I enjoy nonfiction as much as fiction, so this "alternative history" was doubly enjoyable, and quite possibly more instructive than a textbook or nonfiction, fleshing out the "world ago" as it does. Mr. King doesn't disappoint as the master of suspense; he kept me guessing all the way to the end. The biggest surprise of all was that this story is primarily about love, testing the patience of the less romantically-inclined reader at times, but the rock-solid plot brings the rating back to 5 stars. The narration is competently done as well, despite the completely unauthentic Russian accent.
Had it not been for the author's assurances that the content of this book has been fully vetted by him and two fact-checkers, I would have thought this pretty outrageous and nauseating fiction. But I fully understand that when the subject refuses to agree to an interview unless his demands for censorship are met, the author has little choice but to go with second-hand accounts. And the picture is far from pretty. Very few people that are mentioned in the book come through as decent; most [characters--that is how they struck me at least] are much more self-serving and cowardly than anybody I happen to have had the good chance to meet in my life. Their egomania, sense of entitlement, and lack of common compassion proved a little too much to handle in large doses, which partly explains why it took me nearly a month to finish a pretty straightforward account of the life of Roger Ailes.
This book might have been vastly improved with some major editing. Nothing would have been lost, and the readers would have been spared much annoyance (not thrill--there is definitely a line between the two), if 1/4 of it had been left on the cutting room floor. In an effort to create suspense, too many passages are repeated, and too much space devoted to the unfocused, self-absorbed, and lethargic musings of the protagonist, who is not half as likable or interesting as Boris, Hobie, or even the Barbers.
Kudos to the very versatile narrator, but I still hope that they could have found someone more cosmopolitan (or at least studious enough to look up how basic phrases are pronounced in the respective languages), and who does not lean so much into the stressed vowels, rendering an already-too-long book even more time-consuming.
I love John Grisham novels, and I'd been so looking forward to "catching up" with Jack Brigance. Maybe too much so.
It is not a bad story overall, and it has been good to "visit" with Jack, Harry Rex, Lucien, and Ozzie, but the plot left something to be desired. I was only mildly intrigued about where the story would go, but I didn't really care all that much about the answer. I must have been watching too much TV (Breaking Bad, for instance).
I would have been much more interested in a follow-up to The Client.
I thought all good comedians were the product of dysfunctional families. This is a very moving (if the last chapter doesn't get the waterworks going, see a professional) and enjoyable account of a family man and entertainer that thoroughly disabused me of that notion. Mr. Crystal's loving musings about his family--whether blood relatives or lifelong friends--nearly made a convert out of this sworn single person. Now there's the kind of success anyone would envy! The narration went by so fast that I had to be on the edge of my seat not to miss a single detail, but I doubt any other reader could have done the impressions or the tender memories justice.
If the measure of literary fiction is abusing participial clauses and opting for the word "indicate" when "point (out)" would do just as well--both marks of stilted prose--then this would be literary fiction. The story also suffered from a very flimsy plot entirely grounded on a stalker of a protagonist (definitely not a hero) so paranoid and egocentric that he sees connections where they are none and who is ready to go to any length for the sake of a story that he has largely made up in his deranged mind (so it does delve deep into the psyche of the protagonist and as such qualifies as psychological fiction, I suppose). The title also needs far better character development to qualify as good fiction, literary or otherwise. Coyote's impressive vocabulary was completely at odds with her background and thick accent.
The only redeeming factor of this title was the narrator (who was so perfect as Mr. DuBois!). Had it not been for Mr. Weber's soothing voice, I could have never finished this overhyped mess of a story.
Unlike some of the other reviewers, I didn't mind at all that this title wasn't a treatise on the recent history of the revolution in television. I thoroughly enjoyed the gossipy insider info on my two very favorite TV shows--The Sopranos and The Wire. I also liked the focus/priority given these two shows, as opposed to the afterthought discussion of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, both of which I am watching, but neither of which--IMHO--measures up to the other two. In fact, I would have preferred it if the author hadn't been so generous with his own opinions about how The Wire fell short, given how off-the-mark they were and also how many TV critics there are out there who can offer much better-informed insights on the issue.
As for the narration, I found it satisfactory overall. Mr. Szarabajka does a credible impression of Tony Soprano, but I wish he hadn't abused it by applying it to David Chase or Tony Sirico.
I don't get how the critics could have missed it. The comical and (often) grotesque description of the characters and mishaps is classic Rowling (at least from what I could gather from listening to Jim Dale's inimitable rendition of the Harry Potter books years ago in my friends' car). Other than the characterization, I also enjoyed the well-constructed plot (although I must admit I wasn't quite convinced by how the killer's alibi was broken) and the well-chosen words. Not having read all the classical poets, however, I can't say I fully grasped what those clever Latin epigraphs were supposed to do. Also, the interrogation scenes sounded more elaborate than realistic, probably because every character in the book talks pretty much the same way, down to their choice of expletive(s). I dearly wish Jim Dale will agree to narrate all future titles by Galbraith (ahem), even though I did enjoy Mr. Glenister's narration (his voice reminds me of Idris Elba, who is one of my favorite actors). Wishing for many happy returns.
The excessive pop culture references cheapened the story, and the author's attempt at a more literary opening (by converting years and months into minutes) only made him lose track of the timeline of his own story, so that the protagonist keeps saying months later that it's been 18 months since the catastrophic event that turned his life upside down. I cannot even summon the willpower to list all the bad metaphors and examples of cringe-inducing writing, because verbatim quotes would require another listen. The plot was pretty flimsy, and not even on a par with a typical TV police procedural (I must admit TV writing has come a long way). The narrator did not fare much better, unfortunately. I will not spoil it for other readers by revealing how he sounded out the word "eschew," but allow me to say that the word was hardly recognizable.
*Given* that it was about a Back Bay family. I lost count how many times the word "given" was used, along with "let alone"; I think this might be a case where even the great Stephen King would allow the use of the forbidden thesaurus (I suppose Mr. King made that remark only to discourage those with a poor command of their own language from getting into writing or at least to encourage them to pay closer attention to their native tongue and work on improving it). Vocabulary aside, it doesn't take long for any fan of crime fiction to zero in on the suspect and the motive; I've seen police procedurals on TV with better plots. The author's attempt at a metaphor with "orange" was also pretty lame. The only scene that featured any decent writing was the one about the cinnamon rolls--Ms. Gardner just might have a career in food writing. The narration was competent overall, but would have been better without the artificial r-dropping; the male voices were no more convincing.
The vignettes should at the very least have been ordered chronologically. Also, the book would have benefited from glosses for the specialized vocabulary items (at least when an item appeared for the first time); as it is, it felt like the author was more intent on showing off rather than showing the reader around.
The Latin teacher!
No, unless the movie focused on a particular vignette, like that of the Latin teacher, who seemed absolutely fascinating. The movie would be too Altman-like otherwise--disjointed and fragmented.
Very timely book!
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