Patrick O'Brian, one of our greatest contemporary novelists, is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. His first novel, Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories were recently republished by HarperCollins. In 1995, he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime's contribution to literature. In the same year he was awarded the CBE. In 1997 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters by Trinity College, Dublin. He died in January 2000 at the age of 85.
On the high seas in the early years of the 19th century, when full-rigged sailing ships carried cargoes of treasure and slaves and privateers were a continual threat, surgeon-spy Stephen Maturin and his good friend Capt. Jack Aubrey have set sail for South America. Their ship is a privateer with a crew more than ready to board and capture anything in their path. This 16th entry in O'Brian's long-running saga opens as the two men and their crew encounter a volcanic eruption and continues as Maturin, engaged in diplomatic scheming, heads for Peru, where he finds an exotic array of birds and animals as well as opportunities for espionage. Readers already familiar with the series will enthusiastically welcome this new chapter; others may find the references to earlier adventures and distant characters confusing. The plot groans under detailed descriptions of everything from managing the sails to galley-table etiquette. Recommended for libraries holding O'Brian's earlier works. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/93.-- Elsa Pendleton, Boeing Computer Support Svces., Ridgecrest, Cal.
'...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 'In a highly competitive field it goes straight to the top. A real first-rater.' Mary Renault 'I never enjoyed a novel about the sea more. It is not only that the author describes the handling of a ship of 1800 with an accuracy that is as comprehensible as it is detailed, a remarkable feat in itself. Mr O'Brian's three chief characters are drawn with no less depth of sympathy than the vessels he describes, a rare achievement save in the greatest writers of this genre. It deserves the widest readership.' Irish Times
Though the Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin books can be profitably read separately, as fans know, together they read as one long, wonderful novel. This 16th installment (following The Truelove ) is no doubt the best chapter yet. In the early 1800s, Bluff Jack, captain of the privateer Surprise , steers his frigate across the Pacific to South America, around Cape Horn and into the Atlantic, taking French and American prizes, fighting off a Yankee Man of War and suffering dire eye and leg wounds for his trouble. Subtle Stephen, ship's doctor and British intelligence agent, almost pulls off a coup in Peru and must escape across the Andes, losing some toes to frostbite for his efforts. Favorite characters reappear here: Killick, Jack's crabby steward; Sarah and Emily Sweeting, precocious Melanesian waifs attached to Maturin's sick-berth; Sam, Jack's illegitimate black son and rising Churchman. The naval actions are bang-on and bang-up--fast, furious and bloody--and the Andean milieu is as vivid as the shipboard scenes. As usual, readers can revel in the symbiotic friendship of Jack and Stephen, who make for a marvelous duo, whether in their violin and cello duets or in their sharp dialogue. If O'Brian hasn't quite had a break-out book yet, then this deserves to be it. 40,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Nov.)