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Darwin8u

A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

Mesa, AZ, United States

ratings
360
REVIEWS
356
FOLLOWING
13
FOLLOWERS
995
HELPFUL VOTES
6089

  • A Feast for Crows: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (33 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By George R. R. Martin
    • Narrated By Roy Dotrice
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6692)
    Performance
    (6107)
    Story
    (6132)

    Few books have captivated the imagination and won the devotion and praise of readers and critics everywhere as has George R. R. Martin’s monumental epic cycle of high fantasy that began with A Game of Thrones. Now, in A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth book of his landmark series, as a kingdom torn asunder finds itself at last on the brink of peace . . . only to be launched on an even more terrifying course of destruction.

    Pi says: "Jarring change in Dotrice's performance"
    "Shifting sands of characters"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I liked this character-driven book a lot. Martin is skilled at making those characters you once detested into new favorites and shifting the sands of his rather complicated characters a chapter at a time. I'm not a big fantasy nut, but I've enjoyed 'Game of Thrones' so far. Here is hoping he can continue this course through to a logical conclusion. I think I've got an idea of where he is heading, but I guess we will all see.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Tim O'Brien
    • Narrated By Dan John Miller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (20)
    Performance
    (19)
    Story
    (17)

    Tim O'Brien gave us this intensely personal account of his year as a foot soldier in Vietnam. The author takes us with him to experience combat from behind an infantryman's rifle, to walk the minefields of My Lai, to crawl into the ghostly tunnels, and to explore the ambiguities of manhood and morality in a war gone terribly wrong.

    Darwin8u says: "A solid Vietnam war memoir"
    "A solid Vietnam war memoir"
    Overall
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    A solid Vietnam memoir from one of the best known writers seasoned by the Vietnam war. Things I liked: cover, Plato, Eric as mirror, dialogue, etc. Things I didn't: didn't seem to add much to the combat veteran memoir, repetitious, risk-free, light. Sure it was updated with the particular nuances of the Vietnam experience, but it was rather safe (a bizarre thing to say about a memoir of a combat vet).

    Don't get me wrong. I liked it. I appreciated it, and will read/listen to more of Tim O'Brien. I just didn't think this was on par with Robert Graves, Michael Herr, Guy Sayer, Artyom Borovik, Bob Kotlowitz, etc. Good but just not great. I say this realizing I'm reading this 40+ years after it was first published. I allow that I may think the book is safe only because the road of Vietnam war memoirs was built with a helluva lot of O'Brien's own bricks.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Fathers and Sons

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Ivan Turgenev
    • Narrated By Sean Runnette
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    When Arkady Petrovich comes home from college, his father finds his eager, naïve son changed almost beyond recognition, for the impressionable Arkady has fallen under the powerful influence of the friend he has brought with him. A self-proclaimed nihilist, the ardent young Bazarov shocks Arkady's father by criticizing the landowning way of life and by his outspoken determination to sweep away traditional values of contemporary Russian society.

    Ilana says: "Why Turgeniev is quickly turning into a favourite"
    "Love & Nihilism"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a novel that should probably be read by everybody (fathers, sons, mothers, daughters) at 18 years and again at 50 years. I'm somewhere in between, but it still enchanted me. 'Fathers and Sons' themes are universal, but also very relevant to Russia in the 1860s (post Emancipation Reform of 1861).

    IT is about the struggles between generations. It is is a novel about beauty, love, relationships, power, social etiquitte, etc. The duality of the generations in 'Fathers and Sons' allowed Turgenev to explore the thesis/antithesis of the human condition. Turgenev shows us the gulf separating the polar shores of humanity, but also the expansive beauty of the seas in between.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • End Zone

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Don DeLillo
    • Narrated By Fleet Cooper
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    At Logos College in West Texas, huge young men, vacuum-packed into shoulder pads and shiny helmets, play football with intense passion. During an uncharacteristic winning season, the perplexed and distracted running back Gary Harkness has periodic fits of nuclear glee; he is fueled and shielded by his fear of and fascination with nuclear conflict. Among oddly afflicted and recognizable players, the terminologies of football and nuclear war - the language of end zones - become interchangeable, and their meaning deteriorates as the collegiate year runs its course.

