Master and Commander: The Book(s)

WarpFoxWarpFox Nashville, TN
I recently listened to the commissioned cast for Master and Commander. Intrigued, I then watched the movie and listened to the cast again. I've known about A.Ron's love for the series for a while now so I figured I'd give the books a shot. So today, at work (I work at a used book store), I picked up a copy of the first book and came home and started reading.

I'm a little over 100 pages in and I've been pleasantly surprised by how this saga kicks off. The movie starts with Captain Aubrey already in command of the HMS Surprise, whereas the books start with Aubrey as a lieutenant receiving his promotion to Captain and taking control of a sloop called the Sophie. The naval jargon in the book is, as A.Ron said, essentially techno-babble but it's not necessary to understand what's going on. In fact, it's lampshaded by a scene where a midshipman takes Maturin 40 feet up a mast and points out to him every piece of wood, metal, sailcloth, and rope by name, to which Maturin is completely lost and acts as a bit of a stand-in for the readers who aren't fluent in the 18th/19th century sailing vocabulary.

So has anyone else tried out the books, either independently or on A.Ron's recommendation?


  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    I'm so pleased you started the voyage.  The first two are great, but the series proper doesn't get really going until Book 3.  I think that's when O'Brian decided "fuck it, I'm going to tell like 12 books worth of story" and started weaving narratives that last longer than a single book that intertwine and feed into each other.

    I wish I could figure out how to do a book podcast series on this.  The format, timing, host, etc.  If HBO ever green lights this as a series I don't even know how I could handle the excitement.  
  • WarpFoxWarpFox Nashville, TN
    Probably have to just do it Hardcore History style. One and done podcast for each book, but it's like a 4 hour cast that comes out every 6 months.
  • ChinaskiChinaski Santa Cruz, CA

    If HBO ever green lights this as a series I don't even know how I could handle the excitement.  

    say this ever happened. who would you cast as Jack Aubrey and who would you like to oversee the project?
  • After listening to the podcast, never having seen the movie, I was toying with the idea of giving the books a try. Yesterday, while in a thrift shop, while I was walking by a shelf of books, the name Patrick O'Brian popped out at me. I realized it was the second book of the series that caught my eye, but upon further investigation, I found the first and third books as well, so I guess it was a sign. $1.50 later, I'm ready to pull up anchor and see what all the hype is about. Looking forward to cracking the first book tonight.
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    Chinaski said:

    If HBO ever green lights this as a series I don't even know how I could handle the excitement.  

    say this ever happened. who would you cast as Jack Aubrey and who would you like to oversee the project?
    I loved Crowe's Aubrey. I think Chris Hemsworth would be excellent. He needs to be tall, sturdy, blonde and British primarily. He could play the young Aubrey at the series start and age into the role.  As far as showrunner goes, I'd probably go for Terrence Winter, on the strength of his past work on historical fiction (Boardwalk Empire), or maybe the Double D's.  They're really, really good at adapting strong works.

    Shit, I wonder if they could get Peter Weir, because I know he wanted to do more Aubrey Matrurin  stuff, the movie just didn't do well enough. 
  • WarpFoxWarpFox Nashville, TN
    I keep imagining Stephen Merchant as Dr. Maturin, for some reason. Paul Bettany did great work in the movie, but I almost wonder if someone like Domnhall Gleeson might fit the role of Stephen Maturin very well.
  • WarpFoxWarpFox Nashville, TN
    Well, I'm 3/4 of the way through the first book and I have exactly two observations.

    1. These books are probably some of the most historically accurate books ever written.

    2. I have done fucked up. I don't know how I'm going to make time to read nineteen-and-a-half more books, but at this point I have little say in the matter.
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    It just keeps getting better. I'm in the middle of a bit of a narrative sag in books 14 and 15, where O'Brian wrapped up the mega arc that starts in book 3, climaxes in book 11, and resolves in book 13, but even then it goes from "stunning, incredible" to "very good" before he figures out how to proceed again.
  • I'm not even through the first chapter of book one yet, and it's driving me crazy! I work a labor job and have 3 kids, so after sweating my ass off at work all day (it's been in the 90s here in NC), I've got to get home, check homework, do dinner, then by the time my 2 year old is finally asleep, I'm too tired to read much. It's especially difficult in these books where the language isn't immediately familiar, so in my drained state, I find I'm having yo reread sentences because I'm not fully comprehending what I'm reading. I'm thinking I'll have to get Audible to help me out on this.
    That being said, even being only 30 pages in, I'm hooked and fascinated about what this story will be.
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    Don't be surprised if 18th century sailorisms start slipping into your speech. 
  • @A_Ron_Hubbard
    How long exactly (like page count) would it take to read all these books? I read through all of ASOIAF over a summer so just trying to figure out it if this would take longer than that so I can determine when a good time to start would be.
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    There are about 6600 pages in the Aubrey-Maturin series, not counting the unfinished 21st book that was released after O'Brian died.  So your average AM book is about 320 pages long.  I finished them over a long summer in my mid-20s, but I was a voracious reader back then, staying up until 2-3am just to finish one because I couldn't put them down.
  • Alkaid13Alkaid13 Georgia
    edited August 2017
    Thanks. I can churn through books pretty fast when I'm in a reading mood, time to see if my local library has these.
  • I feel like there should be a BM book club or something.
  • I bogged down 50 pages into Post Captain after liking Master and Commander. Sounds like I should revisit.
  • Oh yeah, Audible is going to make this much easier. From 6am-about 5pm on weekdays, I'm driving, spraying insecticide on shrubs and driving some more. Can't really read while doing that, but it's easy to listen and pay pretty good attention.
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    I bogged down 50 pages into Post Captain after liking Master and Commander. Sounds like I should revisit.
    Post Captain is the least Aubrey Maturin novel in the Aubrey Maturin series.  It has been described as a love letter from Patrick O'Brian to Jane Austin.  Now, I love Jane Austin, so that shit was like reese's peanut butter cups to me.  But yeah, the parts where Stephen and Jack are woowing their respective lovers can be a bit dry if you're wanting naval action.

