You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Desolation Island

Patrick O'Brian never ceases to amaze me. His nautical adventure books are not only fun to read but full of such great detail. I finished listening to the audiobook of Desolation Island last week, 11 CDs, about 12.5 hours.

This is the fifth book in the Aubrey/Maturin series, and it starts in England at Jack Aubrey's home with his wife, children, and mother-in-law. Soon he assigned to command the Leopard and take it to Botany Bay, carrying prisoners there. And Maturin is given an intelligence assignment regarding one of those prisoners, a pretty young American woman who just happens to have been friends with the woman who broke his heart.

On the way across the world, they endure a plague which kills a third of their crew, a chase from a Dutch war vessel, and losing the ship's rudder to an iceberg (along with a good part of her hull). And Stephen finesses the female prisoner into revealing information, and further, planting information with her that she passes on.

There's no big gun battle in this story, but the suspense is still great. I hadn't really considered the chase as such an important element of suspense. I usually think of the chase in regards to the car chase in movies, which can be very hackneyed. But a warship chase is something else! The Leopard plays a little with the Dutch ship, and tries to hide in the night, but nothing seems to work. There is already extra pressure due to the ship being undermanned. Then more pressure is added with a huge storm with gigantic waves, threatening to capsize both ships. Jack is surprised that the ship will give chase in such bad weather, since it means they likely will sink the Leopard instead of capturing her, but it makes for a great sequence.

The island in the title is one where they end up beached after drifting rudderless for what must be weeks. Apparently it's a real island, and the description of the flora and fauna (through Stephen Maturin's eyes) is extensive. Islands (and ships) are a great way to focus the action in a narrative. The action is limited to those who are on the island or ship.

I've already started listening to the sequel. This book definitely gets an A. It's a great nautical tale of high seas adventure, with fine detail, from the ships to the crew to the island. And also a good bit of humor, bringing out the traits of the main characters.


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