Read The Thirteen-Gun Salute - Folio Society Edition by Patrick O'Brian Online


For Jack Aubrey restoration to the sacred Navy List seems close – he has charming promises from Lord Melville – but political favour is always uncertain, and so he and Stephen Maturin set out in the dear Surprise, bound for Chile and Peru to help the fledgling independence movement there. Since Spain is one of Britain’s allies, her government is furious when a high-placedFor Jack Aubrey restoration to the sacred Navy List seems close – he has charming promises from Lord Melville – but political favour is always uncertain, and so he and Stephen Maturin set out in the dear Surprise, bound for Chile and Peru to help the fledgling independence movement there. Since Spain is one of Britain’s allies, her government is furious when a high-placed mole betrays this plan – fortunately this is the spur the government needs and Jack is reinstated and ostentatiously given a very different objective: to convey a British mission to Malaysia. The French mission is already there – led by none other than the traitor Ledward. It is time for Stephen’s long-maturing revenge to be played out – amongst an almost virgin earthly paradise of exactly the flora and fauna that most delight him.‘Bears I have borne, sir, and badgers . . .’ said Mrs Broad, her arms folded over a formal black silk dress. ‘It was only a very small bear,’ said Stephen, ‘and long ago.’...

Title : The Thirteen-Gun Salute - Folio Society Edition
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ISBN : 16156393
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
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The Thirteen-Gun Salute - Folio Society Edition Reviews

  • Darwin8u
    2019-02-23 08:40

    "...for him, Truth was what he could make others believe."- Patrick O'Brian, Thirteen-Gun Salute"...What I meant was that if he could induce others to believe what he said, then for him the statement acquired some degree of truth, a reflection of their belief that it was true; and this reflected truth might grow stronger with time and repetition until it became conviction, indistinguishable from ordinary factual truth, or very nearly so.”(The Thriteen-Gun Salute, 188)Certain O'Brian novels just make me want to soak in them. I slow down while reading just to float on the prose. There is a poetry to his descriptions of sailing, the natural world, and music. Thirteen books in (I wonder if this was purposeful) O'Brian continues to paint and sketch more and more detail on his two protagonists. I now consider Captain Aubrey and Dr. Maturin to be, perhaps, two of the greatest characters ever. O'Brian uses these two men as archetypes of masculinity (I've covered this before). But each book allows him to shade more, nuance deeper.

  • Jason Koivu
    2019-02-23 12:06

    Out of all of O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series up to this point, The Thirtheen-Gun Salute gets further away from the sea battles and life aboard ship to really delve into the interior of a new and exciting frontier (in the eyes of the characters as set in a pre-"Planet Earth" world) and paints a not-always-pretty picture of diplomacy in the Far East as it was some 200 years ago. O'Brian describes Maturin's romp into the countryside in such flowing and absorbing detail that it reads as vividly as watching any of those fancy nature programs David Attenborough makes.There are no naval battles in this, the thirteenth episode of the saga. I mention it because that is such a big draw for many who read these kinds of books. However, this is Patrick O'Brian we're talking about, so all the rest that makes up this book is well worth the reading, because the reading makes you feel as if you're living it. You get the sense of an early 19th century voyage around the globe. You feel the tension of a diplomatic mission that may sway the war one way or another in this part of the world. You climb the 1000 steps to the ancient Buddhist temple where it shouldn't be on an island in Muslim Malaysia, and there you connect on a personal level with an orangutan. It's all amazingly detailed. But action? No, this one's not filled with action. That being said, our courageous hero Captain Aubrey is still busy. He has a ship to run while contending with an envoy whose inflating sense of self may threaten everything. Intelligence agent, naturalist and ship's surgeon Dr. Maturin takes center stage for much of The Thirteen-Gun Salute. It is a part of his character arc that culminates in a satisfactory, if somewhat devious, finish of a storyline that has been going on and on for book after previous book. This is a gorgeous and subtle piece of fiction that can be enjoyed by fans beyond the action/adventure genre that one would assume it is. If you're new to the series, perhaps don't start with this book, but otherwise, this is highly recommended!

