This is a very dark book, indeed. And it describes a very bleak, modern world...today's
world, in fact, even though the locale is suburban Sweden. One has to wade through
emotional sewers in places to reach the end...which is not all that pretty, either.
But if one has the stomach for it, it is a very good novel. I don't like vampire tales for
the most part, especially the multitudes of soft core porn trash that's currently in vogue using that theme. But this book is outside that box. It places important moral
issues and considerations in front of the reader without losing a beat in the story.
The characters, some just plain awful people, all demonstrate individual breadths of humanity...some mostly evil, others more good than bad, but the author never sticks
in a paper cut out. The plot flows and one doesn't have to struggle to follow it even
though,, to me, it lead to places I've never been to before. I gave the story only 4 stars.
Maybe it deserved 5...but it was just too dark for me to do that.
The narrator, Steven Pacey, is, as far as I'm concerned, the best reader I have ever
heard...no exceptions. He brings out the very best in whatever book he narrates,
Read by someone else, I doubt that I would have enjoyed this book so much.
Joe Abercrombie is a master of the genre. And, I've thoroughly enjoyed this whole series. Steven Pacey is, as usual, superb. This work and series,, in my view, is fantasy writing at its very best. I've praised other books in this series as well as the writer and the reader. This book is just as well written and read as the others. I think it would probably benefit the reader who has never read Joe Abercrombie, before,to begin with "The Blade, Itself".
I would love to see this series go on for a long while.
This is a fantasy novel which was hard for me to finish. Although I listen to a lot of SF and Fantasy, I usually find that good writing in the latter category is hard to come by. I've found that most of the posted reviews I which rave about this or that fanatasy novel are not to be trusted. Because when I try most of these highly rated books, they give me literary indigestion. Most are just awful...poorly written rehashes of hackneyed themes which were, in most cases, handled a lot better by earlier writers. Still, I keep trying them out, looking for the few that might just be gems. And, I've found a few...a few.
The Red Knight is an example of another disappointment. In some parts, near the beginning, it even showed flashes of the start of something really good...the single reason I gave it more than 1 star. But, the flash dies off quickly, each time, and the reader is forced to continue to trudge on along the book's prosaic path to its mundane conclusion. I guess this kind of over worn, comic book, style of writing appeals to a lot of readers, like the ones who rate unimaginative, poorly written fantasies with 5 stars. But, for me, its just another "fantasy" novel I wasted my time with.
First, I admit that I am a genuine fan of the writings of Martin Cruz Smith. He has always done a masterful job of writing fiction. I have read or listened to each novel in the "Arkady Renko" series several times, and was highly entertained each time. The same holds true for me with his other works, as well. Like all first rate writers, no matter in what genre they write, there is nothing "artificial" in their work. So it is here The story flows, the drama unfolds from the basic human nature of the characters and they remain true to those natures. Every word seems finely crafted to fit where it should and enhances the storyline.
Frank Muller's job was well done. Someone new to Smith's writings and this series, might do well to start with "Gorky Park", which is the first in this chronological series. But, by itself, this is a good book to listen to.
The author can make very entertaining stuff out of the seemingly non grandiose. He's done that repeatedly in (what I'm able to recall of) his non fiction books. In this one, he takes a big bite of "...Nearly Everything", thoughtfully chews on it and and cleverly reports how it tastes. This report, read out loud, with exquisite pacing and wit, by Richard Mathews, actually becomes more entertaining when listened to a 2nd or 3rd time...when one picks up the bits and nuances they've missed during earlier readings. The book seems seriously factual and intellectually sound. But, contrary to the usual lack of humor most often found in such writings, this book is a hoot. It is slyly witty and darkly humorous. The narrator is superb in bringing out these qualities. And by doing so, this reading does a great job in helping one gain a bit of honest perspective of one's actual place in our universe, I believe. Very enjoyable.
I managed to get through to Chapter 7 and couldn't listen any further. Stephen Pacey is as good a British narrator as I've ever heard...but even his credible narration could not make this awful novel into something entertaining, mildly interesting or enjoyable. The author should do "graphic novels" and forget any literary ambitions, at least, in this genre. Listening to this brought back the memory of listening to another audiobook wherein the author attempted to describe his characters almost entirely, by describing or mentioning, the popular music they liked. This author, though, uses a very different method to achieve the same effect... by using untold billions of descriptive adjectives and adverbs to "flesh out" his characters, settings, etc. But every word "picture" he tries to paint seems drawn, in sets, from previous material that is ever so familiar. His literary "inventions" are so trite, so hackneyed, that, although one may not remember the exact,original source(s), one already knows them by heart, long before this author ever pasted them in. Like, "the castle". Think about every popular image you have of a dark and brooding manse, all the images that one has ever heard about, read about, seen in movies or tv, or video games, even. Now, if one selects the image one has encountered most frequently, that seems to be the most popular, the one that just pops up first, that's the one the author uses. He applied that method to the first 7 chapters of this book, at least. Call the method "Write By Numbers". The novel is supposed to be a mystery, I think. This author does not know a mystery from a flight of migrating Canadian geese.
I saw the movie, "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas". Therefore, I should have known better than to get this book. Why Hunter Thompson or his written rants are, apparently, held in high literary esteem, begs understanding. I have encountered and worked to help quite a few addicts get clean and sober, over the years. Addicts/alcoholics as writers, while still "using", tend not to be very good. There have been exceptions, of course. But not here. In general, before they get into recovery (if they ever do), what addicts have to say to the rest of us, via whatever media they employ to do so, is, mostly, not worth bothering with. And this writer/columnist/gadfly's writings strongly support that last statement. Just plain uninteresting. The ravings of a narcissist, with nothing really to say. except to glorify his own existence. Any flicker of wit or insight which begins to illuminate, perhaps, something important immediately fades into angrily aggressive bluster or blatant self praise. Also, Thompson "drops names" faster and more frequently than snowflakes in a blizzard. I guess he always wanted to be a famous writer. But, since he didn't write that well, he ended up grasping for the "famous" part... by whatever means he had at hand..
And the narrator, who I never listened to before this book, was a one note, overly strident, irritating performer.. Maybe he thought he was capturing the essence of the "gonzo journalist's" writings, vocally. Come to think of it, he may have done that.
If you love loud, pointless, rants and constant demonstrations of unmerited personal aggrandizement, be sure and get "Hey Rube"..
If your taste lies elsewhere, spend your money on something else.
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.
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