I have to separate my books like Graham Greene into Entertainments and Serious Lit. As far as E's go this one is funny, particularly the beginning which had me laughing while listening. Westlake has some great comic crime novels and i like returning to him. The Dortmunder series is very funny, though I wish the audio's read by Tom Parker were available here soon, he reads Dortmunder perfect.
Main character is very good.
Wyman's reading is good, though as I said, I think the Westlakes from Books on Tape that Tom Parker reads are a perfect match.
To paraphrase the Who,
Westlake always fun, and he writes serious hard crime novels as Richard Stark.
this was a very well researched and scientifically based exploration of what first contact might mean and the possibility of a "creator", but it's not the silly biblical mythology but a much more thought provoking debate about evidence and purpose on a universal scale, not a tiny earthly point of view. 2 other friends really liked that aspect as well and I've recommended it to a 3rd and will others. nice to think about these things intelligently and not superstitiously.
this version seems so wooden compared to other versions i have or have seen. while it has the merits of the players enunciating clearly and so dialogue is reasonably easy to follow, I found the acting to be very uninspired and Macbeth has so many great lines and speeches but actor in Mac's role seemed at times to be reading from a page in front of him as if he was seeing it for first time. Macbeth is perhaps my favorite play and I have seen or listened to some interesting performances, but this was disappointing to me.
I've recently listened to several of the plays and this Hamlet a few times in past couple of weeks and I have to say this is a very good version: well acted, nice production and vigorous performances that I liked for Hamlet and Claudius particularly. The man in Claudius role sounds like James Mason. All in all a good performance. & as much as I respect Gielgud his audio version here feels so slow and ponderous that I have trouble with it. I also like the Branagh film version very much with a couple of caveats, but accessible. All the plays can be performed with such a range of approach that it is informative to pick up on a different intonation/emphasis of even a single word that makes you think, wait a minute, I never realized that aspect before, or that's a new approach. Literally a "poem unlimited."
In the 1st half I was literally laughing out loud and so hard that I had to stop my vehicle and wipe my eyes, I could not see to drive. I thought someone would come out and ask if I was all right or why I was crying. I found so much in the 1st half that was hilarious.
I really enjoyed the military bureaucracy idiots and paranoia and backstabbing etc. and the just plain absurdity at times. & it was neat to see how tidbits and seeds planted from opening pages filter through or even come back on someone later with a vengeance. 2nd half gets progressively more serious and whole novel deals with several big issues. Late in novel there is Chapter 39: The Eternal City, that devolves into a Heironymus Boschian nightmarish/hellish landscape. Yossarian is/becomes the conscience of the novel.
Parts of C22 make me think of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 & Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. & Milo Minderbinder's Syndicate seems a precursor to Haliburton and modern war profiteering. Also wondering if Pynchon's Yoyodyne from V and GR is in anyway a nod to Yossarian's nickname Yoyo. He is yoyo-ing back and forth and not getting anywhere due to C22.
I feel the overlap/repetitious nature of some of the chapters lends a spiral structure, but I don’t know what you could cut out without a complete rewrite and removal of characters as so many stories interlace and so many characters interact. I felt an affinity with Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude regarding this wherein the cyclic/spiral nature of the story that slowly moves forward but retraces elements reflects the trapped nature of the characters.
I agree that military double talk and cross-talk is a bit repetitive it was still at least amusing in 2nd half. But for some this stuff may get to be too much of a good thing.
There is more to it than just the absurdity too as there are many bits regarding life and death and ruminations and questioning of religion etc by the chaplain that are rather existential and I liked that. Some nature of reality stuff too maybe regarding his deja vu ponderings.
The 1st half had all the real gut busting hilarious stuff for me but there are 2nd half moments where I still chuckled. I enjoyed the absurd landscape Heller created even more than first time I listened several years ago.
This is a very good historical mystery around time of Black Death in Europe. There is a murder mystery coupled with a tale of a traveling acting troop and a "defrocked" clergyman who joins up and gets involved in acting and writing plays, acting being one of the sins he is not to participate in normally. But he is drawn to it slowly and suffers some mental anguish over his choice to remain with them. There is more to his story that adds weight to whole novel. I like the atmosphere of the story taking place in medieval times, but more importantly it plays with the idea of how morality and religious dramas grew into actual dramatic creativity freeing themselves from shackles of repeating same old biblical tales etc. I always find items of that nature interesting: the speculation on how drama and literature developed from greek drama or earlier mythic rituals, into mystery and morality plays, and into drama as we know it today.
I love Nabokov, but I will admit that this is not one that will draw people to him. I think he is a genius, with some of the most beautiful writing and style, and Lolita was a revelation to me: the word play, the love of language, the literary allusions. But with Ada, we have his Ulysses, which makes it a little difficult to follow at times.
