Seattle, WA, United States | Member Since 2007
Two of the most colorful characters in audio fiction are Dave Robicheaux and Cletus Purcel of James Lee Burke's Iberia Parrish. Contrast them with this novel's Billy Bob Holland and Doc Voss and the reader/listener of Bitterroot is left asking the question, "Why so flat?"
Holland and Voss might be good at slugging it out when pressed (or if the virtue of a female character has been besmirched), but their inept emotional responses to truly terrifying and painful traumas in the lives of loved ones makes them seem like a couple of dullards. Dave and Clete wear their emotions like tattoos on their biceps...that's what makes them compelling, particularly Clete whose "take no prisoners" response to threats on those he loves is raised to a unique art form.
Something else is missing from this story of Mafia Meets Western Motif; there is none of the painfully beautiful prose to describe the striking Montana landscape that listeners experience when they hear Burke's descriptions of Bayou Teche, Louisiana, or New Orleans (pre and post-Katrina). Montana may be a rugged and forested landscape in reality, but in Bitterroot it is a pancake-flat character. In Dave Robicheaux novels setting is character. In Bitterroot, Billy Bob, Doc, and the mountains from which the title derives are mere obstacles the reader must endure as he/she passes the hours waiting for the story to erode.
Jim Harrison sneaks into the headspace of middle-aged men whose greatest fears are diminishing libido, loss of purpose, and the death of adventure in their lives. He's is so good at this that readers/listeners of both genders become spectators in the secret rituals of the society of men.
The Great Leader: A faux Mystery messes with our heads. It asks us to make value judgements about his main character, a washed up detective whose last case nags at him like his fears of losing his libido. We don't know whether to cheer for our hero or curse him for his behaviors. But, what we do know is that our personal tolerance for edgy behavior and thinking is questioned by the actions of the protagonist.
You should listen to this book, if nothing else than to test your own values about ethics, sexuality, and justice. Don't be afraid to challenge your core beliefs with this excellent mystery.
There is a story thread you can follow along the twisting pathway that is this broody and bizarre post-apocolyptic novel. However, if you are the kind of listener that runs your audio book while driving, cooking, or engaging in mindless tasks, then avoid this purchase. There are entire segments of this story that the listener must replay to determine if we are engaged in present or past tense (always a bad sign in the first hour of listening). Other times, we wonder if the science fiction/fantasy metaphors are part of the novel's structure, or if we are listening to an author's prose whose stream of consciousness has run totally amok.
The premise of the book is sound...the Dollar ($) collapses. Then we get the big "and." For Slattery, the author, his big "and" is to address the crisis by inventing the dream team of anti-heroes to save the day (maybe). To make these misfits more plausible, the author endows them with characteristics better left for bar room braggadocio. And, herein, lies the failure of this novel. It's all so out there...so far fetched...that the book is just a jumble of loosely connected stories leading to...well, I won't say because that's a spoiler. But...whatever man! It certainly is not Heller's "The Dog Stars." His post-apocolyptic novel was brilliant, believable, and left us empathetic with it's characters.
As for the main characters in "Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America," I could care less about them. Feh!
Sometimes we listen to a futuristic novel and say to ourselves, "Yup, that could happen" or, "That is in the realm of possibility." We did not make our purchase expecting Fantasy, or Sci-Fi Comedic Opera; we purchased good old-fashined science fiction. Even if our story has a crime thriller theme, we still made our purchase based on the expectation of some solid, thought-provoking, science fiction brain-candy. Well, my experience with with Red Plant Blues was just the opposite. I found myself saying, "This is totally bogus. This is not Sci-Fi, it's a Jack Reacher on Mars novel." (Note: For those who have not listened to a Reacher novel...think Dick Tracy on steroids [sans the badge])
Everything about the novel, Red Planet Blues, is far too fantastical to even contemplate. Not that human-consciousness androids are out of the realm of future possibility, its merely that Robert J. Sawyer, the author, presents them as such ludicrous characters that they lose their viability as plausible entities.
The novel begins by asking us to empathize with a down and out private detective who is (for reasons unknown) exiled to Mars. The theme is thus: A Private-Eye, with nothing, gets a case that could make him rich if he pursues an unethical pathway (if he was ethical in the first place - we don't know that). However, the plot is so muddled with extraneous characters and unbelievable events that we, as listeners, lose sight of the big ethical questions. Hence, we are left with listening to a drama unfold about a guy that does pretty dangerous stuff on Mars without a believable motivation to risk dying in the near vacuum of its hostile planetary atmosphere. As the audience you will say to yourself..."That was pretty stupid, why did he do that?"
If you can suspend credibility for ten hours and listen to this book as a sequence of interesting, but wholly unbelievable incidents on a planet with a hostile environment, then by all means, go for it. Otherwise, let the data-bits of this novel rest on the Audible servers.
