Perhaps the finest reading of a great novel, yet. Simon Slater's narration adds a new dimension to a rich source text. He does voices, he has a measured cadence, but his reading is neither extravagent nor unctuous. His narration is an aid to bring to further life the characters as Mantel depicts them. Read the book and listen to the audiobook.
From a clever premise -- aliens hire Hollywood agent to introduce them to humanity – John Scalzi crafts a workaday book where dialogue alternatively drives exposition or mimics the rat-a-tat snap of a bad sitcom. Moreover, the premise itself gets lost for large chunks of the book only to resurface toward the very end in an unconvincing manner. In the meantime, we get a version of Hollywood in which agents have hearts of gold, journalists have all the time in the world to shadow people, actresses are bimbos, etc. Scalzi also makes much hay with a sophomoric joke that the aliens communicate through unpleasant smells. Funny, maybe, the first time I heard it, less so the twentieth. Wil Wheaton’s reading is decent but the whiny edge that plagued his acting career is present here, too. I very much wanted to enjoy this book, but by its end, I was thankful it was over.
Dick Hill, the narrator, delivers the book in a Saturday afternoon B-picture matinee voice that quickly becomes insufferable. His attempt to sound like an "authentic" wise guy or tough guy or hardboiled detective, etc, dissolves into unintentional parody. Hill is perfectly capable (as audio samples show) of producing a genuinely masculine reading that doesn't depend on shtick; what a disappointment he didn't do so in this case.
The text is a great light history of American commerce and attitudes -- but the reading drains the fun out of it. Robert Fass has a robotic delivery that sounds more like a Kindle than a human being. He's relentless -- he just does not let up his drone, which makes listening to this book a chore.
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