The only thing better than reading a Gaiman story is hearing the author himself read it. Coraline herself is resilient, loyal and courageous -- everything a girl should be.
Mr. McLarty is a master of characterization. His quirky, endearing characters come to life for me - I can both see and hear them as I read his words. He is also a truly gifted narrator. So I end up with the novel in two forms - printed and audible- first reading, then listening. The best of both worlds.
The book jacket has a review likening this novel to A Confederacy of Dunces and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. ACoD is one of my all-time favorite books, but there is no likeness between the two protagonists, other than large heads and weight. What the two novels do have in common is well-drawn characters, with many eccentricities. The allusion to OFOtCN befuddles me. There is no Nurse Ratched, no oppression, no cohersion. The only commonality I found between the three novels, is that they are very good reads.
The story is fine - and actually the narrator's voice is quite pleasant when in Narrator mode - but when speaking in any of the male characters' voices, he sounds much too old - and privileged - and snotty. Makes it hard to like the males.
"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign: that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
- Jonathan Swift
'Confederacy' is one of my top-5 favorite books - both in print and audio. I just finished my second 'listen', and am amazed at the book's ability to make me laugh and wince in equal measure. To those who have tried this book but put it down unfinished, give it another chance. It is meant to be experienced in a visceral way, much like New Orleans itself. Someone once said that upon returning home to NO, he had to find a bowl of great Red Beans & Rice and eat it right away, to get back into the funk of his town. Ignatius Riley is part of that funk, with his troublesome valve, inexorably obese body, and unbelievably overwhelming hubris.
Mr. Whitener is spot-on in his narration. He truly brings Ignatius to life, is great with the supporting cast of characters, and the ironic tone of his Narrator is perfect.
If only the Coen brothers would get the movie rights, and cast Philip Seymour Hoffman as Ignatius, my world would be complete. Surely their combined genius would please even the dimmest confederacy of dunces.
... I won't ever revisit this book/listen. The storyline is fine, but awfully 'wordy' for audio. Quite a lot of non-atmospheric filler lines - taking 50 words to express what needs only 10. That plus the reader reading 'unsub' as an acronym (U-N-S-U-B) instead of the abbreviation for 'unidentified subject' (read as one word - unsub) is quite distracting. Hearing multiple FBI agents referring to the U-N-S-U-B is funny, but surely a mistake that an editor should have caught.
All that said, I didn't turn it off. I did want to know which of the two possible killers was after the main character.
This will be a definite re-visit in future -- the narrator is splendid.
The plot of this book is compelling, and the narrator's voice perfect for the part -- actually 'parts', as she clearly distinguishes between characters with her distinctive accents.
What the book lacks is decent editing. A good going-through with red pen, cutting superfluous scenes and repetitive conversations, would keep the storyline moving. Instead it has serious drag points -- how many times does one need to hear a character whine about then doubt their visions -- twice would have done for me. The characters repeatedly have huge flashes of anger or remorse, followed by apparent short-term memory loss, as they repeat their actions 24 hours later.
The author herself suffers from a lack of focus, as the characters she starts the book with seem to regress to adolescence emotionally.
A really good editor is needed here -- both to eliminate redundancy and help the author stay on track.
Of the 100s of audiobooks I've listened to, some I've loved and others not so much -- but never have I felt compelled to leave a negative review. However, this one has worked my last nerve.
I can't tell who is at fault: the author for describing everything ad nauseum (including those emotions that should be intuitive -- the listener knows from the third chapter that the pagan priest and his culture are doomed -- yet after five years of persecution the priest is still dazed and confused), or the reader for giving each syllable equal measure. His tone is redundantly portentious, he pauses at each and every comma and period -- in short, a truly unskilled reading.
Overall, the book is saved from being flat-out boring only by the dubious distinction of it's irritation factor.
While the author's descriptions of the Green and Black Forests are beautiful and vivid, the characters in this book are very one-dimensional-- inadvertent 'Everymen'. In addition, some of the necessary plot developments are highly improbable. World leaders gathered to listen to this young prophet-- due to his 'proof' of knowing the future (predicting the winner of the Kentucky Derby)-- would never happen. My third problem with the book itself is its length: the action would have been better served by stricter editing.
The narrator's monotone didn't add to the story. Although a huge fan of audio books, I will not be purchasing the next two in the trilogy.
The comparison to C.S. Lewis' gorgeous and engaging Narnia books is, in my opinion, totally unwarranted.
The author's command and use of language is remarkable, and the world created in this book is fascinating. The reader has a deep, soothing voice, and eloquently expresses the pauses along with the passages. The premise of the novel (truly a cautionary tale) is well presented and developed.
The problem (in my opinion) is the characters. As a whole they lack depth. They never developed into true humans with morals, empathy, and insight-- even though they are in the middle of a truly apocalyptic event.
The story presented many opportunities for deep character development-- but they remained one-dimensional, trapped forever in an adolescent narcissistic funk.
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