Saturday, November 26, 2011


The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey was published 7 years ago in 2004.  It was published under the title of "21" in the United States.

The typewritten script, of course, was easy to read as they just printed that.  But there were several pages that were not typewritten; they were just hand-written.  I could read some of the words, but I could not get the gist of it.  So in this case, the wikipedia summary really helped.

It had the makings of another great POB book for sure.  But I somewhat like that the last fully published book was Blue at the Mizzen as it ends with Jack "on top" rather than on a low ebb.

There is no doubt POB could have kept on cranking these books out year after year.  But has his wikipedia entry states (along with the post script in 21) he was living quite a lonely life.  His wife had died in 1998.  He died two years later in 2000.

The Aubrey-Maturin Series
So it really is finished (for me).  I started reading Master and Commander in Yellowstone while on a family vacation back in the summer of 2010.  And now a year and a half years later I'm reflecting on what a great series it has been.

That bug, which I wrote about in my review of M&C, as diminished.  But the love of reading about these two amazing figures continued.  I actually became more enamoured with Maturin.  One is seemingly led to believe he is just a flimsy naturalist - a soft medicoe.  But he is a savage spy and duelist.  He is a cold reptilian to Napoleon allies, but a warm, kind soul to those he medically helps and to those who are his friends.

Jack - is a true sailor through and through.  His passion and drive for a blue flag is relentless and he wears his heart on his sleeve while around Stephen.  You can tell he loves his men and officers.  He is quick to save a life and slow to physical punishment.

It's a fantastic series.  I've not really found a negative critic of the series.  In fact, it is so highly regarded, at the bookstore or library, it is not placed under fiction or sea-fiction, but rather under Literature.  It belongs with Dickens and Austin - it is that good.

So if you're curious about the series, I heartily recommend jumping in with both feet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O'Brian

I've been reading passionately the last few days.  This is the last fully written book by Patrick O'Brian.

The title, obviously references the blue flag an active admiral hoists in his ship ... a full admiral as opposed to an admiral in name only - a yellow admiral.

This book had elements from many of the other books.  It had doldrums; rounding the horn in horrific weather; reports of animals, birds, flora and fauna; fighting; sea-battles; cutting-out; political intrigue and spying ... all for glory and prize.

In the backdrop is the question whether Jack will receive his flag or not.

Stephen explains to a colleague, "he is a post-captain near the top of the list.  But he is at that stage when some members of the group with approximately the same seniority are selected for flag-rank as rear-admiral of the blue.  By no means all can be chosen: those who are not chosen, those who are passed over, are colloquially or by way of derision known as yellow admirals, admirals of a non-existent squadron.  And that is the end of the poor man's hopes: there is no return to eligibility.  Merit has something to do with this vital step, yet influence has more - political and family influence have more, sometimes much more; and Jack Aubrey has not always been politically wise.  He is very much afraid of picking up the Gazette in the next few months and of seeing men junior to himself being given their flag, a blue flag, to be hoisted at the mizzen, if my memory serves: a piece of bunting extraordinarily important to a man who has pursued it with such ardour for so many years.  And now that we are no longer at war, now that there is virtually no chance of his distinguishing himself, it is understandable that his light should at least grow dim: there is the real possibility that it should go out entirely.  And there is nothing that can restore it, nothing but that piece of cloth.  Nothing."

Later, much later, in the book, after all the battles and hardships, Jacob carries a half-decoded dispatch to Stephen with some exciting news.  We all knew it was coming!  And despite that we all knew it was coming, the passage that describes the scene still made me smile more broadly than any other passage in all the books!

Stephen reads the message to Jack, "Immediately upon receipt of the present order you will proceed to the River Plate, there joining the South African squadron: you will go aboard HMS Implacable, hoisting your flag, blue at the mizzen and take command of the blue squadron."

"Jack sat down, bowing his face in his hands: he was almost unmanned, but after a moment he did say, "Read that again, will you Stephen?"

And now, all that I am left with is 21.  I'm not sure it will provide much pleasure, but I see it more in the light of curiosity - just to see what thoughts might have created the 21st book.

After I peruse it's pages this week, I'll offer some thoughts on it and the entire series in general.

I can't help but admit that I am sad, having finished this book.  I've been so thrilled to come to the very end and to have that sense of accomplishment, but now that I'm here ... it's just plain said ... like an life-long friend is about to depart forever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian

Three long-standing characters die in this book.  Diana and Jack's mother-in-law die in a carriage crash.  It was quite shocking to read of Diana's death as it was practically mentioned in passing at the beginning of the book.  I stopped and re-read the passage several times to be sure I was getting it.  The third is Barret Bonden who dies in a battle between some Moors and the Surprise at the end of the book.  Again, in one sentence, Bonden dies - rather shocking.

Other than those bookend deaths, The Hundred Days was a rather normal POB book.  At the end of Yellow Admiral, we are left wondering what is in store for Jack.  Stephen helps him improve his prospects of becoming a full-fledged admiral by finding work for Jack in Chile.  But then Napoleon escapes Elba the the hundred days begins.

They are to convince French ship-builders to fight Napoleon.  If not convinced, they are to fight and burn all ships.  They are successful.  The mission behind the mission is for Maturin to seize gold from some Muslims who are determined to help Napoleon.  Both Stephen's intelligence and Jack's navel know-how are needed to reign-in the Moors.
Overall, it was a good book and had all the normal ingredients of a POB book.  I enjoyed the passages of Stephen killing the lioness - that got my heart beating a bit.  The action was good in this book as well.

In reading the back cover of Blue at the Mizzen, it appears the Stephen and Jack are continuing with original plans to help out Chile.  This will be #20 and the last completed book by POB.  #21 is not completed, as far as I understand.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Yellow Admiral by Patrick O'Brian

The Yellow Admiral was the best non-action book of the series.  There are very few battles in this book and they being quite mellow at that.  There is a lot of talking and contemplating in this book as well.  Much of the book takes place on land.

Again, I'm not sure if O'Brian is getting better and clearer in his writing as the series progresses or if I'm just use to his prose, but despite all the "talk" I understood pretty much all of it.

Jack does not necessarily become a yellow admiral, but it still seems to hang in the air at the end of the book.  Granted the book ends on an exclamation point, but the doubt persists.

The overall plot proceeds well enough along.  A few loose ends are tied up (Jack-Amanda Smith and Sophie finding out), Stephen getting his fortune back.  I quite enjoyed the chapter on Bonden boxing as well.

Another great POB book under the belt!

Three more to go!