This is the first example of "literature as an art form"
writing that I can ever remember actually enjoying. And I really, really liked this. I never came across anything quite like it, before. And just how much the narrator was
responsible for how much I liked it...maybe more than 50%. Nick Sullivan truly
deserves the word "incredible" to describe how he carries this story from start to
finish. I've never heard of or read William Gaddis before listening to Mr. Sullivan
doing "JR". By this reading, Gaddis seems like a giant of American letters, a
genuine master artist of the written word.
If you insist on straightforward plotting and rapid pace...forget it. The work is looong
and meanders along routes that don't appear on any literary maps. But it does move
along. Its sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes pessimistic, sometimes
uplifting...but for me, it was never dull. Mr. Gaddis and Mr. Sullivan combine to
produce as honest and entertaining a picture of the American dream as I've ever read.
I have a real soft spot for this kind of dystopian stuff if its well written....and this book is both well written and well narrated. Good plotting, moves right along and the I can believe that the characters are genuinely human...except for a few who aren't supposed to be. Also, the pace is varied enough to keep it dramatic but credible. It is a dark view in a dark world, but not so far from what really could be, given humanity's short sightedness and historical amnesia. Not the best I've read, but right up there with the real good ones.
I really wanted to like this novel. Several reviewers praised the imaginative setting and the use of several cultures ...Russian, ?Turkish? and Middle Eastern...as the origins of the main characters. Sounded intriguing. Culture clashes, however, have been done to death...espeicially the Eurocentric mind vs. the Oriental mind. And that is what this is, seems to me. First, we have your feudal, ruthless, oppressive Russo/Kharakovan nobility who seem to have little talent except for killing and repression who, somehow, have gotten the upper hand over the highly talented, amazingly spiritual, quite artistic and highly oppressed, long suffering, usually peaceful Middle Eastern/Turkish/Jewish/Araman. And they all live on islands of some sort, that exist in maybe an ocean but the atmosphere is ?ether? but it is somehow breathable. Oh, and the only Karakovans with special talents are, of course, the women, who submerse themselves in ice cold baths and breathe through reeds and "control" the ?ether? so that the men can sail around in it. Hard for me to visualize that part. And, of course, every word of every character throughout this work is gilded with major importance, somehow having to do with the doom coming from some spirit world through magic created by, who else, a sect of Araman terrorists who don't care who they kill...no one even dares to say anything normal or crack a joke...and every word is delivered with high drama. Interestingly, these turbaned Araman can magically create huge creatures made of dirt and rocks ( ringers for Jewish golems?) who wreak death and destruction to the enemies of those with turbans. To the author's credit, he handles plots fairly well and his characters seem humanly motivated, some of the time, which is why I gave it a 2nd star.
But, although small parts of this novel are imaginative, most of it is trite and boring, and seems taken, piecemeal, from the crap that has been reported on tv for the last 30 years, as world news. I keep looking for good fantasy and get mostly disappointed. Unfortunately, there is only one Joe Abercrombie. and few fantasy writers who fall in the "major novelist class"...like Tolkien, Rowley or George RR. . Mr. Beaulieu's writing is typical of the genre. He runs with the pack, not ahead of it. I will cut Mr. Chase a break as far as narrators go. I don't believe any narrator could do much to with voice to improve this novel. And of course, this is the first book of another series. Can't wait.
"The Pale King" was my first exposure to the writing of David Foster Wallace and I liked it.
Most reviews of "Infinite Jest" on Audible complained a great deal about not having the "footnotes", several claiming that, without them, the book was not worth listening to. But, I took a shot, anyway. And I was blown away. Sean Pratt's narration may have been the key to my enjoyment. His delivery made music of Wallace's words. Of course, the plot wanders and the characters are multitude and their narratives come flying abruptly out of left field and it seems like no plot thread is ever tied up, ever. And, It takes some time and mental gymnastics to see the fabric of the story(s). But the overall effect, for me, was brilliant. In this case, an American masterpiece of the spoken word. As good a collaboration of author and narrator is I've ever heard. It ended far too soon. I don't know if I would have been able to read it and feel the same. .
