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O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

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O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by Kade1301 on Thu 22 Jan 2015, 10:46

What have I missed (in the 13 Gun Salute to Wine-Dark Sea ark)? (Don't read this if you haven't read the books yet)
Spoiler:

Jack Aubrey gets ordered off the Surprise and takes command of HMS Diane. Which gets destroyed and Aubrey gets the Nutmeg of Consolation as replacement. So far so good. But then he simply leaves the Nutmeg to her First Lieutenant and changes to Her Majesty's hired vessel Surprise, Captain Tom Pullings, owner Jack Aubrey, M.P.. How can he do this? I didn't think Captains could change ships as they pleased...

And, equally strange: Heneage Dundas picks up an American schooner in the South Pacific, empty. And then Jack Aubrey wins her at backgammon. Wouldn't the schooner be a prize, to be processed according to whatever rules applied - how can Dundas gamble her away? I wouldn't have thought she was his to lose...


Last edited by Kade1301 on Wed 28 Jan 2015, 10:45; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : more general titel to fit new discussion)

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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by broughstar on Thu 22 Jan 2015, 20:27

you may have something there unless dundas gets the schooner as salvage which is different to a prize . all the same very strange .I don't think Patrick obrian would be confused about this do you.
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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by Kade1301 on Wed 28 Jan 2015, 11:02

Frankly, I believe that O'Brian's memory failed him in the later books (he was rather old when he wrote them, wasn't he?) - and proper editing seems to have gone out of fashion some time ago. I've found more problems, this time in The Yellow Admiral:

Spoiler:
Stephen is rich again, and it sounds as if the only problem had been the mislaid receipt from the Spanish bank for his chests of gold. Whereas he had found the receipt almost immediately (in the pages of a book) - the real problem was that the Spanish government had seized his fortune because it charged Stephen with trying to organize a revolt in Peru. As the charges were true I don't see how Stephen - or his banker - wriggled out of them. Neither did O'Brian, apparantly...

Next mistake: Stephen is expressly named as the owner of the Surprise, but a few books ago, when Stephen was thought to have lost his money in a bank crash, Jack bought her, and was called her owner often enough to make me believe that the sale went through. Now of course, Stephen might have bought her back when Jack was in financial trouble (and Stephen supposedly rich again) but it's never mentioned.

And of course the Aubrey couple's bedroom difficulties, so carefully set up and explained by Diana, are never resolved, but I didn't really expect that, either...

Apart from that I rather liked The Yellow Admiral - it's a bit more "naval" than the previous books, who were more "the secret-service adventures of a drug-addicted biologist working occasionally as a naval surgeon" (now who'd ever buy - or even publish - a book with such a description?)

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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by Kade1301 on Thu 29 Jan 2015, 11:48

Okay, on to The Hundred Days. And I'm beginning to wonder whether it's really O'Brian who wrote it! (Is that lèse-majesté?) Jack Aubrey's has changed is mind 180 degrees: After always insisting on not carrying women aboard a man-o'-war (and I don't remember any apart from Clarissa Oakes and the one in Far Side of the World - and, of course, the prisoners on their way to Australia), they have supposedly always been around: Gunner's wifes, sailmaker's wifes... And Stephen gets a female loblolly-boy...

And, second big change of mind: The Surprise is equipped with brand-new flintlocks for her canons. Whereas previously Jack actually preferred slow matches, because they never misfire. Even when a ship's guns were equipped with flintlocks there were slowmatch tubs around, just in case a lock wouldn't work. Now it's the other way round: Slowmatches can be extinguished by a sudden squall, flintlocks are more reliable...

WTF is going on????

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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by broughstar on Thu 29 Jan 2015, 20:12

Patrick obrian was 83 when he wrote the hundred days in 1998 so you may have something there. his memory may have been going. also going back to the 13 gun salute and nutmeg of consolation. did you know he wrote both books in 1991 and so must have been under great pressure to complete both books in one year that may explain why he made mistakes. but to suggest he never wrote them is folly I think. !
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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by broughstar on Thu 29 Jan 2015, 20:21

by the way kade1301 who are your favourite hnf authors as your profile has none.
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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by Astrodene on Thu 29 Jan 2015, 21:10

Please look in the welcome thread rather than take this one off topic. thanks

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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by Kade1301 on Sat 31 Jan 2015, 06:19

broughstar wrote:...did you know he wrote both books in 1991 and so must have been under great pressure to complete both books in one year that may explain why he made mistakes. but to suggest he never wrote them is folly I think. !    

Well, that's the sort of crazy idea I get when I'm confronted with a book that's so very different from the ones that preceded it in the series. If I'm not very much mistaken it's also the first time that we get to eavesdrop on forecastle hands talking among themselves for any length of time. By the way, 500 pages per year isn't such a big achievement! Not once the subject matter is mastered... (and assuming reasonable typing skills, of course)

I found another mistake, a rather big one, I think: The chronology doesn't work out.
Spoiler:
At the end of The Yellow Admiral Jack, Stephen, their wives and kids are in Madeira. (Which is an island west of Morocco.) Jack receives the order to take over all available ships and to sail as fast as possible to Gibraltar (roughly north-west from Madeira, not so very far away, in any case MUCH closer than England). At the beginning of A Hundred Days Jack is sailing with his squadron into Gibraltar, apparantly for the first time. And Diana is dead - a coaching accident in England, with her mother in the coach -, and Stephen knows it. The way I see it, Diana and Sophie shouldn't even have arrived in England before the squadron is in Gibraltar, let alone the news of an accident in England getting back to the southern tip of Spain.


