I already knew I liked David Rakoff's work from his contributions to This American Life; his essays here are even better. The longer format lets him stretch out with fantastic results. He is an astute observer of the world and a terrific writer, his use of language always inventive and interesting. The essays can be dark, which he addresses head-on in his first essay, about the need to temper the unwarranted optimism that is currently in fashion - but they leave you nodding in agreement and laughing. And example: when a friend asks him, "Don't you like ANYTHING?" he explains "I like EVERYTHING! ...I'm just also afraid of it." He then goes on to explain, among other things, that when he takes the subway under the water he pays attention to when the train passes the midway point in the tunnel, so that if some disaster occurs, "I'll know which direction to swim." Just good sense, really. (I'd compare the dark-but-hilarious tone to David Sedaris and Shalom Auslander; if you don't find them funny, then this probably isn't for you.)
Rakoff visits The Home of the Future (or some such) at Disney Land and scathingly dissects it (e.g. "The kitchen computer, like all omniscient, benevolent, but lacking-decision-making-ability machines, is female"); he visits Salt Lake City and seems unexpectedly charmed by the LDS church. You can't predict where he will go in these essays, but it's always somewhere good.
Audiobook is the ideal format for this book. Rakoff is a fantastic and hilarious narrator, absolutely the best person to read his coruscating sentences. You'll wish this book was longer - and, of course, that Rakoff was still around to grace us with his wit.
I'm a picky audiobook listener. I tend to find fault with narrators (too slow, weird voices, can't pronounce some words...) and if the writing isn't tight, the audiobook format will highlight that sloppiness.
So when I say that this audiobook was PERFECT, it means something.
The plot is fast-paced, suspenseful, and at times genuinely shocking. The logic of the supernatural components of the world is solid. The main character is charismatic and competent at his policing, and always relatable. You'll be gripped by the story and care about its ending.
And the narration, oh, the narration! Kobna Holdbrook-Smith brings each character to life in a way I've never heard another narrator even come close to. When it says "he laughed" or similar written stage direction, the narrator does it, in a completely natural way. He actually acts the emotions of the book. If something tense is happening, he sounds tense, just as the main character should be. It adds a whole new level of immersiveness to the experience. I wish he could narrate every book, but unfortunately he seems to be specializing in the rather narrow niche of books about Brits of African heritage. Well, then, come on, authors, write some more of those! I want more books narrated by this guy!
I didn't want this book to end, and when it did, I immediately listened to the two sequels (which are also great). I think there are more planned, and I can't wait.
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