For this fourth installment of our reviews of the Horatio Hornblower books, I must shamefully confess that I actually read the book 8 months ago and can’t really remember all that much about it. Rather than doing what any responsible reviewer would do and rereading the book, I’m just going to ride on the fact that this is a blog whose readership extends to approximately 1/5 of my family members and a few good friends, so no one is expecting high journalistic standards anyway.
In a way, this is a fitting state of affairs. Hornblower During the Crisis is actually only a fragment of a book, consisting of about 10% of an unfinished, unedited novel; therefore, if I only remember about 10% of what happened in it, I think that’s pretty appropriate. (It must be said, however, that this book was not left unfinished by C.S. Forrester because he was too lazy and distracted to finish it on time, but because he died. So he had an excuse, whereas I don’t.)
There is no point in going into the story because the story goes nowhere. It flirts with the promise of swashbuckling adventure and high-level espionage and then abruptly ends without ever even getting close to any real action. To say that it is pointless to read Hornblower During the Crisis, however, might be unfair. There are probably a few devoted nautical scholars out there who are as fascinated by a Hornblower fragment as a linguist would be by a slip of writing in Tocharian B or a Medieval scholar by the second book of Aristotle’s Poetics. Maybe Hornblower During the Crisis is the nautical genre fiction equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I wouldn’t really know. I can only say that, for the average reader, it is a more or less useless book, and you should probably just skip it.
By the way, upon picking up the book, you might be fooled into thinking that it’s really more substantial than it is. That’s because the publishers have generously tried to make up for the fact that this “fourth book” is only 117 pages long by tacking on a few short stories about Hornblower’s life as an admiral. While that’s a really thoughtful gesture, it’s also maybe the worst compensation ever, as people who actually want to read the books in sequence don’t want to jump ahead to the end of Hornblower’s life just so all of the secrets can be spoiled. Thanks, but no thanks.
Well, I guess that’s all I have to say about that.
This brevity might be a good thing, as Benn has informed me that the book reviews are boring and I should just let them drop. Belay that, say I! Like Horatio Hornblower himself, I remain undaunted. On to book 5!