In short: The narration makes this book a "pass" to anyone except those with a real interest in the novel. Those just perusing, looking for a good read, might want to move along.
In detail: The Jungle tells the story of an immigrant trying to make his way in America during the turn of the 20th century. What follows a fable of how the power struggle between the US Railroad Trust and Meat Packing Trust took its toll on the goods manufactured and the workforce that manufactured the goods. Upton then makes the case for his solution.
Whether or not you or I agree with this solution, I think Upton does a fantastic job in outlining his concerns with completely unregulated capitalism (and specifically the lack of anti-trust laws).
If you're interested in the difficulties of immigrants in settling in America, fiscal policy or economic philosophy, this is a great novel for you. In the same vein as Atlas Shrugged (albeit from the exact opposite perspective and a historical instead of futuristic viewpoint), The Jungle is food for thought for those with an open mind and an interest in politics.
Likewise, if you are interested in a story about humanity at its best and worst, or if you're looking for a story about the struggle of human spirit against soul crushing odds, you can't go wrong with this pick.
However, if you're looking for a lighthearted or fanciful novel, you'd be better off looking elsewhere. The Jungle is bleak, depressing, and not for the faint of heart (or weak of stomach).
The narration was, at first, pretty bad. Like the reviewer Kosina before me, I am not sure whether he got better or I just got used to it, but there were still times where I found Mr. Affleck's stilted style difficult to endure. I truly hope this book gets a better treatment from another narrator.
Short version: Give it a go. It's somewhat of crap shoot but you can do worse with a free credit.
The first part of Gone Girl is an unflinching look at the nature of a relationship: people aren't perfect, and when they try to form a life together they bring their imperfections with them. It's a complete opposite of the happily ever after cliche, and it's done very well. Witty, insightful writing is complimented by two very capable narrators.
But as the mystery begins to unravel...so does the realistic treatment of the subject. Unbelievable characters are introduced, and the actions of the main characters go so far off the rails that it was hard to follow and impossible to identify with anyone in the book.
Yet, it wasn't necessarily bad. At its best, Gone Girl is an interesting commentary on the role of popular media in modern American culture. Its bit of worthwhile dark satire, and very enjoyable in a Bruce Campbell kind of way.
Ok, disclaimer here. This is a YA novel and I not a YA. That being said...
The title to this review is an example of the writing style often employed in this book: redundant and lacking any real description.
The plot is appropriately mazy, the storyline dubious and quite a stretch even for speculative fiction, and the characters are one dimensional. The protagonist is a weak willed, weak minded, ineffectual chipmunk of a kid until suddenly he a great leader. Baffling.
There's a bunch of kids dying for no good reason. And I'm not referring to a plot hole here, though there were many of them (like the supposed story of the kids' names). I mean there's no overall message or allegory or point being made important enough to warrant the violent death of children.
For younger audible listeners, sorry, you probably won't find this review helpful. For older listeners, though, I suggest skipping this one.
Perhaps if I had taken the time to pause every few minutes to really think about the implications of each passage...the way storylines touch tangentially and the underworld theme...what's beneath, what's just behind the face...consistently recurring, I may have enjoyed the book more.
But there's a reason I didn't. The writing wasn't interesting. Frankly, I didn't care enough to. I just didn't get DeLilo here. I couldn't follow him down. I quite enjoyed White Noise, but I can't say the same for Underworld.
And there's no blaming the narrator here. I think Poe did really well with the characters. I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for more of his work.
Brief synopsis: Baseball. Garbage. Art. More baseball. Frank Sinatra. Serial killer. Atom bomb. Infidelity. A baseball game. J. Edgar Hoover. Condoms. Mafia. German movie. Jesuit. Baseball.
My advice? Unless you know what you're getting into, skip this one. Also, if you're expecting postmod a la Pynchon, you won't find it here. It looks like a lot of postmodern works, with different storylines and timelines...but in my opinion that's a result of postmodern writing, not the goal.
There's a lot going on in American Psycho, and in the mind of its protagonist, Patrick Bateman. Set in the 1980s, at its best, American Psycho gives the reader a look at the life of the Yuppie and the mind of a serial killer.
Bateman is a successful, handsome Wall Street trader, a fastidious dresser with impeccable hygiene and an encyclopedia of etiquette. He's also a deranged killer. Sounds like an interesting story? Maybe. Unfortunately, if there was a point that the author is trying to make here, it's easily lost in the graphic descriptions of torture and murder. It wasn't frightening, shocking, or thought provoking, and it wasn't even particularly interesting.
Be prepared for a long lists of the designer of every article of clothing and every accessory every character is wearing in every scene (frankly this didn't bother me much, I kind of liked it), dissertations on a few key musicians from the 1980s, and sex/torture scenes more awkward and gross than scary.
Unrewarding, tedious, and forgettable except for the stuff you'd rather forget.
Ok, ok, I get the negative reviews. There's lots of stuff about the '60s. There's lots of talk about drugs and talking by people on drugs. If it's going to turn you off, skip this one. Comparisons with The Big Lebowski are justified, but IV’s got a lot more going on than just a spaced out protagonist.
