This is a cliche 60's style B-movie overly stretched to novel length. 4 teens in a Dawn of the Dead scenario. The Breakfast Club set-up unfortunately falls flat from artificial, witless and humorless dialogue. If you can overlook this, there is a little coming-of-age redemption going on thru the long middle 3/4s of the story. The drawn-out action and conversations follow smoothly enough but the prose is formulaic or calculated rather than artful or insightful.
If you love the genre, maybe you'll endure it. For improved near-human metaphysics, consider a Christopher Moore book instead ("Lamb" if you want some adolescent characters, all the others involve mostly young adults).
Everyone should read this book. Possibly you could find a couple other books that cover the subjects better but I don't know them and this has a lot to get you started.
As noted by others, it's perhaps 2 books in 1. Gardner does a great job of presenting the recent about-face in our model or understanding about how we think. Our primitive, quick and emotional brain is in the driver's seat but is prone to many mistakes from biases no longer appropriate in the modern world. Our conscious and learned brain is reasoned but slow and lazy and loathe to override our hunches. The various vestigial biases from our prior evolution are very well explained in lay terms and this is the most valuable lesson I've learned from any book in many years.
How our subconscious biases lead to mistakes in judgement and distortions of danger and risk are similarly well explained. How these biases led to (what I'll call) the mass hysteria over 9-11 and terrorism is then covered in perhaps excess.
This leads to a 2nd way this book was so revolutionary to me, from the hub-bub over the initial terrorism to the Iraq invasion, I was aghast that media and the public were so uniformly enthralled and supportive of our government's efforts. As a physician, I see every day the effects of overeating, under-exercising and smoking. These lifestyle factors kill 100 times more per year in the US than the single terrorist event. Why was everyone ignoring these real threats to American prosperity/well-being and focusing on a remote and irrelevant threat of terrorism? Having read the book, now I know.
Knowing how people make decisions has changed the way I practice medicine. e.g.: One bias you'll learn we have is, if a product or technology is perceived to have high benefit, it is automatically assigned low danger and vice versa. Specifically in my business, if a drug is thought to have high danger, it automatically is seen as having low benefit. And, once this danger/benefit level is assigned, it won't change. I no longer argue when my patients say they're afraid to try a drug I think may help them if they've seen the TV ad and are frightened. I'll just have to try something else. I won't convince a smoker to quit with facts and figures, they have to be scared. Seeing a picture of smoker's lungs at autopsy is worth more than a thousand words.
(Another vice versa: the public universally perceives a hospital as the place that can save you from the worst disease and injury. The extreme danger from being in a hospital and over-use of medications and interventions is not factored in.)
To live well in the modern world, you must understand your caveman biases and how they lead to wrong decisions. Politicians and advertisers know them well and use them to trick you continuously. Unfortunately, one of our biases is that we don't see biases in ourselves. (We have poor metacognition despite what we think. Is that ironic?) So our biases must be explained to us in a non-offensive way (as soon as you hear something opposing your world-view, your likely to dismiss the rest). This book does an excellent job. I think it has taught me more than a year's worth of medical school.
I think this is fifth in the Thursday Next series. A worthy addition, tho the plot pattern is beginning to get familiar. other reviews have summarized well, I have 2 points to make:
1. Start at the beginning with the Eyre Affair, or as early in the series as you can. The first book introduces a bizarre and amusing world and the following couple books add some wild dimensions.
2. Emily Gray sounds like she's middle aged or beyond and perhaps appropriate for Thursday's time of life in this book. Her words are clipped and quick but excellently enunciated and I have no real complaint. But Elizabeth Sastre did the earliest narrations and her voice is a real treasure. Her voice is richer, like Glenda (witch of the north in Wizard of Oz) but sexier. Definitely more pleasant to hear and more appropriate for a young Thursday. I got the earlier books on cassette or CD from the library and the first 3 for sure are narrated by her. I notice some of the same books are by Emily Gray on Audible: get the Elizabeth Sastre versions if you can.
Are all New Yorkers stupid? This book would have you believe that officials in high places and New York's smartest high achievers all panic at the sight of a dead body and make 1 stupid decision after another. And that FBI supervisors are untrained with the emotions of tween-age girls. You have to overlook a barrage of unlikely and stupid choices to enjoy this book. POSSIBLY A SPOILER alert: And you will come up against another common pattern for this genre, where a clever creature that has maintained a secret existence suddenly has a death-wish at the time the book's narration begins.
If you are able to dismiss a series of unlikely events and characters with simplistic mentation, you will have nearly 2 hours of suspense and thrills at the end of this book.
This book and Wil Wheaton's narration are AWESOME. It's a great RE-LISTEN book, even though you know the plot, the excellent prose and Wheaton's voice remain rewarding and you can cheer for the characters more the 2nd, 3rd time.
