I was very disappointed by this short story. I thought it would give some insight into how Bonzo Madrid turned out the way he did. Nope. It had almost nothing to do with the Ender saga, other than IF personnel dropping in for a sentence every now and then. It didn't even address the teaser description, which implied that "loving a child so much" was bad for him, presumably spoiling him. There was no indication in this story that Bonzo was spoiled.
What was Orson Scott Card thinking when he wrote and released this?
The reader was the WORST ever. My mind constantly wandered as I listened, and I had to rewind to hear things again.
First, I completely agree with the other reviewers that this reader is TERRIBLE. Absolutely the worst reader I've experienced in over 140 Audible books. I continually found my mind wandering and had to back-up and re-listen to passages. This has never happened to me with any other audio book. Having started the next book - The Third Reich in Power - with the same reader, I can tell you that he is just as bad in that book.
As to the book itself...
It's a generally good survey of the years 1919-33 in Weimar Republic Germany, though I can't say it told me anything I didn't already know. The only exceptions to this are the dozens of small stories of small people, none of which add much to the narrative. On the other hand, the author skims over the "Revolution of 1919". From reading the book you'd have no idea what happened during this period. Nevertheless, if you're looking for a history of that period in Germany, and how Hitler came to power, this is a good resource.
One issue I have with the book is with the author's characterization of the Nazis and any nationalist org as "right wing" or "conservative". There have been plenty of left-wing nationalist parties over the years - in Russia, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia, for example. There have been plenty of left-wing racists - Margaret Sanger, Harold Laski, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and William Beveridge, to name a few. Just because the Nazis were violently opposed to Communism doesn't make them right-wing. The Menscheviks were opposed to the Bolsheviks, yet all that made them was a competing left-wing group. The Nazis were classically left-wing - they wanted to mobilize every aspect of society to serve the state, they intruded into every nook and crannie of life, they were an extreme perversion of the Progressivism of the era. By my own and many others' commonly understood definition of "right-wing" as being in favor of minimal government and maximum individual liberty, Nazism is just another radical, murderous left-wing ideology.
But then I realized that author Richard Evans is probably a left winger himself, so he consciously or unconsciously had to characterize the Nazis as right-wing. The tip-off was when he wrote that the Nazis' brutality and torture in 1933 didn't compared to the more systematized torture in "Argentina, Chile, and Greece in the 1970's". How about Stalin and then Beria's Soviet Union, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Mao's China, Fidel and Che's Cuba, or any other Communist dictatorship over the past 100 years? Are Argentina, Chile, and Greece really the apogee of systematized torture?
If you can ignore the constant references to "extreme right-wing" Nazis, and if you haven't already read or studied this period in Germany, this can be a useful book.
Like Thomas Friedman, David Andelman is another NY Times "journalist" in search of the single unified theory of something, in this case of all history since 1919 and the Treaty of Versailles. While some of Andelman's analysis is insightful, he stretches his all-encompassing view that the post-war settlement by the Great Powers is the root of all modern evil. Thus, he lays the history of post-1945 Vietnam, Korea, and China to the decisions made and not made in Paris. His belief is that almost every region of the world was affected by Versailles - I'm surprised he left out Latin America.
On a minor note, Andelman seems obsessed by "Jews". I lost count of how many people he described as "a Jew from ..." The only other person whose religion he emphasized was the steretype of "Woodrow Wilson and his Calvinist upbringing". I don't know what Andelman's point was in mentioning who was Jewish. He also treats Jews as a nationality in Europe, rather than a religion. Thus he describes Yugoslavia as consisting of 45% Serbs, 20% Croats, 11% Slovenes... and 4% Jews. Yet when he talks about religion in Yugoslavia, he says it was rent by three religions - Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim.
Lastly, Andelman should have sprung for someone else to narrate his book. Whenever he quotes someone, he speeds up to 45 rpm and goes into a nasal staccato that reminds me of Eddie Murphy doing his imitation of a white doctor.
You can skip the first 27 minutes, which is the author's acknowledgments. You can skip the next two hours, which mainly cover the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party in the 1920's and 30's. Then skip the next thee hours, until the Aussies get to Tobruk. And then skip ahead another hour until Rommel and the Germans get to Africa. So now you're seven hours into this book, and at chapter seven. That cuts the reading down by 70% of the running time.
The author does over-rate Gen. Rommel, and claims he was the most popular man in the Third Reich after Hitler himself. I don't believe this was true, but just an attempt by the author to inflate the importance of the enemy.
The author also blames General Archibald Percival Wavell for the later loss of Singapore, when it was actually General Arthur Ernest Percival who surrendered that island, admittedly under the distant command of Gen. Wavell. Not that Wavell was a great leader; just not as bad as the author claims.
I actually liked the reading. It was quite jocular and in character with the text of the book. I've seen other comments that criticized the reading and the style of writing, but I enjoyed them.
The book is well written and does a great job of telling the story of this forgotten war. Hastings doesn't pull any punches with either the Americans or North Koreans.
The narrator, though, is appalling. It took me some time and a second opinion to decide if it's a man or woman reading. His accent is the worst preening combination of public school English and East Coast prep school lock-jaw. He could hold an American accent for about one phrase before falling back into his own accent. His attempts to impersonate Koreans speaking English sound like Grade B Hollywood Gestapo agents rather than any Korean's I know.
Buy it for the book, not the narration.
The story's good, but the narrator is wooden. The other narrator for this series is much better.
I repeat what the other reviewer wrote. The book is good, but there are numerous times when the reader repeats a phrase - five of them so far halfway through the book - and one time he clears his throat and says, "Excuse me". Normally Blackstone Audio does such professional production, I'm surprised by this.
This is what an audio book should be like. Beautifully delivered narration, rather than sounding like what I could do myself late at night and after a bottle of wine. And of course the text itself draws you into a world you otherwise couldn't imagine, and makes you feel like you've been there.
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