    Darwin8u says: "Gladiators speaking prose poems"
    "Gladiators speaking prose poems"
    Overall
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    Story

    "The language game is so to say something unpredictable. I mean, it is not based on grounds. It is not reasonable (or unreasonable). It is there—like our life" - Wittgenstein

    Once in Jr. High, I was playing a game of rugby (or as close to a game of rugby as you can get weighing 95lbs at a small private school in Provo, UT) and was totally blindsided during the 'game'. There was a moment after I pulled my face out of the dirt where I tasted both blood and clarity. Everything seemed at once to possess a pure obviousness and explode at the same time. Yes. That is the same feeling I got after I put down 'End Zone'. I shouldn't be surprised. I've been nailed by DeLillo before. Many times before. 'Mao II' and 'Libra' both laid me flat. 'White Noise' and 'Underworld' both hinted at, promised some grand apotheosis about life or the world.

    'End Zone' is about language and war and men and death. It is about football. But don't get confused because war is not football, only football is football and only war is war. DeLillo wants to play linguistic games at Logos College. He wants to push language across the field. He wants blood in the syntax and grass in the prose. He wants his gladiators speaking prose poems, taking courses in "the untellable", discussing Wittgenstein, or screaming in German. DeLillo wants a university separated from the world. Isolated in Texas. In a space that exists separate from almost everything but football and fat girls. He wants to explore the chants of men. The dialogue of competition. The book could have easily slipped into a silly farce, a parade of prose, an onanistic literary game, but DeLillo comes at it with such subversive energy that he makes you forget who is holding the ball, or why the game even matters.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Bart D. Ehrman
    • Narrated By Walter Dixon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (29)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (27)

    In a book that took eight years to research and write, leading Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman explores how an apocalyptic prophet from the backwaters of rural Galilee crucified for crimes against the state came to be thought of as equal with the one God Almighty Creator of all things. Ehrman sketches Jesus's transformation from a human prophet to the Son of God exalted to divine status at his resurrection. Only when some of Jesus's followers had visions of him after his death - alive again - did anyone come to think that he, the prophet from Galilee, had become God.

    Darwin8u says: "Wishing for a bit more meat on the bones"
    "Wishing for a bit more meat on the bones"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth". - Revelation 3:16

    'How Jesus Became God' is a good packaging of current scholarship on the historical Jesus for the neophyte. The book basically explores how the crucified Jesus transformed into not just the Messiah, but the Lord of all creation. He examines the exaltation of Jesus from an apocalyptic preacher from Galilee into a figure fully equal with God. He looks at how this type of change happened in Greek and Roman culture, in Jewish culture, and how Paul and later disciples of Christ were influential in transforming their crucified prophet into their risen Lord. He also spends a fair amount of time explaining why it is impossible for historians to validate miracles, a person's divinity or specific religious events like Christ's resurrection.

    Perhaps, I was just wishing for a bit more meat on the bones of this book or perhaps I was just not that surprised by many of Ehrman's points (He has covered several sections of this book in previous books about early Christianity and Jesus), but I kinda felt like this was just a watered-down repackaging of some of his better, more academic past efforts. Nothing too revelatory or Earth shattering. For me, it was about the same level of writing as Aslan's Zealot. It just seems these books while aiming for a bit of controversy (controversy sells), don't load their books with enough weight. Those who agree with them have already traveled a bunch of this same ground, those who don't agree with them are served a slim dish that seems a bit too facile. Or maybe it was just me.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Time's Arrow: Or the Nature of the Offense

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Martin Amis
    • Narrated By Graeme Malcom
    Overall
    (43)
    Performance
    (31)
    Story
    (32)

    Martin Amis turns to a tricky literary conceit to tell the story of an ex-Nazi, Dr. Tod T. Friendly. Friendly is possessed of two separate voices, one running backward from his death, the other running forward, fleeing his unsavory past.

