Aubrey & Maturin sail onto Kindle!



Calling all lovers of good books! Patrick O’Brian’s entire Aubrey & Maturin series (which you might remember from the Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany movie a number of years ago) is now available on Kindle. Now you can carry around an entire Age of Sail magnum opus in the palm of your hand! No more waiting for the next book (and there will be a lot of them; O’Brian completed 20 entries before his death) to arrive!


There are two disclaimers:


1) I’ve only read the hardcopy editions, so I can’t testify as to the quality of the Kindle editions. Anyone who’s read a lot of Kindle books will know there are plenty of shonky e-book conversions out there; hopefully this won’t be one.


2) While the books themselves are excellent, they are so unique that I hesitate to recommend them without a caveat. Despite appearances, they are not nautical adventure novels. Oh, there’s plenty of adventure, and much of it nautical, but at their core these are slice-of-life novels where those lives just happen to be largely spent aboard Royal Navy warships during the Napoleonic Wars. Their core appeal comes from the sensation of being utterly immersed in an unfamiliar world, and to this end O’Brian breaks many of the conventional rules of writing. The prose is dense with both nautical jargon and period language; O’Brian will often skip over explosions in favour of co-protagonist Dr Maturin’s  scientific expeditions; the weather is as much a danger as the French navy; the entire plot of the novel may end in a fizzle. It’s testament to O’Brian’s skill as a novelist that he succeeded despite this.


And he did succeed. O’Brian’s books bring the days of wooden ships and iron men alive for me — the only other historical fiction I’ve found equally effective  being Bengtsson’s The Long Ships. They’re filled with memorable characters, great worldbuilding, and, yes, exciting set-pieces. They even contain the most erudite double entendre I’ve ever seen! If you like history, and you like books, you have to at least check these out. I started with Book 1, Master and Commander; I’ve also seen it suggested that readers could start with Book 3, HMS Surprise. Wherever you jump in, I hope you have fun, and don’t get caught by a lee shore!



Jo Walton’s re-read of the series (laden with spoilers, so don’t read this before a given book!)

8 thoughts on “Aubrey & Maturin sail onto Kindle!”

  1. Found your site from your comment on Little Red Reviewer’s post about Cordelia’s Honor. I read the first book in this series a few years ago and was doubly surprised, first by how much detail about ship life there was in the novel and second by how much I truly enjoyed it. I was of course inspired to try these by the Russell Crowe film that you mentioned (love that film) and although the book is steeped in the historical minutiae of shipboard life during that time period I ate it up. I know I have to be in just the right mood for this kind of detailed fiction to suck me in but I am assured that when I do return to the series I have a lot of great adventures ahead of me.

    1. Hi, Carl — welcome to the site! :D

      Like you I saw the film before I read the books — many years before I read the books, in fact, so for all intents and purposes I went in fresh. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head — the minutiae is a big part of the series’ appeal, and as Jo Walton points out, there’s a definite parallel with worldbuilding in speculative fiction. I hope you continue to enjoy the rest of the series!

      Incidentally, is the title of your site a reference to the Harrison novels?

      1. Yes it is. I discovered Slippery Jim DiGriz early on in my youth and have been a fan of the Stainless Steel Rat novels ever since.

        I agree with Walton, there is some fabulous world building here. I cannot imagine how much research O’Brian must have done in the creation of these stories. The books certainly make that period of history come alive.

        1. For his research, I believe O’Brian went to some lengths to dig up primary sources. I recall reading (perhaps in an author’s afterword?) about an expedition of his to look up Admiralty records. And it’s fascinating to read about where he might have discovered the term “marthambles” (a disease perioidically mentioned by the characters:

          1. I had read about the Admiralty records somewhere too and it sounded like a fascinating research project. I imagine he got to lay eyes on some pretty amazing old documents. That by itself would be a treat, not to mention actually being able to craft those details into a story.

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