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Alastair Binnie

Member Since 2002

  • 12 reviews
  • 12 ratings
  • 318 titles in library
  • 4 purchased in 2014

  • Atonement

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Ian McEwan
    • Narrated By Jill Tanner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In Atonement, three children lose their innocence, as the sweltering summer heat bears down on the hottest day in 1935, and their lives are changed forever. Cecilia Tallis is of England's priviledged class; Robbie Turner is the housekeeper's son. In their moment of intimate surrender, they are interrupted by Cecilia's hyperimaginative and scheming 13-year-old sister, Briony. And as chaos consumes the family, Briony commits a crime, the guilt of which she shall carry throughout her life.

    William R. Creech says: "Well written; well read."
    "Ian McEwan's best yet"

    If it seems slow at first, stay with it. What you get is a simple plot that starts bright then gets dark and deep, a haunting love story (including a virtuoso erotic scene), a war story which is compelling and convincing, a precise portrait of the genteel psychological drama of the 1930s English upper-middle classes, and an extraordinary structural twist that will make you rethink the whole thing. Beautifully read with just the right accent and rhythm. Makes an interesting compare and contrast with Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin (also a top tip).

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • The Birthday Boys

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Beryl Bainbridge
    • Narrated By Gordon Griffin

    This extraordinary account of Captain Scott's tragically ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic, achieves the apparently impossible: Beryl Bainbridge's powers of expression and ability to evoke an emotion or perception with almost tangible force are displayed to a hitherto unseen degree.

    Alastair Binnie says: "We know the ending, but it's still sad"
    "We know the ending, but it's still sad"

    The Scott story, told through fictional excerpts from the private diaries of the five expedition members who died. Bainbridge edited an edition of Scott's (non-fictional) diaries, so we can trust her version of the facts, but really this is all about the inner life of the men. We feel the private emotions and fears, and the frustration with Scott's strength, charisma, eccentricity and irrationality. It's a bit slow occasionally, but as the inevitable end approaches, the tragedy grips. You don't need to be an Antarctic buff to follow this, although it probably helps to know the basic story in advance. To get all the detail without the literary-psychological content, read "The Worst Journey in the World". Narrated excellently, with a nuanced sympathy for the social background and status of each of the crew.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Snow Crash

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Neal Stephenson
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis

    Neal Stephenson is a blazing new force on the sci-fi scene. With the groundbreaking cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, he has "vaulted onto the literary stage." It weaves virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility - in short, it is the gigathriller of the information age.

    A. Tuck says: "Classic Stephenson"
    "Starts like a blaze, but burns out fast."

    After a great opening, this degenerates into a slow and pointless ramble. The cocktail of biblical history, cyber-punk and action thriller should have been dynamite, but it tries too hard to be clever and instead it just fizzles out. The narration is mediocre at best. Might work for a long drive, but listening on a 30-minute commute I lost interest half-way through and never went back.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Pompeii: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Robert Harris
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman Empire's richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared.

    Marty-Seattle says: "Brought my visit to Pompeii back to life"
    "Up Pompeii!"

    All the other 5-star reviews tell you what you need to know. Robert Harris's historical thrillers are gripping, intelligent, pacy and surprising (even when we do know the ending!) A ripping yarn, and along the way we learn about Roman society, sexual mores, civil engineering, volcanoes, and Pliny the elder. Perfect for drive-time. Don't bother with the abridgement, the full monty cracks along nicely. Let's have all Harris's books on Audible.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated

    • ABRIDGED (4 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones
    • Narrated By James P. Womack

    Womack and Jones, the authors of The Machine That Changed the World and creators of the "lean enterprise" theory, take leanness to the next step with a focus on what the customer really wants, not what it is possible to get him to accept. This is the management book for the next business generation.

    Alastair Binnie says: "Aaaargh, get the book instead"
    "Aaaargh, get the book instead"

    There is some good content here. I suppose. There's got to be, because Womack's work has been so influential with very smart people.
    BUT, this is the best example I know of why you want a professional reader. Womack's narration is like a lethargic robotic toad reading aloud a tax return form. And I think this abridgement misses some of the good stuff. I was very motivated to learn about Lean Thinking, but still I could hardly listen to it. Avoid.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • The Uglified Ducky

    • UNABRIDGED (53 mins)
    • By Willy Claflin
    • Narrated By Willy Claflin

    Family storytelling at its most hilarious, the Maynard Moose tales of Willy Claflin entertain all ages. An excellent choice for family car trips, these whimsical retellings excite young imaginations and delight young and old.

