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Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Jonny on Mon 19 Jul 2010, 21:13

I seem to remember struggling through the Wine Dark Sea for some reason, that and the one where Dr Maturin disappears over the Peruvian mountains (sorry the name escapes me).
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Dyionisiac on Fri 10 Jun 2011, 06:01

Language....

I fear I have done myself a great disservice... The First HNF series I read was Aubrey\Maturin and now I find I may have very little room to go but down. I have been reading Hornblower off on on, but he's such a little prig I get sick of him. Is there anyone else who even vaguely approaches O'Brian's masterful use of the language of the times? that is the greatest delight to me in reading his work, how fully the language, bot spoken and narration enclose you in the feeling of the era! Any suggestions would be heartily appreciated!

Oh and hello, this is my first post.

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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by reb01501 on Fri 10 Jun 2011, 09:56

@Dyionisiac wrote:Language....

I fear I have done myself a great disservice... The First HNF series I read was Aubrey\Maturin and now I find I may have very little room to go but down. I have been reading Hornblower off on on, but he's such a little prig I get sick of him.
If you can find it (I was able to borrow a copy from the library), you might give Captain From Connecticut a try.
Is there anyone else who even vaguely approaches O'Brian's masterful use of the language of the times?
To put it bluntly: no. At least I've yet to encounter one. The closest I've seen is JE Fender's Frost series, unfortunately a short series.. However, others have come close.
that is the greatest delight to me in reading his work, how fully the language, bot spoken and narration enclose you in the feeling of the era! Any suggestions would be heartily appreciated!
Alaric Bond, Richard Woodman, Stockwin ... actually, you really can't go wrong starting with the authors with their own topics in the Quarterdeck forum of this site
Oh and hello, this is my first post.
A hearty welcome to you! cheers


Last edited by reb01501 on Fri 10 Jun 2011, 10:15; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added an afterthought)

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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Maturin y Domanova on Mon 13 Jun 2011, 13:24

Hear him, hear him. Welcome aboard, Dyionisiac.

I agree with Bob. I have yet to find someone with the mastery of language of a second O'Brian among the HNF authors. That being said there are some very good authors who bring very different strengths and have varying approaches to the subject matter. Some may be to your taste just as many undoubtedly will not. Good luck!
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Gary Covington on Fri 17 Jun 2011, 15:23

Showell Styles comes close.

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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by S.K. Keogh on Tue 05 Jul 2011, 04:27

Patrick O'Brian is it for me. All other writers in the genre pale in comparison. His prose flies in the face of every writing advice out there about not using adjectives and adverbs--I mean, the man sometimes uses multiples, but somehow it works, and I love it. He is able to get an idea across with just a hint, something I greatly admire as a writer. His wit often has me laughing outloud.

I'm on my second reading of the entire series. I find my own writing is better when I'm reading O'Brian.
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Alaric Bond on Tue 05 Jul 2011, 07:31

Welcome to the forum, S.K. Would you care to tell us more about your own writing?

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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by S.K. Keogh on Tue 05 Jul 2011, 22:26

Borrelpeff wrote:Welcome to the forum, S.K. Would you care to tell us more about your own writing?

No problem. My agent is currently submitting an Age of Sail novel of mine entitled The Prodigal, set in the late 1600's in the West Indies and colonial [South] Carolina. It's a pretty straight-up old fashioned type adventure about a young man seeking revenge for the murder of his father and the kidnapping of his mother by a sometimes-pirate/sometimes-Carolina-planter. I wanted something that would interest the historical Age of Sail reader but would offer characters outside of the Royal Navy, which so much of our genre comprises. Only time will tell if I succeeded! Wink
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Maturin y Domanova on Tue 05 Jul 2011, 22:37

Sounds intriguing, S.K. Good luck with it!
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by lindacollison on Fri 08 Jul 2011, 06:32

What I admire about POB's novels is his his understated humor, his characterizations, his understanding of human nature. O'Brien's characters are alive for me, and I read certain scenes over again and again, and I smile because I can hear the conversation, I know these people.

And Bob is right, can we lighten up about the bear? I thought it was funny. I think the author was having a little fun.
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by S.K. Keogh on Sat 09 Jul 2011, 02:16

I loved the bear scenes, too. Another favorite of mine was the flatulent horse. Laughing
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Maturin y Domanova on Sat 09 Jul 2011, 03:24

How about dressing as Aubrey in the bear incident? Wouldn't that be a costume? Wink
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Alaric Bond on Sat 09 Jul 2011, 07:30

I dressed as a bear once. No, really...
When my youngest, now a strapping 6.4", was five I hired a bear outfit to wear to his birthday party. All the kids knew it was Tim's dad (although some needed convincing at first). I stayed for most of the party, did tricks, told jokes, and generally messed about, as bears do. Then got so hot I went upstairs and changed. I returned, as Tim's dad, and all the kids started telling me that there had been a bear at the party, and what he had done. They knew it was me, but somehow that didn't matter. I guess it was a form of suspended belief, like watching a play at a theatre. Something of the kind might have happened, or been intended, with Jack's caper.
(Am I staring to ramble? Matron!)

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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Maturin y Domanova on Sat 09 Jul 2011, 14:32

What a great story! cheers

And I think you're right. O'Brien's stock and trade was as a storyteller which involves getting people to suspend disbelief, so it would be natural that he would use a scene where people willingly go along with the fantasy. I like that explanation.