  • Ken-ichi
    2019-03-22 06:58

    Glad I bought the next two, because this doesn't end at the end. Scads of good fun, as always. Probably the most memorable part of this adventure was Stephen's trip to the Buddhist temple, where men and beasts live together in harmony and Stephen basically gets to have the on-shore naturalizing experience he is repeatedly denied while sailing with Jack. Too good. Also, enemy dissection.Words & Notesp. 29 As usual, Stephen is at the cutting edge of medical technology, stocking "plaster of Paris for healing broken limbs in the oriental manner (much favoured now by Dr Maturin)". Wikipedia has an extensive article on orthopedic casts, and traces their origin in Western medicine to observations made in Turkey around 1800.popliteal (adj): referring to the back of the knee. (p. 40)plansheer (n): possibly the same as plancer, the underside of a cornice (p. 61)spirketting (n): I think this is the wooden lining around a port. (p. 61)roborative (adj): restorative, giving strength (p. 63)sillery (n): Sillery is a region in France known for its wine. (p. 87) 'Bears I have borne, sir, and badgers...' said Mrs. Broad, her arms folded over a formal black silk dress. 'It was only a very small bear,' said Stephen, 'and long ago.' (p. 112)chilblains (n): ulceration of the extremities due to cold and humidity (p. 149)"a true Job's muffler" This verbal gaff of Jack's was completely lost on me. Apparently "Job's comforter" is a phrase. So much more at (p. 156)Oh man, this passage from p. 162 is way too good not to recount in full. Jack is interviewing one of his midshipmen on his historical knowledge: 'What do you know about the last American war?' 'Not very much, sir, except that the French and Spaniards joined in and were finely served out for doing so.' 'Very true. Do you know how it began?' 'Yes, sir. It was about tea, which they did not choose to pay duty on. They called out No reproduction without copulation and tossed it into Boston harbour.' Jack frowned, considered, and said, 'Well, in any event they accomplished little or nothing at sea, that bout.' He passed on to the necessary allowance for dip and refraction to be made in working lunars, matters with which he was deeply familiar; but as he tuned his fiddle that evening he said, 'Stephen, what was the Americans' cry in 1775?' 'No representation, no taxation.' 'Nothing about copulation?' 'Nothing at all. At that period the mass of Americans were in favour of copulation.' 'So it could not have been No reproduction without copulation?' 'Why, my dear, that is the old natural philosopher's watchword, as old as Aristotle, and quite erroneous. Do but consider how the hydra and her kind multiply without any sexual commerce of any sort. Leeuenhoek proved it long ago, but still the more obstinate repeat the cry, like so many parrots.' 'Well, be damned to taxation, in any case. Shall we attack the andante?'murrain (n): infectious disease among cattle and sheep (p. 163)p. 189 describes a form of corporal punishment in Pulo Prabang in which a bag partially filled with pepper is placed over the criminal's head and the victim's family then beats him with sticks. A cursory search turned up no supporting evidence, sadly.babirussa (n): presumably Babyrousa babyrousa, a kind of wild pig native to Indonesia. (p. 200)colophony (n): another name for rosin (p. 211)kedgeree (n): a semi-horrifying mixture of fish, rice, eggs, curry, parsely, and curry powder, eaten by, who else, Britons. For breakfast. It actually doesn't sound that bad as dinner, but not first thing in the morning, thanks. (p. 216)"past mark of mouth" apparently means "old" and has some equine origin, but what the actual mark might be I'm not sure. Any equestrians out there? (p. 233)subjacent (adj): below (p. 262)frowsty (adj): stale, musty (p. 263)crapulous (adj): irritable from having eaten or drunk too much (p. 263)colcannon (n): Irish dish of mashed spuds and cabbage or kale. Maybe I'll make some this week... (p. 270)pugil (n): same as a pinch, as in the quantity (p. 275)garstrakes (n): the first planks of wood adjacent to the keel of the ship (p. 275)comminatory (adj): warning or punishing (p. 288)castramentation (n): possibly a misspelling of "castrametation," so aptly defined by Jack himself as "the learned word for setting up tents and so on." (p. 307)"and music shall untune the sky" This beautiful excerpt is from Dryden's "Song for St. Cecilia's Day," the full text of which and an interesting description can be found at Harpers.

