Author Kage Baker creates a fully imagined, logical world peopled with colorful characters. Listening, especially during the cold season, you can almost imagine yourself being there. On the down side, the characters do not change or develop. Rather than building, the conflict tends to bump along, occasionally breaking down like one of the dust-covered vehicles that roam the settlements. Everything comes together in the end, as expected, but the journey benefits from some fast-forwarding through the repetitive problems the characters encounter.
I do not read the kind of books Larry Correia writes. Yet I've listened to two and will probably listen to more because I can trust this writer to deliver kick-ass good guys (male and female); stinky slimeballs; strong-arm bad guys; the Supreme and Nearly Invincible Evil; and best of all, an action plot with characters who crack jokes and are individual and sympathetic enough to involve my interest. Correia's fight scenes amaze me--they go on and on and when you think they ought to end by now, they go on. I get bored with the longer fights but I can respect what the author is doing because he does it well. If he's corny, it's because he intends to be. Once the gun goes off at the starting gate, you're in for a fast ride. With guns and explosions, lots of 'em!
I hardly dare disagree with all the rave reviews, but this book takes me back to college assignments to read excellently written books that bored me out of my skull. I can't be sure if the problem is the narrator's repetitive, choppy rendition that rolls through every phrase and sentence at the same pace or if the pace of the writing itself is the same throughout. I suspect the problem is the narrator and plan to read the text instead.
The research is meticulous and accurate, the writing as precise as you would expect from McCann. This book lacks the deep involvement with each character that Let the Great World Spin had. I read about each character from a distance, more like a newspaper report racing through events. In a novel, I want to live with the characters, be right on the ground with them rather than peering down from above.
The author's historical research and detail are impeccable; the writing is highly competent. In her effort to heap up red herrings and plot twists, however, the author mostly succeeds in creating an unconvincing melodrama. Quite early in the book, I wanted someone to throttle the fair and frail Lydia, beloved of our hero only because she is a lovely lady in distress. She's a stock character, a non-entity. The so-brilliant Dr. Thomas Silkstone is reduced to cliché-spouting idiocy in her presence. He has to love her; otherwise he would have little motivation to work feverishly to solve the mystery. I have no doubt the series improves in later novels but this novel does not impel me to continue reading them.
Warning: don't listen to the opening scene while driving; you might laugh so hard that you end up in a ditch. The marked humor in this one makes it my favorite of the six Longmire books I've read and listened to so far, a welcome relief from the grimmer stories, even despite the sub-freezing temperatures and snow that I dislike as much in novels as in life. With George Guidall narrating, this series is better heard than read.
One element that grows tiresome is the way Longmire has to get physically beat up in every novel and give his all in a last-ditch chase, battling his injuries, the elements, and circumstances. It's a convention of the genre but stretches one's suspension of disbelief. Fortunately, you can even laugh about the injuries in Junkyard Dogs.
John le Carre is a master at knowing when to cut a scene and what to leave out, how to give just enough information to make you pay attention and figure things out. The way he layers out information can be as puzzling as life but not so puzzling that, even listening, you can't keep track. Except with this book. I recommend it as a book to read rather than to hear because it jumps around in time and place so quickly and frequently that the listener is constantly playing catch-up, especially if you listen while doing something else and your attention is split.
Those who find the book fully absorbing might be OK with it. It's harder to follow the narrative thread if you're not invested in the main character, Oliver Single. He's a cipher, a blank slate on which others write. That's his purpose in the book. He might summon up some backbone in the end--I won't know until I get a hard copy from the library and finish reading with my eyes instead of my ears.
The main strength is that Michael Jayston is such a good narrator that you will know who is talking even when you don't know where or when the scene is occurring.
I agree with "Lost in Manhattan." The first part of the novel detailing the main character's upbringing, war experience, and initial time in America is absorbing and shows promise. Suddenly, without reason or warning, the point of view shifts. With that shift, I completely lost interest even though the con game was supposedly becoming more complex at that point.
The reader made no sense at all. Everyone in America had an English accent. There are many other readers who could have done a much better job.
I'll happily listen to any Scalzi book that Wil Wheaton narrates but I'm glad I listened to others first. Scalzi has done better writing and better satire. This one reads as if the screenwriter in the coda wrote it in a couple of his six-hour stints--dash it off and send it out full of conscious cleverness. Since this is a more recent book, I hope it's not a sign of things to come.
When listening to the sample, I thought this reader would be OK; but after a few chapters, I couldn't stand to listen any more. I had to stop before this reader entirely destroyed the book for me. I loved this novel when I first read it many years ago--Herzog's urgent letters to everyone, the humor. There's nothing wrong with the quality of Hillgartner's performance but I found his interpretation wrong. He pounds out the words, ignoring any poetry in Bellow's writing. The constant low-level irony allows no room for the places where irony really belongs and it provokes irritation at Herzog, even dislike of this character. In Bellow's hands, not Hillgartner's, Herzog is more likely to provoke empathy for his vanities, foibles, and many errors--his humanity.
There's no denying the quality of Lethem's writing. His mimicry of the hard-boiled, Raymond Chandler type, simile-swinging detective is spot on. The novel's concept is clever and engaging--at first. After the first surprise of discovering the old-fashioned PI juxtaposed with a dystopian society, I found the story gets old, the characters are trite and undeveloped, and I got bored.
Some listeners found this book slow; I found it thoughtful. It took me a while to warm to this series when I began with the print version. Having discovered the Audible version, I'm a fan. All the books have something to say about ethics and behavior. This one in particular asked what is the right thing to do vs what is the kind thing? How does one best respond to a certain type of person and how can one best teach? And, of course, there's the fond touch of human foolishness and Smith's deep affection for his characters.
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