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.
Unlike Newman's Dracula book (I didn't find Anno Dracula interesting), this one is fast-paced, humorous and worth a listen for the bon mots alone. Colonel Moran is hilariously amoral and cynical. The Holmes-Watson world is turned inside-out. Moriarity, for instance, cultivates wasps and takes great satisfaction in their deadly effects on experimental subjects. The action rushes along a little too quickly in places. I don't know if I cared whether there was any action at all; I was that captivated by the language.
I didn't mind the slow start that bothered others. By the time the action began picking up and something significant happened--relevant! a statement! important in the world!--I was so sick of the tiresome, navel-gazing protagonist that I lost interest. Will she be jailed? Bring back hanging for this character and her lover. She certainly needs major editing to rid the book of those endless what-ifs and pointless speculations that even the peerless Juliet Stevenson cannot save. The story gives an accurate portrait of a woman obsessed with someone, a woman of status and accomplishment who thought herself confident and self-possessed becoming as nutty as any teenager. But good literature needs more than accuracy and this book doesn't have it. Instead of creating tension, the hook at the beginning merely results in impatience. Without it, would anyone get past the first few pages or minutes?
This is Downie's best yet. Without losing any of the humor of the his tactlessness or inability to "control your wife," the Medicus' character is more consistent with his actions than in the previous books. He has lost the sad-sack bumbling that belonged to a less intelligent character. Humor, horror, and danger are perfectly balanced. I sped through this one, listening every chance I could get, completely absorbed in the all-too-modern politics of the Roman Empire; the characters; and of course, the plot.
I'm comparing this book to Gone With the Wind for the way it focuses intensely on a small group of people, through them showing the effects of a ruinous war. The book gives us personal melodramas enacted throughout changing times. Our personal absorption in these characters makes each event of the war all the more shocking. Although it's overly long, the extraneous details are absorbing, thanks to Robin Miles' brilliant narration through which each voice becomes a fully realized character.
This book might win runner-up in the bad Hemingway contest. " I thought of Maria. I checked the .9 mm in my shoulder holster. I needed the .45, but it was lost somewhere in the sea of dust bunnies under Stella's bed." All read in a gravelly monotone that is supposed to sound hard-boiled.
The hero is a wounded soul. Check. Everyone's a bad guy. Check. Everyone's corrupt. Check. A few have a spark of integrity. Check. I cannot finish. Check.
This is a popular science book that expertly combines research with anecdote. I thought I wouldn't mind the narrator but after an hour, couldn't stand any more of her. She reads in a hushed, whispery voice (reverence for the death of species?) with little change in intonation, expertly combining boredom with irritation.
In a great book, the author knows what to leave unsaid. This book would be improved by cutting half the overly detailed and sometimes overwrought description. You could practically hear the violins playing in the background when hero and heroine meet. We already know from previous heavy hints that they are to be star-crossed. Description sets scene and mood, but each detail should also serve a purpose in moving the story forward. There may be an engrossing story buried here, but I lost interest.
Expect a cross between a Coen brothers' movie and Candide--plus a touch of Forrest Gump. It's funny, absurd, and entertaining as the 100-year-old man collects equally eccentric characters while the plot snowballs along. Enter this book as you would a fable and you won't be disappointed.
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.
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