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Starting off 2012 with Patrick O'Brian

rabbit

I am amazed at how much time I used to put into blogging. Wish I could say that it explains why I never got anything done, but then what would my current excuse be? At any rate, I am tentatively returning to the blogosphere. Mostly at my Reconstruction website, where I will be cross-nattering endlessly about the Civil War and other 19th Century-related topics, but possibly also here where I can natter about books and movies perhaps.

Last year I endeavored to read Zola's Rougon-Macquar
t 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). 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.


~ * ~

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.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
sparowe
Jan. 7th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
After reading the entire series, HMS Surprise remains my favourite. :)
lookingland
Jan. 7th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
i fear it may be mine as well (as i have the sense from other reviewers that the series just sort of ambles off the rails the longer it goes). it's too bad if it's true, but we'll see how long i last with it.

i am enjoying book 4 so far. glad to be rid of diana, frankly, only i miss pullings (though i know, surely, he will return).

: D
ryan_howse
Jan. 8th, 2012 03:51 am (UTC)
Psst...Patrick O'Brian is my grandma's uncle!
lookingland
Jan. 9th, 2012 12:59 pm (UTC)
you're famous!

: D
minstrel_ivare
Jan. 9th, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
I read the first six or so in the series and then...stalled on the seventh. Repeatedly. Every time I go back to it I forget what the plot was and have to start over at the beginning (!) and then SOMETHING in real life intervenes and I put it down and don't go back for years.

...I'm starting to think that the problem isn't entirely me. I found the characters very enjoyable, though--even Diana grew on me, eventually.
lookingland
Jan. 9th, 2012 08:22 pm (UTC)
diana ~ what? you mean she comes back? ughhhh.

well i will pay particular attention to book no. 7, though i feel already i may need a break once i have finished no. 4.

: D
ironichles
Jan. 10th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
How do you feel the novels compare to the movie?
lookingland
Jan. 10th, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
i think weir kept true to o'brian's basic vision (thus far). i think the casting for the film was well-done, and i think as an adaptation the film is first rate and does what an adaptation ought to do: remain faithful to the spirit when if it's not possible/practicable to be faithful to the letter. to do the series justice, it really would have to be a series where all the intricacies can be developed. for a feature-length film, i think the writers made excellent choices in weaving together various themes and lines from several of the books.

on the flip side: i don't know if i would have ever gotten through even the first book if i hadn't already seen the film. i don't think i would have trusting o'brian enough to go anywhere with any of it (based on my initial reactions). i persevered because i felt like, already knowing the characters, things would evolve/improve ~ and they eventually did.

: D
(Anonymous)
Jan. 10th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
Maybe I should give the books another try :) I've started with two of them but lost interest after a while. Loved the movie though.
lookingland
Jan. 10th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
it's a big committment! i worry that it might not be worth it by the end, but right now it's still holding my interest.

loved the movie too. some things about the movie i love more than the books (like stephen just being a surgeon/naturalist and not a spy). and the books still don't do pullings justice (yet), but i am hoping that will change.

: D
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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