Houston, TX, United States | Member Since 2008
Steven Erikson writes gorgeous prose and passable poetry (some of it disguised as prose). He has a phenomenal imagination--actually an imagination beyond imagining for me. And he has the patience and discipline to pull a huge number of extraordinary creations together into a world and sequence of events which is consistent and which, by the time you reach the end of the book, seems like it probably all made sense. What he does not seem to have, at least in this first book of his gargantuan series, are a couple of the most basic skills of the story teller: the ability to keep his story in control in a way which will allow the reader to understand enough at any given point to want to press on, and the knack of making us care about characters so that we can invest in the outcomes of the journey we share with them. I tagged along to the end of the trip but only because I hate quitting.
Often while I was listening to the book I was reminded of the Emperor's line in "Amadeus." Having just listened to a Mozart opera, his response was, "Too many notes. Just...too many notes." The Emperor was wrong, of course, and perhaps I am, too, but for me there were just too many characters, factions, near death or return from death moments, deities and demi-gods, etc. etc. This sort of thing really appeals to some readers, and more power to them. For me the prospect of jotting all of this down on cards and arranging them on a wall so that I can keep the myriad factions and interests straight in my mind through the continuous process of alliance and conspiracy is just too much.
But what I found most off-putting was the fact that most of what transpired was the result of manipulation by entities lurking in the background about whom I cared not at all--some of whom I never met until the final confrontation. Since all the humans I might have invested in were parts of different and competing factions, I soon felt as though I were sitting somewhere far removed from the action watching history on which I would eventually have to pass a test if I wanted to get into the game. I realize that this manipulation by the powers beyond was the point of much of the story, but to work it needed to allow us to identify much more powerfully with a few of the human players.
Clearly a lot of listeners have found this book and series riveting, so I encourage you to read the best of the positive reviews and decide. As for me, I will not be continuing through the rest of the series.
This is not a book which would have demanded my complete devotion had it been the first in the Gentleman Bastard series. [You should not even consider jumping into the series with this book!] The verbal pyrotechnics are as delightful as ever; characters grow in fascinating and satisfying ways, and the whole thing makes perfect sense and amuses throughout. But there is definitely a sense that, after a harrowing ordeal, we are traveling through a transitional adventure in preparation for an exquisite confrontation which is yet to come. The plotting and execution by our beloved ne'er-do-wells is decidedly thin and even uninspired, definitely falling short of the grand and intricate designs to which Lynch has accustomed us. There is very little at stake and one could easily sum up the essential action of the book in a couple of brief paragraphs. As a result I was somewhat disappointed after having salivated a messy little puddle on my desk in anticipation of the new adventure.
Until I reached the afterword. Scott Lynch knows how to twist a plot and, in the process, our guts. Republic of Thieves takes care of a lot of necessary business, embedding it in a great deal of wonderful verbal and operational repartee. It gives us Sabatha in marvelous detail and complication. And then it leaves us with a gasp and a shudder which promises an end to trivialities and easy triumphs. I'm drooling again.
Oh, and Michael Page is superb as usual.
Half way through this chilling story my skin began to crawl. Vampires, zombies and Cthulu have never really done it for me, but this modern tale of true believers in a technologically unlimited world will keep me awake tonight. Eggers engineers a flawlessly incremental slide into smiling, wide-eyed hell, and Dion Graham rings the perfect notes of mindless sincerity to turn your stomach and whiten your knuckles during the ride.
Val McDermid handles the language really well, a saving grace in what is otherwise a formulaic, somewhat tiresome story. To be fair, the serial killer genre has been so done to death that it takes almost spectacular inventiveness to give it a fresh face. But that is what we want, isn't it? In this case, if you make a list of the usual elements in the serial killer yarn, you will be able to check them off one by one as you go along without missing a turn or a beat. Even the big twist at the climactic moment is ho-hum-obvious and the denouement is downright banal.
