Like many others who wrote these reviews, I picked up this book because it was part of the Neil Gaiman Presents series. This is NOT for fans of traditional fantasy, and many people who expect traditional fantasy will find it dull or uninspired.
No doubt it is a great concept - the Minotaur lives on and works as a fry cook at a diner in North Carolina. This take on a modern mythical creature is certainly original, but my biggest problem with the Minotaur is that he is a very passive character, which sometimes made it frustrating to listen to. Unlike other current bestsellers of the literary fiction genre, such as Haruki Murakami, there is no grander sense of purpose, and the Minotaur often lets the worst side of life show itself by standing by while the action is happening to someone else. The author is aware of this - his prose is even critical, at times, of those who sit passively and let life happen to other people, but the Minotaur himself is rarely anything but passive.
It's hard to discern the point of this book, or parse the central themes. While other works of literary fiction are also hard to boil down, that is usually because they seem to have a greater sense of scale that moves beyond the prose. Here I didn't get any sense of some larger purpose or idea - the end just left me frustrated.
It's a beautifully written book, and if you're looking for something to read you could certainly do worse. But don't expect any kind of traditional fantasy - high, urban, or other.
I am very fond of Neil Gaiman's fantasy works and so was excited by his new venture: hand-picked stories and narrators that he felt were well worth a listen. The brief Audible excerpt of "The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break" sounded crisp and interesting, so I began the book with high expectations. Sadly, those expectations were far from met.
The notion of having the minotaur (yes, THE minotaur) in modern America, working in a rib house, certainly has grabbing power. The other characters in the story are aware of "M"s unusual nature, but it's clear that creatures such as he exist in this world, even if they are rarities. But to me, the book felt more like an existentialist investigation than anything else. Metamorphosis was not about a giant bug, and this story is not about the minotaur. The protagonist, it seems to me, could be almost any working stiff who by his choices never catches a break.
The story is not poorly written, but it takes itself perhaps too seriously, and I found it wearing rather than engaging. Fantasy can be an effective way of providing new insights as well as firing the imagination, but for me, this book failed to deliver on either of these fronts.
The narration was supurb.
Feeling the isolation of being different and still being able to function in society was an uplifting (and sad) experience.
The characterization of the Minotaur brought just a hint of believeability to the rather far out concept. I felt that I really knew and liked the main character.
Well worth the listen.
I really had high hopes for this one. The idea is great, the writing is fantastic, and the performance was exceptional. However, every "scene" lead absolutely nowhere. It was the life of an emotionally-challenged recluse who is a fry cook, who fixes cars, who lives in a trailer park.....who would probably have a lot in common with a good number of people on earth if you followed them around and wrote down what they did. Where is the suspense? Tragedy? Action? Mystery? Dramatic transformation?
The author really does have a ton of talent, and I guess there did exist some element of something on some level, somewhere that urged me to see it through to the end. Honestly, though, it felt like he had a great idea for a book, sat down and tried to let the creative energy flow by setting up a beautiful environment for something big to happen...and then, for the most part, nothing happened. I'm not sure why this movie comes to mind, but akin to every fault in Napoleon Dynamite without many of the lovable qualities that made it a work of art.
Three stars overall for excellent style and a great performance, but that really is being generous.
Holter Graham does a great job of switching between voices, giving each character a distinct personality, and grunting like a self-conscious minotaur. The transitions betwen narration and dialogue were seamless. Very skillfully done.
I bought this cold. I'd never heard of it, I just knew that Neil Gaiman recommended it and that it looked interesting. I'm so glad I took the chance on buying it! A great book about being the outsider, not knowing how to find what you want, and persisting in a time and place where you don't belong. The Minotaur's journey in this book simultaneously spans eons, and just a few weeks. If you buy this, you're in for a good listen, no matter what. I especially like how the author combined the mythical and the realistic in this story. It could easily have been heavy handed or ludicrous. Instead it was very natural.
This was beautifully written. Given the premise, I was expecting the story to be absurd, but somehow Sherrill told the story in a way that was utterly serious and tackled some of the biggest issues that literature can address (like what it means to be human). That being said, there is definitely a dark/morbid sense of humor throughout. The ending-that-is-not-an-ending was perfect.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this novel. You may really enjoy it. It just wasn't to my taste. At times while I was listening to this book I thought to myself 'I don't really like this book'. I'm a keen reader of books on the art of writing and so I really wanted to work out why I didn't like it. It's cohesive and obviously written with skill but I felt the descriptions to be overworked. So much so that they really made an already slow pace even slower. I can appreciate that this is a device to emphasise the Minotaur's frame of mind, his difficulty with articulating his thoughts and feelings but I prefer a lighter touch.
I loved Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" and Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" and for me what makes them great is the combination of humour and seriousness.
I enjoyed the reading by Mr. Graham -- his range of voices were good including his portrayal of the Minotaur. The writing by Mr Sherill is also very good, with interesting and evocatave descriptions of people and surroundings. However, though the Minotaur has lived through 5000yrs of history, he has (or provides) little insight into his coworkers, his surroundings, or humankind. In general, the book chronicles a couple weeks in the life of a tired old freak who has lost his meaning for life but doesn't appear to be too bothered about it. Perhaps at the edges of his consciousness he notices, but there is little to draw me into caring much about the Minotaur or his life. He is a fantastical creature capable of touching you and me, but living an unexamined life -- hardly worth living, and at the risk of being too harsh, worth reading.
I sure would. Completely immersed in the story. Can't explain why - not much "interesting" happens. But the author has a sharp eye for the details of life, character and events and nothing is trivial. The title is programme: "xxx takes a cigarette break" - who would think to write a book on somebody taking a cigarette break? Even if it's a Minotaur.
There's many of them. All the moments described in detail, closely scrutinized but never boring.
Just imagining M as a dinner partner. Nah, the conversation wouldn't exactly flow. "How's the roast?" "Mmm" - "Anything interesting happen today?" "Mmm"
There were moments that didn't feel entirely "true" to me, slightly construed. Thus "only" 4 stars. But It's an excellent book nevertheless.
Hopeful mythical realism
I think its the growing sense of horror that comes from the last chapters as the minotaur's life spirals once again from his immortal grasp and looks to spiral into disaster. What follows is so touchingly hopeful that it remains with you for some time.
When i don't notice a man doing a woman's voice I know the narrator is good. when he does it perfectly
It would either be M himself, because this being would be a wonder to behold or it would have to be sweet, gullible Kelly.