Although this was not the first Hornblower book published, I decided to read it first because it comes first chronologically. It was a pleasurable read; a collection of short stories (perhaps intended to fill out some of Hornblower's back story that is relevant to the novels, but I don't know yet). Because they were nothing more than vignettes, I can't compare how Forester carries a story line through his novel to how O'Brian does in the Aubrey/Maturin series.
Forester is much lighter on the nautical jargon than O'Brian, which makes the read much smoother, but this book lacked the thing I most like about O'Brian: a fantastic bromance. Perhaps he is given a closer friend in later novels.