Some will find the Aubrey/Maturin series a great literary treasure. Others will not. Over the years I have read the series and listened to both abridged and unabridged versions read by various readers. Each reader has given Jack and Steven somewhat different characters. Tull's renditions are among my favorites and he is to be complemented. Listening to the clean Audible versions is a treat after struggling thru cassettes of varying quality.
When compared to the Aubrey/Maturin series, most other historical fiction is reduced to the category of "pulp fiction." Both male and female characters (the women arrive in later volumes) are invariably complex and complete, their relationships marked by contrasts in ability, perspective and disposition. The plots are also an exercise in contrasts between civility and barbarism, good and evil, boredom and excitement. O'Brian captures the age of sail. The rhythm of the story telling is that of sailing itself: long periods of inactivity where shipmates and dinner are the primary focus punctuated with periods of exhilaration where thought and action mean the difference between life and death. If this appeals, begin at the beginning.
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