Although little in this volume can be described as revolutionary, there is a great deal of insightful commentary and fresh perspective. The central thesis of the book - that the war in Europe was won chiefly by the USSR ("Saving Private Ryan" notwithstanding), and that the USSR was, in some ways, as bad as the regime it defeated - is probably under-appreciated in the US, but the point does not seem particularly controversial.
Whatever the merits of the book may be, what made it incredibly enjoyable was, without a doubt, the voice of Simon Vance. The tone and tempo of his reading were perfect. The scorn dripping from his voice as he speaks of those treated too generously by history, in particular Stalin (the "monstah"), is nothing short of delicious.
Good book, narrated brilliantly.
Another reviewer spoke negatively of Michael Prichard's narration, complaining about the unusually slow pacing. I nearly passed on this audiobook as a result, but since I found the subject material compelling I took a chance. I'm glad I did. Mr. Rosen's text is fascinating, wide-ranging, often funny, and never boring. This is not a dry tome rehashing the old commonplaces about the Industrial Revolution, but a broad panorama that takes in the science, sociology, economics, law, and culture that allowed mankind to leap from eons of miserable subsistence to a sustainable real prosperity at a particular moment in history. The best thing I can say about Mr. Pritchard's narration is that, after an initial adjustment, I became unaware of it. Poor narrators have killed books for me in the past, but this did not happen here. Granted, Mr. Pritchard's pauses for punctuation are inordinately long, but I really didn't mind. I never found myself waiting impatiently for a sentence to end - maybe because the concepts introduced occupy the mind (or at least my mind) too thoroughly. The narration is a bit unusual, but the text is outstanding. On balance I have no difficulty recommending this audiobook.
Although, I agree with many of the negative remarks made here, I quite enjoyed this audiobook. The portraits of the men behind the war are caricatures, but they are entertaining in a salacious sort of way. These unfailingly foolish power brokers are portrayed cartoonishly, but the resulting cartoon is of the highest quality. One does develop an understanding of how a cataclysm on the order of WWI could have occurred, although the nagging feeling that there is more to the story persists throughout. I know substantially more about the Great War than I did before I listened to this book, but I didn't come away with the broad understanding of the tide of human events that one gets from, say, Keegan's books.
Regarding the narration, I thought Nadia May did a good job, with one huge (almost unpardonable) exception: those ridiculous accents. In a book already a bit short on gravitas, it seems criminal to undermine it further by having a British woman attempt to mimic German, French, Russian, and (worst of all) American accents when relating dialogue or written correspondence from people of those nationalities. It serves no purpose other than to irritate.
On the whole, an entertaining and productive way to spend ten hours in the car, but be prepared to wince whenever a French, German, Russian, or American figure speaks.
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