H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey-Maturin Series #3)

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Overview

"The best historical novels ever written."—Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review
Third in the series of Aubrey-Maturin adventures, this book is set among the strange sights and smells of the Indian subcontinent, and in the distant waters ploughed by the ships of the East India Company. Aubrey is on the defensive, pitting wits and seamanship against an enemy enjoying overwhelming local superiority. But somewhere in the Indian Ocean lies the prize that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams: the ships ...
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H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey-Maturin Series #3)

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Overview

"The best historical novels ever written."—Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review
Third in the series of Aubrey-Maturin adventures, this book is set among the strange sights and smells of the Indian subcontinent, and in the distant waters ploughed by the ships of the East India Company. Aubrey is on the defensive, pitting wits and seamanship against an enemy enjoying overwhelming local superiority. But somewhere in the Indian Ocean lies the prize that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams: the ships sent by Napoleon to attack the China Fleet...
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Editorial Reviews

Richard Snow - New York Times Book Review
“The best historical novels ever written… On every page Mr. O’Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons: that times change but people don’t, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives.”
Christopher Hitchens - Slate
“I devoured Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume masterpiece as if it had been so many tots of Jamaica grog.”
James Hamilton-Paterson - New Republic
“Patrick O’Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.”
Keith Richards
“I fell in love with his writing straightaway, at first with Master and Commander. It wasn’t primarily the Nelson and Napoleonic period, more the human relationships. …And of course having characters isolated in the middle of the goddamn sea gives more scope. …It’s about friendship, camaraderie. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin always remind me a bit of Mick and me.”
Tamar Lewin - New York Times
“It has been something of a shock to find myself—an inveterate reader of girl books—obsessed with Patrick O’Brian’s Napoleonic-era historical novels… What keeps me hooked are the evolving relationships between Jack and Stephen and the women they love.”
David Mamet - New York Times
“[O’Brian’s] Aubrey-Maturin series, 20 novels of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, is a masterpiece. It will outlive most of today’s putative literary gems as Sherlock Holmes has outlived Bulwer-Lytton, as Mark Twain has outlived Charles Reade.”
Ken Ringle - Washington Post
“The Aubrey-Maturin series… far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart.”
Stephen Becker - Chicago Sun-Times
“There is not a writer alive whose work I value over his.”
E. O. Wilson - Boston Globe
“I haven’t read novels [in the past ten years] except for all of the Patrick O’Brian series. It was, unfortunately, like tripping on heroin. I started on those books and couldn’t stop.”
Helen Lucy Burke - Irish Press
“Few, very few, books have made my heart thud with excitement. H.M.S. Surprise managed it. I read it cruising through the tame Adriatic, and several times found myself forced to pace about the deck to calm my pulse.... Patrick O'Brian's erudition is phenomenal, as is his capacity for creating another completely believable world. He convinces with his total accuracy even in tiny details.”
A. S. Byatt
“Gripping and vivid… a whole, solidly living world for the imagination to inhabit.”
New York Times
[O’Brian’s] Aubrey-Maturin series, 20 novels of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, is a masterpiece. It will outlive most of today’s putative literary gems as Sherlock Holmes has outlived Bulwer-Lytton, as Mark Twain has outlived Charles Reade.— David Mamet
Washington Post
The Aubrey-Maturin series… far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart.— Ken Ringle
Chicago Sun-Times
There is not a writer alive whose work I value over his.— Stephen Becker
New Republic
Patrick O’Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.
Boston Globe
I haven’t read novels [in the past ten years] except for all of the Patrick O’Brian series. It was, unfortunately, like tripping on heroin. I started on those books and couldn’t stop.— E. O. Wilson
New York Times Book Review
The best historical novels ever written… On every page Mr. O’Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons: that times change but people don’t, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives.— Richard Snow
Slate
I devoured Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume masterpiece as if it had been so many tots of Jamaica grog.— Christopher Hitchens
Robertson Davies
“A first-rate tale of the sea.... I read it with absorption and satisfaction.”
George Will
“O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin volumes actually constitute a single 6,443-page novel, one that should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century.”
Irish Press
Few, very few, books have made my heart thud with excitement H.M.S Surprise managed it.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This long-out-of-print naval adventure in the series that started with Master and Commander (see The Mauritius Command below) finds Captain Jack Aubrey in charge of the H.M.S. Surprise. His ship's surgeon and friend, Stephen Maturin, sidelines in espionage and natural science. Through Maturin's eyes we see the environment in great detail--down to the species of beetle that inhabits an area. The Surprise is commissioned to deliver an English envoy to India. It is the early 19th century, when England fought for supremacy over France and Napoleon's navy, and Aubrey itches for an engagement with the crafty old French admiralpk Linois. He hopes to capture the French ship and earn the prize money that would clear his debt and allow him to marry Sophie, his true love. O'Brian knows his history and sailing, as is evident in the rich particulars--sometimes overwhelming. Those who don't know their foretopsail from their maintopsail will at times be as lost as landlubbers on a stormy sea. Stretching its genre but never escaping it, the novel will impress those who enjoy swashbucklers. (May)
Library Journal
These two selections represent a series of abridged audiobook versions of O'Brian's works narrated by Robert Hardy, that most blustery and unstudied of British actors. Hardy reads the stories cold, but here it works. He uses his voice to evoke everything from brutality to mannered drawing-room excesses to the physical threat of a storm at sea. The stories are superb depictions of life on a British man-of-war and incorporate O'Brian's exquisitely accurate historical detail (Testimonies, Audio Reviews, LJ 7/96). The friendship of protagonists Capt. Jack Aubrey and ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin plays out against an expanse of ocean, from India to the Atlantic, with a full complement of battles and adventures at sea for devotees of naval fiction. Highly recommended.--Mark Pumphrey, Polk Cty. P.L., Columbus, NC
Richard Snow
"The best historical novel ever written." - New York Times Book Review
Helen Lucy Burk
"Few, very few, books have made my heart sag with excitement. 'H.M.S. Surprise' managed it. I read it cruizing through the tame Adriatic, in Silver Ponds found myself forced to pace about the deck to calm my pulse....Patrick O'Brian's erudition is phenomenal, as is his capacity for creating another completely believable world. He convices that his total accuracy even in tiny detail."
Times [London]
“O'Brian is astonishingly good.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393307610
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/1991
  • Series: Aubrey-Maturin Series , #3
  • Edition description: 1st American Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 163,236
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).Set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, O'Brian's twenty-volume series centers on the enduring friendship between naval officer Jack Aubrey and physician (and spy) Stephen Maturin. The Far Side of the World, the tenth book in the series, was adapted into a 2003 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. The film was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture. The books are now available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book format.In addition to the Aubrey/Maturin novels, Patrick O'Brian wrote several books including the novels Testimonies, The Golden Ocean, and The Unknown Shore, as well as biographies of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir, the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle, and famed fugitive Henri Cherrière's memoir Papillon. O'Brian died in January 2000.

