Adventure on the high seas
July 13, 2010
Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O’Brian will appeal to those who enjoy rich prose and an event filled storyline. It is not necessary to be a history or naval enthusiast to enjoy this book, or the series, but you may end up being an enthusiast in the end. In this installment, Aubrey and Maturin end up in the South China Sea on a political mission. As an added bit of interest Aubrey takes salinity and temperature measurements for Alexander von Humboldt, the German naturalist for whom the Humboldt Current is named.
This book is the thirteenth in a series. The storyline is a continued and evolved affair that reaches back to the first book. The story follows the service of the main characters, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Their relationship, personal and professional lives have been carefully developed (and aged) through the series and are the driving force of the novels. There are also several other secondary, well-developed characters that appear in the books but not consistently. The point of view of the character is always third-person. In this book the main pair, who always sail together, are on board a new command with a new crew.
Throughout the book, and others in the series, the reader experiences quick action and then measured character evolution and revelation. It is densely written with great detail, which prevents the readers from reading it at breakneck speed. The pacing can be compared to a long sea journey, the characters settled into a known and comfortable rhythm, and then a need for quick and instantaneous response, usually without warning. There are long descriptive sentences, but the author also compresses time which does give the reader a respite from the details.
A little patience is required when getting started if you start in the middle of the series. The first novel, Master and Commander, took more time to ease the reader into the characters and setting than subsequent books. The reader does not need deep knowledge of the time period to read these books. A superficial knowledge would be helpful. The reader will come away with more knowledge than they started with but it is not a textbook.
Book Review described the series as the best historical novels ever written.Tags: reading, Books, book review