  • Robert
    2019-02-22 10:45

    At some point O'Brian decided this series would go on indefinitely. The structure of some of the books then became odd. There are some that don't end - they just stop. There's an obvious on-going, unresolved plot but - tough luck - you're gonna hafta wait for the next volume to get a resolution. This is one of them. It ends with a cliff-hanger (which some don't) and for some reason it's easier to handle then when a book just stops apparently arbitrarily.So, thirteen books in and it's getting harder to find non-repetitive things for Aubrey and Maturin to do with each volume, yet O'Brian pulls it off again! Making Maturin not just a physician but an intelligence officer was a stroke of genius in this regard. It offers a much greater range of possible and plausible adventures than regular Royal Navy work could...and so we are off to the Pacific on a diplomatic mission with clandestine additional motivations. The best, most delightful part of this volume is an almost complete aside from the main plot, however: Maturin indulges his interest in natural history by visiting a volcanic island where Orangutans abound.Back to the cliff-hanger. I have not had so urgent a desire to read the next in this series since probably somewhere in the first five volumes. I think I overdosed for a while and I also think the quality varies somewhat between volumes in this series, but this one is the best since the tenth, at least.

  • Wealhtheow
    2019-03-17 09:00

    Now that Aubrey is restored to the King's Navy once more, he's off on another mission, this time to Malaysia. His particular friend, Dr.Stephen Maturin, is along to spy on the French's forces in Malaysia. (view spoiler)[The diplomatic mission goes well, not least because Maturin disgraces and then kills the leading French diplomats. (This plot line is one of those masterful strokes that O'Brian is so excellent at. For the first half of the book, Maturin and Fox often practice their long distance shooting as part of a friendly competition. Later, Maturin befriends an anatomist and has amusingly detached conversations with him. Maturin stays in a brothel and watches the French. All of these minor little background moments come together in one stunning scene, when Maturin turns up on the anatomist's doorstop with an unnamed body with a precise bullet hole, and they dispassionately dissect it. It's stunning and cold.) On the way home, the ship is wrecked on uncharted reefs, and the crew is stranded on a small island. (hide spoiler)]O'Brian has a talent for the long game, giving little clues and hints that slowly build to a crescendo. He's unafraid of making his characters unlikable, or absurd, which in turn makes them actually far more interesting.

  • K.M. Weiland
    2019-02-27 05:46

    After more than a year's hiatus from my favorite maritime series, all I can sigh is: I love these stories. Patrick O'Brian may well be the most brilliant man to ever put pen to page. This installment easily bears up to its predecessors, with its subtle humor, nuanced characters, and balanced pacing. Can't wait for the next one!

  • Renee M
    2019-03-03 10:00

    The one with orangutans, catamites, dissections, a shipwreck, and the arrogant envoy...

  • Julie Davis
    2019-02-28 08:05

    Listened to Patrick Tull's masterful reading. Of course. :-)By book 13 you're already heavily invested in the ongoing adventures of captain Jack Aubrey and doctor Stephen Maturin. So I will just say that I treat these as leisurely serial novels, much like the radio shows of old, where the adventures keep the story rolling along and we enjoy the characters' developing lives as much as the main action. This was enjoyable and kept me rolling along to anticipate a leisurely listen to book 14.

  • Terry
    2019-03-07 11:48

    Another solid entry in the Aubrey-Maturin saga, The Thirteen-Gun Salute finds our seagoing protagonists heading to the South China Sea on a diplomatic mission. By this thirteenth book, titles are starting to feel more like arbitrary chunks of the ongoing dual biography than discrete novels. A high degree of familiarity with the series is presumed, but for dedicated readers this is part of the charm. Highlights include Dr. Maturin's sojourn at a Buddhist temple in an isolated volcanic crater -- a naturalist's paradise -- and a frightening encounter with a violent typhoon. All the usual history, politics, humor, espionage, naval sociology and fascinating character studies are here too.I read this partly in print and partly in the audiobook read by Simon Vance. Though I have a general preference for the work of Patrick Tull, Vance does a good job here with character and narrative.

