The first volume of the Aubrey/Maturin novels introduces Captain Jack Aubrey, commander of the HMS Sophie and Stephen Maturin, the ship's surgeon and British intelligence agent, during the age of the Napoleonic wars.
Napoleonic Wars? The Royal Navy? Yawn. Novelist Nicola Griffith had low expectations when she started reading Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander. But soon she was tearing through the 20-volume series, reveling in the deeply rendered friendship between the characters Jack and Stephen. It's a masterpiece, she says: "Jane Austen on a ship of war."