Wednesday, March 28, 2007

HMS Surprise by Patrick O'Brian

Oh yeah! I'm on a roll here! I'm tearing my way through this great series.

However, before I tell you what I think of this book, I found this fun quiz on one of the many many litblogs I read.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next three sentences in your journal along with these instructions.

So here goes -- the nearest book, of course, being HMS Surprise:

"Hands wear ship," said the lieutenant of the watch, more from form than anything else, for not only did the Lively have a crew that had worked together for years, but also she had carried out this manoeuvre several hundred times in this very stretch of water and the order was scarcely needed. Routine had taken the edge off the Livelies' zeal, but nevertheless the boatswain had to call out "Handsomely, handsomely, now, with that bleeding sheet"; for the crew had been brought to such a pitch of silent efficiency that the frigate ran the risk of darting her jib-boom over the taffrail of the Melpomene, her next ahead, whose talents and sailing qualities could not have recommended her anywhere.

However, round they went in succession, each wearing in the spot where her leader had turned; they hauled their wind and re-formed their rigid line, heading for Giens once more, Naiad, Melpomene, Lively.

So there you have it, folks - a sample of Patrick O'Brian's knack for the long sentence which is at once replete with incomprehensible naval jargon and still very readable.

That was fun - I think I might do it for future books I write about here.

Anyway, about the book. In this installment, Captain Aubrey finally gets a decent command -- although he doesn't see it that way. He is asked to take an ambassador to China, an extremely long and treacherous sea-voyage which has little possibility of taking home the prize that he needs to help clear his massive debt so he can marry his sweetheart. Meanwhile, Dr Maturin continues to pine for a woman who's no good for him, but manages to distract himself with the local wildlife wherever he goes (and I really do mean wildlife - this guy is crazy for animals, insects, plants, you name it). He manages to acquire two odd pets before the journey is over, and they go over a little better than the bees he installed in the Captain's cabin on the last voyage.

I love these guys! I want to take Dr Maturin home and clean him up and feed him. All he needs to do is play his cello for me and I'll consider it a fair exchange.

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