I have been listening to audiobooks for over an hour/day for over 4 years and Life of Pi is one of the most magical blends of "narration" (what should be called reading), writing, and spiritual adventuring I've ever experienced. The Alexander McCall Smith books, the James Herriot books and the Harry Potter series (which I hope that Audible will be able to afford some day) are similarly blessed with perfect reading, but the strength of this novel is in its writing and story. I think that it works better in the story-telling realm, and is one of the few books that I've found a better listen than a read.
WARNING: I am a Comparative Literature scholar, so I was excited and delighted by literary devices that may put off other readers. However, I truly believe that anyone who can just relax and listen to the story develop (for example, the reviewer listening while driving as opposed to the listener who needed more out of the story sooner than it was given) will feel that they have experienced something even greater than a good read.
Actually 2.5 stars from me - a mixed bag.
This book was highly recommended to me, and I did enjoy it. However, I was annoyed by 2 aspects that some of the other reviewers have alluded to, and I'd like to add my voice to warning you BEFORE you buy. This book desperately needed a good editor. Jones' writing is really good and the plot is impeccable, leading to a wonderful story that I may reread some day. But the good writing is diminished by the fact that an editor never made Jones make decisions about how to best convey what he wanted to convey, whether he wanted to be clear and direct or purposefully convoluted. The result is passages of breathtaking power and beauty amongst a lot of words, not all of which add to the story nor even the narrative style.
I also did not enjoy the reader. I admit that I just said that the author was not always clear where he was going or wanted to go, but the reader didn't help either. I had the impression that I was listening to someone reading the story for the 1st time, unable to put much life or expression into his reading and extremely inconsistent with character voicing (mostly not at all, but sometimes somewhat!)
I really think that this book is an exceptional first effort by a talented young writer, but as an unexceptional older reader I liked it only because it's the only way I've ever gotten the word "jejune" into a conversation. I found everything about the plot utterly predictable and boring (read it before, liked it better then) and the storyline very much in keeping with the imagination of a teenager. The first description of the main female character was such hackneyed tripe that I almost threw my device across the room. Imagine a lunchroom discussion at almost any junior highschool of a "perfect" or "beautiful" woman. Not that the imagination is lacking, but that most adults have imagined it before, and then (hopefully) moved on.
So, if you're young, or have VERY little fiction background, you may love this book. The reading is good, it moves along. I feel more sorry for Paolini than for any unhappy reader like myself, because when he gets older he'll have to face the fact that he actually wrote this (well, re-wrote actually, going back to the fact that nothing in the book is truly new or even a particularly fresh take).
I'm just offering an alternative viewpoint to the 1st review. Frederick Davidson does take some getting used to, no doubt about that - I had a big problem with the first book read by him that I tried (The Count of Monte Cristo) became somewhat more tolerant with "the Magician" and really like his reading of P.G. Wodehouse. However, he seems to have a monopoly on many of Audible's unabridged recordings of "classics" of British literature and more, so I recommend giving him a chance by starting where his very mannered reading is less offensive (Wodehouse). I don't feel like I need to speak to Dostoyevsky's works. Russian literature can also take some getting used to.
PLEASE heed these reviews - I've never yet read this book and I can't listen to this guy any more - I struggled through the 26+ hours of "Our Mutual Friend" only because I worked out a scheme to close my eyes and pretend I was reading the printed word, and because it quickly became clear that that novel was one of the great masterworks of English literature. 25" was all I could devote to this one & I'm actually going to write to Audible to complain directly. This reader is a menace.
I struggled through the entire unabridged listening experience though there were technical problems in my version, chapters out of order and absolutely the most bizarre and awful reader I have ever listened to (I estimate that I've listend to about 80 unabridged recordings so far). I accidentally bought D.H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers" read by this guy with the same result - WHAT a disappointment! HOWEVER, I still value the entire experience because this may be one of the finest works of English fiction written to date. Shakespeare doesn't hold a candle to the depth, realism, heart and "truth that only fiction can reveal" found in this magnificent novel. I found that the only way I could bear the reader was to close my eyes and pretend I was reading the printed page, so I agree with Zack about reading it to yourself.
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