This is a real treat for the ears. Couple an early-60s era sci-fi adventure story with a full cast of voice talent and effects, and you have eight hours of pure entertainment that seem to fly by. Even in what some may consider a trivial effort for the likes of Heinlein, his genius as a storyteller is still there. No, there are no deep, soul-baring insights, nor incisive social or political commentary (well, maybe just a wee bit), but if you don't expect that going in, then you'll be able to just sit back, have fun and be a boy--er, perhaps to be more inclusive, I should say a juvenile--again.
Because I am certainly in two minds about this book. On the one hand, I loved the "realized history" of life in the 14th century. Crichton obviously did his homework on this one. His opinion (woven throughout the tale, and stated explicitly in the epilogue) that modern man's arrogant assumption of progressive superiority over preceding generations does not stand up to historical fact is right on.
On the other hand, the book--as a work of fiction--fell far short of my expectations. Many other reviewers noted the predictable, repetitive plot turns, immature character development, and a story premise that just lacked compelling interest. It really did read like a treatment for a screenplay; one with lots and lots of extra scenes that could be dropped or rearranged to fit the director's needs.
But to try to make this review constructive, I will take a stab at predicting whether you'll like the book: If you're a history buff who enjoys a well-researched historical novel, and who also likes a swashbuckling, "Perils of Pauline" adventure story, this book is for you. If you're looking for a more nuanced science fiction mind-bender in the style of Bradbury or Heinlein, you will be disappointed.
Ok, so color me "sensitive" if you like, but I found myself at least wishing for some sort of warning about the vulgar language and graphic depictions of base (usually sexual) behavior. I'm not saying you shouldn't listen to it for that reason--I could have turned it off any time, and did not--but rather just trying to warn similarly constituted listeners what they're in for. The book *is* very entertaining, and Mr. Bourdain is an engaging story teller. The theme did seem to wander about a bit, from expose to documentary to lecture to diary...back and forth. All in all, though, a witty and entertaining (if brutal) look into life of a professional chef. You'll never look at a restaurant meal in quite the same way again, and, as Mr. Bourdain advises, you'll definitely want to "be polite to your waiter."
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