If there is an aspect of this book which is above average as presented in audible form, it is the persona of the killer and the chilling, makes-your-skin-crawl manner in which Graham Roberts brings it to life vocally. It is, after all, only when we are presented with an evil we cannot tolerate that we can really appreciate the struggle necessary to excise it. If only the protagonist pair were equally fascinating, the book would have risen above its prosaic formula, but instead they skirt perilously close to romance novel material, unconvincing and sometimes nearly silly. The author tries to lift the story out of its pedestrian path in a five minute coda at the end, but it is so blatantly an authorial device that it falls flat.
This is the first book in a series. Perhaps it improves, but I was left too disappointed by this one to continue to the next.
The opening scene in The Child Thief, the slow, portentous approach of a mysterious stranger across a frozen landscape, is riveting and absolutely perfect. Incredibly, the book manages to sustain the same mesmerizing, understated quality throughout until the last words of the story, prepared for and half-expected and yet still immensely powerful, leave the listener breathless.
Even as I was drawn inexorably into Dan Smith's dark, harrowing narrative, I had initial misgivings. It seemed to me that some of his characters acted in ways which were too foolish or ignorant for me to credit them even in a remote Ukrainian village paralyzed by fear of the imminent arrival of Stalin's GPU. Before long, however, these considerations had become irrelevant. Even though I occasionally doubted an action, I always believed and understood the emotional truth of the character, and the irresistible momentum of the events established their own logic and carried me along, completely fascinated and captive to the storyteller's voice. The result was the briefest thirteen hours I have ever spent listening to a book
There are a few author/narrator pairings which strike me as extraordinarily "right." Richard Ferrone reading John Sandford's "Prey" novels; Jo Nesbo's work read by Robin Sachs; Steven Pacey's masterful command of Joe Abercrombie's fantasy novels all come to mind. Bronson Pinchot's hypnotic, absolutely bone true first person voice telling Luka's story belongs in that company. It is as fine an example of voice acting as I have ever heard-- restrained, measured, almost painfully quiet and richly expressive of the man and his profoundly moving experience.
It is difficult for me to imagine a listener who would not be caught, entertained and often thrilled by this recording. I strongly recommend that you add it to your wish list, and I suggest you begin it when you have a nice stretch of free time so that you can savor it with few interruptions.
As an ex-Marine, I have profound respect for E.B. Sledge's service in Peleliu and Okinawa. His unit suffered conditions and losses which, as detailed in his account, leave one speechless and awed by the resilience of body and spirit which he and his buddies demonstrated in truly hellish circumstances. The fact that Peleliu was most likely an unnecessary stop along the road to victory makes the sacrifices of these men even more horrifying. Sledge details the ordeal of the 5th Marines as that projected four or five day campaign turned into weeks on a devastated coral landscape in sweltering heat under fire from a determined and tenacious enemy.
What the author does not give us is a compelling picture of the men with whom he served. Much more often than not he relates disconnected vignettes about "a friend" or "another mortar man," choosing to leave the individuals nameless and providing little in the way of a personal throughline which would have provided a cast of characters with whom we could relate. As a result, the very heavy losses his unit suffers are largely impersonal and abstract. He describes wounds and horrifying incidents in chilling detail, but the dead and wounded are anonymous. Even when he tells us of his sorrow at the loss of a superb commanding officer, we are given little in the way of supporting material which might have brought the man alive in our imaginations. There are a handful of exceptions to this approach; two of them are junior officers whom Sledge describes as particularly inept and unlikeable. The rest are, for the most part, faceless and nameless.
Nonetheless, the author does a fine job of explaining his company's maneuvers and involvement in the two campaigns, and as he shares his interior journey during the weeks he spent in action, his growing revulsion at the horrifying waste of young lives is clear and moving. While we do not get to know anyone but him, we do get a grueling and heartbreaking sense of his nightmarish experience in the crucible of war.
I suggest that listeners skip the long introduction included with this book. Its only purpose seems to be to convince us of what a great account we are about to read by quoting most of the best passages one by one out of context.
His life and WORLD indeed. This is much more than a detailed biography of a fascinating man. Massie includes extensive character studies of every major figure on the European scene during Peter's rule, with major digressions into the social and political landscape in which they operated. The result is a sweeping appraisal of the age in Russia and its European and Ottoman environs, filled with evocative detail which brings it all to life. I found it most convenient to listen in fairly small bites over a long period of time and enjoyed the book extremely. Some of this history was fairly new to me, and following the peripatetic and much larger than life Peter through his extraordinary life was a great way to get to know it.
