On the face of it, it would seem impossible to combine cyberpunk science fiction, Japanese sword fighting, linguistic theory, computer programming and ancient Sumerian theology into a cohesive whole. Stevenson does it. I found myself cheering outloud at one point in this book. During the final few chapters, I actually looked forward to my commute, so I could get some closure on this story. I can't believe that this was his first novel!
Our five year-old is just at the point where he wants to start listening to longer stories and chapter books. This is far and away his favorite car and falling asleep book right now. The story itself is very odd - the narrative structure is very casual; it seems almost as if each chapter is being made up on the spur of the moment. The story is interesting enough to not drive us (the parents) crazy and bizarre enough to appeal to our Strange Child.
This is one of the few audiobooks I haven't been able to finish - the narrator was so annoying to me that I couldn't get past the second chapter. I listened to the preview, which sounded pretty good, but it was largely non-fiction. The narration falls down when it comes to dialog.
The story is well-written (obviously), though of course, the language is a pretty dated. The narration fits the tone of the book extremely well and I find the narrator's voice very soothing.
Granted, this is not a book that anyone is going to sit down and devour in a few sessions. It took me a full month of commuting to digest Part One. I am looking forward to (eventually) doing the same to Parts Two and Three.
As with Snowcrash, Stephenson's previous novel, there is an outstanding premise for this book. The plot and setting are intriguing. The only weakness is a slightly confused and unresolved ending. The absolute star of this audio presentation however, is the narration, which is nothing short of brilliant. Jennifer Wiltsie effortlessly switches back and forth from accent to accent, nailing each character flawlessly. She conveys emotion better than almost anyone I have heard to date. Please listen to this production for that, if for no other reason.
This book was so sad that it really challenged me to finish it. It was too well-written not to continue with, however. I ended up listening to it in ten minute snatches, so that it took me well over a month to listen to.
What sounds like whinyness on the part of the main character turns out to be something far different - guilt that is only fully understood in the last chapter or so. I could not possibly imagine myself reading this book, but having stumbled onto it, I feel changed for having read it.
Sad, but changed.
Listening to Steve Martin read his own work on this audiobook brings a depth to it that it might lack on the written page. Don't listen to this for it's tight, intricate plot or you will be disappointed. Instead, listen to it for the way it draws you into the main character's mind. There is a rhythm and logic to the way he reasons things out that is compelling. You grow to genuinely like this man and care what happens to him. I laughed aloud on at least three occasions while I was listening to this book - something I rarely do when I am alone.
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