Schama is a talented writer, and his narrative flows easily, but it is really just a popular history of the English Monarchy from William the Conqueror through Elizabeth 1. Even then, while he hits on all of the major points of that time frame, he obviously felt that there were really only a few Monarchs who deserved more than a cursory mention, leaving this very much a book in the Great Man of History tradition.
William I, Edward I, Henry II and Beckett, Henry III and Eleanor and the Tudors all get lots of press. Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Chaucer, Shakespeare, the War of the Roses, Richard III, the Crusades and many other aspects of British history are given scant mention.
Thorne does a fine job as narrator, and it is a well written book, with a sly wit, but the subtitle is a bit misleading.
Keri is very knowledgeable about baseball, but has dumbed down the subject a bit too much. He also apparently did not have nearly the access that Billy Beane had given Michael Lewis, and so relies too much upon telling rather than showing or discussions from the relevant characters.
The title is a bit misleading, as it feels like the story he spins is 60% "Tampa Bay can never compete because of baseball's revenue gaps" or "Tampa Bay was a horribly run franchise for years", and only 40% (or less) on how the Rays manage to compete with the Evil Empire and the Sox anyway. He hints at issues between the Red Sox ownership and the Tampa ownership, but, with no access to any of the parties involved, he leaves it unexplored.
Unfortunately for Keri, I think any book of this sort will be compared to Moneyball, and the writer to Lewis. While Keri, undoubtedly, knows more about baseball than Lewis, myself, or 99.9% of all Americans, you wouldn't know it from this book. And Keri, while a better writer than I could ever hope to be (check him out on Grantland), may be better suited to essays and articles. He repeats points, arguments and jokes (3 times referring to different sums of money as "rounding errors" for the Yankees and Red Sox), and leaves the most interesting parts of the Tampa story relatively unexplored.
As for Lloyd James, pleasant voice, okay pacing, but either he knows next to nothing about the subject matter, or he mailed it in.
Nice performance by Mr. Snyder as narrator. That's the good news. As to the story, it would be kind to say the plot was thin, the action remotely believable or the characters were 2 dimensional.
I am aware that a suspension of disbelief is necessary to enjoy this genre, and I have enjoyed the entire Vince Rapp series, and just about every Ludlum, Clancy, Haig, Silva and Lee Child book I've read or listened to, but asking me to believe that he can (mini-spoiler) deliver 30 kicks hard enough to break a cement bench in 10 seconds (with a bullet wound in his thigh and his feet cut up by glass), or any of 15 other even more unbelievable feats of will and strength to propel the story forward might push the envelope a little too far.
There is no mystery as to why anything is happening, who the bad guys are, who is double-crossing the lead character or whether he will succeed in reaching his goal. Almost every scene with the main antagonist is used primarily to enforce the idea that he is the most vile, evil man you could imagine rather than to flesh out his motives, move the story forward or provide any backstory beyond the very simplistic plot.
The action is non-stop, but repetitious, rather like hearing about one after another of a series of Battle Royales in Pro Wrestling back-to-back. And while the dialogue is possibly more stilted than anything George Lucas ever wrote, at least it is so predictable that you can recite it along with the narrator, even though you have never heard the book before.
If you wan to listen to this book, listen to the first hour or so, then skip ahead an hour, listen for 5 minutes, skip another hour, listen for 5 minutes, and repeat until last 20 minutes. After you then listen to the last 20 minutes, you'll be able to say you made it through this dreck without missing a thing.
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