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!)