  • Susan
    2019-02-26 07:03

    Dull, dull, dull. I could not get into this story with the endless expeditions by Stephen to see all manner of flora and fauna and I heard as much as I would like to know about orangutans. I know this was his cover, but this stuff went on and on and on to the point where my mind wandered, waiting for something else to happen.The only interesting part was where Jack got his commission back in the Royal Navy and this could have been told in a short story, which perhaps this story should have been. Disappointed.

  • Cherie
    2019-03-24 11:40

    I am reporting this book read, but I am re-listening to selected chapters that I enjoyed.I was disappointed that they changed ships again from The Surprise to The Diane, but gratified that Jack has been re-instated. The spy stuff with Stephen and his old French advisories was a little confusing, and the new Envoy is not a nice guy. The ending caught me off guard after the big blow, but I know that everything will carry on until my turn for the next volume comes off of hold at my library.

  • Ron
    2019-02-27 05:59

    The saga continues, but it's starting to drag. Ended with a real cliffhanger.cover art: It's so refreshing to have cover art depicting an identifiable scene from the text. This series is much the exception in that most of it's cover art does.

  • Patrick
    2019-03-21 05:54

    ‘It would be an absurd exaggeration to speak of a feeling of escape or holiday; but underlying the regret there was a sense of a return to a simpler world, one in which the roof, or what passed for it, was not expected to be universally waterproof, where chimneys and the poor-rate amounted to little, where a settled hierarchy, independent of moral or intellectual merit, did away if not with difference of opinion then at least with its more candid expression, a world in which there were no morning calls and in which servants could not give notice; a world devoid of most comforts, complex enough in all conscience, and not without its dangers, yet one whose complexity was as who should say more direct, less infinitely various; and above all a world that they were used to.’The quote from the opening pages of The Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O'Brian seems to sum up quite neatly what I’ve often felt about these books: that feeling of slipping back into a world where complexity is 'more direct, less infinitely various’. It is not a holiday for the characters, perhaps; but for me it certainly feels like one. With these books I feel like my mind is being elegantly chauffeured through the lines of a story by a supremely gifted storyteller. At any moment I’m dimly aware that I am being ushered past scenes of enormous complexity, but such are the subtle gifts of the author that my attention is only brought to bear on the moments which matter. Following the events of 'The Letter of Marque', I expected Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin to be lighting out for the coasts of South America to ferment revolution, but for complex and slightly tortuous reasons they are given another mission: to sail to Pulo Prabang, a little island state in the Malay archipelago that is of some strategic and political importance. To win the affections of the local Sultan, they bring with them Edward Fox, a royal envoy. The significance of the title relates to his role: it’s the signal traditionally used to greet a representative of the royal family.There’s a lot of long seafaring here, mostly without much in the way of real action; apart from a brief chase, there are no ship-to-ship engagements at all in this book. It’s a testament to O'Brian’s skill that he can keep the reader engaged for so long when very little appears to be happening. The most memorable example here is the scene when Aubrey’s frigate is almost wrecked on a forlorn scrap of land called Inaccessible Island: due to the currents and lack of wind they are entirely stuck until a hoped-for breeze comes to their assistance. But the whole scene plays out so slowly and with such apparent lack of urgency that Stephen has no idea that they are in any danger. It’s very fine stuff. Things pick up a bit once we arrive at Pulo Prabang, because who else should be there Wray and Ledward, the treacherous British ex-admiral and French intelligence agent that we’ve met in previous books. They are the chief rivals to Fox for the Sultan’s affections, and for a treaty which will secure British interests in the area. But everything is set for a showdown that never quite occurs. The French are on the back foot here; scrappy, pitiful, disorganised. Ledward and Wray seem terrified of the English. Perhaps they share in the reader’s secret knowledge: of course we know that the British will be successful. It is only a question of how.With regards to resolving this situation, the author himself seems faintly bored by any obvious solution. There’s no great fight scenes; the most dramatic, violent and passionate moments are glimpsed from balconies, or take place in distant bedrooms. Winning the Sultan’s affections turns out to be a depressingly literal business involving the local concubines and the exposure of a sordid love triangle. Fox claims the credit though he’s somewhat peripheral to the actual downfall, and though the reader is never told how it is that Wray and Ledward end up dead, it will be Stephen who brings their bodies to the home of a local scientist for dissection.I think some readers have found this sequence shocking. But it is perfectly in keeping with Stephen’s character, and with the character of O'Brian’s writing in general. These books will always put their characters to the scalpel when necessary to frame odd aspects of their world in miniature. This is the most intimate kind of familiarity they can muster. It goes one step beyond the rhythms of conversation, beyond rendering the machinations of the individual imagination: it imagines a character subjected totally to the rational organising faculties of another. For Stephen, killing his enemies is besides the point. To know them inside out is the ultimate victory.But there is one figure who slips away from him here, in every sense:'Fox, on the other hand, occupied a more or less perpetual stage, playing the role of an important figure, an imposing man, and the possessor of uncommon parts. To be sure, he was at least to some extent all three; but he would rarely let it alone – he wished it to be acknowledged…Stephen thought the performance was by now almost wholly unconscious; but in a long voyage its continuity made it plain, and on occasion the envoy’s reaction to a real or imaginary want of respect made it plainer still. Fox did not seek popularity, though he could be good company when he chose and he liked being liked; what he desired was superiority and the respect due to superiority, and for a man of his intelligence he did set about it with a surprising lack of skill…’Readers have seen this sort of character before in an earlier novel, way back in The Mauritius Command. Here is Stephen again:'“Do you remember I once said of [Lord] Clonfert that for him truth was what he could make others believe?