For those unfamiliar with Bourdain's previous works and status as a Food TV network star, where have you been? (Just kidding.) Bourdain is a master chef who has branched out into writing and acting because he's got some talent, a cynical sense of humor, and a high energy style that would burn him out in the kitchen if he didn't do something else for awhile. Bourdain's works (including this one) take place in the restaurant world, and when discoursing in the kitchen scenes, they have an enormous depth and believability due to the author's familiarity with that environment and his willingness to tell it all like he sees it without pulling his punches (much). Outside the restaurant, Bourdain's characters lack any depth whatsoever, but hey, the author would tell you that's how it is in real life. This short work (which fits on one CD and thus is great for commuters) is another opportunity to live in the author's home territory for an hour and come out feeling like you've lost some of your innocence. From previous works, you may know that the author doesn't shy away from unhappy endings, but in the spirit of Christmas this story finishes well.
If you think reading letters selected from a person's correspondence with his parents, friends, and admirers would be interesting, this is the perfect book for you. For everybody else, they're just letters, and they're not addressed to you. Feynman was an interesting person, and this book allows you to get more insight into his character. But it's really a message that even interesting people have normal everyday lives. I enjoyed hearing some of Feynman's advice to people who think he has all the answers, and his efforts to emulate Groucho Marx were amusing ("I'd never consent to join a club that would have me as a member"). And experiencing some of the tradgedies in Feynman's life even in a secondhand fashion makes him seem more human. But at the end of the day, this is not a coherent story, which makes the book seem to drag on. Though the substance was mediocre, I thought the narration was fine.
Don't get me wrong - I enjoy fiction and fantasy books of all kinds, as long as there are some ground rules. I don't enjoy alternate realities that are entirely devoid of structure. While not *entirely* devoid of ground rules for the story, this book is nevertheless a wholehearted foray into chaos, and as a consequence, I had a difficult time suspending belief and enjoying it for the first couple of hours or so. I almost gave up on it. Yet, the narration is exceptional. The narrator's voice, particularly when reading dialog, is so full of good nature and english charm that the rest of the story becomes secondary. The narration is worth the price all by itself.
Perhaps the narration style was a bit dry, but in fact, that's how the book was written. I picked up this recording by accident, having confused it with the Bolo series by Keith Laumer. The concept is similar: war machines gone out of control and surviving through the ages to wreak havoc on later generations. It's an imaginative concept, leading to interesting stories by both authors. Getting back to this book, though, Saberhagen packages a bunch of short stories as historical research by an objective narrator. The characters' thoughts and actions are there, but are often minimalized. The short stories were probably written at different times and collected into this work. I say this because the style seems to change from time to time.
So, did I like it? Let me first say that THIS BOOK IS NOT THE BEGINNING of the series - it was published later and meant to capitalize on the success of the series. It provides some backstory and context for the other berserker stories. I liked it as a survey work, not as a story in and of itself. This book should be read AFTER one or more of the other Berserker books. I think the narrator did a decent job given the material, but ask yourself whether you would prefer to read a history book yourself, or have it read to you? Having said that, I did listen to the book all the way through again, and enjoyed it despite the fact it got rather slow-paced in places.
Not bad, but not great either. The narration is good, the context is very interesting. Ursula's worlds are always detailed and interesting. However, this is not the action-filled sort of story that I like best. Rather, it centers on the experiences and thoughts of a young priestess in the Tombs of Atuan. If you ask me, her life doesn't really get interesting until very near the end of the book, and then, of course, the book ends. This book feels like the starting point of a series. If a sequel comes along, I will probably try it out, as it promises more of an adventure.
I found this series of half-hour radio shows quite entertaining! We follow our semi-clever private-eye through a number of misadventures calculated to deliver lots of gags, one-liners, and puns. Many are funny, though most are just "smilers", and a few are (I think) overdone. There's enough of a plot too provide a sense of continuity throughout, but it's not particularly credible. But then again, who cares when you're laughing?
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