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The Complete Aubrey/Maturin Novels (Vol. 5 volumes) Hardcover – November 8, 2016
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“No writer alive can move one as O’Brian can. . . . He is the master.”
- Kevin Myers, Irish Press
“Like John le Carré, [O’Brian] has erased the boundary separating a debased genre from ‘serious’ fiction. O’Brian is a novelist, pure and simple, one of the best we have.”
- Mark Horowitz, Los Angeles Times Book Review
““[O’Brian’s novels] will outlive most of today’s putative literary gems as Sherlock Holmes has outlived Bulwer-Lytton, as Mark Twain has outlived Charles Reade.”
- David Mamet, New York Times
About the Author
Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).Set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, O'Brian's twenty-volume series centers on the enduring friendship between naval officer Jack Aubrey and physician (and spy) Stephen Maturin. The Far Side of the World, the tenth book in the series, was adapted into a 2003 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. The film was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture. The books are now available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book format.In addition to the Aubrey/Maturin novels, Patrick O'Brian wrote several books including the novels Testimonies, The Golden Ocean, and The Unknown Shore, as well as biographies of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir, the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle, and famed fugitive Henri Cherrière's memoir Papillon. O'Brian died in January 2000.
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An omnibus edition of the series is a welcome notion, given the shelf space required by 20 volumes (even in paperback)! While I am no connoisseur of typefaces, the font used in re-setting the text is 'cleaner' and more attractive than the one used previously -- which is extremely important if you plan to traverse the 6500-plus pages of the omnibus edition!
But I have a major reservation with Norton's omnibus edition: there is little evidence that the publishers bothered to proofread their newly re-set text. Not only are there the usual, minor misspellings (like 'sorpething' instead of 'something'), but some far more problematic ones -- the kind that leave you with the nagging feeling: "surely O'Brian didn't write that." My favorite (so far) is in Book Two (Post Captain), which describes Canning's "great delighted laugh, a crowing noise that rose from a deep ass..." (see page 738). Checking the text of the previous hardback and paperback edition confirmed that O'Brian referred to Canning's vocal range ("bass"), not his nether regions.
Another serious problem with the omnibus text is the recurring omission of paragraph breaks used to mark alternating voices. Including more than one speaker within the same paragraph makes for some very confusing, even misleading passages. One should know that Norton's previous editions laid out the dialogue much more clearly (and consistently).
So, in a certain sense, this new edition is probably not the best introduction to O'Brian's multi-volume masterpiece. Newcomers should, if possible, go back to the previous edition which, after all, is still in print. Cheaper too, if you don't mind getting paperbacks.
1) They are simply poor quality. The paper is very thin and for hardcover volumes the boards are thin and flimsy. I expect these were cost-cutting measures by the publisher, but I still expect more for the purchase price.
2) There are too many type setting/copy editing/printing errors. While it is difficult to produce a single book without any printing errors, never mind 20 books, I find this collection to be extremely poorly copy edited/printed. In any given book there are usually upwards of 30 errors, and the number tends to increase as you work through the series. These usually take the form of gross misspellings or incorrect punctuation. While 30 some odd errors over 200-300 pages may not seem like much, I find it excessive and these certainly detract from the enjoyment of what are great stories.
So I find this collection to be poorly edited and produced.