…I expressed myself badly. What I meant was that if he could induce others to believe what he said, then for him the statement acquired some degree of truth, a reflection of their belief that it was true; and this reflected truth might grow stronger with time and repetition until it became conviction, indistinguishable from ordinary factual truth, or very nearly so.”’There is something very pointed, very particular about the portrayal of Fox. But it’s difficult to tell what O’Brian is pointing at. Fox is not malicious exactly, though it often seems he would do something dreadful if crossed. Everything is grounded in this sense of accidental inauthenticity that Stephen describes here. It is felt very deeply, expressed at great length in the novel – and yet it never plays any real part in the plot. It never reaches any kind of true resolution or confrontation. We only live for it with a while before it is gone.Some of what is implied about Fox is uncomfortable. There is a certain sad state of corruption about him, and it’s hard to tell if the author’s implication is that it has something to do with his sexuality. The problem is not so much that he enjoys the company of men, rather that he requires a complex combination of their approval, their subservience, and their affection. He wants loyalty. He wants ownership. This, to Jack and particularly to Stephen, is unsettling, because their working relationship comes from trust and mutual respect. On board his ship, Jack is king, but each man reveals himself to the other in their own time. Fox will never reveal himself to anyone.This is not to say he never tries. There’s one moment in this book where Fox quotes a few lines from a poem:‘“I wonder if you know the author of the lines I have ventured to translate:“When the bells justle in the tower
The hollow night amid
Then on my tongue the taste is sour
Of all I ever did.”’This is a strange passage because the author of those lines is A. E. Housman, a poet who would be at least forty years from being born in the era Fox was speaking. Given the meticulous way in which these books are written, it’s hard to see this as anything other than deliberate. Speculation as to precisely why these lines were included is about as worthwhile as any other kind of definitive rumination as to authorial intent. But I think this incongruity is a sign that this series is becoming more adventurous; like the symbol of Stephen’s balloon and its attendant dream sequence in the previous novel, it’s a subtle indication that the books are slipping further from their previously tight grasp on historical realism. We need no longer see everything in O’Brian’s world as having an existence independent to the thoughts of his characters. Think of that image that returns as regular as the moon in these books: the sight of the sky and sea becoming one against the clear horizon. In the same way, the sea, the ship, its crew and the mind of the author all become one thing in the consideration of the reader.What is further telling is Stephen’s reaction to Fox’s confession:‘…It cannot be an ancient: the pagans, as far as my reading goes, were never much given to self-hatred or guilt about their sexual activities. That was reserved for Christians, with their particular sense of sin; and as “all I ever did” clearly refers to ill-doing, I must suppose it to be of a sexual nature, since a thief is not always stealing nor a murderer always murdering, whereas a man’s sexual instincts are with him all the time, day and night. Yet it is curious to see how the self-hater often succeeds in retaining his self-esteem in relation to others, usually by means of a general denigration: he sees himself as a worthless creature, but his fellows as more worthless still…’All of this is directed at Fox as a way of keeping him at arm’s length. Fox is gay, he’s thinking, and I don’t want to know anything about it. But if we know anything about Stephen, it’s that he’s prone to the occasional bout of hypocrisy. The sexual anxiety that he purports to detect here is not dissimilar to that which has plagued his own self. We’re told throughout the book that since giving up opium, his libido has returned (and Diana, far offstage, is pregnant). All of this is mentioned by the author in a fairly matter of fact, passionless way, much as if Stephen had diagnosed and described it himself: the occasional erotic dream, and the appearance of an unnamed 'sleeping partner’ in Malaysia. But it haunts him through Fox, and through the scandal that gets them what they want in Pulo Prabang.Fox makes for a curious shadow figure to Stephen here. The recurring images seem to set them up in parallel: they practice shooting together, play chess, and engage in these curious, looping conversations in which one seems to be commenting on or foreshadowing the other without ever really addressing the space between them. Fox could be a more optimistic and certainly more egotistical version of Stephen, and it’s when we contrast Stephen with Fox that the doctor’s own talents become thrown into sharp relief. Consider how little he cares for his own enrichment by comparison. And consider also how the thing to which he dedicates himself most in this book, and from which he derives the most satisfaction, is a long and arduous journey to a remote Buddhist monastery in which the monks live peacefully alongside the wildlife. Rather than going to such lengths to conceal one’s true self from the world, how much better to retire entirely from it.

