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The Unknown Shore
Patrick O'Brian
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The Unknown Shore (Golden Ocean #2)

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,031 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
The Unknown Shore, a sort-of sequel to The Golden Ocean, is a fascinating blue-print for the Aubrey-Maturin series. We follow Jack Byron and Tobias Barrow, two unlikely neighbors and fast friends in whom we catch glimpses of the heroes of the epic series to come. They set off to sea in 1740 as part of Commodore Anson's fleet to circumnavigate the globe. Byron, a romantic, ...more
Published (first published 1959)
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An enjoyable story that is sort of an AU version of Aubrey and Maturin. There are some laugh-out-loud moments (especially the scene with the turkeys, the monument and the press gang) and some pretty thrilling scenes while rounding the Horn.

Unfortunately I listened to an abridged version read by David Case, who is most obnoxious to listen to. When his plain narrating voice isn't hitting 11 on the Clipped British Posh-O-Meter (with some very odd lilts mid-sentence), his different voices for the ch
The genesis of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, need I say more?

Must read for any Master and Commander fans!
Aug 21, 2013 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Unknown Shore is the predecessor volume to the Aubrey / Maturin books that dominated O'Brian's career, and is a lively book by a young author first working out his voice and his big themes.

The aficionado of O'Brian's books (that focused on the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars) will absolutely wallow in the details of this story, seeing characters, quirks, details, and ideas that will be resorted and reused in the coming series. For instance, a variation on Stephen Maturin named Tobias
Jul 05, 2013 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before the storied friendship of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin was a gleam in Patrick O'Brian's eye, he gave the world this book featuring a very Aubrey-like young midshipman named Jack Byron and his boyhood friend, surgeon's mate Tobias Barrow—who is like Stephen in all ways short of being Irish. For a dress-rehearsal of Stephen's Irishness, see the main characters in the even earlier novel The Golden Ocean , to which this book is a strange sort of sequel. Unlike most sequels, it does not ta ...more
Mar 03, 2010 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: seafaring
Not O'Brian's best tale. The narrative was choppy and at times very confusing. This was surprising given the marvelous flow that O'Brian usual gives his stories. This was not one I had trouble putting down, but a hard time pushing through.

The two main characters are clearly shadows of the Maturin/Aubrey characters of the later series. O'Brain broke the fourth wall a number of times, drawing undue attention to himself, which kept the story distant. The Golden Ocean and Master and Commander are b
Gilly McGillicuddy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 17, 2009 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am probably like most readers of this book, a longtime fan of Patrick O'Brian, principally through the Aubrey-Maturin series. Like them, I think O'Brian died too young at 86; the twenty books in that series were not enough.

In hopes of finding a bolt of lightning like the ones I had found in earlier readings of O'Brian's work, I picked up The Unknown Shore. I am pleased to report that I was not disappointed.

As a stand-alone volume, it lacks the density and momentum of the Aubrey-Maturin books
Having read the Aubrey/Maturin series twice over, I was eager to read what has been called the spiritual predecessor to that unforgettable series.

The Unknown Shore definitely reads like an early version of Aubrey/Maturin. O'Brian was clearly playing with the archetypes of what would become Jack & Stephen with Jack & Tobias: one the to-the-bone Royal Navy officer, the other an aloof but brilliant medical man.

