Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
This Audible offering takes the familiar story and turns it into a fully realized epic, placed in historical and political context. The writing is outstanding, so that I could envision the very landscape and scenery throughout all of the story locations. It is both an action story and a political and psychological thriller. The characters are fleshed out with complexity that prevents black and white "good guys vs bad guys" caracature. By filling in details of the political and cultural scene of 11th century Scotland, the authors allow us to have a better understanding of the motivations of all the characters, particularly why Macbeth decides to kill the king in the first place - going beyond the motivation of raw ambition. Lady Macbeth is much more complex than the ambitious behind-the-scenes manipulator that we are used to - and much more sympathetic. The presentation of the 3 witches is particularly facinating - no "double, double toil and trouble" - but very specific descriptions of their different personalities and their role in setting the action in motion.
A word about the reading by Alan Cumming - Superb! As a Scot, his voice lends welcome authenticity to the narration. He is a master at providing distinctive voices to all of the characters, and I was especially impressed with his ability to provide credible voices to the female characters - typically a difficult task for male readers.
I listened to the entire book in one day - unable to put it down. This is a wonderful piece of drama that should not be missed. I will look for more original titles from Audible if this is the standard of excellence that can be expected.
This was a wonderfully creative interweaving of mythology, fantasy, immigrant history, and cultural understanding with some danger and romance thrown in. The relationship between Jinni and Golem is complex because they are so different in their natures (hot and cold, impulsive and reserved, selfish and serving) and yet also alike in their bafflement of the human race and the stress of needing to suppress their true natures. Their divergent viewpoints lead to very insightful debates on matters of ethics, morals, religion and free will, challenging each other’s actions and motivations. They embodied both the best and the worst of the humans they were trying to figure out and this adds depth to what is essentially a stranger-in-a-strange-land tale. As is true with the best of mythology or folk tales, there is a lot to be learned by humans from the dilemmas threatening the Jinni and the Golem. Their struggles make you think about just what does it mean to be human.
While the tone is often dark and dangerous, there is also plenty of humor found in the recognition of small moments of everyday living, lending the supernatural a reassuringly grounded feeling. The supporting characters, good, bad or in between, are all wonderfully written. There wasn't one I felt was a misstep. Helene Wecker’s writing is straightforward and assured, George Guidall’s reading is perfection. I loved every minute of this book.
I liked this book. A lot. But it’s a challenge to explain why because there were things about it that were hard to like. The writing is outstanding. Woodrell uses economy and eloquence in a narrative filled with secrets, resentment, and sometimes, when least expected, dry dark humor. (His description of the “accidental” demise of a well hated citizen is priceless.) He has written characters vividly without letting us really get to know any of them well. It’s this arm’s length distance that makes it hard to become fully immersed in the story. But looking back I suspect that was the author’s intention. Alma, telling her version of the story, is herself hard to get close to – prickly, resentful, suspicious, and unyielding. Her distance from those she is describing keeps us at that same distance.
Alternating first person narration through Alma and her grandson, we learn from Alma’s memory what lead up to and followed the fire that killed 42 people, including her wayward but beloved sister. No one is ever called to account, and Alma's need for justice solidifies to a hard stone of anger towards those in the small town who are content to just let it go, ostracizing the troublemakers who refuse to do so. The author often switches to third person voice to relay biographical vignettes of other fire victims, and of characters whose roles remain unclear until the end when all the pieces are connected.
These narrative switchbacks caused a bit of auditory whiplash, making me hit the 30 second back-up many times when normal attention to traffic distracted me just enough to miss who was speaking and who was being spoken of. The print version would have made it easy see when a new narrative section was starting - it was not so clear just by listening. I have reluctantly dropped a star from the overall experience because those frequent back-ups took me out of the story just a little too often. But I can also happily give 5 stars to the story for the astounding writing quality and a tale that has stuck with me for the two days since I finished it. This may be a good Audible/Kindle combination for members who use both.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Brutally violent, Blood Meridian turns the 19th century American West into a kind of hellish but hauntingly beautiful dreamscape, through which a gang of mercenaries wanders, killing without aim or reason. There is no comfort to be found anywhere in this novel, which overturns all Old West Myths, leaving only a stark, maddening world in which man exists on the edge of nihilism, "civilization" an illusion. The characters are almost opaque, reduced to actions in minimal dialogue. Even the language seems intended to confound and discomfit the reader, mixing arcane, half-forgotten scientific and philosophical terms with passages that sound almost like something from the Bible.
Yet, McCarthy is the definition of a powerful writer. His prose is hypnotic, the book's scenes affecting the reader as much by their eerie beauty and lyricism as by the horror and violence contained within. Their images will stick around in your head for days. The Judge, a monstrous, demihuman prodigy at the center of novel, whose amused, philosophical queries about whether or not the scenes around him represent man in man's natural state, is one of the more memorable characters I've come across in fiction.
Make no mistake, Blood Meridian is filled with powerful questions, about morality, about evil, about humanity's need for violence and dominance, about the nature of God, and so forth. Sometimes these questions are expressed explicitly, usually by the Judge, but mostly, they swirl just beneath the surface of the nightmare, challenging the reader to peer into the abyss and examine them. Though we don't live in such lawless times anymore, the distance from our safe doorsteps to the modern equivalent of a gang of roving, murderous scalpers may be shorter than we think.
McCarthy will certainly never be an author to everyone's taste, and not with this work, but Blood Meridian has made a few critics' "Best of the 20th Century" lists for a good reason. This is a first-rate work of modern literature.