Richard K. Morgan, author of the sci-fi masterpiece, "Altered Carbon", is one of the most interesting and talented writings working today. "Thirteen" may be his most ambitious and brilliant novel so far.
In the 22nd century, humans have colonized Mars, which remains a frontier outpost - think the Wild Wild West. The shuttle and back and forth from Earth is so long, people are suspended in cryogenic sleep while their space ships travel on auto pilot. At the beginning of this novel, one such ship crashes, unexpectedly before its scheduled arrival on earth. When rescue workers reach and enter the wreck, they discover a gruesome scene. All the "cryo-capped" passengers have been removed, dismembered and, apparently, eaten.
The principal suspect is a "thirteen" - a genetic variant specially bred to do violence. Thus begins a "detective" story of operatic proportions that calls to mind the epic noir of James Ellroy in "The Big Nowhere" and "L.A. Confidential". But for the futuristic setting, "Thirteen" follows a similar story arc, with fully developed characters that I cared about, and twists and turns that will surprise you I guarantee.
This is an adult book, full of steamy sex and brutal violence. Which is all okay with me. Only one problem distracts, but not enough to lose a star: too much use of the "F" word. I am not a person who is put off by that word and its variants. It just seemed excessive and oddly tone-deaf here - consistent with this British writer's slightly off-kilter North American dialogue.
Narrator Simon Vance, as usual, is amazing in his capacity to give specific voices to each character so smoothly that one forgets that it isn't a full cast.
This is one of the two best books I've read or listened to in a long time, and the performances are superb (The other is "Lush Life".) It is the story a guy named Henry who has a sort of disease - unique to Henry - called "chrono-displacement disorder." Henry, it turns out, is more or less taken, at various times in his life, against his will, out of the present, and spit out (usually) into the past. Henry never knows when or where he is when this is going to happen, but it usually happens at moments of great stress for present Henry, and great importance in Henry's past. (There is some travel to the future, but only in a couple of critical places.) And during all of this, Henry, like Odysseus, just wants to go home to his wife and stay there.
And it is the story of his non traveling spouse, Clare who, very self-consciously like Penelope in the Odyssey, waits patiently for her husband's return, again and again, all the while pursuing in earnest the hard work of being and becoming herself. Weaving, in Penelope's case; visual art in Clare's.
This is a novel about life, death, the nature of time, and intimate love, and most importantly, what it means to be a continuous and continuously human person, what George Eliot called the "persistent self." And It is most assuredly a love story, but not in the slightest bit sentimental. At first, the novel's conceit - time travel - is a bit confusing. Partly this is because the author unpacks the concept of time travel piece by piece, in order to take it to many of its logical conclusions. But pretty soon, the reader figures it out more or less, and forgets that some people have called it "science fiction" or "fantasy," or, most ominously to my mind, "romance." And once figured out, the author's cleverness - brilliance really - and wit are revealed as grace after grace. To use a cliche: it makes you think.
OK. On the one hand, this book does not aspire to be literature. I knew that going in. It occupies a genre that the author himself distinguishes at one point through an observation of one of his characters: There's literature and there is "commercial fiction." I knew he was writing a formula book, he knew it, he even wanted you to know it.
On the other hand, maybe acknowledging that distinction was just an excuse for this particular novel that fills in all the open fields on the genre template, but not much else.
I mean, it was OK, but it didn't really engage me, and that is the genre novel's most absolutely indispensable tasks: A really interesting and sometimes thrilling plot, written by a journeyman producer of "commercial fiction" in a wooden but not distractingly so style. This book is not that. The plot was too preposterous. The characters were sort of interesting, but I remember feeling when I was listening, that I really couldn't wait till it was over.
But this guy's very popular, so maybe this is just what you are looking for. But it wasn't that for me.
I am a lawyer who follows the Supreme Court carefully. My politics are mostly to the left of center. I agree with this author's sentiment that Bush v Gore was a shocking intrusion into the prerogatives of the political branches, and arguably illegitimate. But I suppose if I were to write a book about it - the Court - I'd try to do so without turning it into a screed.
A person who makes it to that bench should be presumed to be, by default, worthy of respect. If on rare occasions I deem a judge less than worthy - such as Clarence Thomas - it should be fair to say that it is remarkable because it is rare.
Most importantly, I would try to understand the operations of the Court in terms of their jurisprudence more than their politics. This slim scold of a book fails that standard on every front. It is less a book about the Court than a polemic on its personalities. Mr Rosen's portrayal of Justice Kennedy, for example, isn't so much withering, as was no doubt the plan, but rather, puerile. The author presumes to accuse that judge of intellectual vanity, while filling up these pages with his own. If you want to know about the Supreme Court, this is not a good place to start.
