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Joel D Offenberg

ratings
178
REVIEWS
110
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
51
HELPFUL VOTES
754

  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Edgar Allan Poe
    • Narrated By Adam Sims
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (25)
    Performance
    (18)
    Story
    (18)

    The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Poe's only full novel, is one of his most unusual works. A riveting story, toldl in the first person, it tells of a disastrous sea voyage involving storms, mutiny, starvation, thirst - and a mysterious conclusion. Jorge Luis Borges and Baudelaire were among those who rated it highly. This recording was timed to mark the 200th anniversary of Poe's birth.

    Joel D Offenberg says: "Hard to Describe..."
    "Hard to Describe..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    ...but I'll try.

    This is a nautical adventure, but the story of A.G. Pym is hardly a fun one. It's also somewhat sci-fi, ending with a fantasical voyage towards the South Pole (echoed later by Jules Verne in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).

    I get the feeling that Poe wanted to make this sound as realistic as possible, so the book starts out fairly straightforwardly---the narrator stows aboard his friend's father's whaling ship, figuring that he'd be a welcome guest once they put out to sea. But, alas, a mutiny occurs, followed by a shipwreck. The surviving characters spend a lot of time starving and dehydrating (this part drags on quite a bit) before they are rescued and head towards the Pole. There, they meet new creatures, new people, new lands.

    I should point out that the book is quite guesome...many of characters die, often in an unpleasant manner. And the story ends oddly---almost mid-sentence, with no real resolution.

    This book is interesting for historical reasons, more than for its enterainment value (which, in my opinion, is minimal)---Poe was an important author...this is the only novel-length story he published in his lifetime...the sci-fi aspect is one of the earliest examples of that genre. The book has an experimental feel, as if Poe was trying to do something different and new. Apparently, it worked, since Jules Verne (among others) cites it as an inspiration. But I wouldn't call it "fun."

    The narrator does a pretty good job with this.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sovereign: A Matthew Shardlake Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By C. J. Sansom
    • Narrated By Steven Crossley
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (947)
    Performance
    (774)
    Story
    (769)

    Barrister Matthew Shardlake is faced with the most terrifying threat in the age of Tudor England: his own imprisonment in the Tower of London. Harsh autumn winds stir the English countryside as King Henry VIII, along with a thousand soldiers and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, make their way from London to York after a violent uprising.

    Mike From Mesa says: "Very good mystery"
    "Better and Better"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Matthew Shardlake stories get better as they go on. I liked "Dissolution" OK, and found "Dark Fire" to be better, but "Sovereign," the third in the series is better yet. I have gone on to finish all 6 of the books currently available, and I recommend the full set.

    One of the great things about the Shardlake series is that C.J. Sansom not only placed the mysteries in an accurate historical millieu, but he found real characters and real stories that are almost footnotes to our history and turned them into a believable and interesting story. If you read the historical footnotes and also do some various research, you learn that some of the characters peripheral to the story (and even some who are a direct part of it) are genuine historical figures...the research that went into these books is amazing, and the writing is just compelling. Even if you took out the mystery part of the story, just the historical novel aspect is amazing. But the mysteries are also excellent...

    ...And Shardlake (along with Barak) is in the middle of it, along with a murder of a York glazier and several conspiracies afoot. In this case, the background of the story is Henry VIII's Royal Progress to the North of England in 1541 and a murder and conspiracy in York that drags Shardlake into the doings of the court and lands him in the worst trouble imaginable.

    The narration is very good and fits just right in.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Dark Fire: A Matthew Shardlake Mystery

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By C. J. Sansom
    • Narrated By Steven Crossley
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1151)
    Performance
    (921)
    Story
    (920)

    Winner of the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award, Dark Fire revisits acclaimed master of historical fiction C. J. Sansom's colorful and rapier-witted lawyer, Matthew Shardlake. Set in 1540, this beguiling tale of murder and mayhem is set against a rich backdrop of medieval London. Here, hunchbacked Matthew Shardlake is called upon to investigate the peculiar case of a young woman accused of murder.

