This is the most interesting of the first six books in the series for American readers, and as such provides an alternative to starting the series at the beginning (with "Master and Commander"). The author alludes to many of the significant events in the preceding novels and also presents the most important characters, allowing the reader approaching this excellent series for the first time to slip in effortlessly. The principal theme of these books, the friendship between the extrovert Aubrey and the introvert Maturin, is primarily responsible for the poignancy of the tales and is evident throughout "The Fortune of War".
A clever spy story set against the backdrop of the interface between Chinese and American cultures, which is often depicted (accurately in my experience) with wry humor. This is not an action-packed thriller, but rather a cerebral tale in which the author continually tantalizes with clues and possibilities regarding both the plot and the characters. Having been to China a few times as a tourist, I can vouch for the author's descriptions of the sensations of being a tall white guy trying to make his way through the crowds.
While the narrator ably handles the voices of the various characters, he butchers many of the Mandarin phrases and names, e.g., "Qi" being pronounced "key" instead of the correct "chee". I wish he had done a little homework before making this recording. I don't think such egregious mispronunciation of a European language would be acceptable in a narration of this purported quality.
This book captured my attention with gradually-building tension, well-drawn characters, meticulously crafted descriptions of physical settings and events, and excellent narration. I consider it a technical success - it created in my imagination a vivid cinematic experience in which I found myself silently arguing with the characters, bemoaning their missteps, and offering suggestions to help extricate them from their predicament. And obsessed with what was going to happen next. That things didn't work out the way I would have wanted, that the foundations of the plot are rather far-fetched, and that key questions go unanswered are really beside the point, which is to entertain you while roughing you up a bit.
I've been downloading two Audible titles a month for almost two years, and so far Lonesome Dove is the most memorable: an exciting and moving story populated with brilliantly created characters, brought to life by a fine narration.
I listened to about the three-quarter point before giving up. The author does a terrific job with the narration, but this doesn't make up for the rather puerile nature of the work itself. The Pythonesque style of humor (e.g., "...and by the way, the little green men ARE green...")is overused to the point of despair, and the overreliance on the comic effect of fanciful names for characters, places, etc. is too much even for a devotee of Dr. Seuss books. Certainly, it's a matter of taste - if a steady diet of straight-faced silliness appeals to you, then give the story a listen, but if instead such a diet goes down like an overcooked Arcturan babblewhompus burger, then steer clear.
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