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H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey & Maturin #3)

4.41 of 5 stars 4.41  ·  rating details  ·  8,772 ratings  ·  345 reviews
Third in the series of Aubrey-Maturin adventures, this book is set among the strange sights and smells of the Indian subcontinent and in the distant waters ploughed by the ships of the East India Company. Aubrey is on the defensive, pitting wits and seamanship against an enemy enjoying overwhelming local superiority. But somewhere in the Indian Ocean lies the prize that co ...more
Audio, 0 pages
Published April 1st 2004 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1973)
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Let us beat to quarters and join Jack and Stephen on the H.M.S. "Surprise," a Royal Navy frigate during the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Jack Aubrey transports an ambassador to The Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), while Stephen stops at remote locations along the 30,000 mile journey to conduct scientific experiments. As we sail around the world with the crew of “Surprise,” we drop anchor in Madeira, Bombay, Calcutta, St. Paul's Rocks, and the coast of Brazil, to refit, to resupply, or to observe flora ...more
Jason Koivu
My favorite of the first three novels and perhaps of the entire series! HMS Surprise deftly combines the best aspects of the first two books. Love, friendship and war. Frankly, there's so much going on it's hard to believe O'Brian fits it all in comfortably!

The amazing thing about this book is how it takes you on a ride around the world, touching base in England, the Mediterranean, Africa, South America, India and the South Pacific islands. All of this lush scenery is a joy to behold in O'Brian'
3 – 3.5 stars

As the rating attests I enjoyed this book, but I am not sure if I will ever be one of the rabid legion of fans enamoured of Patrick O’Brian’s work. I certainly enjoyed this book much more than I did Master and Commander which, quite frankly, I found opaque and uninteresting. I also skipped over the second book in the series since Aubrey and Maturin on land worrying about their love lives didn’t really seem like the next best point to re-try getting into the series. For some reason I

Thus to the Eastern wealth through storms we go;
But now, the Cape once doubled, fear no more:
A constant trade-wind will securely blow,
And gently lay us on the spicy shore.

HMS Surprise is the name of the latest command of Captain Jack Aubrey, a frigate with a ragtag crew sent on a solitary mission to the Indian Ocean. The book debuts with a messy affair involving Doctor Aubrey Maturin who is betrayed by his own side and tortured by the French in Minorca and the ususal financial troubles for Ja
I like listening to this book better than reading it, I think. This one is steeped in the emotional lives of Jack and Stephen. It's the first that really starts showing us how deeply these men feel about each other and the others they care about, and hearing it rather than reading it adds a level of intimacy that increases the novel's emotional satisfaction.

It opens with Stephen's torture at the hands of the French, and Jack's daring rescue. Captain Jack cares for his wounded friend with a tend
Roger W.
This, the third of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, gave me great pleasure in reading. This came surely in part by again meeting the old, well-loved figures of the previous two books. It's true too that this is my third reading of the series as a whole, so a kind of nostalgia was partly in play. However that was certainly not all there was to it.

This book includes some extremely harrowing as well as uplifting sections, as well as O'Brian's usual streak of humor. We have more of Maturin t
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathan Piazza
The opening scene of "HMS Surprise" — which pits the venerable spymaster Sir Joseph Blain against the incompetent new First Lord of the admiralty and a cohort of greedy, politicking officials — is a study in what makes Patrick O'Brian perhaps the greatest genre novelist of all time and one of the premiere prose stylists of the 20th century.

With an economy and subtlety that are dazzling, he is able to lay bare the souls of both institutions and individuals in a way that reveals how intricately th
In praising Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin books I am on well-trodden ground. In a sense, it is superfluous to do so: so many people, of such varied and excellent taste, have praised these books to the skies that further lauds from the modest likes of me are hardly necessary. Still, I'm glad to add my words. These stories concern Jack Aubrey, a ship captain in the English Navy at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and his great friend Stephen Maturin, an Irish-Catalan doctor and spy who in the f ...more
It's my second time through H.M.S. 'Surprise', and I am surprised to discover that I am ever so slightly disappointed. The narrative of H.M.S. 'Surprise' felt a little uneven this time through, and despite a breathless second act and an emotional denouement, I put it back on my shelf a little disappointed.

