I will first admit that I really like Bill Bryson and own all of his books - even "Palace Under the Alps". With that in mind, it won't be a surpise when I tell you "A Short History" is something pretty magical - it's helped to open my eyes to much in the world around me.
So why am I torn? Normally I detest Abridged books - I like books I can get deeply involved in and enjoy over a period of time. However, as with his other books, Bryson himself reads only the Abridged version of "A Short History" - and if you haven't heard him read his own material - well you really should. His droll, dry wit is best delivered by his own tounge.
So, my solution was to acquire both versions of "A Short History" and I've enjoyed both - but I leave the Bryson read Abridged version in my car and listen to it from time to time - I don't see myself doing the same with the Unabridged version.
First the little thing - the continuity editor should be spanked. For example, at one point, Jack Jr drives to Crowley in a Mercedes (the brand is mentioned twice), then after an action scene, the car has morphed into a BMW (mentioned twice) for the drive home.
Now the bigger issue. No disrespect to Lou Diamond Phillips here, but they completely blew the production of this book. The story line moves back and forth (principally) between
1. Present day Jack Jr in England, dealing with Russians and Brits,
2. 30 years ago, Jack Sr in England dealing with Russians and Brits.
As well as some present day military action and a little bit of President Jack Sr, dealing with Russians and Brits.
Because both protagonists are named 'Jack Ryan' and the majority of the action for each is cited in England and both are dealing with Russians and Brits, I found it EXTREMELY difficult to keep the narrative straight. I found myself moving back several chapters about a half dozen times trying to figure out where we were.
While I don't normally care for multiple readers, I think this might have been a case where Jr and Sr should have had noticeably different voices.
Given the confusing timeline and several silly but noticeable continuity errors, I was disappointed in this Ryan effort.
Roger Ebert might just have been the happiest man alive – I know that’s not true, but it may be close. He’s either the greatest liar or luckiest man who ever lived; I believe the later.
He shares with us his life – though he doesn’t pat himself on the back for doing some of it right or wallow in misery for the things he did wrong (particularly alcoholism) – he really does celebrate all of it in these pages. I sincerely thank him for that.
This is a book that clearly demonstrates that it’s the little things in a life that make it grand – he spends more time telling us about his inability to rid himself of a single one of the books he’s owned in his life than he does aggrandizing the life of the most celebrated movie critic ever.
He shares the love he had for the people in his life – the newspaper friends, his parents, and his beloved wife. He shares the joy he felt in revisiting the little places he had found and loved in cities around the world. He shares the wonder found in books, movies, and life in general.
This really is a book that makes me want to be a better person – and one that shows me the way to go about it. I can’t recommend it more enthusiastically. Listen to it twice.
I enjoy the John Clark / Jack Ryan series - but really had to drag myself through this one.
Clancy has always used the long rambling mental 'aside' as a tool to set the stage, but it felt like three quarters of this one was mental navel pondering.
All the main characters take part in this literary chore – Jack and Kathy Ryan make it a high art. The biggest problem though, all that stream of consciousness is just whiney crap. Kathy Ryan – the strong doctor – has about three snits (totaling about 15 minutes) because Jack has to go out of town for an assignment he can’t talk about. Then Jack bleats about having to actually sleep away from his wife - and how outrageous that is - for another 15 minutes. And that's just the mildest of subject the characters whine about.
Also, this installment is a Clancy soapbox for his right-wing propaganda/bleating about social issues. While he doesn’t have the opportunity to slam ‘tree huggers’ in this book – he spends pages smearing England’s medical system – something he sneers as ‘socialized medicine’.
My favorite exchange (paraphrased):
Jack: “Kathy is telling me about how horrible the British medical system is. (sneer) Socialized medicine. I get all my medical work done by Kathy’s colleagues at Hopkins.
Admiral Greer: Yeah – I’d hate (sneer) socialized medicine. Thank goodness I have access to Navy benefits at Bethesda.”
Apparently, Clancy doesn’t realize the irony here – Jack doesn’t have to avail himself of a more ‘public’ option in the US and Greer doesn’t realize that he is actually using socialized medicine in the form of military hospital services.
Pass on Red Rabbit.
...you can't give 0.
I don't even remotely understand where the subtitle comes in - there are no 'non-religious' views in this book; it's yet another blind-faith manifesto for christians, written by a christian, written to christians. I made it through 1.5 disks then shut it off, disgusted in myself for giving christian propaganda yet another try.
Yuck. An hour and a half of my life I can't get back.
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