There is a good deal of military and campaign narrative in the book for which it is helpful to have some maps close at hand. The writing is of such a high caliber, however, that even those who are bored by military history will likely find enough colorful detail, along with glimpses of a plethora of intriguing characters of all stripes, to maintain interest. And in the end this is definitely not a book dominated by battles. Even in a narrative which is so wide ranging and all encompassing, only one subject dominates--the towering personage of Peter.
My only regret about this huge book is that so much of it will pass out of my memory in short order. Perhaps in a few years I will listen again, and that is high praise about so long a book from a person who almost never rereads.
Finally, though the book is decades old, written before the end of the Soviet Union, it still stands up very well, even read by Frederick Davidson in his sometimes irritatingly mannered style. I recommend it highly to any fan of well written popular history.
Hallinan is writing some of the most enjoyable, offbeat crime novels around today. He creates fascinating, deeply human characters. His Bangkok soon begins to feel familiar to us and yet still never ceases to fascinate, unsettle and beguile. And Poke Rafferty is an unusual combination of sweet, domestic yearning and exotic street smarts, fiercely determined to protect and nurture his incipient family and precariously balanced between viscera and grey matter.
As with all of the Rafferty books, the plot of "Nail" is complex and satisfying. Also typical is the fact that there are no easy answers to the good/evil questions as the story unwinds. In fact, the traditional categories of villain and victim are turned on their heads here.
This is the first of the Poke Rafferty series, and a great place to start, though I began with "The Queen of Patpong," a remarkably good book, and have enjoyed coming back to the early offerings without any problem with spoilers. As I write this I find that "Queen" is currently unavailable, but I hope Audible will restore it to the active list very soon. Wherever you begin, I strongly advise you to start now. This is very good stuff and is extremely well read by Victor Bevine. Enjoy!
As always, JLB's writing is masterful and his characters engrossing. I have to admit, however, that I do wish he would move on to a new theme. I found myself growing impatient with the periodic disquisitions on the nature and power of evil and the impotence of our common response to it. In addition, returning to this theme, which he has mined repeatedly in the brilliant Robicheaux series, forces him to create villains who, more and more, strain credibility. The fact that this was a particularly long entry in the series did not help matters.
That said, the most satisfying part of "Light of the World" is the presence of the entire crew of familiar characters, often working at cross purposes despite their profound affection and respect for one another. The basic human dimensions of Burke's writing are always both fascinating and satisfying. The addition of a pair of new characters who are complex and perversely endearing is an added bonus, and I suspect we will see them again in the future.
With the possible exception of one somewhat annoying character voice, Will Patton's work on this recording is brilliant. I especially like the way he changes not only his character voice but the narrator voice as well when the action moves from Dave's 1st person to Dave omniscient. Creative and interesting.
If this were the first Robicheaux novel I had ever read, I would probably give it five stars across the board. As it is, it was certainly more than worth the time and credit, but I do hope Burke will find some new thematic ground to till with Dave.
With fear and trembling I beg to offer a minority opinion. I found this book to be poorly written, devoid of surprises, unimaginative and often shockingly illogical.
In a nation beset by a plague which is killing thousands of people, why would there be a program in which random uninfected citizens would be injected with the virus so that they could be given experimental antidotes? With hard drives already on their way to becoming a thing of the past today, why would they be an integral part of the computing technology of the distant future? And in a society where transportation is based on "hovers," why would there still be conventional streets at all much less an old internal combustion vehicle still visible and salvageable in a junk yard? And the gasoline for this dinosaur?
These are only a few of the myriad lapses which make the book completely unconvincing and repeatedly jarred me out of the world in which the story takes place.
Rebecca Soler soldiers on through this silliness adequately, even when Meyer forces her to read flat out malapropisms. Was there an editor involved with this book?
This is all pretty sad because I was looking forward to listening to Cinder based on the concept and all the glowing reviews. Not to mention that well turned ankle in the scarlet pump on the cover. Sadly the cover art turned out to be the best part of the book.
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