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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

321
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 104 reviews
  • 117 ratings
  • 256 titles in library
  • 9 purchased in 2015
FOLLOWING
3
FOLLOWERS
21

  • Dracula [Audible Edition]

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Bram Stoker
    • Narrated By Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3570)
    Performance
    (3265)
    Story
    (3284)

    The modern audience hasn't had a chance to truly appreciate the unknowing dread that readers would have felt when reading Bram Stoker's original 1897 manuscript. Most modern productions employ campiness or sound effects to try to bring back that gothic tension, but we've tried something different. By returning to Stoker's original storytelling structure - a series of letters and journal entries voiced by Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing, and other characters - with an all-star cast of narrators, we've sought to recapture its originally intended horror and power.

    N. Houghton says: "Gothic Horror Never Sounded So Good"
    "As it was meant to be"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This truly is a revelation. I had read the book many years before, of course, but I had never really appreciated the way the story was told in correspondence. I suspect that lack of appreciation is a testament to Bram Stocker's skills as a storyteller and to my lack of acuity. Whatever the reason, hearing the tale told through the words of the correspondents makes it so much more intimate and exciting. It puts the Twilight Saga and True Blood in their place as pieces for their time and generations, but confirms the traditional view of Dracula, van Helsing and Transalvania as everlasting pieces of literature for all time and a mature audience. In the parlance of the present cinema, it's M15+ verging on R, but not for the sensuality (although that is there) or the viloence (of which there is an abundance), but for the themes.
    As for the production, it is first class. For me it was Simon Vance and Katy Kellgren who shone; more so even than the named principals. Alan Cumming was as good as ever. Tim Curry really didn't have enough of a part to make a real impression, more's the pity. Van Helsing is really seen through others' eyes. So the Harkers stole the show. In retrospect, that's not suprising, but I had (wrongly) expected more from the principals. I also missed a voice for Dracula (because he is not a correspondent, of course). I thought Vance captured his intonation beautifully when he recounted the conversations between the Count and Harker, but with Borsi Karlof, Frank Langella and others in mind, it would have been nice to hear him speak. Alas, that was a legitimate sacrifice for the lierarary device that Stoker adopted and which this production brings to life.
    Highly recommended.

    22 of 26 people found this review helpful
  • null

    • NONE ()
    Overall
    (1)
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    Ian C Robertson says: "Riveting"
    "Riveting"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have heard so much about this book I truly expected to be disappointed. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised, over and over again. It is a wonder that you can be so taken aback by the obvious, even when you know it's coming. That's how I was, right to the Epilogue.
    I think it sells this title short to call it a "coming of age" novel, but it is one. It's also a mystery, a why-do-it, a psychological thriller. A fantastic first novel which thoroughly deserves all the praised heaped upon it.
    From a performance point of view, I would have preferred someone else to read this. True, Ms Tartt added some parts (mainly identifying who spoke parts of the dialogue), but overall it sounded too much like Holly Hunter and not enough like Richard, the modern Caufield. Still, i followed it in print, heard my own voices and managed to disengage from the voice. Even with the voice, it is still a fantastic, riveting listen and a wonderfully rich and complex story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Ernest Hemingway
    • Narrated By Campbell Scott
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1712)
    Performance
    (960)
    Story
    (975)

    In 1937, Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from "the good fight", For Whom the Bell Tolls.

    A User says: "The Mountains of Spain"
    "Still Wonderful"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It must be more than thirty years since I first read this title, but it has lost none of its impact, its relevance or importance. I recall that after I first read it I went on a Hemingway bender, reading one title after the other until I made myself sick of his work! I feel like doing the same thing again (reading more Hemingway), but a bit older I think I will exercise some temperance and enjoy what I have just drunk in. I don't think the futility of war that comes through the words can ever be truly lost no matter whether your view is that this is an uplifting book (which I subscribe to) or it is a depressing one.
    As for Cameron Scott's performance, I thought it good. He captured the futility and the tension. The characterisation was ok, too. I would have liked the up-beat passages to lift a bit more (like his cinematic performance as "Tunner" in "The Sheltering Sky", perhaps), but overall he was more than just serviceable. Afterall, it is so hard to read a classic such that the voice that you hear from the narrator is the voice that was already in your head. Certainly, this reading did not offend my preconceived view of any of the characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By John W. Dean
    • Narrated By Joe Barrett
    Overall
    (74)
    Performance
    (68)
    Story
    (66)

