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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

191
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 88 reviews
  • 101 ratings
  • 223 titles in library
  • 27 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
3
FOLLOWERS
19

  • The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Richard Dawkins
    • Narrated By Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
    Overall
    (895)
    Performance
    (736)
    Story
    (722)

    The Blind Watchmaker, knowledgably narrated by author Richard Dawkins, is as prescient and timely a book as ever. The watchmaker belongs to the 18th-century theologian William Paley, who argued that just as a watch is too complicated and functional to have sprung into existence by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, be purposefully designed. Charles Darwin's brilliant discovery challenged the creationist arguments; but only Richard Dawkins could have written this elegant riposte.

    Eric says: "Challenging textbook more than an enjoyable listen"
    "Science Faction"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Until relatively recently (the last decade, say) I thought that the only entertaining science was Science Fiction. Dawkins proved to me (yet again) that the best of fact is so much better than most of fiction. Of course, like any argument, one doesn't have to accept the conclusion to recognise a good argument. That I do accept the conclusion probably helped me enjoy this work, but I could have been the Bishop of Birmingham and, I hope, still have recognised a well structured, logical and persuasively argued thesis when heard this one.

    The argument is presented so that you don't need to understand all the science to enjoy the cut and thrust. And cut and thrust there most surely is! Dawkins is not afraid to tilt at apparently well respected opinion and, generally, he doesn't mince his words. I found this occasionally annoying when it seemed a bit mean spirited and an immediate reposte was not available from the butt of the comment, but I was able to get online and see if there was a response from, say, Gould to the criticism and this helped weather the frustration. That said, these flourishes were few and far between. Most of the criticism was obviously carefully considered and well reasoned. I particularly liked the examples. The bat was my favourite, and I did enjoy the bat with angel wings paradoy (even though I had to play it a few times to get the nuance - as I would have had to if I'd read it and had to re-read). Even though the paradoy wasa bit of a flourish, it wasn't personal (or it didn't appear to be so to me).

    As for the performance, I was abit apprehensive at first about Lalla Ward's role. Of course she is Dawkins wife, but I just wasn't sure a second voice was necessary, except to highlight quotations and examples. As the performance proceeded, I changed my mind. The change of reader added interest and, after all, Ms Ward has a wonderful voice. As for Dawkins, his infectious enthusiasm is literally bubbling up in his voice. I will never forget the fantastic end to Chapter 10 as a consequence. I am looking forward to listening to him read his Selfesh Gene (one of the first books that opened my mind to Science Faction).

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • A Memory of Light: Wheel of Time, Book 14

    • UNABRIDGED (41 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson
    • Narrated By Michael Kramer, Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5247)
    Performance
    (4769)
    Story
    (4824)

    Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with its first book, The Eye of the World, listeners have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over 40 million copies in over 32 languages. When Robert Jordan died in 2007, all feared that these concluding scenes would never be written. But working from notes and partials left by Jordan, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson stepped in to complete the masterwork.

    Amazon Customer says: "End of one of my favorite fantasy series ever."
    "A Fitting Ending"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Given the journey it was hugely important that the last stanza lived up to its billing. In my view it does. There will be those who are disappointed with the very end, but generally the threads are well woven together and the ultimate duel is a great revelation. I won't give it away, but it suffices to say that it is not Almoth Plain again, or Dumai Wells, but something deeper and more considered.
    Sanderson is to be congratulated for rescuing this epic work that seemed on the verge of expiring with its erstwhile creator, prematurely. His rejuvenation is the hall mark of the series after its fantastic beginning with the WOT.
    The Narration is steady and consistent. I still felt the doubling up of character voices was unnecessary (for example, Talmades might be read by Kramer or Reading, meaning that the character sounded different depending on who was narrating), but overall it enabled a long piece of narration to remain interesting.
    Fans will be happy, I think.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Leopard: A Harry Hole Thriller, Book 8

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Jo Nesbo
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (159)
    Performance
    (119)
    Story
    (118)

    In the depths of winter, a killer stalks the city streets. His victims are two young women, both found with twenty-four inexplicable puncture wounds, both drowned in their own blood. The crime scenes offer no clues, the media is reaching fever pitch, and the police are running out of options. There is only one man who can help them, and he doesn’t want to be found.

    Lia says: "Exciting and captivating"
    "Approaching the Bounds"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I regret to say that my favourite Scandinavian Knave detective really pushed the boundaries in this outing. Whereas to now Nesbo has been building to the level of complexity that others (the UK reviewers, notably) compare to Larsson, I could not help but feel that in this episode he crossed the edge of reality. There was too much evil, too much counter-point and too much that was just not "real".
    What I've always liked about Harry is how real he is; flawed in his many ways, but deep down, honest. This time he was too resilient, he survived too much. I barely recognise the tall, thin blond cropped anti-hero of the past novels. I can only say that I hope Nesbo returns Harry "home", where he belongs.
    For all that, the story is suspenseful and the action exhausting. That's another thing; I felt like I was reading a movie plot, not a Harry Hole. This won't keep me from reading on, but I am trusting that Harry has not plateaued.
    Sean Barrett is, as usual, excellent, but I got the impression that even he was having trouble believing what Harry was up to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Staying On

