At the outset of this adventure filled with disaster and delight, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin pursue a heavy American privateer through the Great South Sea. The strange color of the ocean water reminds Stephen of Homer's famous description, but it also portends a spectacular submarine volcanic eruption that will create a new island overnight and leave an indelible impression on the reader's imagination.
Their ship, the Surprise, is now also a privateer, the better to escape diplomatic complications from Stephen's mission, which is to ignite the revolutionary tinder of South America. Jack will survive a desperate open-boat journey and come face to face with his illegitimate black son; Stephen, caught up in the aftermath of his failed coup, will flee for his life into the high, frozen wastes of the Andes; and Patrick O'Brian's brilliantly detailed narrative will reunite them at last in a breathtaking chase through storm seas and icebergs south of Cape Horn, where the hunters suddenly become the hunted.
This is storytelling without models or equals in recent literature; critics have noted in O'Brian's great Aubrey/Maturin epic, now sixteen volumes in length, haunting echoes of such writers as Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville, and Jane Austen. Some readers will respond to the undeniable excitement of the chases, storms, and battles, others to the precision of language, or the humor, or the wealth of erudition in Maturin's researches and conversations. But the truest mark of O'Brian's stature as a novelist may be the great number of readers who find fresh delights and deeper resonances in rereading his novels.
"lf Jane Austen had written rousing sea yarns, she would have produced something very close to the prose of Patrick O'Brian." -- Time "I haven't read novels [in the past ten years] except for all of the Patrick O'Brian series. It was, unfortunately, like tripping on heroin. I started on those books and couldn't stop." -- E. O. Wilson - Boston Globe "They're funny, they're exciting, they're informative... there are legions of us who gladly ship out time and time again under Captain Aubrey." -- The New Yorker "Addictively readable." -- Chicago Tribune