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148 of 153 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2000
If you're new to the Hornblower series, start with this one. Then read Ship of the Line, then Flying Colors. The three are practically a triptych, whereas the others all feel like they have space between them. Also, since Forester actually wrote Beat To Quarters first, there's in 'introductory' quality to it that no other book in the series has. The series compares favorably with the Aubrey/Maturin series I think. Odd that they were both cut short by the deaths of their respective authors.
In short, start with this and the next two as a trilogy, then proceed in any order you want.
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76 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2002
...or, to be more precise, I sat within yards of a major Civil War re-enactment so engrossed in this book that I managed to ignore artillery and musket fire. I am a big fan of the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian, but previously looked down my nose at Hornblower, I think because I knew it solely from TV and movies. This book never slows down for a minute--not just battles but ship repair and revictualling seem gripping in the hands of Forester.
Based on the films, I was not expecting Hornblower to show much internal life--he always seems to be superhuman on screen, but in the book he must struggle with his softer nature to develop his imperious style. Likewise I expected nothing interesting in the way of female characters, but it was a happy surprise to find Lady Barbara Wellesley on board ship.
If you will forgive a few O'Brian/Forrester comparisons: O'Brian is funnier. Forrester's battle scenes are a bit easier for me to follow. Hornblower is a more interesting or at least complex character than Aubrey, but O'Brian has the advantage of Maturin, who not only adds character but allows for dialogue rather than the perennial internal monologues Hornblower has with himself because he has no one of rank to talk to.
I hope that more seasoned readers of the series will agree with this appeal to newer readers: Even if you have read neither author, this book is a good place to start.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 1998
I first read BEAT TO QUARTERS when I borrowed it from a public library in 1940. It is now 1998 and the third copy of the book is in my book case, the other two copies, being paper-backs, having been read until worn out.
I might add that, in my opinion, any aspiring writer would do well to read Forester, not to copy his style, but to realise that any good author can entertain, but only the great can enthrall; and only the greatest can make you "see" a character (even a minor one) in only two short lines of print.
His death robbed the reading world of one of its most readable authors.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2003
Although it was the first book C.S. Forester wrote, Beat To Quarters is chronologically the sixth book in the Hornblower Series. One can see instantly why the series took off when this book hit the press. It is not only a thrilling adventure but establishes a depth of character rarely seen in its genre.
This book is the first of a trilogy of connected titles that cover Horatio's rise from an unknown frigate's captain to one of the most famous officers in the Royal Navy. Posted to duty west of Central America, he is expected to navigate not only the water of the Pacific, but the troubled political waters of rebellion and shifting alliances that characterized the Napoleonic wars. He's required to engage a ship of twice his might not once but three times. And of course, he meets Lady Barbara -- destined to become one of the most intruiging characters in his life.
I was surprised to find little discontinuity with the "prequel" books that were written after Beat to Quarters. The book almost seamlessly blends with the cannon of Horatio's life, referencing his previous adventures with the Castilla and Captain Pellow. The only real continuity problem is that Bush seems to have lost his memory of the events in the second and third books.
This books works because it doesn't try to confine itself to a simple genre. It is, of course, a splendid action adventure and wonderful historical fiction. But it also works as a simple character drama -- establishing three powerful characters -- the taciturn Hornblower, efervescent Bush and charming Barbara -- and creates memorable scenes built solely from conversation and interaction.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2000
The first Hornblower book that Forester wrote, and the best. Exciting action, wonderful characterization--particularly Hornblower himself, who is a three-dimensional human with failings, not a cardboard cutout action hero--and even a bit of romance for those who like that sort of thing (me! me!). The scenes with Hornblower and Lady Barbara were so evocative and delightful--I felt as if I was sitting on the deck with them under the stars, listening to their conversations. I would recommend that the series be read in chronological order of Hornblower's career, rather than the order in which Forester wrote them, but BTQ is the jewel in the crown.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
One of the strengths of the C.S. Forester series about Horatio Hornblower is that Hornblower's character is developed in great depth in a variety of different ways in each book. Beat to Quarters places Hornblower at the center of a spectrum between madness and mental incapacity on the one hand, and being ruled by the emotions and passion on the other hand. Hornblower finds it quite challenging to deal with both extremes, and you will enjoy reading about his reactions.