Biography

In addition to the twenty volumes of the highly-respected Aubrey/Maturin series, Patrick O'Brian's many novels include Testimonies, The Golden Ocean, and The Unknown Shore. O'Brian has also written acclaimed biographies of Pablo Picasso and Sir Joseph Banks and has translated many works from the French, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle. Born in 1914, he passed away in January 2000.

Patrick O'Brian was one of the great authors of the twentieth century, whose novels were often compared by critics to the work of Jane Austen and even Homer. A writer of breathtaking erudition, Mr. O'Brian evoked in complete and dazzling detail an entire world -- that of the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. In addition to formidable scholarship, Mr. O'Brian brought to his work keen psychological insights, a sharp wit, and fast-paced, heart-stopping action.

In a cover story in The New York Times Book Review published on January 6, 1991, nine years to the day before Mr. O'Brian's death, Richard Snow wrote that Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin naval adventure novels are "the best historical novels ever written. On every page Mr. O'Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons: that times change but people don't, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives." In a Washington Post article published August 2, 1992, Ken Ringle wrote, "The Aubrey/Maturin series far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart."

W.W. Norton & Company began publishing Patrick O'Brian's books in 1990. The previous year, Norton's editor-in-chief, Starling Lawrence, had read The Reverse of the Medal on a trans-Atlantic flight, fallen hard for the series, and had become convinced that Norton ought to publish Mr. O'Brian's works in the U.S. Norton decided to publish each new book in hardcover as it was completed and to bring out the earlier books in the series in paperback until they had caught up. The first season, Norton published The Letter of Marque (# 12) in hardcover and Master and Commander (# 1) and Post Captain (# 2) in paperback. Most recently, Norton published Blue at the Mizzen (# 20) in hardcover in 1999 and in paperback in 2000. At present, Norton has all of the books in the series available in uniform hardcover and paperback editions.