Overall, it is a fun read, but is clearly an earlier, rougher, less refined versi
Dee Green
I have read all of O'brian's Master and Commander series and loved them. I had great hopes for this one, but was let down. The story skips all over the place without really focusing on anything. It was as if it was a completely different author.
Dec 15, 2008 Alesia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the best of his books, but it definitely gives you a feel for the wonderful Aubrey/Maturin adventures that follow.
David Eppenstein
I have read most of Patrick O'Brian's books but this one was odd. First of all I recently finished reading O'Brian's "Golden Ocean" and when I started reading this book I discovered that it uses the same 18th century British Naval voyage used in "Golden Ocean". Two books based on the same historical event I thought peculiar for any author let alone O'Brian. Nevertheless, this book seems to use the historical event merely as a starting point for the story. The main story concerns one very small s ...more
Dec 06, 2013 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O'Brian's style, familiar from Aubrey-Maturin series, is evident in the prior series, but one can tell that there is still some maturing to be done. The second half of the book could have used a trimmer edit, as the pace starts to drag while the characters struggle to survive. I also find O'Brian's narration to feel off-model at times: in the later series, he is a modern narrator but wholely familiar with the language of his characters. Here, there are some really culturally insensitive descript ...more
Apr 06, 2011 Brett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, based on an actual event during the mid 18th century, was quite enjoyable. Midshipman "Foul-weather" Jack Byron (Based on real life Admiral Baron G. Byron, Grandfather of poet Lord Byron) and his odd friend Toby Barrow, Surgeon's Mate sail aboard the store ship Wager in a squadron lead by Commodore George Anson to take possession of ships known to be carrying Spanish treasure. The adventure takes the squadron around the horn shortly after which, in foul weather, the Wager is run on a ...more
"John Byron und sein Freund Tobias Barrow gehen 1740 an Bord der „HMS Wager“, einem Schiff 6.Klasse in der Flottille von Kommodore Anson. Byron ist Midshipman und Barrow der Gehilfe des Schiffsarztes. Der Auftrag des Kommodores lautet, an der Westküste Südamerikas die spanischen Bewegungen und die dortigen Besitzungen zu stören. Um diesen Auftrag ausführen zu können muß das Kap Horn gerundet werden. Widrige Wetterverhältnisse machen diese Umrundung zu einer Tortur für Mensch und Schiff. Dieser K ...more
I love the entire Aubrey-Maturin series, which I consider my comfort-read by now. So when I was lost in a bookstore feeling a little anxious with nothing to do, this is the book I picked up.

It can be construed kinda-sorta as a prequel to the entire Aubrey-Maturin saga, although of course it wasn't conceived that way; The Unknown Shore came before the major series, and you can see how the main characters started forming in the author's mind. The essential similarity though makes you think of the
Like The Golden Ocean, The Unknown Shore is based on Commodore Anson's circumnavigation of the globe in the 1740s. Midshipman Jack Byron and surgeon's mate Tobias Barrow are aboard the Wager, which is separated from the rest of its squadron and shipwrecked off the coast of Chile. I really liked the first half of the book; Jack and Toby are clearly studies for Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, and O'Brian's humor, descriptive powers, and nautical knowledge are all as excellent as usual. The second ...more
Jun 15, 2009 Inder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Inder by: Krishna
I read this in the middle of the night while feeding my baby and while stranded in San Diego with my husband and baby, trying to claw my way home. As far as middle of the night feeding books go, this was too exciting, and I often found myself unable to put it down, even at 4 a.m. (that's saying something, isn't it?). But it was the perfect book for being stranded in San Diego for two days trying to make my way back to Northern California. Because while I was stranded in San Diego, Toby and Jack ...more
Sep 30, 2015 Marilyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely worth reading for the O'Brian lover! Yes, it's not quite as deft and witty as the Aubrey/ Maturin series to come, but still full of wondrous descriptions (going around the Horn was rippingly interesting), good characterization, and playful, unique dialogue. Though the backstories differ, the comparisons between the main characters here and the ones in the later series are inescapable. A bit heavy on the nautical terms: if you thought they were a bit much in Aubrey/Maturin, you should ...more
I read this more for completeness than out of any great expectations. I picked this up long ago under the mistaken impression that it was one of the Aubrey Maturin series. It turns out to be a precursor of sorts, written before the A/M books but clearly working on some of the same elements. I enjoyed the familiar O'Brian wit and humor.
Robert French
Mar 03, 2014 Robert French rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1959,The Unknown Shoreis a clear forerunner of the Aubrey/Maturin novels. The character of Jack Byron and his close friend Tobias develop into Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. The novel also closely parallels history as it closely follows events when The Wager, is separated from Commodore Anson's main squadron. As with the The Golden Ocean, it was very useful to read a description and history of voyages of The Wager, and the trials and tribulations of those who survived to return ho ...more
One of the few Patrick O'Brian books I haven't read 10 times already! Somehow this one escaped my obsession a couple of years ago. Anyway, the thing about this story is the immediate recognition that the main characters are sort of "rehearsals" for the Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin characters in his Master & Commander series. One can see O'Brian trying out all sorts of things that come out later as fully-fleshed out plot lines in his other books.

