I've been a fan of Westlake's Dortmunder books forever, and I think Oliver Wyman is an outstanding reader, so I went into this book with nothing but good expectations. What I came out of it with is...confusion & some disappointment. I knew Fred Fitch wasn't John Archibald Dortmunder, but at the beginning of the book he seems like John's spiritual cousin; another mild, likeable but sad sack, this guy on the receiving end of crime instead of the committing end. He's a mark for the Universe, a gullible sucker for any con man that comes within a mile of him. He falls for cons all the time & con men seem to smell it and practically line up at his door. And he always opens the door for them.
The book starts out reminiscent of Dortmunder in another way; it's quite funny & lighthearted and even if Fred is getting ripped of every time he turns around, it's not mean-spirited, and they're small amounts of money that don't leave you concerned that he's going to get tossed out into the street. Fifteen dollars was certainly worth more when the book is set than it does now, but Fred isn't facing financial ruin so we can laugh at his gullibility and misfortune without feeling mean.
But then Fred inherits over $300,000 from an uncle he didn't know existed (which he initially thinks is another con) and the book gradually turns darker. Some people get dead, and while it's not gory at all, there's fewer yucks when there's real corpses sitting around...tho heaven knows, as a lifelong fan of horror & murder mysteries, I'm not bothered by corpses per se. I guess what got me was the deterioration of Fred's character; he starts out knowing he's a gullible yutz and he has a sense of humor about it, a sort of amused exasperation at himself (which is shared by his friend Riley of the Bunco Squad...they've interacted so many times over the years that they've become fast friends, which is pretty funny in itself).
But Fred really gets bitter and loses his sense of humor entirely as the book progresses. Not to say I blame him, really --it seems somebody is trying to kill him, & various strange & deadly things are happening around him because of the money-- but the book just wasn't funny in the second half, maybe started turning grim about 1/3 of the way through.
If you've never read Westlake, I'd very strongly recommend not starting here; try any of the Dortmunder books (with the mammoth exception of the “Drowned Hopes” audiobook read by Arte Johnson; it is beyond hideous, past unlistenable, is so bad that all associated with it should be imprisoned). The first Dortmunder book, “The Hot Rock,” is terrific. So are the others…”Bank Shot,” “The Road to Ruin,” etc. They’re also well read, as is this one.
...but still sorta fun. I had a real hard time deciding on the stars on this one, whether 3 or 4.
This time out, the book seemed rather more scattershot, either the plot wasn't particularly clear, or I just had a hard time keeping focus. I realize a book subtitled "Basketful of Crap" isn't going for a plot of Shakespearean complexity and depth, but I had to keep backing up because I'd find myself saying, "Wait, what's going on, why's he doing this?" And the humorousness of Toby & friends aside, it seemed like Hank did a lot more killing in this one. It eventually sorta drags down the 'haha' quotient when Hank actually kills people & others around him are dropping like flies, even if they don't decay much & there aren't any flies. I thought the supporting characters were better & more fun in the first one, like the floppy-eared blue girl & her zonked out bro; the only likeable secondary character here was Bronze*. Even Hank's pal Garm has lost her humor as well as her sense of humor & just comes across as unpleasantly bitchy.
The producers decided to introduce a nifty-groovy new sound effect on this one, which sounds as if they used speakers from the era when people used words like nifty & groovy. These effects work as well as if Spielberg had decided to put tutus on the T rexes in Jurassic Park 2**. Since I only listened, I dunno how they spell their "visiphone" device, the 'telly', but the sound effects are such that Hank would've been much better off with tin cans & string. I mean, it's BAD. Every time anyone is talking on one it's almost impossible to understand the dialogue; the "sound effect" really is that bad. I can't believe that anyone involved with the project ever actually listened to the product as it was in the making, because I can't believe that anyone would've let that horrible sound stay. It's absolutely maddening to try & listen to.
Otherwise, Owen does a good job of reading this, as he did with Hank the first time.
Overall, while I still had some fun with this second Hank outing, it wasn't nearly as good as the first time.
*btw, why do so many of the male characters that Liam Owen gives voice to sound like caricatures of drag queens?
**yeah I know that's not a sound effect, but I couldn't think of a sound analogy that I liked as much.
I'm a life-long SF and mystery reader/listener, so am always enthused when I see a book that is both. I wasn't as enthusiastic at the end of this as I was at the beginning, but it was still a decent listen. The reader gives almost a too deadpan performance, which I presume is a nod to the bit of noir air to the book...he treads dangerously close to monotony (but then so does the author).
