Now here is a refreshing change; a well written book that sees our genre from a completely different angle. Many different angles, actually...
The world of the title's surgeon's mate is naturally far removed from that of great cabins, commanding officers and quarterdeck conversations. Instead we get the grittiness of the lower deck and orlop; sea wives, petty officers and seamen, while news of the ships position and purpose comes mainly by scuttlebutt and hearsay. The characters and conditions are well drawn, and there is sufficient explanation to keep the narrative alive, without resorting to lengthy descriptive passages that inevitably slow the pace. Nautical detail is also good; you feel yourself in the charge of a competent writer who truly understands the subject and is willing to share.
Then there is the question of McPherson's character: an excellent job has been done here, with the female in a man's world and position not being too heavily laid on — a strong temptation, I am sure. Rather we have a very well rounded duality of gender that allows both male and female perspectives; a clever trick, and one that is pulled off well.
As far as the medical detail is concerned, Collison writes with authority, describing the contemporary knowledge without lapsing into ridicule or condescension. Certainly the surgical procedures are described, but there is nothing gratuitous or in any way unnecessary and I would not caution the squeamish.
This is the first book of the series I have read, and stands alone very comfortably, although I will certainly be seeking out book one, if only to enjoy the writer's style. And I trust that more will be forthcoming; Surgeon's Mate ends a little abruptly in my opinion; there is a lot more story still to come, and the character of McPherson is far too good to leave.
Description of: Surgeon's Mate
Author: Linda Collison