Ready Player One could be the plot of a campy 80's teen movie. The characters are flat and make predictable choices, the villain is super evil, but fairly dumb and gets his way only by cheating and various other shady shenanigans. All in all a fun and enjoyable read.
Who would like this:
If you like 80's pop culture (with a heavy emphasis on video games) you will absolutely love this. The only thing I thought detracted from the story was the strange atheist preaching at times, and the politically correct lectures on "tolerance". Other than that, it's a amusing, light listen that had me smiling and looking on the internet for free copies of Zork and Pac-man.
I wanted to like this one, I've seen enough good reviews of it that I feel like I really SHOULD have liked it. Unfortunately, I don't think I took the critical reviews seriously enough.
The Good: The story marched out neatly enough- and Bayard certainly stuck to history very well. Vidocq is well portrayed, an arrogant scoundrel with a keen eye for uncovering criminals. And there's a particular scene involving a guillotine that I thought was very well written.
The Frustrating: The conclusion of this story was far too convoluted. This was the thing that every negative reviewer brings up and I ignored. Dear potential credit-spender, don't ignore those reviews. You'll regret it.
If you know your history, and in particular the results of a certain DNA test that was performed in the year 2000 that identified a certain body belonging to a certain royal person- you'll know WHY Bayard had to include so many twists in his plot. That is, if he wanted to make his story sound historically plausible. Still, what he did to make the scientific find fit into his telling of events... well it's jarring and a bit clunky. He does make an attempt at being clever, he left a clue within a quote from someone called Father Time at one point in the story. It didn't quite work.
Side Note: As for Simon Vance's performance, he is brilliant, as always. I will never hesitate to listen to something he has narrated. I have to agree with other reviewers who found it odd that the publisher chose to use his voice, however. He's English- very, very English. The Black Tower is (supposedly) told from the perspective of a non-English speaking Frenchman.
Hilarious plot, very relatable for real nerds. Luke Daniels really made this story come alive. Not sure I'd have liked it as much if I'd read it instead of listened. He did a brilliant job.
The only thing I'd add to the other reviews is that Meyer's depiction of Gwen is completely flat. (and she's literally, the only female character. Well, except for Martin's Mom, who has a very tiny part to play) It was as if Meyer stuck her up on a pedestal and didn't know what else to do with her. She's the most attractive and clever person in the realm, and completely uninteresting. No flaws, no depth. She does nothing except perform a predictable bit of deus ex machina during a higher action scene. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I really felt like there was too much emphasis on how *amazing* and *foreign* females are to males in the world of the nerds. Being a gamer chick, I found it pretty tiring.
As with most multi-author anthologies, this one is a jelly bean bag of stories. Some are worth savoring, others are bland and easily forgotten.
Actually, while listening I couldn't help but question the publishers decision to include a few of the stories. The authors didn't seem to much like Conan Doyle's Sherlock. It was as if they took the name and made an entirely new character that lacked any resemblance to Doyle's work. The worst offender was Carolyn Wheat's "The Case of the Royal Queens" - a silly story that almost completely ignored Doyle's character.
Of the stories written, I thought that Lindsay Faye's "The Case of Colonel Warburten's Madness" stood out as the most true to the original character. Not at all surprising as she did such a masterful job writing "Dust and Shadow"- she's done fabulous work getting into the minds of Watson and Holmes.
Another great story was Daniel Stashower's "The Seven Walnuts"- even without the direct interaction of the famous detective, Sherlock and Watson's presence is clearly felt. I was delighted by the creativity and humor shown by this author and wouldn't mind reading more from him.
In addition, Steve Hockensmith's "Excerpts from an Unpublished Memoire Found in the Basement of the Home for Retired Actors" also hit a perfect note, incorporating humor and Holmes' special talents to make a greatly entertaining read.
I struggled for a few minutes, trying to decide if I should give the story 3 stars or 4. It's really more like 3 1/2. Couldn't decide so I gave "Story"- 3 stars and "Overall"- 4.
The plot had some fascinating, and truly terrifying qualities. DEFINITELY not for folks who've been effected by cancer! CRIKEY. Iles has a devious streak!
As for the characters - they had just enough oomph to keep you interested in what happened to them- not quite enough to care about them, though. Mostly You'll just be rooting for the villains' downfall.
Speaking of the antagonists- be prepared for stereotypes. There was very little that was realistic- or original- about the "bad guys." It was unfortunate that the villains' rants came across as political smearing- it wasn't subtle, and really distracted from the story. Fortunately there were only a few truly eye-rolling moments and the stereotypes were silly enough that they're easy to dismiss.
As for Dick Hill- he's an adequate narrator, but having listened to him enough times, I've come to the conclusion that he only has four voices. Male- manly. Male- snobby. Female, and female- whiny. They're all southern. Don't expect much more than that.
Not so sure about Connelly's choice in making Jack McEvoy the main character in this book. while a lot of interesting things happen to him and around him, he was kind of... I don't know. Whiny? Unable to connect with the people around him? Pondered his own belly button too often?
Isn't he supposed to be the kind of talented reporter that gets people talking? He never acted like he was. McEvoy must have one hell of a golden pen, because I just didn't see it in his interactions with the other characters.
That said, the plot was pretty good, though I didn't really care about the twists at the end. Felt like Connelly didn't supply enough info during the rest of the book to make the revealing of his villain make much sense.
I hate giving so much negative criticism to a book review. I think I'm just disappointed that I wasn't completely in love with this one. Maybe other reviews shot my expectations too high. I don't know. It's definitely worth a lesson, once. I probably won't listen to it again, and it won't be super high on my list of books to recommend. But worth picking up if you're looking for something to read.
Rowland's editor needs to put down the red pen and back away.
