Master and Commander is the first of Patrick O'Brian's now famous Aubrey/Maturin novels, regarded by many as the greatest series of historical novels ever written.
It establishes the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey RN and Stephen Maturin, who becomes his secretive ship's surgeon and an intelligence agent. It contains all the action and excitement which could possibly be hoped for in a historical novel, but it also displays the qualities which have put O'Brian far ahead of any of his competitors: his depiction of the detail of life aboard a Nelsonic man-of-war, of weapons, food, conversation, and ambience, of the landscape, and of the sea. O'Brian's portrayal of each of these is faultless and the sense of period throughout is acute. His power of characterisation is above all masterly.
This brilliant historical novel marked the debut of a writer who grew into one of our greatest novelists ever.
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©1994 Patrick O'Brian; (P)2003 HarperCollins UK
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"abridged too far"
Highly enjoyable, ripping yarn. I read the first 8 books of the Aubrey/Maturin series a few years ago and was looking forward to the audio version. Mostly I was not disappointed. Robert Hardy does an excellent job on the narration, with good salty accents and believable characterization.
My quibble is with the abridging, which left out some important (to my mind) stuff, eg the trapanning scene where Maturin cuts open the guy's head in front of the ship's company, a suspenseful and interesting scene in the original. There were also some abrupt scene changes, esp between the capture of the Surprise and the board of inquiry.
This was pretty good, but I wish it and the rest of the series were available unabridged.
I would not have bought this book, had I realized it was abridged. Thus the story lost a lot of it's sense and continuity. However it was well read.
I have long been a fan of this brilliant series and jumped at the chance to hear it read by the redoubtable Robert Hardy. Hardy brings the characters to life in a way that enhances my memories of the printed page and the only bittersweet disappointment involved was that he was reading from an abridged version. No, no, no! Read the whole thing! We are missing all the asides and digressive bits that admittedly add nothing to the plot but which constitute so much of the period charm of this fascinating ongoing tale. It is primarily the story of a deep and enduring friendship between two very unlike men, one the bluff and hearty Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy, lucky at sea but prone to every disaster on land, and the other the sardonic and secretive surgeon and natural philosopher Stephen Maturin with his mixed Catalan and Irish loyalties. They clash, they reconcile, they play music together, they watch out for one another's interests ... and then they clash again. The background to all this is the war at sea against the Empire of Napoleon and the action ranges from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and from there to the furthest oceans of the world. This is rivetting stuff and is punctuated by periods ashore where the sharp-witted Stephen proves himself more adroit than his naive and trusting companion.
Oh dear! Nothing to be done. With a sidelong glance at my perilous bank account I went out and bought the whole series and spent a week or so rather blissfully submerged in a bygone world so well recreated that you can actually feel yourself within it. I was quite casually referring to male friends as 'my dear' and 'my love' in conversation, oblivious of some rather strange looks ....
Belatedly, an unabridged version of this series has begun to appear which comprises (so far) the first three volumes; 'Master and Commander', 'Post Captain', and 'HMS Surprise' read quite creditably by Ric Jerrom. When I tell you that these versions run from 15 to 18 hours apiece compared to Robert Hardy's average of about 3 hours you can understand the source of my anguish above. What to do? Do as I did, I suppose. Start with the whole series read by Hardy and then go back and do it more slowly with Ric Jerrom. On the other hand, if you don't like spoilers start with the unabridged versions. But if you choose to go that way you will miss the unparalleled spine-tingling readings of Hardy! Tough decision.
"Not a great one for Audio"
I had huge problems following the action in this book. Most of the time I had no clear idea what was going all. So much unfamiliar nautical jargon, combined with somewhat careless and muffled narration, just meant this was all a bit baffling. I have listened to a lot of Hornblower on audio without this being a major problem.Yes, sometimes listening to Hornblower I get a little lost. But I was basically lost from go to whoa on this one.
I thought Robert Hardy would be wonderful, but his voice is a just a little too phlegmy and fruity for comfort. He sounded like he was having a bilious attack most of the time. I found him hard to understand. His voice is very plummy and it kind of annoyed me.
