First let me get my bias out of the way. I grew up reading Heinlein and loved most of his novels. This was one I cannot remember reading as a youngster so thought I'd give it a try since I'm a long-time Audible subscriber and the ratings suggested it would be worth a go. How wrong I was! This book is about 12 hours long and for the first 10 hours there is no story whatsoever. Our obviously lucious heroine continuously finds herself in various jackpots and internecine conflicts. Each time this occurs the reader thinks it's going to lead somewhere - ie. to the start of a plot. Instead, the various interludes go nowhere at all,other than to provide additional setups for Friday to jump into bed with some guy or some lady who is feeling as horny as she is. Don't get me wrong, I like a good sex scene as much as the next guy, but this stuff is really pointless, aimless, unstructured and very disappointing. With some judicious editing it might have made a decent 2 or 3 hour short story. The narrator does some pretty good accents at times - eg. Australian and French (although he keeps pronouncing "Quebecois" as "Quebeswa" - very irritating to a Canadian listener)- but he feels that the best way to play the voice of super-lady is by raising his voice three octaves. All that this accomplishes is to make Friday sound like some weak-kneed school girl, barely out of pigtails. She certainly does not sound like the near-future's version of the bionic woman and James Bond all rolled into one. When the consistently irrelevant and dead-end sidebars finally come to an end at about hour 10, and the story begins to unfold, it turns out not to be particularly interesting. In the end, it finishes with not much more than a whimper ... certainly far less than the bang Heinlein fans would expect.
The story is set in an undetermined time in the future when a world-wide apocalypse has wiped out most of the human population. The relatively few who remain are either the "good guys" or the "bad guys". The reader never really finds out who the good guys are, or who the bad guys are. Nor do we find out what the nature of the apocalypse was that brought the world to this point. Furthermore, the two protagonists - a father and his son - are merely referred to as the "man" and the "boy". To describe the story as spare is indeed an understatement. And yet, despite all this, the reader is slowly drawn into a world where these two people are trying simply to survive. They will survive by making their journey along a road, to the coast. Why to the coast? We never really find out. The story is more about asking questions, rather than providing answers. What does it mean to have life? What is the purpose of living? Should it be life at any cost? As the man and the boy proceed with their journey, these are the questions we/they ask. The answers are very individualistic. This is a real work of literature, which stayed with me long after the book was completed. The narrator was terrific, taking very short, very sparse dialogue and infusing it with just the right amount of emotion, for each of the characters who spoke. I highly recommend this book. I gave it 4 stars, rather than 5 because, the latter would be for perfection only, and this book, while close - I would give it 4.5 stars if I could - falls just a smidgen short.
I didn't know what to expect when I downloaded this book as I had never previously read anything by Crichton. I was pleasantly surprised. The first part of the book combines real history with (mostly) real science and then, almost seamlessly flows into the fantasy/sci-fi story-line. Crichton slowly introduces his main characters, and he develops them into believable persons about whom we start to form our own opinions. However, it's when the setting jumps from the present back into the 14th Century that Crichton expands our knowledge-base, and the story really starts to unfold. Using well-researched history - social, cultural and economic - Crichton tells a story of another era when life was hard, and often little-valued. Our protagonists race against time to uncover a secret, a secret which might enable them to fulfill their mission and possibly enable them to return safely to the present time. A thriller, which is also educational - very satisfying.
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