wonko discovers Patrick O'Brian (thank you Peter Weir)

A few months ago, Steve and I went to see Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. I wasn’t expecting much more than a good boat movie, but what I got was a full-blown seafaring epic adventure that left me wanting more. I hadn’t heard of Patrick O’Brian before, but after seeing the movie I had to check out his books.

I’ve always read a lot, but most of what I read is sci-fi, fantasy, or non-fiction. I’ve never really been interested in anything else. When I was a wee lad, I flat out refused to read anything that didn’t have some combination of beam weapons, faster-than-light space travel, or magic. I distinctly remember perusing every single book in the meager science fiction section of my middle school library, passing over the ones that didn’t meet my standards and devouring the ones that did. I wanted big flashy futurism; deadly gadgets with flashing lights; big shiny spaceships with brushed metal hulls and hyperdrives; time travel, magic spells, black holes, and badassery. The last thing I wanted to read about was leaky wooden sailing ships.

That’s why I’m so surprised at the sudden and recent shift in my interests. I bought the first book in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series: Master and Commander. I read the first few pages slowly, warily, half-certain that I was going to hate it. But I was sucked in instantly. I couldn’t get enough. It was brilliant. Before I knew it, I had finished the book and I had to have more.

So I bought the next ten books in the series. I’m flying through those too. They’re incredible. I feel like a little boy. These books communicate such a love of the sea that I found myself getting as giddy as Captain Jack Aubrey when I read O’Brian’s prosaic descriptions of the Sophie or the Surprise or the Polychrest. These books are classic adventure yarns of the highest order; the kind of stuff I can’t get enough of.

I want a ship of my own now. I want to sail around the world without ever hearing the whirr of a hard drive or the clickety-clack of a keyboard; without ever even seeing the flashing of a blue LED. I want more books like this and I want more movies like that.

Give me a leaky wooden sailing ship and a high-seas adventure any day. The past is more fun than the future.