It's even hard to describe the "plot" as such; it is a biography of Van & Ada written by Van, with "interruptions" by Ada, & the editor at times, with perhaps some typos by the typist... Basically it is a sprawling chronicle of Van & Ada's lives, and of their love (very sexual at times) for each other.
I want people to read him and listen to his works, but I would start with the more straightforward and accessible novels: King Queen Knave, Laughter in the Dark, Defense, Mary, and Lolita, and get a feel for the poetic style and the way he uses different forms to reflect the content (one of the things i love) and then go on to more experimentally styled work: Invitation to a Beheading (a favorite of mine & which a friend also loved), Bend Sinister (great title, great book) Pale Fire.....
Actually, this novel (& Nabokov) makes me wish America had a more European attitude towards education and other cultures and then anyone could grasp so much more of it.
And listening to it, you miss a lot of the word play. I read it some time ago and liked it and caught some of the play, and I caught other things this time, but there is soooo much of it; literally almost every sentence has some play or allusion.
I think Ada is a bit like Ulysses. You can follow parts of the story, and I don’t think it’s as bad as Ulysses, but it is so densely packed with wordplay, and puns, and funny names, and allusions to myriad things from obscure sex words to other Nabokov novels and characters, to historical and literary characters and Russian, French, British and American literature to the point that almost every line or word has multiple lines of play woven in. In that sense it is like Ulysses.
That said, there are several moments where when you pick up on something it is very funny and I have been laughing out loud a couple times, but still so much got by me.
There is a web site Ada Online striving to annotate the whole novel and if you check it out just look at the first page and you'll see what's behind the scene so to speak.
Lolita is actually very much like Ada in this respect but the narrative “through line” is actually followable if you don’t catch any of the play.
I was thinking today that he may be the most brilliant author I’ve read or heard of. the depth of his knowledge in so many areas is phenomenal, not to mention his discovery and naming of a butterfly and all that scientific lingo. He knows fluently enough to play and pun etc in Russian, French, English, with at least a bit of German, Spanish, Latin, probably Greek and touching on Old English & I think a little Norse in Pale Fire and who knows what else, and sometimes he's punning and playing across 2-3 languages within a single word or line.
It is rather daunting and humbling reading him, especially Ada and Lolita, but he is more fun to me than Joyce because you can follow so much of his stories to some degree. and looking up annotations and stuff for his work is like a school lesson in itself.
Ada is the most densely allusive and punning of all his work I believe. (it’s amazing to me all the scholars who are sifting through his stuff and finding new allusions and connections and word play everyday in multiple languages, how can any one mind connect all this? If you're interested check out Zembla, a site full of VN info and links and criticism)
& he’s always parodying authors and some come in for a rough time, as in this bit from Ada about TS Eliot, a favorite target : “…a banker who at 65 had become an avant-garde author; in the course of one miraculous year he had produced The Waistline, a satire in free verse on Anglo-American feeding habits…”
i like to study him because I learn so much. but there is a point at which with certain works, (and Ada, and Ulysses are examples and we can name others) the only people who can instantly grasp them and love them are scholars.
the thrill i felt first reading Lolita and Defense and other VN was a revelation really, such exuberant love of words and literature, and then I also love the way, more than anyone else i knew of, that he tried to find a form for his novel that reflected the content in some way, Pale Fire being the most obvious example of that. (as is Faulkner's Sound and Fury & I think Melville's Moby Dick and Kosinski's Painted Bird, and I could go on )
i think that with experimentation you still need a character to feel for, and lacking that you can become less engaged emotionally even though you admire the experimentation. I think that is one criticism of VN, especially his work like Ada, where the game is more important, at least it seems, than the characters. Lolita even with the game still enthralled me and I “connected” with Humbert and Lolita, they are great personalities that still dominate the game and don’t get lost in the word play.
finally I have to say I'm not too enamored with this narrator; his voice is a bit too dry, and he doesn't get into the language and voices very well. I think Jeremy Irons did a magnificent reading of Lolita, and I wish they had found someone of that caliber for all of Nabokov. Some of the narrators are very good with Nabokov's work, but some leave me wishing...
This is a very enjoyable quick book. There is so much packed into it that my interest never flagged. In fact, there are numerous ideas that could have generated at least short stories of their own, but they are only a part of this world.
I found myself thinking of many different novels that at least share an idea with this, enough so that I began to wonder how many authors and filmmakers perhaps read this and were influenced. There are moments like Stand on Zanzibar but crossed with Vonnegut. I thought of Inception, the Manual of Detection, Philip K. Dick, Matrix, with some Nabokovian wordplay tossed in.
Funny in places, thought provoking in others. For a novel written in 1971 (and translated In 1974) I thought there was a lot of great satire about the direction society was/is heading and it is surprisingly relevant to current society in many ways, and I think there are many serious cautionary items blended into the fabric of the world of the novel.
Here's one sample: Lubricrat: one who gives bribes. Derived from "greasing" of palms.
Tell me that's not applicable to our entire system of government, summed up in one word.
