I don't need to write much about the novel itself, the other reviewers have all done it justice. It is brilliantly written and wonderfully interwoven, full of fascinating characters and information, given authenticity by the fact that the author knows the places he is writing about and has taken the trouble to really do his homework on the history and technical information involved.
The problem is that the narrator is simply an amateur who is not even remotely up to the task of presenting this brilliant work. It sounds as though someone had been picked off the street in London at random and then recorded the book without any direction or correction. The reader only really has one voice -- uptight and strained -- and each attempt at a character's voice is worse than the last. A male character introduced as having a "stentorian baritone" speaks in a tortured and hoarse falsetto, all women sound like demented spinsters of at least seventy who are also suffering from croup, and the less said about the narrator's pitifully painful attempts at foreign accents the better. After the second chapter I found myself beginning to flinch whenever a new character was introduced, because I knew that in a moment I would be subjected to new depths of abominable dialect and miserable characterisation, and I was never disappointed.
If it were possible I would give the book eight stars and the narration zero or less than zero. Since this isn't possible I've decided to award the maximum possible rating because the book itself deserves it. Even so, I feel cheated because the abysmally bad narration almost completely ruined the experience of this wonderful book -- it is a tribute to the book's brilliance and power that I actually managed to listen through to the end. I am certainly going to make a note of this narrator's name and will never ever buy a book narrated by him again.
This is one of those books that gets off to an excellent start and then just dies on you. In this case it seems to be because the author changed his mind about what kind of book he was going to write around half way through. In the first half it looked as though after his accident, King really wanted to write a thoughtful, personal book about the process of recovery and reevaluating your life, and he does this really well. If he had gone on with this it could have been a really good book.
Even in the first half of the book lots of the characters need a little more work -- for example, it got to the point that every time Wireman said "Hey muchacho" I wanted to kick someone. A good editor would smack his author for that, I guess if you're Steven King your editor doesn't dare any more. In real life people who do that are tools; normally they only appear in TV advertising. What makes this really annoying is knowing that King can do this a lot better if he wants to. After all, he wrote one of the best books around on good writing, but here he breaks all the rules.
Then things go downhill very badly. King suddenly remembers, "Hey, I write horror stories," and decides to switch genres. Unfortunately, the horror story is awful. It has a kind of Fifties B-movie quality, and is about as scary as the 585th episode of Scooby Doo. Strangely, all the psychologically insightful observation apparent in the first half disappears, replaced by a kind of macho-like macho hero revenge story. I suffered through it dutifully to the end but it just didn't get any better.
I have loved John Irving's books in the past, especially Garp and the Cider House Rules, but like Widow for a Year this one was a big disappointment. I tried very hard to like it and it has its good points -- the writing is beyond reproach, as always -- but the bottom line is that it is horribly dull. It seems that like many very successful writers, Irving has fallen into the trap of believing that everything that comes from his pen must be outstanding because it comes from his pen. Unfortunately, it just ain't so. Owen Meany is padded with so much dull, plodding exposition that contributes nothing to the story line or the characters and does nothing to keep your attention that ultimately, reading this book is a chore.
There are a lot of TV documentaries nowadays that take a tiny snippet of real information that could easily be covered in five minutes and stretch it out for an hour or more. Connie Willis' writing is like that, but in the reading it stretches to 26 hours.
Sadly, she's actually quite a good writer, with reasonably good ideas, she just has no sense whatsoever of when suspense has reached a point where it needs to be resolved. Instead, she tortures her readers for hours by holding out a carrot of some revelation that never comes, forcing them to slog their way through the molasses of page after page after page of filler material without any real content, that contributes nothing at all to the progress or understanding of the story.
I have always considered abridging to be a crime against literature, but in this case it is a crime that this book was not abridged. At least two thirds of it is wholly extraneous and could be slashed without any loss at all. Many passages could be cut from ten pages to two paragraphs and the result would be much, much better.
The fact that this book was published in this form is probably more the fault of the editors than the author. Many writers produce first drafts as bad as this, it's the job of the editor to tell them as gently as possible that it has the makings of a very good book -- and it does -- but that to be more readable there needs to be less of it.
Or as Mark Twain said, the art of good writing is knowing what to leave in the pen.
This is one of the best and most comprehensible books on this subject I have ever read -- almost all of it was absolutely fascinating. The only place it falls down is when the Kaku starts to speculate, or rather fantasize, about the future, then it just gets silly. Those chapters could have been left out and the book would have been much better. He does also suffer from the "Now we know everything" illusion that has been putting blinders on thinkers since the dawn of human history.
This audio book is sub-standard in every way: It's badly written with a cookie-cutter plot and stereotypes instead of characters and the narration is awful. I struggled through a couple of hours and then gave up, if I had the choice I'd rather watch paint dry.
Like many others I bought this after hearing Jerry Pournelle on TWiT and Leo Laporte's constant gushy praise of it. Jerry and Leo are both nice guys, but this book never goes beyond mediocre at best. The story is slow and predictable, the characters are wooden and two-dimensional and the writing is just awful. The politics never get beyond primitive jingoistic militarism. I'm going to finish it, but I really wish I hadn't bothered.
The first book in the series was a solid thriller and quite entertaining, particularly as the story was quite unusual. This one feels unfinished, and it's really a chore to read it. Everything sounds long-winded and forced, and the author's high-horse moralistic pontificating starts off by being annoying and gets more and more obtrusive as the story goes on. This is made absurd and a little disturbing by the salivating glee and intensity with which he portrays the "evil perverts" that he claims to be combating. Strangely, these characters have much more humanity and force than all his good characters combined. I constantly got the feeling that these were the people that the author was really secretly identified with, as though the book was really an inner battle attempting to atone for his own dark side. Combined with the boring story I found this a major turn-off, given the subject material, and eventually gave up.
I read this after being tormented by the mediocre pulp of "Game of Thrones" and "Red Mars". What a relief to return to a real writer and storyteller, and one who can narrate his own work brilliantly as well. An enchanting story, believable and captivating characters, real imagination of an offbeat world so masterfully painted that you don't hesitate to suspend disbelief to enjoy it. The only downside is the fact that most of Gaiman's books are blacklisted by Audible's narrow-minded publishers, available only to listeners in the USA.
Another man with a word processor who just can't stop typing. Someone once said that if you make a movie over three hours long you'd better be David Lean. In the same vein, if you write a book of this kind that's this long, you'd better be J.R.R. Tolkien, or at least Martha Mitchell. Unfortunately, Martin is neither, despite the cutesy "R.R." in his moniker. if you can't tell the difference between World of Warcraft and Tolkien you might actually enjoy this book. Otherwise, don't waste your time.
Some books are long for a reason. This isn't one of them. You could remove two thirds of the words from Red Mars without losing anything. The background of hard science is excellent and fascinating but Robinson can't write his way out of a paper bag. He can't create characters, can't do dialog, can't plot and writes love scenes like a 14-year-old. If it could be completely reworked by someone who can write this could be an excellent book.
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