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Ian C Robertson

Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

South Australia, Australia | Member Since 2010

138
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 72 reviews
  • 84 ratings
  • 192 titles in library
  • 9 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
2
FOLLOWERS
15

  • Crime and Punishment

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Fyodor Dostoevsky
    • Narrated By Dick Hill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (7)

    A desperate young man plans the perfect crime - the murder of a despicable pawnbroker, an old woman no one loves and no one will mourn. Is it not just, he reasons, for a man of genius to commit such a crime - to transgress moral law - if it will ultimately benefit humanity? So begins one of the greatest novels ever written: a powerful psychological study, a terrifying murder mystery, and a fascinating detective thriller infused with philosophical, religious, and social commentary.

    Ian C Robertson says: "Crime was punishment"
    "Crime was punishment"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is one of those novels I always meant to read, but never got around to. I'm pleased I did. One can plainly see what all the hype is about. It is a very ambitious exercise to try to capture the meanderings of a tormented soul. Of course Dostoevsky succeeds in the attempt, as we know. Still, it is no small achievement and it makes the listening difficult because for most of the novel I felt like an eavesdropper and voyeur as a flawed man grappled with his demons. Large amongst these demons is Raskolnikov's pride, his belief in his own moral superiority and his disdain of help. I'm not sure anyone other than a Russian of the era of this tale could have captured the desperation, the fatalism and the climax so fully. Because listening is difficult, it takes some perseverance so that at times I felt as if I was doing the time for Raskolnikov's crime.
    As to the plot controversy, of which there is much written, I subscribe to the group that thinks the Epilogue is worthwhile. I can see why some say it is unnecessary, but I guess it depends on whether you want the loose ends tied-up, or not. Of course, be warned, if you skip the Epilogue (particularly its Chapter 2), you will leave with a different view of the book and, I suspect, Dostoevsky's world view.
    As to the performance, I can imagine that this was a terrifically difficult book to read aloud. I settled on Dick Hill's version, having started with Anthony Heald's. I found the latter too fast, too frantic and difficult to follow (see my review there which reproduces the above). Hill's version is slower (about 2 and an half hours slower) less frantic and has a nice 5 minute opening setting the scene of Dostoevsky's world before the narration begins. He has a better differentiation in character than Heald (in my opinion) and his narrator is calmer. Also, his pronunciation of the tri-nominal Russian names is more sonorous (not Tolstoy-ish, but this is not Tolstoy).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Oscar Wilde
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (490)
    Performance
    (264)
    Story
    (272)

    Dorian Gray, a handsome and narcissistic young man, lives thoughtlessly for his own pleasure. One day, after having his portrait painted, Dorian makes a frivolous Faustian wish: that he should always remain as young and beautiful as he is in that painting, while the portrait grows old in his stead.

    The wish comes true, and Dorian soon finds that none of his wicked actions have visible consequences. Realizing that he will appear fresh and unspoiled no matter what kind of life he lives, Dorian becomes increasingly corrupt. Only the portrait grows degenerate and ugly, a powerful symbol of Dorian's internal ruin.

    Robert says: "Excellent rendition"
    "Genius"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mockingjay: The Final Book of The Hunger Games

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Suzanne Collins
    • Narrated By Carolyn McCormick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (24455)
    Performance
    (18562)
    Story
    (18722)

    Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena live, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge....

    Sue Schreiber says: "A very satisfying ending"
    "Third Time Better"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Heft

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Liz Moore
    • Narrated By Kirby Heyborne, Keith Szarabajka
    Overall
    (876)
    Performance
    (793)
    Story
    (791)

    Forrmer academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career - if he can untangle himself from his family drama.

