The World Below was among the most spirited, insightful, and engaging books I've read/heard in a long time. I found that the somewhat tired story of a tired mom, empty-nested and nearly joyless (save the phone calls and visits with her adult children) was made fresh again by Miller's thoughtful prose, layered plot, and generational shifts of narratorial perspective.
The main character is a 50-something woman who can't shake the feeling that she is in some way abnormal, partly stemming from a disappointing childhood abruptly shortened by the demands of a mentally ill mother. What's more, she feels she has fallen short of the expectations thrust upon her by two ex-husbands, and with believable self-doubt she ponders how in the world she had become "one of those women" with two failed marriages.
It happens that she must decide the fate of her grandparents' home. It is a family duty which affords her, if nothing else, something useful to do that is refreshingly removed from her current state of affairs. When she visits the estate- packed with dusty artifacts of family history-- she slowly begins piecing together the chronology of a mysterious and taboo period in her late grandmother's life. As she struggles to make sense of terse diary entries, she is both intrigued and somehow strengthened by what she learns of her grandmother's imperfect past.
For me, it was fascinating to glimpse the grandmother's life as a patient in an early 1900's sanitorium. Also interesting was the friendship which developed between the (present day) granddaughter and an elderly neighbor-- a chivalrous gentlemen who had been a diligent "caretaker" of the quaint New England home.
Miller is masterful in the art of character development; even minor characters are infused with personality and are strikingly believable. It is a thoughtful story of self-discovery and personal growth, of familial strengths and the flaws which must always coexist.
I have said my piece in my Golden Son review, because this Part I has to be considered as only the beginning of a very long novel with a totally unsatisfying, really awful, conclusion. I believe the author literally ruined this adventure, and not just because of an "unexpected plot twist" in book two's ending. It was a cheap trick, and I feel I wasted 30+ hours that I thought I was enjoying, until the end. Book One was worth 2 stars, but the series taken together is barely a 1-star, in my view.
It's hard to couch this as anything but a spoiler, but you may be grateful. I thought I was enjoying both Red Rising and Golden Son, and looking forward to how the Reaper would pull off his Revolution. I thought the end, without saying more, was the most terrible, most unsatisfying, most unredeeming betrayal of any novel I've read in thirty years, and thoroughly ruined the 30+ hours I'd spent getting there. I would have been at 4 stars at least until the last 10 minutes, then a plummet to 1 star was generous, in my view. Yes, I'm angry, because I felt tricked, and I mean that differently than just a plot twist. Read it if you want, I wouldn't recommend this series to anyone. I don't buy that the author was "so clever" by giving us an ending we didn't expect at all; it could not have been a less enjoyable adventure at the climax.
As fans of the Reacher books know, Lee Child's style is to frequently take a minor point or situation and milk it over and over from every irrelevant angle possible, leaving the main story for long stretches at a time, with the seeming intent of making the book longer and cementing his "unique style" (e.g. taking a distance in miles and repeating it in kilometers and feet and inches and millimeters, etc., with no obvious forwarding of the plot. Or time. Or even roadway signs, repeated exit after exit, or how you enter a password on a computer, and so on.)
This was okay in earlier books with enough action and excitement to make you forgive and forget, but in this one (as in some other recents), my wife and I found ourselves begging him out loud to "get on with it". The end has a decent enough twist, but it doesn't compensate adequately for the struggle to get there.
Finally, Dick Hill as the narrator. I know he is "much beloved" by many Audible fans but I find that his universally whiny-sounding female characters (I now believe that's how he thinks he has to sound to make them seem "female") are grating to the extreme. And some characters voices are so contrived and exaggerated ("Little Joey" Green, for example) that we simply couldn't understand what he was saying! I sadly may have to take a break from Reacher, and Dick Hill, for awhile. . .
