If you are already a fan of the Disc World books don’t waste time reading the reviews just buy this book and start enjoying. If don’t you don’t know the series, this is a very good book and stands pretty well alone, but I might recommend you start with ‘Guards Guards’ then listen to the ‘Fifth Elephant’ and what I believe is Pratchett’s best book so far ‘Thud’ before moving on to ‘Snuff’. This story picks up just about four years after ‘Thud’ when the splendid Vimes is forced to take a vacation in the country. Vimes being Vimes he unearths all kinds of evil plots, but I won’t spoil your enjoyment by going into them here.
The pace of the story is leisurely and packed with marvelous detail and observation, the parallel with the Blandings novels of Wodehouse is well deserved. There are a couple of oddities which fans might scratch their heads at. For example in ‘Unseen Academicals’ we are first introduced to the Goblins and in that book they were a scarce almost extinct people, in this they are as common as roaches. In ‘Thud’ the Summoning Dark possess and then leaves Vimes, in this book it’s back in Vimes giving him special powers and giving evidence with a Welsh accent. Having said that the hard core fans will more likely be amused and intrigued by the games Pratchett plays rather than annoyed. He revives and extends characters he merely sketched in other books, bringing together a cast which spans maybe six or seven of the Disc books. All in all it’s splendid entertaining, satisfying writing, beautifully read and I am enormously pleased to see that the health problems Pratchett is suffering are not impacting his genius.
This is a strong, interesting, well written and superbly performed historic pot boiler which may on occasion play a little fast and loose with the facts but makes up for that with a compelling narrative drive. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very good book. It’s a long and at times harrowing read which deals with the rise of Fascism and World War Two through to the start of the Cold War. What is a little irksome is the structure which relies on coincidences which draw the main actors to just the right place at the right time. It’s a device he used to great effect in Fall Of Giants but it’s wearing a tiny bit thin in this second episode. In his much under rated movie Zelig Woody Allen has his character show up in pretty much every major news event of the 20th century to great comic effect. The frequency with which his protagonists pop up at just the right place and time to witness firsthand the salient event of WWII does stretch credibility just a little here and there. Having said that, it’s still a terrific read.
I was a little troubled by a couple of historic inaccuracies which I noticed….for example one plot line features the Nazi T4 euthanasia program which actually happened in a Berlin suburb but Follett sets in a remote small town well outside Berlin. Follett dwells in gruesome detail on the mass rape carried out by the invading Red Army but almost completely ignores the entire Holocaust. Working through the events covered in this book it’s almost inevitable that the political bias of the author will show through from place to place. It’s pretty clear that he has a soft spot for the working class heroes of the British Labor movement with a healthy contempt for aristocracy of any kind. These books are also fairly racy, certainly not for the under 16 set. If you enjoyed Fall of Giants you will likely love this book. If you haven’t read FOG yet, start there and you will likely follow straight on to this second book with your eye on the release date of the third in the series.
We are all familiar with Scientology in general terms as a weird, sinister quasi religion/cult. However the depressing and shocking detail offered by this book brings home the reality of the horror to a new level. What makes the story even stranger is that the author is the niece of the current leader of the "church" and a distant relative of the Sci Fi scam artist L Ron Hubbard who created this fake “religion.”
Her story starts at a very young age with her account of life in the concentration camp like setting of a Church communal compound in California. I have read stories of the lives or orphans raised by Priests in Ireland and if you thought that kind of abuse was a thing of the past this story will set you straight. The author becomes a member of the Sea Org the quasi priesthood of the organization. Even though she is effectively a member of the Scientology elite inner sanctum the persecution, abuse and maltreatment continues well into her adult years....indeed until she flees the "Church."
Her accounts are quite as disturbing as anything you may have read about the excesses of communism, fascism or Cambodia under Pol Pot. The methods of though control and exploitation are straight out of the 1984 playbook. The fact that this kind of abuse and insanity is alive and well and happening right now in a town about an hour from where I live is doubly horrifying.
The author is obviously inexperienced and stylistically it’s a little clumsy somewhat in the vein of Anne Frank’s diary, but that doesn't get in the way of the reality she describes. This is disturbing, sad and compelling reading about a corrupt, abusive organization which currently enjoys tax exemption as a religion from the IRS.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I worked on the same block as the London Headquarters of the Church of Scientology. Pretty much every day, often both too and from the subway station I was approached by cute young things seeking to inveigle me into taking a 'personality test' the first step into the religion. At the time I found this annoying but not actually sinister. Subsequently a couple of friends of mine did get involved peripherally with the organization and they told be horrifying, fascinating tales of how they were ruthlessly pursued for years after only a glancing encounter with the “Church.” Ever since then I have had something of a fascination with this mysterious and dangerous cult.