    Melinda says: "Intriguing--Captivating--Altering"
    "As Heavy as it Sounds"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    According to the Online dictionary, "Heft" means (amongst other things), "the weight of someone or something". As such, this title is appropriately named. It is very heavy, indeed. In my opinion, it is unnecessarily bleak and so I do not share the stellar reviews of this story. I kept waiting for something, but it never arrived. To me, these were two short stories forced to collide. The resultant accident presented more victims than virtues. Some might say, "such is life". My reaction is to say that life is short enough; sure, provoke thought, but let us be entertained in the process. In this respect, I guess it didn't help that I juxtaposed this listen with "Mother Night" (as to which, see my review).
    The performance of Arthur Opp (Szarabajka) was I thought a good one. It reminded me occasionally of his anime characters, but he got into Arthur. By contrast, I just couldn't warm to Kel (Heyborne). I thought that voice to naggingly shrill (my 12 y.o. who knows her stuff said it sounded boring, I think for its sameness).
    I guess I am in a minority on this one, but it's not on my list. Sorry.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Exclusive Interview: James Atlas with Gay Talese on Kurt Vonnegut

    • UNABRIDGED (16 mins)
    • By Gay Talese
    • Narrated By James Atlas
    Overall
    (328)
    Performance
    (221)
    Story
    (214)

    James Atlas interviews Gay Talese about the life and work of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

    Ian C Robertson says: "Unnecessary"
    "Unnecessary"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This adjunct to the text of Mother Night is wholly unnecessary and, in my view, self indulgent. It is of marginal relevance to the author and of no relevance to the text that I can identify. I wouldn't waste your time (about 15 minutes) listening to it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mother Night

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Kurt Vonnegut
    • Narrated By Victor Bevine
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (377)
    Performance
    (247)
    Story
    (250)

    American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Kurt Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of grey with a verdict that will haunt us all. Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense.

    Robert says: "“We are what we pretend to be”"
    "Thought Provoking"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There are not many books that I have read or heard that stimulate so much deep thought and moral questioning as this title. This was apparent to me from the copious amount of notes that I took whilst listening, even exceeding the notes I took for reviewing "The Road". That is because the central character, Howard W. Campbell, is so difficult to place within one's moral compass. At times he's so redeemable and at others he is plain offensive. Most of the time he's somewhere in the middle. It's hard to like him, but I couldn't bring myself to hate him either. That normally makes for a shallow book (reflecting a shallow character), but not this time.
    This was also a title that drove me to the 'Net; to research the real life counter-part of Campbell, the Lords Haw-Haw and Hee-Haw of WWII. The latter was an American christened Fred W. Kaltenbach (according to Wiki). I also looked into the Nazi propaganda machine of Herr Goebbles. I lthink this quote from Goebbles captured Campbell's elusive mediocrity and provide his moral refuge,
    "The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it."
    The other characters are also very interesting. Wirtanen, who enlists Campbell, is a particularly challenging character. Some of his justifications of the unjustifiable in the name of patriotism reminded me of Milo Mindbender's explanations to Yossarin (about how the Syndicate in "Catch-22" can buy for 7c and sell at 5c for a profit).
    The performance of Victor Bevine was very good, too. I thought he captured the mood of the text. He drove me to get a copy of the 1996 movie (starring Nick Nolte and Sheryl Lee, the latter of "Twin Peaks" fame), which I enjoyed the more for having heard the text presented so well.
    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this listen. It stimulated, questioned and entertained. You can't ask for more provoking that that.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Things They Carried

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Tim O'Brien
    • Narrated By Bryan Cranston
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (581)
    Performance
    (534)
    Story
    (535)

    Hailed by The New York Times as "a marvel of storytelling", The Things They Carried’s portrayal of the boots-on-the-ground experience of soldiers in the Vietnam War is a landmark in war writing. Now, three-time Emmy Award winner-Bryan Cranston, star of the hit TV series Breaking Bad, delivers an electrifying performance that walks the book’s hallucinatory line between reality and fiction and highlights the emotional power of the spoken word.