    Darwin8u says: "A minor experiment from a very good author."
    "A minor experiment from a very good author."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I liked the prose and liked the execution, but there was still something a bit off. A tooth is missing in time's reverse cog making this Amis story rock rather than roll in reverse. I enjoyed the narrative told backward; extracting the real meaning while reading the meaning back to front is a funky brain trick. I loved having a Nazi doctor at the center of the story. The movement from physical and moral corruption to a form of innocence uncovered a bit more of the lizard brain for me.

    The problem, however, is bending this story without a need for infinite folds in time. There is no gliding back with prose. There are only jumps back with glides forward. Amis is forced to skip back in time, translate, and then relate the narrative forward. Again and again and again. It was a bit like walking the dog with a yoyo. You are unspooling the story one direction, but the narrative SAH|HAS to keep spinning in a reverse direction. The skips are necessary, but still disruptive to the narrative. Anyway, I liked it. It was a good thought exercise, just not great literature. A minor experiment from a very good contemporary writer.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Michael Lewis
    • Narrated By Dylan Baker
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (229)
    Performance
    (209)
    Story
    (213)

    Michael Lewis returns to the financial world to give listeners a ringside seat as the biggest news story in years prepares to hit Wall Street....

    Darwin8u says: "Making the system deliver on its promise."
    "Making the system deliver on its promise."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There was a temptation to write my review before I had finished reading. To get there first before other reviewers. This race to be first, however, sometimes requires a pause, a reflection about what speed, transparency, fairness all actually require from individuals and companies. The world of finance is often opaque. Between executing a trade with your broker and another individual accepting that trade through their broker there is a ghost world operating on mico-slices of a second. It is a world filled with algorithms that are all focused on a zero-sum game where the individual seems to lose every single trade. It is a wild west were everyone is getting the shaft, except for the large banks and the high-speed traders.

    No one is better at exploring the technical world of money and finance on Wall Street (and in Sports) than Michael Lewis. His talent is most obvious in his ability to spot inconsistencies, absurdities, and flaws in a system and explain them using great characters and narratives that the characters tell themselves. There is no Moneyball without Billy Beane, there is no Blind Side without Leigh Tuohy and Michael Oher, and there is no Liar's Poker without John Meriwether and John Gutfreund. There would also be no Flash Boys without Sergey Aleynikov, Brad Katsuyama and Ronan Ryan.

    These characters MAKE this book great. Lewis, however, is what makes this story vibrantly great. He is a master of the New New Journalism narrative, a master of timing, and a master of getting to the story before the other suckers do. And... he appears to do it not just because he is fantastically good at it, but from all appearances because, like Brad Katsuyama, Lewis actually gives a micro-F about making the system deliver on its promise

    41 of 47 people found this review helpful
  • Operation Shylock: A Confession

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Philip Roth
    • Narrated By Fritz Weaver
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    What if a look-alike stranger stole your name, usurped your biography, and went about the world pretending to be you? In Operation Shylock, master novelist Philip Roth confronts his double, an impostor whose self-appointed task is to lead the Jews back to Europe from Israel.

    Rosemary Bannon Tyksinski says: "Labyrinthine"
    "A Jew, a doppelgänger, Israel and the Diaspora"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is where the late great Roth run began. Operation Shylock started what might just be the greatest series of amazing books by one author I can think of:

    Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993)
    Sabbath's Theater (1995)
    American Pastoral (1997)
    I Married a Communist (1998)
    The Human Stain (2000)

    So, like I tend to do with great writers, I back into their early greats. I read backwards, crosswise, and reverse into the first.

    So, 2014 (21 years after it was first published), I find myself reading and loving Operation Shylock. I am amazed by Roth's ability to bend an idea back and forth without having it break. He is able to flex and bend (sinister?) an idea until every detail has been bled out. The ink of the effort is all on the page. He is able to construct a book filled with doppelgängers, liars, Jews and Palestinian rock throwers and professors and wreck havoc on any simplicity of plot. Every mirror in Roth's novel reverses the part in your hair and eventually shows you that your belief about who you are and what you believe is constructed out of fiction. There is no fact only deception and transgression.