    Lori says: "The Uglified Ducky"
    "Funny for grown-ups too"

    My kids (4 & 6) love this and so do I. Inventive, surreal, subversive, diverse, and delivered with superb narrative skill. Very witty at an adult level - check out the "3 Little Pigs" told by an alien life-form. We've listened to this over and over and now we have lots of in-jokes based on these stories. I just wish Audible would get more of Willy's stuff.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Life and Works of Beethoven

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Jeremy Siepmann
    • Narrated By Jeremy Siepmann

    For many people, Beethoven is the greatest composer who ever lived. In this portrait-in-sound, actors' readings combine with his music to reveal a titanic personality, vulnerable and belligerent, comic and tragic, and above all, heroic.

    Rand says: "beethoven's life and works"
    "Functional but uninspired"

    Audio is of course a natural format for a musical biography, and this delivers a competent short biography of the great man (turns out, not as stone deaf as the popular image). But this won't grab you like a novel the way a really good biography should, which is a shame considering he was such an interesting and iconic character. It's a bit dull - somehow I never quite connected with the subject at an emotional or psychological level; but you get the facts - often quite sad -without any sensationalist speculation or idle dallying. The splendid thing is the musical excerpts - I could have done with many more, and more musical analysis. Perhaps they were tacked on as an afterthought for the audio edition.
    For drivetime, only recommended if you a strong pre-existing interest in Ludwig van.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Pattern Recognition

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By William Gibson
    • Narrated By Shelly Frasier
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce's client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled, she realizes there's more to this project than she had expected.

    Laura says: "Not Unabridged"
    "Quirky, inventive, patchy, works out well."

    Inventive, sassy, and smart, orbiting somewhere in the triangle between sci-fi, cyberpunk, and contemporary urban style thriller, without quite being any of those genres. At the core there's a haunting story based on a (just-about) plausible premise. The plot occasionally loses direction and pace, and sometimes the style neuroses are heavy-handed, but still I ended up caring about Cayce Pollard. Can we hear more about her?
    A good drive-time listen, if occasionally difficult to follow on the details of the dialogue.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Oryx and Crake

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Margaret Atwood
    • Narrated By Campbell Scott
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    As the story opens, Snowman is sleeping in a tree, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes - into his own past, and back to Crake's high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

    Doug says: "Very Scary Stuff"
    "Top-notch literary science-fiction"

    If only all Audios were this good. Fine, serious writing, gripping and fast-moving plot, inventive settings, delightful turns of phrase, plenty of surprises, and a powerful message with a challenging conclusion. A classic dystopian vision of arresting originality, compelling characterization and great depth (with just the occasional anachronism - aspirin? hard-copy CVs? but these are quibbles). The narration is spot-on too.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Cold Mountain

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Charles Frazier
    • Narrated By Charles Frazier
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    One of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain is a masterpiece that is at once an enthralling adventure, a stirring love story, and a luminous evocation of a vanished America in all its savagery, solitude, and splendor.

    M. Dunn says: "Cold Mountain (Unabridged)"
    "A good book spoilt by the narration"

    Charles Frazier's narration kills this: flat, unemotional, monotonous even when the story itself is fast and exciting. I couldn't finish it as an audio; but it sounds like a great book. Too dull for drive-time.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Ender's Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Orson Scott Card
    • Narrated By Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, Gabrielle de Cuir
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Why we think it’s a great listen: It’s easy to say that when it comes to sci-fi you either love it or you hate it. But with Ender’s Game, it seems to be you either love it or you love it.... The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Enter Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, the result of decades of genetic experimentation.

    Kapila says: "6 titles in the series so far"
    "Serious literature it's not"

    Don't be fooled by the other reviews claiming this is serious literature; this is lightweight and formulaic stuff. Still, it rolls along quite nicely and it's a fine drive-time listen. However, grown-ups who were reminded by Margaret Atwood's "Oryx and Crake" how much they liked Sci-Fi as a teenager should look elsewhere.

    5 of 22 people found this review helpful

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