The author creates an environment which makes for some intriguing contemplation; I found myself wondering what a society would be like which consisted of "Primes" and a whole bunch of their clones working to support them. And what would the clones themselves be like? Though I wish Bernheimer had put a bit more into explaining how the adult clones got the mental download (unless I zonked out & just missed it; I did find myself zoning out occasionally).
He did a fairly good job of creating reasonably rounded characters in this weird place, and I didn't know 'who done it' before the reveal...though truthfully, I generally tend to just go along & not try to suss it out anyway. I'll probably be reading more of Bernheimer's work, which led me to the 4 star rating.
Sez here on the package that this is a humorous nod to Star Trek. I've forced myself through 3 hours of this, and have scarcely gotten a chuckle, which just reinforces my belief that you can't believe everything you read. I've been a Trekkie since before they wanted to be called Trekkers, so it's not like the problem is my lack of knowledge about ST; I get the reference to Kirk of the lascivious captain Sawback. I get all the other references to ST and to other SF shows & tropes, too; I just don't think Erikson's attempts at humor are funny. I find the "humor" here just dumb. The only part I find funny is the doctor, a balloonish alien that deflates itself when it talks too long between breaths... which, btw, is probably the character that the reader does best as well. The 'star travel' screen saver on the screen bit is mildly amusing, too, but other than those 2 minimally entertaining bits, my overall take on this book is a resounding "MEH."
I happen to've just finished another humorous SF book, "Hard Luck Hank" by Stephen Campbell, and even its subtitle ("Screw the Galaxy!") is funnier than the whole of "Willful Child." My take is, if you want humorous SF, go for Hank. It's also got a much better reader, though Liam Own has much better material to work with. I will be listening to "Hank" over again & have already bought Hank #2: I'm going to be returning WC...appropriate initials, there. If I couldn't return it, that's where I'd send it.
This is one of those books that I enjoyed more the longer I listened to it. Liam Owen does an excellent job of bringing Hank to life, and in spots his narration makes funny lines even funnier by his spot-on delivery. A lot of the humor is wry, like when Hank observes a woman & decides her outfit must be very fashionable because it 'looks weird.'
The only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars is, it sorta drags a bit at the end, when Hank gets off the station. There are some funny scenes with the aliens on the ship, but not as good as when Hank is dealing with the characters (& I do mean characters) at home.
As a contrast, I'm trying to listen to another supposedly humorous SF work by an author named Steven, "Willful Child." It's claimed to be a sort of homage & satirical take on Star Trek, but I'm finding the humor very thin & lame, & the laughs are very few & far between; it's just dumb. In Hank, however, Stephen Campbell hits the notes right almost every time. I've already bought the next Hank book; I wouldn't listen to the 2nd Willful Child book (if there is one) if it were given to me for free.
Dalton's reading matches this book perfectly; a dull monotone with occasional melodramatic extra effort that succeeds only in sounding constipated, not dramatic. The book is plodding, with a minor wisp of a plot buried in mounds of meandering, pointless inner reflections of the stupid, stereotypic, unlikeable characters. The whole thing is both predictable and pointless.
It took me several determined attempts to get started listening to the book, and boy am I sorry I made the effort.
This is such a classic book, and martin Jarvis is such an incredibly good reader, that I almost don't know what to say other than, this is great! I only wish it was longer.
The three fellows & the dog floated down the river back when men really did wear straw boaters & women corsets & big hats, and for a woman to show her ankle was an utter scandal. Jerome's humor is delightful, and the situations the group get into are hilarious. It's the kind of book one can read or listen to repeatedly. A good book to read after this is Connie Willis's "To Say Nothing of the Dog," wherein people visit that time, and happen to run into Jerome & his fellow travelers.
It doesn't seem to happen often, but sometimes the Powers That Be manage to make the perfect choice for narrator --another one that I just got was Stephen King's "The Stand" + Grover Gardner. When it does happen, it's wonderful.
As an introductory note, I'm almost impossible to offend, whether by gore, sex, or obscene language. That said, I am put off by garbage written by people who use the gore, sex, or language in a juvenile way, merely to try to be 'shocking' or because they're too stupid or lazy to come up with true creativity.
This is not really a horror novel: it is a masturbatory exercise which sounds as if it was written by a very seriously disturbed adolescent --one who has zero experience with the opposite sex, btw. This supposedly is a new take on horror with Bigfoot in the starring role. For the most part, Bigfoot is one of the more sympathetic characters, to my mind; he at least has the excuse of being not sentient enough to be blamed for his atrocious behavior. However, the "writer" has made of Bigfoot a slavering rapist, with both him & his victims obsessing constantly on him sticking 'his big thing' into their warm holes. So amongst the tearing up of people, he fantasizes on raping them.
