W.B. Yeats wrote, "Whatever flames upon the night, man's own resinous heart has fed." Bacigalupi's imagined future Thailand, his characters, and his sure and economical prose bring weight and life to that assertion. The characters especially are memorable in a Dickensian way.
The dystopian future of the story is all too plausible. Coastal cities drowned by melting ice caps. Giant corporations supplanting governments and destroying human freedom in the name of ever growing profits. Warfare of the rich upon the poor, conducted with famine, and genetically engineered insects, parasites and viruses. Bacigalupi makes every challenge real and still leaves room for unexpected hope.
I was slow to warm to Jonathan Davis' performance, but once well underway, his clear and distinctive voicing, both for narration and for each character made the novel all the more engaging and memorable. In a way I seldom do, I felt I had missed nothing by listening to the book instead of reading it. Kudos to Davis, and brickbats for me who was so slow to notice his mastery.
I seldom listen to a book more than once, and The Front Runner is no exception. The writing style is straightforward narrative. It tells a good story without much in the way of writerly flourishes that demand or reward listening again.
I admired the character Billy Sive, though we know him only through Harlan Brown, whose story this is. Billy is as self-actualizing a character as I have ever read about, and his internal clarity and his courage to march to the sound of his own drummer are exhilarating.
Restrained but listenable.
I think the book is aptly titled, both as it describes Billy Sive's style as a competitive runner and as a metaphor for his personality.
There is a quality about The Front Runner that reminds me of The Harrad Experiment, a heterosexual story of the same era that includes, like TFR, a big measure of 70s utopian wish fulfillment. Both stories are artful enough, and tempered with enough loss and pain to make the willing suspension of disbelief a worthwhile exercise.In this kinder, gentler era, Patricia Nell Warren's portrayal of gay life in the 60s and seventies makes me glad for how far we've come, and resigned to how far we still have to go.
I would have enjoyed hearing more.
The Art of Fielding
Gibson's description of his experience of Tokyo
No. It's episodic non-fiction without a unifying thread that might tie a documentary together.
Narrator Robertson Dean's voice and style is familiar from Gibson fiction titles he's performed. In general, I think it suits the material well, though in this non-fiction title, it's the writer himself he's portraying, and I think at times Dean comes off as more callow than I like to imagine Gibson being.
For fans of Gibson's fiction, this collection of short, non-fiction work gives a worthwhile look behind the scenes at the places and impressions that start his creative engine running. As it is more nearly journalism than anything else, it lacks the depth and startling cognitive associations that I much admire in his fiction. If you are new to Gibson, this is not the place to start. Better to listen to Neuromancer from the vanguard of cyberpunk, or Pattern Recognition for an all too plausible GIbsonian near-future.
I've been a fan of The Book of the New Sun for 30 years, and was delighted that Audible took a chance and recorded it. Though its large and unfamiliar vocabulary may daunt listeners who have never read the text, those who persevere will know a world and a man unlike any other, and find them worth the knowing.
This was the first work of fantasy I read where such magic as it contained was the magic of Clarke's 3rd law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." There are no dragons, sorcerers or wands, and the only sword is a blunt ended executioner's tool. The magic is in Wolfe's imagination as he builds a story set on an Earth so far in the future that the sun is dying, men mine the ruins of abandoned cities and their middens for raw materials, and so much has happened to the human race that legend and history have become interchangeable.
In this world, Wolfe sends Severian, the Torturer, on a hero's journey. As must be so on such a journey, the hero never knows himself as hero. Instead we live with his perils, his self doubt, his cowardice and courage, the terrible brutality and emotional blankness with which he practices his "art," and the discovery and growth that slowly reveal a magnificent heart. Severian is as flawed as the gem called the Claw of the Conciliator, and as real as your highest aspirations. You will not forget him, nor the many characters he meets on his journey from boyhood to a seat of power that proves to be both vast and impotent.
I found the story and characters engrossing, and could not have been more delighted with the way Kirby Heyborne performed it. As he spoke for each of the characters, there were subtle, but noticeable changes in voicing and "melody." His reading supported and enhanced the text for me.
Chaon makes a main character, who is essentially a sociopath, human, which is to say never fully understandable, but utterly recognizable. The other characters, touched and often injured by this man seem as real as if I had actually met them. A nice blend of interior monologue, exterior interaction and beautiful writing. Reminded me of Michael Cunningham, whose work I also admire. Five stars.
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