November 2, 2008

The Wine-Dark Sea

The Wine-Dark Sea
Patrick O'Brain


(November 2, 2008)

I was awake. It was three in the morning. Obama was far ahead, but I was worried. Tinderbox 4.5 was working well, but I was worried. My stretchtext research was making progress, but I was worried. I grabbed this off the shelf, one of O'Brian’s best, and sat down to see how O'Brian makes this book move, even though it defies a plot summary and has no climax.

This is one of O'Brian’s particular wonders: the Aubrey-Maturin books are clearly plot-driven, they're filled with memorable incident and tension and excitement, but somehow O'Brian avoids the dull, predictable build-up to the climactic combat scene that mars so many mysteries and thrillers. Throughout the book we have conflicts. We always have things we don’t know, and that worry us. We always have discomforts and annoyances, even when everything is smooth sailing; we always have interest and amiability, even in the midst of the gale. O’Brian lets these issues resolve themselves wherever their resolution naturally falls, and so the book seems to open in the midst of exciting action, and also concludes with Captain Aubrey cheerfully observing that, though everything has worked out splendidly, it’s all been a capital failure. But home will be charming, there is prize money to spend, and no doubt a fresh adventure awaits.