Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels" won a Pulitzer and hit the top of the best-seller list, and it deserved both honors.
The Killer Angels tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg (a key turning point in the US Civil War) as a *story.* Not exactly history, since Shaara spent a lot of time with internal narration relating the characters' mindset and history and since he admits that he modernized some of the dialogue and omitted a few minor characters. Not exactly a novel, since the story is real, the people are real, and many of their actions, words and thoughts were recorded at the time.
Shaara's writing is excellent and the story is gripping. And, I think that to truly understand the United States of today, you need to start with understanding the US Civil War and how the two sides viewed that fight.
I have fewer superlatives for Hoye's narration. It's pretty good, but I think he over-emoted during some of the battle scenes. He also tried to distinguish the characters by regional accent (Lee with his Virginia drawl versus Chamberlain with his New England twang), and it semi-worked.
The print edition has drawings to show the orientation and position of the two armies which are, of course, missing from the audiobook version. I'm not sure how much of an issue that was, but there are some good maps on Wikipedia's Battle of Gettysburg page for reference.
That 4th star is for Shaara not for Steven Hoye. If you are stunned with the brilliance of this novel you MUST go out and purchase the version read by George Herne. His performance, with all the subtilties of the many accents, is up to the entire passion and beauty of the work. It's not that Hoye is bad, but my old cassette tapes made me cry every time while Longstreet struggles with his knowlege of the mistake that Lee is making and his realization that he must go through with it anyway. This version did not. If this were the Hearne reading I'd be giving it at least 10 stars on this scale.
By far the best part of this version is Jeff Shaara's description of his father's efforts to get this masterpiece recognized. Today we have to wonder how ANYONE could not have seen this book for what it was.
His interpretation of character will not please the more rabid fans of Robert E. Lee, but will make unforgetable heroes of Longstreet, and especially Chamberlain. If you ever get a chance, go to Gettysburg and stand up on that line on Little Round Top, where the rebels had to climb up that hill for the fourth or fifth time, and Chamberlain's men were waiting for them--half of them dead and the other half out of ammunition.....
This was an amazing audiobook. It is such a great book - a re-creation of the people and a battle during the Civil War told in a really fascinating way that you are completely taken in. It is well read (which to me means clear and easy to understand). This is definitely one of my favorite audiobooks.
My one criticism would be - since I was unfamiliar with who all the soldiers were during the Civil War, I had to concentrate to keep some of them straight.
If you are at all interesting in the history of America or just military history, you will really like this one.
This book (enhanced by the reader) is one of the best books I have ever read. The characters feel like I really know them and the story is absolutely gripping. The full panoply of human greatness and folly is on display here. The reader is especially integral to the enjoyment of the story as he seamlessly moves from character to character. Some reviewers have complained he reads slowly, etc. For me, he extracts the fullness of every word, as one would each bite of the most succulent meal.
That's my reaction after listening to this book. It is one of the finest audio books of all time, and one of my top 3 books in general. If there was a rating better than 5 stars, this book deserves it. As an audio book I feel its also important to give the reader credit as well. Stephen Hoye's skilled narration, use of accent and sense of pace brought the novel to life. A more passionate, compelling book you'll not find.
I rarely give five stars, but this impeccably narrated, moving story of the battle of Gettysburg is the exception. The story is so clearly told and pitched in such an emotionally accurate key that the tragedy of the battle illuminates not just this battle, but all battles. Includes a moving foreward by the author's son, also an eminent Civil War novelist. I had previously read the book years ago, but this added immesurably to the experience.
This book should be required reading for all Americans. First it is one of the great literary works of our time. Second, it is a great way to learn about one of the most influencial events in our nations history. Give yourself a treat and enjoy this book.
I've always intrigued by the civil war and although I read this book, I'd have to say I enjoyed the audio book much more. The reader did an exceptional job switching between characters and accents. He did it so well, you'd almost believe there were multiple people speaking!
The history reflected is very detailed and the narration even better. Get this book. You won't be disappointed!
This is one of the best novels I have ever read. It takes you into a time where the destiny of a nation was formed. The description of the battle and the charecters fighting in it, is a masterpiece like no other I have ever encountered. This book is truly one of the finest civil war novels I have encountered. Unlike many a boring textbook from my high school days, this goes back the figures and into the battle itself. People comes to life like no other book and paint the reality of the battle. I can not urge you enough to read the book, but I can promise you an experince like non other.
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
One of my favorite historical fiction novels of ALL TIME. I read this with my 13 year-old son and 12 year-old daughter and it was amazing. My kids loved it just as much as I did. It was tight, character-driven, and dramatic. Imagine my surprise when my kids are discussing the virtues of Team Chamberlain (smart, honorable, thoughtful, a natural leader) VS Team Longstreet (brilliant, ahead of his time, brooding, quiet).
The Civil War is one of those historical periods that is a bit anachronistic to me. It has elements of romance, chivalry, honor, gentility mixed in with the horrible stench of a modern, brutal war. There are characters like Lee, Chamberlain, Pickett, Stuart, etc., who seem to belong in some Arthurian myth/melodrama next to Longstreet and Hancock who could easily have been cast in some post-apocalyptic Battle Royale. Add to this, the fact that these were real men, with real failings, fighting real friends and the book almost seems to narrate itself.
Anyway, this is a top-shelf war novel -- it educates, it entertains (as much as a war novel can be called entertainment) and it is beautiful. There were some paragraphs I wanted Terence Malick to film.