In memory of Mr. Ebert...two thumbs down!
Louise Penny is a trickster. In Still Life she sets up the reader/listener to view her characters as parochials by virtue of their rural isolation and narrowly focused priorities; that is, until their natures are unveiled in the search for a murderer.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, a Quebecois, is the character Penny relies upon to peel away the folksy veneers of the potential culprit(s) in order to reveal the dark (and light) secrets in the village of Three Pines. However, and it's a pretty big however, Gamache is such an unsympathetic character, so arrogant and self-righteous, that the listener begins to sympathize more with the possible murderer than the protagonist.
To soften Gamache's character, the author has him do quaint and good things like think about his wife regularly, mentor a young female officer, or sit in cozy cafes. I didn't bite! What I heard in this book was a story about a small community of people living a contemplative life of art, dinner parties, small shops, and good bakeries, but all the characters were caricatures channeled from too many dusty romance novels. And, the suspense and tension (if you are looking for that) is right out of a B-movie, gimmicky and silly.
I believe Still Life is a reasonably entertaining listen as a drama, but as a contemporary detective novel it's as sleepy the setting of Three Pines.
This first person apocalyptic narrative is sometimes hard for listeners/readers to stomach. I understand that. However, The Dog Stars overcomes all the pitfalls of broody end-of-days pessimism by engaging the listener in a myriad of believable and realistic scenarios that might occur should North America be devastated by a biological holocaust.
I found the main character compelling and believable due to his self-doubt, empathy, and a touch of true-to-life skills that make his survival and subsequent experiences plausible.
It is my contention that this book is worth of your credit, if for nothing else than the truly human uncertainties expressed by the protagonist. I usually found myself sympathetic with the main character, often asking the question, "Is that what I would have done?" The answer was more often than not, "Yes!"
This writer has much to offer all of us in terms of insight into our own fears and angst about a future uncertain. We all could learn much from his narrative.
I have listened to the first three books in this series. They are primarily centered around the love lives and political intrigues of Marines at every level of service. While it is true that Griffin is a good story teller, do not expect a lot of the type of human drama associated with operations or battles. The first three books are primarily concerned with the preparations for war in the Pacific Theater, with far too much emphasis on several characters (Marines) that spend most of their time five star hotels drinking expensive booze and cavorting with buxom girls. These are not stories about Marines hitting a beach or taking an enemy-held position, they're about Corps politics. I suggest another venue if you are looking for a deeper understanding of battle, courage and confronting a well-entrenched enemy. However, if you like a good "soap," these books will be enjoyable to you.
A predictable tale of 16th Century murder masquerading as Umberto Eco's, "The Name of the Rose." A wise monk with unorthodox views is drawn into a murder intrigue and uses his wits and unearned forensic skills to rescue a damsel in distress. The problem is that this monk seems to stumble upon all the murders and clues like a kid on an Easter Egg Hunt (look Mom, I found another one).
John Lee, can't even rescue this one so don't bother.
The Klamath Indian Tribe, like many other tribes across the North American continent, were bamboozled out of their treaty-granted lands through cynical and twisted policies designed to prey upon the frailties of impoverished peoples. This novel, "Buy the Chief a Cadillac," retells the story of the Indian Termination Act through the eyes of a fictional and righteous character, Pokey Pitsua, a Klamath ("half-breed") whose virtues are vast.
The novel is both entertaining and tragic at the same time. You will be torn between your guilt at finding humor in human tragedy and discovering that every tragic character is a mirror to your own personal demons. Rick Steber writes about us...now, not about a tragic land grab and rip-off fifty years ago.
Read this book...it entertains, and enlightens.
Janathan Evison encapsulates what nobody I have met has been able to describe - 21st Century Port Angeles, Washington. This book is for readers craving to make sense of the funeral pyre that is rural Washington's logging and fishing industries. Port Angeles is a dying town, but it still refuses to give up its last breath. That's because its descendants carry a legacy of hard working, hard drinking, and cold fishing in their blood. They live and bleed the stamina of their forbearers. The community survives because it was built to survive. It's a strange magic that draws you in.
West of Here is a journey into the lives of people that you will never meet because you don't live in Port Angeles (Port Bonita in the book). But, you should meet them and get to know them through Evison's characters. They have something to teach you about yourself. Every character in his book is just a little bit of you. If you don't like his characters it may be because they hit too close to home. Don't let that stop you...it takes guts to look into a mirror.
This book is a must read for anyone trying to make sense of the often strange yet compelling Western maritime legacy. It juxtaposes the sea with the wilderness, men against mountains, and lovers against themselves. I think this novel is gutsy and refreshing. Try it with a mind open to seeing the unfamiliar landscape of the Western mind.
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