Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin tales are widely acknowledged to be the greatest series of historical novels ever written. H.M.S. Surprise follows the variable fortunes of Captain Jack Aubrey’s career in Nelson’s navy as he attempts to hold his ground against admirals, colleagues and the enemy, accepting a mission to convey a British ambassador to the East Indies. The voyage takes him and his friend Stephen Maturin to the strange sights and smells of the Indian sub-continent, and through the archipelago of spice islands where the French have a near-overwhelming superiority. Rarely has a novel managed to convey more vividly the fragility of a sailing ship in a wild sea. Rarely has a historical novelist combined action and lyricism of style in the way that O’ Brian does. His superb sense of place, brilliant characterisation, and a vigour and joy of writing lift O’Brian above any but the most exalted of comparisons.
‘…full of the energy that comes from a writer having struck a vein… Patrick O’Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.’ James Hamilton- Paterson ‘You are in for the treat of your lives. Thank God for Patrick O’Brian: his genius illuminates the literature of the English language, and lightens the lives of those who read him.’ Kevin Myers, Irish Times
‘Few, very few, books have made my heart thump with excitement. H.M.S. Surprise managed it. [O’Brian’s] erudition is phenomenal, as is his capacity for creating another completely believable world. I might have given a better idea of this book if I had simply written 600 times the word “superb”.’ Helen Lucy Burke, Irish Times
‘As sinewy, and virile as its predecessors, this is a copper-bottomed investment for the numerous fans of Jack Aubrey… we sail breathlessly through perilous seas to the Far East. Vivid and authentic as is Mr O’Brian’s mastery of period and life at sea, it is in his creation of characters that he excels.’ Sarah Lake, Daily Telegraph
Patrick O’Brian was one of our greatest contemporary novelists. He is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey–Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He lived for many years in south west France and he died in Dublin in January 2000.