South Australia, Australia | Member Since 2010
I recall when I first read this fantastic book how impressed I was with the level of detail, research and sheer discipline that must have underpinned the writing of it. I was no less impressed when I heard this audio performance. Having now also read the Baroque Cycle, I got a double thrill out of the repetition of the characters' histories, their shared ancestory and the scale of Stephenson's imagination. Anyone who enjoys history (but doesn't take themselves too seriously as a history buff) is bound to enjoy this book.
I listened to this performance about a year ago. At the time I had not written any reviews and it never dawned on me to write one for this book. However, I have today finished listening to Richard Dawkins', "The Blind Watchmaker", and I am now writing reviews for most of the audio I listen too. In that review I wrote that fact is so often more interesting than fiction. I believe that, but it is not true in this instance. Maybe it's because the fact and the fiction are so inextricably interwoven. One has to stop to think, "Now, did that happen?" Then one is driven to the Net to check the odd details and, invariably, the facts stack-up.
The plot is great. It too is interwoven between times and personalities, from WWII to the modern internet highways that criss-cross the oceans of the world with their fibre-optic cables. I love Waterhouse (all of them) and who could not like Root and Rudi? My recommendation is to invest the time and effort in this and other Stephenson works. They repay the effort many times over.
As for the characterisations of William Dufris, I have to say they were outstanding. I thought I was going to hate the American twang, but his sense of the character was so good I found myself having to replay passages for my own enjoyment and to the entertainment of my unfortunate friends. One passage in particular, when Waterhouse does the algebra to solve his lack of sex, got a particular hammering (pardon the pun). Finally, can I just mention his range - male, female, American, Japanese, Swiss, backwoodsman, professor and every combination of these. Simply outstanding.
It has taken me a while to get around to listening to this Member's Gift, but I am glad that I have now taken the time. It tells an all to familiar story of colonial misconduct perpetrated upon an essentially honourable, less modern civilisation.
In this autobiographical account, the Chief of the Sauk nation, Black Hawk, tells his life story concentrating on the years of the American Revolution and the expansion of settlers across indigenous lands. He states this is to correct the record. The tale is very familiar, although at least the Indians were required to be conquered and, in theory, they were protected by law; something that did not occur in my home until 20 years ago, this month (June, 2014). Even allowing for the fact that the story is likely to seek to paint the Sauk in the best light, and thereby paints the settlers in the worst light, the tale is too familiar to be fanciful, in my opinion. It made me angry and sad to listen to it and to feel its resonance.
The text is read by Brett Barry as written (or I should say, dictated) by Black Hawk. The telling is appropriate and authentic, without being inflammatory.
A thoroughly good listen to a thoroughly bad experience.
I have read a lot Dawkins and Hitchens and the difference between the two, telling the same tale about gods, is usually quite stark. On this occasion however Dawkins delves down into the arena, get his hands dirty with invective and (particularly at the start and the finish) resorts to rhetoric. Of course, in his inimatable way, he acknowledges he's doing just this and he even has the good grace to sound apologetic about that. However, the method is not as persuasive as I have come to expect from him, although the key (middle) Chapters return to the well learned practices of his past writing, full of sound reasoning, inferences and evidence.
I have some sympathy for the lack of evidence, but then I am already a "convert", to borrow from the iconology of the religiously minded. It is hard to prove a negative, as every lawyer will confirm. Still, I would have been happier with the central Chapters without the soapbox start and finish. That said, the starkness of the language and the boldness of the frontal attack have the consequence of making even a convert think about the extent of their conversion; has it gone far enough? To paraphrase a former PM, this is a book for the true disbelievers. It will probably not persuade anyone else, which is a pity.
Again, the combination of Lalla Ward and Dawkins works well for the listener.
I confess to have completely misread the blurb for this title. I thought it was Hitchens interviewing Rushdie. In fact, it is the opposite. However, that doesn't matter. The discussion on the eve of the release of Hitchens' third to last book, the autobiographical, Hitch 22, is stimulating, interesting and very entertaining. The source of the name alone is worth the listen.
Rushdie is, of course, a literary giant. Hitchens was one of the most read, and a very well read, commentator. Their long time friendship is apparent on listening and their literary games are in a class apart.
You won't regret the hour or so of your life you spend with these two.
These days we are all skeptical. This includes our perception of literary awards. Once upon a time, a prestigious award like the MAN Booker (then the Booker) would have been a strong recommendation to read and own a novel. Now I sometimes regard it as a forewarning! Accordingly, the last two awards of that famous prize have been a pleasant return to the old form.
In this deservedly praised novel Barnes achieves the rare feat of capturing a time and place. Actually, it's not so much A time or A place as capturing the state of mind that, I suspect, 90% of his listeners have visited or inhabited sometime in their lives. That place and time seemed very familiar to me although the plot line and my experience is quite different. I think this is a rare gift of insight.
I won't delve into the plot because its unfolding is a pleasure, a surprise and a joy. It made me wince and smile, in turns. Also, the book is blessedly short. Oh for the return of the short novel. Bravo!
The late Richard Morant's reading was very good, too. It completely suited the text and the principals. It took me a while to stop thinking of Julian Clary (because Morant has, for some reason, a Surrey accent), but that wasn't much of a distraction.
By the time one reaches the tipping point in a series, they might be expecting the standard and pace to level out. This is certainly not the case for Nesbo's Harry Hole series. This title is a marked development (for the better) on the previous title, "The Devil's Star"; not that it was poor - it was the best in the series to that point. It is also a world apart from the more recently released "The Cockroaches", which was in fact Book 2, and the book that I last read. In other words, Nesbo's plots are getting more complex, the characters are getting deeper (as they should after 5 books) and suspense is the winner. I normally rate myself on being able to pick the plot twist in this genre, and, although I picked the principal plot line, the sub-plot was a surprise to me.
