This book might be funny if read in a more understated way. It makes broad fun of a fairly despicable man and a wide range of things that probably deserve some deflating. However, the reader piles on, with every (and I mean every) sentence a degree of English upperclass sarcasm that removes any degree of fun from the humor. Like pinning an ugly cat to a wall and throwing snowballs at it...I couldn't watch, so I had to stop listening after a couple of hours. Does the reader think we can't get the point without being hit over the head? Buy the book...you'll probably enjoy it more.
...you'll like this. Hats off to Andy Weir if even half of the technical fixes pulled off by his astronaut are workable. My sense is that Weir often had to have been looking at detailed scale models of real hardware, as well as having done a great deal of book research, in order to come up with these solutions. However, not having such resources on hand, I couldn't tell if he was being brilliant or just making stuff up. Maybe if I was reading rather than listening I could have taken time out to judge whether the fixes seemed feasible. As it was, I found myself waiting through the technical discussions, thinking "yah, yah, what's next"? The main character is somewhat funny at times, but he thinks he's more funny than he really is. Mostly he's just mildly irreverent. Other characters are one dimensional. This sounds like a negative review, but I don't finish books I truly dislike, and I made it through this one.
Provided hours of distraction on the elliptical exercise machine, and the historical information about the details of life in wartime Britain were interesting. BUT: was almost driven to true distraction by being inside the heads of people always worrying in stupifying detail about multitudes of major or minor catastrophes that never happen. Should have been edited down one medium-sized book. Narrator has a wide variety of voices, very accomplished...but unfortunately many of the voices are irritating to listen to. Characters--except for the urchins Alf and Binny--are bland. Doesn't feel much like science fiction...the science seems to be a plot device to have "historians" traipsing around during the Blitz, so we can see what it was like from a viewpoint similar to our own. Historical science fiction is a valid sub-genre, but the way it's done here feels like the same purposes would be more effectively achieved through straightforward historical fiction. No, I forgot...then you might not be treated to all those bloody worry-warts...
In the top 5.
It's uniqueness among books I've read/listened to, and it's multi-layered nature.
There are three narrators. I had not listened to any of them before. I had to get used to the female narrator, but eventually appreciated her. In the end, they were all good for me.
Overall, no extreme reaction, although parts of the ending resonated in an emotional way.
This is a contemporary Japanese literary noir fantasy love story, and a bunch of other things as well. Complicated. Goes on forever. If you don't like it after the first five hours, give up, because you've got 42 hours to go. Not everyone's cup of tea. But if you are tuned into it, it's a long pleasure. Murakami can be repetitive, sometimes blunt, but also subtle. Important observations about life, reality, and love are imbedded...though you aren't hit over the head (often), and if answers are given, they are ambiguous. Because the book is so large and focuses on all the external and internal details of its characters, it is more to be lived in than read. Lived in for the year of 1Q84. P.S. I don't give many books 5 stars, so this is pretty special (for me at least). Note that I only gave 4 stars to the story because, although the plot drives the book and there are more twists and turns than in a typical thriller, the plot wasn't the point. Some reviewers have faulted the book for not tying up all the many plot threads at the end...but there is a kind of resolution, and...as I said... the plot wasn't the point.
I don't want to spend much time reviewing this book, but will add my voice to the negatives. The author has compiled a long list of the small and large personal and political defects of northern American upper middle class people over the last several decades, then inflicted them on a cardboard family, their friends, and neighbors. These uniformly unsympathetic characters are made to suffer for their sins over the first nine-tenths of the book, then--miracle--everything turns out fine. The tone of the book is made even worse by the narrator, whose snide reading provides overkill where a more subtle approach might have made listening more bearable. Good novels can and often do hold up a mirror to the less than perfect aspects of life, but in order to be effective there must be true sympathy and art in the writing. "Freedom" has neither.
Good narration, intelligent and sometimes engrossing story. Nevertheless, dark like listening to Leonard Cohen, without his occasional humor. If you like literary and/or theological puzzle-chasing, this may be more enjoyable to you than to me. It felt like it was projecting more "weightiness" than actual weight. Pulp science fiction is always accused (rightly) of having cardboard characters, but there is only one realized character in this sophisticated series, though he is not of a type any of us is likely meet in reality. Also note that while this is classified as science fiction, it might be more properly classified as sword and sorcery set in a science fiction universe. For myself, I question whether the series was worth my 4 credits.
I'm a long time science fiction addict, so when I stop listening to a sci-fi story less than a quarter of the way in, something's wrong. I think the problem with this book is that the "voice"--both the words and the reading of them--is essentially boring. The book has part of the noir formula--a tough guy who underneath is somehow decent in a warped world. But the tough guy also has to have something else, some kind of charisma...which usually means quirky insights into human behavior, a black sense of humor. The "voice" attempts those things, but never achieves them--that is, the central character's observations aren't interesting, insightful, or clever, even in a noir sort of way. So the story itself becomes boring and leaden. Being the die-hard sci-fi fan that I am, I trudged on long after I realized I wasn't enjoying myself. I stopped altogether when I got into the first explicit sex scene and found myself laughing at the crudeness of the narration. If I was into pornography, I'm sure I could find better writing than this. From now on I won't be as trusting when Audible labels a book "Essential." If you want better Audible sci-fi, try the Neal Stephenson books.
An irritation: despite it’s apparent attempt to be brutally realistic, The Road’s apocalyptic situation is totally implausible. Any catastrophe that wipes out all plant and animal life on Earth will not spare human beings. The cockroaches and fungi will die after us, not before. This is one of those instances where a literary writer has chosen to step into the territory of science fiction, but refuses to play by the rules of science fiction, which include consistency with the current state of scientific knowledge.
Despite this irritation and others (such as its repetitiveness and sometimes overblown language), The Road addresses a theme that is admirable in its seriousness and ambition: Given the reality of death, what is the relationship between one generation and the next? The thing that gives our lives meaning is survival not for ourselves only but for our childen and their children and all the children of humanity in the future. This is the essence of goodness, and holds despite the fact that there is no God in the sense meant by true believers. It holds even if the odds of the human race surviving it’s murderous adolescence are slim to none. Moreover, in the absence of an objective God, there may be a subjective God that we almost inevitably create both as we generalize our feelings towards the survival of future generations, and as we look back at the generations that came before us. The Road is a myth about how humans cope with living in the real existential story: we are individuals who die, and we are members of a species that is also mortal.
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