Please forgive my less than stellar opinion of this book. I'm not going to write a synopsis of this book as you can read that elsewhere. Rather, I want to justify why I'm only giving this book 2 stars.
1) There is an astonishing lack of conflict in this story, and conflict is, after all, the essence of story. In Ender's Game, the character Ender never once -- NEVER -- fails at anything he does or encounters. There is not a single space battle (simulation) where Ender gets his butt handed to him. Similarly, there is not a single fight (real life, we want to kick your ass because we hate you, Ender) that Ender ever loses or, for that matter, where he even gets hurt.
How is it possible to tell a story and build to a satisfying conclusion, if the main character never fails to achieve his goal? Moreover, what sort of emotional investment is required for we as readers to put into this character if we know that he simply will not fail?
This is not "Story."
2) The narration of this book -- with the exception of the character Valentine -- is top notch. Perhaps some of the best narration I've experienced in an audiobook.
And some of the worst. Whoever it is that is narrating Valentine's POV, should be removed from the profession immediately. This sort of languorous, wistful-sigh tone that she adopts when speaking Valentine's dialog, is atrocious. Not terrible at first, but as the audiobook moves along, I began to hate the character simply because I couldn't stand the narrator.
I know this review goes against what most people feel about this book. And who the hell am I to speak negatively about a classic such as this. While the premise is interesting, it left me feeling so oddly dissatisfied.
Why root for Ender's success when it becomes obvious that he cannot -- will not -- fail?
Time and again I fall for hype. And this book is no exception to that rule. How this book became so popular is beyond my ability to comprehend. A basic murder mystery among a large cast of familial characters, so easy to figure out the resolution that it's laughable. I won't give it away, but if you didn't see it coming, you were probably in a somnambulist trance induced by listening to the book.
Moreover, if you have any thoughts whatsoever that this book is mainly about a girl with a dragon tattoo, set them aside. She is nothing but a supporting character to the main, Mikhail Blomkvist. And that is sad because she's got a lot of potential as an interesting character.
Finally, brace yourself for an inordinate amount of brand name-dropping. So much so that Larsson has managed to date this book with the use of brands that are no longer in existence. It's not surprising that the author had such a rough time of getting these novels published. Perhaps the last two in the series are better than the first, but I won't waste any more credits to find out.
All the above said, I do think this might make a pretty good movie. Why? Because movies have to "show" rather than "tell," and showing is just not Larsson's strong suite.
I adored this book. It was quite different from the mini-series of the '70s. The first quarter of the book is entirely devoted to Kunta's upbringing in the Gambian jungles of Africa. It makes the impact of what happened to him -- and his subsequent genealogical generations -- that much more heartbreaking.
This is a huge book, and as such, can drag a bit here and there. But Avery Brooks as narrator does a wonderful job of keeping the audience engaged. I would eagerly listen to any of his narrations. The end of the book, however, is a bit disappointing in that you get the feeling that Haley knew this work of art was getting entirely too long in the tooth. The last three generations are somewhat rushed and not as fully developed as though that came before.
That said, this book could probably have been another 500 pages long (however many listening hours that would translate into). So the fact that Haley rushed things somewhat in the end, wasn't wholly unwelcome.
Wonderful book, heartbreaking, and eye-opening. It displays in all glory that humanity is a double-edged sword. Everyone should read or listen to this book -- you won't regret it.
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