Don't miss the rest of the Aubrey/Maturin series.
©1970 Patrick O'Brian; (P)2003 Blackstone Audiobooks
"The best historical novels ever written." (The New York Times Book Review)
"No writer alive can move one as O'Brian can; no one can make you laugh so loud with hilarity, whiten your knuckles with unbearable tension or choke with emotion. He is the master." (Irish Times)
As a female whose tastes usually run to fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries and literary classics, I'm perhaps not the archetypical O'Brien fan, but I am thoroughly enjoying this audiobook and plan to seek out more of O'Brien's work. The narration by Simon Vance is perfect; he voices each character, even the minor ones, with great individuality and really brings out the personality of each. The book is full of dry humor and intelligent observations, and the characters are fully fleshed-out, with strengths and foibles that make them feel truly real.
In the first of this amazing series, Patrick O'Brian creates two characters who couldn't possibly become friends -- except that they do -- and a plot that reveals the reasons why. He weaves the personal with the historical threads with amazing fluidity and grace. I've heard excerpts of Patrick Tull's readings, but I stick with Simon Vance for his subtlety of accent, pace of reading, and general sympathy with these completely engaging characters.
My father was a master mariner, merchant marine captain in WWII, and bar pilot. He built two sailboats, had a degree in celestial navigation, and taught me how to knot, splice, and navigate -- and how to strategize about beating the other guys while wet to the skin, hauling on sheets and halyards (a tall order for a 90-lb., 14-yr-old girl!). He and his sailing homies cursed, punned, and drank like no one I had ever known. I recognize the legacy of the Royal Navy in those experiences, and O'Brian brings it all to life in the present in this first story.
Character development, historical accuracy, compelling narrative.
The voices, the voices!
Both Aubrey and Maturin.
I give O'Brian a pass for this, but only just. His tedious repetition of ". . . on and on and on . . . " Snore.
If this is your introduction to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin stories, then you are in for a treat. Particularly with Simon Vance's narration, for he 'voice acts' the various major and minor characters to a T. These stories, for this is just book 1 of many, are the best Napoleonic war sea stories around. If you are after these stories for just descriptions of battles and the heady days of life before (or after) the mast, go for some of the others - Hornblower, for instance. These stories take the time to develop fascinating characters and I predict, if this type of narrative appeals to you, that you will love them. I will ultimately own the entire 22 book series, always with Vance as narrator, since the stories are so engaging and entertaining, they can be enjoyed over and over.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
Talk about vivid description. This book is jam-packed with nautical terminology and historical detail. Somehow he strikes just the right balance between explaining things and letting the context fill in the meaning. Great story. Great characters.
Simon Vance gives THE best performance that you can do this book. He does a great, great Jack Aubrey. Fantastic, lovable Stephen Maturin. He makes the language flow so naturally. The story itself I could see someone not liking, because it's heavy on details and actually quite low on plot. But if you love details about the era, if you love the language, and you love good character studies, then you will love this.
I have listened to, or read, the Jack Aubry/Steven Maturin series up to Thirteen Gun Salute (Volume 13/21 in the series), and have discovered three very important points:
1. Listen to a sample of the narrator's voice. All 21 books are available from TWO different narrators, Tull and Vance, and IMHO Vance is the much, much superior.
2. After the 10th volume, successive volumes begin to necessarily contain larger and larger portions devoted to reviewing the preceeding books. This becomes tiresome when you listen to the books without a break. I'm taking my own advice and forcing myself to take longer intervals between volumes. This has the added benefit of extending the time over which I will enjoy the series.
3. The series is based on real events in the extraordinary life of Lord Thomas Cochrane.
This general review is my high praise for all of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey / Maturin series. I find myself listening to these audiobooks in sequence again and again. They never get old.
O'Brian managed to create a series that totally immerses the reader into the naval world of the 1800s. The interactions between the two good friends is very entertaining as well as the ties to Britian at the time.
I would also highly recommend the 21st book in the series -- 21. Even though it is only a partial novel, it is still highly entertaining.
While I like these books, the reading can be tough going at times. Simon's reading was absolutely fantastic and drew me into this world.
James Dillon and Jack Aubrey, their tension and confiding with Stephen was great
All the characters he voices are instantly recognizable and seamless in transition.
I would have believed they was a whole cast in the reading.
I liked the book. I loved the reader. I loved the character development. There is so much detail in nautical terms that it was sometimes hard to follow. I understand that folks love this series for its authentic details of ship life but it was a bit much for me on that front. I love the friendship between Aubrey and Maturin.
I'm hearing teacher voices
This series has been read by a half dozen performers (or more) over the last 20 years. I've heard them all, I think. I must say that the late Patrick Tull was my least favorite - a bit too much of the leprechaun in Stephen's voice and generally too melodramatic and breathy for what is really literary fiction (with plenty of action, of course).
Simon Vance is a favorite reader of mine and I found his rendition of Master and Commander excellent, notwithstanding my sense of what the characters "should" sound like (I own the entire collection on audiotape - mostly read by Richard Brown, some by John Lee). I'm looking forward to Vance's performance of Post Captain.
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