For the last few years, almost all of my pleasure reading has been non-fiction. I really enjoy reading about military history, and inevitably, reading a book focused on one topic sparks my interest in an ancillary topic, so I've sort of being going from book to book in an odd method of free association.
For instance, I read some books about General Patton, which led me to want to read about him more as a young man in WWI, which led me to read more generally about WWI, which led me to read more about MacArthur (who also fought in WWI), which got me interested in his rivalry with Halsey, which sparked my interest in reading something about Admiral Halsey.
However, I wanted to take a little break from all the non-fiction, and I have a few friends how really like the Aubrey/Maturin series, and since I was trending toward naval warfare anyway, this seemed like a good fit.
I was heavily advised to start at the beginning of all the books, which seemed natural enough to me. The first is Master and Commander, which I have just finished. (Note, the movie Master and Commander: Far Side of the World is sort of an amalgamation of many different books.)
My review of the book is below:
"Never mind maneuvers - go straight at 'em!"
This one sentence describes the main character, Jack Aubrey. The other main character, Stephen Maturin, is a much more professorial type, so their differences in character makes for a wonderful dynamic.
To cut to the chase, I enjoyed this book immensely.
While I know some basic nautical terminology, (port and starboard) the terminology O'Brian uses is extremely detailed and esoteric. There are dozens of different sails, and he describes the workings of a square rigged ship in dizzying detail.
Fortunately, O'Brian nicely uses the device of explaining everything to Maturin (who knows nothing about sailing), as a way of explaining everything to the reader. However, once you get acclimated to the sailing terminology, the writing flows smoothly. O'Brian's description of how ships cut through the water, the curvature of the lines of the ships, and the landscape (oceanscape?) is sublime.
I read this on my brand new Kindle Paperwhite, which I absolutely love. Mostly, I bought it because I was tired of packing large non-fiction books in my overnight bag. It was getting ridiculous. One nice thing about the Kindle (that I didn't know about until I started using it) is that you can touch any word, and the Wikipedia entry for it comes up. Accordingly, it’s a breeze to look up all the odd sailing terms.
In addition to the sailing terms, the manners, customs, and "rules of the road" of the British during the Napoleonic Wars is enjoyable to experience through the impetuous Jack Aubrey.
Having made it through the first book, I now understand the title of the second book, Post Captain, as it’s a rank – not something to do with delivering the mail. I’m guessing Aubrey makes the rank of Post Captain near the end of the book, setting him up to really “let every stitch of cloth fly” in the next book – to use the vernacular.
I’ll try to get through Post Captain before I go on vacation so I can enjoy HMS Surprise while I’m actually on vacation at the beach later next month. Seems appropriate to read about the age of sail while sitting on a beach.
All in all, a wonderful read, and I'm looking forward to the many books to come in the series. I think non-fiction may be on hold for awhile.