    Watergate forever changed American politics, and in light of the revelations about the NSA's wide­spread surveillance program, the scandal has taken on new significance. Yet remarkably, four decades after he was forced to resign, no one has told the full story of Nixon's involvement in Watergate.

    Tad Davis says: "Nixon HAD no defense"
    "Super!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is without question the best documentary analysis I have ever read/heard and certainly the most riveting look at this riveting subject, Watergate. Whatever view you might have of John Dean and his role in Watergate, there can be no doubting his intellect, thoroughness and acumen. I can only sit back and admire his skills as a lawyer, an analyst and the enormous work ethic he must have to have collated this material in such a readable way.
    Having acknowledged Dean, it is important to praise Joe Barrett. I am not sure I could have read the 26 hours worth of text without Barrett's fantastic capturing of the characters; Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman, Haigh and numerous others.
    I enjoyed it so much I have purchased the hardback and I will re-visit Dean's earlier apologia, "Blind Ambition", that I read 30 years ago. I have reams of notes that I can't possibly use in this review, but I wish I could.
    This is truly an outstanding piece of work, at least 90+% supported by the Watergate tapes and the remainder being very astute inference by Dean that is hard to fault. It is essential reading/listening if you are at all interested in this remakable piece of history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • No Lesser Plea: Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Robert K. Tanenbaum
    • Narrated By Traber Burns
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (137)
    Performance
    (119)
    Story
    (118)

    Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Roger "Butch" Karp has been around New York long enough to realize that the judicial system can be dirty and cynical. But he still believes in justice. So when a vicious sociopath tries to dodge a brutal murder charge by convincing the court he is incompetent to stand trial, Karp teams up with firecracker Assistant DA Marlene Ciampi to unleash the full force of their relentless energy, hardboiled wit, and passion for the truth to put the killer away for good. They will accept no lesser plea.

    Hill says: "Lesser Plea"
    "Better than the sum of its parts"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is one of those titles that I ended-up enjoying more than an individual assessment of its content and the performance suggests. Don't get me wrong, the content and the performance were fine, but not a 4 in either case. Despite this the story was very enjoyable, amusing and interesting. I enjoyed the characters, particularly the likable Karp and the caricature, short Italian wise-cracker (I could see Tony Danza or the ill-fated Robert Blake in this role). I'm amazed that no one has picked-up the rights to this series, or if they have, not put it on the screen (big or small). Maybe it has to do with Tanenbaum's legal and political background, although its hard to wonder what stopping the go-ahead now.
    From a plot point of view, it was all good, entertaining stuff until about three-quarters through, when it became slightly unbelievable. I guess anything is possible in NY, but this seemed a stretch to me. It prompted me to check the blurb and reviews for the second book which tended to confirm that the extraordinary takes over. Still, that doesn't stop the plot from being fun and Traber Burns played with it in a fun way. I intend to read Book 2 sometime soon.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Phantom: A Harry Hole Thriller, Book 9

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Jo Nesbo
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (75)
    Performance
    (73)
    Story
    (72)

    The murder has been solved. But has justice been done? Harry Hole is back in Oslo. He's been away for some time, but his ghosts have a way of catching up with him. The case that brings him back is already closed. There is no room for doubt: The young junkie was shot dead by a fellow addict. The police don’t want him back....Denied permission to reopen the investigation, Harry strikes out on his own.

