Following on the heels of the "five-star" "The Nutmeg of Consolation," I am giving this, the 15th volume in the Aubrey-Maturin series, a solid 4.5 sta...moreFollowing on the heels of the "five-star" "The Nutmeg of Consolation," I am giving this, the 15th volume in the Aubrey-Maturin series, a solid 4.5 stars. This 'chapter' of the canon continues the voyage of HMS Surprise in the Pacific Ocean following her departure from New South Wales, Australia. We meet the beautiful and mysterious Clarissa Harvill, and become aware of the influence and affects that her presence aboard the ship have on her crew. Miss Harvill helps Stephen Maturin clear up a mystery that has played such an important role in the preceding four or five volumes too. Finally, the reader accompanies Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin as they visit the Hawaiian Islands to deal with French and American intrigues. A wonderful, erudite, and eminently readable addition from the pen of Patrick O'Brian.(less)
The last completed novel in Patrick O'Brian's superb Aubrey-Maturin series of seafaring novels set in the early 19th century. This installment has it...moreThe last completed novel in Patrick O'Brian's superb Aubrey-Maturin series of seafaring novels set in the early 19th century. This installment has it all: a bit of the home-front with the families of Jack and Stephen; a long voyage across the Atlantic and around Cape Horn and into the Pacific; battles ashore and at sea; and the fascinating politics and espionage associated with nation-building in the budding South American republics; and we finally find out if Captain Jack Aubrey will be allowed to hoist his blue ensign as a Rear Admiral. Whilst I've not read 21: The Final Voyage of Jack Aubrey, the book unfinished by O'Brian before his death in early 2000, I felt that Blue at the Mizzen proved to be a very satisfactory and ultimately quite satisfying conclusion to this brilliant canon of great literature. Jack and Stephen will always be sailing on in my imagination -- Just as it should be!(less)
I have to say reading this novel resulted in a bit of a shock to me. Patrick O'Brian uses deus ex machina to address some apparent 'loose ends,' and I...moreI have to say reading this novel resulted in a bit of a shock to me. Patrick O'Brian uses deus ex machina to address some apparent 'loose ends,' and I shan't say anything further to spoil it for the reader. Superbly plotted and deftly written, "The Hundred Days" refers to the period of time between Napoleon's escape from exile on Elba to his subsequent defeat on the battlefield of Waterloo in June 1815 by the Allies. In that same time frame, our intrepid Royal Navy Captain, Jack Aubrey, now made Commodore, is gallivanting about the Mediterranean Sea harassing French ships and ports; whilst Stephen Maturin is involved in some sensitive diplomatic and intelligence activities in Algiers, mixed in with his usual bit of bird-watching and 'botanizing.' There's even some lion-hunting; and, of course, lots of exciting naval action too. An excellent and most worthy addition to this sublime series.(less)
I know that some might be tempted to label this, the sixth installment in the 'Aubreyiad,' to be "slow." In actuality, this novel is one of the most b...moreI know that some might be tempted to label this, the sixth installment in the 'Aubreyiad,' to be "slow." In actuality, this novel is one of the most brilliantly crafted and erudite novels written in the English language. Like pealing an onion, the reader discovers in the layers that Patrick O'Brian has not only provided some incredible naval action with the great guns and all; but has also taken the opportunity to provide a significant amount of backstory and extensive character development associated with both Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. O'Brian does it via Jack's and Stephen's 'personal reminiscence, and as Jack and Stephen exchange stories whilst prisoners of war. A very clever literary device masterfully executed.
It was interesting to experience the cunning of Stephen in his role as intelligence agent too. One can't help but be caught up in the excitement and anticipation as Stephen deals with the fledgling American and very deadly skillful French intelligence services; while at the same time trying to rescue the beautiful and headstrong Diana Villiers. Finally, the reader is given the 'bonus' of the showdown between U.S.S. Chesapeake and H.M.S Shannon, in a brilliant description of two frigates mauling each other yard-arm to yard-arm.
This is a dangerous and heady brew that Patrick O'Brian has served up in the pages of The Fortune of War; and, oh, so wonderful to partake in from the first page to the last. I loved this book!(less)
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 wh...moreH.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.
One of the most riveting examples of combat/tactical sailing maneuvers I've ever encountered is superbly described by Patrick O'Brian on pp. 288-298. The naval action that follows, to a large degree, mirrors the real-life naval battle of Pulo Aura of 15 February 1804; which pitted French Admiral Linois's squadron's attack upon the East India Company's annual China Fleet convoy. Somehow O'Brian, in this passage, has made hundreds of square miles of open ocean and the tactical movements of the French squadron and Jack's Surprise unfold like a new leaf for all to see and easily understand. I found myself almost holding my breath as I read it. Very exciting stuff!