To make the story even more delicious, it involves a series of misadventures based on the slowness and uncertainty of communications. Those who have studied the War of 1812 will probably remember that the Battle of New Orleans was fought well after the British and Americans had already made peace. But the word had not yet gotten to New Orleans. Similar issues are involved in this book.
Unlike most of the other books in the series, Beat to Quarters will probably be as appealing to female readers as to male ones. For over half of the book, Lady Barbara Wellesley is a central character. Unlike the earlier books where male-female relations are made as simple and brief as possible, Beat to Quarters shows how two outstanding people of opposite sexes might come to respect and appreciate each other, despite vast differences in their circumstances and social standing.
Beat to Quarters is an extremely important book in the series, because it sets up major plot developments in Ship of the Line (the next book chronologically in Hornblower's life in the series) which many people feel is the best action book that Mr. Forester wrote about Hornblower.
If you have not yet read any of the Hornblower novels, I strongly urge you to begin with Mr. Midshipman Hornblower and continue through in the order of Hornblower's chronological life, rather than the order in which the books were written. Mr. Forester went back and added books here and there in the chronology, later in his life.
How can you keep your focus strong, by balancing your emotions and thoughts? What benefits will you achieve? When should you be willing to let emotion reign?
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2000
Hornblower series are not bad. Unfortunately, I read Aubrey/Maturin (which is much, much better) first. Basically, one could classify the Hornblower series as very good adventure, as opposed to Aubrey/Maturin, which could be classified as very good literature. I started with Midshipman Hornblower, which is probably the best book in the series, and recommend the sequence of reading published on the cover of the books. If you have not read O'Brien yet - good for you!! Start with Hornblower to warm up (it's only 11 books), and then sink your teeth in Master and Commander of Aubrey/Maturin (20 books).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 20, 2000
Though 'Beat to Quarters' falls in the middle of the Hornblower series it was the first written, as well as one of the best. The story takes place when Hornblower is ordered to assist colonial Spanish rebels. After defeating a Spanish warship and handing the vessel over to the rebels Hornblower recieves shocking news: Napoleon has invaded Spain. Now that Spain has become Britian's ally Hornblower must reagain control of the Spanish warship from the rebels and give it back to the rightful owners. The action that follows is the naval adventure that author C. S. Forester is known for. Also, Forester throws his gallant protagonist a curve ball by introducing him to Lady Pamela Wellesely, sister of the Duke of Wellington. The attraction is sudden and unexpected but more than a little complicated. One of the best novels in the series, 'Beat to Quarters' is consistantly exciting and absolutly entertaining. Fans of the series and those new to it will applaud Forester's first Hornblower novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2001
Beat to Quarters is the sixth book in the eleven book series covering the exploits of Horatio Hornblower. It is also, in my opinion, the best one out of the ones I have read. It's story flows from one point to the next and there is plenty of action in this installment.
The first thing I should mention is that Mr. Forrester's description of life onboard a War Ship is quite accurate. Being a member of today's Navy, it's amazing to see just how little has changed in 200 years. Sure, the ships are made of steel, we have satellite communications, etc... However, much has remained the same. We still spend hour after hour cleaning the ship, drilling for action, etc... and Mr. Forrester does a wonderful job capturing this.
The second thing about this novel I enjoyed was the description of the battle between the Spanish Warship and Hornblower's Frigate. I was on the edge of my seat wondering how Captain Hornblower would be able to win a battle against the much more powerful Spanish ship. I'm sure you will enjoy this book for these reasons and many others. IF you like good historial Drama then I would HIGHLY recommend this one!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 1998
A Character loosely based on Nelson, Hornblower's series takes you through being a Midshipman to being an Admiral in the Napoleanic Wars. This series was created during WWII and was the most popular series in England until James Bond came along. The author went on to write other books (like the African Queen), but will always be remembered for this great combination of action, character-development and historical realism. This is a great book for anyone; but as a teen, it was the first series to introduce me to how fascinating and worthwhile reading could be.
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