    Andre says: "A masterpiece of a crime novel !"
    "One of the Best in the Series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This title begins with such a lovely literary device I found it hard to stop smiling despite the subject matter, or at least its implication. It ends so well, too and unexpectedly. Generally I pride myself in picking the twist, but there are so many here it is hard to cover them all off and I certainly did not pick the last one.
    It's hard to write much more about this title without giving away something important and, as I hate spoilers, I don't intend to do that. It's probably enough to say that it is up there with the best Harry stories, that Sean Barrett does another excellent job with the characters and that I am intrigued to read the tenth installment.
    Viva la Hole!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A Conversation with Ted Sorensen at the 92nd Street Y: The Legacy of JFK

    • ABRIDGED (1 hr and 37 mins)
    • By Ted Sorensen
    • Narrated By Leonard Lopate
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    Ted Sorensen was John F. Kennedy's special counsel, speechwriter and close adviser. In his intimate and revealing memoir, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History, Sorensen recalls some of the most dramatic moments of Kennedy's presidency, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the civil rights movement and the decision to go to the moon. He discusses current events and Kennedy's legacy with noted professor Ralph Buultjens.

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

    Although I thought this an interesting interview and it did contain some historically relevant record of the Obama Clinton race for the Presidency, it was not as revealing as I had hoped it might be about the topics everyone wanted to hear Sorensen speak about; Camelot, the assassination, JFK's input into those famous speeches and the other politically sensitive things like the Bay of Pigs and Nixon. Still, it was good to hear him speak in his measured way and to imagine the calm that he (probably not O'Donell) brought to the tension that gripped the Whitehouse during the Missile Crisis. Worth the time and the meager expense.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Inferno

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Dan Brown
    • Narrated By Paul Michael
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (240)
    Performance
    (220)
    Story
    (224)

    Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, features renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and is set in the heart of Europe, where Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centred around one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces. As Dan Brown comments: "Although I studied Dante’s Inferno as a student, it wasn't until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante's work on the modern world."

    Garry says: "Dan Brown at his best"
    "Entertaining But Predictable"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    At last I am up to date with the author's Langdon catalogue, but I can't honestly say that I feel any the better for it. Again the story conforms to the stereotypes for this genre (see the second paragraph of my review of "The Symbol", which could be cut and pasted here without losing any of its accuracy, save that there is no Masonic element in this plot). However, for some reason I just couldn't buy into the story this time and so I found it less entertaining. On reflection this might be because I am a Dante fan and know the Divine Comedy in more than passing, or because I am a regular visitor to Florence and know its attractions well. So, just maybe, my familiarity has bred, not contempt, but perhaps indifference. In any event, the revelations were not as startling to me as, say, "the Symbol's" and, although it is still a good yarn, it did not have that element of, "What? Really!" about it. Sure I still checked out the tour sites on the internet (there are several), but more for refreshing a memory than to look upon it for the first time. Most of the internet travel related to the third city of the plot, Istanbul (Venice is the second city, after Florence).
    Paul Michael did another good job with the narration, particularly with the accents.
    If you are not familiar with Dante, Florence or Venice you will probably find this more interesting than I did. That said, it was still an entertaining listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Kokoda (by Peter FitzSimons)

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Peter FitzSimons
    • Narrated By Lewis FitzGerald
    Overall
    (256)
    Performance
    (224)
    Story
    (230)

    For Australians, Kokoda is the iconic battle of World War II, yet few people know just what happened and just what our troops achieved. Now, best-selling author Peter FitzSimons tells the Kokoda story in a gripping, moving story for all Australians.

