I feel I have to title my review this way because although I'm very glad this event happened, and I have boundless admiration for the people who participated in the raid, including the author, I can't honestly say it was a great book.
To be fair to 'Mark Owen', his ghostwriter, Kevin Maurer, does bear some responsibility for taking a tired, pseudo military thriller approach to the story. The first half of the book is a very mediocre, dramatized 'montage' approach to what it takes to be a Navy Seal and rise up through the ranks to do the type of special operations detailed in the book. As heart-pounding action-thrillers go, it's lacking in the kind of tangible, humanizing elements that elevate good stories of this kind out of the G.I. Joe stereotype.
The second half of the book deals with the raid itself in a very dry, accurate and factual way. It paints a clear picture of the anti-climactic demise of Osama Bin Laden. It probably would have taken a ghost writer with superior skills to Maurer's to forge the rising anticipation, the fear, the frustrations into a more gripping read/listen.
I need to make it clear that I'm not dissing the Navy Seal. I'm just saying a better ghost writer might have done more to bring his story to life.
Many critics have questioned this author's motives for writing the book, and I think the end of the story really exposes them. He's clearly not in it for the money - since most of the profits from this book are going to veteran's charities. I think he's a man who is bitter about the 'spin' the media and the administration gave the killing of Bin Laden, because having been an eye-witness to it, he feels the factual truth was good enough and didn't require embellishment.
But he's also a man, like many in front line positions, who holds tremendous animosity towards anyone with a say in military policy and decision-making who isn't sitting beside him in combat gear, holding a firearm. I think most people who experience war on the front lines feel this way. But it sours the end of the book rather badly. Because the author is clearly not a fan of Obama, and says so often and, at times, in disparaging ways.
This book is a) a first hand account of the raid, b) a portrait of what these admirable and brave people go through to serve their country and c) a concerted effort on the part of the author to deny the present administration any share in the glory of Bin Laden's final demise.
(Note to future administrations: If you say you're going to have a beer with the guys your pinning medals on, you'd better keep your promise. Otherwise they end up bitter and write books like this one.)
And although I thoroughly commiserate with the author's 'walk a mile in my shoes' feelings, I also think it does damage to the nobility of an account of what was a brave, courageous and well-implemented military action. I wouldn't want to walk in Owen's shoes, nor would I want to be responsible for making decisions about the fate of a whole country, its security, its economy and its place as superpower.
I think it may be a central flaw in attempting to write a first person account of this sort of experience too close to the actual event, without the distance of some time and consideration to put the events in proportion. There have been some outstanding first-person accounts of war, but rarely are they written so soon after the event.
The narration by Holter Graham was perfect for the material.
First, I have to say that the narration was superb on this audiobook and it made what was a nice little mystery with a poorly structured narrative bearable. Researchers are, understandably, in love with their own process and so they should be. But it's a mistake to believe this automatically translates into a compelling story structure.
There were a number of ways to go about using what is a very interesting set of factual events to construct a novel: you can simply dramatize the facts and weave them into a historical novel (with either the research subject as the narrator or a secondary character as narrator); you can construct the whole piece as a collection of found documents, the way Dracula is constructed, in epistolary form; or you can take the contemporary discovery approach by having the researcher there in the story as a quasi-detective (as was done here). The mistake that researchers who try to turn their research into prose often make is to present themselves as an inert figure. No entity in a story is ever inert and attempting to present them that way is always a mistake in anything but academic writing which is why I agree with an earlier reviewer that this reads slightly like someone's PhD thesis.
Another problem with the story is repetition. This could have used an editor with a firmer hand. Repeating research findings is perfectly acceptable in academic writing, but it's just irritating in what needs to have a more fluid approach. Trust your reader to remember what you wrote three chapters ago. They usually do.
Finally, this this was irritating, the author telegraphs important discovery events by hyping what she's found before she tells you what it is. This really spoils the a-ha moment for a prose-reader. If anything, the opposite approach is more effective. To downplay the advent before a really surprising discovery is revealed.
Sounds like a really unsatisfactory audiobook, but it wasn't. Admittedly, this isn't a book of startling and shocking revelations. It's a gentle, poignant and almost literary unfolding of a man's life. But the core of it is an intriguing story. And, as I said at the beginning, the narration is outstanding, and mitigates a lot of the structural flaws.
This is a very compelling story and I think I'm going to have to listen to it again because there's more to be gotten out of it. Although not set in the future, it reminded me in terms of cross-cultural speculative fiction, of Bachigalupi's Wind Up Girl.
The writing is excellent and the non-linear storyline, which can sometimes be a little hard to cope with in audiobook form, works fluidly and well. The characters are well fleshed out, especially the main character who is flawed and juicy.
There is a lot of very graphic violence in the novel, and it is painstakingly and viscerally described, so if you have a problem with that, you might want to steer clear of it, but I felt it was right for the story, and served it well.
The performance is good, although I found that the male voices, with southern accents, got a tiny bit muddled. But not enough to spoil the experience of the book.
It's not that this was a terrible story, it just wasn't a very good one and certainly not a particularly fresh or well-told one.
I can see that other people loved it, but I felt it dragged, pace-wise. And if I read another horror story where the conflict centers around a couple where the husband keeps flatly denying there is anything supernatural going on, for 5 hours, I'm going to scream.
That particular plot device has worn very thin with me.
You need to have some patience to listen to this novella. The language is exquisite, the sense of place and time and mood are engrossing. If you listen to audiobooks for plot and excitement, this is not the book for you.
But as a novel that explores character, relationships, the extreme subjectivity of human perception and how time acts upon those things, then this may be one of the most eloquent examinations of those things ever written.