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Paul Scott
    • Narrated By Paul Shelley
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Tusker and Lily Smalley stayed on in India. Given the chance to return ‘home’ when Tusker, once a Colonel in the British Army, retired, they chose instead to remain in the small hill town of Pankot, with its eccentric inhabitants and archaic rituals left over from the days of the Empire. Only the tyranny of their imposing landlady threatens to upset the quiet rhythm of their days.

    patricia bitker-golan says: "Brilliant. sensitive epilogue to the Raj Quartet"
    "A Pleasant Meander"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was gifted this title for my birthday a few months back and was surprised to realise that I had missed reading it during my school years. First, the Raj, where I was born, has a special fascination. Secondly, I thought I'd read most of the Booker winners. Thirdly, I've read Scott's other works, so how did I miss this. Then I started reading it and got an inkling. I think I might have started this twenty years ago and just not got into it. Fortunately, times have changed and I truly enjoyed this very pleasant listen.
    The Raj parts were a bit dated, a bit like Raj India now. It reminded me of my grandparents. I smelled the old decay in the early evening and the transition of a time that refuses (even to this day) to finally lie down and die.
    The story really is a bit of nothing, but it is told well, with a suppressed love and a slight longing. I enjoyed the odd pidgin word and the figurative shake of a be-turbaned head.
    It took me a bit to get used to Paul Shelley, but ultimately I warmed to him and he to his subject.
    I will be passing this little gem onto those who love and have loved old India.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Love in the Time of Cholera

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Gabriel García Márquez
    • Narrated By Armando Durán
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (489)
    Performance
    (428)
    Story
    (432)

    From the Nobel Prize-winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude comes a masterly evocation of an unrequited passion so strong that it binds two people's lives together for more than half a century. In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career, he whiles away the years in 622 affairs - yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral....

    Darryl says: "Marquez is great, awaiting 100 Years"
    "One for Posterity"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is plainly one of the best titles I have ever listened to and, I suspect, it would be a pleasure to read. The language hangs in that shadowy place between prose and poetry. In many ways, it reminds me of Rushdie's "Enchantress of Florence", without the complexity of plot.
    A love story told over a generation and an half, borne of experience and tested in adversity. It also reminds me of Ben Okri's "Famished Road" and and there is no small resemblance to Don Quixote, too.
    I loved the plot. It is just so simple, yet it carries the characters along their paths, like the river does at the end. It begins with a death by gold cyanide and there is a hint of fatality in what then follows. I enjoyed the personification of the disease, Cholera, the structure that it brings to the story and the melancholy it drips. All the while the story follows the lovesick "fool", Florentino Ariza. As he relentlessly pursues his love of Fermina Daza, amidst long and strange dallying with the recently widowed population along the Caribbean coast, one comes to like, dislike, pity and then envy the man. Similarly, one comes to smile, frown, swear at and then congratulate Fermina. The emotions are truly cyclical.
    Finally, it would be remiss not to comment on the lovely reading by Duran. At times he reminded me of the actor, Peter Coyote, rasping his way in a surprisingly melodious way across the beautiful language.
    In my opinion, this is one for true listening pleasure.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Amy Alkon
    • Narrated By Carrington MacDuffie
    Overall
    (39)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (37)

    We live in a world that's very different from the one in which Emily Post came of age. Many of us who are nice (but who also sometimes say "f*ck") are frequently at a loss for guidelines about how to be a good person who deals effectively with the onslaught of rudeness we all encounter. To lead us through this this miasma of modern manners, syndicated columnist Amy Alkon - The Advice Goddess - gives us a new set of manners for our 21st-century lives.

    G. House Sr. says: "Hilarious and a Direct Hit - Must Listen"
    "Too Carrie For Me"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is one of the titles I picked-up on recommendation. I can't say that I enjoyed it, although at times it made me smile; for example the Title.
    It's written under topics that purport to be inclusive, but I got the impression that it was a selection of prior advice columns collected together under a general tag. For example, the same sentence or series of sentences appears on two or three occasions and really do not warrant repetition.
    Also, the text sounds a lot like extracts out of "Sex in the City", without the fourway tension or bedroom antics. Much of this text I disagree with (particularly the misleading of others to avoid a confrontation and anonymous notes). I think I am too direct to apply much of The Goddess' advice.
    Still, that is not a good reason to pan a book. The narrative is entertaining and sharp (like the bits that bite - kids on planes, for example).
    It's not for me, but if you like "She's Not that Into You", then you'd probably like this too. I liked "Sex In the City" (eventually), but I guess I'm not ready to take Amy's advice (which, I suspect, she's cool with).

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Snowman: A Harry Hole Thriller, Book 7

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Jo Nesbo
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (115)
    Performance
    (87)
    Story
    (85)

    The night the first snow falls a young boy wakes to find his mother gone. He walks through the silent house, but finds only wet footprints on the stairs. In the garden looms a solitary figure: a snowman bathed in cold moonlight, its black eyes glaring up at the bedroom windows. Round its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.Inspector Harry Hole is convinced there is a link between the disappearance and a menacing letter he received some months earlier.

