I found this book to be really enjoyable. It was my first foray into the land of Stephenson, after being referred by a friend, and I'm quite pleased. The story was fantastical yet never felt impossible, thanks to the careful machinations of the author. Great characters, well developed, human and interesting. Held your attention throughout. I thought the narrator did a great job, really conveying distinction between the characters despite their wide diversity. I couldn't stop listening!!
I've read through many of the reviews of this book, and the primary complaint seems to be regarding the inconsistencies with Mr. Dotrice's narration. I feel that it is important to point out that he is NINETY years old as I write this, was 88 when this audiobook was published and 80 when the first book in the series came out. I know many elderly people, and the fact that he was able to narrate these giant tomes at all is quite remarkable, let alone so well!! So, yes, I agree that it is maddening to hear a narrator change his game mid show, but I feel like we got to cut this guy some slack. Just saying.
That said... the book itself is consistent with the rest of these works, ponderous and detailed, but still thoroughly engaging. Just like the whole series.
David Mitchell can seriously write. It's like 6 mini-novelas with the slightest undercurrent of a theme running through all of them. Each story is so unique from the others presented, and so well done, it's hard to imagine that they're all contained in one book. Other reviewers cautioned against trying to listen haphazardly to this one, I think that's sage advice. But I didn't find it difficult to follow as long as I paid attention. It's funny, poignant, serious and intense, all wrapped into one. This is one I will listen to again.
This book had come highly recommended to me by friends, and it's certainly in a genre/era that I enjoy. I read a lot of victorian era fantasy fiction and, usually, I enjoy it immensely. This book, however, was always just a little off the mark. Character development was, presumably, sacrificed for setting development which, ultimately, gave the whole piece a rather hollow feel. There was also a lack of consistency in the characters... It was difficult to determine who were the pro- and antagonists. You found yourself rooting for a character one minute and finding them distasteful in the next. The back story was never really hammered into place, giving everything a rather hazy, made up sort of feel. Reveals were too brief and, as a result, anticlimactic. Possibly the most frustrating thing is that, for a book that supposedly takes place in the late 1800 and 1900's, the romantic relationship between the two protagonists feels uncomfortably modern, bordering on a new age, tantric-y, hipsterish vibe that seems strangely out of place. Likewise, while the IDEA behind the circus seems intriguing and fraught with possibility, much of the descriptions of the attractions/performers sound like the author had recently gone to a Cirque du Soleil show and then wrote what she saw into the narrative. Again... That uncomfortably contemporary feel that felt laid onto the era, rather than emanating from within it.
All in all, I think this author has potential. I think she just probably needs more practice and she should, perhaps, consider writing from within an era that she's actually familiar with. This story had potential too but, alas, that's too late to really be realized. From a performance perspective, Jim Dale did a solid, thorough job here, even if sounding a bit too bumpkinish for some of the more "elite" roles in this book. I am not likely to listen to this again.
This is one of my favorite pieces of literature. I read the bound version of this series at least twice before listening to it, and the production of the audio version is excellent and enjoyable. Phillip Pullman is not only a brilliant writer, but also a scathing social critic. The story itself is compelling, rich and engaging, but becomes epic when the underlying social commentary is considered.
I read several of the many "this is an anti-God book!!" reviews written by anxious readers regarding this work. I am willing to bet that most of them haven't actually read the whole series and are simply letting either what they've heard about it, or their own discomfort about belief systems being called into question influence their opinions regarding Mr. Pullman's excellent work. If one can take a more global view of the story, it becomes apparent that it is *organized religion* that is being called to task in this series, not any actual (vs. manufactured) manifestation of spirituality itself. In particular, I think it is safe to say that Pullman is especially targeting the powerful, European based, Roman Catholic church and it's historical, well publicized abuses of power. We've all heard the phrase "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely". THAT'S what this story is really about.
So, from my perspective, there's no need to be afraid to read this book if you are a Christian or any other religious person. On the contrary, I think that it presents an interesting conceptualization of spirituality unconstrained by an over-powerful and convoluted "religious body", unshackled by the guilt and political obligation so inherent in organized religion. The characters are sharp, witty, clever and very well developed. The action is exciting and fast paced, the villains superbly villainous (yet still with some humanity intact, adding to their complexity) and the protagonists deep and committed. This author is a true wordsmith and worthy of your consideration.
