I'd always heard that Gulliver's Travels was one of the great satiric works of English literature, but if that's the case, I don't really understand the word. I had always thought satire was a gentle, humourous, and sometimes even affectionate skewering of the status quo, but this book is actually often rather angry and ham-fisted. Then again, sometimes it is humourous to the point of almost being farcical. Either way, it's not the children's book that some might be expecting.
Regardless of whether I'd call it satire, I did enjoy it - and I'm glad I listened to it rather than read it, as I think some of the language would have made it a very difficult read. It's a classic for many reasons, and it is referenced time and time again in popular culture, in whole or in part. Many know the basics of the 4 travel stories that make up this book - one to a land of miniature people, one to a land of gigantic people, one to a land led by a floating city with emphasis on math and music, and one to a land of rationality and reason presided over by equines, not humans. Mostly, I believed they allowed Swift an opportunity to lampoon all the parts of his society that he wished to insult, but in a more acceptable manner than shouting it out on street corners.
David Hyde Pierce did a wonderful job, not only in making some of the imaginary language understandable rather than distracting, but also in making the events seem more plausible than they otherwise might be in print and in making the sometimes long and drawn-out descriptions more palatable. Sadly, it took a while before I stopped thinking of Niles Crane narrating a story with his brother as the protagonist, but that fault is solely my own and not a problem with his narration.
If I had listened to a chapter a day this would perhaps have made a better listening experience.
The pace of this book is very slow. This is more of a satire of his time than the adventure I have seen in the movies.
Without David Hyde Pierce's performance this book would be unlistenable. He brings the story to life.
The only redeeming quality is David Hyde Pierce's performance. Just listening to his performance is enjoyable, if only I could tune out the book...
UCSD Grad Student
I heartily recommend this book as a commentary on contemporary politics and the state of affairs in the 21st century. It's brilliant!
This book was before its time. It may still be before its time. The insightfully brilliant and scathing critiques delivered on politics, government, law, gender, human nature, and more is both funny and thought provoking.
I would not recommend this to anyone under 30 unless they are unusually mature with much worldly experience.
You will not enjoy this book if you are not intelligent, have above average vocabulary, have the requisite perspective, or a lawyer.
Someone who has enough background in the politics Swift is supposedly satirizing.
I did not like the style of this author. I plugged away far after I was bored stiff with the book, so no, I have no interest in anything else by Swift
David Hyde Pierce has a great voice. Had I been reading or listening to a lesser narrator I would have abandoned far sooner
The ideas of miniature people and gigantic people (compared to a human) that a man could potentially sale to find is creative.
Near top tier. Excellent choice of narrator. David Hyde Pierce is perfectly cast and poised.
The upending of the first part is familiar: big meets small. Then small meets big. But the latter parts, where the mind is inflated into the arbiter of all, and then the body prolonged beyond endurance, speak better to Swift's legacy, for these issues remain relevant today.
The last section with the inversion of horses as dominating humans is coruscating. It's cutting satire and it stings deeply. All the same, Jonathan Swift's compassion mixed with his disgust for human cruelty and animal dignity resonates, in ways we may me recognize more than three hundred years ago for his audience, at least those tuned into sentient creatures.
I did snicker. While the Laputan third part was less interesting than I recall from high school (imagine this book being assigned in most places now, given its NFSW content and offending sensibilities couched in a courtly high style few perhaps can now appreciate), it held up despite this slow spot, for the novel from then on reaches its horrifying climaxes.
As above lauded, the pairing of Pierce and Swift is praised. The actor brings out the wit and the pain in the pages, and he renders the difficult registers of some of the high-flown rhetoric of which Swift's a master into entertaining adventure and instructive warnings of human follies. The messages of this often diminished (!) tale remain lively and surprisingly applicable, in life-extension and in animal rights as well as servitude and inequality, today.
Swift not only skewers the politics of his times, principally the Whig Parties, but through his travels offers many pointed observations on human behavior that still applies today. I don't think he's necessarily a misanthrope but offers hope in the end to see the good in humanity as well. That's a lesson for us even today where fear and hope are contenders in our political elections and each of us must decide whether to see the best or worst in our natures.
Lucid, Brilliant, Timeless
Toward the end of the story, Gulliver launches into a hilarious tirade against the legal profession - lawyers and judges. At least as funny and on-target in the 21st century as it must have been in the early 18th century.
He reads very clearly for the modern reader. He knows exactly where and how to place emphasis in each sentence so that you have no trouble following along, even though the style of English is formally rather old fashioned. He also has a great comic style, bringing out the wry humor for maximum effect. Modern readers should have no worries about whether they will enjoy this reading.
I was stunned that I waited so long in my life to read this book. I should have read it forty years ago.
There is a reason why this book is still in print after three hundred years.