excellent and well written, i enjoyed the entire Smiley series even though technically he's not the main character in some of them and only pops up intermittently.
As much as I liked Appointment in Samarra, I was let down by this. Overall I tired of the pointless drunken existence of these people.
On the other hand, I do think that it gives a sense of the times; the "lost generation"; the rote daily existence; those who don't take responsibility for their actions, or at least seek easy solutions; the constant alcoholism; double standards; aimlessness.
I guess I felt it was rather directionless compared to other "classics" of the period, even his own Samarra. The style is very Hemingway-esque for the most part.
Elements made me think of, and wish for the audio of, P.J. Wolfson's Three of a Kind (a great noir of the Cain Postman variety) but particularly for Is My Flesh of Brass?, (1934) a great novel concerning unscrupulous doctors and abortion that predates by a year Butterfield (1935).
in general i like Silverberg but i think this one fizzles at the end. a friend listened at same time and he felt basically the same as i do on all these points.
part one is the best section and contains the most interesting characters and aspects. it is the original short story/novella that won a hugo award and that is it's strength: it is an open-ended yet at least unified piece. there in lies the trouble, as he decided to continue or expand the story into a novel.
part 2 suffers from a slow down of the narrative and moves from the Rome(Roum) of part 1 into a journey to Paris(Perris) and while it has some interesting things, it really suffers from the absence of Avluela the Nightwing of the title, one of the more interesting characters.
Part 3 heads to Jerusalem(Jorslem) and picks up again with the help of the reappearance of Avluela but the novel ends with some interesting ideas that go undeveloped. The regeneration back to youth is good but I would have liked for that bit to come sooner and get worked with.
I like a lot of the stuff within the story, the guild structure of the society, the apocalyptic setting, the alien threat, the characters (especially in the first 1/3).
in fact there is a lot I like about this and if it had a re-worked middle, and a few things developed more at the end, it would have been very good. the main character Tomis, goes through some good development.
it reminded me of Canticle for Liebowitz, mainly for the setting that i at least envisioned, though it is very different and not of that caliber.
troublesome middle hinders this one i think.
in all honesty i am not a Keillor "fan" as his drawling voice gets on my nerves and so I never got into the show.
however, I tried this on a friends recommendation who is a fan of the book and GK in general and my trepidation over his voice didn't come into play. I thought he read this very well and the story itself was very funny at times. as I said, i do not listen to the show, so there may be characters and such that will be familiar to fans, i do not know, but it didn't matter to the story for me.
I enjoyed the odd small town characters and situations, though I think he missed a couple of opportunities for some real wacky incidents in the parade that would have been totally in keeping with the story. but i had fun with it, it did what it was supposed to and i may try another of the Wobegon stories.
GK does have a great funny short baseball story in the funny shorts collection that he also narrates, so maybe he's better, at least for me, in this format as opposed to the slow paced radio show. though i think his readings of poetry with billy collins is hit and miss.
while I generally tire of Keillor's voice rather quickly, this is more of a radio play, i suppose taken from the Prairie Home broadcasts, and so has sound effects and several other players.
I thought it was very funny at times, and enjoyed it, though I do think that it goes on just a little too long, which sounds odd given that it is only a few hours long, but I think in many instances certain stories that rely on a joke premise or odd setup, need to get to the "punchline" quickly as length only dilutes the premise and drains away the fun in favor of continuing for another episode, much like TV shows that go on too long after the initial creative surge runs out.
but, in general i had fun with the first 2/3 for sure.
a lot of authors can't help trying a Sherlock type story and this is one. As it goes, it is ok, and i think it is considered one of the "classic" SF pastiches, but it may be a little more for devout fans of Sherlock and Poul Anderson.
I do think that it is the type of story that benefits from a more light hearted, and quicker paced narration. This narrator is not very good at all and probably hinders (at least my) enjoyment of the tale.
It appears this Mike Vendetti has formed his own narrative/audio company and is going through stories that may be in public domain and/or not optioned by bigger companies like Audible etc yet, and that is not necessarily a good thing as he is not a good narrator nor is this guy, in fact they may be same person, their slow ponderous style is so similar.
I only encourage you to get this short piece which made me think of the robert Bloch Toy for Juliette story because I want to get Audible to do the classic Bester novels, Demolished Man, and Stars, My Destination.
