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H. M. S. Surprise (Aubrey / Maturin) Paperback – May 17, 1991

4.6 out of 5 stars 230 customer reviews
Book 3 of 21 in the Aubrey & Maturin Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This third segment takes Jack Aubrey to the Indian subcontinent, where both the waters and the terrain are full of unfamiliar dangers. There is, however, a prize in the offing: a flotilla of French ships sent to attack the China Fleet. If Aubrey and Maturin can intercept the French, their fortunes will be made. But can they? Join Captain Aubrey on the quarterdeck and find out for yourself.

From Library Journal

These two selections represent a series of abridged audiobook versions of O'Brian's works narrated by Robert Hardy, that most blustery and unstudied of British actors. Hardy reads the stories cold, but here it works. He uses his voice to evoke everything from brutality to mannered drawing-room excesses to the physical threat of a storm at sea. The stories are superb depictions of life on a British man-of-war and incorporate O'Brian's exquisitely accurate historical detail (Testimonies, Audio Reviews, LJ 7/96). The friendship of protagonists Capt. Jack Aubrey and ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin plays out against an expanse of ocean, from India to the Atlantic, with a full complement of battles and adventures at sea for devotees of naval fiction. Highly recommended.?Mark Pumphrey, Polk Cty. P.L., Columbus, NC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Aubrey / Maturin (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 379 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American Ed edition (May 17, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393307611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393307610
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard R. Horton on August 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
In praising Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin books I am on well-trodden ground. In a sense, it is superfluous to do so: so many people, of such varied and excellent taste, have praised these books to the skies that further lauds from the modest likes of me are hardly necessary. Still, I'm glad to add my words. These stories concern Jack Aubrey, a ship captain in the English Navy at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and his great friend Stephen Maturin, an Irish-Catalan doctor and spy who in the first book joins Jack's crew as ship doctor.
As H. M. S. Surpries opens, political machinations cost Jack his prize money (earned in the previous book0, and Stephen's cover in Spain is blown. As a result, and also because Stephen is scheming to see his lover Diana again (who has been taken by her keeper Richard Canning to India), Jack takes command of the aged frigate H.M.S. Surprise, and is sent to Cambodia (stopping in India) to deliver the new British envoy to the Sultan of Kampong.
Thus the setup for a long, wonderful, account of the voyage to the Orient and back. The pleasures of this book are remarkably varied: high comedy, such as the famous drunken sloth incident; high adventure, as the men of the Surprise battle not only the South Atlantic at its fiercest, but also the French; and bitter disappointment and even tragedy, in Stephen's seesaw relationship with Diana, as well as Stephen's involvement with a young Indian girl.
The pleasures of this book, however, are not restricted to a fine plot. The ongoing development of the characters of Jack and Stephen, and of their complex and fully described friendship, is a major achievement. In addition, the many minor characters are fascinating: the envoy Mr.
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Format: Paperback
I, like many others I suspect, was sucked into reading the Aubrey/Maturin series by the Peter Weir film. Little did I know that the books would be so much deeper than the film or topic would lead one to believe. Stephen Maturin: physician, scientist, naturalist, spy (and Patrick O'Brian alter ego) studies people (including his great friend Jack Aubrey - and himself) dispassionately, and we are the beneficiaries of his study. Jack Aubrey: ship's captain, sentimentalist, musician and astronomer is a man of the past - he is a hero with flaws but he holds honor and duty above himself (usually).
H.M.S. Surprise is the best of the early series. We get adventure: a daring rescue of Stephen by Jack, a brilliant sea maneuver led by the Surprise on the Indian Ocean. We get a novel of manners: Maturin's and Aubrey's continued wooing of Diana Villiers and Sophia Williams. We get a marvelous frigate and her crew - O'Brian's depiction of the Surprise is a microcosm of the world at the time of Napoleon. And my, the Surprise is yar!
Some of my friends have expressed surprise (pun intended, and Aubrey would love it!) that a feminist landlubber would admire the same series that Charlton Heston and other manly men have loved before me. My response is that great writing is enough. There are few female characters in Aubrey/Maturin, and those that O'Brian includes are not particularly sympathetic (although I can imagine every actress alive wanting to play Diana Villiers), but it doesn't matter when I feel as much a part of the crew as Pullings or Bonden.
When you get down to it, Patrick O'Brian is just a great writer. At moments I have been reminded of Melville, Austen, and Robertson Davies. His grasp of the technical is thorough. His ability to share the historical feeling of the period is amazing.
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Format: Paperback
Some critics have referred to the Aubrey/Maturin books as one long novel united not only by their historical setting but also by the central plot element of the Aubrey/Maturin friendship. Having read these fine books over a period of several years, I decided to evaluate their cumulative integrity by reading them consecutively in order of publication over a period of a few weeks. This turned out to be a rewarding enterprise. For readers unfamiliar with these books, they describe the experiences of a Royal Navy officer and his close friend and traveling companion, a naval surgeon. The experiences cover a broad swath of the Napoleonic Wars and virtually the whole globe.
Rereading all the books confirmed that O'Brian is a superb writer and that his ability to evoke the past is outstanding. O'Brian has numerous gifts as a writer. He is the master of the long, careful description, and the short, telling episode. His ability to construct ingenious but creditable plots is first-rate, probably because he based much of the action of his books on actual events. For example, some of the episodes of Jack Aubrey's career are based on the life of the famous frigate captain, Lord Cochrane. O'Brian excels also in his depiction of characters. His ability to develop psychologically creditable characters through a combination of dialogue, comments by other characters, and description is tremendous. O'Brien's interest in psychology went well beyond normal character development, some books contain excellent case studies of anxiety, depression, and mania.
Reading O'Brien gives vivid view of the early 19th century. The historian Bernard Bailyn, writing of colonial America, stated once that the 18th century world was not only pre-industrial but also pre-humanitarian (paraphrase).
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