Lee Child is a genius at taking all the tropes of an action movie, and of a ridiculously competent action lead, and making them feel believable and grounded. Reacher is somewhere between Rambo and Sherlock Holmes in his ability to work out whats going on and deal with it in the most efficiently violent way possible. What helps the reader suspend their disbelief is that nothing in these books is vague; everything is meticulously explained. But Child doesn't drily regurgitate his research, he writes with a crisp, spare, lively style. The pacing is also excellent, the tension never letting up as we track the movements of the several parties involved. The various mysteries and cliffhangars threading the book are maintained expertly. Child is a master of leaking information to the reader in one subplot just as it will affect them most because of what's going on in the other subplot. The supporting cast are well sketched enough to keep easy track of, and to feel genuinely attached to in many cases. In this outing, Holly Johnson serves as Reacher's point woman, emerging as perhaps more impressive than even Reacher.
This is definitely one I'd reccommend unabridged. The plot is ruthlessly lean in any case. I also think action thrillers like this are particularly great for audio. Listening to a Reacher as you get on with your work is like watching a movie without the inconvenience of having to look at a screen. Some books you want to immerse yourself in the lyrical language on the printed page. Listening on audio, you might not get to wallow in the beauty of the descriptions, and the beautifully-crafted lines of dialogue might be coloured by indifferent performances. A Reacher is not a book that you have to worry about this.
John McClain gave a thoroughly creditable performance. His tone was laconic, but engagingly varied (on another Reacher novel the reader's habit of giving every line the exact same intonation began to get to me). McClain's voices for each character were suitable (if a little extreme sometimes - the bad guy sounded like both Mickey Mouse and Michael Jackson at points, and General Garber's overly gruff bark made me burst out laughing), and largely consistent. I did feel McClain got a bit mixed up at a few points and ascribed the wrong voice to a the wrong character, or accidentally carried a character's voice over into his narration. But these were rare instances within a very enjoyable performance.
Divergent is a decent, trashy read, but I feel it aspires to be something more. To be fair, some of the ideas are lovely - the personality caste system is interesting - but Roth hasn't built the idea or the world into anything that delivers on this promise at all. The worldbuilding and imagined social systems are so unrobust in their creation that they don;' stand up to the tiniest prod of critical thought. The twists and turns of the novel rely on the reader not finding it immediately obvious how fundamentally stupid the system described is from the first page. The caste idea is interesting but it needed a lot more thought behind it before it was ready to convince in a novel. For contrast Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games dytopia is perhaps no more plausible a world than this, but she fills it with enough convincing detail that it feels solid and real. Roth would need to spend a lot more time fleshing out her world with texture and particularity before it became anything like as compelling.
Adrift in this poorly constructed environment, the central character of Tris fails to really engage as her struggles are as stupid as the world they result from. It would be easier to care about her dilemma between becoming Abnegation or Dauntless or whatever if there was a feeling that the system this was part of made any kind of sense to begin with and wasn't merely being set up to be torn down over the course of the book(s). She also suffers first-person-Katniss-angst, where - because we are in her head - we get to hear endlessly about her anguished feelings on every subject. First-person angst is a big turn-off, and Tris doesn't have Katniss's compensating dry humour or practical competence. Her personality is vaguely defined, Roth making a very common mistake amongst young writers that angst is the same thing as character. Tris' exploits were often interesting, but without a firm grasp on what kind of person she was, what came naturally to her and what she had to work at etc, it was impossible to really feel moved by anything she did. She seemed to act at random. That I didn't completely hate her is about the highest compliment I can muster. Divergent is a perfectly good listen - it's pacey enough to keep you going through (though I'd advise an abridged version, with any luck a lot of the fat is trimmed). If you're on a post-apocalyptic dystopia kick, and don't feel like anything remotely challenging, this is fine. I always enjoy a story with a bit of a warrior training narrative (but if you want a series where that is done well, check out Tamora Pierce's Alanna or Kel books).
The performance is fine - not monotonous, and the reader actually sounds young (unlike the narrator of the Hunger Games audio books). My one point of confusion was her pronunciation of Erudite, which she pronounces eh-ee-ah-dite. But perhaps this is some valid variant pronunciation of which I was not previously aware.
