March 4th, 2012


Book Review: Master and Commander, by Patrick O'Brian

Rum, sodomy, and the lash! The first book in the Aubrey/Maturin series.

Master and Commander

Harper Collins, 1969, 352 pages

This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain 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 officers 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 road of broadsides as the great ships close in battle.

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Verdict: Master and Commander is a salty sea adventure with booming cannons and ample verisimilitude, and obviously the inspiration for many military SF imitators like Elizabeth Moon and David Weber. It's long on detail and action, a bit short on character development, and the pace is not always brisk. I liked it well enough, and might try another one of O'Brian's novels in the future, though I think you'd have to really, really love you some sailing ships to want to read twenty of these.

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