28 2011 1:01pm

I’m always reluctant to talk about authorial intent, because I know some writers and I’ve talked to them about their intentions. Sometimes authorial intent seems to shine through the text in a way that seems as plain as day, but it turns out to be all illusion. Nevertheless, although I never met Patrick O’Brian I have read all of his books and I think it’s clear that his intent was to live for his full Biblical span of eight hundred years and to write a volume about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin every year. He’d have slowly worked his way through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, we’d have read about their adventures in sailing ships in the Great War, and rescuing people at Dunkirk. Eventually he’d have yielded to history and advancing technology and taken them into space and had them fight against aliens and study the fauna of new planets, always keeping in mind the career of Lord Cochrane and the actual historical accounts of battles and the progress of natural history. I feel sure of this because he died so young, at a mere eighty-six, a few chapters into this new volume, starting new plotlines, dangling new hares, with not the least idea of ever coming to an end.

[Read more: not the sort of spoilers that matter]

Mon
Feb 21 2011 1:11pm

Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’BrianBlue at the Mizzen is the twentieth and final volume of the Aubrey-Maturin series and you’d be mad to try to start here unless you’re cast away with only this volume. I can’t discuss it without spoilers for the previous nineteen books.

This is the final volume, but it’s not the final post on this series—I’m going to be looking at the “unfinished manuscript for Book 21” next week, and considering the series as a complete thing.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Feb 14 2011 1:11pm

The Hundred Days by Patrick O’BrianThe Hundred Days is book nineteen of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series and it’s the first book I had to wait for the first time I read the series—and arguably the first book I really read in order, though I had reread the whole of the rest of the series in proper order before it came out. I own it in hardcover. While I was waiting for it, I kept accidentally calling it the “Thousand Days” even though I knew perfectly well that the title was a reference to an actual historical event that’s nevertheless a spoiler for earlier books. I believe it would be a serious mistake to start reading here.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Feb 7 2011 3:35pm

When I first read the Aubrey-Maturin series, The Yellow Admiral, the eighteenth book, was the newest book available. I cannot really recommend starting here, unless it's the only book on your desert island, and I can't say much about it without spoilers for the previous seventeen volumes.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Jan 31 2011 12:21pm

The Commodore by Patrick O’Brian

The Commodore is the seventeenth volume of the Aubrey-Maturin series, and I think it would be a very odd place to start. But as with The Wine Dark Sea, if there was nothing else around to read and you picked this up, I think you’d want the rest. I always remember the very wet camping holiday in Brittany when I was reduced to reading what everyone else had brought with them, which turned out to be The One Tree, Kajira of Gor, Wide Sargasso Sea and a Wilbur Smith book. If you’re in that situation and The Commodore is what’s available, just thank your lucky stars. But being volume seventeen, I don’t think I can say much about it without spoilers for the earlier books in the series.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Jan 24 2011 12:52pm

The Wine Dark Sea is the sixteenth volume of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series and while it’s one of the best books of the series it wouldn’t be a good place to start. I mean if you were lost in the rain in Juarez and it was the only English language book around, you’d probably go on to read the rest of the series, but I can’t recommend deliberately going out of your way to start here. And I can’t say much more about it without spoilers for the previous fifteen volumes, sorry.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Jan 17 2011 1:08pm

The Truelove or Clarissa Oakes by Patrick O’BrianClarissa Oakes (which has the stupid variant title The Truelove in the U.S.) is the fifteenth volume of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series, and it was the first one I read. As you can tell, I kept on reading, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a place to start. But perhaps I would—all of these books, once the series gets going, have a quality I call “forever bailing,” from Eliot’s The Dry Salvages. I mean that the books begin in the middle of things, they end similarly in the middle of things, there are ports but there is no destination, what you want is to keep sailing forever. From that perspective, Clarissa Oakes was a good place to start—I certainly wanted to know how they got there and what happened after.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Jan 10 2011 1:03pm

The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O’BrianThe Nutmeg of Consolation was the book I couldn’t find when I was reading the series for the first time, and I consequently read it last except for the ones that hadn’t been written yet. It’s the fourteenth book in the series, and I really appreciate owning it. It’s off on my favourite voyage ever, the voyage out of time as it runs in Europe, and it continues directly from the end of the previous volume, The Thirteen Gun Salute. It is in many ways typical of what is most excellent in the series, so perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad place to start. It would certainly be a very random place to start.