This disappointment feels strange, though, because there is so much that I love in the story. The opening debate over the Spanish gold -- prize money won at the end of Post Captain -- is a fasc
I enjoyed it, but there didn't seem to be as much exciting stuff as in the previous two books. But for all that, The first part was very strong in the Aubrey/Maturin friendship as Jack braves an enemy port to rescue Stephen from a torture chamber, and Stephen's slow recovery back somewhat to his old self. Of course not all goes well, as Diana Villiers appears on the scene once again to take Stephen's heart and dash it onto the floor a few times and stomp on it for good measure. (I really do not ...more
Here's how Patrick O'Brian ropes you into these books:

Make the beginning and the end so good, so ridiculously compelling, that you completely forget about the bombastic, flowery, tediously overwrought writing throughout much of the middle. I enjoy the hell out of these audio books, but I have a feeling that if I had to actually sit down and read them, I'd go a little insane and possibly hoarse from screaming, 'OH MY GOD GET ON WITH IT ARE YOU KIDDING ME SHUT UP'. Brevity was not the author's str
Sherwood Smith
The first six chapters of Patrick O’Brian’s H.M.S. Surprise read a lot like Post Captain; they largely carry on the story from that book, the humorous plot threads as well as the poignant.

Jack and Stephen contrast so perfectly. There is no neutral, passionless moment. Jack continues to be central to splendid action scenes; the sea-battle against Linois at the end is breathtakingly vivid and evocative—the moreso as Stephen is playing his cello, a single melodic voice, through the relentlessly a
This time Aubrey and Maturin make a long and difficult passage from Brazil to India, venturing close to Antarctica in the process. Albatrosses, storms at sea, a great battle against the French in an attempt to protect a East Indian merchant fleet, and a strong cast of supporting characters make this a great read with some moments of deep sadness. "I am of her caste" was a line that brought me to tears, and the focus on Stephen's internal life (which Jack is often not privy to, or truly able to c ...more
I think I could be content with never reading another one of these wonderful stories, but I would not be happy! Number three was another 10 for me! I love those salty old sailors and Captain Aubrey's friendship with Doctor Maturin is such a highlight of the stories. The Doctor's role as an intelligence man is expanded and Jack has to go rescue him and all of the crew volunteers to go! A shocking duel and the Doctor operates on himself. Wow! Jack stays by his side and nurses him through it all. J ...more
Cheryl Klein
I'm not going to add all twenty O'Brians here, because I don't really have individual reviews for them. . . . All twenty just stand in my mind as one long reading experience of near-unalloyed pleasure. But H.M.S. SURPRISE was an especial favorite among those twenty, featuring Jack's first journey on the Surprise, Stephen's first (?) major betrayal by Diana, a duel, and of course the debauched sloth.
Not literature, but a lot of fun.

Too much back story in the first chapter, though disguising it as an Admiralty board hearing softened the blow.

As usual eyeball deep in nineteenth century naval terminology, but enough human interest to keep us engaged.
Matthew Hunter
"Jack, you have debauched my sloth.... (in French) your sordid morals … you are trying to corrupt my sloth … come on then, you bastard … you silly cad …”

What would lead Stephen to rip Jack so thoroughly? Well, Stephen's passionate about chronicling the natural world and observing the behavior of nonhuman animals. He brings a sloth aboard. Jack feels insecure about the sloth's seeming ambivalence toward him. So, Jack tries to win the sloth's affection by plying it with food and booze. Stephen pro
Christopher H.
H.M.S. Surprise will always be one of my favorites of O'Brian's twenty completed volumes in the Aubrey-Maturin series; and the reason is that it is where we first meet the "bluff, weatherly, and stout" little frigate Surprise. Surprise, her crew, Captain Jack Aubrey, and the ship's doctor, Stephen Maturin embark on a long voyage to delivery His Majesty's Envoy, the elderly and frail Mr. Stanhope, to the East Indies, with stops in India, and interspersed with some terrific naval actions at sea.

I envision O'Brian writing languidly day and night among a midden of dusty, open, clothbound primary-source naval literature, a fire greedily stoked, and a single-bulb desklamp under which he pensively hunts and cross references ancient medical and nautical terms. O'Brian's at his best when his mind is at sea.

Unfortunately, once again, Patrick O'Brian restrains his wonderful gift of describing nautical action, and instead develops the relationship between Captain Jack Aubrey and surgeon Stephen
I'm mystified as to why this series is considered by many to be the greatest historical fiction ever written, and particularly for the Age of Sail fiction, O'Brian is often considered better than the master of the genre C.S. Forester. The books are generally entertaining but hardly the nail-biting, page-turning adventures of the Horatio Hornblower series. Nevertheless O'Brian must be given due credit for capturing the era beautifully, particularly the dialogue, but even the details of daily life ...more
EJD Dignan
Repeated from review of Book 1

That Patrick O'Brian chose to place his characters on the sea in the not so distant past just raised the hurdle I had to leap to get to know this wonderful author.

