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Publisher's Summary

At the opening of his third novel in an ongoing adventure series by Patrick O'Brian, Jack Aubrey is cruising off Cape Sicie when his friend Stephen Maturin (more serenely situated in Sussex) is informed of the Board's decision regarding Aubrey's prize money, taken after victorious engagement with a Spanish squadron at Cape Santa Maria. The money, five million pieces of eight, is not, as is the custom of war, to be divided among the crews of the four victorious vessels, but is to be treated as droits of the Crown of England. Five million pounds is, after all, five million pounds. It will be a hard rub for Aubrey, who had counted on that money to clear his debts and make himself a suitable match, but no more hard than for Maturin who spends much of his free time at Mapes Court in the company of the lovely Sophia Williams, Aubrey's betrothed. How could Stephen deliver the news that would break Sophia's heart?
When Jack docks at Portsmouth, he is clapped in irons forthwith, and carried off to a sponging house for debtors. Jack knows a prisoner can rot in jail, so when Sir Joseph graciously offers him escape aboard the H.M.S. Surprise, bound for the East Indies, he makes for the only place where his unsteady virtue remains intact: the sea.
©1973 Patrick O'Brian (P)2003 Recorded Books, LLC
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Critic Reviews

"O'Brian knows his history and sailing, as is evident in the rich particulars....Stretching its genre but never escaping it, the novel will impress those who enjoy swashbucklers." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Craig on 02-03-08

India as thorough as Conrad

Recall your personal explorations of Joseph Conrad; Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness, et al. Remember how Conrad's descriptive narrative put you in the locales of his protagonists? Now, place Jack Aubrey and Steven Maturin in Conrad's "Orient," and breathe in, observe, and encounter the rich, diverse, yet painful realities of Imperial England's dalliances with India. Blend in storms, battles, and human intrigue...what is your reward? H.M.S. Surprise, a brilliant and insightful examination of the quest for Empire told through the eyes of our beloved Jack and Steven.

If you have made it this far in the Aubrey Series (narrated by Tull) you are richer for it. Keep going, it only gets better.

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17 of 17 people found this review helpful


By Clifford on 09-05-10

Make note of your reader

Patrick Tull and Simon Vance are both gifted narrators. However, when you start with one you may find it a jarring change when you start listening to the other. Each brings their own life to the characters, but it is a very different life. My own personal preference are the characters created by Mr. Tull, but Mr. Vance's acting is no less compelling, only different.
If you care about such things, don't make the mistake that I made, buying the edition without first checking by whom it is narrated.

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15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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