[Read more: with spoilers]

Mon
Jan 3 2011 2:24pm

The Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O’BrianThe Thirteen Gun Salute is the thirteenth book in the Aubrey-Maturin series, and it’s one of my favourites. It’s here we begin the great voyage out of time which will not be completed until the beginning of The Commodore in five books time. If you can start anywhere, you can start here, but I still think it’s best to begin at the beginning—starting here will give you spoilers for things earlier in the series that it’s better to come to at their own pace. But this certainly begins a sequence and would be a possible beginning.

[Read more with spoilers]

Mon
Dec 20 2010 12:55pm

It’s impossible to say anything at all about The Letter of Marque without spoilers for the earlier books in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. I don’t recommend starting with this one, even though it’s a very good book. It’s at this point, book 12, that my favourite part of the series begins. I don’t even consider putting them down to read something else between volumes at this point.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Dec 13 2010 11:58am

The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O’BrianIn this eleventh book of the Aubrey-Maturin series, Patrick O’Brian does something quite different, and quite astonishing. Do not start reading these books here! The Reverse of the Medal, more than any other book, deserves to be reached in due order. It’s a wonderful book.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Dec 6 2010 1:26pm

The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’BrianThe Far Side of the World is one of my favourite books of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. It’s a voyage, a glorious voyage to the Pacific to protect British whalers from the American maurauders. It stands alone far better than most of the books—which is probably why Peter Weir chose it as the basis for his movie. It’s as good a place to start as anywhere but the beginning. And it’s here that they begin to sail out of history and into fantasy. Some people don’t like that, but I do.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Nov 29 2010 1:02pm

Treason’s Harbor by Patrick O’BrianCentral to Treason’s Harbour, the ninth book in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series, is a young Italian woman in a courtyard with a lemon tree. There are ships, of course, and the French, and there’s Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend the Irish surgeon Stephen Maturin, and this is a good solid installment in the series that moves it along. I don’t suppose it would hurt to start here, but I wouldn’t especially recommend it either.

[Read more: spoilers]

Tue
Nov 23 2010 4:41pm

Lobscouse & Spotted Dog by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman ThomasPatrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels (splendidly blogged by Jo Walton) have hived off a secondary industry almost as fecund as the Hary Potterverse. Eminent within it is Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas, with the subtitle, Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels. Which it’s an attempt to cook almost all the food mentioned in the Aubrey/Maturin novels, by two New England ladies with true fananish zeal and a sprightly sense of fun, from skillygallee to salmagundy, from lobscouse (a stew) to Spotted Dog (a suet pudding).

[Read more]

Mon
Nov 22 2010 1:08pm

The Ionian Mission by Patrick O’BrienThe Ionian Mission is the eighth book of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series, and it takes us back to the Mediterranean, where we haven’t yet been except for very briefly in the first book.

I think this would be a perfectly reasonable place to randomly start reading, as it’s beginning a new mini-arc within the overall arc of story. This Mediterranean cruise is supposed to be a single parenthetic episode in Jack’s career—of course, things never work out the way people expect, and in these books least of all.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Nov 15 2010 1:04pm

The Surgeon’s Mate by Patrick O’BrienThe Surgeon’s Mate, the seventh book of the Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series, follows straight on from The Fortune of War with no more than a day or two between them. I don’t think it would be an especially good place to start reading, and certainly even in my first haphazard reading of the series I’d read a number of others first and already cared about the characters before picking this up. It’s an interesting episode, set in Canada, England, France and the Baltic, but as it’s full of continuing plot threads, I really think you should start somewhere else.

[Read more, spoilers, spoilers, spoilers]

Mon
Nov 8 2010 12:54pm

The Fortune of War by Patrick O’BrianThe Fortune of War is the sixth book of the series, and while I think it would be a perfectly reasonable random place to start reading, I don’t think I’d recommend that. It’s a terrific book, one of my favourites, and it completely breaks from the pattern of the earlier books.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Nov 1 2010 1:16pm

Desolation Island by Patrick O’BrianDesolation Island is where I think the series gets really brilliant. It’s where I stop being able to put them down between books to read other things. It’s one of the places that I suggest people can start it, if they don’t want to start at the beginning, because it’s where the plot begins.

[Read more: spoilers]

Mon
Oct 25 2010 11:38am

The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’BrianThe Mauritius Command is the fourth book in the Aubrey Maturin series. (Posts on earlier volumes can be found here.) If you’re not going to read them in order this is a perfectly reasonable place to start, as it’s as self contained as they get. O’Brian had really worked himself into what he was doing, although he had not yet started to have an overall plot, so I think this book might be one of the very best places to start that’s not the beginning.

[Read more: spoilers]