He’s No Horatio

I finish reading Master and Commander, the first of Patrick O’Brien’s twenty-odd books, and I’m sorry to say that I’m not thrilled.

I’ve discussed with Gordon many times the phenomenon of expectations. The more you’re looking forward to something, the more likely it is to be disappointing. The more you want to like something, the less you end up liking it.

Such it was with Jack Aubrey. I was bummed that I had finished reading all the Hornblower books, and so I was excited that there was this other series about naval warfare during the wars with Napoleon, with even more books, just sitting there fat and ripe and waiting to be read. And I understood that the O’Brien books were written in more of the vernacular of the times, with the nautical arcana left mostly unexplained. That sounded cool.

So then the actual book was a bit disappointing. Not that much action, relatively speaking. Or, maybe, not as much action, not to a Hornblower-esque degree anyway. And throwing Dr. Maturin onboard, and having to have things explained to him, wasn’t much leaving arcana unexplained, turns out.

And Jack Aubrey was by turns likable and unlikable. No Horatio, anyway.

But then in some ways Horatio is an insufferable prig. And but so then in other ways he’s redeemed a whole lot by his clinical depression, though. Jack Aubrey, on the other hand, is more of a pig. And where he’s supposed to be redeemed by his love of music, well, to me, not so much. Although then other times Horatio is a rascal.

Jack Aubrey is really more a realistic product of his time, seemingly a real character of the times, rather than how Horatio sometimes seems a product of our contemporary times, but thrust back into the early nineteenth century. The biggest example of all this is the two characters’ views of the prize system, where Jack is realistically enthusiastic, whereas Horatio views it as barbaric. (It was barbaric, of course. But that’s just how we see it now, looking back.)

But I guess I’ll read the next Aubrey-Maturin, Post Captain, and see how it goes. I’m hoping I like it more, which means I’ll probably be disappointed.

One thought on “He’s No Horatio

  1. Boy, I hate letdowns, particularly from artists (singers, writers, actors and actresses) that are my faves. The “Human Touch/Lucky Town” Bruce letdown/meltdown was so severe, I went from wild anticipation of new Springsteen albums to dread of new Springsteen albums. Can’t say I can think of another artistic letdown that was that bad. Maybe U2’s “Pop” album and the instant Frisbee they released after it.

    Then again, I’d say that the first Star Wars “prequel” was on a par with “Human Touch” for the biggest stinkbomb of my cultural life. It’s painful just thinking about it.

    Hope the books get better. If not, there’s always Robert Louis Stevenson: “Treasure Island,” “The Gold Bug,” etc. I might have to revisit those books meself. It’s been a while.

Comments are closed.