In addition to the twenty books in the Aubrey/Maturin series, Norton has published a short story collection (The Rendezvous and Other Stories) and three of Mr. O'Brian's other novels: Testimonies, The Golden Ocean, and The Unknown Shore. O'Brian has also written acclaimed biographies of Pablo Picasso and Sir Joseph Banks and has translated many works from the French, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle. In April of 2000, Norton published Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda-Leopard, his very first book, begun when he was just twelve, and Hussein: An Entertainment, written when he was about twenty years old. Both of these books had long been out of print.

Starting in the early 1990s, Mr. O'Brian achieved, at long last, the critical and popular recognition that was his due. All of his new books published since 1993 have appeared on national bestseller charts, and his books have sold well over three million copies in the U.S. alone.

Mr. O'Brian once said, "Obviously, I have lived very much out of the world: I know little of present-day Dublin or London or Paris, even less of post-modernity, post-structuralism, hard rock or rap, and I cannot write with much conviction about the contemporary scene." [Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography, edited by Arthur Cunningham]. In fact, Mr. O'Brian often seemed to have walked out of another era, and in his interactions with his publisher, he displayed a level of courtesy and civility rarely seen in our times.

Author biography courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Richard Patrick Russ
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 12, 1914
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire
    1. Date of Death:
      January 2, 2000
    2. Place of Death:
      Dublin, Ireland

Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 21 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 9, 2010

    Get Hooked on Ocean Voyages

    This series is irresistible -- even for someone who knows nothing about the sea. To my astonishment, I read every single book in this series and was really sad when it was over -- 19 or 20 volumes later! O'Brien was not in fact a sailor himself, but you would never know it. He never condescends to his readers, just accepts them as part of his compelling fictional world, and as a result, we find ourselves right there with him. There is a huge amount of technical information in these books, and the chances you will understand it all are close to nil -- but somehow, the author has you so involved that you get the general idea of how to sail a serious 18th century ship anyway. His only discernible weakness is his female characters -- luckily, they are never on stage for very long. His male characters, however, are fully realized, maturing gradually from book to book, so that we get a real feeling for the arcs of their lives. A ship at sea is a world unto itself, with its own rules, environment, and unique set of circumstances. O'Brien's books are bizarrely like excellent science fiction novels, transporting you to a fascinating and utterly convincing alien time and place that you could never experience on your own.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2009

    Third Time's a Charm!

    I found this third entry in the Aubrey-Marturin Series much more enjoyable that the second, "Post Captain." I do like more "action" in books, and found this one more on the scale of "Master and Commander."

    I would give this advice to any who would choose to read this series, "Keep a good dictionary next to your reading table!" O'Brian seems to write with an assumption that all of his readers know naval nomenclature, not to mention Latin phrasiology.

    The love story between Aubrey and Sophie carries well, and Maturin's tragic character is believable, as well as intriguing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Third in Series, Best in my Judgement

    The third installment of the Arbury-Maturin series, but probably the best. Really get to know the characters. The story in India is great.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2005

    This is a great book

    I love reading this book. It has got something for everyone. There is plenty to learn about ship during the Napoleanic Wars. My favorite character is Diana. She is like a tomboy who lives in India and she dresses like she's from India too. Diana is not the type of woman who would sit around and drink tea. She more likely to go exploring in the Indian jungles. She doesn't even care about what the other women say. I also realy admire Sophie Williams because she puts up with this monster who claims to be her mother. Sophie is not afraid to break her mother's rules especially when her mother is being ridiculous. I am starting to think that Patrick O'Brian thought that men and women were to be treated as equals and that is why he portrays women that way.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2004

    The best from the series!

    The HMS Surprise is the best novel out of the Aubrey/Maturin series, by far! This book is packed with both scoial and seafaring drama, I had no inclination to put it down the entire time I was reading it. I highly recommend the series, though this book I must say is the best.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    Sam

    Ikr!! This has bothered for a very long time!! Frodo: hey gandalf? Why not instead of walking into mordor we ur the eagles to get in and you know fly? Gandalf: that is a much better idea frodo. Im glad u thought of that

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2013

    Fatty

    Umps on pippin. 'FLY YOU FOOL'

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    Posted August 19, 2009

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    Posted August 1, 2009

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    Posted April 23, 2010

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