I bought this book thinking that it was the story of the Battle of Thermopylae. While it is that, most of it concerns the life of the narrator of the story, the (fictional) single Spartan survivor of the battle, as he relates it to the Persian King Xerxes after the battle. The result is that most of the book concerns not the battle itself, but the lives of those living in Sparta, both citizens and non-citizens, and hence gives us a view of what life was like growing up in this most military of states.
I had, of course, first heard about Sparta when in Elementary School and had my first formal presentation of the story in High School history class but, after reading this book, I have to say that I had no real idea at that time what the term "harsh upbringing" really meant. Steven Pressfield has clarified that term in great detail and this book will stay with me for some time to come. I found it very hard to read but, at the same time, found myself reluctant to put it down until I had heard what happened to those involved. Not those actually involved in the battle of course but those related to the primary characters in the book. The idea that 300 or so Spartans and their more numerous allies could hold off the entire Persian Army for 7 days (3 days of which was battle) seemed incredible to me when I was young and still seems hard to believe, but the details in the book are presented so well and so clearly that I could almost imagine myself as being an invisible observer as the battle progressed.
This is not an easy book to read (or listen to), but is well worth the effort for the clarity it gives to one of the pivotal moments in history. The narration by George Guidall is very well done, as one would expect from him, and the tone suits the events. I may not re-read this book but I am glad I went to the effort to buy and listen to it. I recommend this book to those with an interest in history in general and the early Greek states in particular but do not recommend it to the squeamish. It is, as I wrote, a hard book for me to read.
This book had all of the elements of a good yarn. An “end of the world as we know it” nuclear war, good guys, bad guys and the struggle to survive the horror. It should have been a good listening experience but somehow fell through badly enough that I had to struggle to finish the book.
Perhaps I have read too many of this kind of book and have become jaded, but I just never really cared about the characters or what happened to them. In addition the story line was fairly predictable with the main bad guy showing up early in the story and the reader knowing, without any doubt, that he was going to be trouble for the main characters in the end. I never got the feeling that the main character was real, that his family was real or that any of the situations were real. When thinking about “end of the world” novels I usually end up comparing them to wonderful books like Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer and William Forstchen’s One Second After and, for me, this book just did not measure up.
The narration was mostly flat but not terrible, but Mr Snow did not have a great story to work with. All in all, a disappointment for me.
Lynne Olson has given us a very interesting and comprehensive study of the political “conversation” that went on in the US in the last couple of years prior to America’s entry into World War II. Her book takes us behind both the scenes and the public face of the organizations involved in trying to influence political opinion and decisions in the US and the story has all of the interest of current events. The main characters in the story are not only the high political figures in the US, Britain and Germany but also important figures in the US and foreign military, the US press and the general public. She describes in great detail the efforts both to drag the US into the war and the efforts of those opposed, not only to US entry into the war, but also to US help for Britain prior to Pearl Harbor.
The current myth concerning the run-up to the entry of the US into World War II is that Franklin Roosevelt led the US into understanding the need to help the British and his leadership in providing that help. Ms Olsons books shows a very different President - one extremely reluctant to get ahead of public opinion, making promises about help and then doing nothing to implement those promises, telling people he would do one thing and then changing his mind and always, always looking at the public polls before taking any actions. This book shows a President being dragged into providing help by the public which was always far ahead of him. This is not a new view of the pre-war years and Joseph Lash, in his 1975 book Roosevelt and Churchill, made the same point. But it is a point worth repeating because the facts belie the myth. This is not an anti-Roosevelt book and Ms Olson is anything but a conservative author but this book will be uncomfortable for some readers.
The tableau that the book covers include many of those involved in the “conversation” - Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Harold Ickes, Burton Wheeler, Hamilton Fish, Gerald Nye, John McCormick, Frank Knox, Henry Stimson, George Marshall, Hap Arnold, Lord Lothian, Albert Wedemeyer, Joachim von Ribbentrop, J Edgar Hoover, William Donovan, William Stevenson, Charles Lindbergh and many others - and the story of their efforts to draw the US into the war, keep the US out of the war or try to straddle a middle course during the turbulent times, forms the core of the book and thus provides an extraordinarily helpful addition to understanding the period prior to US entry into the war. While there may not be much that is new here, the book is unique in that its subject is not the war nor the efforts to provide help to the allies, but rather the political and social arguments that took place leading up to the war that ended up providing that help. In that, this book provides a great service to understanding the period and hence the decisions.
