I enjoyed this very much and look forward to seeing the film. the background on the actual events and the Bloch book are great, but there is real insight into how this film got made and I like it. I watched Psycho again after finishing this to see some of the camera work and details talked about again. I like Hitchcock and though he has some flaws, I can't help but appreciate someone who worked at his craft and had a vision, and it's too bad current directors and film makers don't take a step back from the blood and carnage and work on suspense and acting etc. thoroughly enjoyed it. and the late speculation on how Hitch didn't know how to handle the monster he'd created and how it affected his work is insightful
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.
Long ago I read a bunch of the early Uris and liked them very much and this was a favorite. While it is still good, and apparently based upon an actual libel suit against Uris concerning Exodus, it could do with some polishing.
It is well researched, as all Uris were supposed to be, and detailed and sets up the opposing sides well with perhaps too lengthy biographical stories. But I'm not a fan of the Cady character, partially due to his being a rather overblown masculine chest thumper type, but also and unfairly because the voice for him by Lee reminds me too much of Matthew McConaughey and his slow southern drawl which I do not care for. Do not misunderstand me, I think Lee is an excellent narrator 99% of the time, it's just that this voice got on my nerves.
Aside from that I don't have a problem with characters who are flawed or are unlikeable, but too many times i felt like Uris needed some more subtlety and less of Cady's speechifying which really went overboard. (Perhaps this was Uris way of spilling his feelings over his trial and while it is understandable, it is unfortunate that it gets in the way so often.) His blatant womanizing and near mysogyny was a bit much also.
The story has enough power in it's own right without beating us over the head with moralizing. & with a couple of trims a little more suspense could have been easily obtained, but there were some predictable elements.
I would be curious to revisit some other Uris for the historical drama and to see if they hold up. I kept thinking of Frederick Forsyth for some reason and how he might have done this, for there is an element to the style or content that's somehow similar, but early Forsyth was rather stripped down prose and I think this would have benefitted from that tightening up.
Still very good and the courtroom stuff is excellent, but there is a little too much at the end, a tacked on feeling to the last chapter, and it dilutes what could have been a powerful ending.
I remember Presumed Innocent and Anatomy of a Murder being exceptional courtroom dramas and at one time I thought QBVII was of their caliber, but perhaps not. Then again, it is hard to revisit any mystery or courtroom drama when you already know the surprise witness or testimony and the verdict and not feel a little let down. So I guess I'd say give it a try for the story despite some flaws.
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).
novel: I very much like this one. It has some odd SF/horror elements that made me think of Well's Time Machine, not the time element, but the Morlocks and the Eloi. And then there is a little bit of the Man Who Fell to Earth identity confusion/struggle on the alien's behalf.
I don't want to give too much away, but there is a "huntress" looking for men. I thought there'd be a little more of the Piers Anthony Firefly idea but it's not really that at all. I do think a couple of the hunt episodes maybe run long, but not horribly. There is a rather horrific scene involving the men but in general I think the ideas are more horrible than any particular scenes. And in an odd way you come to identify with the girl. Much can be said about the ideas of body image and sexual attraction/predation.
film: If you are interested and want to see a very cool interpretation of this check out the film that just got released on disc/itunes. Artsy, impressionistic, very Kubrick-ian use of image, music, cinematography, and no easy answers and explanations. It is not a strict filming of the novel though but I thought it was fascinating.
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.
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