I have read Dostoevsky's masterpiece in the past and wanted to reread it but considered it a huge chore. Instead, I decided to listen to George Guidall's rendition because of my past enjoyment of his amazing gift as a catalyst between the written word and the spoken word.. The audiobook immediately captured my interest and attention in a way that reading the book never did. Guidall made the characters come alive. How a narrator could carefully enunciate all the Russian names and give them separate voices and fully express the emotions and meaning in the text seemed such a wonderful feat, that I felt an obligation to tell potential listeners that they should not be afraid to invest the 25 plus hours to enjoy one of the greatest classics of world literature.
Although this novel may not be considered really great literature in itself, it certainly is a great audio listening experience. The dual voices corresponding to the narrative voices of the principal characters, Amy and Nick, capture the listener for the entire nineteen plus hours.
Gillian Flynn creates these two great characters who epitomize so much of what is perceived as the narcissistic American Generation X. The characters are developed through first-person narration alternating between Amy and Nick that drives the suspenseful plot forward. Flynn presents the reader/listener with the challenge of the "unreliable narrator."
In additional to the character-driven aspect of the novel, there is strong emphasis on the role of the media and justice systems in our society as a basis for the skepticism and distrust of both these institutions.
The plot is not only credible but is tightly woven and captivating. The twists and denouement are masterful. If by Gothic literature we refer to a study of the dark side of human nature, this novel fills the bill and is well worth the time as well as the emotions it will generate.
This audio recording is actually two novels. Part 2 is the original SF novel written by H. Beam Piper(written in 1962) and is a worthwhile piece of science fiction with excellent narration of the Holloway character. The attempt by John Scalzi to produce a followup novel on the characters of the original is a sad failure. About one-half the novel is really dialogue about legal wranglings and wise-cracking from John Holloway with his last name perhaps being a reflection of his character. It has the negative combination of predictability of outcome, improbability of action, and sentimentality.
I wonder if many of the postive reviews may have been for the clever and prescient novel by Piper.
This great American epic poem was once a standard in American education but faded in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries when American Romanticism became passe. I had always wanted to read it but was dissuaded by English professors. By chance I found a printed edition with illustrations by Frederick Remington that I had in my personal library for years. I went to Audible.com and found the poem narrated by Hootkins. After listening to a sample, I decided to listen to the poem while reading it. This combination of written and spoken reinforced the teaching that poetry must be really heard to be appreciated. The four hours I spent were a wonderful appreciation of the genius of Longfellow and the ability of a great reading to make an old poem come alive. For those of you who love classic literature and have not experienced this poem before, the four hours with book and headset will be rewarding.
This novel is for those who are interested in emotional stories with mysteries and who are willing to put up with tenuous solutions to complexites. The listener must be able to tolerate a British accent that quite frequently gives hysterical readings of the mind of the principle character.
The most disappointing aspect of this novel was its lack of proper editing. There is seemingly unending mental machinations of the first person narrator that makes the listener plead for some real action outside of the mind. At least a third of the novel is comprised of descriptions and thoughts that fail to move the action or bring any significant information to the listener.
It is essential that any potential listener first sample the reading in order to determine whether he or she can tolerate 11 1/2 hours of the same voice trying to differentiate four characters without great distinction.
Since there are really only four characters in the whole novel, none can really be eliminated, although Claire's very limited role adds little.
Perhaps this might be called an 'organic novel' with the style reminiscent of the style of the subject of the novel. This is not a biography of Henry James, although it does have those important biographical events that Toibin feels contributes to the development of James as a man and as an author. There is a great deal of the James family history inserted into this novel, but for the James fan, R.W.B. Lewis' "The James: A Family Narrative" will be far more satisfying. For someone who has not read a lot of Henry James, Toibin's allusions to James' novels and short stories will probably be lost. This is hardly a page turner and best left to the Henry James fans to read at leisure some time.
For those of you used to great plots, actions, and characters in the multiple outstanding Coben novels "Live Wire" may well be a disappointment. First of all, the plot and resolution are so improbable that most readers will say "Huh?" Secondly, this novel is dominated by wise-cracking dialogue to such an extent that it is irritating. Finally, superhero Windsor Horne Lockwood III, with his omniscience, omnipotence, and infinite wisdom, wealth, and power, belongs more in a comic book than a novel. The reader knows that no matter what seemingly impossible situation Myron Bolitar gets into, Win will figure out a way to rescue him and punish the evil doer. Hopefully, Coben will end the dynamic duo with this novel and use his great talent to bring us back to the quality we have come to expect from his earlier novels.
I have read most of Grisham's "legal thrillers" and found them enjoyable. I found him best in his lyrical novels "Bleachers" and "Painted House." The current novel is a thinly masked diatribe against capital punishment and Texans in general and the Texas legal system specifically. He creates cardboard characters, hard-to-imagine circumstances of injustice, malice, and incompetence with melodramatic races against time. His obvious targeting of Texans is exemplified by labeling non-lawyer Texas males as "bubbas." He reverts to not infrequent purple prose--the worst example being that of the mother of a wrongly executed young man washing his genitals and bemoaning the loss of the future children he might have sired. In summary, even anti death penalty readers would do better to read any of his earlier novels than labor through this very predictable attempt to reform society. A Harriet Beecher Stowe and Upton Sinclair Grisham is not.
A good conspiracy, action novel needs to grip you from the start. Lee Child does this in his first chapter. He then begins character development. The hero and heroine are there from the start as Jack Reacher and Holly Johnson are kidnapped off a Chicago street with no opposition or even apparent notice. The kidnappers themselves are cardboard figures. The pursuers are the FBI and Holly's father who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We slowly learn that the conspiracy plot centers on a sociopath in Montana named Bo Borkin who has formed a militia that is planning on seceding from the Union on the 4th of July. Everything in the rest of the novel depends upon the listener(reader) buying into tremendous improbabilities, including the willingness of the FBI and military to be blackmailed and put the lives of numerous personnel in danger to rescue Holly. Jack Reacher is portrayed as an omniscient and omnipotent Superman with Bo Borkin being the quintessential Lex Luther.
The narration by Dick Hill is clearly the strongest part of this recording. However, he can do only so much with trite dialog and tedious descriptions. The author seems to have an obsession with ballistics. A good 15-20 minutes is occupied with detailed descriptions of weapons and the velocities and paths of bullets. The resolution is pure Hollywood. I read only unabridged works. However, I wish this one had been abridged by the author or editor before going to press.
All this said, it is still adequate entertainment.
Seldom does one find a novel with a wonderful combination of setting, plot, characters, and style. 'The Help' provides all of these. Add to this the rare combination of multiple narrators who have a wide range of accents, distinctive voices, and superb diction and you have the perfect narrated novel. Don't miss this one!
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