If you've exhausted Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series and miss tales of the British navy in the 18th-19th centuries, then the Hornblower books seem to be a worthy way to get your fix. The main character is appealing and the naval arcana is well-told, but this book lacked the sly social commentary that lace the O'Brian books. Nevertheless, it's a series I shall continue with. Excellent audiobook narration, with a variety of upper and lower class British accents delineating the characters.
I love all of the books, and Christian Rodska's performances are uniformly superb, but this is the most exciting book. If you're not working through the series (and you really should), then listen to this one if you listen to no other.
This story of an army base on Oahu in the months preceding the Pearl Harbor attack is over-written but absorbing nevertheless, despite a so-so narration. The two-track plot follows the fortunes and love lives of a sergeant and a private. It effectively delineates the military and social attitudes and divisions of the time, including casual racism and antisemitism and an interesting dip into the homosexual demimonde in Honolulu. But It's a show-offy literary performance featuring NCO's debating dialectics, Shakespeare-quoting whores, and a zen master in the stockade. The author never used just one simile if he could think of five, and invented adverbs if actual ones weren't available. (This book would have driven Elmore Leonard mad.)
The narration is well-paced, considering the heft of the book, but the reader 's accents and vocal characterizations of the cast are off base at best and annoying at times.
I bought this in a special Audible sale/promotion of unabridged classics, and question whether it was really worth my time despite the special price.
I love all of the Hornblower books, and this one had an accomplished performance. However, as noted by reviewer Kathryn below, the last chapter is missing. After I saw Kathryn's comment, I confirmed it by checking the printed book in the library. I don't understand why Audible doesn't correct or explain this. It's still worth listening to, but find a printed copy and spend an extra 5 minutes to finish the story.
I got this audio solely because the narration is by the incomparable Jim Dale. Happily, the quality of the story lives up to the quality of the narrator. Cleverly plotted, magical, and moving. A must for fans of "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" and Harry Potter. My favorite book (in any format) since "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle."
The book itself deserves 5 stars along with the Pulitzer Prize that it won. I picked up a copy of the book and will be experiencing it again. The tangentially connected storylines set up themes that reverberate as the narrative unfolds. The different perspectives on the passage of time...the "goon" of the title...really live up to the Proust epigraph that begins the book. The vision of the near-future is particularly plausible and hilarious at the same time. The performance, though, was a little too deadpan for my tastes; there is so much droll and delicious writing that a more accomplished actor could have had a lot of fun with it, along with the listener. Hence, my one-star deduction for the audiobook experience.
This thrilling story will have you googling the author to try to find out how much of it is true and how much is fiction, as it shares many details of the author's biography. It's an engrossing picture of life in Bombay and on the sub-continent, from the bottom up. A few too many portentous pronouncements and embroidery-sample epigrams keep me from giving this the fifth star, but it wouldn't have gotten to four if it were not for the skill of the reader, who channels multiple accents with great facility, making each character vivid and unique. I'm going to look into his other narrations.
I had long been curious about this series, and when I heard Patrick Tull's voice in the listening sample, I had to give it a try. (His parts of the multi-reader MOONSTONE by Wilkie Collins are easily the best.) It's terrific historical fiction (exciting sea battles, interesting background asides on the Napoleonic wars and British politics) peppered with very droll, amusing remarks and social commentary that makes the narrative voice as much a character as Aubrey and Maturin. Tull is the perfect reader for this material, and now I find a new addiction as there are 20+ books in this series.
You would consider this an accomplished performance if you pretended you were listening to a live reading, hence overlooked occasional verbal fumbles, swallowing noises, paper shuffling, etc. One assumes they just set a microphone in front of the reader and let him go from start to finish; not the most professional of production values, especially when other versions with fully staged casts are available. Nevertheless, the reader does a good job evoking the Victorian literary voice and creating individual characters. But don't buy this version unless it has a significantly lowered sale price.
The reader's performance was a big turnoff for me. I just couldn't get into the book, even after starting over a couple of times. I finally gave up and never finished it. The book got decent reviews so I may read it some day, but I can't recommend this audiobook performance.
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