When O'Brian passed away in 2000, he left behind three chapters of what was to be the 21st Aubrey-Maturin novel. The tale was to have followed Jack Aubrey in his new post, Rear Admiral of the Blue Squadron. Showing his storytelling gift until the end, O'Brian did include a duel between Aubrey's trusted friend Stephen Maturin and an impertinent officer.
Although it remains unfinished, 21 gives us one final glance at the unparalleled genius of a master craftsman and the series The New York Times Book Review hailed as "the best historical novels ever written".
Don't miss the rest of the Aubrey/Maturin series.
©2004 Patrick O'Brian; (P)2004 Recorded Books, LLC
"For Aubrey/Maturin addicts, there could be no better gift: a new, albeit incomplete, story with freshly piquant details, wry humor and salty nautical action." (Publishers Weekly)
Hi! I'm Casey Keller, semi-retired TV writer, avid cyclist, husband and father. I'm also a guy who devours audio books.
It's with great sadness that I finished '21' the final, unfinished adventure of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin in the Master And Commander Series. I think of all audio books, the UNABRIDGED versions of these must be considered the gold standard.
Let's begin with the books themselves. If you've never read one, these are the adventures of two best friends, Captain John "Lucky Jack" Aubry and Stephen Maturin, M.D. during the Napoleonic wars. Each book is filled with adventure, comedy, romance, intrigue and history. The characters are drawn wonderfully, consistent enough to create comedy in their reactions, but inconsistent enough to ring true as humans. The details of nautical life are amazing. Author Patrick O'Brian's ear for dialog, dialects and nautical idioms was beyond brilliant.
Then there is Patrick Tull, the British actor who brings these books to life on tape or MP3. Mr. Tull is that rare book reader who actually reflects on every word he reads. Each character has their own voice and dialect, not an easy thing to pull off over a span of twenty-one books. Even the female characters and love scenes, often a pitfall for even the best narrators, are pulled of wonderfully.
Do yourself a great favor. Download the UNABRIDGED version of Master And Commander as read by Mr. Tull. See why so many people have followed this series from its beginning. See why we feel so sad that there won't be a twenty-second book. This is as good as audio books can get.
I have read and listened to all of the Jack Aubrey books including Number 21:"The Final Unfinished Voyge..."
All without a doubt are the finest books I have ever had the pleasure of reading (listening to). But listening to the Patrick Tull versions are an even greater experence.
"Number 21" is an excellent albeit sad ending to the series and a tribute to Patrick O'Brian. The final voyage leaves you not with an unfinished book but with the picture of Admrial of the Blue Aubrey, Dr Matrine, Patrick Tull and Patrick O'Brian all sailing off to more adventures. You know that the "Suprise" will be back and that the wine will flow with Killick's "cheerful" commintary.
I would and have recommend the entire series to anyone that is interested in living history with no holds barred and all sails set and "with the wind abaft the beam." It is predigious.
I had avoided the last in the series for this author, in much the same way as I avoid the last of many series I love too much to end, but after completing the gambit 4 or 5 times, I decided it was time to take on 'the Last'...
It is odd and sometimes frustrating to hear an author wrap up a yarn of such glorious length, and I often wonder to what end it will proceed, but in this way, O'Brian is left mid stream like a record who's needle suddenly drifts to center... and, in a way, I have to respect that...
Respect that O'Brian ultimately gave us absolutely Everything he possibly could, and that only his death alone truncated his attempts... indeed, one could say he 'never wished' to tie up his ends in a feigned grandiose 'end' to some farsical 'happily ever after' but that the lives of the characters end, very much as the sailors who are unexpectedly killed in an action... which is to say, in a more Realistic way... that is the candle unexpectedly snuffed out...
Nevertheless, I was impressed with the quality of a work that was deffinitively unfinished, and the fragment is not without its endearing moments...