    This novel isn't built from one narrative. It is built out of several narratives. The narrative of Roth writing about a Roth (a fictionalized version of Roth) being stalked by a Roth (Moshe Pipkin). Everyone is gaming everyone. Interjected into the narrative are several true narratives (Aharon Apelfeld, Leon Klinghoffer, John Demjanjuk (who may be also be Ivan the Terrible Demjanjuk). These "true" narratives serve to also deepen the idea of a fluid identity, our mutual responsibility, our ultimate nature to lie, to deceive, to hustle. Then there is the other true narrative. The narrative of the Jew, the Goy, Israel, and the Diaspora. Roth is somehow able to weave this all together in a way that fits and works. Roth is able to reflect on his place within the Jewish community and as a writer in a way that he couldn't without being confronted with a transgressive doppelgänger. Anyway, I'm still trying to get my brain and my stomach comfortably around the whole of it. Perhaps, I'll write more tomorrow about the missing Chapter 11, or perhaps I'll just say screw it and return to my own goy problems.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Kurt Vonnegut
    • Narrated By Eric Michael Summerer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (371)
    Performance
    (289)
    Story
    (292)

    Eliot Rosewater, a drunk volunteer fireman and president of the fabulously rich Rosewater Foundation, is about to attempt a noble experiment with human nature, with a little help from writer Kilgore Trout. The result is Kurt Vonnegut's funniest satire, an etched-in-acid portrayal of the greed, hypocrisy, and follies of the flesh we are all heir to.

    Darwin8u says: "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth."
    "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    ...
    It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
    It's round and wet and crowded.
    At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here.
    There's only one rule that I know of, babies—
    God damn it, you've got to be kind."

    I've only got two big rules with my two babies. # 1 be happy, # 2 be kind. Everything else is negotable, babies.

    It appears that Kurt Vonnegut independently arrived at the same conclusion. 'God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater' happens to be a fairly straight-forward novel about money and charity and kindness and sanity. Vonnegut's novel (subtitled 'Pearls before Swine') is about the Rosewater family and how they invest their efforts into a foundation as a means of keeping the government from taxing their money. The problem is Eliot Rosewater (the protagonist) ends up not caring much about money and being infinitely charitable and kind. This obviously is a form of insanity that either needs to be exploited (by lawyers) or protected (by family).

    In some ways, in its heart, it reminds me of a simplified, satirized version of Dostoevsky's 'the Idiot'. When people are good, selfless, and caring in a world like the one we all live in, they must be stupid or a little nuts. They certainly aren't likely to survive.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • The Magnificent Ambersons

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Booth Tarkington
    • Narrated By Geoffrey Blaisdell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (88)
    Performance
    (28)
    Story
    (28)

    The Magnificent Ambersons chronicles the changing fortunes of three generations of an American dynasty. The family serves as a metaphor for the old society that crumbled after the Industrial Revolution, as a Midwestern town spreads and darkens into a city.

    Darwin8u says: "Many of the great ones too are soon forgotten"
    "Many of the great ones too are soon forgotten"
    Overall
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    This is one of those fantastic little classics (it won the Pulitzer Prizes second prize for the Novel category in 1919) that while not exactly ignored, certainly aren't read as frequently today as the author's talent should demand. It was made in 1942 into a movie by Orson Wells (his second film) so it does have that anchor to keep it from slipping further into the darkness of the past. I guess old fiction is like old families.

    "Nothing stays or holds truly.
    Great Caesar dead and turned to clay
    stopped no hole to keep the wind away;
    dead Caesar was nothing but tiresome bit
    of print in a book that schoolboys study
    for awhile and then forget."

    I guess the same can be said of literature. Most books are eventually pulped. Even the good and many, many of the great ones too are soon forgotten. The writer's impulse is for some glimmer of immortality, but memories and readers are damn fickle things. We collectively shrug off and forget those we recently purchased, those banging the publisher's gongs to get attention, and to hell with all those public domain dead writers -- even if they did write such beautiful books.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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