By itself it is ok, and I in general don't like this one short piece for $4 type crap that's happening all the time now, (though I wish I could have picked and chose 1 at a time of Ellison and saved $ and time getting 3-4 good ones instead of hours of his drek).
Anyway, as I say, I only got it to show them an interest in Bester and hope for the 2 great ones.
I like the idea, and I like elements of the story, but it is so poorly written that I had trouble with it. Especially after having just come from To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is so well written.
And the narrator doesn't do well, mispronouncing words, altering his pronunciation of the same word later; not doing voices well at all, not even trying to give Churchill a distinct voice and yet oddly enough trying to do it for Einstein.
Aside from that, I didn't believe in the world at all. & here's why. If you compare To Say Nothing wherein the research into the period is so well done but also the characters are living in that world...But in this one, there are times when the description feels like, "oh, yeah, I need to describe that time period, so let me list elements in this picture I'm looking at". The characters don't really interact with the environment in a way that makes you believe in it.
I really was hoping it would be good with the SF & Time Travel & WWII. Though I did like the multiple worlds/quantum physics aspect very much, but just can't recommend it; not when there is a superior Time Travel with the Willis To Say Nothing....
I do think it would make an interesting film or mini series with good recreations of the time period etc. And there are a couple of ideas near the end which almost redeem it. With revision and a better narrator it could be good.
I'm being a little hard on it, and I admit that it suffered mightily due to listening right after To Say Nothing which had pitch perfect narration also. Basically Willis does everything right, and Hogan misses on so many points.
Why did I wait so long to try this? I thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish. The opening scene is a little confusing because you start "in medias res" as they say, in a scene that it takes you a bit to understand where they are and what they're up to, though you don't even get all those details immediately, some of which you slowly figure out as the story progresses.
But do not worry, all will be explained at the end, a bit like an Agatha Christie novel. And much like a Christie mystery there are mysterious happenings and information doled out along the way to give you a chance to fill in some of the story.
This book has a little of everything: SF; mystery; romance; comedy; history. And it's not a zip zip type of time travel, though there is a bit of that. The majority of the story takes place in Victorian England and has some comedy of manners that is very funny at times.
And I listened to 3 Men in a Boat first just in case it helped, but I don't think it's necessary, just added a bit to recognize a couple items when they popped up. & I have not listened to Doomsday Book which technically comes before this and it did not matter in the slightest to me. But on the strength of this I will be getting more Willis and this series, but I knew this was funny whereas the others may be more serious so wanted to try it first.
And I gave the book to a friend to read on the plane and she loved it and laughed out loud and she didn't read 3 Men nor others in this series either, so I think you can safely enjoy it.
It very much reminded me of A Confederacy of Dunces in the comic element and also in the masterful plotting, with so many threads coming together at the finale. & also the Jack Finney Time & Again and Time After Time where the time travel is only part of the story, it really is more about the characters encountered.
So if you want a mystery type novel built around time travel and victorian manners comedy here it is. If you want zipping around and hardware better go to Well's Time Machine and others. Not saying those are bad, I love Wells, but they are a different breed.
it was my honest intention to get through all 5 sets of stories but I don't think I can make it. I got done with Adrift off the Islets... (another supposed award winner) and saw that I still have 3&1/2 hours to go. enough is enough.
my honest opinion is that Ellison's boorishness and brow beating have worn down those who should stand up to him. I find little of interest in his style and stories. after 50 + stories I have found 3 or 4 that I would recommend to friends. that is not a good percentage.
in his arrogance he is proud to tell you that a couple of these stories are as they were after first draft, no changes. Well, either he's lying or he doesn't respect the craft enough to rewrite. I suspect it's a little of both; I'm sure he thinks his every word and sentence are golden perfection. I guess he doesn't need to rewrite; he's better than Hemingway and Shakespeare and Melville and Nabokov then.
as far as I've gotten in this set, the best story is Shatterday. Now, here's an interesting tidbit. As litigious as Ellison is, filing lawsuits against anyone and everyone he feels is in any way stepping on his ideas, I wonder if he filed suit against himself on behalf of Walter Tevis, (author of Man Who Fell to Earth, a brilliant novel), whose story The Other End of The Line begins, opening paragraphs, with a man, George Bledsoe, mistakenly calling his own phone number and having it answered by himself. In Tevis' story there is a time displacement, but the opening is so strikingly similar that I was shocked and immediately thought Ellison cribbed it. (Tevis by the way is a far superior writer whose masterful Mockingbird deserves to be narrated here, as well as his non-SF novels.)
