June 01, 2003

Lt. Leary Commanding, by David Drake.

When I reviewed With the Lightning, I nearly accused Drake of channeling David Weber, and suggested that Honor Harrington fans would love it. Somewhat surprisingly, my wife Jane is a big Honor Harrington fan; she latched on to Weber's books shortly after I brought them home, and now has read them several more times than I have. She's not reading much fiction these days--no time--but when a new Harrington book comes in, everything stops until she's done with it. I told her a bit about With the Lightning, and she picked it up, and everything stopped for a couple of days until she finished this one, too. So I seem to have hit that nail on the head.

But in another way, I was mistaken. The obligatory Hornblower comparisons on the back cover notwithstanding, Drake is channeling neither C.S. Forester nor David Weber. Instead, he's channeling Patrick O'Brian. The parallels are so blindingly obvious that I should have noticed them immediately. Here are a few:

Jack Aubrey succedds on luck, determination, and pure good seamanship. Lt. Leary succeeds on luck, determination, and pure good spacemanship.

Stephen Maturin is suspected of disloyalty because he was tangentially involved in an uprising in Ireland. Adele Mundy is suspected of disloyalty due to a conspiracy for which her parents were executed.

Jack Aubrey is a womanizer. Lt. Leary is a womanizer.

Aubrey and Maturin's first meeting is marked by a serious disagreement out of which friendship is ultimately born. Leary and Mundy's first meeting is marked by a serious disagreement, out of which friendship is ultimately born.

Surprisingly, for a physician, Maturin is a skilled duellist and a first class shot (and also a dab hand with a sword). Surprisingly, for a librarian, Mundy is a skilled duellist and a first class shot.

When Maturin goes to sea he is much beloved by all the crew for his undoubted skills, despite being clumsy and no seaman at all. When Mundy goes to space, she is much beloved by all the crew for her undoubted skills, despite being clumsy and and so spaceman at all.

Jack Aubrey makes his name when his sloop Sophy captures the much larger frigate Cacafuego. Lt. Leary makes his name when his corvette....

Well, you get the idea. There are more parallels, but I won't get into that.

It's not a perfect match, by any means; except for a few minor elements, the plots are entirely different. And in some other ways it doesn't quite work. Aubrey and Maturin are tied together by a great love of music; there is no such shared interest between Leary and Mundy. There is cause for mutual respect, but no real cause for great friendship of the kind we see developing.

But all of these comments are really beside the point, which is that, like its predecessor, it's a ripping good yarn and a lot of fun.

Posted by Will Duquette at June 1, 2003 08:17 PM

Ian said:

Will, were you aware of the new Peter Weir/Russell Crowe film coming out in November? It's called Master and Commander, and is based on O'Brian's series.

As Weir is one of my favorite working filmmakers, I am well and truly geeked about it.

Here's the trailer

Will Duquette said:

Yeah, I've been aware of it for quite a while--there's a Russell Crowe fan site that pops up in my logs once in a while. Is it in fact called "Master and Commander"? Last time I checked, it was called "The Far Side of the World", which didn't ease my fears.

I'm looking forward to seeing it, and I'm trying to keep my expectations low.

Oh, and the trailer link didn't work for me. It took me to a place where it said there was a trailer, but when I clicked on it I always ended up on some page at Apple.com. I've got QuickTime installed, so I don't know what the problem is.

Deb said:

Ian, who else is in it?

Ian said:

Well, last I checked, it was called "Master + Commander: The Far Side of the World," which I've been hoping they'll cut down to the initial bit. Crowe plays Aubrey, Paul Bettany plays Maturin, and Billy Boyd (Pippin!) plays Barret Bonden. I don't recognize any of the other names.

Here's the IMDB entry.

My mistake on the trailer. I thought it was hosted independently, but everyone links to Apple, and Apple took it down. It was just a teaser anyway, showing a few FX shots of a ship in a storm, and one really intense glare from Russell Crowe, by candlelight, holding a weapon of some kind.