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bill doyle

Bloke who took to audiobooks in order to beguile long hours on the road travelling to photography gigs across his home state. Now addicted!

adelaide, south australia | Member Since 2011

17
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 16 reviews
  • 89 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 32 purchased in 2014
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  • The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By John Joseph Adams (editor), Robert J. Sawyer, Christopher Roden, and others
    • Narrated By Simon Vance, Anne Flosnik
    Overall
    (381)
    Performance
    (207)
    Story
    (209)

    A modern short story collection featuring the great detective.

    Campbell says: "Improbable and Incredible."
    "A mixed bag: with agonising introductions!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have to say, first off, that I found John Joseph Adams' introductions excruciating. Amiable fellow he may be, but I really don't enjoy being told what I'm about to think of something, or how many obscure SF awards a particular writer has received, and convenient chapters allowing the introductions to each piece to be easily skipped would have been a real plus from my perspective.

    Simon Vance, on the other hand, is a consistently outstanding Watson, and where he is the narrator his efforts really help to lift the material; in some cases this is certainly required, as some stories fall well short of the original mark.

    The tales are indeed a mixed bag, with many showing Science Fiction and Fantasy leanings, and some even outright Horror. Most manage to capture the 'Sherlockian' tone well enough, but some manage to combine 'dull' with 'faithful'.

    However, there's more good than bad, and the collection as a whole constitutes agreeable entertainment.

    While I prefer more straightforward detective narratives with the typical rationalist flavour of the original, I found Neil Gaiman's effort the most appealing, despite its reliance on the whole gamut of SF, Fantasy, and even Horror. I don't know that my namesake would have approved, but I'm sure that Gaiman has placed his two characters exactly where he would have wanted them to be in this nightmarish alternate past.

    My recommendation? If you're a Holmes fan, and have enjoyed respectful pastiches such as Bert Coules' 'Further Adventures...' radio plays for the BBC, AND you have a credit to spare, I reckon you'll be happy enough!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Lost on Planet China

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By J. Maarten Troost
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (404)
    Performance
    (181)
    Story
    (181)

    When the travel bug bit, J. Maarten Troost took on the world's most populous and intriguing nation. As Troost relates his gonzo adventure - dodging deadly drivers in Shanghai, eating yak in Tibet, deciphering restaurant menus (offering local favorites such as cattle penis with garlic), and visiting with Chairman Mao (still dead) - he reveals a vast, complex country on the brink of transformation that will soon shape the way we all work, live, and think.

    Dan says: "Funny but harsh with some underlying truth."
    "Simon Vance; redeemer of one long whinge?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    China is another country - they do things differently there.

    I suspect strongly that Simon Vance's narration is all that saves this book from utter unbearability - his soothing, very British intonations smoothing-over and camouflaging a tale that should, in justice, probably be delivered in a nasal, wheedling, north-American whine.

    The Chinese, you see, in Troost's eyes, simply cannot do anything right.

    His account is in the gonzo comic style, and might almost be compared to Bill Bryson, except that Troost has little interest in the locals' opinions. After all, he has so many of his own to give us.

    Make no mistake - this is an entertaining account, and doubtlessly, of course, much of his criticism is justified, particularly of the regime. But it's striking how his cynicism - and, I'll add, his skepticism - switches off the moment he crosses the 'border' into Tibet.

    Probably one to digest before traveling there yourself for the first time, on a forewarned is forearmed basis; hell, after all, it's unlikely your own experience would be worse!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Prague Cemetery

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Umberto Eco
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (18)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (18)

    Nineteenth-century Europe, from Turin to Prague to Paris, abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian priests are strangled with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate black masses by night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres.

    Mario says: "Classic Umberto Eco"
    "a protagonist of sheer, unrelenting awfulness..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I see this as a return to form - this is, for me, Eco's best work since Foucault's Pendulum; after having more-or-less sworn off him after wading through 'The Island of the Day Before', I'm glad I decided to give the genius responsible for The Name of the Rose 'one more go' via this novel.

    Admirers of Pendulum would recognise much in this account: the erudite history; the arcane knowledge of matters both bizarre and mundane; the disturbing, queasy paranoia.

    But what really marks this book is the sheer bloody awfulness of the protagonist!