I'm not going to spoil anything, so have fun with it, I did.
Also, there's a movie coming soon, The Congress, which looks interesting, but from the movie blurb, it does not appear it will follow the novel. It may be they seized upon some element and developed something, we'll see. As I said, there are so many ideas which could easily be developed into some tangential story.
i didn't find this to be all that good actually. I liked Candy and Magic Christian which I read some time ago, and of course his work on Strangelove, but this seemed a little flat.
I kept thinking of Paddy Chayefsky and his dark humor and satire I think due to the Hospital film with GC Scott. The doctor in this is the best part, and even that could have been ramped up a bit. what this book lacks could very easily have been supplied by beefing up the doctor, which sounds odd since the story revolves around him, but something felt missing to me. it starts well and funny.
There is a very good courtroom scene early on where the doctor weasels out of trouble or at least tries to. That is done perfectly and is applicable to current times with all the double speak of corporations and politicians and I wish that line had been the whole novel. the alternating story fell flat for me.
it is short and so not a great expenditure of time if you want to try it.
I like the 1984 crossed with Dragon Tattoo aspect, with a little Gorky Park, and Silence of the Lambs, and Fatherland and episodic structure a bit like Red October with the movement in time and place.
this is a good mystery thriller/detective story and does it's job effectively. I can't rave about it due to fact it does ultimately follow the template of mystery/thriller genre (serial killer, clues, doubters, race against time) and though it doesn't do anything exceptional it does have some good characters, (couple of very good villains who are not the murderer). there are some formulaic aspects, but there are a few surprises along the way.
one thing i liked was that there are very few good guys actually, and a case could be made that there are none. this is partially due to the people being stuck in the repressive society which dictates their actions and controls their thinking.
actually, my favorite thing about this is the depiction of life within a dictatorship and the methods by which those at the top control everyone and information and the daily life struggle just to survive when you can't trust anyone. i think that part of the story was more engaging to me than the mystery part, actually there are a couple things regarding that i found to be a bit forced and too coincidental for my taste. but it is a page turner in many ways.
& it does seem at least to be well researched and author seems to be knowledgeable about Russia and it's political situation at the time. it appears to be the start of what might be a good detective series based in Russia of the 50s and 60s
this novel is like a spinning top that slowly winds down. great fun crazy action, then increasingly slow tedious slide toward a cliche ending coda to try to give it "gravitas". had I turned it off before the codas, i'd still be smiling.
1st the Good: let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed the opening 1/3-half of the novel, the actual novel, not the Codas. I would even go so far as to say that I liked the whole thing up to about the 5:30 mark, which is, give or take, the end of the actual novel. The premise is very funny: the redshirt extra characters of a Star Trek-ian show who get killed willy-nilly as part of the away team, figure out that they are just that, expendable characters and thus try to survive long enough to figure out how to stay alive. The spoofing of Trek cliché’s is well done and funny and has been noted by every fan of the show. Then we get into some alternate reality stuff that still works fine towards explaining and resolving the issue.
2nd the Bad: I’m sorry but all of the Codas are a waste. Not only do they detract from the actual humorous enjoyment of the Redshirt story, but they are by turns irritating, not as funny as Scalzi thinks they are, boring, and predictable. He thinks that this meta-fictional addendum/continuation raises the literary level of the novel into higher planes. Sorry. Not only has it been done before in various guises, some of which he mentions, some he doesn’t (Hubbard’s Typewriter in the Sky, the only good thing he ever did; John Candy’s Delirious; and many others) but for a professional job try the master, Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation and/or Bend Sinister and others.
3rd the Poor: I’m sorry but writing 101 should stipulate “do not give major characters names that are so similar they confuse the reader as to who is who”, which itself is compounded by Will Wheaton’s uniform narration which differentiates no voices, not even female/male and thus Dahl & Duvall are easily mixed up, except for when…
4th The Ugly: incessant use of the attribution of dialogue in the “he said, she said, he said, she said"…ad infinitum…ad nauseum. This is plain and simple, UGLY writing . This smacks of laziness; of a lack of talent; of a poor editor; of a lack of respect for the reader.
So, all in all, I’d say that the first 5 & ½ hours are fun for Trek fans and the satire and for the premise itself, and then shut it off. 2 friends hit the kill switch at that point, one because the story was over, and the other who tried a little of the 1st coda and called it quits. I, unfortunately, kept going and it spoiled my enjoyment of the actual novel.
So I'd give the actual Redshirt novel 4 stars for being fun, I give the Codas 1 star though I'm sure Scalzi thinks they're precious, and I give Wheaton 2 stars as he lacks any type of vocal alterations for characters. I know some out there are going to say I'm being harsh, but there are excellent narrators out there, (Jim Dale who did Harry Potter has an amazing array of voices, Frank Muller's Moby is great, John Lee is very good, and recently the Bergmann Stand on Zanzibar was excellent) and Wheaton is at least at this point, not one of them.
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