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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by broughstar on Sat 31 Jan 2015, 15:36

he may have made mistakes but I think they may have been overlooked. the new York times books review of February 1991 proclaimed the 14 Aubrey-maturin volumes so far written are the best historical novels ever written there words not mine. because of his close link to Tolstoy maybe that's why he was so revered and admired they overlooked small details like this.


Last edited by broughstar on Mon 02 Feb 2015, 20:52; edited 1 time in total
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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by pauljm on Sat 31 Jan 2015, 22:26

I am curious about O'Brian's "close link to Tolkien" of which I was not aware. What is your source for this...I have not seen it mentioned in any of the critical material.

I think it's perfectly fair to say that the last few O'Brian novels are far less convincing than the earlier ones, which in my opinion do merit the NY Times Book Review's praise. I remember sensing when I read the last novels that O'Brian was drifting off into another world, and I don't think I even finished "The Yellow Admiral" because it seemed so disappointing. Chronology and consistency no longer seemed important, and the reader got the impression that the author could not let go of his characters, and so bent the premises that he had earlier established to keep them going. The result was not only the mistakes and inconsistencies that have been noted, but a diminished quality of writing compared with the astonishing achievement of the earlier books.
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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by Kade1301 on Sun 01 Feb 2015, 12:30

Thanks, pauljm - it's nice to see that I'm not alone in feeling that something clashes between the earlier novels and the last ones. Though I'm quite enjoying the Hundred Days, and I also mostly enjoyed The Yellow Admiral.

Actually, I don't have anything against O'Brian - or his books - but I strongly object to the hype and uncritical reverence, examples of which abound here in the forum - and in critical reviews (not to mention that some of the afterwords in the newer Harper Collins editions make me want to vomit!)

Yes, O'Brian was a good, "elegant" writer - maybe the best so far in the naval genre. So what? Hopefully one day somebody will come around who is both a great writer and a great storyteller...

The other thing that really makes me wonder: Didn't O'Brian have any friends he could trust with an unpublished manuscript for test-reading? Are books of published authors really not at all edited in the publishing house?

I'm a friend of Sarah Lark's (German author - please don't judge her by the American translations published for Kindle, the one I saw - before publication - was terrible) and she sends the manuscript to a number of friends in case any of them spot mistakes she overlooked (it IS difficult to spot one's own errors). Then, at the publisher, there's an editor for grammar and spelling, and one for "technical" consistency (the things I've mentioned here). Which results in very nice, widely-read books...

(Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that O'Brian sales only skyrocketed after the film came out...)

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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by broughstar on Mon 02 Feb 2015, 20:50

sorry pauljm did I say Tolkien. I mean Tolstoy. sorry.
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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by Kade1301 on Tue 03 Feb 2015, 12:28

And it's getting worse: After writing in The Hundred Days much too often what a wonderful crew the Surprise had (all able seamen, volunteers, carefully selected) in Blue At The Mizzen the author (whoever he was - I'm getting to the point where I'd prefer it to not be O'Brian):

"They were a motley lot, the present Surprises: the Admiral had had to bring her up to war-time strength when Jack was given his squadron, and no captain in his senses was going to hand over his best men: some of the unhappy pressed objects that came across were more fit for a charitable foundation than a man-of-war, but most were of the lower, more stupid, least-skilled kind of seafaring man, good for hauling on a rope, but little else: natural members of the afterguard."

Bs! Privateers don't sail undermanned, they need to be able to fight the ship with a prize crew or two gone from it, and when Jack got his Squadron the Surprise was on her way to South America, equipped as a privateer, even if on an intelligence mission, as far as I remember.

Actually, I had always wondered about the crew's feelings: They had signed up with Lucky Jack Aubrey for a raiding voyage to South America, then they found themselves under Captain Pullings with Jack away in Asia, a bit later they suddenly were back in regular naval warfare...

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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by broughstar on Tue 03 Feb 2015, 20:06

I am sure if you look hard enough in all novels you will find things wrong. with the story or the strength and depth of the plot. with the crew and the voyage maybe ! do what I do just enjoy the hnf book for what it is or don't read it and move on to another author you actually like.
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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by Kade1301 on Wed 04 Feb 2015, 11:32

Well, I'm well into the last book in a 20-book-series - I will finish it (besides, there's still some nice moments). However, if I had started at the back I'll assure you I wouldn't have bothered with the rest. And I'd have a better opinion of O'Brian (and his publisher!) if I hadn't read the last two books...

Spoiler for The Hundred Days:
And, by the way, on behalf of Barret Bonden I strongly object to how his death is treated: "...caused the twenty-four pound ball to strike the second gun of the Surprise's starboard broadside, killing Bonden, its captain, and young Hallam, the midshipman of the division. (and 5 paragraphs further down:) "He (Jack) was, of course, very thoroughly acquainted with sudden death, but this time he felt the loss of Bonden, an admirable sailor, and of young Hallam, the son of an old shipmate, very deeply indeed." And that's it.

And regarding Diana's death it ocurred to me that it's treated the way the authors of a tv series get rid of characters if the actors is no longer available (or has asked for more money)...

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Re: O'Brian and "Navy Red Tape" - and other mistakes...

Post by broughstar on Thu 05 Feb 2015, 19:29

its a shame you did not like the obrian series. maybe try peter smalley next time I like  the rennie series . and hms expedient is the first and the best book out of the series so far in my opinion.
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