    The audible sample's risible, poisonous rant is a great introduction to him - be warned, this man is absolutely appalling, and his repulsiveness is unrelenting, and little relieved in the course of the narrative. If you find the sample blackly comic and strangely compelling you may enjoy the book; if, on the other hand, you find yourself grossly offended this is unlikely to be the story for you.

    After all [mild spoiler alert], just how repulsive would you expect the author of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion be? Well, at least this awful, surely?

    Just don't expect much in the way of justice or redemption at the resolution. This is a novel about humanity at its absolute basest. This unprincipled, antisemitic, xenophobic, ultra-reactionary psychopath holds an unforgiving mirror to the darkest side of the European psyche. And we all know what followed...

    In short, a truly dreadful story, beautifully read by Sean Barrett.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Lake Frome Monster: An Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte Mystery, Book 32

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Arthur W. Upfield
    • Narrated By Peter Hosking
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (10)

    What is the Lake Frome Monster? Why are the Aborigines so terrified of it? And what dreadful part did it really play in the sudden death of a former roving reporter? When Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte is called in, everything goes against him. There is even a vicious attempt on his life....

    bill doyle says: "Short, well read, and geographically-challenged!"
    "Short, well read, and geographically-challenged!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    First off, as a South Australian, I have to point out that I was mystified by the idea of someone working along on a fence on the border between New South Wales and my home-state, and yet somehow confronting a 'Lake Frome Monster' and being near 'Lake Frome Station'. Um, do you reckon? Google 'Lake Frome South Australia map' and you'll see why this troubles me.

    However, Upfield's novels usually have something of the fantastic about them, and compared to planes that land themselves after the pilot has bailed out or people driven to murder by their thwarted addiction to staring into windmills this geographic anomaly is pretty mild!

    In fact, the plot's relatively straightforward, the solution surprisingly plausible, and the dated 'isms' (sexism, racism) pleasantly constrained.

    So go ahead, but be aware this won't while away the long drive to, say, Broken Hill. This, the unfinished novel, completed from his notes after Upfield's death is, perhaps not surprisingly, brief.

    As usual, Peter Hosking reads beautifully.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different from Our Own

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By David Toomey
    • Narrated By Eric Martin
    Overall
    (62)
    Performance
    (57)
    Story
    (56)

    In recent years, scientists have hypothesized life-forms that can only be called "weird": organisms that live off acid rather than water, microbes that thrive at temperatures and pressure levels so extreme that their cellular structures should break down, perhaps even organisms that reproduce without DNA. Some of these strange life-forms, unrelated to all life we know, might be nearby: on rock surfaces in the American southwest, hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, or even in our own bodies. Some, stranger still, might live in Martian permafrost, swim in the dark oceans of Jupiter's moons, or survive in the exotic ices on comets.

    Douglas says: "Very Interesting..."
    "weird life - perhaps!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    As many have pointed out, this isn't a catalogue of the monstrous and marvellous. This is a discussion of the hypothetical boundaries of life as we could anticipate finding it sprawled across the universe.

    First off, let me say that I bet we never find any evidence for giant dirigible beings floating up and down in the thick, turbulent gaseous atmosphere of some distant, surfaceless planet. I mean, what the hell are they eating? Where are the parallels in our own atmosphere?

    This kind of sets the tone for the 'gee whiz', science-fictiony aspect of much of the book, and as a consequence I, for one, significantly discount the author's apparent 'optimistic' assumptions about the virtual inevitability of life virtually everywhere you might chance to look.

    As for the 'if' 'if' 'if', and 'then' robot brains have taken over and are evolving themselves, and that's the kind of intelligent life SETI will encounter stuff - give me a break! Because, like, smart phones! Geez!

    Surely the core of life is that life strives, and life intrinsically cares very much about the continuation of its own existence? Programming some hyper-processed chip of sand to BEHAVE as if it did (and, sorry, that is all that it will ever do) is not even close to being the same thing, but could, ironically, turn out to be one of the most suicidally reckless acts undertaken by our suicidally reckless species.

