The Ionian Mission : Aubrey/Maturin

  • by Patrick O'Brian
  • Narrated by Patrick Tull
  • Series: Aubrey/Maturin
  • 15 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

For the first time in Jack Aubrey's long, illustrious career, the sea, to which he had escaped with very little more than his dignity in tact, brings small solace to him because of his increasing despondency over debts and troubles at home.Shoved into a temporary command in "that rotten old Worcester," Aubrey is off to the Mediterranean to join the Royal Navy's blockade of the French port of Toulon, where he will be dispatched by Admiral Harte (unfortunately the same Admiral Harte he cuckolded years ago) on a secret mission that promises to embroil Aubrey in political conflict. His friend Stephen's help notwithstanding, Aubrey faces some of the choppiest waters of his career.
This is the eighth book in O'Brian's 20-volume Aubrey/Maturin series.

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What the Critics Say

"Splendid adventures at a stately pace." (Kirkus)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

...a plucking apart, a worrying to death.

"But he had not seen a more wicked and as it were spiteful sea, with its steep, close-packed waves -- a sea that threatened not the instant annihilation of the great antarctic monsters but a plucking apart, a worrying to death."
- Patrick O'Brian, The Ionian Mission

Probably my least favorite in the series so far. It was destined to happen. Even the best instruments will see their strings get loose after a few weeks on the water. It is still lovely and has some amazing parts, but this is not the book I would hand someone to get them hooked on Aubrey/Maturin novels. That said, I loved the poetry contest, was glad to see the good captain and doctor playing again, found the Ottoman politics, and naval blockade strategy interesting.

In a previous review I talked about one of the things that allowed the novels to remain fresh was a change in setting. I still think this is one of the biggest components that allows O'Brian to write book after book about the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars without being too repetitious. However, this book reminded me of another thing O'Brian does -- he changes ships quite often. It is like seeing Mozart play on different types of instruments. The song might not change that much, and it might be still a recognizable Mozart tune, but hearing different instruments keeps everything fairly fresh.

All that said, I would probably have given this a simple 3 stars, had the last bit, the final brutal act, not been so beautifully staged. Reading the last 40 pages of this novel was like watching the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. I'm not saying they are similar in brutality, only similar in resonance. You exit the action and wonder how anyone could craft something so sharp and hard. That is the dilemma I think in writing or filming war (even naval war) books and movies. So much of actual war is (to borrow a phrase that has almost become a cliché in describing modern war, piloting, etc.) "months of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror." THAT is the challenge for O'Brian with this book in particular. I think he was trying, in a literary fashion, to SHOW the reader that. 95 percent of the book was a naval blockade. It wasn't sexy. There was the weather, yes. But characters were almost dying from boredom. And. Then. Action!!!
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

The Ionian Mission

Although this is the first of the series to hit the doldrums, it's saved by humor on several levels, and the ending.

For the audio version, Patrick Tull aids its salvation. After a slow start, Tull brings more and more dramatic presence into each successive novel. He truly hits his stride here.

Other pluses include a more thorough use of Steven's near incurable ignorance of naval matters as our window into that complex, jargon filled Age of Sail world.

Then again, if you have not already found yourself saying “Top Gallants and Royals, if you please,” to express the need for haste, and urging people to finish something before it's abaft - even if those phrases don't answer - then you probably have not made it this far.
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- Jonathan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-26-2004
  • Publisher: Recorded Books