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Starting off, the naval action grabs you, and Jack Aubrey stands center stage. But as the series continues, the pendulum swings, and suddenly Stephen Maturin slides into the action, both as a spy and as a naturalist. Particularly in "The Fortune of War", where Aubrey is taken for the spy by the Americans. "If they suspect me of intelligence, I am sure it will soon blow over, ha, ha, ha!" The irony of Aubrey being seen as a spy is hilarious, while Maturin is actively sought after by the American intelligence community to spy on the English.
One other note ... I love the fact that the series has so many characters that show up in multiple books. Thomas Pullings, Diana Villiers, Killick, Barret Bonden, Mrs. Wogan, etc.
Next time around, I will take along a notepad and write down favourite quotes!
I've read the series several times. As people have already said, the first time through I raced headlong, so my second and later readings allowed me to pause and enjoy many of the sly details I hadn't noticed the first time. The Commodore and later books were published after I started reading in the early or mid 1990s, so I had to wait months or a year or more for the next installment -- that was hard!
I left The Books unread for a bit, and now read them quite slowly, often just a page or two at a time, savoring the language and the time spent with some of my favorite characters form all literature.
And if you want more immersion in the world of Jack Aubrey (and everything else) there's always the Gunroom at http://www.hmssurprise.org/
A note regarding RainMan's entry ... after reading the Harry Potter series as it has come out, I have vowed never to read a series as it's being written!! It's what I love about Master and Commander ... it is all there ready to be read. Never again will I be waiting for the author to finally finish. (Unless a really great series comes out of course!)
It never disappoints - even the smallest bit character is given foibles and idiosyncracies to bring him to life.
Couldn't agree more!
Over the years you sometimes strike lucky and read a book that is so good you feel deflated when it ends (this happens far more rarely than the reviewers lead me to believe).
I was fortunate enough to pick up Master and Commander, experience that feeling and then realise I had another nineteen to go!
The twenty (21?) books in the Aubrey/Maturin series are really just one massive book and the stories and personalities are projected by O'Brian in ways that some, so called, great writers can only dream off.
I have read the series three times and think I will probably read it another three times as every time, apart from enjoying familiar sections, there always appears to be something new.
When one of the objects of reading fiction is to transport you effectively to another world - I have never experienced that so effectively as in Patrick O'Brian's stories.
Otherwise, I do love the series.
You would re-read 14-15 books out of 20. That's a 'hit rate' very few Authors achieve.
I started with Master and Commander, and I think I've read 3 maybe 4 of the first 10. Then I've jumped around, at the mercy of what was available as an unabridged audiobook from my local library. At the time, I did a fair amount of car travel, and it helped. It's been years since I read the last one, though.
I'm preparing to purchase the series from Folio Society, and run through in proper order. But I have a sieve-like memory, so I don't think my haphazard and foreshortened first voyage will be much of a spoiler. In any event, for me the motivation is the language, the history, and all that I learn from O'Brien and his characters. Here, the plot's most assuredly not the thing (for me), though the volumes I've read have been very satisfying in that respect.
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