I haven't finished this book yet, but with an hour to go, think I have a handle on it. The essential story is Bart's — what he did in the war in Iraq and what it did to him. There's lots of physical description, and some of it adds to the story, and some Hemingwayish affectations with concatenated conjunctions that don't. The characters are thin, especially Murph, the best friend fated for a bad end, Sterling the jaded non-com trying to keep his troops alive. The officers (FD: I was one) were truly cartoonish, as were the mothers.
Seems to me that author Powers was trying to write a very interior novel. I don't know how well that works in a war story. It turns into a story of one man's angst set in a war/afterward. In war stories I find memorable, including Catch-22, Cacciato, and parts of Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the reader's able to live with the character, because they're more than a bundle of angst, they deal with other, more real characters in interesting, believable ways, and more happens.
Powers has promise, and his work is moving/lyrical by bits and pieces. This seems like early work, and makes me hope for bigger+better later on.
The reader is excellent.
Loved Lethem's Chronic City, but couldn't finish this. It's dystopian and wants the reader to work hard and figure out its world, but the story doesn't sufficiently reward the effort required IMO. Hard to comment on the reader because of the story.
First, reader Bryan Cranston is a genius performer, bringing O'Brien's book to life without upstaging it.
Read O'Brien's "Cacciato" first. Found it brilliant, if flawed, overall vastly rewarding.
This one is different. Literate as before, clever in blurring the line between fiction and what actually happened as a way to explore the truth of Vietnam and war. But there's a streak of cri de coeur throughout, especially in the afterword read by O'Brien. That makes you want to help him, but it diminishes his spellbindingness as either a chronicler of what happened in Vietnam factually or a storyteller conveying the truth of the War his own way. The work winds up being a little solipsistic, a problem for me.
However, the book worked in an episodic way, where parts were knockouts, mixed in with parts that weren't. The characters worked, probably because O'Brien drew them from life, guys like Kiowa. Anyone who served (I did) will recognize the way GIs talk and behave, whether what's going on in the book actually happened that way or O'Brien's improvement on that. Either way, enough of it worked that I'm glad to have listened to the book.
First, the narrator's fine, so my problem was just with the book. The characters were inconsistent and implausible, the plot tepid and less fully believable than I'd like, and the feelings expressed by the characters all over the place vs. what you'd expect from the action. There's a lot of interior monologue on the part of the heroine, Kate, but she doesn't feel what you the reader feel when you're in her head. She especially agonizes over things, when you want her to be decisive (she used to be a CIA spy), then wusses on resolution. The author also misuses words, not a lot, and not atrociously, but I like elegant writing, and the wrong word breaks the spell for me every time.
This work has everything. It's stories, two of which are novella-length, set in a small town with characters as real and interesting as you'll ever meet in fiction. It has heart, warmth, intimacy, action, social commentary, and it grabs you and doesn't let go until it's done with you. Gurganus reads undramatically, which fits the work, innately of keen dramatic interest, needing no more from a reader than a caring narration. The writing is simple, elegant, and in places, gorgeous. You get to know the characters so well you want to meet them and talk with them.
This work made me want to read his earlier work, and I'm asking audible to offer his big novel "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All."
This is the work of a dedicated officer and tells what it can about special operations at work in today's conflicts, especially dealing with Al Qaeda and similar elements.
The author narrates competently, and you get a feel for the man, a career officer starting with West Point and growing up on Army bases. He is a highly motivated officer, and that comes across in the book and his reading.
The standout aspect for me was the role of intelligence, especially two particulars. One was gathering intelligence while conducting an op, say at four in the afternoon. The team would collect intelligence (paper, computers, thumb drives, cell phones, etc,), get info from it, then launch another raid exploiting that info, do the same there, and make another raid the same day, all exploiting new intelligence harvested at each op.
The other standout was interrogation, the people involved, and the personal qualities that worked. McC agrees with McCain that torture is counterproductive.
A major limitation is that there's a lot that isn't told because it's classified. McC also goes out of his way not to criticize fellow officers. That's a weakness in that it's generally agreed that in the Brenner era in Iraq we didn't do very well because of poor leadership. When McC gives us one sentence on Sanchez, he doesn't do the subject justice.
I enjoyed this as a honest account of a career in a field I find interesting. Not all readers would, but for those of us interested in the subject, it's worthwhile.
My wife picked this audiobook, so it was in our library and I tried it. I've read Clancy's terrific early work and liked it tons. But I started this book, and I couldn't stay with the reader. He's soft and soothing, right for maybe something inspirational or a Victorian historical romance, but this is Clancy, and he's dead wrong for that.
Clancy's work deserves a reader who's right for war stories or thrillers, someone like the terrific reader who did Yellow Birds or the fine narration of Flynn's Last Man.
Hard to see how an audiobook producer could make such an error.
It's been said that Puccini's operas are young adult fare. The same could be said for Vince Flynn's books, and they succeed in that way, some better than others. This one is OK, but it feels written in a hurry, without the effort of some of his earlier work. This one is not richly plotted, and the characters are thin. Hurley, many books ago, was genuinely interesting with lots of telling interplay with Rapp, but not here, where he's a cliche with lazy lines and anemic action.
Contrast the arc of Flynn's books — great when he started out and worked hard to hurried and anemic now — with Stieg Larsson's, which began terrific and stayed that way until he died too soon.
If you're interested in America in the 1920s and 1930s, journalism and criticism, and the life of an American original, there's a lot to like in this book. The chapters on Mencken's late-in-life marriage and on the end of his life where Manchester read to him are moving. There are bits and pieces of Mencken's own writing, but not enough, and for that, one needs to read elsewhere. Some of his work remains in print, as it should.
Manchester delivers a caring, careful bio. If you like the form, this is an excellent specimen.
Am glad I read it, but think I'd get more from Mencken's own work.
Haven't finished this long work yet, but love it so far. Previously read short pieces by Murakami in the New Yorker and liked them. This novel is richer, though it may not be for everyone. Murakami creates a different world where strange, sometimes mystical things happen. I'm able to get in there with him, and it's quite a ride, going places you haven't been to before as a reader or a human. It's also an interesting ride, if at times a little uncomfortable. As writing, I consider this a big, masterful work. The reader does very well with a tough job.
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