I’ve taken a liking to seafaring fiction and thought I would give this classic series a crack. I was not disappointed.
Master and Commander is the first in a 21 book series by Patrick O’Brian that follows Jack Aubrey, a rash young captain in the British Royal Navy. Taking command of his first ship, a small sloop, Aubrey has the daunting task of assembling, feeding, training, disciplining, and leading his crew, all the while navigating the warship-strewn Mediterranean sea and even more treacherous world of British Naval politics.
At many times I found myself comparing the book to Star Trek. Just as the strength of Star Trek does not lie in special effects or action sequences but in the dynamics between the crew and the underlying social commentary, so also Master and Commander find its’ strength in the relational dynamics between captain and crew, the friendship between Jack and Stephen the academically minded (think Spock) ships’ doctor, the competition between Aubrey and his peers, the disdain between Jack and his authority, and the mutual respect between the enemy navies of the British, Spanish, and French. There is much here to learn about leadership, friendship, and relationships.
I look forward to continuing the adventure that Jack and Stephen began in Master and Commander.
Here are a few quotes to get a gist of the language and themes of the book:
“Patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.”
“I know few men over fifty that seem to me entirely human: virtually none who has long exercised authority.”
“by learning to obey, they are also taught how to command.”