This is enormous fun -- the same ambience and larger-than-life heroes and villains as Ian Fleming's James Bond, but set in today's times and with more circumstantial detail than Fleming usually provided. The plot twists and turns agreeably. A big part of the success of this audiobook is its superb narrator, whose pace, varied repertoire of dead-on accents and dialects, and nuance would be hard to excel. I'm really glad that there are more of these books.
The book needs no introduction. Part melodrama, part encyclopedia (one comes away with a fairly intimate sense of the 1850s-era whaling industry and the whaling life), part philosophy, all driving forward like a ship under full sail. The last third of the book is as fine writing as we have.
The narration does all this justice. Heald has fashioned a voice and cadence which seem the man Ishmael himself, and bring his world to life -- perhaps more vividly to life than scanning the words on a printed page would match. One should not be without this experience.
The tag line for this review is meant to capture two thoughts: Nonstop bloody fighting, and an essentially juvenile approach. (You remember the rest of the tag line from when you were a kid, right?) The narrator seems of an age barely old enough for a driver's license, and the premise -- which in itself can drive a narrative in any style from comic books to Bram Stoker and Anne Rice -- is handled in what I have to call a juvenile way. No thought, no reflection, very little plot, just more blood. If that's what you're looking for, you'll be happy. If not, don't waste your time.
Aloysius Pendergast isn't in this book. But he might as well be. This has the same atmospherics, and even the same not-quite-supernatural undercurrents, as the Pendergast series -- which means this is wonderful stuff. The story is gripping, thoroughly thought out, perfectly paced; the sort of thing one expects from the Preston-Child duo.
It says much for the authors' skill that though Nora Kelly definitely isn't Pendergast (we catch on well before she does, much of the time), the difference does not detract from this book in the least. The authors are aware of the difference, and use it to the book's advantage. I hope we hear more about Ms. Kelly, whether or not Pendergast is also on board.
The book is classic Holmes, as good a pastiche as I've ever read. If you like Holmes, you can't go wrong. Very well written.
What really makes this, though, is the narration, which is as close to perfection as human beings can get. Vance IS Holmes. But he also IS Watson, and every other character, all sharply and exquisitely delineated. His pacing is superb. One forgets that one is listening to someone read; the feeling is of actually being there. And Vance somehow manages to convey the authentic feeling of Conan Doyle's stories, and Conan Doyle's London, even though the author he's reading isn't Conan Doyle. Bravo. More, please.
This book has an interesting premise (Copernicus' great discovery against a backdrop of religious ferment) and attractive or suitably villainous protagonists. The scene -- Europe, especially France, on the very edge of the Enlightenment -- is fascinating, and the plot is gripping and breakneck. But Robert Vaughn, whose acting I greatly enjoy, should not be reading the book, or any book which constantly requires passable French pronunciation. Alas, even in English he has developed a tendency to mumble. Five stars, but for him; three, given the narration.
This might be a really interesting book. The plot seems intricate and engrossing -- as much of it as I could take in before the narration turned me off entirely. The narrator seems to believe that all Americans are brainless clods who twang in cowboy boots at the top of their lungs. The purported American accents are as false-sounding as they are offensive. I'm not very picky, but this was just too much.
Brilliantly imagined, carefully worked out, and intensely detailed, Morgan's somewhat Philip-Marlowe-ish future is gripping. His core premise is that death has been (mostly) conquered; most deaths can be undone by re-"sleeving" the dead person's consciousness, or "stack," in a different body. He's worked through a consistent vision of how much (and how little) that alters society, conduct, and people -- exactly the sort of exercise good sci-fi does best. If you like Sam Spade and thoughtful SF, you'll like Altered Carbon.
My hat's off to Spider Robinson. Written after Heinlein's death (but from his extensive notes), this has the authentic voice -- than which there is no better.
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