Also, throughout the novel we are again treated to O'Brian's brilliant writing associated with the growing love-relationships between Jack and Sophie, and that between Stephen and Diana Villiers. H.M.S. Surprise is a most worthy addition to this grand historical fiction series!(less)
This was a wonderful novel in the superb Aubrey-Maturin series! Like O'Brian's second novel in the series, Post Captain, much of this novel takes plac...moreThis was a wonderful novel in the superb Aubrey-Maturin series! Like O'Brian's second novel in the series, Post Captain, much of this novel takes place ashore and, in my opinion, also pays magnificent homage to the writing of Jane Austen. This episode focuses on the family doings involving the Aubrey's and Maturin's whilst staying at Jack Aubrey's Woolcombe home. The reader is much exposed to what English country life meant in the early 19th century. Dr. Stephen Maturin is able to spend time with his little daughter, Brigid, and wife, Diana. For the first time, all of the Aubrey and Maturin families are able to take a leisurely voyage aboard Surprise with all of Jack and Stephen's shipmates to the Island of Madeira; there only to learn that Napoleon has escaped from exile on Elba. A most worthy addition to the series!(less)
This is a tight novel that covers a lot of ground (and ocean). The novel starts in Halifax, Nova Scotia shortly after H.M.S. Shannon's victory over th...moreThis is a tight novel that covers a lot of ground (and ocean). The novel starts in Halifax, Nova Scotia shortly after H.M.S. Shannon's victory over the U.S.S. Chesapeake in Massachusetts Bay during the War of 1812. Then we experience a thrilling sea chase across much of the North Atlantic as Jack Aubrey, Stephen Maturin, and Diana Villiers are pursued by an American intelligence agent. After some time at home with his family at Ashgrove Cottage, Jack is again given a command on an important mission into the Baltic Sea that requires every bit of Jack's seamanship, luck, and courage to complete.
Unfortunately, near the end of the mission, Jack is forced to run his crippled ship onto the French shore, and he and his crew are imprisoned. The French intelligence service is now onto Stephen and his role as an intelligence for the Admiralty; and this leads to some tense and dramatic action as Jack and Stephen try and avoid disaster (and rescue Diana Villiers too!). The novel ends with quite the surprising twist too.
This was truly a page-turner from the get-go. A very, very well-written addition to the canon.(less)
This is the second in the twenty completed volumes of the Aubrey-Maturin canon, and one of the best too. While first book, Master and Commander, kicke...moreThis is the second in the twenty completed volumes of the Aubrey-Maturin canon, and one of the best too. While first book, Master and Commander, kicked off the series with terrific writing and action, this volume really develops the characters in a most Austenesque fashion (and has its fair share of action and adventure too). In Post Captain we truly come to know and care for Jack Aubrey, Stephen Maturin, Sophie Williams, Barret Bonden, and Preserved Killick, and a whole raft of other great characters. Jack Aubrey has his ups and downs during the course of the novel, but the good-hearted fellow makes well in the end. O'Brian does a masterful job of placing the reader in the age and the minds of these marvelous characters; one simply finds oneself turning page after page after page as one voyages on with Captain Aubrey and his shipmates! I cannot recommend this series highly enough!(less)
This book completely blew me away! I was taken into the world of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell on page one, and it was with the greatest reluctan...moreThis book completely blew me away! I was taken into the world of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell on page one, and it was with the greatest reluctance that I turned the last page and was released to rejoin my own world. Susanna Clarke's debut novel is magical, mysterious, dreamy, witty and funny, and incredibly engaging. Without sounding trite, the characters are Dickensian, the dialog Austenesque, some of the vision and fantasy of Lewis Carroll, and much of the prose like that of Patrick O'Brian. I can honestly say that this is one of the most unique, fresh, and original novels that I have read in many, many years; and I am already looking forward to sitting down and immersing myself again in this marvelous world that Susanna Clarke has created. If you are intimidated at taking on an 850 page tome, or want more of Clarke's marvelous writing, I strongly suggest reading her wonderful collection of short stories entitled, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.(less)
This is the fifth novel in Jean Auel's "Earth's Children" series, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again. I can only hope that it isn't all that lo...moreThis is the fifth novel in Jean Auel's "Earth's Children" series, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again. I can only hope that it isn't all that long until the sixth novel in the series is published (rumor has it that it should be out in late-2010, or early-2011).
This novel is the story of Ayla and Jondalar returning from their long journey from the east and settling into their home with Jondalar's peoples, the Zelandonii, in the great cliff dwellings in what is now southwestern France. This book, of all those in the series, is the one that focuses the most on the social and cultural interactions among the Cro-Magnon peoples in their Ice Age environments some 30,000 years ago. I thought it was very intriguing that Ms. Auel spent so much time on the descriptions of the social, cultural, and spiritual organizations within and among the various moeties of the Zelandonii dwelling places and peoples.