    Oh, and what about your bloody hands, people!? Giant centipedes ain't going to evolve the intelligence to build technological civilizations - and, vitally, to store and readily transmit the information required - any more than dolphins are! Or develop much in the way of an intellect at all! Another sad limiting case the author doesn't really tackle - if you cannot manipulate the world around you competently there is no selective pressure for you to evolve the kind of brain-power we recognise as intelligence. Let's face it; any putative wind-tossed gasbag's thought processes would amount to little more than 'da da dum dum' and 'ooooh'.

    There is much of interest in this book, and much that is genuinely thought-provoking. But if you're looking for a catalogue of freaky animals, go elsewhere, and otherwise anticipate a fairly regular 'yeah, sure' response...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Let the Dead Sleep: Cafferty and Quinn, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Heather Graham
    • Narrated By Natalie Ross
    Overall
    (126)
    Performance
    (110)
    Story
    (112)

    It was stolen from a New Orleans grave - the centuries-old bust of an evil man, a demonic man. It’s an object desired by collectors - and by those with wickedness in their hearts. One day, its current owner shows up at Danni Cafferty’s antiques shop on Royal Street, the shop she inherited from her father. But before Danni can buy the statue, it disappears, the owner is found dead…and Danni discovers that she’s inherited much more than she realized. In the store is a book filled with secret writing: instructions for defeating evil entities.

    bill doyle says: "it's a scary bust!"
    "it's a scary bust!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    SPOILER ALERT (but you know what's coming anyway!)

    All-American girl bereft by recent loss of her dear, dear, faultless, kind-hearted, salt-of-the-earth character father. CHECK

    Handsome investigator who initially clashes with said heroine and then... well, you know the rest. CHECK

    Heroine doesn't bother to clarify what her sainted father - bless him - was actually up to, and what this supposed legacy from him to her is until chapter 5, despite constant references to it by the other characters. CHECK

    Heroine is supposed to be committed to doing something by way of profession - in this case she's, like, an artist - but exhibits no marked inclination to undertake any activities relating to it. Except for the occasional plot purpose (see below). CHECK

    It's set in New Orleans so we get a sort of liberal, first-amendmenty tour of Voodoo from an apparent closet rationalist, not-at-all-crazy-and-scary voodoo priestess who helps us understand it's all really not-at-all-crazy-and-scary, and Good Voodoo isn't really the problem. Whew! CHECK

    Comically silly villain. CHECK (not many are sillier, actually!)

    And deluded menials. Who think they can harness 'the power' for themselves. Mwahahaha. CHECK

    Sex scenes that manage to pitch somewhere between the comic and the turgid. CHECK

    Heroine doesn't work out the multiply-telegraphed reference to, you know, that thing that's been niggling at her in the two sentence instruction from her sainted father - God rest his soul - until just before the climax (not the one alluded to above!) despite its, ahem, blinding obviousness. CHECK

    Cell phones that work in a heavy stone-walled crypt, underground. CHECK

    Heroine who's specifically instructed not to trust anyone is left alone at the strategic moment and trusts, you guessed it, a wrong someone. CHECK

    A wrong someone who, despite all that's gone on before, squibs out on simply and conveniently killing, rather than just knocking out, the heroine's putative 'protectors', because it just wouldn't do to kill a dog now, would it? CHECK

    And, wow, like that finished painting she did in, like, an hour in her sleep was prophetic all along! And you'll never guess who the sacrifice depicted was!? CHECK

    And, like, wow, that other woman was the evil priestess all along! Who'd'a'thunkit?! CHECK

    Let's face it; you've heard this book before. But it may beguile a few hours if you're relatively untroubled by the above...

    As for the reading, it's spirited enough (boom boom!), but perhaps you, like me, will remain unsure who's supposed to be a Scot, and who's Irish, and whether nationals of either country would recognize themselves...

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Unnatural History of the Sea

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Callum M. Roberts
    • Narrated By Callum M. Roberts
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    Humanity can make short work of the oceans' creatures. In 1741, hungry explorers discovered herds of Steller's sea cow in the Bering Strait, and in less than thirty years, the amiable beast had been harpooned into extinction. It's a classic story, but a key fact is often omitted. Bering Island was the last redoubt of a species that had been decimated by hunting and habitat loss years before the explorers set sail.

    JOHN H. RUSSELL III says: "Fish for You"
    "A great tale of the sea. Read it."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Even if you think you know what we've done to the oceans, the fact is, you probably don't.