This a great listen, sections of it being amongst the best Lee Child has done. The opening section of the book, from the point where Reacher accept a lift hitchhiking, to the point he eventually leaves the car, is fantastically tense and intriguing. Both Child and Reacher are in their element here: a tightly controlled environment, with three strangers to suss out and very little to go on, and the dawning realisation that no one in the car is telling the truth... Child's meticulous description of environment and people, Reacher's methodical, pin-sharp throught-narrative, play out fantastically as he tries to get to grips with the mysterious situation. The parallel narrative of a FBI murder investigation interplays very very with Reacher's story as we begin to understand how the events are connected. When Reacher does leave the car, his teamwork with the FBI agent continues to be tense and fascinating. All the Bourne-style evasion tactics, and Sherlock-Holmes-style investigation tactics get a thorough workout. And then I feel the bottom drops out of the story a bit. Without wishing to give anything away, when What's Going On finally becomes clear about three quarters of the way through, a lot of the impetus from the two third of the book seems to be lost. There are some great twists, but perhaps at the expense of a lot of the final third not feeling like its been sufficiently set up by the rest of the book. The ending is a great set piece for any action thriller, though, so it;s hardly a major critisism.
He seemed well cast for the tone of the book - measured, laconic and dry, like Child's writing. However, on occasion his determination to intone every line of the narrative in the same way did annoy me. I know Child's writing style is repetitive: he likes to list everything Jack Reacher is thinking about or looinkg at in short, neutral sentences. Harding would give each sentence the exact same rhythm and tonal pattern which got to be a bit grating as the sentences piled up, especially when there were long stretches of narrative with no dialogue to break it up. I wasn't totally convinced by his perfromance of some characters either. He gave the female characters the same exact voice, and delivered Sorrenson's lines in particular in a way I felt was at odds with how they were written (e.g. he made her sound calm where I thought the dialogue implied she was annoyed, or angry where I thoughtthe line was amused etc). I've heard a lot worse performances, though, and Harding certainly kept my attention.
I personally don't get on with Fenton-Stevens' reading. I think I've listened to other readings by him, and there's something I find a little grating about his tone - a kind of heavy-handed emphasis, where for something like Pratchett-related stuff I think a drier, subtler reading works better.
I say I think a non-Pratchett fan would enjoy the book because despite the title, the book is really about the folklore of the Earth, using the Discwrold books as a jumping-off point. This makes sense because practically very bit of folklore in the books is based - often surprisingly - on genuine Earth folklore. Critics who don't actually read Pratchett often give him the side-eye for filling his books with things that can't possibly belong to real literature (a world on the back of four elephants and a turtle, treacle mines, verruca gnomes etc) but this book demonstrates how much of the Disc is built not out of a crazed imagination but solid Earth myth and lore.Which is not to detract from the genius mind that put it all together in unique form; the book in fact serves to demonstrate just how learned and wise Pratchett is as a writer.I'm not sure this book added much to my enjoyment of the Discworld books themselves - Pratchett may have used Earth materials, but he has made them so much part of the Disc in the writing that knowing the origins of the ideas often doesn't add very much for me - but it was a fascinating look at folklore in general. There's also a lovely interview recorded at the end between Practhett and folklorist Jaqueline Simpson. Folklore is certainly an area I plan to read more about now.
there's something about a slightly dry, meticulously researched text that works really well for me on audio. I'd put this pretty high, as I certainly think I'll be listening several times. The information is so densely packed that I'd be sure to get something new from the book each time, no matter how many plays I gave it.
No, but I don't see why a book only lasting one sitting would be a good thing! I listened to it in bits - on train journeys, and as I work at home. In this way it has lasted me a week or so, and I've still not finished my first listen.