Although I did not give Kidman's narration a full five stars, there is nothing wrong with it. However, two things bothered me. Her pace of reading is quite fast, and this is a problem when the point of view changes from one character to another within a scene. I'm assuming there are scene breaks in the original text version which make clear whose point of view is being used, but in audio form, a slightly slower read, with more pauses between scenes would have been helpful. Secondly, I found her Aussie accent slightly jarring for this particular novel. I think it might have suited a more neutral English or American accent better - just because I have a better capacity for overlooking those accents. It's an entirely culturally subjective view, but then narrators affect us at that level.
I enjoyed the story. It's got a very twisty plot with a bit of an homage to one of literature's greatest horror novels (I won't say which, because that will give away the story). The setting is well described, eerie and tension-filled. It's a tale narrated through a number of different character's POVs and documents, which makes the pacing slightly odd, but helps to keep you on the edge of your seat and guessing.
The one part of the story I thought was a big of a let-down was the rather superficial, convenient characterizations. There are some really intriguing characters in the story and I thought they could have been better fleshed out. I got the feeling they were left tenuous in order to allow the plot more flexibility. When I can see that in a story, it bothers me a little.
Nonetheless, as a thriller/murder mystery, it makes for good listening.
This is a very interior novel. It has some lovely literary elements to it and I did enjoy it. The atmosphere is seductive and gripping, and the character is nicely developed.
However, I found the narration hard to cope with. The Scottish brogue is thick and unremitting and, to my ears, somewhat artificial. Reynolds does Irish and Northern English accents very well, but his Scottish burr leaves something to be desired.
I suggest you listen to the audio sample provided to see if it works for you.
I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling and restructuring of Hamlet. I began listening with moderate expectations, knowing the play well and expecting it would just be a fleshing out of the original, but it was so much more than that.
The authors have done a wonderfully creative job of approaching the tale from a fresh, very lateral perspective. Lesser events and characters in the play are brought to the fore, and a wonderful layer of Machiavellian political intrigue suffuses the story. The same is true of the play's original paranormal elements. The authors have developed it into a lush political and psychological thriller.
I didn't give the story five stars only because I found the villain of the piece (I won't tell you who it is because that would be a huge spoiler) a little underdeveloped and cardboardish. That being said, this was more than a retelling of the play. If you like historical mysteries or alternate histories, you'll love this. It's rich and atmospheric and wonderful.
The narration was outstanding.
I do owe Foster a thanks for introducing me to the world of 'preppers', and giving me something to chew over when it comes to why there are so many people looking forward to the apocalypse. However, as a novel, this is poorly constructed.
As with many fetishists, Foster makes the common mistake of believing his readers will share his obsession with preparing for the looming apocalypse. Consequently, he offers no insight for the mainstream reader into the hows or whys of people who have caught the 'prepping' bug. There's no context to the characters. In fact, there is very little effort to examine any of the characters' motivations. The plot flits around, clumsily interrupted with recipes, hints on prepping, and long digressions on different types of ammunition. The whole novel is dripping with a curious sort of schadenfreude towards the non-prepping majority, and there is no sense that the author was even aware of this.
Consequently, I was relieved when it was over.
It is a deep shame that the Financial Times' critique of Piketty's data is going to put some people off from buying and listening to this book, because a few quibbles about a very small amount of the data (on the UK only) doesn't detract from the validity of this detailed piece of analysis. It won't matter that many other well-respected economists defend Piketty's use of the data, or the robustness of his argument. For the readers of the FT, for those who represent the top 10% of weathholders, or those who aspire to be one of them, this book is a fundamental threat to their plans.
It's a long book, and it takes some concentration to listen to. Looking at the linked PDFs help to bring the stats and numbers to life. But I found it incredibly worthwhile. The central argument - that R>G (capital always trumps growth) is successfully and persuasively argued six ways from Sunday. And that is something not even Piketty's most vehement detractors can argue against.
Nor did I find Piketty's conclusions and suggestions even close to being the 'radical marxist' ones that he's been accused of holding by the press. He's conscious of the fundamental value of entrepreneurship, of a vibrant market.
When all is said and done, this book will polarize its readers along ideological lines. Because ultimately he's asking the question: what do we want our society to look like? He argues very persuasively that many of the ways we have sought to establish fairness and meritocracy in society have been ineffective in the long run.
This book threatens those who continue to perpetuate the myth that there are even playing fields: that financial success is based on merit, that opportunity is available to everyone, that trickle-down economics works, that education is the great leveler. There are good reasons why certain groups find this book threatening. It erodes the very thin veneer that the free market is truly free.
But it is also a very optimistic book. Piketty offers some very 'unradical' solutions for how to mitigate the problem of rapidly accelerating wealth concentration. It's not a 'downer' at all.
The narration is good for such a long and complex book. Well chosen to be easy on the ears but still engage the concentration. I found it well worth the credit and the time I spent on it.
I loved the premise of this novel: serial killers, psychic investigators, forensics. As a fan of detective fiction, murder mysteries and a bit of the paranormal, I was so looking forward to reading this, especially since it was the first in a series. I really wanted to like it.
I found Walker's writing very hard to stomach. He head-hops in mid-scene (switches from the POV of one character to another), which is disorienting enough in text form and almost vertiginous in audiobook form.
There are incredibly long passages of diegetic (telling) narrative in which we are told rather than shown the story. I'm not opposed to 'telling' and enjoy stories with a certain amount of interior dialogue and reflection to add an emotional dimension to the story, but this goes on and on, making the story feel sluggish, claustrophobic and boring.
I was also not terribly crazy about Ted Brooks' narration. He's fine when he's not trying to do women's voices. But when he does, they sound so much like a man trying to sound like a women, it becomes comedic and distracting.
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