    Melinda says: "Heavy Load"
    "Carried by Cranston"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The huge positive about this title is Bryan Cranston. It is hard to conceive of a better reading than his. It captured the people, the place and the time. Of course, he had material to work with, but my gut feel was that he put a lot more on the paddock than the personell he had at his disposal. It is like a great coach raising an average team to another level. I felt this with sufficient conviction that I borrowed the paperback (telling that I didn't buy it, I think) and read it. I read it reasonably quickly, although I think I glossed some of it because it was familiar and just plain not as gripping as Cranston's performance. I think this is rare. I've read good books that are read well and it enhances the book, but it started out good. Sure it got better, but it didn't go from a 3 to a 4 star STORY; overall, maybe, but not the story.
    So, talking about the story; it was on the good side of ok. A safe 3. I found the "story is not true" part a bit hard to follow, but I'm guessing it was a literary device to convey the blurred line between fact and reality, fear and courage. If not, then I'm one of those people the author says "just don't get it".
    I also got the impression that some of the Chapters had been published before as short stories. Sometimes (rarely) the names didn't co-incide and it appeared to be that names had been changed to protect identities at one point in time. This was confirmed by the extra part read by the author.
    Turning to that extra part, I have to say that it was very disturbing. The apparently tenous and precarious line that he walks in his life was painful to listen to and in stark contrast to Cranston's assured voice (as the author's voice in the book, proper). In some ways this extra hour is the highlight of the title. In other ways I wish I'd never heard it.
    This is a hard title to review. Worth the listen for many reasons, most of them due to Cranston's narration or the contrast between it and the author's real one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By John Mortimer
    • Narrated By Bill Wallis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (42)
    Performance
    (18)
    Story
    (19)

    Horace Rumpole - cigar-smoking, claret-drinking, Wordsworth-spouting defender of some unlikely clients - often speaks of the great murder trial which revealed his talents as an advocate and made his reputation down at the Bailey when he was still a young man. Now, for the first time, the sensational story of the Penge Bungalow Murders case is told in full: how, shortly after the war, Rumpole took on the seemingly impossible task of defending young Simon Jerold.

    Septimus MacGhilleglas says: "Finally, the infamous Penge Bungalow Murder!!"
    "The Truth Will Out"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Finally, after decades of hearing about this famous trial conducted by the Bard of the 'Bailey, "alone, and without a leader", I know the truth about the absent Leader.
    Of course, I have know nearly from the start that Rumpole hardly needed a Leader and I had guessed that SWMBO's dearest "Daddy" might be at the heart of the absenteeism, but it is another thing to know the truth. And, as every good trial lawyer will tell you, the truth will come out, no matter what we might do to impede it (albeit in "the best traditions of the Bar"). Still, like all great secrets, shrouded in the mists of myth for decades, when it outs, the truth is not always as surprising as we might hope. That's how I felt about this title.
    (There is a bit of a SPOILER coming, so skip the next paragraph now if you don't want to know).
    The plot is as good as ever and Rumpole is as cynically and brutally brilliant as ever. But, like all great yarns, it might have been better for this one not to be told. For once I found myself analysing the evidence, which I've never felt the need to do with Mortimer's previous excursions along crime alley. I felt a hint of resentment that the bloodstains I heard so much about, and about we knew so little, were not front and centre. However, I was pleased to learn of the origins of the relationship between Rumpole and Chateau Thames Embankment and his defence of the ever grateful Timsons.
    The late Bill Wallis' characterisations are terrific, especially the women. His Hilda is wonderful, but only to be out done by his Dodo. His Rumpole is good too, but no one can capture Horace like Leo McKern, of course. That is not a criticism however, merely a fact.
    Again, I am pleased that I listened to this tale, but in the end, if I did not know the whole truth, I would be only a little less enriched.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Cockroaches

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Jo Nesbo
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett
    Overall
    (36)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (33)

    Harry is on a special mission. Detective Harry Hole arrives in a steaming hot Bangkok. The Norwegian ambassador has been found dead in a seedy motel room, and Harry has been sent to investigate. It’s clear that the Ambassador’s family are hiding some secrets of their own, but few people are willing to talk.He needs to solve a crime and avoid a scandal. When Harry lays hands on some incriminating CCTV footage, things only get more complicated.

    Ian C Robertson says: "Retrospective"
    "Retrospective"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Returning to an earlier time has its advantages and its disadvantages. On the upside, you know the characters well (perhaps better than the author would have intended). On the downside, the story is not as fresh because you have read hints of it before and the plot lines are a little less mature (from a developmental perspective). Both of these attributes were apparent to me in this listening.
    Overall, I felt the book suffered as a result and if I'd had the opportunity to read it in sequence I would have been less critical and more comfortable with the plot. As it was, I thought the plot was a bit too obvious. I picked the villian very early and the false scents were not enough to throw me off the trail. The last Nesbo I listened to before this one was less obvious, I feel sure. Of course, Harry is more advanced as a character now too, so this was a throwback to a troubled soul at the beginning of a path toward redemption.
    By now I am very comfortable with Sean Barret's characterisation. There can be no other Hole for me. I am an official convert!
    I'm pleased I listened to this title, at least so I have all the pieces to date. I am looking forward to re-visiting a slightly more mature and maturing Harry in future installments. No doubt there will be falls from Grace, but Harry is a good metaphor for human fraility. It will be like renewing contact will an old friend. I'm hoping.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Book Thief

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Markus Zusak
    • Narrated By Dennis Olsen
    Overall
    (117)
    Performance
    (111)
    Story
    (115)

    It is 1939, Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings.