I thought Shteyngart was brilliant after listening to "Super Sad, True Love Story". My opinion dipped slightly with "The Russian Debutante's Handbook", but it was still pretty good. "Absurdistan", however, was just awful. Drifting plots and meandering story lines are fine with me if the writing is good, and the characters are "real", even if they are hard to love. This novel had neither good writing or interesting human beings as characters...forget liking them. If the author aimed for satire, he missed. But for a few neatly twisted phrases that brought a smile to my lips...very few... there was nothing funny...for me. Its saving grace, if anything can save it, was that it seemed fairly original. I managed to get through it , because of that quality, I think. And the narrator did a good job with what he had.
The book, by itself, is a very good good thriller. I kind of like European settings for thrillers and mysteries...especially northern and eastern Europe where winter bleak gives the mystery an icy edge. This is the 2nd Adler/Olsen Dept. Q book I've heard from Audible.
For plot, great. For characterization...great. Even though it is about that highly overdone bogeyman...the serial killer...(I usually refuse to bother with most novels employing this device) this author actually made the story fresh and imaginative and did a masterful job of varying the pace of the plot, throwing in wit with bits and pieces of the more mundane human comedy. I have developed a wariness committing my time to reading "follow up" novels written as part of series. Each story, I think,must stand on its own merit. Adler-Olsen is +2 for 2, in my opinion.
I first heard Steven Pacey reading Joe Abercombie's "First Law" trilogy. He made all three books come alive. His narration makes me feel like the child I used to be who sat in front of the old console radio with his whole attention riveted on "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon" or the stories told on the "Buster Brown Show" every Saturday morning From those voice(s) a kid could imagine worlds he or she never "saw". Mr. Pacey has that gift of being able to inspire one's imagination in that way, too, I think. At least for me. Like with Abercrombie's works, Mr. Pacey's narration enhances the entertainment value of this book, immensely. Having written that, I must add that the entertainment value of the novel, itself, is quite high.
While not the best novel I've ever come across, it, having been well written and decidedly entertaining...I did want to know what happened next... also left me with things to ponder. I doubt that this novel is "art" in the common parlance. Probably not a "classic" either. But it has strong elements of both, in my opinion, I think some people might refer to this kind of novel as dystopic futurism or pessimistic science fiction. Use either category and I'd put it in the 90th percentile along with the "The 4 Fingers of Death". But it also has much in common with a book like "I Am Charlotte Simmons" by Tom Wolfe which is neither futuristic nor science fiction.
The readers were both first rate. They filled out the parts of the main characters superbly
and with feeling. I could feel the angst.
I agree with some readers who've said that they had difficulty in "liking" the main characters, especially Lenny. But Lenny truly fits the profile of the classic protagonist...hubris and all.
He wants to be the contemporary knight on a white horse, the rescuer of beautiful (his definition) damsels in distress But when he sweeps up the lovely but abused and misunderstood fair lady, and gives all he has to give, like most of his kind, he ends up being humiliated and betrayed by the damsel and defecated upon by the horse. Nor was Eunice particularly endearing ... but she was true to herself, making hard choices based solely on her perception of her own self interest.
The author's canvas, the background for this love story, was very recognizable, unfortunately, as one likely path this country's citizens might very well choose.. And he did a very, very good job of "painting" it. I couldn't look away from it very easily.
Not suited for everyone's taste, especially those offended by foul language and frequent casual, concrete references to the amazing growth and evolution of the "pornography" business. Nevertheless, I thought it was a fine listen and would highly recommend it to fans of this kind of literature.
This novel had lots of potential...suspense, good imagining, nice snaky plot and, starting off, at least, characters whose actions seemed to stem from natural human motives. Some pretty original sounding stuff, to boot.
Its a long, long listen. So when the intricacies start beginning to resolve, one has put in
a lot of hours of involved listening. I was waiting, almost eagerly, to get to the end stages.
