Monday, December 8, 2014

Blowing Forester's Horn

Lieutenant Hornblower (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #2)Lieutenant Hornblower by C.S. Forester
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Get your horn blown in this book of complete seaman insanity!

Our hero Horatio Hornblower is put in a tough position with his wardroom messmates. The captain of the HMS Renown has gone off his rocker and thinks his officers are plotting against him. They're not...well, not at first. They're pushed into it when things come to a head and it becomes apparent the captain's erratic behavior is endangering the ship. The lieutenants gather for a meeting to talk over the situation in a meeting that could be construed as mutinous. And that's when things take a surprising twist.

Lieutenant Hornblower is a different kind of Hornblower book in that its narrated by Bush, Hornblower's bestbud. This shift in the usual POV was probably done for a couple reasons. One, Bush leads a pivotal attack and two, Hornblower is caught in a tough situation affecting his financial and married life, which would be easier to show through someone else's eyes rather than hearing it from the source. An Englishman of that period (early 1800s) would never be so indelicate as to discuss such intimate details.

While this is the second book in the series, it's actually the seventh book Forester wrote about Hornblower's career in the navy. The series originally started with Hornblower having already obtained the rank of captain. After Forester took the series to its natural resolution, he went back and did a bunch of prequels to fill in the details of his hero's early days.

I bring this up only because the writing is affected by it. This book is more nuanced than those preceding it. Forester's plotting and character development improved as he went along. The first half of the series flows and feels old-shoe comfortable, while the latter half feels stilted and utilitarian. The whole thing, especially this book, is quite enjoyable, so that's just a minimal word-to-the-wise.

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