I was hoping for 80% flying and 20% other, but got 33% flying, 33% military life, and 34% family life.
I think the narration bothered me the most. The biggest problem was that he never varied from his hard-bitten, sarcastic, slowly delivered semi-drawl. That may have been appropriate when the writer was dealing with a military snafu, but not when describing the stars in the night sky. And there were more than the usual number of mispronounced words, but the worst was ailerons, pronounced AIL-yur-ons.
Overall, the book was not horrible, I did finish it, and I learned some things I didn't know, but I wouldn't buy it again.
I bought this book thinking it was by Dan Brown (Digital Fortress, not Da Vinci Code), not Don Brown. I have since become acquainted with who Don Brown is. As a Christian myself, I sincerely wish him the best in continuing to develop his writing. I was not bothered by the Christian references like some reviewers, although the heavy way in which his faith was pasted on the characters was a problem. Virtually all of the good guys are believers (in Christ) and the bad guys are evenly split between drunk Russian atheists and Islamic jihadists. The story is largely implausible. The characters speak in trite ways. For instance, imagine you have a 6th grade writing class, and one of the kids in your class is the girl who always plays the lead in class plays. You give her the assignment of drafting a stirring speech that a submarine commander might give his crew before departing on a dangerous mission. You tell her to make sure it is filled with over the top patriotism and heroic anticipation. You will probably get what Brown has Miranda say to his crew.
In terms of performance, the narrator does a decent Russian accent (not accurate, just decent, and consistent). Unfortunately, he tries to affect an American accent at times, and just ends up sounding high-pitched and nasal. If I were to apportion the reasons for my low rating of this book, I would say narration 25%, bad story/characters/writing 75%.
The biggest problem is the story itself. Spoiler alert (somewhat). We always need to suspend disbelief, but we need some help from the author. What would be the best way to intercept stolen plutonium from smugglers (note: you're not even getting it back from the terrorists, just the smugglers who are going to deliver it to the terrorists)? I'll just give you two choices: Drop a clandestine seal team in to do it quietly, or send a billion dollar nuclear sub to sink a ship in "enemy" home waters?
Now, on to technical matters. Do we have a right to quibble about the accuracy of the technical information? I say "yes". This is, after all, a techno-thriller. It behooves the writer to get the technical information mostly right. I'm not saying that if the writer gets the color of a knob wrong in the cockpit of an F-15 that constitutes an epic fail, but how hard is it to get basic facts straight? Is it that hard to run your dogfight past at least some kind of a pilot? The aerodynamics just don't make sense to me ( I am a pilot). At one point, the Mig-29's climb to 7200 feet to get above the range of surface to air missiles (Gary Powers was shot down in 1960 at ten times that altitude). Others have pointed out that an air to air missile shouldn't change from a sidewinder to a stinger back to a sidewinder.
One of my biggest problems is the nuclear weapons aspect. Since it is the focal point of the novel, I think it deserves the most accuracy. Now, I hope the author isn't going to hide behind some kind of excuse like "Well, I don't want to tell terrorists how to make a nuclear weapon, so I intentionally described it so it wouldn't work." My first clue to the author's lack of knowledge and research in this area was the discussion about the amount of plutonium stolen. It was described as enough to make 4 or 5 thermonuclear weapons, or one hydrogen bomb. Unfortunately, a thermonuclear bomb and a hydrogen bomb are the same thing. He possibly could have said 4 or 5 atomic bombs, or 4 or 5 fission bombs. The discussion of the "technical marvel" of the hydrogen bomb assembled by the terrorists was totally laughable. Brown has the brilliant terrorist assemble five plutonium fission bombs in a circle. Each atomic bomb has a jar of lithium deuteride next to it outside the circle of bombs. Lithium deuteride is an appropriate fuel for a hydrogen bomb, but its use in this way is nonsensical for a couple of reasons. The biggest problem is that his design for the individual atomic bombs won't work at all. In the novel, each atomic bomb consists of two hemispheres of plutonium sitting next to each other, but not touching. He has simple dynamite placed next to the hemispheres, so that when the dynamite explodes, it will push the two halves of the plutonium sphere together, resulting in a critical mass, and achieving an fission explosion. But that is impossible. It is well known, and easily discovered that the Manhattan project knew that the gun design (using uranium) as used to bomb Hiroshima wouldn't