Aaron Arnold's Reviews > Master and Commander

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
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's review
Apr 12, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, history, war, read-in-2010
Read in January, 2010

O'Brien's icosology is revered by military history buffs like they were written on stone tablets, and it's not hard to see why. I saw the excellent movie version (which also includes some of a later installment) when it came out, so I was glad to see that all the hype for the source material was fully justified. Since this is the very first in the series, there is a ton of exposition (for example, characters infodump the different types of ropes, I mean lines, on the ship in ludicrous detail for pages and pages) and scene-setting, but soon enough the newly commissioned Commander Jack Aubrey and his new physician Stephen Maturin are chasing French ships around the Mediterranean like it was nothing. The hardest/neatest thing about it was O'Brien's massive hardon for punishing historical accuracy, which is truly impressive; outside of maybe Pynchon's Mason & Dixon I can't remember the last historical fiction I read with this kind of immersive detail, where it felt like the author was trying to recreate the past one yardarm and topgallant at a time. Aubrey's adventures, like those of Horatio Hornblower, are based in part on the real-life Lord Thomas Cochrane, which I think gives the action scenes like the Battle of Algeciras an extra layer of cool. Is it just me or are the Napoleonic Wars totally awesome? I'm not going to rush out to tackle volumes 2-20 but this owned.
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