Sunday, April 25, 2010

Book Review: "Desolation Island"

After quite a long break from them (entirely unintentional), I turned this week to Patrick O'Brian's fifth Aubrey-Maturin novel, Desolation Island. Possibly my favorite of the series so far, this one has the daring duo transporting felons to Australia, including a mysteriously alluring female spy and her erstwhile stowaway companion. Naturally, the trip's not a smooth one: an epidemic decimates the crew, a powerful Dutch ship is out for blood, and tremendous natural hazards await in the waters of the Antarctic.

A good mix of action and counter-espionage, with O'Brian's usual good characterization (after a while you can really feel the shifting moods of the crew), and another fun treatment of early natural history, with Maturin taking every possible opportunity to observe breeding albatrosses, mosses, and other zoological and botanical sights (a blue whale even makes a cameo appearance).