Unfortunately, fully half the book finds Ja
Apr 19, 2008 Agnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Agnes by: Bill
After much badgering by Bill, I finally read a Patrick O'Brien novel. It was very enjoyable and engaging historical fiction, set in the 1740s on a ship of the British navy, as it sails from Britain across the Atlantic and down the coast of Brazil, around the cape and partially up the other side. The friendship between the two main characters is the main focus of the novel. At times, the trials they face is a bit much, and the wind-up at the end is a bit too quick after all the details lavished o ...more
Apr 01, 2009 Carrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: patrickobrian
This is quite an enjoyable read, and O'Brian fans will enjoy Jack and Tobias, clearly prototypes for Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. And while this book has many of the other qualities that make the Aubrey/Maturin books so good, over one book, O'Brian doesn't have the chance to create characters with such immense depth, and to maintain plotlines over the course of many books.

If you've read through the Aubrey/Maturin books and are looking for more in that vein, definitely read this book. If you'
Oct 22, 2009 Uncleg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fiction. Midshipman Jack Byron and Surgeon’s Mate Tobias Barrow, precursors to O’Brian’s more well known Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin characters, sail with HMS Wager in Commodore Anson’s squadron to attack Spanish shipping in the Pacific. The Wager, alas, becomes separated from the squadron during a storm and is shipwrecked on an island off the coast of Chile. After a mutiny, our heroes, and others who have remained loyal to the odious Captain Cheap, travel with a group of Indians to reach th ...more
Edwin Yardley
Very good,is certainly a footprint of Jack Aubrey
Douglas Cosby
Nov 04, 2012 Douglas Cosby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ust a book about two friends, Jack and Tobias, that go on a sailing voyage in the 1740s, but very well written. Wonderful prose, great characters, subtle humor, unpredictable plot. The setup is good -- Tobias has been raised by a rich man testing the idea of having a child raised by brilliant teachers only. It doesn't really work as planned, instead of a mega-genuis, Tobias turns out to be a naive semi-genius with an endearing outlook on life. The jouney takes them around SAmerica to Chile trhou ...more
Jul 17, 2014 Todd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The characters and story was great, although the language was sometimes hard to read and I am not familiar with nautical terms. Still, a very entertaining read.
Michael Vetowich
This book was wonderful. A true maturation of O'Brian's skill occurred between this and The Golden Ocean. The story is filled with humanity and adventure. The friendship between Jack Byron and Tobias gives a tantalizing glimpse of what's to come with Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Despite this, this novel stands quite well on its own. In particular, the struggle to round South America and proceed northward up the coast of Chile is spellbinding. A terrific effort from the master O'Brian.
Jun 29, 2008 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable sea adventure that involves a lengthy account of the horrors and privations of being shipwrecked in the forbidding landscape of the extreme southern coast of modern-day Chile. My one complaint was the shockingly unenlightened view taken of the natives who helped--albeit reluctantly--the main characters. It was a bit hard to tell whether the view was intended to be that of the characters (in which case I suppose it was only historically authentic) or that of the author.
Jerry Haigh
Feb 11, 2012 Jerry Haigh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read the entire Aubrey/Maturn series at least six times, in order, and been captivated by many facets. Of course the sheer adventure is enthralling, but the way in which O'Brian has developed his characters as the books go along is magical. One reviewer called O'Brian " The Jane Austen of the 20th century." Right on! Only in the last two books as O'Brian aged and was no doubt under pressure from publishers, did the standards slip.
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Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).

Set in the
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Other Books in the Series

Golden Ocean (2 books)
  • The Golden Ocean

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