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.
Look, none of the series is particularly well written, but what they had was passion and belief in them. The guy writing them knew his subject - survival when society crumbles - and that made up for an awful lot that was missing in terms of literary merit. Often the book was a manual for surviving when the brown stuff hits the fan but by book 3, the author was struggling to keep things going whilst not repeating the same old things.
Book 4 though is almost entirely a waste of time and, in terms of the overall story, pretty much irrelevant. Characters that weren't that brilliant to start with but were at least kind of believable, are now paper thin, spouting trite and repetitive dialogue. Plot points that were once fresh and interesting to read are repeated and rehashed, with what should be major events built up into absolute non-events.
Most of the time you get the distinct impression our author Angry American ran out of things to say and just... kept typing anyway. It's almost entirely filler.
Rowling is at the top of her game, and reintroduces us to some already well-established characters and adds more to them as we go. She's a natural storyteller, plain and simple, and she does so with smooth and seemingly effortless skill.
The narrator is absolutely flawless. His characters never jar, he never over-eggs his narration and always gives them detail and definition without 'acting' them out.
The 'whodunnit' story is set in the world of publishing and you know Rowling is an expert witness in telling us what it's like there.
I'd rewrite it to better suit the tone of book 2. As a standalone story it rates about an 'ok'. It's typical horror and seems to be written primarily for shock-value. Book 2 is almost the opposite of this.
He's fast becoming my favourite narrator. Manages to avoid the 'tough guy with gravelly' voice cliche whilst still making everyone distinct. He also does female voices very well.
I bought book 2.
I'm complaining about something that's free, but I just think book 1 might put some people off reading book 2 which would be a shame.
Need solar panels.
Seriously, reading this made me want to buy a large backpack and convert my house to solar power. I'm not being facetious.
It should stand comparison to all manner of post-apocalyptic books, but it actually stands fairly alone. That being said, this is my first survivalist-themed story.
It's a decent sized cast of characters and he gives them all a strong, unique voice. He also doesn't give the hero a hero voice, instead going for something more grounded and everyman.
Not moved as such, but I found the depiction of how quickly society would break down to be both believable and more than a bit worrying.
This is very obviously written by someone who knows what they're talking about. Often, the story feels like a survival manual; recipes, plans, how to modify equipment, what equipment to get and more besides are all covered in detail and the story really has substance behind it. The reason for the apocalypse may (or may not for all I know) be unlikely, but the characters reactions to it rarely feel less than very real.
I was entertained enough to easily justify buying the other stories in the saga and went through them all in short order. Pretty thoroughly recommended.
It's a book I picked up simply because so many were raving about it and now I'm one of them. The most recent comparison is probably the movie Gravity and the central premise, one person fighting to survive against all the odds, is sort of the same. The big difference is that in Gravity the threat of death was immediate, just minutes away at any time.
In The Martian, death can be anywhere from just a minute or two away, or a year or two in the future or anywhere in between. You could survive for months for nothing, making that one mistake that costs you your life. Some essential piece of equipment could fail and maybe end it quickly or maybe just make you aware you have a finite time left and that you will die.
Or maybe you'll survive long enough to starve to death.
It's a genuinely tense book. A manned mission to Mars has to be aborted and one man is left behind, and he is, in every sense of the word, alone. You're reading his journal and though you might think you're reading as he writes it, for all you know you're reading it after the fact. And that starts to prey on you as the reader, something not helped by the fact that our hero is such a well-written and thoroughly likable character.
It's tense, often laugh out loud funny, endlessly inventive and just... smart. The book feels like a survival manual for an alien planet more than it feels like an adventure story, and that feeling of being grounded adds further to how much you genuinely care about what happens.
So many times the hero is faced with a situation where there is no way he can survive. It's just not possible and so you know, as the reader, that the author's going to have to come up with some contrived way to get him out of it.
But he never does, not once. There's no stretching of credibility, nothing impossible and nothing absurd. Mostly it's lateral thinking and sheer determination that gets the guy through and the more he does so, the more you end up rooting for him.
This type of story can easily be ruined by a bad narrator. A lot of books annoy the hell out of me when the hero is given the kind of voice that comes from chewing-gravel; dark and deep and almost a parody of a tough guy voice.
Bray knows that this is an everyman and gives him an everyman voice that's a pleasure to listen to. He also manages to surround the central character with a range of distinct characters; accents sound genuine, female characters sound feminine and nobody jars the ears. It's a pretty sublime piece of work all round and makes an obvious great book into an equally great audiobook.
