If you've read or listened to Dune you're acquainted with the story. It has all the elements of religion, politics, genetics, economics, and ecology with colonialism, cronyism, and military theory thrown in. The story is especially pertinent today as the Fremen are a direct offshoot of Islamic nomads turned extremist fanatics, and how, because of their solid and unquestioning belief system are able to take down the existing super-power. Don't get me wrong, Herbert doesn't portray the Fremen in a negative light, quite the contrary, as he shows what a people dedicated to a religious belief are capable of achieving.
Spice=oil, Herbert was clear on this in interviews before his death, and is crystal clear about how all elements of the known universe, CHOAM, Landsraad, the Guild, in fact everybody, are hopelessly dependent on the Spice, and how the empire built on Spice would crumble without it. Interestingly relevant.
My only complaint is the ensemble cast of narrators. While the different voices lend to character differentiation, there is no semblance of order or structure to them. The main narrator will be reading, then different voices will come in mid-chapter. I counted three different voices for Baron Harkonnen throughout the book. I would have preferred the single narrator, who does a great job. Fair warning; the non-narrator voice of Count Fenring is painfully awful to hear. Not the voice, but the stuttering syntax of his voice, though it is written that way.
For continuity's sake I wish they had either stayed with the single narrator or stayed devoted to an ensemble cast. Pick one style and stay with it, that is my only complaint about this recording.
The Shadow Rising includes arguably the best scene of The Wheel of Time. Rand and Mat entering Rhuidean leaves chills on your skin, along with the undescribed journey of Moiraine into the city in the Waste. Jordan weaves an imaginative and amazing string of events, of Rand's ancestors, that ensures his place as the Dragon Reborn. You almost have to read these two chapters in reverse, and note all the references of Forsaken, the Green Man, Ogier, Trees of Life, the later Seanchan, Aiel, and True Power...which leads to the actual series we read. The Shadow Rising adds the most historical perspective to the series, and starts the separation of the Shaido, which in turn leads to The Wells. You really need to read the series several times, and even take notes, but you won't be disappointed.
I'm adding my review as a pure review, and to encourage others. I've read the series four times and have just completed the first two audiobooks. Jordan has created a world that is similar to ours in many ways, in fact each 'major' nation is modeled after an actual nation, at some point in history. Jordan does borrow some ideas from other literary sources, but does a better job than other authors of actually explaining aspects of his world. The One Power, the Trollocs, Myyrdraal, Forsaken, and Aes Sedai; Jordan actually lets the reader in on how the Power works, as opposed to just saying, "These people are magicians. Deal with it."
To David in MA, who seemed a little bored with the series, I have one word of encouragement. Without going into specifics, Matt MUST be hated during the first two books, as you will find out in The Dragon Reborn. Things have happened to him, mostly self-induced, that you won't understand until Book 3, at which point he becomes one of the most interesting and likable characters in the series. If it helps, the first 3 books in the Wheel of Time are essentially foreshadowing the rest of the series. Every dream, side-remark, and ellipsis-ended comment really mean something. Having read the series as many times, I can tell you Jordan has woven so much into each book that I learn something new each time.
The Wheel of Time is long and not easy to read, but to date the most well thought-out and written series I've ever read. The Great Hunt has the best ending-sequence of any of the books, 1-10 so far. I hope this helps.
Palahniuk out-did himself with Haunted. His books have yet to leave me disappointed but Haunted leaves quite an impression. To call it scary or horrific is to understate, but the scares and horrors lie in the frank realism of the stories. The frailties and fears of humanity and society, and the lengths to which people go in search of happiness could be a one-line synopsis of Haunted, but it's much more than that. I found myself equally shocked and intrigued by each story, not by the gore or 'taboo' topics, but that everything Palahniuk covers in this book is the real-life stuff that doesn't make the nightly news, the stuff you don't talk about at parties. Certainly not a book for children or those with a weak stomach, but if you want something scary and beyond a Stephen King, Haunted will suit you. Definitely a 'driveway-moment' book.
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