    Bill says: "Murder & Intrigue ~ Lawyers & Psychopaths"
    "Historical Mystery...well done!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I listened to "Dissolution," the first Shardlake book and I liked it but thought it was too long. So, I went and downloaded "Dark Fire," the sequel and an even longer book. But it was great!

    The setting: It has been several years since Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and Shardlake continues his legal practice while staying out of politics. But Thomas Cromwell, no longer in favor with the king after the Anna of Cleves debacle, needs Shardlake's help in tracking down an ancient (and lost) weapon known as Dark Fire, while Shardlake is also trying to save a young woman, accused of murdering her cousin and refusing to plead her case in court, from an extremely unpleasant judicial death. And the clock is ticking on both of these challenges.

    Yes, it's long. But the mystery and various plot-lines are interesting and well connected; the narrative is believable and the plot keeps the story moving. Also, the protagonists seemed a bit more sympathetic...so even though this is the longer book, it felt shorter and is more enjoyable.

    The narration is very good and works very well for the story.



    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Protector

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Larry Niven
    • Narrated By Tom Weiner
    Overall
    (185)
    Performance
    (169)
    Story
    (169)

    Phssthpok the Pak had been traveling for most of his thirty-two thousand years. His mission was to save, develop, and protect the group of Pak breeders sent out into space some two and a half million years before.

    Brennan was a Belter, the product of a fiercely independent, somewhat anarchic society living in, on, and around an outer asteroid belt. The Belters were rebels, one and all, and Brennan was a smuggler. The Belt worlds had been tracking the Pak ship for days, and Brennan figured to meet that ship first.

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "WHAT THE FINAGLE"
    "Great thought experiment good narrator so-so plot"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    What if the normal effects of human aging (hair loss, arthritis, tooth loss, supposed loss of sex drive) were really part of a design to create a superhuman "adult" to protect the earlier, more vulnerable stages of humanity? And what if we could discover how to make it work?

    These stories (there are really 2 stories combined into a single narrative) were the first time Larry Niven played with his idea of the Pak---an ancestor species to early hominids---and the Protectors who transform into ideal thinking and fighting machines who guard their bloodline. What happens if, in the future, space-faring humans encounter the Pak? What if humans could turn into Protectors?

    It was an interesting thought experiment, and it turned into a powerful idea, one that Niven revisits multiple times in some of his later "known space" novels (e.g. Ringworld Engineers and Destroyer of Worlds). If you plan to read these books (or you have and are puzzled by the Pak backstory, this is the place for answers).

    While the idea of the Protectors are an interesting one, the story around it is relatively bland. There is a lot of exposition on the nature of the Protectors but the actual action is rather thin.

    So, if you like an interesting thought experiment or want more backstory on the Pak, this is worth picking up.

    Tom Weiner is a very good narrator and he does a very good job here.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 14

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Peter Clines
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (34829)
    Performance
    (32240)
    Story
    (32253)

    There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much. At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "Don't Get Killed By This Place"
    "Great suspenseful story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a great story, full of suspense and twists. It starts out with some odd quirks about the old apartment building (including the padlocked apartment #14). As the protagonists start digging into the odd quirks, they keep finding newer, deeper mysteries...and investigating them leads to even more strangeness. [I don't want to reveal too much because this is the sort of book where it is easy to invoke spoilers which can REALLY ruin it.]

    Clines' writing is excellent for this style of story. Clines' "The Fold" (also on Audible and also very good) is very much in the same style, and FWIW, is set in the same universe as 14. (I think nominally "The Fold" is the sequel, but each book stands on its own.)

    Ray Porter's narration is great. He not only captures the mood of the story but also does a great job with the multitude of characters, voices and accents.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Battlefield Earth: Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi and New York Times Bestseller

    • UNABRIDGED (47 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By L. Ron Hubbard
    • Narrated By Josh Clark, Scott Menville, Fred Tatascorie, and others
    Overall
    (2237)
    Performance
    (2100)
    Story
    (2099)

    In the year AD 3000, Earth is a barren wasteland, plundered of its natural resources by the millennium-long regime of taloned, gas-breathing, nine-foot alien conquerors from the planet Psychlo. Fewer than 35,000 humans survive in a handful of communities scattered across the face of a postapocalyptic Earth. From a desolate village in the Rocky Mountains near what once was Denver, Colorado, a courageous young man named Jonnie Goodboy Tyler embarks on a hero's journey to challenge the fearful myths of his people.

