My college age granddaughter lives (and is born and raised) in Fort Smith, AR and when the new movie version of True Grit was coming out, I asked her if she was excited about it. She said "No, why?" and I said well the setting is in Fort Smith, haven't you ever watched the (very popular and often televised) John Wayne version, "from whence" he won his Academy Award and made the eye-patch comment? No, she never heard of it. Which was just beyond my belief. And she a literature major! So, I watched the new movie, which was advertised as more closely following the original novel by author Charles Portis. Very exciting movie, very enjoyable, a real time machine. So I am looking for a book to download for my next audible selection and it occurs to me to search for the novel by Charles Portis. Now I get to my point. I was frustrated with my granddaughter for spending her life in Ft. Smith and having no awareness of True Grit, and yet I had never read any Charles Portis novels, I had to be knocked on the head. And I am almost sure that if it weren't for the movie I would have missed the novel. I will give you a tip and it won't be a spoiler, particularly if you have already watched the movie(s). The narrator has attached an essay on the novel at the end of the reading. Consider "reading" the essay before you listen to the novel. The essay is worth the price of the novel and is inspiring in itself. There are still real people in this world, away from the cities and canned education and young people working so hard to fit precise molds defining what it means to be popular and accepted. Donna Tartt is a discovery as valuable as the novel itself, and as I said, I had to be knocked on the head to find the novel and her reading. I have a prejudice, which is that I felt the only way to experience literature is to actually read the tangible book as the author intended and people have been doing for a thousand years. However, fine narrators such as Donna Tartt enhance my reading.
The author, the great scientific genius, J Craig Venter, has stepped through a portal and beckons us to follow him through to the other side. He has fulfilled his vision, but presents the human species, particularly the scientific community with a dilemma, if we follow him, we endorse and subscribe to the notion that the structure of a living cell responds to the same laws of physics and chemistry that govern the rest of the universe. Specifically, the genome of a cell can be programmed, resulting in not just a modified cell, but a new species, a unique living creature.
Mankind is a toolmaking species. We have only had the tool of the modern computer in J Craig Venter's lifetime, and he has made the most of it. His work has demonstrated that the only limiting factor in programming any particular genome is the current power of the computer. And no one doubts that we are only on the first page of the development of this tool. It stands to reason that at some point, we will have the computational power to reprogram a more complex genome than that of a single celled organism.
A scientist in an earlier age concluded that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe of that time period. And as we all know, he was attacked because it disturbed mankind's particular notion of it's special place in that universe. But that scientist, and all of the other scientists that preceded him and have followed him have only described what "is"', they have not created anything. For example (using a current example), a great scientist might describe that the universe is not only expanding, but also that this expansion is accelerating. It is a great discovery, worthy of the Nobel Prize, but it is only a description of what is happening, using modern tools of observation. The observation and the description of the discovery has created nothing new or unique.
But J Craig Venter fulfilled his vision and created something unique in the universe. I am afraid that this will not be appreciated in his lifetime.
I bought my first O'Brian book of the series at Victoria Station in London, while enroute to an assignment for the USAF, well before the series was complete, and well before the series was available in the US. Since then I have enjoyed the entire series in print every few years, and enjoy it just as much as the first reading. Then I discovered audible, with the advent of the ipod, the ipod and it's cousins I suppose are the fourth blessing. Printed books are sacred, but I get as much and sometimes more from these recordings, and I believe the credit for that is due very much to narrator SIMON VANCE, who is nothing less than a master. I like to think that he knew the author and that they appreciated each other's work. I receive great pleasure from the author and this narrator and I envy any soul who has yet to experience the combination. The British are different from all of the rest of us, and Vance brings you Britain.
The novel "Sho-gun" was the author's masterpiece, and this novel is related to Sho-gun, describing events taking place in Asia about two hundred years later, making interesting reading. What makes this download really worthwhile is the remarkable performance of the narrator John Lee. Many reviews complain about sound quality and/or the narrator's performance, this reading will spoil you. I hope he got paid by the word!
Clavell's novel is a virtual time machine (and classic masterwork), and both the book and the audiobook are highly recommended and should not be missed. However, I almost passed on the audiobook because of some of the comments of the reviewers regarding the narrator David Case. I was surprised to find that not only did I thoroughly enjoy the audiobook, but I also found that David Case provided a truly outstanding performance. Consider the epic length and the powerful nature of the novel, the number and variety of characters. and the drama he had to portray. My opinion is that Shogun is one of the literary classics of the twentieth century, and this audiobook and this narrator did the novel justice.
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