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The Thirteen-Gun Salute: Aubrey/Maturin Paperback – August 17, 1992

4.6 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews
Book 13 of 21 in the Aubrey & Maturin Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Will Napoleon Bonaparte form an alliance with the Malay princes of the South China Sea? Not if Jack Aubrey can help it. Conveying a diplomatic mission to the Sultan's court, Aubrey and company must also contend with orangutans, typhoons, and a squadron of wily French envoys.

From Publishers Weekly

The 18th in O'Brian's Jack Aubrey series will please current fans and likely make new ones. Newly rich Aubrey ( The Letter of Marque ), again a Royal Navy captain and even a "rotten-borough" M.P., is given command of the frigate Diane with orders to bring king's envoy Fox to conclude a treaty with the sultan of Borneo before Napoleon does. Aboard is Jack's friend Dr. Maturin, English secret agent and avid naturalist. After a placid trip (via Antarctica) and some stormy local politics (involving two English traitors and the sultan's catamite) the treaty is made. Fox's growing arrogance breeds ill will and when homeward-bound Diane hits a reef Jack gladly sends the envoy ahead in a cutter. O'Brian's style has been compared with Jane Austen's: even the dinners (in country house, London, ship's mess, sultan's palace, Buddhist monastery) are distinguished wittily. Perhaps the most charming segment is Maturin's idyllic stay in a remote valley, where he blissfully encounters and studies a variety of tame exotic beasts.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 17, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039330907X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393309072
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The opening paragraphs by themselves are worth the price of the book in summarizing the lives of all who have sailed into uncertainties. Most of the action is political intrigue in the South Sea kingdoms and then the faithful reader is forever left with an intensely moral question about one of the main characters of this extraordinary set of tales. Please start with the 1st book of the series, "Master and Commander," in order to have the on-going subplots make sense and in order to grow with Jack and Stephen. The "13 Gun Salute" is the 13th of the series. Patrick O'Brian writes with humour, intelligence and a deep loving affinity for long gone ships and seas.
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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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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful series. There are several other 'books turned into series' that depict friendship and loyalty but on those occasions, they sometimes fall into dialogue loaded with humorous repartee. The excellent (yet limited) series of Spenser of course is always about friendship and loyalty, although I am certain that Professor Parker would agree that Aubrey and Maturin represent a far more prodigous, complicated effort than Spenser and Hawk.
"The Thirteen Gun Salute" takes the crew of The Diane well, well south into frozen waters, battles typhoons, carries with it political intrigue, but mostly immerses us in the lexicon and morality of 200 years ago. By now all who are but a little familiar with Lucky Jack Aubrey know that it is his friendship with Dr. Maturin and the ensuing conversations that make the series fly . . . well, float. Add to that the close, uncanny description of life on board a sailing ship and the tumult of the time resounding with the French, here Malay Sultans, protestants, Catholics and revolutionaries, and you're in for a great, enjoyable history lesson.
Some criticize O'Brian for being tedious. For the rest of us it is why we are there. It is O'Brian's attention to detail from eating pudding before the rats get it to gunnery practice in the late afternoon that makes it all worthwhile. Highly recommended. Thirteen Guns and Five Stars. Larry Scantlebury
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Format: Hardcover
Whenever a dignitary comes aboard one of the King's ships, there is always a thundering salute from the cannons, the number of discharges determined by the rank of the honored guest. Thirteen guns is the right, proper salute for a royal ambassador, and Captain Aubrey has been commissioned to deliver the King's representative from London safely around the world to a strategic Pacific post in the early nineteenth century British Empire.

The highlight of the book is the pilgrimage Dr. Steven Maturin, ship's surgeon, takes to an ancient Hindu temple nestled within a crater in the center of the island. The depiction of both the journey and the destination are so vivid and tangible that it ceases to be fictional in the reader's mind. The sights, smells and sounds of the Polynesian jungle fairly exude from each page of the book.

In the final chapter, the foreshadowing and descriptive imagery employed as a typhoon approaches are likewise breathtaking. Imagine a wall of billowing purple clouds against a copper sky with a surging sea beneath: at once beautiful and terrifying.

SO WHAT?
Most of the action in the book occurs on the gorgeous, Malaysian island of Pulo Prabang. I actually began to search for the location of the island in an atlas before I realized that it was completely fictional, an eruption from the creative mind of Patrick O'Brian, taking on reality only in the minds of his readers. A mark of masterful historical fiction is its utter believability: here it is as if the author has created his very own Machu Picchu.

Another mark of good writing is depth of personality in the characters. One particular quality in Dr. Maturin that we would do well to imitate is wonder.
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