Scrumptious Victorian Science Fiction! Very slightly cheesy and wonderfully entertaining novel (novella?) by Arthur Conan Doyle. Subdued and authentically Victorian (more steam, less punk) compared to, say, Neal Stephenson's equally scrumptious Diamond Age.
I highly recommend this lecture for any fan of Victorian fiction (Dickens, Conan Doyle, you name it) -- it's a wonderful view of just how revolutionary Dickens' stories were for their time, and adds a psychological twist that borders on gothic (you HAVE to love those Victorians!).
My only gripe is with the audio quality. It sounds like the lecture was recorded surreptitiously on a cell phone in someone's pocket... in their winter coat! Sheesh!
This audiobook should come with the following label:
Warning: listening to this audiobook will permanently raise your standard for narration, and leave you disappointed at most other narrators.
Don't listen to this in a public place, like the train station, or people will think you crazy -- since this narrative will drive you to shout "Holy COW!" and "Oh my GOD, are you KIDDING me?!" repeatedly. Don't listen to it during lunch, unless you have a seriously strong stomach.
If you enjoyed the likes of Guns, Germs, and Steel, you will probably love The Ghost Map. It's shorter, quite a bit lighter, but is absolutely packed with jaw dropping details about Victorian London. If you enjoy Arthur Conan Doyle, you will likely love The Ghost Map, which reads like a Sherlock Holmes mystery in which Dr. Watson does the sleuthing while Holmes is on holiday.
Johnson does a fantastic job of weaving a trainload of London history, sociology, and medical history into a narrative that feels more like a novel.
The only criticism I have is that the last section feels a little soap-boxy, but it's a minor fault -- the sociological issues are sufficiently intriguing.
Every now and then I tip toe into Sherlock Holmes fan fiction -- desperate, as all Conan Doyle fans are -- for a new fix. Sadly, it virtually always ends badly...
Not so with House of Silk -- with a few notable missteps, Horowitz does an *excellent* job capturing the voice and persona of both Holmes and Watson, and adds an interestingly convoluted plot.
I'm not sure how this book comes off in print, but with Derek Jacobi's narration, it's a deliciously life-like faux Conan Doyle.
The only flaws? I agree with Elias's comment -- the Dr. Moriarty appearance Just. Doesn't. Cut it. Horowitz needs to re-read the Moriarty parts, and then maybe a book on sociopaths.
The only other flaw is perhaps more subjective, and that's the ending. No spoilers here, I just felt it jarred with the Victoriana -- it felt "too modern", topically and in treatment.
Still, I hope this is the first of many by Horowitz.
I waited a long time before listening to this book, since it had the potential to be something life-changing: a journey to insight and wisdom by someone with the literary skill to share it movingly with the rest of us. I waited, because it also had the potential to be a glorified travelogue by someone with the wherewithal and privilege to do the "year off" thing at mid-life, when the rest of us are supporting children, parents, or spouses. To my everlasting disappointment, I found only the latter. Although she hints throughout the book that she gained something deep and everlasting, I wasn't able to find it in her narrative. All in all, a charming travelogue, in lovely writing, that veers into off-putting narcissism from time to time. Recommended for the 'under 30' set.
Best Stephenson since Snow Crash or Diamond Age. If you felt that Stephenson lost his stride, or his way, or just his editor, when his novels began stretching upwards of ten million pages, you'll be happy to learn that he's getting his groove back! A step beyond steampunk, Anathem is sort of monk-punk -- a delicious mashup of Olde Abbey and futurism. Lots of meaty issues, and crazy fun conceptual setups. Generally he does a great job of weaving the science and philosophy into dialog, though that can occasionally drag a bit (Stephenson is no Michael Crichton, in the best and worst senses). Overall this book was a fun and satisfying read and listen, and not since the Dune series has a novel stuck with me so long through "real life" after finishing it. The narration is excellent.
I had some familiarity with Jungian concepts going into this work, but zero knowledge of his life. What a fascinating biography! I couldn't put this down, and after finishing it craved to know more of Jung's relationship with Freud, and of Jung's life after their rift. Very entertaining, and Anthony Stevens' narration is fanTAStic!
First, I'm a fan of Charles Dickens' novels, so historical fiction doesn't challenge me in the slightest, provided it has a plot. And The Moonstone has plot in spades, along with one of the most adorable characters I've ever encountered in all of literature (Gabriel Betteredge), and a wonderfully involved, somewhat gothic, mystery. If films like Gosford Park send you screaming, don't even dream of taking on this novel. But if you love English historical and gothic fiction, and enjoy an occasional mystery, this atmospheric gem will provide hours of guilty pleasure. Wilkie Collins was a contemporary (and friend) of Dickens, so expect similar pacing. Peter Jeffrey's narration was superb!
I picked up this series after a glowing review in someplace like the NY Review of Books (should have known better). Egad. I have no problem with rambling and detailed descriptions, if they are delightful, ghastly, or entertaining. So, i love Dickens and Austen. I've read Mark Heprin's Winter's Tale four times and listened to Susanna Clark's Jonathan Strange twice. But the narration, characters, and endless (and seemingly irrelevant) detail in Titus Groan had me crying Uncle and flipping iPod "channels" after a few hours. Maybe this is one of those works where You Had To Be There when it was first published. I just couldn't find the discipline to slog through it. I would have to be trapped in an elevator or stuck in a foreign hospital with nothing but this series for entertainment to get through it all.
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