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H.M.S. Surprise

(Aubrey & Maturin #3)

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  15,468 ratings  ·  656 reviews
Amid sights and smells of the Indian subcontinent explore ships of the East India Company. Aubrey is on the defensive, pitting wits and seamanship against an enemy enjoying overwhelming local superiority. Somewhere in the Indian Ocean lies the prize that could make him rich - ships sent by Napoleon to attack the China Fleet.
Paperback, 379 pages
Published May 17th 1991 by W.W. Norton (first published 1973)
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Average rating 4.42  · 
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 ·  15,468 ratings  ·  656 reviews

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Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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'
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For those of you with whom I have yet to share my passion for the Aubrey/Maturin series, let me remedy that at the start.

This series of books follows the lives of two amis de la guere as they share shipboard and shore leave together over the many years of the Napoleonic Wars. These are novels that are perfect examples of life at the turn of the 19th Century. Though much of the time is spent at sea, that does not eliminate culture (Jack Aubrey plays the violin and Stephen Maturin plays the cello,
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Valuable and ingenious [Stephen] might be, thought Jack, fixing him with his glass, but false he was too, and perjured. He had voluntarily sworn to have no truck with vampires, and here, attached to his bosom, spread over it and enfolded by one arm, was a greenish hairy thing, like a mat - a loathsome great vampire of the most poisonous kind, no doubt. ‘I should never have believed it of him: his sacred oath in the morning watch and now he stuffs the ship with vampires; and God knows what is in ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
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 StephenMaturin who is betrayed by his own side and tortured by the French in Minorca and the usual financial troubles for Jac
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, aubrey-maturin
“Surely man in general is born to be oppressed or solitary, if he is to be fully human...”
― Patrick O'Brian, HMS Surprise


“Jack, you have debauched my sloth.”
― Patrick O'Brian, H.M.S. Surprise

So, I am now three books into the Aubrey/Maturin series and the books are only getting better. Master and Commander and Post Captain were 459 to 527 pages respectively, and I wouldn't fault a page. However, now it seems O'Brian has trimmed and edited these books down to the sub-400 page range and they seem
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
Peter Tillman
I have notes, but in essence: Wow. Definitely new to me, and I will be reading/re-reading more of these. What a book. What a writer!

The most impressive part, for me, is total immersion in what seaboard life -- OK, HUMAN life -- was like in the early 19th C. How fragile it was! Sherwood Smith: read hers on her favorite parts,
The little orphan girl in Bombay that Stephen was considering buying. He did buy her some silver bangles, her heart's desire. (view s
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Jack, you have debauched my sloth."

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
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The development of the two central characters, and their trials and tribulations in matters of both love and war, are as convincing as the world in which they live.

The descriptions of naval battles, especially the one towards the end of the book, are terrific, edge-of-the-seat reading. I think I read somewhere that O'Brian based at least some of the battles on real ones fought during the Napoleonic wars, and they are extraordinarily vivid. They are three-dimensional and have
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
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I reach a point in any series longer than a trilogy where reading about the same characters and the types of situations they get into no longer does much for me. It's lost the freshness and excitement of the beginning and fallen into a rut, even if specific events are happening that haven't occurred before. I was looking forward to this book after really enjoying the second book and seeing all the reviewers calling this one their favorite, but unfortunately this was the book where I realized the ...more
Max Tsudowood
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unlike the previous two books in the series H.M.S Surprise is more about life at sea, a seemingly boring occurrence that O'Brian transforms to be thoroughly engrossing. The seriousness of a Sunday inspection of crew's tidiness, the ephemeral ferociousness of a white squall, the return of exotic animals aboard the ship, and the monstrous nature of the south Atlantic under a storm (how Jack and his crew weather this is just as riveting as the best battles the author has written, thus far, in the s ...more
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Brendan Monroe
I love stories about seafaring voyages and everything to do with the ocean has long fascinated me. I find just the word "voyage" to be utterly enrapturing, as it conjures in my mind the Robert Louis Stevenson novels I so enjoyed in my youth along with the promise of the unknown.

Despite this love of the ocean and the allure that sea tales hold for me, I am a total novice when it comes to naval terms. Anyone who has read even a page of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series knows that naval term
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, audiobooks
Audiobook. Patrick Tull ably narrates another volume of the maritime adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey of the British Navy and his friend, naturalist/physician/spy Stephen Maturin. I was very surprised to read a review that recommended skipping the first four volumes of this long series. I don’t agree, partly because I’d like this series even longer than it is, and partly because the first four volumes include some of my favorite parts of the story. How can one understand the recurring character ...more
Sherwood Smith
Oct 18, 2008 added it
Shelves: fiction
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
Roger W.
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Cheryl Klein
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Rachel McMillan
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
read for the eight billionth time for an upcoming talk on Sophie Aubrey and Diana Villiers. Still my favourite of the series
Dec 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Stephe
Nathan Piazza
Jul 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-audio, series
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
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cruising through this glorious twenty-volume opus for the fourth time and we finally meet up with HMS Surprise, a frigate that looms large throughout the series. This book has one of the best squadron to squadron fight scenes. Even though I’ve read this book now four times, my heart still thumped as Jack Aubrey, the Surprises and a group of merchant ships take on the best the French could muster, including a 74-gun double-decker. Aubrey and Maturin are in rare form in these pages: debtor’s priso ...more
Noone can write naval battles as good as O'Brian. Love this book alot, despite the silly Stephen and his doomed devotion to Diana Villiers. Jack, you rock! Now I really have to finish the rest of the series. Beat the quarters!
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) by:
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.

Jason , etc.
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
Oct 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook
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
Yes, back to Aubrey-Maturin. I'm starting to understand the technical bits with yards and studdingsails and mizzentops. I know a definition for the word "pooped" that has nothing to do feces or fatigue. This, I think, is quite sad. But an excellent installment, several source scenes for the movie, including Stephen operating on himself, and Jack's initials at the foretop. Best quote ever: "Jack, you have debauched my sloth." Funny words: superfetation (= accretion), vatinication (foresee, prophe ...more
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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

Other books in the series

Aubrey & Maturin (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • 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)
  • The Surgeon's Mate (Aubrey & Maturin #7)
  • The Ionian Mission (Aubrey & Maturin #8)
  • Treason's Harbour (Aubrey & Maturin #9)
  • The Far Side of the World (Aubrey & Maturin #10)
  • The Reverse of the Medal (Aubrey & Maturin #11)

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“Jack, you've debauched my sloth.” 75 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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