  • Dorothy
    2019-03-09 04:50

    The thirteen-gun salute is the number of volleys given in honor of an ambassador, an envoy, and that title here presages a tale of a diplomatic mission that Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin are assigned on behalf of England.But first, we find Aubrey still sailing the Surprise as in the last book, The Letter of Marque. That changes rather quickly, although never quick enough for Jack, when he is reinstated to the Royal Navy because of his exploits on behalf of the nation as a privateer. He is once again "Captain" Jack Aubrey and all is right in his world.Well, almost all. Being a part of the Royal Navy once again means he must leave his beloved Surprise behind. He is given command of the Diane, formerly a French vessel, which he captured in the last book, and he is sent to accompany his friend Maturin on a diplomatic mission that will take them to the South China Sea. There, Maturin is to aid and support the king's envoy in securing a treaty with the Malay court at Pulo Prabang, a treaty that will prevent links between Bonaparte and the Malay princes that would put English merchant shipping at risk. At the Sultan's court, Maturin encounters two French agents who have been his nemesis in the past and who are now well-entrenched in the Sultan's good graces, and with whom he must now find a way of dealing so that the mission can succeed. At the same time, the English envoy proves to be a fatuous, self-important man, sensitive to any perceived slight - perhaps not the best personality for an ambassador, but Stephen Maturin is nothing if not resourceful and he manages his behind-the-scenes role with his usual aplomb, ensuring that the necessary treaty can be achieved.This is a departure from the usual arc of these stories in that there is no great sea battle recounted, no prizes to be won. Instead, the action is mostly of a quieter kind until near the end when a killer typhoon hits after the Diane has become intractably stuck on an uncharted reef. Aubrey and his men must abandon the ship and go ashore to wait out the storm.But before that final excitement, we get to accompany Stephen Maturin on a quieter - but no less exciting to him and to like-minded readers - adventure when he climbs the Thousand Steps to a sacred crater where a community of Buddhists watches over a habitat that includes orangutans and many other fascinating species. It is the high point of his time in the Malay world. During this voyage also, Maturin is anticipating the birth of a child. His wife, Diana, is expecting their first child, which he is completely convinced will be a girl and he longs for news from home which will confirm that for him.But he never gets that confirmation and we have to leave him there on a desolate rock in the South China Sea along with Aubrey and all the other men of the Diane who managed to survive the storm as they plan to build a schooner to escape their predicament. We'll have to wait for number 14 in the series to see whether they succeed. (I strongly suspect that they will!)