    Joel D Offenberg says: "Pulp Sci-Fi Done Right! More Like This!"
    "Pulp Sci-Fi Done Right! More Like This!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The story is fun, simple and escapist pulp sci-fi...a bit old fashioned but enjoyable. But what makes this book worth it is the excellent performance and production values. I hope the producers can do this kind of thing more often.

    The performance: Wonderfully done, with multiple voices (a necessity given the large cast of players) not only reading but performing the story. Music, sound effects, and a great cast make this not just an audiobook, but almost a play or an "audio-movie." Battlefield Earth is a fun book, but the brilliant rendering makes a 4-star story into a 5-star audiobook.

    Say what you like about L. Ron Hubbard [and there is a lot to say], he could write fun stories of thrills, spills and derring-do with brave heroes who laugh in the face of danger, beautiful damsels in distress and evildoers who seem to be evil because evil is fun. Deep themes? Nope. Subtle messages? Nada. Thought provoking concepts about the present and future of humanity? None here. Adventure, action, rollicking fun!

    That is not to say that the story is free of blemishes. The most grating is that the (human) characters are handled via ethnic stereotype (with attitudes that seemed more fitting to the 1930's than the 1980's publication date of the book or the 2010's date of this review).

    Be warned: This audiobook clocks in at just under 48 hours [the original book was over 1000 pages]. There are about a dozen places where you figure the story is winding up only to find that you are getting swept along as it continues for many more hours.

    Lastly: For those who worry that Battlefield Earth is some sort of propaganda or screed for Hubbard's Church of Scientology: it isn't. Yes, there are a few minor points in there aligned with Scientology's teachings, but they appear rather late and are incidental to the story.

    Notes: There is a similar multi-voice production of Dune on Audible (Dune being a much richer and more complex source text than Battlefield Earth). And if you like Hubbard's pulp writing style, you might want to check out Ole Doc Methuselah.

    31 of 37 people found this review helpful
  • Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Nick Heil
    • Narrated By David Drummond
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (575)
    Performance
    (399)
    Story
    (394)

    In early May 2006, a young British climber named David Sharp lay dying near the top of Mount Everest while forty other climbers walked past him on their way to the summit. A week later, Lincoln Hall, a seasoned Australian climber, was left for dead near the same spot. Hall's death was reported around the world, but the next day he was found alive after spending the night on the upper mountain with no food and no shelter.

    Don Lance says: "Good summary of the 2006 season"
    "Compelling"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Climbing Mount Everest is one of the most challenging---and dangerous---things a human being can do. And 2006 was one of the most controversial climbing seasons.

    Nick Heil's account seems to be a fairly balanced account, and ranges from the history of Everest overall, the 2006 season overall, the characters on the mountain, the challenge of climbing Everest and the controversies of that year (especially David Sharp's death). I feel like he (a) gives a great feel for what it means to climb Everest and (b) a fairly balanced take on the controversies.

    I enjoyed this immensely.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Planet of Adventure: City of the Chasch, Servants of the Wankh, The Dirdir, The Pnume: The Tschai, Planet of Adventure

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Jack Vance
    • Narrated By Elijah Alexander
    Overall
    (100)
    Performance
    (80)
    Story
    (81)

    Stranded on the distant planet Tschai, young Adam Reith is the sole survivor of a space mission who discovers the world is inhabited - not only by warring alien cultures but by human slaves as well, taken early in Earth's history. Reith must find a way off the planet to warn Earth of Tschai's deadly existence.

    David S. Mathew says: "Dated, but still fun."
    "Literary Pulp Sci-fi."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I consider this book to be a guilty pleasure book. There isn't any deep intellectual analysis or the like, but it is escapist fun.

    Note: this is an omnibus edition of "The City of the Chasch," "The Servants of the Wankh," "The Dirdir" and "The Pnume." Those 4 books are available separately on Audible, but really, this is one novel spread out over 4 books.

