An unhurried, even languid, yet cogent and challenging exploration of age, youth, love, loss, cowardice, and social mores in the first half of the 20th century. A melodrama, a tragedy in the vein of Greek tragedy, Shakespearean tragedy and Dickensian tragedy. Not at all a Sci-Fi work. Presented in a complex modern style (which, of itself, is not necessarily groundbreaking), Atwood's perspicacious prose conveys truth less as through a true-color photograph than as through a "tinted" (colorized) black and white snapshot---the focus of the snapshot suffused with color, at times even florid or false color, while the background just enough tinted to convey context. Margot Dionne's crisp, clean narration is spectacular as the voice of Iris, one spent by life, love, and regret, as she completes this one last task: setting down the truth.
Good novel (4), Excellent narration (5), good audio quality (4) => overall good (4)
Using his personal experiences in the Vietnam war as both foil and canvas, Tim O'Brien reflects on truth, reality and memory. A series of essays, or stories, connected but disjoint, and at once both literal and allegorical, are used to try to paint for the reader the unreality of the everyday reality facing a foot soldier in Vietnam. The work is not a history, of either the conflict itself, or, at least in any traditional sense, of the experiences of the men who fought. Rather it is an impressionist painting of "the way it was". Generally quite successful (though certainly not the life-changing, revolutionary classic that some claim it to be), and well voiced by Tom Stechschulte, this is a good read both as a counterpoint to more standard histories of the Vietnam War (e.g., the excellent Vietnam: A History, by Stanley Karnow), and as a taste of the modern soldiers experience in today's asymmetrical wars.
Good book (4), good narration (4), good audio quality (4) => overall good (4)
History is a continuum. Major events, while they may appear isolated, sudden and even inexplicable in retrospect, are always only continuous products of their time and place. This is a primary theme of Stanley Karnow's penetrating history of the Vietnam War. In this comprehensive political history, Karnow gathers the threads of the conflict beginning before the West's first contact with Vietnam in the early 16th century, meticulously laying out the complex weave that was the Vietnam War. This is not so much a record of the battles and lives of the soldiers and armies in the field, but rather a complete presentation of how and why the conflict evolved. The book is a must for anyone seeking a better understanding of America's present role in southeast Asia, anyone who wonders, "Is Iraq another Vietnam?", and anyone who simply ponders America's modern role as sole world superpower. Edward Holland's narration is clear, and well-paced, resulting in an easy to follow, instructive and enjoyable listen.
Excellent book (5), Excellent narration (5), good audio quality (4) => overall Excellent (5)
Bad novel (1), bad narration (1), good audio quality (4) => overall bad (1).
Quick opening note: This collection of short stories has NOTHING to do with recent movie of the same title starring Will Smith.
Review: Successful science fiction or fantasy stories use alternate pasts, presents, and/or futures to treat complex and meaningful themes, relying on an essential core believability to connect to the reader. The wrenchingly dated and completely incongruous "future" presented by Asimov (see *Example) in this collection of short stories renders utterly impossible any such connection. This, combined with the trite "Is technology dangerous?"-themes (repeated without variation for all of the stories), the pedantic and unimaginative storylines (see *Note), and the narrator's poor interpretation and unbalanced performance creates a burdensome and joyless listening experience. Asimov may have helped create the sci-fi genre, but this collection is only of interest as a historical fossil--a situation only exacerbated by poor narration.
*Example: While fixing a thinking, talking robot, a human character on an asteroid mining station doubts whether any computing machines (computers) are present on the station. Note, of course, the implication that Asimov's robots aren't computers, but rather completely electro-*mechanical* devices (think really fancy mechanical clocks).
*Note: The entire "action" of the set of stories lies in repeated exercises in strained "logic" puzzles based on Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics".
Excellent novel (5), good narration (4), acceptable audio quality (3), overall good (4). A deftly constructed spy novel which draws it's engaging action not from gadgetry and gun battles but from a well-balanced and well-paced exploration of back-story and present intrigue. If you want James Bond style action, look elsewhere. If you want a rich, seemlessly crafted world of cross and double-cross, look no further. Narration is good, but, even at audio format 4, comes across very muffled as a result of either the recording or compression process. Overall, four stars..., and I'm very much looking forward to the next George Smiley novel from Le Carre, "Smiley's People"!
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