Great disappointment, really. Perhaps I should just put "The Hunt for Red October" and "Red Star Rising" and the rest of the early Clancy's out of mind, but I was hoping that "the last novel he wrote (co-wrote, apparently) before he died" would be worth more. Jack Jr. is just not as good a character as his dad, and this book is so fascinated with the not-so-intriguing detals of "international finance" (page after boring page) that it made my eyes glaze over (ears, actually). A little action, but neither makes it as an action-genre or an international spy-genre vehicle. I plodded through, but the kiss of death was that I could frequently find my attention lapsing and realizing I had not heard the last five minutes. Not the kind of excitement in an audible book I crave or expect.
Perhaps if Keith Richards didn't demonstrate his total lack of regard for anyone but himself,and he could have accepted that the same rules and mores apply to him as well as to everyone else, this could have been a better book. Unfortunately, that would make it someone else's life, not his. (He seems to actually believe that the police shouldn't arrest him for drugs because "Don't they understand I'm a Rocker? That I have a different life than theirs? Couldn't they just live their lives and let me live mine?" He is a totally unsympathetic, and even pathetic, individual. He was not fit to be a parent at all, and if his children survived him they should have a story of their own to tell. And his story is BORING. Except for one or two tidbits about the genesis of the Stones, he rambles on endlessly name-dropping early "legends" of his, and how somehow they influenced him, and speaks endlessly about forming certain chords and sounds on the guitar that are meaningless to anyone but a top-notch guitar player. I am not, and I was bored silly.
They could have left out the interminable name-dropping and descriptions of how you actually play the guitar and concentrated on the history of the Rolling Stones. Keith Richards may be a great guitarist, but without the Stones he is nothing but a stoned-out jerk.
I hated this book, actually, and can only appreciate that it taught me that their is nothing to idolize about Keith Richards.
Having read many Christopher Moore books, and enjoyed them and laughed throughout, I could not finish the last half of this. I waited way too long for something funny, or even engaging, to occur. Sure, there are hints of the occult and mysterious characters that live throughout the ages, but definitely nothing funny or adequately exciting to keep my interest. And there are so many characters they are hard to keep track of.
Perhaps, in the second half. I couldn't bring myself to listen any longer. . .
An epic sci-fi story, and I enjoyed it a great deal and would recommend it to fans of the genre, especially in the Peter Hamilton style. My only criticisms are that the author allowed himself a few too many opportunities to veer off on a tangent for several minutes in areas that ultimately had little or no import on the story as a whole, and the story could have benefitted from a little judicious editing. Also, the spider babies were made to be a little too "cutesy" in my view. That may have been largely in the "baby voices" used by the narrator, which eventually were a little annoying, but a little too much unnecessary spider children attention.
Power Down, Coes' first book--riveting, exciting, almost non-stop action.
Dewey Andreas is a character in the mold of Jack Reacher from Lee Childs, Mitch Rapp from Vince Flynn, and John Wells from Alex Berenson--morally superior guys fighting for justice and always in the thick of a problem, but with special skills: CIA assasins, ex-Seals, and Military Police investigators. They can be hard to keep apart, as fans of this genre know, but they can be counted on to beat any number of bad guys eventually, save the girl/country/world, and even make mistakes once in awhile to keep them (almost) human. Dewey is the best of the bunch, in my view, and both of the Dewey Andreas books are superbly exciting with just enough believable current events to make them very hard to put down.
intriguing, interesting characters
Will Patton is the perfect voice for the southern, rural story.
Charles Frazier, James Lee Burke, and Pat Conroy are so similar in narrative style--beautiful descriptive writing that allows you to completely visualize the surroundings,but never boringly so. Gorgeous writing, really, as in this book. And plenty of unusual characters and small-town, backwoods eccentricities. Kept getting better, and a more satisfying culmination than the Cold Mountain shocker.
I expected a great deal more from George R.R. Martin, having thoroughly enjoyed the intricacies and inventiveness of his great Fire and Ice saga, but this story was thin, formulaic, and uninteresting. Yes, it was free, but it was 40-some minutes in which I kept hoping the ending was something vastly more interesting than it turned out to be. George, please get back to novels 6 and 7 of the saga!.
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