I think this is a good book, but I am not sure it's a good audiobook. The main reason is that the narrative is difficult to follow.
Yes, there are many characters & if you are unfamiliar with the history, it might be confusing, but this was not the main source of confusion. The problem was the writing style. It is unique and creative -- I enjoyed it -- and it probably makes for an enjoyable read. Unfortunately, it is does not translate well into an audiobook. The modified "stream-of-consciousness" meant that I often had to rely on context to figure out whether the words were actually said by the character, or just thought by him. Also, a great deal of information is implied rather than explicitly stated, and communication takes place "between the lines." This is a strength in a book but can be a weakness in an audiobook, because it's too easy to miss these subtleties when you're just listening.
My final complaint is that, in the end, nothing much happened. I read somewhere that the author is working on a sequel, which is much needed. The book seemed to end very abruptly with little to no sense of closure or satisfaction. And after all the work it took to get to the end, I had expected a greater reward for my efforts.
On the positive, the story was interesting and I learned more about the history of these events. The author clearly has writing talent and skill -- the craft evident in the prose is impressive. For these reasons I would say this book definitely is worthwhile, and I am glad I listened to it. Just be warned about the issues above.
I found this book interesting, but mostly because I enjoyed the constant stream of jungle factoids the author threw at me. The story itself is inherently interesting, but I am not convinced that the author has done a fantastic job of bringing everything to life.
I enjoyed the backstories included about the individuals, and I particularly enjoyed learning more about Teddy Roosevelt, about whom I knew very little. I find information about disgusting and dangerous nature quite fascinating, and this book delivered with many satisfying tales of deadly Amazonian plants and animals.
All in all, however, the book was little more than a collection of trivia and factoids, weakly held together with a skeletal narrative. If this is ok for you, then by all means give this book a try. If you are hoping for something more, however, I might look elsewhere.
The narrator also had some truly glaring mispronunciations -- the French expression "avoir du pois" being a particularly unforgivable one. Made me wonder if he similarly mangled other foreign words and names.
I don't understand the hype surrounding this book. The best way I can summarize it is to paraphrase Churchill: It is a banality wrapped in a stereotype inside a cliche.
Nonetheless, it does have some entertainment value, like a B-grade movie. The book had its moments, and it's probably a great beach read. But it's no more original or literary than your average Candace Bushnell. The characters are as cardboard as a pizza box, the plot "twists" are as subtle as a freight train, and the tone of moral self-righteousness is a refreshing as a hot tub on a steamy summer day.
If that's what you're in the mood for, then this book is perfect. If you want something that doesn't insult your intelligence, however, look elsewhere.
I like science fiction and was looking forward to a good read with this. A few years ago, someone had suggested this author to me, so I was excited to find this on Audible.
This book was just ok. Yes, I was entertained by the story, but the quality of the writing and the general story seemed amateurish. This is a more like a graphic novel (without the images) than a well-developed piece of science fiction.
One of the things I enjoy about science fiction is that the setting in space or different planets, possibly with aliens as characters, provides the author a means to express or raise interesting ideas or moral dilemmas. I believe this is exemplified in books such as Mary Doria Russell's THE SPARROW or James Blish's A CASE OF CONSCIENCE.
Unfortunately, it seems this book is science fiction simply for the opportunity to have characters with golden skin, mind-reading abilities, and space ships. This was fine for general entertainment but that's about it. Catherine Asaro has written many other books; it might be most revealing to say that I doubt I will bother with any of them.
I agree with many of the other reviews here that criticize the arrogance of the narrator and the sort of "comic book" quality of the writing and story line.
That being said, I still enjoyed this book. The qualities that make a good book are not always the same that make a good audiobook, and vice versa. When I listen to audiobooks, I am always doing something else, too: walking the dog, cooking, driving, etc., so I find that straightforward writing, somewhat simple and obvious plots, and dramatic action can make a decent audiobook, whereas these same qualities might cause me to give up on an actual book in disgust. For example, I thought __The DaVinci Code__ was literary crap, but it was a great audiobook for a long car ride.
I place this book in the same category. It is good for lowbrow superficial entertainment, but not particularly high calibre literature. I was absorbed and involved in the story. Be warned, however: it does have parts (discussions of castration and intercourse) that are not very family-friendly.
My main disappointment is that the book was so un-historical. I had hoped to learn something; instead, this was as historically accurate as a Hollywood movie. That is to say, not in the least.
I admit, I have listened only to about 20 minutes of this, but I am growing increasingly unhappy with the book. I hope it improves. If am going to believe anything this author writes, I need to have faith that he knows what he's talking about. So far, he's presented me with inaccurate historical facts and extremely biased, one-sided depictions of human physiology. These are just the things I've noticed: what other things might be slipping by because I just don't know any better?
Mistake #1: he writes that the Inquisition invented the bastinado. That's factually wrong. Second, he goes on and on about how the human body is not meant for running . . . depending on who you ask, this also is (arguably) factually wrong. (A recent article in the NY Times, in fact, argues that the human body is DESIGNED to run). Perhaps the book later will present the case for how SOME humans have learned to adapt to the act of running, but right now I am distracted by his incredibly skewed depiction of the sport as an unnatural activity, guaranteed to produce chronic injury and pain.
Disclaimer: I am an avid runner and have been running consistently since high school (which was more than 20 years ago). I was looking forward to learning more about my chosen sport, but so far I feel like *I *know MORE than the author does both about history in general (i.e., the bastinado) and about running and its associated physiology. I hope Christopher McDougall steps up his game as the book continues, because right now, I'm regretting this Audible download.
If I can come back and revise this review after I finish the book, I will try to do so.
It takes a while to get into this book, and I'm still not sure if the effort pays off in the end. I did become more engaged as the story unfolded, but some characters are more sympathetic and interesting than others. I wish book focused more on the characters I liked than the ones I found tedious and uninteresting. How much I enjoyed the story at any given time depended a great deal on the subject of the narrative.
The best I can offer in support of this story is: Eh. Good. I guess. But not great.
The narrator is ok & very British. Sometimes, however, I wasn't sure who was speaking, or if the words were thoughts or actual speech, because the narrator did not modulate his voice very much or make any effort to distinguish between different characters' voices.
Several years ago, I read The Fountainhead & was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I found the story interesting, the characters intriguing, and the ideas worth contemplating. Atlas Shrugged, so I thought, was supposed to be even better, and I expected to enjoy it.
Unfortunately, I found the book tedious and mediocre. In so many ways, it's inferior to The Fountainhead. Rand really hits you over the head, repeatedly, with her ideology, too, so if you disagree with her position it might be especially difficult to stomach this book. It took an act of will for me to finish listening.
Something about the narration rather annoyed me, too, although I can't put my finger on what. Maybe it's because I sometimes couldn't tell if the prose really was as stilted, melodramatic, and banal as the reader made it sound, or if it was just his delivery.
All in all, you have to really WANT to "read" this book. I can't recommend it much for entertainment.
I felt I had to add a review that supported the author's reading. I thought it was great, and it was a unique opportunity to hear the author read the characters in the voices that she intended for them to have. I don't know why people dislike Donna Tartt's reading; I've listened to plenty of audiobooks, and I found this one to be one of the best readings I've come across. I loved her voice & the vocal inflections she added. It's not exactly a "neutral" reading, though, which maybe is what people disliked. But hey, if you want a robot to read a book to you, then listen to a Kindle.
The story is very compelling, and the writing is striking & original. I loved Donna Tartt's reading. I have no complaints and highly recommend this audiobook.
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