My first ever review of “The Fireships of Gerontas”

*****  The Next Patrick O’Brian… 1 Jun. 2016
By Dr.Steve – Published on

Having finished reading the first two books in Alan Lawrence’s “continuing voyages of HMS SURPRISE” series, I find myself contemplating his stated desire and hope that he has “endowed them with a trifle more of Patrick O’Brian’s essential and complex essence; ….striven to attain his rich eloquence, ….replete with diverse linguistic faux pas and..humorous conversational and other ambiguities together with his remarkable ability to fascinate with an infinity of detail,” and conclude that he has done so. So well, in fact, that once into the second in the series; “THE FIRESHIPS OF GERONTAS” I was no longer thinking of our beloved friends for so many years, but the new ones instead.

It is natural, given that the author had hoped to continue the original, but had to change tacks once the estate made it clear that POB did not want a sequel, and had to alter the characters, for the devoted POB reader to picture the original characters while reading of the new ones, and I did so at first. However, as I continued reading I found myself carried along by the new stories, experiences, anguish, pain, joys and sorrows, and settings, to the point where I no longer thought of Aubrey and Maturin, but rather of O’Connor, Ferguson, and Macleod. The warm glow in my heart for the former will never be extinguished by the new characters, but rather re-lit by the continuing fire of battle in war and emotions.
This must have been an extremely difficult task given the level of love and loyalty the POB fan has for the series and the fact that we do not know these new characters. The author has had to refer to the years of experiences that these characters have had in their past that molded them into the persons they are now, we have only references to their years in the TENEDOS, and voyages in the Atlantic, and are left to imagine what they may be, separate from the memories we have of our POB characters.

I found myself with a variety of impressions and emotions. Not living on the left side of the Atlantic, I had difficulty reading and understanding the Scottish accents, mostly in the first of the series, “THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS” (picture a father, despite the name Sutherland, reading out loud to his child and trying to read those passages with the correct accent…..we laughed a lot, and I finally gave up and just read it paraphrased!)
When Dalby saves Ferguson in MOI and the latter is reunited with O’Connor, I wept. There were several passages involving Murphy, O’Connor, and Ferguson where I laughed out loud.

The most amazing and impressive writing of the whole series so far though, was the final sixty or so pages that detail the traumatic experience of surviving the hurricane. This was the most intense, comprehensive and gripping description of any storm experience I have ever read in any of this genre. The intensity of emotion, courage, stamina described by the author surpasses even the desperate battle to survive described by POB in “DESOLATION ISLAND” in which our old friends fight to keep the “LEOPARD” afloat.
Mr. Lawrence, your writing stands on its own, is terrific, and amazing. As I thought of POB, I think of you; how can anyone think of these things and be able to transfer it onto paper for the rest of us so eloquently? Your characters DO stand on their own, and I look forward to THEIR continuing voyages!