Again, Sean Barrett does a bang-up job as Harry; again, I am looking forward to the next installment (especially with the high praise that has been bestowed upon it).
This title is well worth the read, but it probably is improved if you have read Books 3, 4 and 5 first. It can stand alone, but it is much better with the back-story intact.
I truly enjoyed this title. Not only id it resonate with my memories, but it reflected many of my own lamentations about what what I consider to be a profession, not just a job. If that is too hard a distinction, I apologise. My intent is a reflection of my own view, not an intent to disparage working in any other job or profession.
I particularly delighted in the discussion of what it is to be a good person and aa good lawyer, the drive for the almighty dollar and the unachievable, but commendable, ambition to be a good lawyer. What comes with the latter is being disliked sometimes and loved at others. Sometimes there is great reward (money or justice) and other times great disappointment (loss or injustice). Dersh' (pardon the familiarity) gets it right, in my opinion.
Joe Barret is a good substitute for the real thing. I would have loved the author to read this (as he did "Genesis of Justice"), but absent him, Barret gives a wonderful performance. I have listed to parts of it 4 or 5 times already and I will listen to the whole again within the year. It, the title, has become something that I think I will give to all my out going Clerks.
This is one of those volumes I have always meant to read, but had not. I wish I had. This is really a Manual. It is not meant to be listened to, in my opinion. It is meant to read, consulted from time to time and, if you have a combative or adversarial occupation (like mine), adapted to your application, as necessary. Many of its observations are sage and well expressed, in a pithily Oriental fashion (Confucian like).
However, it is very difficult to listen to. I persevered, but I enjoyed reading the passages that resonated with me, more. Accordingly, the performance scores are not a reflection on the narrators, but on the suitability of this text for narration. The story score reflects its applicability to what I do and the fact that centuries ago someone thought about this enough to write a manual at all.
It's always hard to review books like this one. It's not meant to be literature, so you don't want to measure it on that scale, but it's not (intended) trash either. In this pseudo cerebral, pseudo-action come whodunnit genre, it is above average, but not as good as, say, his "The Da Vinci Code". It's not at the top of the tree with some of Le Carre's classics, but it's better than the Gabriel Allon series (in my opinion, although to be fair, that's more espionage than cerebral). In the end, I've opted for the upper end, although in truth I should have "split the difference" (if that were possible) overall.
Basically, this conforms to all of the formulaic traditions common to these books. There is a protagonist and an attractive assistant. there is a constant threat from a very scary individual whom appears to have no moral compass. The Chapters all end on a cliff's edge, making them perfect for serialisation (and, for that matter, for motion pictures). There is a wicked twist (although the astute of this genre will pick it early) in the tale (and tail); and there is the declamation of the little know, but startling, in the true habit of a a conspiracy theory. For all that, it is a page turner and, given its Masonic underpinning, a vaguely interesting yarn.
I thought Paul Michael did a sterling job, too, especially with the evil one (Mulah) and the snaky one (Kato). The latter reminded me of the boss lady from Monsters Inc! Good fun listening.
There is no other word that truly describes Oscar Wilde. In this, one of his very best, there is the hallmark of his genius, his wit, his insatiable urge to shock and to flirt with danger. In De Profundis, his farewell apologia in exile, he wrote of how he "entertained at dinner the evil things of life ... [because] ... the danger was half the excitement." This sums up this title, too. In it, Lord Henry Wotton is Wilde's alter ego and one can't help but speculate if the physical attractions of Dorian Gray were drawn from the real life canvas of Lord Alfred Douglas, whom was to be Wilde's undoing.
I listened to the narrative and followed along in my Folio copy, interspersing passages with the transcript from Wilde's famous defamation trial. Sir Edward Carson's classic cross examination about this very book and whether Wilde adhered to the view that "there is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. It is well written or badly written", is so much clearer with the book in hand. The fact that Wilde could hold at bay such a prodigious legal assault by strength of his intellect in the face of its obvious innuendo is amazing in itself.
The story, so Gothic yet so simple and clever, is as ageless as Gray's features.
I loved Simon Vance's performance, too. There were times when it reminded me of his dialogue in the Audible Edition of Dracula between Jonathan Harker and the Count. Other times, it was Wilde speaking to Lord Alfred. The intonation is perfect and the timing impeccable.
I loved re-visiting this classic. Top marks!
I gave in and read the third installment!
Mostly this was because of pressure from my 12 y.o. (whom just finished reading it and wanted me to be as entertained as she was). This at least shows that the target audience (ie, not middle aged men in grey suits) are getting something out of it. That has to be a plus.
I'll give her (my daughter) this, the third book is certainly the pick of the three. It finally got to a point (although it was not the point I was hoping it would make). I still found the plot predictable, but I won't spoil it for those contemplating the listen by explaining it or disclosing the point I hoped it would make. I did like the little tribute to Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451", and the segue to Greek mythology's Castor and Pollox and the ironical reflection that they are here helping the Theseus character, not challenging it for the return of Helen (later of of Troy). However, I still can't understand how it can be the case that Amazon reports that this series had 29 of the highest 100 highlighted passages on Kindle, and, more recently, 17 of the top 20 (according to Wiki). Maybe it is on the school reading list.
As to the performance, I regret to write that I still can't get into Ms McCormick's performance. The characters voices are too similar (Peeta and Hamich, for example) and too stylised (Plutarch, Clarissa and Efie, for example). Admittedly her Katniss is close to Lawerence's delivery in the films, but that is where the tribute must stop.
Finally, I thought the short commentary at the end by the author was interesting and might have benefited from coming at the beginning of the Series, rather than at its conclusion.
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