I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
If you are looking for a page-turning, violent-action-packed post-holocaust story like in the movies Road Warrior or I Am Legend, look elsewhere. Stewart's Earth Abides is much more quiet, poetic, beautiful, and thoughtful, though it surely packs many emotional punches and has plenty of suspense, once you submerse yourself in his world and characters.
I like Ish (Isherwood Williams), Stewart's protagonist. He's humane, thoughtful, sensitive, honest, and brave as he tries to live "creatively" in a world in which humanity has been almost completely wiped out via a quick-acting virus. Ish's attempts to find surviving kindred spirits and to rebuild civilization are moving. Stewart's detailed descriptions of the processes by which nature reclaims or transforms the traces of human civilization like roads, buildings, and cultivated flora and fauna are vivid; his speculations (through Ish) about human nature, civilization, race, gender, religion, love, life, and death are stimulating; his use of symbols like Ish's hammer, the university library, and the Bay Bridge are rich. The novel possesses a biblical (Old Testament) grandeur and pathos leavened by quiet humor. Despite being published in 1949, it doesn't seem dated. As other reviewers have noted, many scenes remain with you long after you close the book (or turn off your player).
The introduction by Connie Willis is heartfelt, interesting, and concise.
Finally, Jonathan Davis does a great job reading this book (as he does with The Windup Girl), infusing Stewart's detailed story with plenty of wit and emotion and humor and generally speaking in a pleasing reading voice that amplifies the text without trying to dominate it.
Listening to Tim Curry read Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth was a surprisingly entertaining experience. I had expected the novel to be a weak story overwhelmed by a series of dry scientific facts and pseudo-facts, but it was lively and funny and often exciting and awe-inducing. The first-person narrator Axel is refreshingly reluctant, cowardly, weak, and despairing, especially when compared to his fiery, impetuous, glory-seeking, knowledge-hunting, unquenchable middle-aged uncle Professor Otto Lidenbrock and their taciturn do-everything guide Hans. Verne vividly depicts their descent down the volcano tube and exploration of the subterranean world deep inside the earth. Sure, the ???science??? is crazy, and it takes three and a half hours for them to even get down there, but Verne's enthusiasm for it all and the sense of the vast scale of time that has passed on our earth and the joy of discovery and the interplay between Axel and his uncle all glow brightly throughout. And Tim Curry multiplies the enjoyment. I'm still hearing in my mind his Professor Lidenbrock remonstrating with Axel to buck up or his Axel futilely trying to get "Uncle" not to do something reckless and chuckling to myself.
Some reviewers have said that the book is dull or that there isn't enough action, but I think that 1) the avoidance of what today would be a non-stop page-turning never-ending action sequence novel is refreshing and that 2) Verne's depiction of the relationship between Axel and his uncle and his enthusiasm for the natural world and Curry's reading of it all is entertaining, even when Axel or his uncle are listing different kinds of minerals or different eras in the earth's geologic history.
I would give four stars to Verne's novel and five to Curry's reading.
What an imaginative, objective, gripping, bracing, and humbling novel H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds is! The story is well-known: Martians land on earth, in Woking in Southern England, and quickly set about destroying the British infrastructure and military defenses and crisping via heat ray the humans they don't capture to use as handy blood sources, all as detachedly and efficiently as humans would deal with a colony of ants or wasps. The first person narrator relates all this in a compellingly honest and passionate way. His relationship with the curate is more provocative and terrible than that between Tom Cruise and Tim Robbins in the 2005 movie version by Spielberg. For that matter, the novel, depicting the narrator's attempts to survive and to find his wife, is sparer and cleaner than the film, clotted by Spielberg's corny additions of a little daughter and teenage son into his divorced protagonist's life. Wells' imaginings of the Martian tripod war machines with their terrible heat-ray and poison gas weapons and of their spider-like handling-machines (with their uncanny animation and dexterity) and of the red creeping Martian weeds and of how panicked masses of people would behave are all vivid and morbidly fascinating. Via his Martians, Wells forces us to look again at our actions towards the ???inferior??? species and aboriginal peoples on our own world and also at our ???right??? to survive in an uncaring universe.
Simon Vance does his usual fine job of reading, everything being just right except perhaps that his female voices may verge on the artificially feminine. But all in all this is a great audiobook.