I had never been enamored with sea stories, didn't much care for European history, and yet was wonderfully taken with this series. The sea is a major character, but history is not greatly illuminated, almost a backdrop to the specific circumstance the characters find themselves in. Which perhaps reflects t
Gilly McGillicuddy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I enjoyed the first two books but hadn't really fully bought in to the series until this one. Full of adventure and excitement, wonderfully described. The Aubrey-Maturin friendship is really taking shape, and the love story bits are also quite poignant. I found this passage quite moving:

But Lord, the infinite possibilities of self-deception - the difficulty of disentangling the countless strands of emotion and calling each by its proper name - of separating business from pleasure. At times, what
This is the definitive Aubrey-Maturin to me. (This was how I discovered the series, borrowing a random book from a friend.) The characters are still forming, the foundations of the long term plot are being laid. So many good features -- great characters, quality and depth of thought, descriptions so real you can almost smell the salt, historical accuracy, rip roaring action and a page turning plot. My favourite series.
Otis Chandler
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Glad i stuck with this series as the third is the best to date, rich in detail & good story to boot. The first two books "at times" take a bit to get going but when they do you are richly rewarded with O'brian's writing.
Although this was not my favorite book in the series (Stephen's Indian adventures didn't quite hit me as believable for some reason), I made an important discovery: Patrick O'Brian reminds me of Jane Austen!
O'Brian's stories have an adventure component that's not present in Austen. This component helps to depict the personal lives and feelings of these men that sailed from one end of the world to the other, but still had very strong cultural points of view. I think that this is what makes these
H.M.S. Surprise is the third in Patrick O'Brian's twenty book historical fiction series concerning the English Navy in the Napoleonic War and early 19th century period. The entire series has been acclaimed by professional reviewers and ordinary readers alike. The books are extremely well-written with tenacious attention to detail and that continues to be true in this third entry.

Fans of naval history love the series for its wealth of detail regarding the most arcane aspects of life on a navy shi
The last third of this book reminded me why I love AoS fiction as much as I do: It's the chase scenes! There is something wonderfully thrilling about tall ships relentlessly stalking each other accross the ocean over hours and hours and hours like big cats, having to predict the other captain's thoughts and movements, each opponent trying to outwit the other in order to force or avoid engagement.

However, while I am still not in love with O'Brian's plots (and while I appreciate his Austen-like a
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  • Flying Colours (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #8)
  • A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion to the Complete Seafaring Tales of Patrick O'Brian
  • Ramage & the Drumbeat (The Lord Ramage Novels, #2)
  • Sharpe's Sword (Sharpe, #14)
  • Under Enemy Colors (Charles Hayden, #1)
  • Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels
  • The King's Coat (Alan Lewrie, #1)
  • Patrick O'Brian's Navy
  • In Gallant Company (Richard Bolitho, #5)
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
More about Patrick O'Brian...
Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1) Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2) The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin, #4) Desolation Island (Aubrey/Maturin, #5) The Fortune of War (Aubrey/Maturin, #6)

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“Jack, you've debauched my sloth.” 42 likes
“The weather had freshened almost to coldness, for the wind was coming more easterly, from the chilly currents between Tristan and the Cape; the sloth was amazed by the change; it shunned the deck and spent its time below. Jack was in his cabin, pricking the chart with less satisfaction than he could have wished: progress, slow, serious trouble with the mainmast-- unaccountable headwinds by night-- and sipping a glass of grog; Stephen was in the mizentop, teaching Bonden to write and scanning the sea for his first albatross. The sloth sneezed, and looking up, Jack caught its gaze fixed upon him; its inverted face had an expression of anxiety and concern. 'Try a piece of this, old cock,' he said, dipping his cake in the grog and proffering the sop. 'It might put a little heart into you.' The sloth sighed, closed its eyes, but gently absorbed the piece, and sighed again.

Some minutes later he felt a touch upon his knee: the sloth had silently climbed down and it was standing there, its beady eyes looking up into his face, bright with expectation. More cake, more grog: growing confidence and esteem. After this, as soon as the drum had beat the retreat, the sloth would meet him, hurrying toward the door on its uneven legs: it was given its own bowl, and it would grip it with its claws, lowering its round face into it and pursing its lips to drink (its tongue was too short to lap). Sometimes it went to sleep in this position, bowed over the emptiness.

'In this bucket,' said Stephen, walking into the cabin, 'in this small half-bucket, now, I have the population of Dublin, London, and Paris combined: these animalculae-- what is the matter with the sloth?' It was curled on Jack's knee, breathing heavily: its bowl and Jack's glass stood empty on the table. Stephen picked it up, peered into its affable bleary face, shook it, and hung it upon its rope. It seized hold with one fore and one hind foot, letting the others dangle limp, and went to sleep.

Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt to the sloth, and cried, 'Jack, you have debauched my sloth.”
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