work with plutonium. Plutonium reacts too fast to slam two subcritical parts together fast enough to produce an explosion. Even if done in the best way (Little Boy gun design), it wouldn't work. It would make a big fizzle (very nasty, but not an atomic blast). But Brown's design is laughably amateurish. My non-professional opinion is that even if he sets off the five devices simultaneously, it will achieve little more than a nasty release of radiation that might injure someone standing nearby. But the dynamite itself will present a greater danger. There will be some difficult cleanup, but that is all. The lithium deuteride won't make any difference at all. If a workable implosion device had been described, it is possible that a nearby quantity of lithium deuteride could boost the explosion, but I'm not sure if it would. Being blasted apart by the explosion works against achieving the goal of high pressure and temperature necessary to ignite the nuclear fuel. Ulam's great innovation was knowing that the x-rays which are released ahead of the pressure from a nuclear explosion could be used to create a plasma surrounding the fusion fuel, thus keeping it together and heating it at the same time. He even came up with the idea of a second "spark plug" of additional plutonium in the center of the fusion fuel which would ignite so that the fusion fuel would be subjected to pressure from both the inside and the outside, increasing yield. All this is well known to anyone with a library card and the inclination to check out books. I suggest the excellent books by Richard Rhodes.
I sincerely hope that Mr. Brown continues to refine his craft. Until he does, he will be limited to the niche of readers who are so desperate for a godly book that they will overlook significant deficiencies.
This is the first installment of a trilogy. As I write this in the summer of 2012, the first two parts have been published (The Name of the Wind, and The Wise Man's Fear). The third volume is scheduled to be published in May of 2013. This is an interminable time to have to wait for a story that has completely sucked the reader in, but that is the price we have to pay for near flawless fiction.
As I already wrote in my review of Wise Man's Fear, I am not normally a fan of fantasy. But this work is so much more. I can't praise highly enough the depth of characterization, both of persons and of settings. The narration is also first-rate. I am very difficult to satisfy, and have found a couple of small issues with the pronunciation (i.e., AY-lur changes to ah-LAHR), but overall an excellent job.
After listening to the second book, The Wise Man's Fear, I would say that to my ear, beginning and ending each book with "a silence of three parts" is a bit overdone, even pretentious. If done for a single volume, or at the beginning of the first installment, and the end of the third installment, then that would be just right. To begin and end each volume with it is, well, it just isn't "of the lethani".
Anyway, no kidding. Do yourself a favor and get this audiobook. It's so good I would almost give you a money-back guarantee myself. Almost.
I am not a fan of fantasy writing, and while some might classify this series as such, it is so much more.Some have compared it to Tolkien, with justification. After listening to The Name of the Wind, I had no hesitation about ordering the next book.
The world crafted by Rothfuss is fascinating. Magic plays a part, but does not drive the story or characters. The quality of the writing is excellent. Rothfuss knows just when to leave off of the lyrical description of a place or face, and introduce action which moves us forward. The books are fairly long for the amount of action which takes place, but there is enough interesting detail that one is never bored waiting for the next scene.
The book is thus far (Wise Man's Fear, 2/5 parts) an interesting mix of sexual innocence and mild profanity. There are a few "goddamn"s, and some stronger language like "whore" and "bastard", so you can't listen to it with children. On the other hand, suspending disbelief for Kvothe's sexual innocence is more difficult than for the magic involved. Kvothe was raised until age11 or so in a traveling troupe of players and musicians (think Gypsies), and then raised himself on the streets until attending the University until age 16 or so. Yet, at the age of 17, he is alone with all manner of attractive women who are obviously attracted to him, and he reports no inclination to take them to bed. He does sleep with the "love" of his life, Denna, but that's all. They really only sleep. Kvothe, as an adult, tells us that when he was 17, women from the court of the Maer tried to seduce him, but they failed, largely because the 17 year old Kvothe was too innocent at the time. Huh?
I read somewhere that Rothfuss spent 7 years on this. I don't know if that means just the first book, The Name of the Wind, or the whole extant series. Either way, the great care with which the tale is crafted shows that this was time well spent.
