I listened to the Mayor of Casterbridge and loved it. The novel was excellent, and the reader read the characters very well. This, on the other hand, has butchered Hardy's work. It is one of the most blandly and poorly recorded audio books I have ever listened to. I know because I am barely able to keep my attention on the recording. She reads as though she's watching the plotline through frosted glass and can only see vague shadows. She reads all the characters virtually the same. Plus the audio track is all over the place. Sometimes echoing, sometimes blurry. It is as if someone used a tape recorder in their living room to do this. I know this book is good! My remarks have nothing to do with the novel. I want to turn this back in and get the other unabridged version.
The Japan angle was very interesting. So was the drug rehabilitation angle. Anna becoming a cunning business tycoon and belittling Nicholas at every opportunity got a bit old. How many times does she have to tell him he is an idiot? So did the entire Marg Hamilton angle. It was ridiculous...At the beginning of the book I had complete buy-in to the characters of Anna, Nicholas and Marg. By the end I could have cared less what happened to them. I just wanted to be done with them.
The continuation of the Japan angle, other than that I found the story dragged a lot.
Humphrey Bower is literally a genius as a reader. He brought to the story some interest for me, without him I would have likely turned the audiobook off long before.
About 2/3 of the way thru the book I started hoping it would end. The whole Marg/Anna back and forth did not work for me. Neither did the entire Tasmania section. Neither did anything that happened after they came back from Japan. The word "Gobsmacked" could have been used a few less times, and I actually think he repeated sections of the book multiple times by accident. It simply did not flow like his other stories.
Between the endless monologues, convoluted and overly ornate dialogues, and meaningless and annoying asides, this story is terrible. The author has excellent vocabulary, but after reading the first two I was sick of it and only got the third out of my personal obligation to stick it through. This author is unable to move the story forward with anticipation, it is a slow and begrudging march.
Then there's the narrarator, whose voice modulation fluctuates between an annoyingly high preacher's whine and the sound of a mosquito. It is as though normal conversation is always at a strain. The voices of non-humanoid characters are equally jarring.
Let me stop here so I do not have to relive all of my annoyances again.
The only thing that keeps me going is the hope that something will eventually happen between Eragon and Aria.
This is one of my all-time favorite Audible downloads. Not only is the book's content amazingly well done, even though the wrap up is not as good as the first 95% of the book, it is a REMARKABLE audio book. Can I just say right now that Humphrey Bower is pretty much as good as they come. In the most respectful sense he is Laurence Olivier and Rich Little rolled into one. His combination of interpretation and mastery with voices and accents is without equal.
I expected more from this series and am now on a quest of my own: to finish it, no matter how hard. There are scenes that I have enjoyed in these books, and for an author's first attempts into writing, these are very good. I would even say thhat they are excellent...for that level of author. Unfortunately, they are not good on the level of other authors, and the borrowed LOTR names and insights are disturbing to a die-hard LOTR fan. Here are but a FEW striking similarities. I have read that he had other inspirations but the similarities remain very annoying to me as I navigate the books.
1. Eragon / Aragorn
2. Beor Mountains / Beor from the Hobbit
3. The Grey Folk / The Grey Elves
4. The Dwarves and their origins are almost taken exactly from the Silmarillion.
5. The use of song to create things is also exactly how Middle Earth was created in the Silmarillion.
6. Eragon's poem that uses the words "the land of shadow" multiple times is strikingly similar to Tolkien's "In the Land of Mordor, where the shadows lie"
7. Ellesmera = Lothlorien
Much of the other parts of the book seem original enough, but these are just a few of the DIRECT similarities with LOTR that I have to really swallow or I would toss the book altogether.
Other criticisms are the overly descriptive discussions of inconsequential things...meals etc. that do not fit with other parts of the story. Tolkien was descriptive of absolutely everything, while here some things are described in detail while others are not, and there is no rhyme or reason as to why one is explained and another glossed over.
The reader gives Eragon a very high pitched voice, which seems to make Eragon mad every time he opens his mouth. It is less so in this book, but the first book was terrible for the constant "high-pitched soft-yell" that was Eragon's voice.
Having said all this, I am still listening to the audiobook and like it enough to finish it...but I am not quite sure why.
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