I need to start by saying that I've been a Rush fan since the late 70's. I love their music, and the Clockwork Angels album is one of their best ever. It's the reason I bought this book, but I'm reviewing it as a stand-alone work rather than as part of the larger production.
Clockwork Angels is a traditional coming-of-age story set in a fantasy universe that incorporates elements of steampunk and alchemy. As the authors note in the afterword, many influences were drawn from classical stories and pulled together to create an adventure that will seem very familiar to anybody who has completed an English Lit class or two. In short: boy is raised in humble beginnings but craves adventure, runs away to the big city, has life-affirming adventures and finds that he can never return to the pedestrian life where he started.
As a 40-something adult, I was ultimately left wanting more sophistication from this story. The characters generally lacked the depth I wanted and played to fairly well-established archetypes. Many of the plot turns went unresolved in favor of moving on to the next stage of the book, and I felt they could have been explored further to add a bit more weight to the world building. There were some pretty significant events portrayed in this story that would have had a huge influence on the way the world worked, but we never heard more about them. Too bad.
As a Rush fan, I noticed lots of references to song titles and lyrics throughout the book. I agree that people unfamiliar with their music probably won't notice anything's up, and it's kind of fun to discover the easter eggs. But some of the references felt a bit forced or contrived. It was obvious in several cases that the phrase used was not really the best choice, but was tweaked to include a hidden bit of lyric.
Neil Peart's narration was pretty good, and it was easy to be pulled in to the story - always a plus for an audiobook, and not a guaranteed experience. Definitely very solid.
Ultimately, I would recommend this book to a younger audience. I think 10-15 is probably about the best age for a book like this, and would have enjoyed it a lot more as my 12-year-old self. As an adult, I liked it but was ultimately left feeling like I had listened to an abridged version with much of the detail omitted.
Yes, definitely. The range of expression and the choice of voice actors for the various stories really brought the characters to life. The singsong phrasing of Zachry's story was particularly fun to listen to.
It's tough, but I think I liked Timothy Cavendish the best. His sense of humor and self importance worked well to give his story a welcome break from the seriousness of the stories on either side.
Each narrator was really well suited to the character for their respective stories. They brought a depth to the book that I might not have found just reading the text.
If anybody asks me why I listen to audiobooks rather than read the text versions, all I have to do is direct them to this one. This is a great combination of a wonderful book and absolutely first-class narration that makes the whole more than the sum of the parts. This is easily one of the best audiobooks out there, and I can't recommend it enough.
Contrary to his reputation, Stephen King's real strength isn't in his depiction of horror. It's his ability to write characters the reader can relate to and who have a depth of personality that makes you really care about them. The scary stuff isn't as scary if you don't care about the people it's happening to.
This strength is in full evidence in 11-22-63. This isn't the stereotypical King "people get into surreally horrible situation and the blood flows" story. Instead, we're brought along with a very normal guy who's put into a really difficult situation. One day, he's an English teacher just living his boring life and the next day he's stepping through a portal into the past with a mission to change history.
Here's where the story really shines. Our hero isn't a hero at all. He's amazed by the world of the late 50's/early 60's in the same way I would be. He makes a lot of decisions and does a lot of things that are just what anybody in the same situation would do. The first person narrative is really helpful here, since being in on Jake/George's thought process and feeling adds a level of believability that really immerses the reader in the story.
So it's a tale of wonder, a pile of what-if questions, and of course it's a love story too. A touching, joyful, tragic one. I won't spoil the story or tell how it turns out - it's key to everything and I wouldn't ruin it.
So the book itself is highly recommended. Even if you're not going to listen to the audiobook, it's worth the read in the format of your choosing.
But the narration is well worth separate mention. Craig Wasson so deeply becomes the main character of this book that it really does feel like you're sitting there listening to the story told by the character himself. I've sat through a lot of audiobooks, and rarely do I get pulled in this deeply. The regional accents are (to my West Coast-trained ear) spot-on, and the emotion he brought to his narration was just icing on the cake. I'll be downloading other books he's narrated just because of his job on this one.
So thanks to Misters King and Wasson for combining talents to make an exceptional audiobook. This is what the format strives to deliver, and it was a home run this time.
Listening to this book, it took me a while to figure out why I wasn't enjoying it. Finally it hit me: the book itself was like listening to stories about my parents and their friends, and the narration was done by one of the friends I didn't especially like.
The stories of the people were all mildly self-congratulatory and full of information that was personal and didn't advance the story in any meaningful way. We learned a lot about petty squabbles among a couple of fairly uninteresting people, and were told peripherally about how smart the rest were to solve the difficulties presented to them by the Red Planet. There was a lot of interesting technical info about how the colonization of Mars could be accomplished, and some good info about how difficult the terraforming process would be. But the scientific projections of technology in the future wasn't enough to make up for a tedious, too-long story.
I'm a serious non-fan of the narration, too. There's a sort of sneering quality to his voice that I found grating. He's won a lot of awards for his narrations, so this is clearly a personal taste and not an objective thing. But there was no use of accents or different affectations for the characters, and they all kind of blended together.
I had high hopes for the Mars series, and was looking forward to going through the trilogy. But there's just not enough there to warrant slogging through another 2 books like this. Maybe one day I'll sit down and read them in physical form rather than listen to the audiobooks, but for now this is the end of the line for Mars and me.
I've read most of Mr. Stephenson's work, and would consider myself a fan. I really liked the first 2/3 of the book, but felt like the final bit was kind of contrived. The book moved with real kinetic energy, but the set-up for the final scene and the way he tried to bring all of the characters back together just didn't work for me. I understood the reason for it, but while the first parts of the book felt like something that could really happen, I found myself having to increase my suspension of disbelief as it wound up.
It's still a very enjoyable read and I'd recommend it, but it ain't the Baroque Cycle.
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