  • Jeff LeMaster
    2019-03-23 10:37

    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. Though a deeply conscientious naturalist, he continues to looks at the world with the wide-eyed amazement of a child, often losing himself in the moment. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands" (Psalm 19:1).WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOKIf you love the smell of salt in the air, the sound of seagulls, the swell of an ever undulating ocean, then this series of books is for you.SUGGESTIONSIf you are new to the Aubrey/Maturin world, begin with the first novel, Master and Commander. The Horatio Hornblower books will also satisfy your yearnings for naval adventure. VIDEOS: The Sea Hawk, Master and Commander, Horatio Hornblower series from A&E.

  • Daniel
    2019-02-28 09:06

    I've enjoyed the whole Aubrey-Maturin series very much -- I'm up to book 16 now -- but I've singled this one out as a 'favourite'. Taken as a whole, it isn't the best in the series, as I couldn't muster much interest in the politics of the invented island state our heroes visit. Of course, being a minor entry in the Aubrey-Maturin series still makes it better than most other novels. What makes it a favourite is the chapter where Stephen, accompanied by an orang-utan, climbs a mountain to visit an ancient Buddhist temple. It has nothing to do with the plot, yet few who have followed the series from the beginning will regret the temporary abandonment of it. Why is this chapter so good? I think for several reasons: It gives Stephen a chance to be fully himself for a time, taking a holiday from the work demanded of him by the plot to do what he really wants to do, to satisfy his real inner self. We vicariously enjoy the experience ourselves, and we also enjoy seeing a character we love being so happy. Later, when Fox indicates a complete lack of interest in Stephen's adventures among the orang-utans, nothing could more thoroughly condemn the man.Understanding that readers will not be bothered by a lengthy break from the plot, but will enjoy the holiday from it as much as his character, must be evidence of a writer of great skill and experience.

  • Terri
    2019-03-13 11:59

    Aubrey must deal with a diplomatic mission and a prideful envoy. There are long sections describing seafaring and Maturin's natural philosophy as well as diplomatic details with only a couple of truly exciting adventures. Aubrey is reinstated in the navy and is given the Diane which he cut out from the French in a previous book. Along with Maturin and a whole unknown crew, they head around Africa and to the South China Sea. At the same time Captain Pullings takes the Surprise around South America and the two ships plan eventually to meet. After successfully brokering a treaty with a Malay sultan (due in large part to Maturin's efforts), taking revenge on Leadwood and Wray (a long time coming and involving spleens and dissection), out maneuvering the French in their efforts to make the same treaty, and a side trip for Maturin to an Eden paradise of flora and fauna in a crater at a Hindu temple, the Diane heads back to Java. However, the rendezvous with the Surprise never happens and instead the Diane breaks up in a storm after running aground on an uncharted reef. The crew is left shipwrecked on a small island, but with hope of escape by building a sloop from the remains of the wreck.

  • Kat
    2019-03-16 09:51

    I am morally obligated at this point to give every single book in the Aubreid a 5-star rating, and honestly even the worst books in the series don't earn the designation "worst" so much as "not quite as perfectly amazing." In a previous review, I think I mentioned that the mostly-ashore, Stephen-centric volumes appeal to me less--partially because I'm so greedy for all the beautiful nautical detail, the loving descriptions of the sea, and as much time spent with Jack Aubrey as possible, so anyone who prefers Stephen to Jack or even has no preference can feel free to dismiss my opinion. XDThat said, (view spoiler)[I was happy to have the traitorous Wray and Ledward dealt with at last: dealt with in O'Brian's typical summary, abrupt and unsentimental fashion. I was equally happy to see the back of the not-so Fantastic Mr Fox, whom I disliked from the start and positively hated by the time he set out on a little boat bound for destruction, unlamented by everyone but perhaps his mother. (hide spoiler)] O'Brian's variety of characters is surely one of his strengths, like Jane Austen's, even when the characters are despicable.

