Anybody who has ever thought of Smallpox as "not that big a deal" or referred to it as "a bad case of Chicken Pox, right?" has GOT to hear this book. Extremely detailed without being gratuitous, the author really drives home the reality of deadly substances like Smallpox virus and Anthrax, and their consequences to our everyday lives. I literally could not pull myself away from my iPod!
Though the subject matter is interesting, and the observations made insightful, the fact that the edition performed for Audible has not been updated since written in 2006 makes this audiobook almost unlistenable. Think about how much has changed regarding the internet since LAST YEAR, let alone almost a decade. Constant references are made to things like MySpace, Paris Hilton, Sidekick Phones and Yahoo Radio. I felt like I was reading a history textbook from the 1950's.
No mention of Twitter, no mention of Facebook, no mention of e-books, (though Borders is mentioned several times...) NO MENTION OF THE IPHONE SINCE IT HADN'T COME OUT YET. It's difficult to concentrate on something on a book that makes thrilling revelations like "Soon companies like Netflix may make thousands of titles from their DVD library available for immediate digital delivery".
I'm ever so slightly paraphrasing the sentence above, (I didn't have time to go back and transcribe the actual line) but I assure you it's pretty damned close to the literal line in the performance. Worth listening to, but just be aware that you're going to be doing a lot of groaning and eye-rolling if you haven't been living under a digital rock for the last 8 years or so.
Oh, just the narration and production. Clearly this was either sloppily done, or rushed to completion. There are many false starts, flubs and 2nd takes that should have been edited out of the final master. You'll hear the narrator read the same line two, and sometimes three times until he gets it right.
Though his inflection is fine his mispronunciations and flubs are numerous. At first it was kind of funny to hear him say things like "Sodium Penthonol", (instead of Sodium PENTothol) and "Drink Driving", (instead of DRUNK Driving) but eventually it really annoys you and takes you out of the book. Some other gems include "Judicinal System" and Shrever Port Louisiana. Once again, this might be because the production of the audio book was rushed or sloppy. You can't blame the guy for flubbing some things or pronouncing them incorrectly if he's not familiar with them, but come on! Catch it before it gets posted to Audible!
If you can get past the terrible narration and production the content is actually fascinating. A little gory at times, but definitely interesting for the true crime fan. Also, since each chapter is self-contained and not too long it makes for a great back-and-forth-to-work kind of listen.
Being a big fan of true crime books, (check out "Havana Nocturne", "Unholy Messenger" "Under and Alone" and "Takedown" for a few of my personal favorites) I had high hopes for "Without a Badge". It may, indeed, be an excellent read. Unfortunately, the narrator chosen for this audiobook presentation was laughably awful. The actual narration of descriptive text was passable, but every time he attempts an accent of any kind, the performance jumps into the realm of the silly. NONE of the attempted accents, (several New York, New Jersey, and various hispanic accents make the list) are anywhere near close to accurate, and in most cases, are so off base they sound like some sort of made up silly voice you'd use to tell a children's story. Or, worse yet, sound like regular speech while randomly scrunching up your mouth to obscure the pronunciation. Sad really, as the subject matter is interesting. I may pick it up and actually read it, provided I can keep a straight face thinking back to the narration of the parts I have already listened to.
Being a skeptic, I was happy to see an objective approach taken towards the issues of so called "global warming" and "climate change", to which this book devotes most of its content. I was actually shocked that Crichton, who seems to be so "dialed in" to the Hollywood scene, took such an unpopular, (if CORRECT) stance on the issue. Looks like he won't be getting a Christmas (solstice?) card from Ed Begley Jr. this year... There were enough admittedly long winded "discussions" between characters that allowed Crichton to make his point in the context of the story, though they became a tiny bit redundant, especially towards the climax. The concepts were interesting, the mechanics of the story... poor. Plot holes you could drive a Prius through. Characters introduced early on, only to be abandoned mid story. And, an ending that sounded like ol' Mike's Powerbook battery was dying and he had to finish before he ran out of juice. I look forward to every Crichton book, but would have gladly waited another few months to let him "finish" this one.
Several comments have been made about the narrator, and his lack of talent/variation/enthusiasm and his over abundance of bodily functions. Frankly, I thought he did a pretty decent job dramatically. The "burps and gurgles" heard during the read were not his fault. Trust me, I di video/audio production for a living. They were SOLEY the fault of the producer and/or the editor. Those technical problems were supposed to be fixed "in post" as they say, but were never dealt with. This just leads me more to believe that this production and book were rushed. Several times the narrator repeats the same line twice to give the producer a "second take". They missed about 5 of these, and did not edit them out. Slipshod work.
The long and short? If you're a Crichton fan, give it a listen. If you're a skeptic, give it a listen. If you're looking for flawless sci-fi storytelling, go read something by Asimov. You'll be happier.
Before finishing the final book in the DT series, I had read several reviews, both professional and by readers, that complained, bitterly, about the book's end. While I would NEVER give away the ending for all those of you lucky enought to be working your way through this and the other DT books, I had to chime in with these words of advice:
1. The book itself is WONDERFUL. Even if the thing ended with Roland waking up in a farmhouse with Auntie Em and Toto it would still be worth reading (and NO, it does not actually end that way...)
2. The ending, to careful readers or nitpickers like me, should come as no great surprise. It's been masterfully and subtly telegraphed throughout the entire 7 book run.
3. King himself gives you an "out" before he starts controversial this ending. And not to be a dimestore psychologist here, this choice echos the choices the Gunslinger has made, and continues to make. Are you open minded and content to enjoy the story up to that point, or are you driven to the end, no matter what the consequences, like our favorite "long, tall and ugly" cowboy?
The only caveat I can give those who like neat, clean, "Hollywood endings", STOP READING when King tells you to. If you want to see what REALLY happens... Well, you can open that door when you come to it...
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