    Roberts does a great job making you aware of this in painstaking, but never laboured, detail.

    Particularly interesting is the treatment of secular hero, and Darwin ally, Thomas Huxley, who managed to be hopelessly wrong about the interaction between natural systems and market forces not once, but twice, and who doubtlessly went to his grave thoroughly convinced that it was reality that was the party at fault! His high-handed, patronising treatment of witnesses at his inquiry is cringe-inducing, and gave me a new perspective on the man, and the foibles of intellectual arrogance.

    Which, really, is the message of the book. Free markets in the oceans are a disaster. Marine parks and competent regulation are the solution.

    At the very least you'll gain an insight into why your grandchildren ended up living off jellyfish...

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Fidelity

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Thomas Perry
    • Narrated By Michael Kramer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (343)
    Performance
    (130)
    Story
    (134)

    When Phil Kramer is shot dead on a deserted suburban street in the middle of the night, his wife, Emily, is left with an emptied bank account and a lot of questions. How could Phil leave her penniless? What was he going to do with the money? And, most of all, who was he if he wasn't the man she thought she married?

    Jerry Hobart has some questions of his own. It's none of his business why he was hired to kill Phil Kramer. But now that he's been ordered to take out Kramer's widow, he figures there's a bigger secret at work - and maybe a bigger payoff.

    richard says: "Thomas Perry is, quite simply, brilliant."
    "A miserable little story, sparingly told."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This seems to be Thomas Perry's attempt to write a kind of 'No Country for Old Men'.

    He doesn't make it.

    A bunch of not-particularly-sympathetic and not-particularly-rounded characters meander through a mystery tale that's competent, rather than compelling. Frankly the revelatory 'twist' exposition which is compulsory in these things was not only thoroughly telegraphed, it was stretched almost beyond breaking-point, and if I hadn't been driving I'd have fast-forwarded through most of it it!

    (And, yet again, we are left to wonder 'what is it with the contemporary American admiration of sociopaths'?)

    Anyway, you get what you pay for, and it's well read. Only, if you have a choice, go for Cormac McCarthy, eh?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By John Quiggin
    • Narrated By Gideon Emery
    Overall
    (37)
    Performance
    (24)
    Story
    (24)

    In the graveyard of economic ideology, dead ideas still stalk the land. The recent financial crisis laid bare many of the assumptions behind market liberalism--the theory that market-based solutions are always best, regardless of the problem. For decades, their advocates dominated mainstream economics, and their influence created a system where an unthinking faith in markets led many to view speculative investments as fundamentally safe.

    Josh says: "Mediocre"
    "They shamble among us, crying out for our brains!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    We live in a world in the feverless grip of undead and undying ideas, whether it be the notion that climate change really isn't happening and the world's science academies are actually over-run by secret Communists, or that austerity is a peachy - and 'commonsense' - antidote to recession.

    Though Quiggin's interests range across the Zombie spectrum, his specialty is Economics, and this is where he concentrates raining his defensive blows in ensuring that the dead stay down, as they're supposed to.

    He patiently, and entertainingly, explains all the reasons that the premises of what he calls Market Liberalism - and what you may know as Thatcherism, Reaganism, or Economic Rationalism - were rendered defunct and incapable of resuscitation by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

    Why have ordinary working people voted against their own best economic interests, across the Anglophone world in particular, for decades? Why do we live in a society where corporations are people, billionaires are 'just plain folk' - and need hardly be expected to pay much in the way of tax accordingly - and yet schoolteachers and climate scientists are dangerous elitists who threaten our way of life? Oh, the humanity!...

    To really know what's gone wrong for the living you must understand the undead, and Quiggin's short tome is a great place to start.

    If I have a criticism it's that Quiggin's short history of ideas in Economics tends to be strongly focused on academics; it sometimes seems as though the ideas might truly only have propagated within ivory towers, rather than having been buoyed along in the social marketplace by the interests of those they have served. Since 1979 that has been, almost exclusively, the 1%; Wall Street, not Main Street, and they have lavishly promoted their necrotising notions with the unprecedented spoils at their disposal.

    This is a great place to start to inoculate yourself against the Zombie pathology.