The Forge of God was a page-turner. It's hard to believe Anvil of Stars is by the same author. The first six hours of the book is agonizing. It is virtually all angst and neurosis of the main character, Martin. What do his lovers mean to him? How is his affair with the boy different from his affair with the girl? What does it mean to be a leader of young adults on a mission to avenge mankind? In terms of plot, very, very little happens in the first six hours. I could literally say it in a sentence, so I will: In the fifth year of their mission, the children think they have discovered the killers of mankind, and launch the attack. You might think I'm leaving out a ton of plot turns and twists, but I'm not. You could say I've left out a training exercise (boring) and apparitions seen by a few of the crew (even more boring). And of course the ship divides as planned, but that's it. I'm not going to bother with the last two installments. In fact, I've already read the Wiki summary. The narrator is good, and even though I found his "voice" for at least one of the characters irritating (an uptalker? you know, when everything they say rises in inflection like a question?), I would have to say his narration kept the otherwise moribund story on life-support. Sadly, when nothing of consequence had occurred by the end of the first six hours, my interest expired, and the plug had to be pulled.
People who buy this book are probably familiar with terms like "sidereal". The narrator is not, and pronounces this word SIDE-reel (about one hundred times). Later, in a discussion of Easter and its reckoning, he pronounces Paschal as PASH-uhl numerous times.
I am always irritated that the "talent" won't take the time to learn words that are obviously new to them. I know they don't get paid a lot for their work, but you would think that pride would compel them to learn the material, at least well enough to speak it correctly.
One must listen closely to the material due to its terse prose style and information density. This job is made more difficult by the narration.
As to content, I was somewhat satisfied. I expected more information on the ancient origin of seconds and weeks, but you get more of the usual about Julian and Gregorian calendars.
Typical Clancy page-turner. Only slightly below par compared to his best. Lou Diamond Phillips, however, did a fantastic job, much better than the average narrator. Phillips admirably mimicked the accents of Arabic speakers, Australians, Russians, etc.
I'm extremely picky about pronunciation, and in the entire book, I only detected two errors. On the Mk 23 pistol he pronounced the letters M-K as if they were initials, when it should be pronounced "Mark". And the Soviet era helicopter, Hind, was pronounced by Phillips to rhyme with wind, as in blowing in the wind. Still, fantastic job. I could only wish for all narrators to be as talented and hard-working as Phillips.
This is a good book. I'm not disappointed I bought it, and I recognize that I am a perfectionist when it comes to pronunciation. But of all things, you would think that the name of the central figure would be pronounced correctly. His name is General Bernard Adolph Schriever, mispronounced throughout as Shriver, rhyming with diver. As in Sergeant Shriver. Be prepared to hear it mispronounced at least 600 times.
This book won't sweep you along with breathless plot or great characterization, but it is worth it for the information contained. If the U.S. is ever nuked by Al Qaeda, you can bet that this book describes the origins of the attack. Those who have read Legacy of Ashes won't be surprised by the willingness of the CIA to cater to the political whims of the moment, and to present a skewed version of the facts, well, outright lie, to please the administration. The narrator, Bob Craig, has an easy-to-listen-to voice, but I was annoyed by the larger than normal number of mispronunciations. He really should know how to pronounce hyperbolic, dais, cadre, Reza Pahlavi, and at least half a dozen more in the first half of the book alone. I realize that not all persons are familiar enough with foreign languages to correctly pronounce names, but it's irritating for a professional narrator to mangle German names so badly.
This book satisfied my desire to know more about the Doolittle raid, and it was interesting to learn so much more about the aftermath than you normally encounter in books dealing with military actions. However, I gave the book only three stars because it is, indeed, distracting to hear "ensign" mispronounced literally dozens of times. Other mispronunciations reveal that the narrator has no familiarity with the subject matter, or military knowledge in general. Other examples of mispronunciations (in addition to those mentioned in the previous review) include, but are not limited to: Swigert (the Apollo astronaut), AFB (always read as letters, not "Air Force Base") and virtually every Japanese name, Fuchida Mitsuo being the worst.
The book was tedious in places, but I would recommend it for its coverage of facts you won't find anywhere else (at least not in one place).
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