Doc, the main character, is a Private Investigator who works a lot of free cases but manages to get by. But he's more than a cliché PI who’s a sucker for a pair of legs and a pouty lip. Pynchon neither subscribes to nor ignores cliché. He plays with it. He uses it, from blonde jokes to stoner metaphysics, as postmodern documentation of a society that would have such clichés.
It’s America and the end of an era. The Civil Rights movement has become a caricature of itself, as increasing government power and surveillance methods begin to attack Civil Rights in new ways. Is this the paranoid delusion of washed out surfer hippies, or something more? Will this ARPAnet someday grow into something all-pervasive, all-knowing?
This is no Cheech and Chong meets Bogart. It’s more Mark Twain meets Umberto Eco.
Lost worlds, secret organizations, zombies, crooked cops, biker gangs, and (of course) dentists are packaged in with the sex, drugs, and Rock ’n’ Roll.
It’s a fantastic, wonderful ride.
Freedom: Just About Everything That Terrifies Me as a Married Father -an accurate if not precise subtitle. Freedom is about so much more, but what will stick with me is how every character did everything they could to hurt the ones they love and are loved by. It’s an incredibly courageous, unflinching stare-down of everything I try to hide in myself and ignore in other people.
I wished it was preachy or judgmental so that I could agree with it and feel smart. Instead, I cringed when I related to a character's pettiness, spitefulness, and insecurity. I turned the book off in anger and frustration several times. I didn't want to finish it.
But the writing is compelling. I had to know how it would turn out. I'm glad I did. I don't want to give a single thing away. I will just say it was one of the most emotionally powerful moments I've ever experienced in literature.
So why the four stars? Frankly, it meandered a lot. Franzen tries to tackle a lot here, perhaps a bit too much for me. Be prepared for a bit more politics than you might be expecting.
Those who have read The Corrections will recognize the character and plot development techniques. The big difference? The Corrections was funny. Freedom doesn't laugh at the folly of mankind and the mistakes people make. It exposes how our mistakes define and affect those around us.
Finally, I want to say that I personally admire Franzen for this work. It takes a certain amount of fortitude to put something like this out. Well done.
Calling The Book Thief a kids' books is sort of like saying the same thing about To Kill a Mockingbird. While the main character is a child, and there's nothing overly complicated structurally or thematically, making it accessible to a younger audience, the emotions are complex, the writing rich, and the subject mature. Ok... so maybe that was a glorified way of saying it's a good book for many ages, but coming across such a find is tough.
Many great books have been written about The Holocaust, but one of the things that makes The Book Thief unique is the treatment of Germans caught up in the insane nationalism of Nazi Germany. While it may be a bit tongue in cheek to say that everyone in The Book Thief is "human", Zusak does a fantastic job of keeping humanity at the forefront of the story. Death, fear, cruelty, love, compassion, selflessness, and loss are all players, but The Book Thief puts humans first, and what they do second.
A definite buy for anyone looking for a well narrated, genuinely emotional listen.
Full disclaimer: I'm a bit of a Pynchon fanboy. That being said, if you're considering Bleeding Edge, check out the sample. If you can handle the narration, and you're familiar with the author, you will love Bleeding Edge. It's got everything Pynchon fans like, but in a more subdued, dare I say "mature" way?
It's about the Internet. It's about 9/11. It's about what it means to be real and alive. It's full of conspiracy and obscure hacker (Yes, Thomas, I remember anon.penet.fi and own an earlier edition of ORA's Perl 5) and pop culture references from the noughties. However, I didn't find the references stifling and forced (unlike the 80's references in Ready Player One. Then again, I did admit I'm a bit biased).
Like any good fanboy, I picked up the audiobook and printed book on the publication date. I love the book but just can't get into the audiobook. Granted, reading Pynchon is a daunting task. Any reader would have trouble really nailing puns in Russian or hitting every German joke, but Jeannie really made it sound -exceptionally- difficult.
I really wouldn't bother with the audiobook, but the book's so good I encourage curious shoppers to check out the sample. Maybe it's just me!
If you've never read Pynchon before, I emphatically suggest skipping this audiobook as an introduction. There's too much in the writing to love to be turned off by the reader!
14 is an exciting search into strange occurrences at a California apartment building. I looked forward to each chapter and was genuinely interested in finding out exactly what was going on and how the story would progress and conclude. Plenty of humor and a little romantic spiciness rounds out an enjoyable sci-fi mystery. While not particularly thought provoking or emotionally engaging, 14 is full of trivia that kept my ears open and my brain working.
It was however, a bit disappointing as a mystery. You know that famous Sherlock Holmes line about eliminating impossibilities? 14 takes that line, rolls it up, smokes it, and flies off laughing, leaving me far below, scratching my head wondering what happened. It’s probably an unfair comparison…nobody ever said 14 was a whodunit. But when a significant part of a work is people sitting around trying to figure out what’s happening, it’s maybe too easy to expect a little nod to convention.
Fans of David Wong or listeners looking for something bizarre will find things to like in 14. Complete strangers to the genre will find this a more than sufficient introduction.
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