Sweden | Member Since 2013
There are many books that work well on audio - this is not one of them. The whole point of the narrative is to surprise, complicate, and challenge the reader and I prefer my audiobooks (although not my printed books) to keep it fairly simple. It might be a great novel in print, but the audio version lost me on so many occasions I could not follow its many threads to the end.
There are some fascinating fantasy/sci-fi ideas woven into the story and the first story did conclude in somewhat of a surprise. I should also add that as English is my second language, it might be the the novel's linguistic intricacies that made it difficult for me to follow in audio. Perhaps those intricacies might even appeal to a native English speaker.
Great performance by Scott Brick! Interesting characters, nicely carved out and multifaceted. Believable social developments in the small group of explorers as they come face to face with danger. Really liked the plot, which sucked me in from the outset.
There are several rather cheasy moments towards the end of the book that could have been left out. Overall, the ending is a bit of a let-down. And I really don't get why the main protagonist, an independant and serious reseacher, suddently use her sexuality to reach her goals at the beginning of the book? But overall a nicely entertaining and believable book, despite the unbelievable story.
This is a beautifully crafted and performed narrative about survival and hope in an extremely hopeless situation. I read some reviewers saying that the book was too pessimistic and devoid of hope for their taste, but I thought that would not apply to me - a cynical European who has read many a dystopian novel. But the utter hopelessness of this book is a bitter pill to swallow even for me. Yet, the skillfully crafted and likeable characters, as well as the interesting plot, make you go on listening. My main complaint is with the length. You get the feeling that the author has fallen in love with his characters and want them to live on in the text as long as possible. I did notice several events that lacked any real connection to the main plot and could have been cut out. There are places where the narrative drags out beyond the point where the reader feels that "yes, yes, you've made that clear, can we please go on!?" But otherwise good listen that ranks among the better-than-avarage.
Very good performance that left little to be desired.
This was my first book by Graham. The book has a somewhat interesting intrigue and started out okay. It then devolved into a hardly held together mix of ghosts, murder mystery, romance, celebrities and satanist cults from Victorian England. I would guess themes selected by careful marketing study of some book-buying subgroup of the market. It would take a master writer to make something sensible out of that list of preselected selling points, and Graham is not it. Banal dialogue, blatant holes in the plot and unbelievable characters that change when it suits the writer, rather than when it would fit their psychology. Lessons learned: marketing should not decide the contents of books. I really hope the selected audience for this book sees through this thin soup of a book. AND I will avoid Heather Graham in the future.
The characters start out okay, but change in ways that just don't fit. I mean; the cop who doesn't believe in ghosts accepts to work with a state-financed group of mediums - because "everything that might help the case is good"?! He is also a workoholic that never sleeps, but somehow manages to have bulging muscles to attract the female protagonist? And she majored in film studies a few years back, but now works as a full time medium for the FBI? Okay, it might be I expect too much of a book that is crafted merely to give a few cheap, entertaining chills to selected audiences. But be warned - if you expect more of books than that, keep far away from this one!
I have noticed that reviewers are very divided on this book. I am one of those that found it amazingly entertaining. But might it be for you?
I had not read anything by Brin before, but will now. "Existence" tells me he is one of the authors that puts more emphasis on ideas rather than characters, sometimes even creating characters only to illustrate a philosophical notion.
To me then, he is an expert in making the philosophy I love come to life. He shows how abstract thinking might matter and he makes thinking the central activity around which the novel revolves. I would place him in the tradition of Asimov's Foundation series, although the philosophy Brin represents, is less invested in modernist and chauvinist notions of man's control over nature and the future. Brin's characters cannot control society or plan the future, but they try to matter in a universe driven by chance and that is partial to diversity.
So, if you are a lover of philosophy and other fields of ideas, you will love this book. On the other hand, if you find philosophical thinking boring, you will probably find the novel boring. Thirdly, if you are a person that have difficulty following abstract lines of reasoning, it is possible you will find the book difficult to follow and its plot full of lacunae. Many reviewers have this third kind of comments on the book, which actually made me a bit hesitant before I bought it. Although my comprehension of English is quite good, I do have difficulties following novels where timelines and plots are experimentally rearranged for some lyrical purpose. To my relief, I found "Existence" is not one of those novels. My conjecture is therefore that Brin's book is difficult to follow if you have difficulties following the ideas that are the actual core of the book. The plot does make some jumps in time here and there, and those can be irritating if you are invested in a certain character or series of events. The jumps are much more tolerable if you follow the ideas Brin develops.
