I'd never heard of Tina Fey before listening to this audiobook, and I don't own a TV so I had no idea about any of the shows she is talking about. Even with these disadvantages this was still a very enjoyable few hours. She has a knack for anecdote and a superb grasp of the punchy aside.
I noticed that some other reviewers didn’t enjoy the author’s reading style so I felt compelled to write a quick review to say that I came to rather like it as the book progressed. I’m not from the US, and that may be why I often don’t connect with US narrators. To generalise rather broadly, I haven’t come across many who can convey a good range of accents and voices, and some narrators that rate highly with USans sound to me as though they’re auditioning for a super hyped up commercial. Cultural difference probably, and I could well change my mind as I consume more audiobooks. Professor Silverman’s reading style has the great virtues of being deliberate and clear, and I’m not at all sure it would have been better read by a professional. The book’s content is engaging and thought-provoking, and I enjoyed it tremendously.
I got through about a third of this audio book before I got terminally bored. The book has a very interesting premise but it is not well realised, and for my part I absolutely refuse to listen to a book that appears not to have a single female presence. I've enjoyed plenty of books with male protagonists where women don't play major roles, but Metro 2033 is ridiculous. Artyom is male, his friends are male, he travels through the Metro and meets more males. Maybe women feature later in the book, but I had already waded through hours with barely a mention and I lost faith that the author had ever actually met any. The only mention I can recall at this point was a dismissive comment between two males. Maybe some future reviewers who get through the whole book will correct my rather negative impression.
On the plus side, the book is beautifully narrated. Rupert Degas is one of the best narrators around and I almost kept listening to the book just to hear his voice/s.
I've nothing much to add about the plot or character, and if you like Lee Child in general then this one won't disappoint. But I think this is the first Lee Child book I've listened to when I realised just how talented a narrator Jeff Harding is. His voice is quite distinctive and in earlier narrations I didn't warm to it 100%, but now that I am more accustomed to it I am starting to appreciate his abilities. He does an excellent job of the various accents required by this book, to the extent of providing credible regionally distinct British English accents as well as the more common (in Child) American accents. Unlike rather many others, Harding doesn't sound like an American doing a fake British accent, and I wanted to hug him for it. The hardest requirement for a male narrator in this book is a husky voiced female, and even that one wasn't bad. So I'd say that Harding brought this from a 4 to a 5 star book for me.
There are many positive reviews of this title, so I will try to explain why I didn't much like it. I wasn't bothered by the plot which is pretty much a standard wallflower to belle of the ball transformation, condensed into a day. It isn't brilliantly done but if you like light romance then it's fine. A bit quirky. I was taken aback by some comments about nationalities/races other than the English, and I'm not sure if I imagined it, or misunderstood (Italians? Jews?). But my main problem was with the narration.
Most reviewers seem to love the narrator, whereas for me she pretty much ruined it. To my ears Frances McDormand delivered a very intermittent approximation of an English accent, sometimes almost right, but frequently dropping back into what sounded to me like a version of an American accent. It got so that I couldn't help listening for the vagaries of her accent instead of listening to the story. I didn't find that she differentiated the characters at all well, either by accent or register, so I doubt a listener would ever be able to tell which of them were speaking unless there was a "said ... " in the text. So fine actress though she is, McDomand pretty much killed this audio book for me.
The primary narrator is a kid (mid teens). Significant parts of the story come in via emails from her mother, and from parents from her school. So I suppose it's partly a family drama and partly teen fiction, and it's an epistolatory novel. There's drama, back stabbing, infedelity and other bad behaviour, but also redemption for everyone - it has a happy ending. If you can stand all of that, this one is the best I've read in a long time. Very nicely done.
The narrator is good and the book is well served by her ability to differentiate accents, ages and tones of voice. I can't help mentioning that her attempt at a kiwi accent made me wince, but then I'm a kiwi and I know the difference. Probably if you come from anywhere else in the world you won't be bothered and it's a very small part of the book anyway. I'm impressed enough by her abilities to have already looked up other books she's narrated.