The book also serves to dispel other existing myths. America First was founded by young student leftists, not by conservative politicians. Lindbergh was against US entry into the war because he believed we were unprepared, would likely be defeated and would lose our liberties at home. He was not a Nazi sympathizer nor did he want them to win. General Wedemeyer was not the officer who leaked the Victory Program papers to the Senate isolationist. And others.
Robert Fass’ narration is well done, although a bit show, and I did not hear any production problems with the recording. I did, however, have to play the book at 1.25 x speed to avoid the slow pace of speech. Once that was done the book flowed well with no problems.
This book is volume 4 in the 11 volume Story of Civilization by Will (and later Ariel) Durant. It covers the approximately 750 years from the fall of Rome through the very beginnings of the Renaissance in the areas encompassing Eastern and Western Europe (including Russia), the Middle East and Northern Africa. It does not cover events in eastern Asia (China, India, Mongolia and other related areas) although it is clear about the influence of those regions on the development of what we now think of as Western Civilization.
The book is very long (the Audible version is more than 61 hours in length) and the breadth of things covered is simply staggering including the early development of Christianity, early Judaic and Islamic civilizations, the Byzantine world, Feudalism, Chivalry, the Crusades, the development of the Catholic Church, the regional structuring of Eastern and Western Europe into what are now the counties of Europe, the influence of Jewish and Islamic culture on Western culture, the rise of Papal power over secular, the Medieval philosophers, the reopening of education to the populace and the rise of what Mr Durant refers to as the Era of Reason. Along the way we are treated to a virtual smorgasbord of information.
Here we learn the origin of many of our common use English words (for example, dollar, grocer, credit, debit, cash, wedding, Latin Quarter and many, many more), we meet the saint and sinners of The Dark Ages, the origins of Medieval banking, the origins of some current city names and a wealth of other information. Along the way we not only are presented with new information but often we find that much that we already knew was wrong. For me, one of the very instructive parts of the book was the description of Feudal Society and here I learned that much that is current common knowledge about the rights and obligations of Barons, Knights, merchants and serfs was, in fact, wrong. Here also we see how and why Feudalism lost its hold on Europe and how the cities and the merchants grabbed and held power, slowing reducing the influence and power of the Feudal Lords, including the monarchs.
While I personally found parts of the book hard to get through I found other parts simply fascinating and often found myself listening to this book with the same interest and zeal as I might listen to a best selling thriller. Some stories, like that of Abelard and Heloise, simply break the heart. Others, like that of Dante, are inspiring and often humorous and the most important thing I learned from this book is that things were often not as I thought them to be. This book, written more than 60 years ago, was like a breath of fresh air clearing out the cobwebs of misinformation I had stored in my mind.
The book is narrated by Stefan Rudnicki and I was at first disappointed that it was not narrated by Grover Gardner, as the previous volume was. However Mr Rudnicki did a wonderful job and, because parts of the book are in Latin, German and Italian (with translations into English), I found myself appreciative that Mr Rudnicki was able to speak the languages in question so well. His voice and pronunciation seemed to perfectly fit the material.
In summary this volume is simply wonderful and, although you may find parts boring, as I did, you will likely find parts enthralling and very, very informative. If you have an interest in the period which we sometimes refer to as the Dark Ages (and which Mr Durant makes clear was really a bridge into the Renaissance) you should not go wrong with this book.
I buy a fair number of these military scifi books but rarely buy the second book in the series. Often I find the characters too one dimensional, the situations too far-fetched and the story too full of fighting. It may sound strange that I would complain that a war book contains too much fighting but, in fact, war is more than fighting. The underlying situation has to sound reasonable enough to believe, the characters have to seem real for me to have any empathy for them and the world outside the fighting has to be interesting for me to be able to enjoy the book. War is politics as much as fighting.
I bought the first book in this series quite some time ago and relegated this series to the same category as most other books of this type - once was enough. But about 6 months after the first read I re-read it and found, much to my surprise, that I was more interested in the characters than I had at first realized, so I bought the second book in the series.
It is the world surrounding the war that I find most interesting. The character of Michael O'Neal is interesting, the characters around him seem both realistic and worth meeting and the situation in which they find themselves, trying to save their lives in the face of an alien invasion and, at the same time, having to deal with their "allies" who cannot be trusted, to be a sufficient mix of reasonable and heroic to make the books worth reading for me. As with all of the John Ringo books I have read this one contains just the right amount of desperation and hope to leave me with a positive feeling in spite of the violence surrounding the main characters.
There are a lot of side characters whose stories do not seem to have a major effect on the main plot but I that this enriches the story. Most people's lives in time of crisis and war are important only to them and to those around them and do not affect the overall outcome. Thus, for me, the fact that there are secondary interesting characters who do not add to the main plot in a major way makes the book more realistic, not less interesting and their stories add flavor to the book and keeps it from being all war.
