The Far Side of the World – Patrick O’Brian

The serialization of the Aubrey-Maturin series continues, picking up where Treason’s Harbour leaves off. Aubrey had successfully dismantled the French operation in Malta, but the real traitor remains, unknown to him, at large. At the same time, Aubrey is given a lesson in how to report successes through careful revision before being dispatched immediately to the far side of the world in pursuit of an American ship hunting British whaling vessels.

Already in this installment there is a sense of time bleeding together, part of a series of novels where O’Brian had to fudge time to make the chronology line up. In fact, The Far Side of the World effectively puts the world outside the vessel on hold while they sail to the Pacific, and the uncertainty about when the story takes place emerges as a plot point in the struggle between the two vessels. The novel is perfectly fine as an installment because it epitomizes many of the things about the series, but, by the same token, it is particularly unremarkable.

Next up, I also finished Graham Greene’s The Ministry of Fear while I was traveling last week. Since then, I am most of the way through Roberto Arlt’s brilliant The Seven Madmen, a feverish Argentinian story in the vein of Dostoevsky.

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