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The Far Side of the World (1984)

by Patrick O'Brian

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Aubrey-Maturin (10)

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3,499383,705 (4.21)63
The War of 1812 continues, and Jack Aubrey sets course for Cape Horn on a mission after his own heart: intercepting a powerful American frigate outward bound to play havoc with the British whaling trade. Little do he and Maturin know that disaster awaits them in the Great South Sea: typhoons, shipwrecks, murder, and criminal insanity.… (more)
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English (30)  Spanish (4)  Swedish (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
The Far Side of the World by Patrick O'Brian is a very enjoyable seafaring novel featuring colleagues and friends Captain Jack Aubrey and ship's surgeon, natural philosopher and spy Stephen Maturin. This book is the tenth in the Aubrey-Maturin series. It is the first book in the series that I have read (indeed the first Patrick O'Brian book I have read at all), and I found it to be thoroughly satisfying as a stand alone novel.

While the HMS Surprise is nearing the end of her life and was expected to be broken up, instead Aubrey is assigned to take her 'round the Horn in pursuit of the USS Norfolk, an American ship pursuing and destroying British whalers. Aubrey must make haste to put together a crew from scratch which he just manages to do, not always able to use as much discretion as he might like. The adventures begin immediately including the drama of an affair of a midshipman with the master gunner's young wife who becomes pregnant. Maturin refuses to perform an abortion so she receives a botched one at the hands of the barber and very nearly dies. That escalates into further tragedy.

One escapade follows another and the ship is battered by extreme weather events again and again. Stephen Maturin experiences one mishap after the other, as well; dragging the Captain along with him. After Stephen falls off the deck into the sea, Captain Aubrey jumps in after him and just when it seems all hope is lost for them, they are saved by a group of Polynesian women in a pahi. From there they are stranded on a small island and miraculously end up being saved by a launch from The Surprise.

The Surpise is then battered by a typhoon, in which Stephen Maturin is thrown down and hits his head putting him in a coma. Captain Aubrey, Mr. Martin (the chaplain and a natural philosopher) and some of the crew take the unconscious man ashore so that the Norfolk's physician, Dr. Butcher, can perform trepanning on him. Fortunately, before the slightly too eager Dr. Butcher can start the operation, Stephen awakens on his own and is saved from that risky procedure. In the meantime, stormy weather has blown The Surprise away and Aubrey, Maturin, Martin and the crew that has accompanied them are temporarily stranded. Tensions have broken out between the "captured" Norfolk crew and the Surpise crew because it turns out most of the Norfolks' crew consists of mutineers and deserters and will be hanged upon their return. This creates a very dangerous situation for those from The Surprise. A whaler is spotted on the horizon and those from the Norfolk believe they are saved, but it turns out to be The Surprise in disguise and the day, and the mission is saved for Captain Aubrey and crew.

The seafaring jargon is addicting and the story quite enjoyable. The conversations revolving around the natural history phenomena along the route between Stephen and Mr. Martin are my favorite part of the book. ( )
  shirfire218 | Sep 6, 2023 |
Typically excellent @Brian/Aubrey excellent characterisation, vivid prose, compelling page-turning plot. What more could you want? ( )
  malcrf | Jul 22, 2021 |
This is book 10 in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. It's also the basis for the 2003 movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (hence the picture of Russell Crowe on the cover of my copy). I did see the movie when it came out, but I can't say how faithful an adaptation it was, as I remember almost nothing of the plot, although I do remember liking it well enough.

I have slightly more mixed feelings about the novel, but I'm starting to think that my reactions to the books in this series may say a lot more about my mood while reading them than about the books themselves. I think I remarked on the previous book, Treason's Harbour, that it seemed like a shining example of O'Brian's complete inability (or perhaps unconcern) with any kind of reasonable pacing, but I found it a very pleasant read, anyway. But, then, I read it on some nice, pleasant days. With this one, I spent the first 200 pages or so just feeling incredibly impatient and annoyed with the lack of anything interesting happening, but I enjoyed the second half much, much better. Is that because there were more interesting incidents in the back half, and a few amusing instances of Stephen Manurin being entertainingly Stephen Maturin-ish to keep me engaged? Maybe. Or maybe it's just because I was less sleep-deprived and stressed while reading that than I was in the beginning. It's hard to say, really, but I am nevertheless making a note to myself not to pick one of these up again while I'm in the middle of working extra night shifts.

Mind you, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about the very ending, which was interesting, but rather startlingly abrupt. Eh, well. Let's just say that, overall, this one gave me a better reading experience than I initially thought it was going to, but not quite as good a one as I might hope for. ( )
  bragan | Jul 14, 2021 |
The tenth Aubrey/Maturin novel sees O'Brian on top form, probably because the action never gets further from the sea than the top of Gibralter Rock and also because The Surprise is sailed into waters new to her, allowing novelty of description and incident.
O'Brian's unique style and depth of characterisation, along with convincing dialogue and wealth of detail are all present and mixed with a story that never gets be-calmed make this a book that easily transcends genre.

Only ten more volumes of the series to go.... ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
Excellent social commentary well-couched, with very well distinguished voices. ( )
  FourFreedoms | May 17, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick O'Brianprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hunt, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merla, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oca, Aleida Lama Montes deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiberg, CarlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Wolcott Gibbs Jr., who first encouraged these tales.
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'Pass the word for Captain Aubrey, pass the word for Captain Aubrey,' cried a sequence of voices, at first dim and muffled far aft on the flagship's maindeck, then growing louder and more distinct as the call wafted up to the quarterdeck and so along the gangway to the forecastle, where Captain Aubrey stood by the starboard thirty-two-pounder carronade contemplating the Emperor of Morocco's purple galley as it lay off Jumper's Bastion with the vast grey and tawny Rock of Gibraltar soaring behind it, while Mr Blake, once a puny member of his midshipman's berth but now a tall, stout lieutenant almost as massive as his former captain, explained the new carriage he had invented, a carriage that should enable carronades to fire twice as fast, with no fear of oversetting, twice as far, and with perfect accuracy, thus virtually putting an end to war.
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The War of 1812 continues, and Jack Aubrey sets course for Cape Horn on a mission after his own heart: intercepting a powerful American frigate outward bound to play havoc with the British whaling trade. Little do he and Maturin know that disaster awaits them in the Great South Sea: typhoons, shipwrecks, murder, and criminal insanity.

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