LOVE this zombie series, love the humor, the sciencey lab crap, the icky brain gore, and the thoughtful way Rowland touches on addictions and our relationships with people who have them. Seriously good themes, and they're all here in this book.
That said, the STORY here felt abridged. I had to come back and check to make sure I hadn't actually bought that version of the book. When I saw that I really HAD bought the Unabridged version, I was pretty disappointed. There wasn't much to this mystery. A few scenes after Angel meets her boyfriend's mafia-esque uncle, she's sitting in front of the evil villain monologuing on about his/her evil shenanigans. Cut to a brief climactic action scene AND! Story's over. With not much closure. (no spoilers here, but seriously, that's it?)
I know Rowland is capable of more than this, and her first in the series was SO GOOD, I'm going to go ahead and get book three. Still... feel like I was a bit short-sheeted, you know?
PS- Allison McLemore is, as ever, one of my top five favorite narrators on Audible. This chick ROCKS.
I try not to be too hard on narrators, but the truth is they can either make or break a book in audio. Holdbrook-Smith didn't have an unpleasant voice, he enunciated just fine so he was easy to understand, but he read so quickly it was hard to get a handle on what was happening.
The narrator really needed to give his reading a sense of pacing appropriate to what was happening in the story. There were a few times when a joke would just fly by, giving the listener no time to appreciate it. There were other times that the suspense of a scene was ruined because he sped through it so quickly- there was no time for me to get worried for the characters.
It was almost as if he'd made a bet with the production team that he could keep the book under 10 hours, and he was determined to squeak it in.
As for the story itself, it was good. Although, I think I'd have been able to appreciate the work Aaronovitch put into it better if I'd read it instead of listened.
I'm going to try to be honest here, because I think this is an important book that deserves to be read. That said, I think there were a few production issues, and you might want to consider them before you decide whether or not to purchase as an audio book or read the text. So here we go...
Once you've read about this time period, you'll find yourself wondering why on earth you never learned about it while in grade school? Not just because it's important to understand our roots, but also because it's damn good entertainment.
You might be disappointed if you are looking for a more personal telling of the events in America during 1776, but instead find a straight recitation of battles and troop movements. That said, McCullough does sprinkle in a fair amount of quotes from correspondence in this telling, for which I'm very grateful. Still, many times I found myself wishing he would explain the context of a decision or delved a little deeper. If you're a history nut who knows a bit about the subject, you may find yourself wondering why the author chose to leave certain things out. What the author did choose to include was fantastic.
Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair in my assessment. Looking back, the dry nature of the book could easily be chalked up to the publisher's choice to have the author narrate it. McCullough has a very pleasant voice- almost too pleasant. I found myself drifting off a few times and thinking of other things while he read from his book with little intonation at all, regardless of whether or not he was reading from dialog or a battle scene.
Do you remember in school when the class was asked to read from the textbook? And the toneless monotone everyone used? Oh yes. Exactly like that.
There was nothing grating or annoying about his reading, it was simply forgettable. Easily tuned out. Easy to be distracted by other matters while you're listening to it and suddenly you realize you haven't heard a word of what happened in the last five minutes or so and now you need to rewind a bit.
Even worse, in the middle of a paragraph or statement, the narrator suddenly goes silent for 10 seconds or more. The audiobook is still playing, but the editors have left huge gaps of dead-air in the middle of the book. It happened at least once a chapter and I always found myself looking over at my smart-phone to make sure everything was working properly, when suddenly it would start up again. It was really annoying.
It's a shame 1776 was produced in this way, because looking back at the whole of the book, I think it was well worth a read, even worth owning a hard copy on the bookshelf. I suppose that's something for me to keep in mind the next time I notice a historical text narrated by the author.
"For people who like this sort of thing, this is just the sort of thing they'll like" - Book review by Abe Lincoln
You'll need to be patient and stick through the first 1/4 of this book- in the beginning there is quite a bit of "explaining the situation" by Miller, and not a lot of showing. It's obvious the author has a rabid passion for historical fact, so it takes him a while to settle into his tale.
That said, if you stick with it, you won't be disappointed. Miller does a fantastic job of setting the stage and presenting his characters. Eventually he seems to hit his stride and is better able to share the historical tidbits naturally in the course of the story. Well worth a listen.
Smith could have chosen any of the characters in his story to be his main character. He might have made it a "coming of age" tale and chosen one of the sons. Or a sinister tale of desperation and sorrow by choosing one of the children who were stolen. These days, it's become popular to have an "anti-hero" and make the villain the protagonist; in which case he might have picked the Baba Yaga to tell the story.
All of those plot lines have been done before, however, and some of them are getting quite tired. Instead, Smith chose to tell the story from the perspective of Luka, a father and retired Russian soldier living in the Ukraine- the result surprised me. Luka is one of the most well written characters I've ever come across.
Still, it's not just Luka's story. There is tremendous depth and subtlety everywhere you look here. It's clear how much thought Smith put into crafting this. Even the setting cold, quiet, and dangerous- is given a personality. The result is an utterly unique tale that is haunting me days after finishing it.
As for Bronson Pinchot- I fell in love with him as a narrator while listening to Larry Correia's Grimnoir Chronicles (for which I hear he's been nominated for an Audie- well done, sir). I cannot imagine a better actor to voice this story. In the beginning, the thick Ukrainian accent threw me. By the end, however, I could not help but marvel at how absorbed I became in the story- completely thanks to Pinchot's abilities. He successfully creates distinct men, teenagers, soldiers, women's and children's voices without distracting you. He voiced both the bark of command and the choked crack of despair during this novel- I really can't praise his work enough.
You will want to listen to this book. You will want to re-listen to this book. It is that good.
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