This is an excellent book about the Apollo programme. It alternates between extremely detailed descriptions of the Apollo 11 mission and background about the development of rocket flight and the politics behind the decision to go to the Moon. It ends with a very thoughtful chapter on the reasons why the Apollo programme was ultimately abandoned and why the USA disengaged from manned Lunar travel.
My only disappointment was that the author only described the Apollo 11 mission in detail; I would love to have seen him give the same level of attention to the other missions (but it would have made the book 6 times longer!)
The reader is excellent.
I first read Hyperion when I was a teenager (and when I'd never heard of John Keats), and I was wondering if it would still hold up (and whether it's more fun if you've read some Keats). The answer is yes!
At first I was doubtful. The first chapter is very awkward because the 5 voice artists are conversing with each other and there are irksome pauses between their lines that should have been edited out - it sounds very stilted.
But hang on in there, because the meat of "Hyperion" is the five lengthy tales told by individual narrators, and this is where the novel really takes hold. Each of the stories is wonderfully engrossing and moving, and each evokes the novel's many worlds and societies in thrilling detail. They are little masterpieces of storytelling and each could stand alone in their own right; but linked together, they illuminate and develop each other beautifully. As the novel comes to its close, you realize that it's a masterpiece of formal perfection. Despite ending on a cliffhanger it's entirely satisfying.
The only disappointment for me was the reader of the Brawne Lamia tale, whose voice lacks the emotional depth of the other readers, and who lumbers the pivotal character of Johnnie with a truly awful attempt at a British accent. The other readers are all wonderful though.
This is one of the great science fiction novels and well worth a listen.
I first read Eon as a teenager, and was quite obsessed with its extremely detailed and imaginative worlds. I was curious to see if I'd still like it today, and I was pleased to find that it was just as engaging and mind-expanding as I'd remembered.
The most thrilling parts of the novel are the opening scenes, as the characters explore the multi-chambered Stone, gradually learning its secrets, and then travel further down the infinite Corridor; there's a tremendous sense of an journey toward greater and greater discovery. The final chapter is a brilliant twist that ends the novel perfectly with a beautiful reworking of its themes.
Of course, the novel's Cold War politics and its depictions of astronaut-soldiers in the year 2000 now seem extremely dated, but fortunately this is a novel about alternate universes, so one can simply pretend that the story takes place in a different universe than ours...
The human side of things isn't quite as good; Bear's handling of the romantic subplots is rather stilted and sometimes the characters seem a little too unflappable in the face of universe-changing events. But these aren't major problems, and there is often some emotional intensity in the scenes in which characters are yearning for home, or discovering that everything they knew was wrong.
I was briefly taken aback by the narrator's ridiculously manly voice (it's like being read to by Barry White), but I got used to it rapidly and he's very good at distinguishing the characters.
Book 2 of the Baroque Cycle is a lot more fun than Book 1.
That doesn't mean it doesn't have the same flaws. There is still very little approaching a plot. The narrative is still merely an device that enables Stephenson to describe at great length the politics, economics and science of 17th century Europe. There are only the vaguest gestures toward narrative progression, there are numerous entirely extraneous incidents, and the novel stops rather than ends.
But as long as you can tolerate the above, this is an enjoyable work. Jack and Eliza are extremely entertaining protagonists - seeing the glories and horrors of baroque Europe through the eyes of a cheeky cockney vagabond and a hyper-intelligent courtesan is a lot more fun than the rather anonymous protagonist of Book 1. And unlike the previous novel, this one has an astonishing geographic and social range, spanning the muddy slums of London, the silver mines of Germany, the wars between the Turks and the Austrians, the banking cities of the Netherlands, the palaces of France, and the slave galleys of North Africa.
And while there is verbiage aplenty and the usual ridiculously detailed explanations and descriptions from Stephenson, some of them are absolutely wonderful - I particularly enjoyed his surreal, dreamlike description of the siege of Vienna and of Eliza's byzantine plotting with various crowned heads of Europe.
These novels are not for everyone but this one requires considerably less patience and its charms are more immediately evident to the reader interested in a turning point in world history.
Stephen Greenblatt is one of the few academics who writes beautiful prose. This book showcases the elegant, engaging style that makes his work appealing to non-experts as well. In this book, Greenblatt takes what should be an obscure subject - the reception of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura in the Rensaissance - and uses it as a springboard for explaining how the world was changed by the rediscovery of the Greek and Roman classics. While I knew in an abstract sense that this rediscovery defined the Renaissance, Greenblatt's focus on the personal experience of the scholars who hunted for forgotten texts brings the idea to life vividly, and he carefully structures the book so that we can understand how startling and compelling Lucretius's ideas must have seemed to a person of that age.
This is a tour de force and not to be missed. The reader is brilliant, with a great command of Italian pronunciation.
Banks is treading water with this entry in the Culture series, which is mildly amusing but lacks the brilliance and profundity of some of the others. It's formulaic, featuring all the usual Banks archetypes (eccentric Ships, goth heroine, cranky robots, slimy politicians, and of course a gratuitous castle just when you were starting to wonder if he'd forgotten to include one). There's an interesting theme buried somewhere about old age, memory, and what we leave behind us, but it's left unexplored amid the explosions and snarky dialogue, and the mystery that keeps the plot moving forward doesn't really add up to anything in the end. But hey, it's still a Culture novel, and it moves along at a fair old pace, and it has some fun ideas and enjoyable setpieces - just don't expect anything earth-shattering.
Peter Kenny is, as always, a god among audiobook readers.
An absolutely beautiful and riveting novel, superbly read.
Like some other listeners, I was initially doubtful for the first few chapters, feeling that I'd purchased a simple and sentimental homily about the need for religion. But while the book certainly is an allegory of the value of belief, it becomes anything but simple and sentimental - it develops into a serious, complex and often horrific examination of the difference between humans and animals. It's extremely thought-provoking and I was impressed by Martel's refusal to ever anthropomorphise the animals, which always behave convincingly like animals.
Not only that, it's a page-turner too; it is simply impossible to predict what will happen next, and I listened in delighted fascination. The twists and turns will not let you down.
I was impressed by the Indian accent of the apparently non-Indian reader; it's distinctive without veering into parody.
This is a fabulous novel, and extremely well read.
This is a great novel and Eileen Atkins gives a superb reading of it. She gets the accent and tone exactly right, and she is both moving in the serious sections and hilarious when dealing with the comedy aunts. She also reads at a brisk pace. This is a very polished and engaging audiobook.
This is an amazing story told with finesse. I really enjoyed the detailed descriptions of archival research and art restoration. You will learn a great deal about how paintings are painstakingly traced through historical records, and how their authenticity can be proven. No, it's nothing like the Da Vinci Code - this is real scholarship and far more interesting.
The reader is fine, although he has a sad, melancholic tone that drains the energy a little; a book with this much excitement and revelation needed more enthusiasm.
An amazing story, told extremely well. John Lee's narration is superb and Martin Dugard's storytelling is very skilful; it's hard to stop listening. Great work.
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