Enjoyed this audio book... the history is amazing. Switching back and forth from the details of the construction of the Chicago World's Fair and a serial killer embedded within the mosaic of every-day life maintained my interest enough that I finished the book in several days. The details of inventions introduced at the times and the details of prominent (and not so well known) architects and inventors kept me busy figuring out who was who and what was what... but the return to the serial killer kept me grounded. The rich history embedded in the book was an education. My first audible book. GREAT... gonna get more!
Me, myself, and I.
You might not be able to tell from my previous reviews, given that I have heaped praise on a number of books here, but I am pretty picky. If I don't like something, if I am struggling to get through it, I just stop. What is left are books that I find generally engaging, fascinating, and overall an enjoyable experience.
Topping just about everything I've listened to in the past 12 months or so that I've been a member is this nearly perfect story. Erik Larson's narrative non-fiction is among the best available in any form. This story of the interweaving of herculean city building and evil incarnate is nearly unbelievable. Neither story feels like it could have taken place in the reality we inhabit. But as we all too often know, real life can be quite jarring, unbelievable, and amazing.
So it is with the most fervent recommendation that I suggest you read/listen to this book. Do it because the writing is impeccable. Do it because Erik Larson has set a new standard for whatever genre this actually falls into. And do it because you will finish the book with a newfound appreciation for Chicago, its roots, and the work of men to build things, discover things, and, ultimately, be greater than human in a time that often tried to stop them from doing so.
Oh, and Scott Brick is fantastic here. I want to say more about his reading, but the quality of the overall work itself drawfs anything else in its wake. Just know that Scott Brick does a great job, and his work here is another reason that I seek out books that he narrates, just as I do with a few other top-tier readers.
I initially wanted to read this book because I have a fascination with HH Holmes and the year that the World's Fair descended upon Chicago. The book can get a bit bogged down in unnecessary details, while tending to give a lackluster focus on the actual man himself. I was hoping for more of a narrative on the extremely strange and rare set of circumstances that birthed America's first recorded serial killer, but instead, I got extremely detailed information of building specs for the hotel and an unusually large amount of data on the area at the time. It got a bit boring.
I was hoping for more of a narrative on the extremely strange and rare set of circumstances that birthed America's first recorded serial killer
Building America's first serial killer
I was massively disappointed in this book. The narrator, Scott Brick, is great as always. But, the writing and storytelling were sub-par. I was very interested in the topic and had looked forward to learning about something brand new.
As soon as the narrative began, I realized that the author was caught between telling a story and retelling history. He failed at both. Attempts to create suspense fell flat because he was recounting known historical facts. Attempts to create character-depth fell flat because he could only have them speak in the small snippets of dialogue culled from historical documents. Not one person seemed real to me and yet they were all historical figures! Because the author stuck by historical facts and evidence only, he hobbled his own freedom to create vibrant people which I could care about. Larson ends up describing people, describing their words and describing their actions. It didn't seem that the characters were actual people, speaking and acting.
I was fascinated by the fair but the author dragged me into minutiae that felt irrelevant to the story. And, I'm generally a great lover of minutiae.
The murderous Holmes was approached and described as though the author himself were a product of the end of the nineteenth century - constrained by prim social mores and avoiding saying anything crude, explicit or graphic about the murderer. It takes a true lack of writing talent to turn a vile killer into a tedious character.
I suspect that most other listeners will disagree with my point of view. But, two very exciting subjects were ground into a fine dust of tedium by Erik Larson.
Say something about yourself!
I'd definitely recommend this. The story is--stories are--incredible and opposite. The "sacred" story tells of human achievement while the "profane" story describes the behavior of an unbelievably evil person.
The book does a really good job providing details so that the listener can easily imagine living in Chicago in the second half of the 19th century--what it was like if you had money, and what it was like if you didn't. I almost hesitate to say it--but details may also be a weakness of the book. I felt that sometimes the inclusion of so many details turned portions of the book into pure lists of information.
Scott's voice is pleasant and clear. I would have like a little faster pace.
Plenty of moments in this book--both sacred (especially passages about Olmstead)--and profane (almost all of the book that wasn't about building the Fair)--moved me.
There are many ways to learn about the events in this book--but if you don't know the story of the Colombian Exposition, or if you don't know the story of H.H. Holmes--start here! And, if you do, listen to this anyway...
Tried to find merit in this book but after several chapters, I gave up. If you are familiar with Chicago you might like this book.
Two unique stories with little relevance to each other. Either would have been good in their own right but together, not so much .
I wanted to like this. I tried. Great topic, interesting situation. Maybe it was better as a book. For me it felt like reading a map or 14 hours of "A +B-W= h and then Q\W".
Hours and hours.
A reader who varied his voice or showed some excitement. Some dialogue in the book.
A text book.
Monotone with no material to help him out.
I think the history about Chicago was great, which was the main virtue of the book.
Probably one of my favorites. It was VERY well done.
I studied serial killers and profiling as an undergraduate. I assumed I would enjoy the story of HH Holmes more than the story of the fair but I found it the other way around. Oh the information about Holmes is great and if you are unfamiliar with the story, you really should listen to it, the man was pure evil but the story of the building of the Chicago Worlds Fair is just incredible. I had no idea of everything that went into that fair. I live in Illinois and have seen models of the fair and a few pictures but it's one of those things that I wish I could have seen. Even given today's modern world it would have been amazing BUT back then, the lights, the wheel, the buildings, the fountains etc etc.....all just totally amazing.
Holmes.....he did make him charmingly smarmy
I can't think of a better one actually
I HIGHLY recommend this book. Not all of Larson's books are this good but this book, is one of the best true crime/non fiction books I have ever read.