    The story is pulp sci-fi in terms of plot (space explorer crash lands on strange planet, finds companions and has adventures while trying to get home), but Jack Vance built a varied, interesting and complex world with complex, interesting and varied alien species that are believably dangerous. Also, Vance's writing was more complex and literary than most pulp sci-fi of its class.

    I very much enjoyed these books in print and I found the Audible edition to be a good way to enjoy them again.

    The narration was good overall...it didn't add much but it definitely didn't hurt the book, either.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Jared Diamond
    • Narrated By Doug Ordunio
    Overall
    (4637)
    Performance
    (3963)
    Story
    (3959)

    Having done field work in New Guinea for more than 30 years, Jared Diamond presents the geographical and ecological factors that have shaped the modern world. From the viewpoint of an evolutionary biologist, he highlights the broadest movements both literal and conceptual on every continent since the Ice Age, and examines societal advances such as writing, religion, government, and technology.

    Doug says: "Compelling pre-history and emergent history"
    "Interesting science but so-so writing."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jared Diamond's thesis is interesting and thought-provoking, but this treatment of it is overdone and somewhat tedious.

    The idea that human cultures are shaped by their environment and other non-human factors (such as animal and plant species) makes a lot of sense and Diamond does a good job of demonstrating the validity of the ideas. However, the book spends a lot of time driving home his points, and after a while, I just found it tedious to slog through the book.

    The narration is good without being fantastic.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Manners & Mutiny

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Gail Carriger
    • Narrated By Moira Quirk
    Overall
    (1185)
    Performance
    (1098)
    Story
    (1097)

    When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London...but at what cost? Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times best-selling Finishing School series!

    Jody Swink says: "A happy ending."
    "OK conclusion to a so-so series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I loved the original Parasol Protectorate series; the Finishing School prequel series is wrapped up here and in conclusion, the original was better.

    This, the final chapter of the prequels, was well-done and probably the best of the lot, with more interesting characters (including a significant helping of Lord Akeldama). The biggest problem was the problem with all prequels...the need to wrap everything up so there are no conflicts with the original time-line. But, compared to the Parasol Protectorate, the story here is thinner, the humor less funny, the plot twists not so twisty. But, if you've plowed through the first couple of books in the series, this is a better finale than it could have been.

    Moira Quirk is a decent narrator, but I don't think she shines here. Good enough to not be distracting, but not adding anything to the overall quality of the experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, Book 3: The Last Command

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Timothy Zahn
    • Narrated By Marc Thompson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8670)
    Performance
    (8057)
    Story
    (8052)

    Overwhelmed by the ships and clones at Thrawn's command, the Republic has one last hope: sending a small force, led by Luke Skywalker, into the very stronghold that houses Thrawn's terrible cloning machines. There a final danger awaits, as the Dark Jedi C'baoth directs the battle against the Rebels and builds his strength to finish what he had already started: the destruction of Luke Skywalker.

    Dr. Joe says: "Absolutely Exhilarating, Excellent Book-Loved it!"
    "Amazing End to an Amazing Trilogy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I read the Thrawn trilogy a couple of times years ago (in paper edition). I remembered them as being really good books...but I forgot just how totally fantastic they are. Until now.

    The story is great---Timothy Zahn really captured the world of Star Wars, the feel for the stories and the characters (now 5 years after the events in Return of the Jedi) as they build the New Republic and still war with the remnant of the Empire. The new characters he added fit into the Star Wars universe perfectly. Zahn's pacing, story elements and writing just make them fun books. On top of that, Zahn wrote these books in the early 1990's, so they are not contaminated by the prequel trilogy.

    I would give Marc Thompson's narration 6 or even 7 stars if I could. He managed to catch many of the voices so sound much like the original actors from the films. Maybe not perfectly, but quite good given that it all came from one larynx...I assume the post-production played some games to enhance that, but even so. Amazing.

    The post-production also added music and background sound effects to try to enhance the effect. In general, I liked that, although I think it got distracting on occasion.

    The Thrawn series is published as a trilogy, but really it is one, large 3-part novel. You will need to commit to finishing the whole thing...especially since you will have a hard time putting it down once you start.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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