This book, like the IV book lacks any new imagination. I sometimes wonder if Martin has the ability to bring a story together. I enjoyed the stage set in the first 3 books. But then expected so much more from IV and V. Perhaps this should have been a 5 book series rather than VII. Both IV and V are nearly complete filler. Both drag on in terms of plot. Martin often rambles on, introducing character after charcter and diving into details, and I find myself going "who cares".
I hope the Martin that wrote the first 3 books is awakened in the next two books. In the meantime I would like a refund for the 4th and 5th installments.
Professor Clare Kinney does an excellent job of bringing fascinating insights to each of the plays she speaks to in this course. Her lectures are well structured, the information is accessible for the lay reader and above all, these lectures will invite and encourage those who have only a high school or college course experience with Shakespeare's tragedies to invest the intellectual energy toward a deeper understanding of the plays.
Note that she doesn't speak to Romeo and Juliet, but (wisely in my view) includes Antony and Cleopatra. However, it would have been excellent if she had included both, in addition to the most popular tragic plays. Undoubtedly, she would also treat R & J with expert analysis as well. She left me curious and wondering what she would have to say.
I wish that producer of The Great Courses would have left out the music and clapping between each lecture. I find that a bit annoying and that it adds nothing to the audio experience.
This book is interesting and imaginative, but don't expect it to live up to the hype. That would be unfair. The story is complex and takes a while to absorb, but eventually it becomes engrossing. The central character is not easy to identify with but slowly develops. The scene, the action and the mood of the story are almost always very dark. To a point, where it begins to have an odor.
For me the performance is very flat. Often the reader falls into a rhythm that is almost guaranteed to take the life out of the action and the characters. I often find myself stopping and trying to recast important text to into different intonations that I naturally go to, and wondering if the actual language is being short changed a bit.
It is easy to see where the performing voice is going, but at times I feel the performance takes some of the dimension and color from the main protagonist, interpreting her personality more narrowly than the language of the book allows. Normally, that is one of the things I especially enjoy most form the audio book format is the extra dimension created by a talented reader. She does one or two moods of the character very well, but other moods seem thin and shallow. During those moments, I find myself wanting to blow the character up like a balloon that is short of air. And at times, that is exactly the sense the story intends to take you to, but most of the time I don't think it gets us all the way into the soul of the book.
Its worth the listen, but you have to work to make it come fully alive. And then, its only partially alive. In a purely literary sense it outshines so many other popular books in this genre (and what is this genre by the way?), and at the same time it lacks the charm (but certainly not the realism) of some of the really great fantasy books that we have been blessed with in the past twenty years. (Its evil for editors to place her in the same sentence as J. K. Rowling. Not fair to anyone.) We can safely expect some great things to come from this author as her creativity continues to mature. Can we expect the same from the audio performer?
If you are looking for a quick paced story, an ingenious magical world or even a good action/adventure that will keep you flipping pages, you need to look elsewhere. This book is a psuedo literary book, meaning that it offers almost none of the traits of modern best sellers with the exception of one item --there is lots of sexual activity with all of the details spelled out.
The book is intentionally slow paced. As you proceed through chapter after chapter of thinly vielled social commentary, the mental/emotional architecture of the two primary characters are revealed. There is little action in the book, but if you like to walk through psycological character development in a literary style (in most chapters), i.e., you have the patiences for it, then you will not be disappointed in the content. Otherwise, you will run out of patience.
The book is a little inconsistent or I would have much higher praise for it. At times, the flow is much like a much lessor work in the style and content of the writing, and the logic falls apart. While its clear the author goes to painful lengths to create realism, at times the twists in the plot seems a bit to convient to be realistic. But then there are times when the writing is exquisite, nearing the style of literary greats that are so often mentioned in the book. I found the language in some passages artfully descriptive and enjoyable, even masterful.
Again, many listeners/readers will loose interest in the book because the pace can be torturously slow. But if you stay focused eventually you will wade through the all of the social commentary and psycological incubation and then you will begin to see something extraordinary beginning to emerge.
As mentioned above, the author has included every twist and turn of the characters sexual activity in great detail. It will seem overdone to many readers. Others may find that it is actually a vital part of understanding the behavior of the characters and the course their actions take as the plot unfolds. Frankly, it all seems a bit uber Freudian regardless of how you measure and access its literary role in the story. One is led to concluded that either the author felt it was necessary to hold the attention of a modern reader (as they pace through an otherwise largely dry intellectual/psycological analysis) i.e., the author thinks we are all obsessed with graphic sex in a 50 shades sort of way, or the author has some interesting interpretaions of his own with respect to how deep psycological issues are manifest in sexual behavior. This aspect of the writing reminds me of Lev Grossman a bit, except that Grossman is much more charming.
Some have referred to the book as belonging to the scify/fantasy genre, but that is very misleading. True, what some refer to as "magical realism" is present in the story, it seem almost hidden under the heavy clouds of psycological development.
Some would say the tale is a complex romance, and while the essencial elements are there, its very understated through out most of the book.
I think the listeners who are comforable with the dryness of complex literary works probably will at least find the story and characters mildly fasinating, and at time the writing well worth the time. At other times, they will be tempted to set it down and wait for it to rippen a bit more like a piece of fruit picked a bit early (if only that worked with books).
Other listeners will through in the towel after a few chapters unless they find the descriptons of the sexual scenes tasty enough to keep them flipping pages. Nah-- most adults will probably not even find the sex that titalating because of the matter of fact descriptions.
Clearly, the author is brilliant and has deeply considered great writing and the human experience, and that comes through in his character development. He does not shy away from exploring some of the darker aspects of the human experience.
A quick note on the performance. While the actors (male and female) are interesting to listen to, they both seem to interpret the charcters and project the voice inflections much different than what seems intuitive to me. They are both a bit flat at times, especially the male voice. I picture Tango as a bit more dimentional and certainly with a broader emotional range than what comes through in the actor's interpretation in many chapters.
Best wishes and peaceful listening.
This is a genuine artistic accomplishment. First and most important, the author captures and brings to life many different characters that are interesting, multidimensional and above all, human.
Second, his langauge is highly constructed and yet you will rarely notice it, and when you do it will still punch you. Its precise, and acutely illuminates the humorous flaws in our natures; those that linger in the shadows of our perception, and can only be fully illustrated by master authors.
This book deserves the highest praise from those who appreciate art that interprets reality, without making it ragged and grotesque, like a battered corpse. You're allowed to taste, smell, and feel, but not forced to choke on it.
Its a story that will help you find a part of your soul that is at once young and old, happy and profoundly sad, bound and free, and once introduced, will leave you to enjoy more of yourself. In short, it evokes a broad emotional range.
I find the narration to be enjoyable and undistracting, the voices well matched to the characters, and the reader's rhythm helps to bring out many of the deminsions of the language that I might miss if I experienced the story in print.
I very much enjoyed the first 3 books in this series. Gripping plot, fascinating characters, and an interesting universe for both to develop in. This book by contrast in nearly all filler. Its noise. It like Martin suddenly lost the ability to create anything new.
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