This is an unusually crafted book that sounds convoluted but still comes together well into a fascinating experience to listen to. It is presented in several perspectives (and several voices) for different views of the same story - almost a little Rashomon-like: The protagonist, who begins life in an orphanage where he is named Jun Do, his interrogator who tries to learn his story while adding elements of his own life throughout the process, and finally, the propagandizing broadcasts to all "Citizens!" that put an official spin on his story as well as lending ambiance and flavour to the unique location (North Korea).
The specifics of all the characters' lives and experiences in North Korea are interesting, though I don't know how many of them are true -- but that doesn't matter. As the story reports, in North Korea the story is more important than the person, and the truth is what you are told is the truth, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. This is fiction, after all, and as long as you recognize that this is fiction not fact (and that history is written by the victors), it's a great book.
I like a lot of classic science fiction, and this one just doesn't hold a candle to so many others in the genre - I was disappointed given the acclaim of the authors in the genre and how often I'd read about this book as one of the classics of post-apocalyptic fiction. Nope. A good classic will stand the test of time, not become a cliche in style and substance, yet this is both. I like post-apocalyptic fiction and I've listened to several (including the excellent Alas Babylon and Day of the Triffids), but this one was worthy only to sate my curiosity, not for the book itself.
It's loaded with science but little emotion, and the expository writing in the third person makes it seem like an encyclopedia entry (a very loooonnnng encyclopedia entry) rather than a story about real people. The characterizations are cliches and dated, the language is cliched and dated, and the narration is rather wooden and clipped, furthering the emotionless feeling of the audiobook. Given that it's over 24 hours long, it's not a road I'd suggest anyone start down unless you know you're already a fan of this author. Not bad enough for me to ask for a refund (I didn't hate it), but I won't recommend it, either.
I should have known......I dislike Dickens. Really dislike Dickens. However, I love Jim Dale and it was a Christmas gift, so I had a listen. Jim Dale's narration (I think his work really can be called "a performance") was wonderful, but the story itself......feh. Nothing that changed my mind about Dickens, that's for sure. Still writes a good story line but embellishes it with too many words and too much confusion.
This is an interesting turn for the series, which has dealt a little with the metaphysical before, but not to this degree. On the surface this a story of a sheriff tracking escaped convicts though a blizzard in the mountains of Wyoming, but it's really about a sheriff challenging himself to face the elements of nature and of human nature. It's a time for a lot of personal change and contemplation for Walt since his daughter is about to get married, and that's only magnified by the solo time he spends fighting the escaped prisoners and the elements to stay alive. Does he have a spirit guide on the journey, or is it all a journey in his mind?
While the metaphysical might not be to everyone's liking and some readers will miss the involvement of the usual cast of characters (they're all there, but they're generally not a part of what's going on throughout the story), it's still an enjoyable and satisfying part of the Longmire series. Guidall, as usual, is spot-on perfect throughout.
I liked the set up of this book and most of the first half as the mysterious situation developed, but once the mystery was lessened and the action got started, the book devolved.......the dialogue got cheesier, the narration got worse, and the circumstances got more contrived. Many of the characters were fine in small bits, but as they were used more, it became obvious how wooden and unrealistic they were.
I did not like the technologically-augmented narration, with added reverb (for conversations in a tunnel) or static (for dialogue over a walkie-talkie) - I found rather than adding to the effect of the narration, it detracted from it, pulling me out of the story rather than further into it. I also found some of the accents to be a little over-the-top (particularly the Scottish burr).
All in all, a good start wasted. I know Preston and Childs write popular books, but this will be the last of theirs for me.
I seemed to have missed this book when I was reading the series, but even listened to out of order, it's still ripping good fun. Our heroine travels to the Riviera on assignment from the Queen, manages to solve 2 mysteries, return the Royal jewels, uncover a forger, and still have time for sun, fun, and romance. What more could a reader want?
The only shortcoming in this installment is the over-the-top cliche of the French police detective, made worse by the Inspector Clouseau accent used by the narrator. I wish the narrator (otherwise wonderful) had toned it down a little and made the character still annoying but less of a laughable cliche.
I enjoy the character-driven story and the myriad of motivations of the characters' actions and reactions. I find this more true in British mysteries (vs. American), and this book doesn't lag in that regard. Internal politics, sexism, and racial profiling are rife in the police force, and this book includes all of it as a part of all the police-force characters, which I appreciate.
The actual plot involves human trafficking, smuggling, domestic terrorism, and revenge and is interesting but not really what the book is about -- it's the motivation for all of those things that make up the bulk of the book. Why the characters got involved in all of those will end up being the key to solving the crimes and preventing catastrophe. I'm not sure I buy the ultimately-revealed motivations, and that was the weak part of the book - but that only affected the final few chapters. Still, it means this is a book that won't stay with me for long, but it was enjoyable while it lasted.
I know it's not actually titled "An American Tragedy" (that's another classic), but this book really details a tragic life in tragic circumstances. In fact, I found it so painfully dismal, I had to stop half way through to listen to another book before coming back to it because it was so intense. Don't let that stop you, though, because it's a book well worth listening too.
It's best known as a muckraking book about the appalling conditions of the Chicago meatpacking plants at the turn of the 20th century, and almost all of the descriptions in the book were found to be true - and two important pieces of food safety legislation were enacted because of it. In fact, Upton Sinclair spent almost 2 months "undercover" working in the meatpacking plants before writing this book - which was originally published in installments.
