Last year I endeavored to read Zola's Rougon-Macquart series. I got through the first 7 books and half of the 8th, but then had to take a break (L'Assommoir was just too much ~ sooo good, but man, what a depressing book). Late in the year, for reasons I can't explain, I decided I would like to read Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series. So I picked up Master and Commander over the Thanksgiving holiday and now I am just shy of halfway through book number 4. A quick catch-up on my opinion of the series [from my Goodreads account]:
Master and Commander: Other reviewers have likened O'Brian to Jane Austen ~ but with battleships. I get the comparison.
I can appreciate the wealth of historical detail and the slavish attention to all things nautical, but this first novel is sadly lacking in things like, well, plot, for one. And yes, Stephen and Jack are charming and there are some genuinely wonderful moments, but I felt exasperated waiting for something to happen. How can a book so chock-full of battles be so wanderingly aimless?
I didn't hate this, but neither was I madly in love with it. This was just so-so; impeded by strange choices in the pacing, truly bizarre dialogue at times (and I don't even mean the period vernacular ~ I mean it felt like the writer was paying no attention as to whether a reader could make context out of random snippets), and again, an odd plotlessness in which the setup never pays off and the final battle is just a 50-page denouement.
Post Captain: this second book is a stronger effort in my estimation. there appears to be a more cohesive plot (or set of plots, really). so generally i enjoyed it much more than Master and Commander, though it still had its detractions and plenty of aimless boat boat boat blah blah blah kind of stuff that i occasionally skimmed.
Stephen was kind of weird in this one (and getting on my nerves as a result). he comes off very Mary Sue in this novel with O'Brian attempting to temper his awesomeness by c...morethis second book is a stronger effort in my estimation. there appears to be a more cohesive plot (or set of plots, really). Generally I enjoyed it much more than Master and Commander, though it still had its detractors and plenty of aimless boat boat boat blah blah blah kind of stuff that I occasionally skimmed.
Stephen was kind of weird in this one (and getting on my nerves as a result). He comes off very Mary Sue ~ with O'Brian attempting to temper his awesomeness by constantly referring to him as "reptilian" ~ but i don't buy it. I actually enjoyed my time with Jack much more this go round, though the two of them together continue to be pretty awesome. There were numerous interactions that were comic gold.
And Pullings is just adorable. He desperately needs more page time.
HMS Surprise: best so far of the series. Stephen is much less weird and bitchy in this one (perhaps torture humbles him a bit), and it feels so much less all over the place than the previous two; there's an actual plot with some over-arching complications, and an ending satisfying enough that were this the only book O'Brian penned, it would have been just fine. I am almost afraid to be disappointed with the series moving forward, but move forward I shall.
A handful of bits out of this were borrowed to plot the Weir film adaptation. I am grateful that the film didn't bother trying to include either Diana or Stephen's intelligence agent storylines ~ the former I hope to be done with and the latter really feels more like an intrusive (and convenient) plot device. Also, lovesick stephen was mercifully restrained (I thought I would hate it, but it was just right), while lovesick Jack was hilariously adorable.
As was Mr. Pullings, who once again did not receive sufficient page time.
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p.s. I realize there is a whole subculture out there of Aubrey/Maturin slash fandom (and had the misfortune of encountering some of it in my trawl for an image for this post). I seriously have to wonder whether people who go there with this series have ever bothered to actually read the bloody thing ~ beh.