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R

South Africa | Member Since 2010

3
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 2 reviews
  • 2 ratings
  • 179 titles in library
  • 14 purchased in 2014
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  • The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Edward Dolnick
    • Narrated By Alan Sklar
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1055)
    Performance
    (792)
    Story
    (805)

    The Clockwork Universe is the story of a band of men who lived in a world of dirt and disease but pictured a universe that ran like a perfect machine. A meld of history and science, this book is a group portrait of some of the greatest minds who ever lived as they wrestled with natures most sweeping mysteries. The answers they uncovered still hold the key to how we understand the world.

    Alison says: "The Royal Society comes alive."
    "Disappointing content; howlingly camp performance"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It is difficult to imagine a target readership for this book. If you are not academically inclined, the subject matter will not be interesting. If you are, then the material is too basic to hold your attention. Maybe it is for teenage children; maybe it is for people who learn their history from cable TV.

    The narrator over-acts and has a voice that is mismatched to the material: the performance sounds like a trailer for a movie about someone who has stolen money from the Mafia. Quotes from other writers are delivered in an ironic tone of voice, as though the words are somehow funny or quaint, even when the subject matter suggests otherwise.

    There is an additional problem for British readers: while some American accents are pleasant and transparent, this one isn't. It set my teeth on edge.

    Readers on both sides of the Atlantic should avoid this audio book; British readers should run away screaming.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Junior Officer's Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs)
    • By Patrick Hennessey
    • Narrated By Patrick Hennessey
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    Patrick Hennessey is a graduate in his 20s. He reads Graham Greene, listens to early-90s house on his iPod and watches Vietnam movies. He has also, as an officer in the Grenadier Guards, fought in some of the most violent combat the British army has seen in a generation. This is the story of how a modern soldier is made, from the testosterone-heavy breeding ground of Sandhurst to the nightmare of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    R says: "Contemporary war fighting explained"
    "Contemporary war fighting explained"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you have ever wondered what a contemporary soldier is like; what he does and why, this may provide some of the answers. It is detailed, personal, witty and highly listenable.

    While the book takes a brief tour of Hennessey's other military experience, it focuses on his time in the Afghan war. I ended the book knowing a lot more about how contemporary wars are fought, and having enjoyed some very good storytelling.

    The socio-political background is better explained in Patrick Bishop's 'Ground Truth,' but this first-hand account is unmissable.

    The author reads it, and his ironic, dark, dry wit may be clearer here than in the printed version (online reviews suggest that some hard-copy readers can't tell when he is kidding and when he isn't). This is an example of a work that is probably stronger as an audiobook than in printed form.

    The book shows how the weapons, navigation, logistics and communications technology of the ISAF (the Western coalition) make firefights very one-sided affairs. However, it also spells out how dangerous life can be on the ISAF side. The author claims that the casualty rate in UK frontline infantry is about one in three. Official ratios count personnel who are not in close contact with the enemy and are thus much lower.

    I should mention that, in common with some other reviewers, I also ended the book with a powerful dislike for the author. I don't think he intends this, and in an odd way, it is actually one of the book's delights. In that respect, it has something in common with Toby Young's 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.'

    You won't find much about the lives, characters, motivations, emotions and thoughts of the author's friends and colleagues. I got the impression that he sees the rest of the human race simply as scenery: a collection of good blokes, odd blokes, Afghans and girls; all of whom are adequately explained and described in a sentence each. Which is probably handy if your job involves shooting people, but I wouldn't want to listen to him in a pub. I would have expected a richer view than this from a man with a first-rate education and who has been around people in extremes of fear and danger.

    Whatever you make of the previous two paragraphs, I do recommend the book, and after listening to it, you probably will too.





    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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