I was looking for something Bill-Bryson-esque as I have exhausted the man's back-catalogue. I particularly love the way he deals with the minutiae of history - and how apparent minutiae often turns out to be far more significant to world events than would have been guessed (see At Home, particularly).So as soon as I spotted Here Is Where on Audible's History front page, I was pretty sold. A quick preview was enough to convince me the tone wasn't boring or frustratingly badly phrased.Comparisons to Bryson are a bit unfair, because there's no suggestion that Carroll is trying to emulate him - they just operate on similar territory (they even quote from many of the same sources and take interest in similarly little-known areas). Carroll does not have a background in comedic writing and while his tone is light and engaging (and once or twice quite chucklesome) he does not write with the wry tone that I love in Bryson.However, his writing is still lovely to listen to - his humanity and deftness of phrase manage to convey the stories herein with pathos (though never sentimentality), outrage at injustice, sympathy and amusement by turns. The figures he paints linger in the memory because he is good at conveying their characters without over-labouring the exercise.I found the 'travelogue' elements of the book less successful. while it was interesting to hear about present-day memorial and remembrance (or more usually lack thereof) in contrast with the extraordinary histories described, a lot of the detail of his endeavours often felt a little pointless and distracting. There wasn't enough travelogue stuff to give you a sense of his parallel narrative, but there was too much to serve only as a little background colour. The eye for the unusual or quirky or interesting he applies successfully to historical events is missing from accounts of his own experience (and from the sound of it his travels were largely uneventful anyway) so whereas the people in his historical accounts are fascinating, the people he meets are all just forgettably nice. I was glad he encountered such helpfulness but wasn't sure why I needed to hear about it outside of an acknowledgement page.I wasn't sure the structure worked brilliantly in the middle section, either, where he grouped all the stories of medical breakthough. After two or three such stories the effect was rather repetitive. Similarly, the first section focused on the more tragic and unjust episodes, and coming one after another like this gives the book a overwhelmingly gloomy start. I would have preferred the stories not be arranged by 'type' in this way, but intersperesed with each other, to keep the tone a bit more lively and variedBut those are really minor critisisms, and probably just personal preference. Carroll wrote a great book, and reads it very well for audio as well.A definite recommend from me!
I went for 'A Short History'... because I have so much enjoyed listening to his later book 'At Home'. I've listened to the latter several times now. Bill Bryson's ability to turn a broad subject into a fascinating narrative, full of wit and personality, and an always evident delight in his subject, made 'At Home' one of my favourite audiobooks. Since my understanding of even quite basic scientific theory is quite woeful, I hoped I might find the same delight in his 'Short History...'. While it might take a few more listens before I really understand a lot of the information, the book had the important effect on me of feeling science is an area of wonder and delight.
I will certainly be listening to the book again - in fact the moment it came to an end the first time round, I went straight back to the beginning!
William Roberts' narration is good - I preferred hearing Bryson narrating his own words on 'At Home', as his dry delivery matches his spoken tone the best, of course. But Roberts interpreted the tone of the books well too.
This is one of the few absolutely sublime comedies to have come from Radio 4 in recent years. To me it's a direct descendant of 'Hitchhiker's Guide' (the eponymous book of which was, of course, a kind of proto-Wikipedia). There's a loose arc connecting the episodes (and connecting this series to the previous one), and like the best sketch shows the individual entries together form a particular silly, satirical world view.
I think series two is maybe not QUITE as good as series one - it's as if the creators heeded some of the criticisms that the pace was too fast and the format difficult to keep up with the first time round, so it's a bit toned down for this return. Since I loved the frenetic pace, I prefer the first series a little.
But series two did not disappoint in building upon what the previous run had one, and expanding it into ever funnier territory
The performers are pitch-perfect, the main narrator definitely channeling a little of Peter Jone's 'Guide' in his deadpan delivery of the articles. The sound production was also excellent, creating an audio version of the multi-media internet experience very effectively.
This was laugh-out-loud for me - not just smirking or tittering appreciatively, but actually having big laughs startled out of me!
Just hugely recommended!
McCormick's reading of the story is mostly competent. Her voice is pleasant to listen to, not monotonous, and she gives the different characters their own voices. There are a few odd readings of lines - one or two mispronunciations of words or misunderstandings of how a sentence is meant to be read.
For example, there's a line that runs something like 'by the way Peeta says this I know blah blah....' (as ''from the manner in which Peeta say this, I know...').
McCormak reads it as if there's a comma there: 'by the way, Peeta says this, I know...' (as in, 'incidentially, Peeta says this, I know...') rendering the sentence nonsensical.
There's few examples of careless slips like this, things which should have been picked up on in the recording.
But overall a good read.
I listened to this is just a couple of sittings while I got on with work. Though the first third drags rather, I was engaged enough throughout to keep me listening fairly attentively.
In some ways 'Catching Fire' is an improvement on 'The Hunger Games': secondary characters are more fleshed out, and the world is explored satisfactorily. It doesn't have the narrative momentum of the first book though and it is only really in returning to the same territory as The Hunger Games that collins seems on firmer ground.
Frustratingly, though the first half of the book largely consists of Katniss exploring her feelings and presenting in more depth to us the environment of District 12, many of the most interesting questions of character and world, on which the story rests, are never really addressed.
Collins hasn't got much feel for character, or world building, or narrative drive - but somehow, surprisingly, the books manage to surpass these shortcomings to remain intriguing, enjoyable and memorable - even quite powerful.
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