    HDJ says: "Ignore the teen classification!"
    "It's Better than This"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I very infrequently listen to something I have read that suffers from the reading. Unfortunately, I thought this was one of those occasions. Fortunately the substance of the book is good enough to rise above the let-down I felt on listening to it.
    The plot is really not that complex. Liesel is an orphan. She is relocated to the outskirts of Munich at the outset of WWII and billeted with Hans and Rosa Hubermann. She grows up playing soccer with her close friend Rudy Steiner and other boys and girls. She learns to steal food and necessities. She is a survivor. And she has one special vice; she steals books. When she begins, she can't read, but slowly she becomes the voice for the small community, reading in the air-raid shelters whilst the bombs fall tragically on Munich. In all of this she is supported by her step-father (Geoffrey Rush in the film version), an extraordinary man in a very ordinary way, and step-mother (Emily Watson in the film), the disciplinarian with a soft centre.
    However, it is the telling of this beautiful story that makes it. The little asides, Death as the narrator and the fun that does just enough to break the appalling mantle of loss and destruction. I surmise that this is why I didn't enjoy Denis Olsen's reading. It is not how I had read it, many times aloud, to myself.
    I am an admirer of Olsen's. He has long been a statesman of the Australian theatre, especially in Gilbert and Sullivan and Shakespearean roles; his King Lear is something to queue for. So, he has a classically trained voice which is very apt for some versions of Death, but is a bit sing-songy for me almost in every other way. This is made more so because he reads the parts (with feeling), he does not assume the characters (except Death).
    I struggled through the title because I knew how powerful the ending is. If you don't have the same reaction to the reading, you will no doubt love the title, because it is a wonderful story. Hopefully you pre-reading expectation will not get in the way of your enjoyment.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Luminaries

    • UNABRIDGED (29 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Eleanor Catton
    • Narrated By Mark Meadows
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (601)
    Performance
    (512)
    Story
    (529)

    It is 1866 and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

    Ian C Robertson says: "Literally Dickensian"
    "Literally Dickensian"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is an outstanding second novel from this young woman. It has all the hallmarks of a Dickensian novel; complex plot, numerous characters, intrigue, a Court case, coincidence, violence and era. The characters are well developed caricatures; Carver is the malevolent villain, Lydia the scheming widower, Anna the innocent girl gone astray and Moody the son stepping out of his father's dark shadow.
    I agree with other reviewers that a List of Characters is essential (so I got myself a copy from the front of the printed text - it's not yet on Wiki), but I disagree that the diagrams in the text are at all helpful. The diagrams only make sense if you can read astrological charts (which I cannot) and I suggest are more confusing than enlightening.
    I also agree that the tale is too long. It could easily have ended after the trial. Sure, there would have been loose ends, but there were some anyway (what happened to Moody's father, for example). The conceit of the structure (very clever, admittedly) would have suffered, but not the novel. I read an extract of an interview with the author where she postulated that the structure-plot tension was part of an experiment to see if the former could be maintained without expense to the latter. On the evidence of this attempt, I would answer the question, "No".
    As for the performance, I thought Mark Meadows did a sterling job. His narrator's voice reminds me of Jack Davenport (from "Coupling"), or perhaps Arthur Dent's voice from the BBC version of "Hitchhiker's Guide", while his Lauderback was Roland Coleman-like (or perhaps more accurately, Don Adams mimicking Coleman). His female characterisations were good, too, but even he could not capture the difficult to credit transition of Anna from innocent to whore and back again.
    Overall, the title is well worth the listen to about the end of Part 8 or 9. After that, I don't think you will miss much in the way of plot, except for the frustration of the summary being longer than the chapter that follows.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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