This book describes the "Scientific Revolution" and its key players. Revolutions, except for the one in France, move the world up to the next level. Today, we are in the opening chapters of the "Information Revolution", which few of us understand, and still fewer can even contemplate. This book gives us some perspective as to what happens to society when "the earth moves".
Every adventure story you ever read as a child not only becomes alive again, but also challenges you on the intellectual level as an adult. The erudition, the accurate attention to the smallest detail across a very wide palette, history, seamanship, the conduct of war, medicine, politics, espionage, commerce, human nature, command and management concepts and plain old human foibles, conceits, and magnanimity across the ages are not found elsewhere, I believe, in all of literature. Just as the opening of Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman" does in music, Patrick O'Brian does with words: You literally feel the salt spray in your face. You are at sea.
The book answers the fundamental question why English outshines all other languages and why it is the "reserve linguistic currency" of the civilized world. Bragg does this not only by (pedantically) charting the sequential evolution of the language but also by describing its singular adaptability to its changing habitat, up to the modern day. A people gets the kind of language it deserves. A good companion piece would be Churchill's "A History of the English Speaking Peoples".
Oddly, I read this book last of the whole Aubrey-Maturin series, including the dictionary and the cook book. I was fortunate. You wonder what makes a man devote the most part of his life to a single set of characters and this book was the germ from which all of that had sprung. You can almost hear O'Brian's brain working, developing, almost growing each character's idiosyncrasies, character, opinions, etc., as he goes along. It was well worth the read. Patrick Tull is the perfect narrator, and added greatly to this whole work.
I have read all the Aubrey/Maturin books, but prefer the audiobook format, but if, and only if, Patrick Tull is the narrator. I have heard other narrators of O'Brian's work. They are not the same. The author's work having been already done, the narrator is the most important part of the product. Kim Johnson
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