11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: HMS Surprise (Paperback)
It seems strange now that when O'Brian's Napoleonic sea-faring tales were first published that they were initially compared to C S Forester's 'Hornblower' novels. Even the early books clearly had so much more to them that it now seems faintly absurd,like comparing a Ferrari with a Mondeo. The books obviously haven't changed over time, just peoples perceptions of them. I was lucky enought to find them quite early on &, for me, they seemed like a gift from the Gods & are still amongst my all-time favourite novels. HMS Surprise was the 3rd written & remains one of the very best, possibly only surpassed by The Reverse of the Medal & The Nutmeg of Consolation. The book starts in thrilling fashion with a desperate,audacious rescue (the action reminiscent of something from Dennis Wheatley's Roger Brook series) & finishes with a spectacular sea battle in the Indian Ocean. What falls in between is a heady cocktail of action & adventure, by sea & land, with a poignant episode in India & a near fatal duel & it's aftermath being amongst the more memorable. But this is so much more than just an action/adventure story because fundamental issues of life (& death) are constantly considered & dealt with, not always very wisely but by believable & fully human characters with all their attendant graces & follies. Some of the central characters are given intelligent, enquiring minds so many of the assumptions & practices of the day are questioned & challenged, sometimes literally as well as figuratively. There is also a good measure of ,mainly quiet, humour, with the occasional excrutiating pun. It all adds up to a very broad canvass & one that seems to appeal to a wide audience, even my mum eventually getting hooked on the series !
So, read this book & seek out the others, you'll surely be pleasantly 'Surprised'.