This book gives a surprisingly even handed account of the life and times of the churches founder L Ron Hubbard, taking us from the it's foundation in the early fifties all the way to the couch-leaping massage-seeking antics of the Churches modern glitterati Tom Cruise and John Travolta. The story is a heady mixture or creepy cult and celebrity machine. It reveals a religion founded on fake science, fake psychology, the manipulation of the young and naive and that most addictive of all drugs… fame. The “Church” as painted in this well written and engaging book has overtones of Hitler’s Germany combined with Apple under Steve Jobs.
It’s well sourced and thoroughly littered with footnotes from the “Church” which fiercely deny each and every well researched accusation and story. There are tales of hubris, violence, abuse which beggar belief. It exposed the weird practices and frankly ludicrous secrets of the organization, prompting the reader to ask over and again…”how could they get away with that?” Perhaps the strangest story is the account of how the Church took on the IRS and beat them at their own game.
If you have ever pondered the weirdness which is Scientology this book will fill you in on the history and hagiography of what has to be the strangest and most successful invented religion since Mormonism. It’s a compelling, strange ride which will leave you shaking your head and maybe reaching for your rosary.
As a high schooler in the UK we covered the French Revolution in some depth, round about the same time I had roles in various productions centered around those events so I used to think that even all these years later I had a reasonably good handle on that period. As it turns out I really didn’t. The revolution took place over a longer period than I remember and was both more strange and bloody than I ever imagined. This story retells the stunning events of those times through the eyes of Madame Tussaud. Our heroine gives modeling lessons to some of the royal family whist entertaining many of the instigators of the revolution in the rooms above their exhibit. It’s a terrifically successful device, allowing the reader access to both sides of the events through the same perspective. The wax works as the CNN of their day, with the displays changing almost day by day to mirror the rapidly changing events.
The author maintains historic accuracy whilst weaving a dramatic narrative through the protagonists; it feels authentic without being dry or dull. If I have any criticism; the story does wander a little into romantic fiction in a few spots, they are slight transgressions and she rapidly snaps back. If you have ever wondered about that turbulent time or wandered through the modern wax works inspired by the genius of Tussaud you will find this tale gripping. It’s also fascinating for the history enthusiast as it brings great detail and color to the events. For example; in modern terms the French Royal family and their many thousands of hangers on cost the French economy 166Bn a year….which is a lot when many of your populace are starving in the streets. It was also fascinating to see how the extremists of the time foreshadowed the excesses in thought and deed we have seen many times since, the same kind of madness which gripped Fascist Germany, Stains Russia and Pol Pots Cambodia.
I love Terry Pratchett, I have read everything by him I could find….I would read his grocery list or the label in the back of his underwear. So when I discovered that this wasn’t a Disc World novel was momentarily disappointed….but that didn’t last. This is a terrific read, it’s closer to straight science fiction than the Disc World books…it feels a little like Strata (one of my favorite Pratchett books which is only tangentially Disc World based). Once it gets going (which it does pretty quickly it’s a brilliant ‘what if’ book which imagines a world where almost anyone can step between alternate universes each of which contains a variant on the earth we currently inhabit.
I found the plot a little untidy in places. It develops then somewhat abandons multiple sub themes all of which I enjoyed and most of which would have deserved their own book. Nevertheless I found myself enjoying the book and its impeccable reading like you might enjoy a fine wine or a sunset.
The story weaves quantum physics and universal branching theory with Cyberpunk, The Lost Gate by Scott Card and even a smattering of Little House on the Prairie. Although frequently amusing, its tongue is nowhere near buried as deep in cheek as with the Disc World books, but the story entertains mightily none the less. If you are already a Pratchett fan you can buy this book in the confident knowledge that whilst lacking Vimes or Vetenari you will enjoy a diverting diversion from the typical Pratchett cannon. If you have kids or young adults you might also want to point them in the direction of this book. The style is engaging, fun and easy to follow, whist still posing some intriguing scientific questions.
King is the consummate story teller. Many of his stories inhabit a magically realistic world where reality and magic over lap. This story is a little different in that it’s essentially a grownup fairy story pretty much from beginning to end. The tale is inserted into the gap between book 4 and 5 in the Dark Tower saga but can easily stand alone. You really don’t have to ‘follow the path of the beam’ to enjoy this tale. Many of the reviews are critical of the reading, and it’s true King does have a rather thin nasal Maine accent. It would be great if Audible would offer the book voiced by (for example) George Guidall with King as an interesting alternative. Having said that, it’s a marvelous tale which feels closer in style to Neil Gamin than King and it’s so compelling you really get used to the narration after a while. It draws the listener in from the very beginning and never disappoints. At a little over ten hours in King terms it’s a quick light listen I can highly recommend it.