What struck me more, though, was the horrific situation of the workers, not just in the meatpacking plants themselves, but also their housing and social situations. How new immigrants had been targeted in Europe and encouraged to come to work in the Chicago plants, lured with promises of a land of plenty -- only to find a different reality when they arrived unskilled, unable to speak English, and unprepared for the scam artists of an unregulated marketplace. Wickedly dangerous workplace conditions (resulting in gangrenous wounds, chemical burns, and respiratory failure), ridiculously crowded living conditions (sharing a mattress to sleep in shifts at the boarding house), and high district unemployment that resulted in men begging for work each morning and low wages.
Upton Sinclair, with his clearly socialist leanings in this book, says he aimed for the heart of his reader (with these depictions of unfairly harsh circumstances), but hit the readers' stomachs instead (with depiction of the meatpacking situations). I see that what he means, but truly it was my heart, not my stomach, that was hit by this book.
However, there are no heroes in this book - the hardworking, striving family man who is the protagonist becomes a vandal, mugger, thief, and corrupt political worker who abandoned his extended family after a tragic loss. The employers are corrupt, the unions are corrupt, the police force is corrupt........the only thing left to root for is the Dream itself (or Socialism, if you believe in Sinclair's premise). The book did inspire me to do a little more research and learn a bit more about Chicago at the time - about the Beef Trust, the Chicago freight tunnels, and the scandals, investigations, and legislation that came about because of the horrific practices of those meatpacking plants.
I'll start by saying that you do need a modicum of French history to really understand the mystery part of this novel: The disappearance and death of Louis XVII after the French Revolution was a source of intrigue for many - did the young prince (the Dauphin of France - the heir apparent) die in the Black Tower or did he escape? His body was not identified and there were rumours that he lived.....and so there were many men who claimed to be him emerge after the restoration of the monarchy following the abdication of Napoleon. This is the story of a young man whom others believe to be the surviving Dauphin, and their search for proof while evading those who wish the Dauphin to never be discovered and are willing to kill to keep that information secret.
Who are those others, the main characters in the story? The narrator of the story is the son of the doctor who attended the young imprisoned prince, and he is led into the investigation by the celebrated French lawman Vidocq, another actual historical figure - the first in the world to use plainclothes and undercover police, and the first private detective in spite of his previous life as a convict.
It's an enjoyable mystery; not a whodunnit as much as a whathappened - is the young man actually the young prince who escaped almost 25 years earlier and has been living in obscurity as a general Jack-of-all-trades servant? And if so, will they be able to prove it before those opposed to exposing him manage to silence all involved?
While I didn't at all mind that the reading was done without a French accent, I was bothered by the strongly identifiable British (Cockney) accent of Vidocq and a scattering of other characters. It served to take my mind out of 19th century France and into England, unfortunately. That was the only weak point in the whole audiobook, and I still highly recommend it.
It's well established that Edgar Allan Poe wrote the first detective stories (the awards for detective stories are named after him), though these are probably lesser known works compared to Poe's "spookier" works such as the Pit and the Pendulum or The Raven. Most people probably know one of the great characters these books inspired though - Sherlock Holmes - and it's clear exactly how much of the form Doyle copied for his Holmes stories (these are narrated by the detective's best friend, with whom he shares an apartment; the detective chooses to solve these crimes as a personal diversion, for the mental fun of it, but is occasionally consulted by the police).
The stories are interesting and full of intriguing analysis - the first is an apparent locked-room mystery, the second is based on an actual (and still unsolved) murder in New York, and the third is a delightful tale of how Dupin solved the problem of a stolen letter and prevented blackmail, while at the same time exacting some revenge for a previous wrong. Much of the analysis is based on mathematical principles, and follows what Doyle would later explain much more directly: ".....when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" While Doyle had Sherlock Holmes state it succinctly, it was first said by C. August Dupin, as written by Poe, in these original detective stories.
I'll be another reviewer to say "how did I not know this?" ! There is so much in this book that should be well known but simply isn't, I was astounded. I'd never thought about how chemical fertilizers were discovered - about how difficult and ground-breaking it was, and how desperately the world needed it. I'd never thought about the geopolitical importance of fertilizers (organic and chemically created), though it was huge and had significant effects on world affairs. And that doesn't even get into the close association between chemical fertilizers and explosives/munitions.
Actually, the title of the book is a bit of a misnomer: This book is really about the work, life, and discoveries of two men - Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch. It starts with nitrogen and the need for fertilizer and continues through the discovery of the process and creation of chemical fertilizers, but it is much more. While Haber invented the original process and Bosch created the means and methods for making it practical on a large scale, it continues to follow the lives of the two men past the time when the Haber-Bosch process was novel (and unique to Germany) and through the rise of Hitler to the second world war. How the mechanisms Bosch used were turned to making synthetic fuel and rubber, how the chemical company BASF grew to be a part of the chemical giant IG Farben (most notable now for creating the Zyklon B gas used in the Holocaust), and how the changing fate of Jews in Germany in the 1930s affected both Haber and Bosch.
Both men were, by all accounts, devastated to see how their scientific discoveries intended to feed the world and support Germany after WWI were used to fuel the rise of a martial state with Hitler and his anti-Semitic policies. Haber was Jewish born and had been a proud veteran of World War I, and Bosch was heartbroken and shocked to see so many of his fellow scientists minimized and tossed out of their jobs because of their religion, and to see his inventions used to fuel and supply that process. Ultimately, those things led to their ill health and sad deaths - Haber in Switzerland on his way to Palestine, and Bosch in Germany.
Sadly, the narration was merely adequate, and it's the weak point of this audiobook.
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