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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
363
REVIEWS
359
FOLLOWING
13
FOLLOWERS
999
HELPFUL VOTES
6122

  • The Shadow of the Torturer: The Book of the New Sun, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Gene Wolfe
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    Overall
    (676)
    Performance
    (391)
    Story
    (395)

    The Shadow of the Torturer is the first volume in the four-volume epic, the tale of a young Severian, an apprentice to the Guild of Torturers on the world called Urth, exiled for committing the ultimate sin of his profession - showing mercy towards his victim.

    Gene Wolfe's "The Book of the New Sun" is one of speculative fiction's most-honored series. In a 1998 poll, Locus Magazine rated the series behind only "The Lord of the Rings" and The Hobbit as the greatest fantasy work of all time.

    Darwin8u says: "Original, Difficult and Well-Crafted."
    "Original, Difficult and Well-Crafted."
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    I am almost anti-fantasy. I find most derivative at best and banal to the extreme. Wolfe's first book in his famous The Book of the New Sun tetralogy, however, is genre fiction at its finest. Original, difficult and well-crafted, it is easy to see how Wolfe is regarded as a writer's writer.

    27 of 27 people found this review helpful
  • Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Herman Melville
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Herman Melville is one of the greatest figures in literary history. His classic Moby Dick is generally considered the finest novel ever written by an American. Yet in Melville’s day, Typee was a far more popular book. Largely autobiographical, this classic adventure story is set in the South Seas, where a runaway sailor is captured by the Typees. Described as “a fierce and unrelenting tribe of savages," the islanders have no intention of letting their captive go.

    Darwin8u says: "Peeping Typee is Tapu; Reading Typee is Noa!"
    "Peeping Typee is Tapu; Reading Typee is Noa!"
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    Herman Melville's first book Typee is a blend of creative memoir, cultural commentary, and good story telling. Melville recounts and elaborates on his experiences among the Typee cannibals on the French Polynesian island of Nuku Hiva (Marquesas Islands) in 1842. Typee ended up being Meville's best-selling book during his lifetime, no doubt due to both his skill as a writer mated with his romantic story of life among Polynesian savages.

    The book flows nicely and balances between the chasms of cultural superiority & nobel savage worship that can easily dominate these types of books. Reading this made me think of similar types of long-form journalism that catch fire in our day (Junger to Theroux to Conover to Vollmann). While approachable, it isn't Melville's best work, but shows early signs of motifs that would show up later in Moby-Dick, Billy Budd, etc.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Sirens of Titan

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Kurt Vonnegut
    • Narrated By Dennis Boutsikaris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (371)
    Performance
    (183)
    Story
    (188)

    The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course, there's a catch to the invitation....

    Darwin8u says: "I was a victim of a series of accidents..."
    "I was a victim of a series of accidents..."
    Overall
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    "I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all... "

    One of my favorite Vonnegut. Top-shelf. Snug and warm next to Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, & Mother Night. The magic of Vonnegut is he develops an idea to the point where -- just as you start believing it::just as you are comfortable in his absuridty -- he kicks you down another Martian rabbit hole.

    He doesn't want you sitting and enjoying yourself. He wants you constantly bubbling with that 'da Fu?' look on your face. He wants you to think -- goddammit. He wants you to understand and that means he has to first confuse the hell out of you. But that doesn't mean his rollercoaster ride has to be boring. No no. He is going to zip you forward and sideways so fast you are going think you are close to sickness, except his funky humor and biting satire seems to balm all nausea ad absurdum. Incredible. Genius.

    There are points in this book where if Vonnegut had said he was forming a church, I'd join. If he said he was God the lawgiver, I'd reverently lower my eyes. If he said he expected a tithe, I'd buy Vonnegut book. Yessir, I'd go door-to-door seeking converts to his form of absurd and giddy Humanism. Amen, pass the snuff-box.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Burning Chrome

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By William Gibson
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis, Dennis Holland, Kevin Pariseau, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (190)
    Performance
    (107)
    Story
    (112)

    William Gibson's dark visions of computer cowboys, bio-enhanced soldiers of fortune, and hi-tech lowlifes have won unprecedented praise. Included here are some of the most famous short fiction and novellas by the author of Count Zero and Neuromancer.

    Darwin8u says: "Anticipates Gibson's later, great Cyberpunk novels"
    "Anticipates Gibson's later, great Cyberpunk novels"
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    A set of 10 short stories: early Gibson cyberpunk and sic-fi that anticipate both his SPRAWL and BLUE ANT series. All the Gibson tropes are there just waiting to bud and bloom. Gibson's cyberpunk, dark and messy near-future; his obsession with technology, music, clothing; his uncanny ability to describe and name the bleeding edge where culture and technology blend; his noirish tribalism; his satire; his slick style; his curvy asians. The book is an uneven group of stories that approximate a pimply and adolescent Gibson sitting confidently on a couch ready to hack your future and steal your dated sci-fi pulp.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • 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
    (6725)
    Performance
    (6138)
    Story
    (6163)

    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"
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    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.

    6 of 6 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"
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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"
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    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"
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    "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.

    4 of 4 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
    (32)
    Performance
    (30)
    Story
    (30)

    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"
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    "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.

    11 of 12 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
    (44)
    Performance
    (32)
    Story
    (33)

    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
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    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.

    4 of 4 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
    (273)
    Performance
    (250)
    Story
    (255)

    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
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    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

    42 of 49 people found this review helpful

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