    Mark T Ryan says: "A Tribute to Fighting Australians"
    "Deserving Tribute"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It seems appropriate to write a review of this title on Australia Day. FitzSimons tells a familiar historical tale of the misuse of Australian troops by persons far away and without adequate appreciation of the facts as they were at the battleface. Like many stories of former gallantry, there is a sense of the inevitable and of the unnecessary. FitzSimons captures all of this and more. He is unflattering in his condemnation of criminal negligence, whether it was Blamey's or McArthur's. He is patriotic to a fault and respectful of the Digger and the Digger's duty to his mates. He tells the story, often in the first person, relying on interviews with survivors, diaries and other contemporaneous records. It reads like a novel in parts and a documentary in others. At times it choked me up, but it often made me smile. It is a strange thing that one can be proud of some much bloodshed. That said, if the book has a failing, it is that it is a wee bit too empathic for me and, I suspect many Australians, preferring as we do to let the result speak for itself and not boast about it. Of course there are exceptions, and FitzSimons might have found a valid one here.
    As for FitzGerald's reading, I thought it an outstanding performance from an accomplished artist. He captured the fervor, the frustration and the brutality, and his nuance was pitched perfectly. I loved the use of the 1940's Australian idiom (now, sadly, dying) but I thought the use of an echo on many of the quotations was an unnecessary dramatic device. I liked the Chapter divides military segue. I note that the new edition of the hardcopy contains an Afterword that is not in this production, but which is short and could be read in the bookshop waiting in line!
    I think this is an important read for most Australians. I was heartened to see from the reviews on this site that it struck a chord with many others, too. I would be interested to know how it has been received in a Japanese market because, although critical of Japanese brutality (to themselves and others), it is respectful of those unfortunate men of both sides that gave their lives to hold or take a sod of mud in a jungle far from their homes.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Fall of the House of Usher

    • UNABRIDGED (48 mins)
    • By Edgar Allan Poe
    • Narrated By Cathy Dobson
    Overall
    (10)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (9)

    When Roderick Usher sends a letter begging his old schoolfriend to visit him, it becomes apparent that he is suffering from a severe mental illness caused by an extreme overload of his senses. His sister too is very ill, suffering from cataleptic deathlike trances. When Roderick announces that his sister has died, and they place her coffin in the vaults of the House of Usher for two weeks prior to burial, neither of them can imagine the horror which is to follow.Poe at his most macabre.

    Mel says: "Subtle Horror"
    "Full of Pshchological Dread"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Over three decades since I last read this classic of the genre that Poe made his own and which he labelled in his anthology, the "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque", it has lost none of psychological intensity. Long before there was Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock before him, Poe was frightening the growing number of adults who were looking for something more than the prevalent romances of his time. In some ways, Poe borrowed from the noir repertoire that was entrenched in Paris, in others, as I have mentioned, he created his own style.
    The symbolism is almost as important as the literal, and it remains so.
    I regret that I did not care for Ms Dobson's reading. In my opinion she paused where there was no warrant to pause and her nasal delivery grated upon me. Also, perhaps strangely, she ended many sentences with a flat, downward inflection to the detriment of the words and the symbolism.
    The rating is a reflection of the narration, not the tale that remains as full of dread today as when I first read it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • SPQR I: The King's Gambit

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By John Maddox Roberts
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (345)
    Performance
    (265)
    Story
    (264)

    John Maddox Roberts takes listeners back to a Rome filled with violence and evil. Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey, routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike. So the garroting of a lowly ex-slave and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the Roman hierarchy.

    Michael says: "Pleasant suprise"
    "A Good Holiday Listen"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I downloaded this title because of Simon Vance, one of my favourite narrators, and because I had enjoyed "Imperium" and cannot get the sequel in audio in Oz. The storyline does have similarities to the latter (and in fact assumes some knowledge of Cicero's famous victory over Hortenius in the matter of the regent of Syracuse) and Vance did not let me down with his reading skills. That said, the book is not a deep one, more a "who done it" set in Roman times and populated by some well known personalities, including Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great and his co-Consul, Crassus. Of course, Cicero and the great filibusterer, Hortensius, play important roles, too. The plot is sufficiently salacious to be fun and the history is sufficiently important to the plot to make it interesting. Alas, the protagonist, Decius, is not good enough to be admirable, nor flawed enough to be pitied, so I am yet to make my mind up about his future appeal. However, I had enough fun to give him (and SPQR) another go so long as Vance continues to be his voice.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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