& why not acknowledge Tevis given Harlan's penchant for name dropping to make sure you know all the important people he's met etc., and read, let's not forget how badly he wants you to know how well read he is, and how intelligent and how many multisyllabic words he can use blah blah blah.
I have 5 books of Ellisons gathered over the years because he's "important" but it's time to get rid of them. Pain God; Strange Wine; Stalking the Nightmare; Deathbird; & Essential Ellison contain a majority of the stories in these 5 audios and I've read a handful outside the audios but again, not worth continuing.
& I see that Ellison is hit or miss with people as well, not just me. many are put off by his arrogance. some think he's a terrible narrator, others think he's great. some think his stories are terrible, others think they're great. obviously you have to find out for yourself. I can no longer overlook his slapdash style which i'm sure is considered by some to be experimental and cutting edge. I find it to be sloppy and uncontrolled. Perhaps I'm being harsh due to my disappointment and thinking of so many (like Tevis) who get passed by in favor of the loudmouth in the room. perhaps, but let's at least stop calling Ellison a masterful writer and his stories masterpieces; he does have a couple that are well written which stand out and that I will suggest to friends, & I admit Harlequin contains enough to be taught in class and discussed, but a handful is not enough.
I have read a ton of SF over the years and have sentimental favorites, but even I can admit that not everything Clarke & Bradbury wrote is brilliant. And oddly enough at least 2 of Bradbury's absolute masterpieces have nothing to do with fantasy or SF. Ellison should shut his mouth for a bit and concentrate and trust his writing and not throw in the kitchen sink when it doesn't belong.
I do think Ellison is more dark fantasy than SF and that element also I think bothers me; not because it's dark or fantasy, but because there is an element of "and then magic happened" that destroys the reality of a given story, or violates the internal logic of a story, and when there are no "rules" governing a narrative anything can happen, and does, and so how do i invest myself in a story or a character, how can you ground yourself in a surrealist landscape that shifts without notice? Alice in Wonderland's surrealism works for me, as did Berry's Manual of Detection, Ellison's doesn't.
And what are you going to do with a sentence like,
"Crickets gossiped shamelessly, close beside his head."
I'm sure he thinks it's precious and brilliant, I find it foolish. At the risk of sounding like Ellison, "you pays your money, you takes your chance."
Killing Bernstein was best story, then probably Whimper of Whipped Dogs.
But Whipped Dogs is a good story to point out where he goes wrong so often. It is a very good story until near the end, and then he doesn't trust his writing enough to let the story stand on its own and expose society's ills and individual actions within that world, he has to bring in the supernatural element. It totally dilutes the power of the story.
sorry but Deathbird was a mess and Croatoan is too Lovecraftian (another "classic" writer who is woefully poor). All Croatoan did for me was make me yearn to have Pynchon's V on audio.
you can only get so far with outlandish description and grotesquery and the Bosch-ian surrealism, at some point the stories have to make sense or at least stay true to their own internal logic/world.
and you can only get so far telling me to be scared when the writing doesn't warrant it, as will be seen in V5 story Flop Sweat, which he insists in his again lengthy (& Unnecessary) intro, scared the s*** out of people. I have to laugh; nothing scary nor hair-raising in it.
to sum up prior to finishing V5, this collection could have been boiled down to a best of and done in one volume without his intros as well. leave all the intros and lesser stories to a separate volume for Ellison-philes. At the very least present the stories individually to allow people to get the "best" one at a time and see if they want to get more. I am getting through to the end mainly for the supposed "classic" and award winners so that I can see what all the hoopla is about, but for me at least it will not be worth it by the end.
when there are far better stylists out there and more intellectually interesting and important writers for the SF field like Delany and Bester who can't seem to get on audio I can't help but be disappointed when they don't show. & on the strength of Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic, I'd rather see more of theirs show up.
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