The narration is very good and the story flows well. I may read the whole series.
John Dortmunder scores his biggest prize accidentally. If it were anyone else they would be set for at least a nice vacation, but not Dortmunder.
The curse strikes again and John not only cannot get rid of the item but he has become a huge target for both the police and the underworld. He biggest goal is to somehow survive his "good luck" and live to see another day. What a hoot!
Donald Westlake has created a wonderful character with John Dortmunder and I have found every one of the first 5 novels well worth the time and money. I have not been disappointed with the characters, the stories or the wonderful finishes Mr Westlake has come up with. After a little rest (and some more serious books), it will be on to #6.
I bought this book expecting an interesting story set against the Middle East during The Crusades. The story sounded interesting - King Solomon's gollums, some secret and a mythical creature. So much for expectations.
The story is very dark and I had a hard time getting through it. It is almost 8 hours and should have moved quickly, but it seemed to take forever for me to finish. While the first part of the book kept my interest, about half way through the story took on clearly unreasonable situations and I found it hard to continue suspending my belief. How am I supposed to believe that people with knives in the back (or chest) are hardly inconvenienced during fights? How am I supposed to believe that people with arrows through them can keep fighting without much problem? And does it really take half a chapter for someone with their throat cut to lose consciousness?
Wayne Farrell's narration is quite good, but he could not save the story. This was, for me, a disappointment. Your mileage may vary ...
As with Inferno, Max Hastings has written a different kind of history of World War II, this one of the war in the Pacific theater. Like Inferno, this history provides an overview of the strategy and battles with details gleaned from personal letters, diary entries and recollections of those involved. All sides are represented with many such entries involving the Japanese, Chinese and Burmese as well as the western allies, and subjects not generally covered in histories of World War II are covered in some detail. Thus, in this book, we find details on what life was like for allied soldiers held as POWs by the Japanese, for western civilians held in internment camps, for the few Japanese held as POWs by the allies, random acts of compassion and violence committed by both sides, the thoughts of those involved in the fighting on places like Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other islands, the only detailed discussion of the Russian invasion of Manchuria right before the surrender of Japan that I have found in books like these, an extraordinary chapter on the decision to drop the atomic bomb as well as almost unknown incidents like those involving the Australian soldiers who mutinied and refused to be sent out on patrols and the Australian civilians who refused to load and unload war supplies on holidays and weekends during the last 2 years of the war when Australia was no longer under the threat of Japanese invasion.
The writing is engrossing and hard to put down, the stories of individuals both fascinating and horrifying and the truth of what life was like for those caught up in the war both clear and enlightening. While most histories of World War II have centered on the war in Europe this book makes clear that the war in the Pacific was just as difficult and painful for those involved, on both sides, as the one in Europe and Mr Hastings clearly shows how public opinion slowly turned from anger against the Japanese for their undeclared attack against Pearl Harbor into revulsion as stories of the treatment of allied POWs came out. Interestingly enough he also tells of the efforts by the allied governments to suppress the stories of Japanese brutality regarding the allied POWs.
As wonderful as this book is I only gave it 4 stars because Mr Hastings sometimes seems to let his personal opinions overwhelm the narrative. There are parts of the book where those opinions prevent him from presenting different, but valid, views on the subject. While there are many such examples I will mention only one.
Mr Hastings does not Douglas McArthur and that dislike seems lot color all of his writings concerning the general. Almost nothing McArthur did or planned (excepting his stewardship of Japan after the war) seems acceptable to Mr Hastings. He judges McArthur’s invasion of the Philippines as unnecessary for the defeat of Japan and spends considerable time saying so. Even if one accepts his premise that the invasion was militarily unnecessary Mr Hastings does not even consider that there might be other valid reasons for the invasion. The Philippines was a US dependency and the people were largely supportive of the US governance and the planned granting of independence. Almost alone among the peoples of Japanese occupied Asia the Philippine people looked forward to a US invasion and would probably have considered the US bypassing them as a slap on the face. In addition there was the cause of the American and Philippine POWs held by the Japanese and the attempt to save their lives. As Mr Hastings makes very clear, Japanese surrender did not mean the safety of US POWs and many were killed by their captors after Japan surrendered. In addition Mr Hastings blames the terrible loss of life of the Philippine civilians, killed by the Japanese during the invasion, as being as much due to the invasion as to the Japanese - an assumption I found both unreasonable and prejudicial.
