I don't know why I'd never heard of Banks or the Culture before. After finally discovering and consuming what little of the series we've got on offer here at Audible, I've started to see references to it everywhere. Go figure. But if you, like me, are into the kind of science fiction that rewards a thinking and speculative approach, then you'd do well not to let this series pass you by. Iain is deathlessly funny in the blackest of black ways, and the narrator's quick and cunning reading really highlights the flippantly grim nature of the galaxy in which the Culture thrives--seriously, tried listening to some other Culture books with another narrator who tried this whole somber style, really didn't work out.
Consider Phlebas is the story of a war between the hyperliberal semi-transcendental post-human Culture civilization, the quintessential 'good guys' of a near-endpoint technological civilization, and a race of near-immortal warrior-poet types spreading their religion to the galaxy. Yeah, yeah, it sounds preachy, but it ain't. Through three or four intertwined narratives (the Culture books almost always do that Charles Stross thing where stories with unclear connections come together to a harmonious narrative), we get to know the civilizations we're looking into and watch as they breach the territory of a genuinely transcendent godlike mega-species, the Culture to rescue one of its own artificial intelligences, their enemies to capture that same mind for the technology it will offer them. But the plot, elegant though it is, isn't even the best part; it's the beautifully flowering exposition of the society of the galaxy, which Banks pulls off with an impossible grace. You'll wanna go there.
Just get it! You won't regret it, swear.
At Home is what we've come to expect from Bill Bryson's essaybooks: Thoughtful, sympathetic, patient and wide-ranging, in this case to the point of unfocusedness. That doesn't detract anything from the final work, though; At Home is very much a series of historical vignettes attached to a loose theme, the development of the private life of a citizenry, particularly that of Britain and particularly during the nineteenth century, though he does occasionally range further. Bryson delivers his usual excellent performance--see a picture of him once and you can see every facial expression he must have had while delivering the reading from his voice alone--and, if not attaining the heights of fun he did with In a Sunburned Country, still manages to imbue the whole thing with a wit that'll keep you intrigued.
If the book has a fault, it's only that it's wandering. The specific topic isn't adhered to very strictly, so if you're the kind of person who thinks that no chapter of a book should diverge from its thesis, you might find it occasionally frustrating. Occasionally forgetting exactly what the entire book is about, though, is a small price to pay, as almost every one of the many topics discussed is self-contained and excellent. Pick it up, yo.
Shelly Frasier's superb reading brings out the sardonic wit in this well-researched description of the various clever (and not so clever) fates that human corpses have been subject to. The topics (human composting?) are sometimes uncomfortable, but they are handled with matter-of-fact sensitivity (and a touch of gallows humor) that left me full of admiration, both for the author and the researchers she's interviewed.
One comment: My son and I moved on from this book to Mary Roach's
Haven't listened to others yet but am eager to find more.
No. In fact, due to the somewhat disturbing subject material, we found it best to listen to a chapter or two and then switch to something more light-hearted for a break. But we were always eager to get back.
Fabulous reader with a huge range in voices, each flowing seamlessly from the narrative, breathes life and vitality into an novel famous for its abundance of secondary characters.As with any Dickens novel, the plot of Bleak House bumps and rumbles along (and along and along) presenting not so much one story as a collage of interwoven stories punctuated by long, evocative descriptions. But the writing is excellent and Hugh Dickson's reading carries even the lengthiest description of London Streets and well-situated country views, and the main character, Esther, manages to be both a fascinating portrait of Victorian ideals about womanhood and an interesting person in her own right.
This is the first Hugh Dickson performance I've heard, but I will be looking for more.
Anyone familiar with Nigel Planar's enchanting reading of this series will howl in agony as soon as this book starts to play. Listen to a sample before purchasing. I wish I had!
I can't review the novel, which I've heard is charming. The reader is artificial and dreary...marginally listenable until she gets to imitating children's voices in squinched up tones that sent my son and me running for the TV set.
I strongly recommend previewing a sample before you purchase this audiobook.
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