Again, the reader is treated to example after example of Ms. Auel's incorporation of the latest archaeological research and data as she fictionally describes the day-to-day life of these peoples. She brings in the various thoughts and hypotheses associated with the shamanism and potential spiritual import of cave paintings like those found in the Paleolithic Lasceaux cave complex. In this novel, like the others, Ms. Auel also spends a lot of time making the reader aware of the ecology, environment, and the flora and fauna of this region of Ice Age Europe. It is almost like reading a 'Field Guide to the Ice Age.'
Also, Ms. Auel has continued to weave throughout the narrative her interpretation of current scientific data and research associated with the potential interactions between anatomically modern humans and the archaic humans, the Neandertals. Turns out that she probably has the right of it; as geneticists (in early 2010) recently completed sequencing the Neandertal genome and have determined that between 1-4% of our own modern human DNA is derived from our close cousins now extinct some 25,000 years.
In conclusion, I have really enjoyed my second complete reading of this five-volume series. I own them all in hardback, and know that I'll be back to visit this interesting period of human history again sometime soon. Good stuff!(less)
The Plains of Passage is the fourth novel in Jean Auel's "Earth's Children" series, and is one of my favorites. This novel picks up with Ayla and Jond...moreThe Plains of Passage is the fourth novel in Jean Auel's "Earth's Children" series, and is one of my favorites. This novel picks up with Ayla and Jondalar, Whinney, Racer, and Wolf all leaving the summer camp of the Mamutoi peoples and beginning the long journey back across the Ice-Age steppes of what is now the Ukraine to the delta of the Great Mother River (Donau/Duna/Danube River), and thence across eastern Europe all the way back to Jondalar's Zelandonii peoples in what is now southern France. Along the way the travelers have all kinds of interesting adventures, with Ms. Aurel doing a superb job of describing just how difficult a trip of this magnitude might have been some 25,000 to 30,000 years ago for two human beings.
Again, Ms. Auel brings significant archaeological and paleo-anthropological information into her narrative. For example, she has Jondalar being captured and held by a band of peoples known as the "S'Armunai." The fictional S'Armunai camp is actually based upon the Upper Paleolithic site, Dolni Vestonice, in what is now the Czech Republic. While a prisoner of the S'Armunai, Jondalar witnesses a bizarre and enigmatic burial of three young people in a single grave. This strange burial was actually excavated at Dolni Vestonice and archaeologists are still trying determine what the backstory might be. Ms. Auel offers a very plausible hypothesis. If you're interested, 'Google' "Dolni Vestonice triple burial," and you'll find loads of really fascinating information.
Along the trip Ayla and Jondalar have the opportunity to meet numerous bands of Cro-Magnons, or anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) and also have several encounters with small bands of Neandertals (Homo sapiens neandertalensis). Ms. Auel uses these encounters to shed more light on the differences and similarities among these Ice-Age inhabitants and their ways of life in different parts of prehistoric Europe and how they used the different natural resources in their regions. Interspersed throughout the novel is a very interesting portrayal of the mythologies and spiritual practices that may have been important to these peoples; at the apex of which is the notion that all life are considered to be the children of the "Earth Mother."
In some respects, this novel really reflects and represents the great journey of the human race 30,000 years ago during a period of profoundly difficult adversity because of the environmental conditions. Additionally, it reflects the beginning of the end for the very long-lived human species -- Neandertal -- as this amazing closely-related cousin of ours was destined to be completely extinct within the 5,000 years or so, after living on the planet for several hundred thousand years. Each of Ms. Auel's novels in the "Earth's Children" series are thought-provoking from the perspective of better understanding our own human origins; as well as just being wonderfully dramatic and entertaining historical fiction; and The Plains of Passage is no exception.(less)
This is an excellent episode in Patrick O'Brian's 'Aubreyiad,' and is so aptly titled. The Mauritius Command, is just that -- a study in command -- an...moreThis is an excellent episode in Patrick O'Brian's 'Aubreyiad,' and is so aptly titled. The Mauritius Command, is just that -- a study in command -- and as such, should be required reading for anyone in a position of command and authority. I would particularly recommend this for young military commissioned and/or non-commissioned officers, especially those in the sea-going services; and I would be surprised if this is not on a reading list for midshipman at the U.S. Naval and Coast Guard Academies.
In this book, the fourth novel of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, we see the full maturation of Jack Aubrey in his role of Captain and Commodore leading a squadron of Royal Navy men-of-war in an effort to capture the strategic islands of Mauritius and La Reunion, off of the southeast coast of Africa from Napoleon. Together, Jack and Stephen Maturin have to address the difficult military, diplomatic, and political requirements of the mission in order to achieve success.
With the exception of the novel's fictional characters, Patrick O'Brian has scrupulously followed and described the real-life historical accounts of this fascinating campaign. The Mauritius Command is a page-turner from page one until the last. Truly an amazing work of historical fiction by one of the Age's greatest authors!(less)