I have always loved tales of the sea. As much as I loved Edgar Allen Poe's horror and detective stories it was his strange and wonderful stories on the open ocean ("Manuscript Found in a Bottle"; "A Descent into the Maelstrom") that most fired my imagination; the initial draw of Tom Clancy was the water-heavy "The Hunt for Red October;" and the next novel I read from Jack London will certainly be "The Sea Wolf."
This interest found its culmination in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. Through twenty-and-a-half books I felt I was part of Lucky Jack's crew, part of Dr. Maturin's intelligence community. I got to know these characters better than I know many of my friends, so that leaving them abruptly with "21" (because it was unfinished at the time of O'Brian's death) was traumatic; the years I spent reading this series was akin to going away to school: I went in not knowing anyone, learned and experienced so much, shared in so many lives, and then had to return home alone. And there will be no phone calls, no facebook updates, no serendipitous meetings, no reunions to attend. I was left onshore at Aubrey and Maturin's last sailing, and never will they return to my port.
I will not give reviews for individual books in the series, for they all blended together in one vast narrative for me. But if you too are drawn to clear horizons in every direction, adventure with good company, and perhaps even a sea change, volunteer to go aboard. The journey will be worth the melancholy at journey's end.