  • EJD Dignan
    2019-03-18 09:54

    Repeated from review of Book 1That Patrick O'Brian chose to place his characters on the sea in the not so distant past just raised the hurdle I had to leap to get to know this wonderful author.I had never been enamored with sea stories, didn't much care for European history, and yet was wonderfully taken with this series. The sea is a major character, but history is not greatly illuminated, almost a backdrop to the specific circumstance the characters find themselves in. Which perhaps reflects the author's view, while the wide sweep of Europe's history progresses, men are left to deal with far smaller local problems. And it is in men that O'Brian shines. O'Brian creates characters flawed enough to be human, without becoming base. Not the best of men, but rising to better as circumstance demands.And while the author leaves the great sweep of history largely aside, the detailed history of these men's lives, the sacrifices, the conditions of life at sea are truly fascinating.

  • Lorne
    2019-02-27 04:56

    Diplomatic intrigue! Shipwreck! Breaking Bad-style enemy disposal! And none of those were even the best part: a 30 page nearly dialogue free interlude in which Stephen Maturin hangs out with orangutans at a Buddhist temple. These books are amazing and thrive from O'Brian's self-indulgent writing and lengthy digressions. I don't come to these books for tightly coiled plots and twists. I come to bask in the most fully realized world I've ever encountered in book form. These books don't so much have endings as they do arbitrary stopping points, but I don't consider this a hindrance. This whole 20 book series can be thought of as one giant saga of these characters' lives. The ending of each one should be thought of more as a pause in the action, to be picked up again whenever the reader feels the need to dip back into this universe. And the more of these I read, the more I feel like coming back.

  • Beth
    2019-03-16 09:49

    I usually don’t read series that contain more than 5-7 books. Most authors should really stick to trilogies. You know how it is – predictability sets in, each book follows the same basic template, and the series loses its charm. Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series is the first series I’ve found that defies this rule.But I’m probably preaching to the choir. If you’ve gotten this far in the series, you know why you should read this book. The deep and ever maturing characters – the exciting naval battles, shipwrecks, and storms at sea – the dry wit and moments of surprising circumstantial humor – the rich historical details and political intelligence intrigue. I continue to be amazed at how Patrick O’Brian manages to keep each book new and fresh, while at the same time maintaining their timeless charm. *****If you appreciated this review, check out my blog at

  • Karla
    2019-03-24 08:38

    Glad the continuing (and slow) storyline with Wray and Ledward was finally brought to a close. I was getting a bit tired of them lurking about. Though (view spoiler)[having Stephen actually dissect them post-mortem (hide spoiler)] was worth the slog.This lacked the excitement of previous books, especially the at-sea bits. I listened to it with a disinterested ear for the most part, though there were were some high points. A sign that I might not have been fully engaged by one of the Aubrey volumes is that after it's over, I go to Wiki to read the plot summary and fill in the gaps where my mind was obviously wandering. And this book warranted a visit to Wiki.

  • Marc
    2019-03-23 08:44

    Great like the whole series. Well written. A joy to read slowly. This novel seems very transitory to winding up a couple loose ends hanging the past couple books and going into some new directions. I love the Maturin side of this novel with Van Buren and his explorations of Buddhist paradise...lovely.

  • Steven Vaughan-Nichols
    2019-03-19 08:06

    As always, I loved this next "chapter" in the continuing story of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. What stuck me the must in this re-reading of this volume is both how warm Maturin can be--when he visits the Buddhist temple ground--and how utterly cold and merciless he can be when he finally catches up with two old enemies.

  • Josh
    2019-03-22 06:59

    No weak links with this volume. There is less naval action in this story, but that only gives O'Brian more opportunity for brilliant character development as he takes Aubrey and Maturin to the South China Sea. Again, a superb novel.

  • Alan Swift
    2019-03-10 06:57

    Another excellent historical novel although I suspect that for those looking for rip-roaring naval action there would be insufficient interest. As others have commented the portion of the book relating Maturin's time at the temple was the most satisfying.

  • Randy
    2019-02-28 10:06

    Audiobook version. Do not cross Stephen Maturin or his friends. He deals with then with shocking coldness. Terrific.

  • Aaron
    2019-03-19 04:45

    I was disappointed. Not enough action. Too much time on land in the orient or the middle east or wherever it was that they went. Not enough cannons.

  • David
    2019-03-02 09:55

    A consistently enjoyable novel in the series. We are treated to the normal fare, with beautifully written prose always the hallmark. One never wants any of these novels to end.

  • Judith Johnson
    2019-02-25 09:05

    I loved it of course!!!!!