Neil Gaiman is probably my favorite author to listen to in audio format out there. I have listened to nearly everything he's ever written that's been recorded and consider "The Graveyard Book" the closest thing to a perfect audio book ever produced. So I had looked forward with anticipation to "sinking my ears into it" when I downloaded this book. It unfortunately fell a bit short of my expectations.
So what's wrong with this one? Well... a number of little things that add up to enough to make me unable to give it more than 3 stars. The stories are generally good, though some certainly better than others, and Neil reading them is always a bonus, as he reads his work so well. But, perhaps (and probably) because it is in an audio format, one does not really have the time to digest the individual pieces. There is mere seconds of transition time between the various stories/poems/commentary. If you listen to your books while doing tasky things, as I often do, it is not feasible to stop between pieces, digest the tale, think about the work, etc. Some of the pieces are short enough and esoteric enough that it is not automatically clear that one story's ended and another begun. I think it likely that, had I read this book in paper format, I might have had a different experience.
That said, in the end the book is redeemed by the novella taking up with the character Shadow from "American Gods". It is epic enough, long enough and in keeping enough with the original tale that it made muddling through the rest of the book worth it. I have no regrets for having added this title to my Gaiman library, but it falls rather to the bottom of the list.
I tried to like this book... I didn't hate it. But I kept waiting to be pulled into it, mezmerized like so many other reviewers seemed to be. Unfortunately, although the narrator was skillful and the story a reasonable length, it just never really won me over. My final determination is that I'm guessing that I'm just not a big seagoing gal, after all. I probably wouldn't like Moby Dick, either. If, however, sea tales and gibbets and bosuns and whales, starboards, mainsails and gunneys are the sorts of things that "float yer boat" (pardon the pun), this may be just the current you are looking for.
If you have any interest in the status of that which we call "food" in our modern day society, then this is the audio book for you. Take with a grain of salt the naysayers who kvetch about the "bore factor" or the "terrible narration" of this piece... It's a work of scientific non-fiction, for goodness sake!! Of course it is chock full of research and detailed information, but written in such a way as to be wholly engaging, fascinating and relevant right now. (If you are bored when confronted with fact-filled research, then consider fiction as, perhaps, a better suited medium) The narration is wonderful!! After reading some of the other reviews, I worried that the narrator may prove unpalatable, but I didn't find that to be the case at all. I listen to a *lot* of audio-books, and found Mr. Brick's representation of Michael Pollen's work to be perfectly lovely. He weaves a vibrancy into what might be a bit overwhelming at times into a tasteful and easy to listen to body. If you live in the U.S. and you are a consumer who purchases food in this country, you must read this book!
I really, really love Neil Gaiman's work. I adored The Graveyard Book, Anansi Boys, Stardust, Neverwhere... And I loved the reading of each of those books by Neil or Anansi Boys by Lenny Henry. But this book... this book was different. Ultimately, the story was engrossing and tied together neatly with some interesting perspectives... but the journey there was not always very enjoyable.
Maybe it was the extremely adult nature of some of the passages... grossly violent, gory or sexual that I just don't associate with NG's work. Or, perhaps it's that every other audio book of his that I've listened to has been read with a sultry British accent, and this reader's rendition was somewhat harsh and unpleasant to the ear. Or maybe the fact that I found only one or two of the myriad of characters to actually be very likable.
Regardless... my final take on this story is that it is not my favorite book. I expect that I'll listen to my other Neil Gaiman audio books over and over.... This one? I think I'm done. Still... if you're a Neil Gaiman fan, I think it's ultimately worth a listen. But don't be surprised if you don't find yourself as enamored as you are of his other work.
This is one of the best audiobooks I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. Not only is the story itself clever, dark, witty and engaging, but the reading by Mr. Gaiman is impeccably delivered and flawless in it's conveyance of the overall mood of the tale. In one fell swoop, this story manages to funny, endearing, terrifying, goth and historical (in it's own peculiar way). The characters are richly developed, wholly engaging and, for this anglophile, beautifully read into life. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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