Then we have James, the college student who's supposedly a nerd but is in reality far scarier than the creature...he's a sociopathic rapist killer who calmly plans to slice his girlfriend's throat so he can 'get some' of his dead best friend's girlfriend. And he doesn't particularly care if the holes belong to live or dead females, either. Actually, there's not a lot, character & morality-wise, to distinguish Bigfoot from James; I can't help but wonder if one were to dump him in a vat of Nair, shove him into jeans & a tee, and send him off to James's prospective employer, would they notice? Give him a card that says "sorry, I've got laryngitis" & probably not.
Aside from the puerile pornographic tone, the writing is just bad. There's a large chunk early in the book where we follow a character getting home from work, and I mean we follow every second of her movements, including the tearing off & subsequent usage of toilet paper...another type of voyeurism I really could do without (there's quite of bit of literal potty activity in the whole book). Schwamberger uses phrases such as "[such and such] moved this way and that way" over & over & over, apparently incapable of thinking of unique ways of describing things. He goes into ludicrous, inane details like "he pressed the gas pedal down with his right foot and accelerated up the ramp" that made me feel like he was paid by the word & wanted to pad it (how else do most people press the gas pedal, & what else usually happens when you do it?).
To add insult to injury, the reader is dreadful. He reads in a drab monotone, and there are more instances of repeated sentences in this than in any of the hundreds of audiobooks I've listened to. I'm not sure I blame the guy, really, having to read this dreck, but if he is a professional --which I tend to doubt-- he should at least try to do a decent job.
I have jotted a note to myself to never again waste a second on this author or this narrator. He doesn't even manage to shock me, just irritate me & cause me to think how pathetic this product is.
I've got all the Kaminski/Toby Peters books on audio, & they're all a fun listen. This one gets screwy stars because for some bizarre reason, the editors failed to catch on to the fact that Tom Parker (aka Grover Gardner) sounds like he's on heavy doses of horse tranquilizers. I've listened to dozens if not hundreds of this reader's performances under all his pseudonyms, & know that it ain't his fault; he is consistently excellent even when the material is dreck. There must've been some technical problems that ruined it. There's a good book & great performance under here....too bad we don't get to hear it.
Campbell clearly is proud of the fact that he realizes that with light-distances, you can’t know what’s going on in a battle because what you see is what happened minutes or hours away, and it could really be over & you wouldn’t know it until the info had time to get to you. We know this because he said so in the intro and re-said so approximately every 8-10 pages throughout the entire book, it seemed. I’ve seldom felt so beaten over the head by anything in a work of fiction; usually that type of repetition is reserved for super-extremist propaganda written by wacko fanatical types.
The main breaks between reminders of how brilliant the author was to think of this time thing occur by having Geary & the Co-President compete to see who can come up with the most paranoid theories of the other’s vile, devious plots ‘n’ machinations as their relationship progresses. These two are suspicious enough of each other to need tinfoil underwear to go with their lined hats.
Plot-wise, this second book advanced things very, very, very little from where things were at the end of Book 1. Nearly the entire book was taken up with the light-time wowees & Captain/Co-Pres bickerfests. Campbell did introduce a significant inter-ship conflict, but does almost nothing with it. All he did was set it up early on, wedge a brief mention now & then between "me so brilliant" & Suspicionpalooza episodes, then dash off a quickie few sentences about it toward the end.
What fun. I thought the first LF book was okay, decent enough that I tried #2. Big oops, big waste of a credit, big waste of time. The only thing approaching entertainment was listening to the various ways the reader mangled Geary’s name; my favorite was the numerous times it sounded like “Gooey.” Good Cap’n Gooey, hero of the space ways. Henceforth, Gooey will have to try to save the Alliance without me. If this book's degree of plot advancement is any indication, there'll be a few dozen more before they get anywhere or accomplish much of anything against the Syndics.
Far from the worst medical thriller I've read/heard, this also is far from the best. I will say that it's the first time that having migraines for 35 years helped me figure out the culprit in a mystery thriller...not a real bonus, but what the hey. It had fairly good science, the characters were ok.
I wish I could give the reader 2 1/2 stars; he did an okay job on most things, if not inspired, but he made the mistake of trying to give the South African character a South African accent...he fails. The woman sounds like an Aussie with a badly sprained tongue. I worked & socialized with several South Africans for 4 years, so I'm familiar with the accent & know it's one of the more difficult ones to try and imitate, but Ochlan would've been much better off to just not have tried.
Sort of an underwhelming book, i didn't cringe too much listening to it (except when the SA woman was speaking), but it was rather forgettable. I doubt I'll listen to it again, unless I get desperate.
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