I didn't get immersed in this book and felt irritated often, and yet I stuck with it and I have to admit it had many good moments. Scalzi is competent in his style, it's just not a style I warm to in general. I'd say his approach is to go for the humour and clever cultural reference rather build characters of any particular depth. I find his writing rather ho-hum but it may also be that I don't "get" all of the humour.
Scalzi's plot device is out in the open from the beginning, so there's not a lot of suspense in the narrative, merely a question of how he will resolve it. In general the Codas improved the novel considerably. I especially enjoyed the internet coda, the back and forth of the blogger and the commenters.
The moral (don't kill us off without a good reason) seemed, well. Trite.
Sometimes it's hard to tease out whether the features that detract from a book are the fault of the writer or the narrator, and this is no exception. I'm not convinced Wil Wheaton is an especially good reader as all the voices sounded the same to me - except for the K character when he was drunk. Wheaton did a great job of that scene. I suspect that Wheaton had some issues to deal with in terms of making parts of the book sound interesting. There were what seemed to be pages of "he said" "he said" "she said" dialogue towards the beginning of the book that must have been difficult to render well.
I did think several times that I wouldn't bother finishing this one, and there have been plenty of audiobooks that I've abandoned after a few chapters. However I never quite abandoned this one, so it's got to be worth at least 3 stars.
This was a quality experience, despite the fact that I wasn't thrilled with the end. There are plenty of real life scenarios where no one wins, but to be honest I avoid books that embrace that approach. If you don't mind an ending which is more wrenching than satisfying, then there is a lot in this book to enjoy, and it kept me interested all the way through, even when I could see the end coming.
The story involves two characters of very high intelligence, both of whom are accustomed to wrestling with highly intricate and complex academic issues. One attempts to establish an unsolvable mystery, the other attempts to solve it. Standard scientific approach, except that this is a murder. There were twists and turns and logical deductions aplenty, and just enough surprises along the way to keep me motivated.
I did note on the way through that the clever characters are male while the few female characters are victims and fairly weak, and this was disappointing. I'm not sure whether to put that down to cultural difference, historical difference, or blatant sexism. I seem to be finding a bit to criticise so I must emphasise that I enjoyed the book over all and I have felt confident to recommend it to friends, who have also said they enjoyed it.
This didn't live up to my expectations, which might say more about my expectations than the book itself. If you are okay with stories of male bonding via killing, drinking, and physical challenges then you might enjoy this more, but I didn't ever feel particularly engaged. They produced the event (walking to the North Pole) to raise money for injured soldiers which seems worthy, and yet somehow the book comes across more as a piece of slick promotion than an engagement with adventure and tough issues. The narrators are good.
One of my sisters recommended this book to me years ago but I had never found the time to read it. When I saw it on audio I decided to give it a go and despite my sister's recommendation I didn't expect it to be as gripping as it was. I stayed up listening to it for hours as I knew I would never be able to sleep while this group of men were stranded on an ice floe in the Weddell Sea, gradually starving and getting blown about by Antarctic gales etc. I kept thinking I would stop listening when they reached a bit of calm, but unfortunatey they seemed to get flung from one situation of extreme peril to another. Eventually it got so late I just had to turn the audio book off, even though the ice floe they were on was cracking around them and no channel through the pack ice seemed available. I had a terribly disturbed night's sleep and had to work all the next day worrying about what happened next, and the insane thing about this feeling of worry is that I already knew they survived because my sister had told me. There's no accounting for the human mind (or mine, anyway). Anyway, I was very relieved to get to the end of the book with everyone safe. I must say I don’t think I’ve ever reached the end of a book feeling quite so exhausted before. As well as exhilarated.
The book is well put together, using extracts from many of the diaries kept by the men. The narrator does a very fine job, even doing fairly credible accents for the New Zealand and Australian crew members, as well as the various regional UK accents. Overall a very fine read.
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