An absolute modern classic book evolves into an absolute modern classic audiobook. Gaiman is one of my favourite authors (write more, damn you!) and American Gods is maybe his finest work. This is pretty much my favourite audiobook thus far.
That some people still refuse to think of King as anything other than simply a horror writer baffles me. Even at his worst he's considerably more entertaining, inventive and downright readable than most authors are at their best.
On Writing is simply King advising authors how to improve their skills. It's a nuts and bolts 'how to' guide really but, as with most things King writes, there's way more to it than that. Yes he deals with everything from punctuation and vocab to finding an agent and getting published, but along the way he talks openly about his own journey.
From his first big payday to alcoholism, from drug abuse to being almost killed by someone who might have been a character from one of his own books, On Writing is tightly written and yet never feels lightweight. And King's account of the aftermath of being hit by a van whilst out walking is some of the most wince-inducing horror I've ever read.
Go in as cold as possible.
Guy finds an apartment that's too good to be true in a house that gets weirder the more he looks at it. Throw in some terrific supporting characters, a good backstory and some real head-scratching oddities and this is pretty much a must-read. It's just entertaining as hell and the narration is sublime.
Add it to your library.
I've always been a big fan of Steele and Coyote was one of his best books. The narration can be. A. Little. Stilted. Sometimes. as Ganim seems hell-bent on turning every word into it's own sentence sometimes, but it doesn't grate as much as you might think.
The story is familiar enough; the Earth's pretty much given all it has to give mankind and as a result he needs to relocate. A suitable planet is found and a ship built to get there with a hand-picked cargo of settlers. Trouble is said suitable planet will take 300+ years to reach and the crew have other ideas about who should be making the trip.
The story itself is terrific, with a near-future Earth that feels tangible (and often quite probable) and an alien world that is familiar enough to make sense and alien enough to be compelling. The account of the voyage there is a standout and an early treat in a substantial story.
I love Bill Bryson's writing, really I do. His books, audiobooks included, are some of my favourite and most revisited. And Down Under is a great book that is wholly ruined by the narrator, a whiny, pinch-voiced man who manages to take Bryson's wit and give it an air of smugness, sometimes bordering on spite. I don't know if I just despised the narrator because he was awful or because he was so utterly unsuitable to read Bryson. It doesn't help that he attempts accents and can't do them, making both English and Australian voices grating and high-pitched.
Honestly, the narrator ruins the book, but if you want this or several of Bryson's other, earlier, books, then this is the standard you get. I loathe abridged books but at least they're read by the man himself.
I quite liked the authors previous books, Daemon and Freedom, but I read them as opposed to listening to them. I'm kind of tempted to read this one but I don't think it will make much difference. It's just not a very good story delivered with not very good narration.
It's just so very, very average and jammed full of every possible thriller cliche going; tough but sensitive action hero, beautiful but suprisingly capable scientist heroine, a supporting cast of one dimensional stocking fillers of assorted ethnicity. You know one or two of the minor supporting players will die but you also know none of the big ones will. You know it will all be fine in the end, lessons will be learned, love will blossom and any movie adaptation will be terrible and probably star Nic Cage.
And then there's the narration, which is as one-dimensional as the writing, all chewed gravel and gritted teeth.
It's just so utterly, depressingly predictable. If you've read/listened to any number of formulaic Michael Crichton-lite action/sciencey books then cross this off your list.
This is really a book of two halves. The first half, in which our rogue asteroid is treated as a character, given a backstory and such, details the oh-so-slow-and-boring approach of armageddon. It's not tense, it's not sweaty-palm inducing, it's just dull. Mostly uninteresting characters do mostly uninteresting things as scientist endlessly debate how close this big chunk of doom will miss earth by. Now, forgive me for nit-picking, but I really don't see the point of devoting endless pages to characters repeatedly insisting the event the book is written around isn't going to happen. I know it's going to hit; that's why I bought the story. By all means, spend a little time on such things but anything more is flogging a dead horse.
And when the comet does, finally, touch down, the book improves. The mechanics of destruction, the effect of Lucifers Hammer on the Earth are particularly well done and suitably 'wow' in their description, as are the cascade of events that follow such a massive event.
But then the book just becomes a fairly generic post-apocalyptic tale. Looting, pillaging, rape, murder, gangs, some trying to get the world back up and running and some trying to burn the last few bits of civilisation left standing. It all feels very familiar and contains, with few exceptions, very little that strays off the well worn path of post apocalyptic fiction.
The benchmarks in this genre for me are The Stand, Alas Babylon and Swan Song, two of which thread the generic end of the world story with the supernatural and are much better for it and the other, Alas Babylon, is just a better written, more interesting and more immersive tale. Lucifer's Hammer is just a bit too 'The A to Z of The Apocalypse' to warrant much of a recommendation.
The narration is good, though sometimes the narrator lacks the ability to make voices easily distinguishable, but that's a minor gripe. It's just a ho-hum story.
Aside from a very few flat spots, this is now my second favourite post apocalyptic tale after The Stand. The characters are uniformly superb creations that are given real depth and, regardless of their morality, made understandable if not likable. It's a fine story and well told.
But the cream in the sponge cake, so to speak, is the narration. Mr Stechschulte isn't a narrator I've come across before but his telling is pitch perfect. Regardless of a character's age, gender or ethnicity, they're given distinctive and recognisable voices that evolve even as the characters themselves do. A brilliant piece of work and one of the best narrations I've come across.
The key to surviving this post financial implosion world is to be a Christian and find other Christians. Do that, and you should be ok, though you'll have to defend yourself against many heathens. Oh, and buy silver and gold. There you go; saved you a download.
After book 3, I was gutted to find out Roy Dotrice didn't do the narration for book 4. Instead, some talentless no-mark got the gig and, almost without exception, made an absolute dog's dinner of it.
So imagine my delight when Dotrice returned for book 5!
And then I started listening...
I've praised Dotrice's work previously because he gave a huge range of characters a unique and consistent voice. Why then does he suddenly elect to give a young girl the screwed up voice of a yokel crone when previously she'd been anything but? Why then does he take what was previously a rich, husky female voice and again turn it into something more suited to a wart-nosed witch? Yes, the majority of the characters are as they were, but these two aren't the only jarring changes but they are by far the worst.
And then there's the story. The previous books had intrigue, shocks, revelations and great characters and a wide but still cohesive narration that was occasionally interspersed with chunks of 'nothing much happens'. This book still has the intrigue etc, but it also has great swathes of text where characters just... really... don't... do... much. At all. I'm looking at you Daenerys, you wishy washy sack of absolute tedium. Other characters that have been dead since before book 1 suddenly take centre stage. Martin has never been shy of offing major characters but he seems to be developing a taste for occasionally resurrecting them without really seeming to have good reason. The cast just keeps getting bigger and more complex. The chronology of events from one place to the next gets tricky to follow.
Dragons feels more like a book from an author who's created too much 'stuff'' in his world trying to give it all time in the sun so he can get it straight. As a result, the tale sometimes seems a little forced and occasionally 'round peg, square hole' as pieces are forced into places and events that just lack.. something.
Still, if anyone can tie it all together in the end, it's GRRM.
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