Mr’s Cameron’s narration is very good and helps keep the narrative foremost in view. However he has the very annoying habit of mispronouncing the word “corpsman”. In American English this is pronounced KOR-MAN but Mr Cameron constantly pronounces it KORS-MAN. It is extraordinarily annoying and ruined parts of the narration for me. I have to assume that he does not know the proper pronunciation since the word is American and refers to the medical enlisted men in the US Marines. Regardless, it is annoying.
I found this to be a difficult book to read and to review.The plot sounds like the book should be first class - the crew of the first faster-than-light starship gets stranded on a distant planet (Earth), a war almost destroys the mother planet and much of their science is lost, a new war threatens the destruction of the entire race and, after 5000 years, they attempt to find the original ship and it’s science. We have almost everything here - interplanetary war, a chase (including the attacking aliens) to find a lost technology, time-travel (sort of), love, hate, revenge, salvation, attempted genocide and more. So why was I so disappointed?
First, it was hard for me to credit the characters. Surely one would expect a race testing their first and only faster-than-light ship to do some kind of basic psychological testing on the crew before sending them 8 light years on their maiden voyage, so how do we end up with one psychopathic killer and two people claiming to the primitive locals that they are gods? What ever happened to the Prime Directive?
Second, why would a race utterly dependent upon the re-discovery of a lost technology for their continued existence only send one ship with only two crew members to find it? Surely they would make more than just one attempt to save their entire race.
Third, surely someone living in domed cities to escape the radiation poison would know that such places would be kept at a higher pressure inside to insure that any cracks would result in air leaking out, not leaking in.
In any case I almost put this book down about a quarter of the way through. I had lost patience with the actions of the stranded crew since they did not seem reasonable given psychological testing that goes on when such crews are selected, I could not conceive of only one rescue ship being sent, given how grave the situation was, and I found the narration to be ill suited to the story. In the end I decided to try to finish the book and, much to my surprise, I found the plot more interesting in the second half of the book. I finally became used to the narration and found it less objectionable toward the end of the book, perhaps because the story became more interesting and more believable.
There were some positives about this book. The world the author created was both complex and credible, some of the crew members seemed more real because they were less idealistic and selfless than often presented in these kinds of books, the switching back and forth between the ancient and modern worlds proved to be an interesting device and the interaction between the humans and the aliens was particularly interesting to me. While I had planned to give this book, and the narration, 3 stars, in the end I decided that the second half of the book salvaged the first half for me and I ended up giving it 4 stars.
For me, tough going, but I found some rewards for the effort to get through the book. However I did not go looking for other books by this author.
I found this to be an interesting story and not at all what I expected.
Sean Chercover has created an interesting set of characters. Daniel Byrne is a Catholic priest who is having issues with his vows. His uncle is a known religious con man who is now speaking in "tongues" and Daniel's old (pre-priesthood) girlfriend becomes involved in the investigation into the truth or falseness of his uncle's predictions. The story is interesting, the characters are well drawn and have real depth, the situation is, to the best of my knowledge, unique in this type of book and the pressures on Daniel Byrne, from his superiors at the Vatican to those exerted by his ex-girlfriend, give this story a very different kind of feel. And, to add to all of that, this has the feeling of a new series and I expect to see Daniel Byrne again in an upcoming story.
The narration is very good, the story takes several very different turns and, although part of the resolution seems predictable, much is not. There are some drawbacks. I have never known situations where priests are granted as much leeway and forgiveness as Daniel is, given his predilections for disobeying orders, but they seem like small concerns given the overall feel and direction of the story line. Recommended, with those reservations, for those interested in finding a new suspense plot.
I was familiar with the columnist Dave Barry who wrote the short and funny articles I would see online and in the newspapers and expected something similar when I bought this book. I listened to the sample and heard the warning that there were “bad words” in the book because the book involved some unsavory characters and “that is the way they talk”, but was still unprepared for what I found. Yes, the book contains characters using hard language, but it also involves violence, murder and graphic human dismemberment and I personally had to skip past some sections because I did not want to listen to graphic details of extreme violence. I would warn people that this is not, in my opinion, a book for young listeners.
Having said that, most of this book is typical Dave Barry. The story involves people at the “Old Folks Home”, members of an unsuccessful band, cocktail waitresses, the Coast Guard, drug smugglers and others who all get caught up in mayhem trying to make legal as well as illegal livings. It is Dave Barry funny with an interesting set of characters, an interesting story and enough laughs to satisfy pretty much any reader. The narration is nearly perfect and the combination provided me with a reasonably pleasant, if sometimes very uncomfortable, listening. An interesting story, a lot of smiles, chuckles and laughs, very good narration and some strong violence so, for me, a mixed bag.
Report Inappropriate Content