Shock Value's author sets out to show how a handful of horror directors including Wes Craven, George Romero, and John Carpenter, redefined the horror genre in the 1970s. Along the way he also spends quite a bit of time on some figures that many listeners (myself included) might consider peripheral to the genre: Roman Polanski and Brian DePalma. Both directors have obviously made some great movies, but I would have preferred a much more extensive treatment of the Italians who receive little more than a mention. Casting that wider net might have weakened his argument that a "new horror" was born in the US in the period he covers, but I think it would've made for a more interesting listen/read.
That's really a minor criticism, though. There's plenty here to like. From Dan O'Bannon's health struggles inspiring Alien to several directors' dislike of Hitchcock's Psycho, I found the book to be enjoyable for the most part. I really just with there was more of it.
Pete Larkin does a good job with the narration. He's not one who I'd necessarily seek out, but he's a capable narrator and he doesn't do anything that might detract from your enjoyment of the book.
I've read several books in the 33 1/3 series and this one is probably the best. In reading these I really want to find an appreciation and analysis of the albums being treated. In some cases there's more focus on biography than I'd like (Unknown Pleasures), analysis that seems off base or out of left field (Led Zeppelin IV), or just outright weirdness (Master of Reality, though that one's actually pretty good if you're open to something experimental). Wilson Neate's book on Pink Flag has just the right mix of ingredients.
The first portion of the book deals primarily with what might be considered biographical information about the players involved, but the focus is kept on those details that relate to the musical development or creative ambitions of the band members. Much of this detail comes straight from the band and quotes are used extensively.
The book also covers the recording of Pink Flag. The recording process gets a treatment, the role of the producer is discussed, and the author goes into a lot of detail about decisions made in the studio, changes in songs from earlier demo versions, and so on. If you have any interest in Wire, I think you'll find all of this very interesting.
A song-by-song analysis and appreciation is included in the later part of the book. The author covers each song and, unlike many other books of this type, the focus isn't just on the lyrics. While lyrics are covered, song structures, instrumentation, and decisions about musical direction also receive treatment. After listening to the book, I was able to go back to Pink Flag and appreciate it with different ears.
The book closes with a section on modern day squabbles between bandmates about songwriting credit. Contrasting their current positions with their 1977-era ideas about shared authorship was probably meant to further illustrate their approach in the Pink Flag days, but it left something of a bad taste in my mouth.
The narrator does a fine job and has a refined British manner of speech that fits the book's content. Aside from one or two small quibbles (he says "twelve x u" over and over -- isn't it "one two x u"?) I was very satisfied with the narration.
Don't hesitate to pick this one up if you're a Wire fan.
If you're interested in information about the writing and recording of Led Zeppelin IV or a traditional critical perspective on that album, look elsewhere. If the idea of an analysis of the occult symbolism of Led Zeppelin IV's lyrics and cover art with lots of time spent on Jimmy Page's interest in Aleister Crowley appeals to you, you've found the right book.
While this kind of approach might not be for everyone, I enjoyed the book enough to make it to the end. Many of the book's claims are far-fetched and the author appears to find occult significance in every place he looks, but the book was really no more ridiculous than a Dan Brown novel. If you like Led Zeppelin and enjoy the silly fun of books like the Da Vinci Code, this one might be worth a listen.
Solaris is widely considered a classic of science fiction, and with good reason. Working with just a limited cast and an alien world unlike any other I'm aware of in the genre, Stanislaw Lem writes a story that manages to be compelling and confounding at the same time. His handling of something that might be considered "first contact" feels completely fresh, even if the book was written 50 years ago and you've probably read many stories dealing with first-time encounters between humans and alien worlds.
Not to take anything away from the book itself, but it was the narration that really blew me away. The narrator manages to sound weary, depressed, or even detached when the story calls for it, while still managing to pull the reader/listener along. I had no problem losing myself in the narration as if the story, written in first person, was being told by the person who experienced the events. I can't think of a time when I've been more impressed by an audiobook's narrator.
After finishing the book and reading more about the narrator, Alessandro Juliani, I was quite surprised to learn the he was the actor who played Gaeta in the 2004 Battlestar Galactica series. At no point was Gaeta brought to mind during the narration, but I was startled to learn this because I was struck when listening by how much one of the characters sounded like Colonel Tigh on that same show. Weird.
Anyway, this one lives up to the hype and fully deserves its status as a classic.
Really, really great. Growing up in the 80s and having a frame of reference for the video games, songs, movies and TV shows that are mentioned will probably enhance your enjoyment, but at the center of the story there's a teen-aged protagonist dealing with some universal adolescent struggles that will resonate regardless of your knowledge of 80s pop culture.
Wil Wheaton's narration adds to the story. He speaks with the cocky tone of a teenager for most of the story, but manages to convey the main character's fear and uncertainty when the story calls for it. This is once of those cases where I'd probably suggest someone choose the audio version over the print if they hadn't read the book before.
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