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Ill admit, I tried the first Aubrey and Maturin book and could not get into it to save my life; too much jargon, too much anachronistic language and too technical. It was disappointing because Ive always been fascinated by the time period and by the naval mythology of the British. I was buying Mutiny on the Bounty and the bookstore owner mentioned the Hornblower series as something I might want to try. About a month later I dropped by the library and decided to give it a go. Im glad I did.One important note: Im more of an in order of publication guy than a fictional timeline guy. Im more interested in seeing how the writer develops over time than reading the tales in the order in which they would have happened in this fictional world. Therefore, Star Wars: A New Hope is the first movie to watch and Revenge of the Sith is last. So, I started the Hornblower series with a collection of the first three novels, Captain Horatio Hornblower. It is easy to see why Gene Roddenberry credits Hornblower with being an inspiration for Star Trek and its captains. I think it is especially apparent in the case of Jean Luc Picard. Like Picard, and very much unlike Kirk, Hornblower is not presented as the typical alpha-male. He has doubts about himself, he is worried about his future and career and tries very hard to project a sense of command and aloofness to his crew. He is characterized in a way that isnt seen as traditionally attractive and at times succumbs to sea sickness. In short, he isnt the perfect hero. This is, I think the best thing about the novel, Hornblower is quite flawed, even a dick sometimes, and yet I found myself rooting for him throughout his adventures.And Forester knows how to build the tension of an adventure. Battle scenes regardless of the venue are always tricky to pull off and the sea battles in Hornblower are fantastic. They are the best part of the books, second only to the characterization of the captain.So why the ding of a star? At times it was downright soap operatic, especially the romance story lines. While some of this is due to the time it was written for sure, even in the 1930s there were better examples of romantic relationships. Forester isnt as bad as Tom Clancy and his unbelievably stilted male-fantasy writing, but at times it still bordered on the comical. There is also a bit of dated language, more endemic of the time written than of the period written about. It feels like an author trying to sound authentic and instead kind of comes of racist. No, Im not expecting a PC telling from a 1930s era writer, but the use of certain slurs and stereotypes dont add much to the overall story and feel more forced more than anything.If you like naval thrillers and like me just couldnt get into the OBrian books, consider Hornblower the Aubrey light series. It is a lot of fun.
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