I shall then think of the tale as the proceeding notes describe it, which is to say, as a ship which simply sails off into the sunset with all our beloved aboard, thriving and content...
Not an ending to be feared, therefore... but the last breaths of a man who strived to keep telling his tale, till he could no longer speak...
perhaps a more appropriate end for a tale so grounded in history, which never ends, and in the reality of everyday lives, which are forever doomed to continue on unfinished when we are ourselves, removed from the tale...
For those of us who have enjoyed each installment of the Aubry/Maturin series, I think this final glimpse is fitting enough an end. Our consummate heroes would have presumably died of old age surrounded by grand, or great, grandchildren and of course each other. Had Patrick O'Brian begun the writing at the age of five, he may have been granted enough time to finish the story in it's entirety. But as it is Admiral Aubry and Dr. Matruin will continue to sail the seas in the minds of the reader.
Patrick Tull's reading of this final episode also shows that his excellent recreation of the world of Patrick O'Brian could not go on indefinitely. His age shows with every sentence. He sounds a bit like he has just returned from the dentist, after having half of his teeth removed. But after spending so many hours with the story one must finish it regardless.
It would also be inconsiderate to mention literary errors that would certainly been corrected by O'Brian before it's final version, and release. There are certain inconsistencies that one notices after spending countless hours getting to know O'Brian and Tull. But given the circumstances these can be overlooked.
The series taken as a whole is well worth the time it takes to get through it. And I'm glad to have finished it. Five stars from beginning to end.
Oh! One last taste of the genius of O'Brian. I had thought his last books showed him slowing down, losing interest, aging perhaps. But here, in his just-begun No 21, he's at full powers, backed by the great Patrick Tull. You know when you put it down that his O'Brian's fertile mind had seamlessly contrived to get Jack and Stephen to meet the monster of the age...Napoleon. Shows a major novelist going out on top.
I previously read all in this series, except this one, unwilling to hear the end of Jack and Stephen's lives. Now having listened to all of the books (and I must say I enjoyed hearing them enormously, due to Patrick Tull's fine readings), I recommend this book to any fan of O'Brian. There is no closure in the story, which is fine with me. I can imagine further adventures, and perhaps someone will take up the series in the future. The abrupt termination is, however in a way, not unsatisfying. Like everyone else, I wish there were more, but this book gave some type of finish--for the moment.
I wasn't going to listen to book 21 but after finishing the rest I could not help but listen. If these books would have continued to book 100 I would have listened but it is probably well enough that they did not. Also, I do not understand all the hate for Patrick Tull, I cannot imagine anyone else playing these characters. Perhaps people who listened to the rest of the series with another narrator should not change horses in mid stream.
Currently a local truck driver who has hours to listen to my audio books. I am hooked, some of my fellow drivers enjoy them also
No, it is too much to get into it and have it just finish, he should have waited to pass away,
but what he wrote was a work of art
All of it even as short as it was
Both Jack and Steven were great liked them both
It is our loss that Mr O'Brian left ust with it so nearly complete he was one of the best
3rd time through the series but must have missed this last partial book the other times. So glad to have it and O'Brian's friends have nice things to say afterward.
I haven't written a book review since my school days so the rust is thick. Still, I must beg to differ with Richard Snow's Afterword. Yes, 21 does give us a taste of some of the characters we love, but only just. We get no sense of closure on one of the most faithful characters, dear Surprise. We hear that she has shlepped home, but to what end? Aubrey and Maturin may be eternally sailing toward a unknown horizon, but their loyal friend more likely faces a sad end.
Then too, I approach the series on a different tact than did Snow. I consumed the series in about 18 months so I doubt I shared his hunger for another appetitizer of O'brian's writing. Indeed, I have sometimes found the style verging on obtuse. Luckily, the previous tales have been compelling enough to draw me along. It is regrettable that 21 doesn't get that far. Still, I shall miss Jack, Stephen, and their entourage. Fare thee well.
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