I laughed out loud regularly, yet none of what I was laughing at felt contrived. The characters speak believably and so it's easy to respond to them. They're written very naturally and Bray gives them natural voices. Most of the time I felt more like I was listening in than being read to.
Easily one of my favourite audiobooks. Early in the review I compared this to Gravity and they share another trait; both are improved by a variation on the standard media. Gravity is a great movie but it is immeasurably better as a 3D movie; it becomes genuinely breathtaking. The Martian is a great book, but it's immeasurably better as an audiobook.
I honestly can't rate it highly enough. Flawless.
Juliette, who has every characteristic of the indomitable hero and none of the cliches that usually go with it. Great character and if they ever make a TV series of this (and they really should - it's perfect for the medium), there'll be no shortage of actresses who want the gig.
Juliette. See above.
Yup. Couldn't manage it but one day I'll go on holiday and devour the trilogy on a beach whilst cooking in the sun.
Thanks to the other reader reviews that made me give the trilogy a whirl. Most appreciated.
An original idea.
It was just so formulaic and predictable. Narration was a bit too 'trailer voice-over guy' to give the story any impact, which didn't help, but the characters are just paper-thin. There's treachery, but you see it coming. All is not what it seems, but you see it coming. It's a story that's been done many times and usually better than it's done here.
He's a good narrator in that he's clear and his voices are fairly distinct from one another, but he just can't wind in the 'square jawed hero' voice. Like I said, often his narration sounds like an audition for trailer voice-over work; it was a time of warrrrr.
Nothing, I just didn't click with the story. Some people probably will.
At least I listened to the entire story, so it couldn't have been that bad.
I'm a big Stephen King fan and have very much enjoyed his last couple. While this wasn't classic King, it was certainly an enjoyable listen.
Finding out what happened to Danny Torrance after The Overlook burned down was the most interesting. Find out about The True Knot and, in particular, Rose the Hat, was often dull and predictable.
I have; Alas, Babylon (which was fantastic). He's pretty good here and I have no problems with his narration, though he does sometimes get a bit over-wrought.
Way more worthwhile than answering the same question you asked first off in this review. Allow me to cut and paste...'I'm a big Stephen King fan and have very much enjoyed his last couple. While this wasn't classic King, it was certainly an enjoyable listen.'There. Happy now? Good. Moving on...
Not his best but plenty good enough. The middle third especially is outstanding, but the first third is too long and windy and the climax is oddly formulaic for King, something which can arguably said for most of the story. It feels like a good idea not quite seen through, if that makes sense.
I've read a lot of Bryson books and the ones he narrates are always a cut above their print versions. His voice is (unsurprisingly) perfect for his books. The audio-books of his work that are NOT read by the man himself, however, are to be avoided at all costs. I'd rather listen to abridged Bryson read by him than unabridged read by someone else.
Really only other books by Bryson. Pick one. Down Under, A Walk In The Woods, Life & Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid (probably closest in terms of painting a portrait of a time gone by), At Home... the list goes on. There's no other author quite like him.
The unfolding story of Charles Lindbergh, how this wholly uncharismatic man and genius pilot was made into an unwilling and often bewildered American legend.
No (it's not that kind of book really) but all of it entertained me.
If you like Bryson, you will love this. If you don't like Bryson, there's no reason to think this one will change your oddly tasteless mind.
But if you've never given Bryson a try, I genuinely envy you. Start immediately. Buy half a dozen of his non-language books (not my cup of tea) that are read by him (no other narrator is capable of voicing his voice, so to speak), take a long weekend away from distraction, and relax. I very much doubt you'll regret it.
You see, it doesn't matter what or who or when Bill Bryson turns his gaze onto, what matters is that it's his gaze. He is sublimely gifted at looking at the most mundane or well known of events and showing you that, truth be told, you were almost completely misinformed about it, assuming you were informed at all.
I'm not American. I have little interest in American history or the 20s in general. I have no fascination for Lindbergh or Babe Ruth or Al Capone or any one of the other characters, big or small, that fill this book. The folly of Fordlandia doesn't matter to me. Baseball and boxing from the 20s is a subject I've never pondered on. The race to be first to cross the Atlantic by plane is a subject I know nothing about other than Lindbergh was first and he was loved for it.
But all of that changes when it's Bryson telling me about these things. He picks out the most wonderful details and anecdotes, gives them a life of their own and makes you fascinated by the same things you didn't give a hoot about before you started listening.
He's just a wonderful author.
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.
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