I think I will try to get my hands on the hard copy of these books, which have been highly recommended to me several times.
"Please give us Patrick Tull"
I enjoyed the book and have continued with the series. While Robert Hardy is a fair narrator, the versions of the series read by Patrick Tull are perhaps the finest narration I have heard. You will enjoy it, but I hope Audible can get the Tull versions soon.
This is a very good book and nicely read but the way is has been abridged is pretty awful. Great chunks of story are missed and at times (especially towards the end) the story chops about so much it becomes tricky to follow.
Since the unabridged version is available on the American version of this site, it seems a pity that we have to make do with this.
Don't buy this shoddily and unnecessarily curtailed recording. The joy of the novels is in the occasional details and the depiction of shipboard life/death. All of this has been filleted.
Please can somebody record the whole series unabridged - it is an excellent (if not the pre-eminent) historical series of novels.
"Lose yourself on the high seas."
Absolutely, listending to someone read to you has to be one of life's pleasures, tired eyes and poor lighting issues are abolished!
This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. The attention to detail in describing life on board a man-of-war paints a picture better than any imagery can convey: and the language and conversations of the officers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as the great ships close in battle, all fantastic.
Robert Hardy brings the experience of a seasoned actor in making the book come alive in your mind,
The whole story had a great impact on me.
"A magical start to a wonderful series"
On a long-long journey some time ago, I stopped for petrol on the M6 and was browsing a CD stall at a motorway service station looking for something to help me while the journey away, when Master and Commander caught my eye (this was long before Audible was around!). Having seen the movie advertised, but having not seen it, I thought I'd give the talking book (a CD of this very Audible item) a try and what fantastically lucky choice it was!
Within ten minutes, the M6 had gone, the modern world was a vague memory, and I was transported back to a world of sailing ships, war at sea and the romance and brutality of life in the Royal Navy in the early 19th century and, as the journey progressed, I was introduced to nautical terms, wonderful plot lines, narrative and adventure that burned along at a splendid pace and kept me deeply involved and gripped to the very end. When the story concluded, I was there with Jack Aubrey, with a lump in my throat, proud to be an Englishman and in my mind's eye a new recruit to His Majesty's Navy, hoping that whoever this Patrick O'Brian chap was, that he'd found time to jot down some more adventures in the same vain.
Well, it turned out that he had managed to continue after the first book, all the way to half way through a twenty first volume, each one offering the reader something new at every turn. O'Brian takes the reader around the world with wonderful writing that includes intrigue, adventure, romance, tragedy, villainy, betrayal, friendship, and descriptive details of life ashore and at sea in the 1800s and each volume has something new to enjoy along the way with Jack and Stephen.
Robert Hardy's wonderful narration of this, the first in the Aubrey and Maturin series, instantly entranced and beguiled me and his astonishing characterisations have helped to to enjoy each and every book in this Audible series. I highly recommend any listener to start here as the first step on a wonderous journey; go all the way!
"Great story not so great narration"
I read the book, I saw the film, I loved both. I listened to this narraton and was disappointed. Robert Hardy is an astounding screen actor, I have no personal dislike for him and I would recommend watching anything that he stars in on-screen, but I find his narration of this excellent book a little bland. It's not that it lacks character, but rather it lacks dynamism.
Compare this with the narration of HMS Expedient by Cornelius Garrett and you will catch my meaning. I am not comapring the actual books here of course, merely the narrative style.
For anybody who hasn't read "Master and Commander" I would highly recommend that you do so, you will not be disappointed, the book is very well written and puts the reader at the centre of life on board a man-of-war ship during the Napoleonic era, encompassing the close friendship between the Captain and his secretive Surgeon, who is also a secret agent, and the struggles that all crews faced with regard to food, discipline, on-board sickness and endless crew-squabbles. The sense of atmosphere and ambience is captured perfectly and at times you feel that you are really in there with the characters.
This book brings to life the very essence of the era and captures the reader in the folds of the story until the end is reached, making you want to read more.
Critically acclaimed as the best series of historical novels ever written, you will not be disappointed with this excellent novel.
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