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The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey

A-21When O’Brian died in 2000, he left fragments of the 21st entry in the Aubrey/Maturin series. The aptly named 21, which juxtaposes three chapters of a handwritten manuscript with an edited, typed version, continues the adventures of Jack Aubrey and scholar-spy Dr. Stephen Maturin. In 1999’s Blue at the Mizzen, Aubrey rose in rank to Rear Admiral of the Blue Squadron and received orders to sail to the South Africa station. Here, he and his crew are off the coast of South America, trying to make peace with the locals and refuel their supplies before heading off to new adventures.
Norton. 140 pages. $21.95. ISBN: 039306025X

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The great novel ends here, just as a man’s life, in mid-thought with more yet to do and with those who knew him—in the intimate way that readers come to know their writers—wishing dearly that it had been otherwise." John Balzar

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"The book is not really an addition to the vast O’Brian oeuvre ... and still less is it an introduction for those who have yet to be initiated into the cult. It’s a keepsake, a souvenir, for those diehards who have already made the whole 6,443-page journey and want one last look at Jack and Stephen as they embark on yet another mission—sailing around South America this time and on to South Africa." Charles McGrath

Critical Summary

The pages of O’Brian’s 21st Aubrey novel will leave readers hungry for more. Not surprisingly, 21 neither stands alone as a novel nor serves as a concise conclusion to the series. Instead, it sketches out the details of the start of another Aubrey mission. The bulk of the chapters offers set-pieces describing gunnery practice, grog, deck-swabbing, a hernia operation, and a reunion with Papal Nuncio Samuel Mputa. The pages also contain O’Brian’s trademark humor and eagle-eyed observations, if cut short. There’s nothing new here for seasoned readers except, perhaps, for an elaborate menu devised by an Argentine grandee. And yet that doesn’t diminish the power of this small, unfinished masterpiece.

Start of the Series

Master and Commander (1970): Fans of the series will envy you that initial thrill of discovering Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.