The book is good if you are interested in history, which I am. The building of the transcontinental railroad is described in detail. The problem is the narration and sound quality. The narrator speaks softly -- barely above a whisper -- and with very little energy. He does, however, speak naturally, which is a plus. His quiet delivery is made worse by the uneven audio quality. You have to turn the volume way up to hear him, and there is a noticeable hiss which can be maddening. The delivery does not do justice to an otherwise fine book.
At this point, I have listened to almost 30 audiobooks. This one is the best -- perhaps I should say it's tied with Dickens' "Our Mutual Friend" for the top spot. It has all the ingredients of a great audiobook: great writing, great narration, and great audio quality. I had read the book twice in earlier years, so I knew what was coming, but I was still enthralled from beginning to end. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times. What a fun ride down the "big river." Trust me on this -- it's well worth the price and your time.
The narration starts off slowly because the narrator seems to be over-pronouncing all his words. But once he gets into the flow, this is a gem. His rendition of the various characters is excellent and varied. He also imbues his narration with a humor that you might not normally expect, as well as the pathos that you would. Exciting, educational, adventurous and fun -- everything you would want in a reading of Moby Dick.
I have "read" many excellent Audible books, and this is hands down the best one so far. Dickens' beautiful language, intricately woven story lines, insightful observations and vivdly unique characters are tremendously enhanced by David Timson's masterful narration. His pacing is impeccable; never once did I feel he was going too fast or slow. His nuanced interpretation brought the printed words to life. In addition, the sound quality was excellent and consistent throughout the entire 36 hours.
Be aware that some of Dickens' Victorian-era idioms and expressions can be obscure. I found it impossible to fully comprehend them all. In some instances, his descriptions of scenes and/or thoughts are not completely understandable -- but if you just keep listening and let the narrative wash over you, a fascinating picture of the scene develops in your mind.
If you hang in there to the end, you will be rewarded with deep, touching scenes, subtle but enjoyably comedic vignettes, unforgettable characters, a multi-level struggle of good vs evil, and an eminently satisfying ending. A masterpiece on several levels.
Minor quibble: Near the end of Part 5, there is a place in the recording where the equivalent of about two pages of text is abruptly and obviously cut off. I re-downloaded the file and still encountered the issue. After looking up and reading the missing text on Amazon's "Search the Book" feature, I picked up the story again with no harm done.
I enjoyed the content of the book, but the narrator spoke way too slowly and laboriously for my taste. And when he paused, he..............................paused.
After giving up on my first try, I discovered that, by setting my iPod to play the book at an accelerated speed, I was able to make it through. And it was worth it, because it is a fascinating story and important history.
To me, a great audiobook must contain both great writing and great narration/interpretation. This one has both. The story is absorbing, uplifting, inspiring and educational. In addition, the narrator nails the mood, pace, tempo and inflection. There is some dispute as to the veracity of the story (the book has been around for about 50 years), with some saying it can't possibly be true and others questioning only some episodes. I have done enough research to have a fairly high confidence level in the general truth of the story, but that is really beside the point. It is a great yarn, an inspiration worth your time.
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