I expected this work of non-fiction to be quite bizarre, and I wasn't disappointed. What I wasn't expecting, however, was the intense ugliness that characterized this cult and its founder. Though this book is very well researched and very well written, it is far from pleasant. It's information that needs to be made public, however, and I highly recommend it.The narrator, by the way, is very good. I have listened to several books read by him, and would gladly listen to more.
I was very much looking forward to the final book in this series. I'm glad I read The Magician's Land, but was a bit disappointed. The characters were further developed from who they were in books 1 & 2 in the series, but I felt the plot got a bit too fantastic for my tastes. Some fantasy readers like "in-you-face" magic, but I'm a fan of a bit more subtlety than this book offers.
One of the highlights of the book is more of a filling out of the prehistory of the Chatwin family.
Regardless of any criticism, this book is a must-read: If you've read the first 2 books in the series, you have to close the deal with this one. If you're a fantasy fan and haven't read the first 2 books, then you need to. Either way, all roads lead to The Magician's Land.
You'll be surprised at what you learn in this book. Most westerners are more or less ignorant of Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire, and what we think we know is based on negative assumptions. This book brings to light the ways the world was positively impacted by Mongol expansion, and in several places highlights ways in which Mongols were far more advanced than their European counterparts at the time. Some of these include freedom of religion, the equality of women, and the importance of free trade.
The only criticism I might give the book is the author's introduction which was read at the end. It was very interesting and not to be missed, but much of it seemed to be anticipating what we would read rather than reviewing what we'd already read.
All in all, I'm glad I listened to this book and would recommend it to anyone who's into history, biography, sociology, political science, comparative religion, or anthropology.
This is a very engaging story, and it is admirably narrated by Simon Prebble. The sensitive reader needs, however, to be warned that it was written in the 19th century, and reflects that era's attitudes toward elephant hunting (a noble pursuit that could be carried out by English gentlemen) and, worse yet, Africans. Though the writer clearly admired Africans, he also tended to view them as less than Europeans, and also used the occasional racial slur to refer to them.
I admit I'm a fan of epic fantasy, and though this work isn't typical of that genre in many ways, its scope is broad and it's quite lengthy. Despite its length, however, it's very readable. I never felt that the narrative was tedious, and the writing was fresh, descriptive, humorous, and fitting to the story. If you're a fantasy reader who also likes Dickens/Austen/Brontë, then you'll love this book.
You'd think that a book by Billy Crystal narrated by the author himself would be truly entertaining. Unfortunately, its moments of entertainment are rare, and made all the more ephemeral by Crystal's rushed and emotion-free delivery. Much more glaring are his frequent references to his own genitalia, his lack of compassion for others, and his utter lack of respect for others' religious views. His die-hard fans just might make it through this one with a thirst for more. The rest of us had to force ourselves to finish the book.
This work of non-fiction is not only informative, but it also offers the drama of a novel. It's impossible to stop listening once you start.
If I'd read the print version of this book, as opposed to listening to the audiobook, I'm not sure I'd have finished it. It's a book which, perhaps, the author needed to write in order to justify his own belief system. It's mildly interesting, but not particularly inspiring. I will not state whether or not this was a work of faith on the author's part, but it did nothing for my own faith. I admire some of the methods he used to write symbolically of how Mary has been imprisoned by the church and forced to be somebody she is (or was) not. I appreciate the psychological exploration of what might have gone through a mother's mind when her son died. But overall, I don't recommend the book itself. I do, however, recommend the performance. Streep is artful, sensitive, clear, and dramatic in her rendering of Toibin's words. The book may not have been inspired, but Meryl Streep's reading of it was.
Once you start listening to this classic, it's hard to turn it off. I found myself looking for excuses to put my earphones in - my dog got longer walks, the kitchen got cleaned more often, the TV got watched a lot less. Having finished it I want to listen to it again.
Every word of this book carries a certain weight, and it's impossible to remain unmoved by ten Boom's faith and the power of God to bring light to dark places.
The narration was also very good, though it was difficult to hear the repeated mispronunciation of of Scheveningen :-/
The story Solaris tells is interesting and its point-of-view unique. That which some reviewers found tedious I found quite interesting, namely technological descriptions, historical notes, philosophical reviews, etc. The characters are well-developed, especially the protagonist. And the fact that this book is well over 50 years old now makes it all the more interesting. It was fascinating to hear how people envisioned the technology of "the space age" back around the time I was born. Of particular interest was the notion that a space station would need a library of actual books, because the whole idea of ebooks was inconceivable back then - which made his reference to an "out-of-print" book especially amusing. Or the fact that tests would require print-outs on celluloid, since digital imagery was also unknown. Far from detracting from the book, I paid closer attention to the technology described because listening to it was sort of like an archaeological dig.
The performance was pretty good, but could've been better.
I will read nothing else by Jack Whyte. The Skystone started out as an average work of fantasy - perhaps even a bit above average due to the historical detail he provided for the period about which he was writing. But I quickly became weary of the redundant profanity. Seriously, how many times per page should a good writer use the word "whoreson"? But what finally put an end to my listening experience was the bigoted way he treated homosexuality. Introducing a criminally insane and apparently gay character, making sure the reader realized his homosexuality was part and parcel of his evil and hateful nature, was simply too much. I don't expect fantasy writers to utilize human sexuality in ways that our culture currently understands them (though some fantasy writers have done precisely this), but to use one's writings to reïnforce hateful stereotypes and promote one's own bigotry on the subject is unacceptable. Is Mr Whyte free to spread misunderstanding through the books he authors? Sure. But I also have the freedom to avoid him in the future. His treatment of sexuality did nothing to advance the story or help the reader understand the historical era. It simply added to misunderstanding and hate.
Kevin Pariseau is technically a good reader, but his normal reading voice is a bit prim. Unfortunately he over-compensated when changing voices, making many characters sound rather goofy.
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