About halfway through, the author began throwing in junk but not enough to make me stop. By the last third, it all went south. What I seemed to end up with was pure, trite, drivel... a) another boring ecological lecture about humanity's unrelenting destruction of nature,, b) another female super hero who beats up the monster with ninja style moves c) the main protagonist, female, who changes from a complete uber rich, selfish, dishonest, decietful, sociopath (fairly interesting) into ...someone else whose loving, brave, hard working, selfless soul must have been transplanted secretly without the reader's knowledge because any reader will be hard put to figure out how she ended up with it, much less whether the story ever made clear why she deserved it. d) most males except for the uber rich ones and one cop are mostly depicted as basically dumb, simple and incompetent, who play only one note...sex..and e) an ending more reminiscent of "Its A Wonderful Life" than any decent sci fi I've come across. Overall, although I have read or listened to several books by this author and found one or two good ones, (so I believe the author has some skill), this one ends up being an ode to political correctness and easy fixes. I found it both disappointing and dishonest. Fortunately, the reader was very good or I would have ditched the thing 2/3s of the way through.
I've read most of what Allistair Reynolds has published...some more than once.
I've rated him as one of the best hard core SF writers ever. His major characters are often "different". Heroes and villains are as likely to be female as male with various
degrees of sex, color, species differences and artifacts often added on. Even as truly different as some of his main characters were, I have never before gotten the impression that he was forcing them into being politically correct stereotypes. That is the impression I get in this novel.
The good guys, male and female, (almost too good to be true, in some cases) are African and black sounding, or clearly homosexual with contemporary nilistic outlooks while the bad guys are made to sound like mostly white, male Afrikaners and and are comletely contemptible, evil, money grubbers. The heroic types seem motivated only by a one dimensional need to do "good" (as defined by contemporary standards like ...save the elephants...for instance).
Of course, in their quest to do these good deeds, the author does not bind them to
to any special respect for preexisting norms and rules that get in their way, except those imposed by the villains. Both sides are also very rich, which seems to be, in a almost
contradictory fashion, a perfectly acceptable reason to allow them to do what they please.
As I've said, I can enjoy heroes and villains, any sex, any color, any background...if
the writer can make me believe that they are real "human beings" even if that
isn't exactly what they are. Reynold's has done that very thing with pigs, among a number of other not so human creatures, in some of his other works. Their human attributes...good and bad and neither...seemed not only richly complex but to be natural parts of their nature.
The problem with this novel for me is that the characters in these pages are caricatures of politically correct stereotypes. That makes it impossible to care about
what they seem to care about. And what they care about, of course, drives the whole story. John Lee does a good job with the narration, as usual.
Overall, this is not a Reynold's novel I would consider reading a second time.
Worth every minute of the time I spent listening to it. It isn't likely that I would have picked it up and read it, but since Joe Barrett was narrating and the description and many of the reviews piqued my interest. I decided to get the Audible version. Made a great choice, this time. Maybe it helped that I am a native of small town New England, myself or that the
two main protagonists are within a year or two of being my age. Also the "major"
events that affected them, affected me, as well. The novel was a sort of personal homecoming. But, besides those elements, Irving seems to be a very good writer who
knows how to keep a reader involved in his work for hours and hours. Nor does
he ever disappoint with sloppy transitions, simpleton characters or artificial plot
contrivances. Not that some of his ideas don't stretch things more than a bit. But he
always manages to pull these bits off very nicely. How he tells the reader what happens
at the end before the book is halfway through and still manages to keep one in total
suspense is absolutely masterly. And Joe Barret is one of, if not the best American narrator I've ever heard. (Try "Streets of Loredo" by Larry McMurtry for another great
Joe Barrett narration.)
This novel will not be universally appreciated, I believe. But I thought it was
Like some others, first part was ok and fast moving...nice light read (listen) for washing the kitchen floor or peeling potatoes. Maybe the end turned out as well. I couldn't tell you because the introduction of the second, inane plot and the adolescent writing was too much for these old ears...Tom Weiner's narration nowithstanding (he did the best with what he had)....and I gave it up. By the way, if you want to see how to do a competent "intro of a new plot right out of left field after a story line has already been established", read :"The Five Fingers of Death". Several other reviewers have already written about why this book is so very bad. I will only add that my own disappointment was compounded because this book actually started out ok and I had gotten into it by several hours before the switch.
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