There are however two slight shortcomings. Brin overuses the cliff-hanger trope. When every chapter ends with something akin to "He turned around and could not believe his eyes", it does become a nuisance. Secondly, although Brin mostly explores ideas, he sometimes starts to advocate them and does it too openly. The whole point of the plot, I would argue, is that humankind have choices and needs to embrace diversity. As that is a viewpoint I endorse, I am always hesitant when sci-fi authors advocate a certain way of doing things, rather than explore hypothetical scenarios. Brin should have excluded his postscript in particular, where he openly "explains" the thinking behind the novel and comes with some frustrating admonishments for humanity. I believe the novel is much more effective when that kind of advocacy is left out. With those two shortcomings, this otherwise brilliant novel only gets four "story stars" from me.
The author make use of several different styles of writing to convey a complex history of a global catastrophe. I found the global angle particularly compelling; the zombie threat not only shows how societies hang together, but also how they differ and consequently respond to the situation in different ways. The author compellingly uses the zombie theme to implicitly ask some disquieting questions about class, justice and the economy. For me, it was this political and philosophical dimension that made the novel stand out from other more action-oriented zombie-themed narratives. That is not to say that World War Z does not have its share of action and suspense - two important reasons why I choose this kind of book to begin with.
There are several interesting and thought-provoking subplots. Admittedly, some are a bit cheesy, such as one involving traditional Japanese martial arts. I did nevertheless find most of them nicely sculptured. I was particularly intrigued by the story about the Russian army using guilt to whip a generation of soldiers into obedience. Such episodes, which situates the narrative in a long-standign discussion over human nature, strangely lends credence to the surreal narrative and almost make it feel anchored in history.
This if not another book discussing Scientological teachings or the biography of Hubbard. Rather, Miscavige Hill tells her own subjective story about growing up inside the organization. It turns out to be a harrowing read of maltreatment, psychological terror and strategic use of social isolation. Perhaps it is only from the lived first-person perspective that the absurdities and destructiveness of the church doctrines become so starkly apparent. I had the sense sometimes of hearing of events paying out in a very different, illiberal and even alien culture, where people behave contrary to common expectations. Miscavige Hill's attempts to explain these events from the perspective of church members and her admissions about their absurdities, make her our everyday life cicerone through something approaching alien dystopia. Perhaps then it was my love of sci-fi that made this book one I would have gladly listen to in one sitting.
While I found the story only slightly better than average, Mulgrew's performance blew me away. I could not stop listening. She gives each character a distinctive and very convincing voice. I get the feel she at times know the text better than the author, giving it dimensions that are not there for most readers of the book. Please, employ Mulgrew to record Heart Shaped Box as well! The existing recording by Stephen Lang is pitifully off the mark.
Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to listen to Mulgrew's other audiobook recordings, but I definitively will.
I have enjoyed several of Stephenson's books, Anathem in particular. He knows how to create a gripping narrative and successfully draws in global and often deeply philosophical themes - features that chime with me. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to elaborate too much on details peripheral to the story. That tendency goes hand in hand with his peculiarly linear storytelling. Reamde is the perhaps most evident example of this and made the book difficult to enjoy for me. At times, it reads like a real-time description of a number of successive events. In addition, the storyline, while intriguing, is not strong enough to old my attention for so many hours of listening. The book is simply too long, too linear and too detailed.
In fact, I believe Reamde would make a good film. Not only is the novel written much like a move script; the movie format would necessitate the extensive editing that the book unfortunately lacks.
I have read several books by Priest in print and like them. The Islanders is one of his more complicated narratives however and I realized belatedly that it is one of those books that should really be read in print to enjoy all of its nuances. The audio version simply does not give listeners the possibility of going back in the text and dwelling longer on some more significant passage. That is not to say that there are no coherent narratives in the novel; there are quite a few. The point is however that the book has additional dimensions when readers start to compare these narratives. In any case, Maloney really makes a good job with a difficult material. So, despite my reservations about the audiobook, I would easily recommend Priest's novel in print, and Maloney's performance in general.
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