"Lush Life" is a fine, possibly great novel about a homicide investigation, set in the lower east side of Manhattan. The story is told, in the third person, from the point of view of a NYPD detective. I live in Manhattan and work as an attorney in law enforcement. I talk to and work with NYPD officers and detectives every day. Because I don't actually go out on rides with cops, I cannot tell you if the novel is accurate as to what it feels like to work as a NYPD detective, but this book is totally accurate, to the smallest detail, of what it looks like.
The writing is first rate, and could be fairly categorized as "literary fiction" as well as crime fiction. And the narrator is excellent. His accent is pitch perfect, and he reads with sympathy and understanding. If you are interested in the crime genre, literary fiction, police officers, and especially, if you, like me, are completely in love with New York City, you will love this book.
This audiobook grabbed me right away. I understand why this book is famous. It reminded me of Dune, because it has a similar theme, but this book is slimmer and tighter, the author more disciplined.
Others may disagree, but I think this book appeals more to boys than to girls, because of the constant themes of battle, and because all but one of the main characters are boys.
The narration is generally excellent. Most of the story is told from the title character, Ender's point of view. But some parts are from other characters' POV, and these parts have their own narrators. A few scenes were acted out. We could have been spared this these bits, but there aren't that many.
Stefan Rudnicki, who narrated Ender's story was the best. As the story takes us into the mind of this very special little boy, Mr. Rudnicki makes us hear his voice. So I'm glad most of it is read by him. The others are ok, including a woman who narrates from a female character's POV.
Scott McClellan has been criticized widely as having given us too little too late in this book. I disagree. Even though there's little here you didn't already know or suspect, this book is confirmation from one of the closest of sources that the catastrophe that was the presidency of George W. Bush was every bit as sinister and sordid as most of us knew. After all, McClellan isn't the first Bush defector to show us the dark side of the Bush administration.
As to the narration, McClellan's congenial reading conveys, without being sentimental, the author's ultimate indigation with his former employer. McClellan was a mouthpiece who was lied to by his masters, and who passed those lies along to the White House press corps, and to the nation. This is his confession and apology. I believe him.
The story of Jesus' missing years - his adolesence and early adulthood - is here told by his decidedly worldly best friend, Biff. Don't worry; it's not disrespectful. It's actually joyous, in its own hilarious way. The idea that Christ had a sense of humor was a huge theological heresy in the 13th century. It shouldn't be so today. As on "A Dirty Job", also by Moore, Fisher Stevens (the narrator) is really, really good. He completely inhabits the prose and totally sells it. I wish he had narrated all of Mr Moore's books.
I start a lot of books I don't finish. I usually give it a couple of hours if it's an audiobook. Once I gave a book 7 hours before quitting because I thought it was going to get better; but it didn't ("An Unpardonable Crime"). This one got me from the first line. Timothy Dalton narrates with a deep rich Welsh accent - think Dylan Thomas if you've ever heard him, an octave lower, or Richard Burton. Of all of this audiobook's virtues, quite apart from how good it is substantially, the narration is its most attractive asset. If you like thrillers and mysteries that you don't have forgive the quality of the writing to enjoy, you'll love this. The writing is extraordinary.
The plot follows a more or less formulaic path, but illuminates the genre even as it moves through its generic rules. The setting is Dublin for the most part, and Boston in the 1950s. The protagonist, aptly named "Quirke" is a forensic patholigist (in the US we call them coroners) who, in the book's opening scene, stumbles upon his brother in law - also a doctor, an obstetrician - in the act of falsifying information in a file of one of the corpses Quirke hasn't examined yet. This initiates an obsession on Quirke's fault to find out what happened to this woman (the eponymous Christine Falls), who allegedly died giving birth to a stillborn infant girl. Well, the little girl wasn't stillborn, the truth leads Quirke on a journey into a darkness of which Christine Falls was only one of many victims, and that's all I'm going to tell you about the plot. I loved this audiobook and would recommend it over the print version, which from me, is a big compliment.
First, I did not finish this book. I gave up after 7 hours. Before that, NOTHING HAPPENS. This book seems to be a narcissistic vehicle for the author to pretend he's writing a 19th century novel. There is always the sense that something's going to happen, but it never does. Well, at least not until after 7 hours of listening - which I reckon to be about half the book. There may be more to it, and if I had only given it another 30 minutes, it might have grabbed me. But all during the time I was listening, I was anxious to be reading something else. Anything else. I don't know this author's other works, but this one is not a good introduction. Oh, and Poe is just a hook. He has absolutely no relevance to the story. Even the voice of the great narrator Simon Vance cannot save this one.
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