And at least you didn't have to scale the Pyrenees in your suit.
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Joolz on Tue 12 Jul 2011, 17:25

@lindacollison wrote:What I admire about POB's novels is his his understated humor, his characterizations, his understanding of human nature. O'Brien's characters are alive for me, and I read certain scenes over again and again, and I smile because I can hear the conversation, I know these people.
100% agree with all this. O'Brian is The King. He didn't need wall-to-wall action to make his books riveting.

PS - Hallo! New to the forum but an old reader Smile


Last edited by Joolz on Tue 12 Jul 2011, 18:08; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Alaric Bond on Tue 12 Jul 2011, 17:56

Great to have you on board and active, Joolz! Very Happy

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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Joolz on Tue 12 Jul 2011, 18:10

Borrelpeff wrote:Great to have you on board and active, Joolz! Very Happy
Thanks. Off to bed now, but will take a better look round tomorrow Smile
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Maturin y Domanova on Tue 12 Jul 2011, 22:19

Welcome aboard, Joolz!
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Paul-B on Thu 18 Aug 2011, 11:47

No-one is "The Best", it's incredibly subjective. For me O'Brien is quite a way down my list of favourites, to the extent that I now only read his stuff if I can't find anything else to hand.
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by malchya on Thu 18 Aug 2011, 12:01

Once again I would have to say it depends on what you mean by "best." There is no question but that POB was a craftsman without peer when it came to using the English language. I cannot honestly recall another author in my 45 years of reading who has been compared to Homer and Shakespeare with the latter two at the losing end of the comparison. I'm not saying I agree with that, but POB was an undisputed master of prose.

Were his stories excellent period pieces? Oh, yes. Was his use of humor appropriate and telling? For the most part, yes. Were his characters compelling, interesting and entertaining? Again; for the most part, yes. Were his set piece battles and ship handling well thought out, well written and believable? Yes, especially his depiction of a ship at sea. (Though I admit I often found his battles to be somewhat anticlimactic after the first few books.)

Was he the best at telling rousing adventure-filled tales of HNF? That's the real question, after all. My answer is that he was quite good, at times superb. But not the best. Not in my opinion.

So, that leaves the question of who I think deserves the crown. I cut my teeth on Hornblower. Forester will, at least to me, come out on top in this particular comparison.

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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Paul-B on Thu 18 Aug 2011, 12:12

As I said, "The Best" is subjective and time-dependant. Forester was my first HNF author, and was my favourite for a while, until I discovered Alexander Kent and Bolitho - he remained at my own personal best for a fair number of years, but I began to find his later novels a little bit repetitive. For a while I had no particular favourites, now I'm just reading Stockwin's Kydd series for the first time, which I am enjoying, but his fourth "Mutiny" is, IMO, not standing up to the quality of the first three and I'm really hoping that it may just be a glitch, as I really like the original idea of developing a character who started out as a pressed-man.
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by malchya on Thu 18 Aug 2011, 14:20

If the idea of an up from the hawse tarpaulin appeals to you, try Adam Hardy's Fox series. G. A. Fox was a pressed man who achieved commission and command.
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Paul-B on Thu 18 Aug 2011, 15:55

I read one of the Fox books at least 10 years ago, and didn't really like it, but time moves on and it will definitely be worth starting again.
Thanks for the reminder.
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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by reb01501 on Thu 18 Aug 2011, 18:27

Actually, Donachie's John Pearce series has the same premise: pressed man promoted to officer, but in quite a different way. The series is not riveting, but it does in a pinch.

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Re: Is he the best? Of course he is! Unless you don't think so...

Post by Kade1301 on Tue 23 Sep 2014, 15:15

If Patrick O'Brian is the best, then only because the others are worse. I admit I haven't found better, but I haven't given up hope, yet! (I very much like the Alan Lewrie Character, but I'm not perfectly happy with Lamdin's writing. I like Forrester's writing, but Hornblower risks giving me depression.) There's certainly much room for improvement. As Peter Weir said (in the DVD extras to Master and Commander): Once you take away the wonderful prose, you are left with great characters and not much else (quoted from memory, which might be wrong). There's a reason why Weir used highlights from the first 9 books to make a movie (the sloth is missing, unfortunately Sad ).

As for Patrick O'Brian being compared to Shakespeare and Homer and coming out ahead - that doesn't say much. Who has read original Homer? And an Englishman once assured me that Shakespeare is despised (like "cold boiled mutton" - to steal the expression) by his compatriots. (Give me a good Lee Child or Dick (Mary) Francis any day...)

I see absolutely no need to write a historic novel in period language - I don't want to read a Robin Hood story in Middle English - and what should Jean M. Auel have used for her stone age stories?

I would much prefer Patrick O'Brian to have used 20th century language and write more intense battle scenes - the lack of which is my major point of criticism of the series.

Another thing that is missing are afterwords that would give the author a chance to acknowledge his sources and inspiration. Like the almost-quote from Marryatt mentioned here in the thread. I can mostly (hmm, or almost?) forgive that, after all, "a list of ingredients" (as in a cooking recipe) is not copyrighteable and I guess that goes for a packing list, too. However, I was very surprised to learn (from Lamdin) that the iceberg incident in Desolation Island is taken straight from reality (the Guardian under then Lieutenant Riou had the same misadventure)! Now, firstly I think it somewhat of a disservice to Riou to "steal" his achievement, secondly I wonder: Do I really have to read books written by an author who quotes from reality or other writers and uses the "original" language? Why not reading primary sources directly? Or novels written at the time? The next author I'll check out (as soon as I find a spare minute) will be Captain F. Marryat (with a bit of luck his works will be on Gutenberg project...)


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