I, as countless others, noticed within pages that this book did not have the heft, color, culture or beauty of the past entries. It felt like the OUTLINE of a possible book, with none of the nuances and flourishes filled in. A pale watercolor against the previous Rembrandts. And let's lose a vital character like Diana OFFSTAGE, as if she were a minor character, a footnote when really she balanced and made whole the Maturin we came to know. His tempestuous love affair made an otherwise dour, eccentric character come into his own; a character arc that paid off handsomely. Aubrey and the good doctor go through the motions as if ghosts of voyages past. They play music, engage in intrigue, visit (in a glancing manner) foreign exotic ports, and eat their toasted cheese -- but it's a vessel that's altogether too unseaworthy for the journey. Either the prolific author's powers have waned at this late stage, or he was trying to beat the deadline (he's 85 after all) and finish the saga with a round number; 20 (Blue Mizzen's out now). That's a cruel assessment, but his fault entirely for writing so beautifully of a time past that we came to expect that level of excellence, or more to the point, crave and need it like a good serving of plum duff and spotted dog. May his high standards unfurl and send us sailing at 12 knots and above on the next peregrination. For now, I'll take a bolus and bit of laudanum to ease the pain and curl up in my hammock while awaiting another installment.