So many reviews already, not much can be added. But IF YOU'RE A RIGHT-WINGED CAPITALIST, THIS BOOK WON'T REFLECT YOUR WORLD VIEW. The subject and point-of-view is expressed inoffensively (and the subjects loveable) but the hero is a lawyer and courts have power and the industrialist is a bad guy and environmentalism is summarily the theme. (Though a conservative person, I loved this but I imagine some people I know wouldn't.) Just a warning.
If you like Jasper Fforde or Terry Pratchett, you will likely love this also. This book is possibly less far-fetched, and more concise than their books but the good-natured humor rivals and the conversational constructs probably exceed.
Not going to write a deep review, just wanted to say: This is a pleasant fantasy involving magical, semi-immortal characters with a well-worn plot: someone turns evil and the feud extends through time. It's aimed at teenage listeners/readers but suitable for adults as there aren't any disparaging plot holes or intelligence-insulting aspects.
Mostly, Wil Wheaton is an excellent story teller with a great voice. Consider his other works. In the science fantasy genre I think the Scalzi books, like Fuzzy Nation, are more interesting.
Harold Fry is honest and mannerly but dim and forgetful. He has a sort of "I just felt like running" moment with an irrational purpose. The entire book describes his trek and the observations of Harold and wife Maureen who mostly stays home.
Unlike Forrest, Harold is not optimistic nor buoyant. He is a witness to some social phenomena and meets a famous person but otherwise this book is very different. The mood is mostly cold-drizzle bleak and the attitude is stiff-upper-lip British; it very much lacks the sunny and upbeat tone of typical American literature.
As Harold walks north across England, he meets some kind people, makes some observations, learns some things, recalls some repressed memories and deals with frailties of the flesh. He remains steadfastly agnostic, humorless and non-spiritual. His interpretation of his observations seems simple, existential and non-judgemental but often astute. You see the British people and culture examined through the eyes of a lowly citizen. In parallel, it's an uncomplicated, evenly (and slowly) plotted story; sub-themes and revelations partly distract from the otherwise unrelenting dreary atmosphere.
I make it through about 85% of audible books and this was a close call. I had to stop periodically and thank God for the better life I was given as Harold's is a real downer. (I use the Forrest Gump compare/contrast above to convey my overall impression and help you decide if you want a listen. But I'm not claiming it's a close or apt analogy.) Obviously, listen to a sample before buying.
Harold isn't someone you'd probably pick for a close friend and he had a tough life; hearing his story continuously may wear on you, but the near-excellent British prose and story development may make it worthwhile.
Kathy Mallory is back in 10th book. This is the only one I've heard but my wife has read all. If you're wondering if this is for you, a couple comments: Mallory is a rare female counterpart to the schizoid personality disorder type or gunslinger. She has some admirable strengths -- tough, smart, relentless in pursuit of solving murders -- qualities found in many male characters but blended into a well-dressed tomboy homicide detective.
As a male listener, I'm put off somewhat by 2 things: 1. Barbara Rosenblat has an unpleasant smoker's type voice, can't really do a male or child's voice. (She also reads for Nevada Barr, a distinctly misandristic author). 2. In an early scene, Mallory cruelly destroys the property of a teen- or tween-age boy for no good reason. When I was 12, I worked about 140 hours on a farm to earn the money for a similar toy (a cassette-radio in the early 70's) and deeply treasured this possession. I would have been devastated if someone had done this to me and just can't cheer for a character who is so outright mean.
As the story progresses, Mallory enjoys hurting or intimidating many others, but males certainly take the brunt of this. I'm guessing that the presence of a vulnerable little girl in the narrative is supposed to balance all this out. Thematic tension begins to mount: though the girl adores Mallory, is this really reciprocated? Or does Mallory coldly play the girl like she does everyone else?
If you don't need a warm and fuzzy protagonist and perhaps enjoy the turnabout in gender roles delivered by a gruff older female voice, this isn't a bad listen. (If you're already a fan, my view as a newbie is impertinent anyway. You already knew you were going to listen.)
(of previous reviews, Rebecca, "...ear burning" has good encapsulation.)
this flowed smoothly as 3-4 narratives confluence. Several complaints are legitimate: our protagonist is flawed, stereotypical and shallow generally but this oscillates with aggrandizement. The work of a large FBI investigation is largely done by Will's sidekick alone, only 2 total people seem to be involved and there's no particular protocol. This is not terribly suspenseful: most revelations are foreshadowed and obvious well before they are explicit. Though the detail and character development descriptions never seem gratuitous, the book is about 1/3 too long for what is an interesting but not intricate plot. i.e. somewhat pleonastic.
But, that's the most I could find wrong. the book flows well, smooth narrative and crisp dialog. Beside the narrative-expedience of minimal supporting characters, there was good verisimilitude (rarely thought, "Oh that can't happen" or "no one would say that"). Deftly written, prose is devoid of repetition or excess cliche. Generally cheerful, though not overtly clever or funny, it continued to entertain and avoided tragic or macabre mood.
On a gut level, I loved it and looked forward to getting back to it until done. I was glad to read that the author has another similar book, shall start looking for it.
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