The premise that there is a real Wizard working as a private eye in Chicago is brilliant. The execution of the story and the performance by James Marsters is similarly near perfect. There is a gritty film Noir feel to the story which makes it at once credible and compelling. It has amusing moments and enough adult content for this not to be a great read for the Harry Potter crowd. The action (of which there is a great deal) feels very cinematic; you can imagine Riddley Scott doing a great job with the mayhem and monsters. I came to this series from the Iron Druid Chronicles which I have seen described as “Dresden Light.” That’s a pretty fair assessment, the villains are darker, sexier more violent and less funny in Dresden; it’s a different kind of story. If Iron Druid is ‘Twilight’ Dresden is ‘True Blood’. That’s probably a bit unfair to the ‘Iron Druid’ as ‘Twilight’ is horrible and ‘Druid’ is terrific...but you get my point. If I have any criticism of Dresden (and it’s slight) it’s that the hero almost never has a good time. There seems to be a rule in fantasy writing that along with fabulous magical ability comes a generally horrible life …to quote the Genie in Aladdin “Phenomenal cosmic powers! Itty bitty living space.” Beyond that tiny reservation, this is a terrific story and performance which I can highly recommend.
The third book in this series was a bit of a disappointment. The performance is just as good as the other episodes but the story weaker in a crucial way. The reason the first two books work as well as they do is the contrast between the druid magic and the modern age. It’s funny and clever and quite compelling. However most of this book is set in mythical realms of Asgard where our hero and his Demi-God buddies do battle with an obnoxious bunch of Norse monsters and their sidekicks. The problem is that in a world where everything is completely imaginary and there is no context and apparently no meaningful rules it all ends up a bit like a dungeons and dragons tournament in somebody’s parents’ basement. You can almost hear the dice rolling and cries of “my ice giants have greater killing power over magical cats than your spooky ravens…even though they may be the eyes of Odin.” My hope is that the forth book in the saga will get back to 'earth based' action.
Yes really…Nazi witches. The Iron Druid saga continues with the excellent Hexed. I stumbled across the first in the saga and enjoyed it so much that I went straight on to part two. In this episode he switches up the featured protagonists, downplaying the entertaining werewolves somewhat, bringing in a vampire attorney and featuring good and bad witches. He also gives us less of his fabulous wolfhound, which is a pity as he was my favorite character in the first book. I also like the fact that our Druid hero actually enjoys his super powers.
It’s certainly entertaining fun, think Friends meets True Blood. There’s a marvelously wacky internal logic to the magic in the books. It’s especially entertaining that the Gods are as shallow, horny, conniving and selfish as the rest of us. Where the magical weirdness meets the secular police it gets especially fun. The scene where sex crazed demons on break from Las Vegas (where else?) run amok in a Tempe night club is just brilliant farce…if you have ever enjoyed Dorsey, Hiassen or Sharpe the mixture of sex, violence and insanity will be very familiar. Enjoy.
Back in the early Eighties when I had business cards which read “Apple Evangelist” I had the pleasure of meeting the amazing Mr. Jobs in the UK. Like the mighty Oz he would arrive to spread the good word about the “next big thing” then disappear just as mysteriously, leaving us in rapt awe….”who was that guy?” He had rock star status back then with we, the adoring members of the Apple Clan. A couple of years later he was fired by the company he founded. I have been in his industry ever since, and although I was fairly familiar with the back story and the progress he made with Next, Pixar and then Apple again this book fills in the details in a compelling and fascinating way. There are countless “oh wow” moments as the author weaves the amazing tale of the incredible Mr. Jobs.
The question that you should be asking is not whether you should read this book, but when will you find the time to fit this into your listening schedule. It’s a masterpiece of journalism and biography. The performance is less spectacular. I just don't much care for the narrators style. Maybe the fact that I first encountered him when he read the dreadful "The Face" by Dean Koontz and I still hear that in this reading. If you can get past the narrator (and you should) you will be enthralled and occasionally horrified by his technological and design genius and weird management style. I run a tech company and I can’t imagine treating the people who work for me like he treated his…but then I’m not Steve Jobs...not even close. He was an intolerant, arrogant, unscrupulous, fanatic, perfectionist, genius who demanded the same kind of unquestioning devotion from everyone in his life. The book is comprehensive and immensely powerful, it actually made me cry towards the end. The saddest takeaway was that maybe, if he had treated his cancer with modern medicine as his doctors pleaded when it was discovered, rather than waste nine crucial months with fad diets and eastern quackery he would still be with us today.
Irrespective of your interest in technology you will find this story fascinating and absorbing, it is the amazing tale of a man whose like we will likely not see again in our lifetime. If you live in our modern society so much of what you take for granted in computing, design, music, movies, communication and the media was directly or indirectly the product of just this one guy. We have lost a modern Da Vinci, this timely masterpiece sets out the saga of that man, warts and all. This book will help you to better understand his life, and his role in yours.
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