    BUT!  What the book does with the relationship between Jack and Stephen I think is fucking fascinating, and it's the book that really develops the character of Stephen and what motivates him, and seeing Jack deal with such a miserable, shitty ship in the Polycrest after the amazing run he had with the Sophie I think is fascinating. The book represents low points in both characters' lives, which makes it not as much fun, but it's the bedrock for the next 10 novels which are among the finest I've ever read.

    Plus, the reward for eating your meats is HMS Surprise, possibly the most fun book in the whole shebang.
  • @A_Ron_Hubbard , how old is your son? I was just reminded today of one of my favorite books from when I was young, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. I found a copy of it in a little free library this afternoon. I believe he's probably at an appropriate agree for that novel. It's the story of a spoiled, young girl who finds a lot of trouble aboard a ship traveling from Britain to the US in 1832. Certainly not the naval epic that the AM series is, but a good read as I remember it.
  • BTW If you like British naval fiction and science fiction, the Seafort Saga is Horatio Hornblower in space.
  • I enjoyed the first two, but I was never quite able to get excited about continuing the series. I'm convinced to give them another shot.

    On the other hand, the Alan Lewrie series roped me in from the start. I've only read two books there, but I can't wait to move on to the next. Give those a try if you're interested in the genre, for sure!
  • edited August 2017
    I'm just starting chapter 9. Thus far, I'm loving the story and I'm very interested in what will become of Lt Dillon. He seems capable enough for a promotion to Captain, but there's a certain hint of fatalism to his character that has me worried. I honestly wonder if he's not a better sailor than Jack.
  • Well... well...
  • Just finished the book. Holy cow, that was good! I may start reading the next one tonight. Anyone have any tips on how to get extra Audible credits at a low cost?
  • If you don't mind reading a physical copy I would suggest a library card. But audible certainly has its uses.
  • I've got the book, I just don't have a lot of time to sit and read.
  • WarpFoxWarpFox Nashville, TN
    edited August 2017
    I just finished the first book. I would've finished sooner, but my damned brother-in-law has been over at my house playing Fallout 4, which naturally means that I've started playing it, so I'm forced in my free time to choose between reading or playing post-apocalypse Sims.

    @SketchyLeJoe I really liked Lt. Dillon as well but you're right; his fatalism (and the meta-knowledge that he's not in the movie) emotionally prepared me for what was going to happen to him. There were some great scenes in this book. One that particularly stands out is when Stephen is dining with another doctor friend and, in need of a sharp knife to cut some beef, goes and lifts up a sheet that's covering a cadaver and unceremoniously wipes off a surgical knife; that gave me a good chuckle.

    Can't wait to start Post Captain!
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    A couple of things, don't assume that just because someone isn't in the movie they died.  Jack goes through lots and lots of shipmates, and loses them to battle, disease, promotion, and changing ships and circumstances.   They can and do come and go and sometimes come back later.  

    The great thing about these characters is how lifelike they are.  Jack isn't a consummate seaman, although he is a gifted tactician and leader.  Will he realize that limitation?  What are the implications of that fact?  It's also amusing to see him act hypocritical both consciously and unconsciously in things like morality, seamanship, etc. 

    Another recommendation I'd give is to find a copy of "Sea of Words", which is a compilation of all the crazy terms, words, medical practices and substances, food, and detailed information about the different parts, sails, and rigging of a man of war.  It has several essays about the historical backgrounds and accuracy of the books, and it also provides translations of the different foreign phrases that O'Brian never bothers to translate for you the reader, unless a character happens to be around to understand the language.   Mostly you can understand these from context, but sometimes it's quite a bit funnier or more interesting if you know the exact translation.

    Here it is, since I can't make this damn thing hotlink on mobile:
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    BTW, I have an extra copy of "Sea of Words" if anyone would like it.  I'll get your address and mail it to you.
  • cdrivecdrive Houston, TX
    ^ I'm sort of a words nerd. I'd be into that if there isn't already a taker.
  • A_Ron_HubbardA_Ron_Hubbard Cincinnati, OH
    You're the first! PM me your address.
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