    Lia says: "Gripping - Practically a horror novel"
    "Murder made personal"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Now I think I know Harry a whole lot better than when I picked up "The Bat". He and I have been through a lot together; he, and I and Jack and Jim. Long hours searching and not finding; looking in the right places for the wrong things. We have come such a long way, he and I. Well, that's what it feels like.
    Jo Nesbo has come a long way, too. I wrote in an earlier review ("The Redeemer") that the plots are getting more complex and the stories richer. But, even then (only two books before this one) for all of Nesbo's Hole anti-hero charm, it was still a far cry from the sticker that appears on all his books, "The Next Stieg Larsson". I understand (from web reviews) that Nesbo hates that epithet, and who would blame him. Still, it was meant as a compliment, I'm sure, and this book takes a huge stride in the Larsson direction. It is blacker, more daring and very suspenseful. I can well see why it is being mooted as a motion picture. For my part, I highly recommended it in this genre, .
    Barrett is, as I have said, now Harry Hole; tall, thin, gaunt, with the alcoholic's pallor. All of that is in his voice. Worth a good listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Salman Rushdie at the 92nd Street Y

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 36 mins)
    • By Salman Rushdie
    • Narrated By Christopher Hitchens
    Overall
    (43)
    Performance
    (23)
    Story
    (22)

    Mr. Rushdie, the author of Midnight's Children, The Satanic Verses and The Ground Beneath Her Feet, reads from his newest novel, Shalimar the Clown.

    Ian C Robertson says: "In the midst of genius"
    "In the midst of genius"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This time I read the blurb correctly; it is indeed Rusdie interviewed by Hitchens. It's not as good as the one I picked up by mistake (which is all interview and wherein they rehearse some of the stories that they abbreviate in this version), but it is still very entertaining.
    Rushdie reads extracts from his then new release, Shalimar the Clown ( a great book). The reading is not great, but the insight, the wit and the freakish brilliance of Rushdie is on show in every word of every line. The little tribute to great Indian writers (by Hitchens) is also very interesting.
    Another hour well spent. When someone asks you that old chestnut, if you could have dinner with anyone at all, you'll know to say Salmund (alas, Hitchens has left us).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Coriolanus: Arkangel Shakespeare

    • ORIGINAL (3 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By William Shakespeare
    • Narrated By Paul Jesson, Marjorie Yates, Ewan Hooper
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Rome is a city divided, nobility and common-people locked in mutual suspicion. The patrician Caius Marcius, later called Coriolanus, is Rome's greatest soldier, but his proud refusal to accommodate himself to the demands of the plebeians leads to banishment and death. A Roman history as well as tragedy, Coriolanus is a complex and subtle exploration of the themes of absolution and compromise, both in the political world and in the life of the individual.

    Ian C Robertson says: "A Story That Keeps Repeating"
    "A Story That Keeps Repeating"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    First, my thanks to Ted (whom I follow) for alerting me to this series. It is truly a great find. It has set me on a course to explore the lesser known Shakespeare's.
    Secondly, a quick note about what you might want to have handy if you want to do the same thing. Unlike a novel, it is not easy to follow the many voices unless you have the script handy. I struggled with this until I got the Letterpress Folio edition out. So, bonus, I get to hear a play I don't know so well and the sublime pleasure of following it in one of the best reproductions in print. If you don't have a Letterpress handy, any old version will suffice so you can follow who says what.
    Thirdly, I found the production values to be a bit dated, but that was more than made up for by the full cast reproduction.
    Finally, I thought the play itself a very interesting and topical one. It has so many ramifications for the present day lust for power, the spiral of power and corruption and the modern parable that "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" (Acton). One can see how easily it might be adapted to more contemporary times. I have got the Raphe Fiennes movie on order now so that I test the theory.
    I am looking forward to the next wet, winter day encounter with a lesser known William

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Autobiography of Black Hawk

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Black Hawk
    • Narrated By Brett Barry
    Overall
    (1215)
    Performance
    (1044)
    Story
    (1037)

    This story is told in the words of a tragic figure in American history - a hook-nosed, hollow-cheeked old Sauk warrior who lived under four flags while the Mississippi Valley was being wrested from his people. The author is Black Hawk himself - once pursued by an army whose members included Captain Abraham Lincoln and Lieutenant Jefferson Davis. Perhaps no Indian ever saw so much of American expansion or fought harder to prevent that expansion from driving his people to exile and death.

    Darwin8u says: "A NO HOLD BARRED and unflinching narrative"
    "Same Story, Different People"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The God Delusion

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Richard Dawkins
    • Narrated By Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
    Overall
    (71)
    Performance
    (57)
    Story
    (59)

    As the author of many classic works on science and philosophy, Richard Dawkins has always asserted the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm it has inflicted on society. He now focuses his fierce intellect exclusively on this subject, denouncing its faulty logic and the suffering it causes.

    Ian says: "Excellent"
    "An Agreeably Disagreeable Book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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