    Gideon Emery's proficient reading gives a solid Australian voice to this Antipodean author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Mary Roach
    • Narrated By Sandra Burr
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1649)
    Performance
    (902)
    Story
    (894)

    Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? Have sex? Smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour?

    Roy says: "Everything You Always Wanted to Know - and More"
    "Make it Mullane's!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've titled this review in honour of the recommendation that the author makes in a footnote that if you read one astronaut's account of their time in space, you should make it Mike Mullane's.

    The footnoted incident itself caused me some degree of embarrassment, as I burst out laughing loudly - and, to passersby, inexplicably - while strolling down my suburban main street listening to the book on my iPod - via discreet in-canal ear-buds - doubtlessly further enhancing my local reputation for eccentricity.

    This book is popular science writing at its best. The topic is fascinating, the pacing is excellent, and the whole mixture is leavened with good humour. And unexpectedly broad interest: being the only non-seasick member of an otherwise green-of-gill family, the extensive discussion of motion sickness was both intriguing, and surprisingly relevant to non-cosmonautic life.

    There's an unimaginably dazzling array of little things that goes into launching squishy, emotional and erratic humans into space. And big things, of course. This book is an outstanding description of the place where humanity meets technology, at the very edge of the most desolate void we could ever conceive of encountering.

    And it's also a great account of the vast teams of researchers and technicians that lie behind the space-jockeys.

    A great listen. And dazzling well read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Monstrous Regiment: Discworld, Book 31

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett
    • Narrated By Stephen Briggs
    Overall
    (177)
    Performance
    (92)
    Story
    (91)

    It begun as a sudden strange fancy...Polly Perks had to become a boy in a hurry. Cutting off her hair and wearing trousers was easy. Learning to fart and belch in public and walk like an ape took more time. And now she's enlisted in the army, and searching for her lost brother. But there's a war on. There's always a war on. And Polly and her fellow recruits are suddenly in the thick of it, without any training, and the enemy is hunting them.

    Jim says: "War has come to Discworld ... again."
    "Pratchett and Briggs: can you go wrong?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Seriously, people, Terry Pratchett's work is one of the great under-rated treasures of the English language. And whenever his long-time collaborator, Stephen Briggs, is handling the narration, you know you're in for a treat.

    Once upon a time I saw myself as far too highbrow and learned to expose myself to books with trolls, vampires, and werewolves in them. If you, too, shudder at the thought, Dear Reader, then I must tell you now - in the case of Terry Pratchett's work you are wrong in your assumptions, to the point that you may have to consider the possibility that they're irrational prejudices!

    Certainly, some of the early books are exemplars of rather more conventional fantasy, albeit with a few decent jokes thrown in, but later works constitute a wonderful, always empathic, satire of human society, and are strongly Humanist in their sympathies, despite the various fantastic species that gad about in them. Oh, and they're funny, and have cracking plots to boot.

    In 'Monstrous Regiment' we see the adventures of a Pratchett staple - the loyal, kind, and good-hearted young heroine who becomes bolder and more confident in her abilities as she faces the various obstacles the narrative throws at her.

    I compare Polly Perks and the young witch Tiffany Aching, who appears in the 'Hat Full of Sky' "children's*" novels, to the deeply sympathetic, and ultimately empowering, young female heroines of Hayao Miyazaki, as seen in animated masterpieces such as 'Spirited Away' and 'Howl's Moving Castle'.

    The story involves a war in Borogravia, a fictional nation in Pratchett's fictional Disc World, where society is heavily - and amusingly - restricted by the almost endless (and constantly revised and updated) list of those things that are an Abomination Unto Nuggan, the national deity. Things such as garlic, cats, the colour blue, sneezing, and jigsaw puzzles.

    Polly sets out to rescue her somewhat feeble-minded brother, Paul, who has gone away to the war that no-one dares say Borogravia is not winning, and disguises herself as a young man in order to enlist and seek him out at the Front...

    As you'd expect from Pratchett, much - always good-natured - fun is poked at jingoism, religion, and warfare.

    And, as you'd expect from Briggs, the voice characterizations are excellent, and the comic timing is impeccable.

    Highly recommended. If you're new to the Disc World this is as good a place to start as any...




    *News to me! But that's what they officially are, apparently...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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