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The Surgeon's Mate (Aubrey/Maturin) Paperback – January 17, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Top Customer Reviews
The book opens right where the previous "The Fortune of War" ended. Maturin & Aubrey sail into Halifax Canada as conquering warriors & are much acclaimed by the locals (with some humorous entanglements for Aubrey). Soon, tho, we are back at sea, being pursued by privateers paid to kill Maturin. From this point on there is almost constant action, for Maturin has new intelligence assignments as well as unfinished business with the French. Meanwhile, his personal life continues rocky due to Diana Villiers presence. Of course, all will end happily as Patrick O'Brian lets you know by his choice of titles.
It is hard to critically discuss "The Surgeon's Mate" as a stand-alone novel, since so much of it is a continuation of plots begun in "The Fortune of War". It is complex, exciting, & definitely not the best choice as your introduction to the Aubrey/Maturin series. At the very least, read "The Fortune of War" before embarking upon this particular voyage. You will enjoy all the more for having done so!
Indeed, this story began two volumes ago, in "Desolation Island", where it looked like they might have "copped it" in the horrible old Leopard.
Then the next story, The Fortune of War, begins with the Leopard limping into a British port off the Malay Peninsula, where after being treated handsomely they board the fast-sailing packet ship La Fletch for England (at last) where Jack is to take command of a new frigate.
But the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune say nay, for their ship burns and sinks, leaving them on the open ocean in a ship's boat whose sails had been stolen and sold by a corrupt boatswain. After many brutal, parched, sunburned days in the lifeboat terror strikes once more when a ship within hailing distance fails to see them and sails on.
As they appear about to succumb to the elements, however, they are rescued by HMS Java. Just as they are recovering from the debilitating ordeal in the lifeboat, Java engages the American ship Constitution (it's the War of 1812), loses the battle, and Aubrey and Maturin find themselves prisoners of war in Boston.
There they discover they are very special prisoners, for Aubrey or Maturin -- or both -- are suspected of being more than a captain and his ship's surgeon. They escape this peril by sailing a little sloop out of Boston harbor into the open sea where they meet and are taken aboard the blockading HMS Shannon. With them is the love of Stephen's life, Diana Villiers, who was in Boston due to entirely credible circumstances, and whose fervent desire to leave with them is equally credible.Read more ›
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).Read more ›
Unlike earlier novels the action in The Surgeon's Mate is non-stop. O'Brian, always excellent in his characterization and use of language, has considerably improved the pacing from the earliest series entries. The reader is treated to the heroes travelling from Halifax to England to the Baltic to Paris and back to England in a rousing tour-de-force. Does O'Brian lose anything with the faster pace of The Surgeon's Mate? Absolutely not, he still has the strengths of the earlier books.
One aspect of the series that has made it great is the ability of O'Brian to set some of the thorny discussions of our times in the context of the early 19th century. In The Surgeon's Mate, the abortion issue creates a marvelous balanced tension. O'Brian's presentation is even handed, airing both sides of the debate but ultimately not choosing sides. O'Brian has moderated some of the great debates of the last 30 years in his Aubrey Maturin series while providing great naval action along the way.
Perhaps it's time to put O'Brian's novels in a special category- six stars.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A delight to read. Characters and story expressed in beautiful language.Published 1 month ago by Kim Burdick
O'Brian is the most undiscovered author around. The movie Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World was based on a compilation of his stories. Read morePublished 1 month ago by bob
This book particularly abounds with suspense and drama.
We have an extended chase, a ship wreck, capture by the French resulting in a close brush with old enemies and... Read more
Recommend this to anyone who likes to sail, who likes historical fiction, or fans of adventure. The book keeps me asking for more.Published 2 months ago by Michael
Aubrey and Maturin on a secret mission. Diana to the rescue. What more can I say? In this seventh installment we are treated to high adventure and dry wit, shocking developments... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Great to catch up with old friends! Not a lot in the way of nautical battles in this one, but plenty of intrigue and twists to keep this reader on the edge of his seat. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Stanley Townsend
This is my fourth time through the series. And again there are nuances, subtleties that escaped me before. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer