World War Z is not going to go down in history as a literary classic, but it is no less worth a read for it. Sometimes, as with movies, a book is just entertaining without having any deeper meaning message. As books go, it is the literary equivalent to a 'popcorn movie,' the likes of which often get panned by the critics, but end up grossing half a billion at the box office. That is to say, its a fun read that requires little investment on the part of our brains.
Adding to the fun (and 'popcorn movie' feeling), are the performances of the all-star cast of well known Hollywood personalities. Part of the fun of this book is just figuring out which actor is portraying each character as the story progresses (some are instantly recognizable). Still some of the performances are just plain good, and believable regardless of who played them. Dare I say that I actually really enjoyed Mark Hamill's performance which appears toward the end. He has made a decent career for himself doing voice-over work (the Joker anyone?) so it comes as no surprise.
Before selecting this book, I had read some rather harsh reviews by others regarding the abridged nature of the book, and how it is missing sections. Some even indicated that the book did not make any sense as a result of the missing parts. Perhaps those people have their reasons if they have read the original (non-movie tie-in) edition. However, I can tell you that for me - a person that has not seen the movie nor read the original book - it was just fine for me. The story is written as a series of interviews between the main character (a journalist who is portrayed in the audio version by the real life author) and various 'survivors' of the Zombie War. So I am not entirely certain what difference those missing parts would have made. Long story short, what you don't know won't hurt you.
Of course, with any book, some segments that are better than others, and while some are very engaging and occasionally even tension-filled, others are more mundane and forgettable. Still, the beauty of this book is you need only wait a short while before you are whisked off to the next interview and a brand new story line. So in that regard, the story movies along at a nice pace.
In short, if you are a fan of zombies or post-apocalyptic survival stories, you'll enjoy this book and the entertaining performances of its cast. If you are not a fan of those themes, then you probably not even reading this review.
This novel has already long since staked its claim as one of the classics of the sci-fi genre, but Stranger in a Strange Land does not rank highly in my personal list of favorites. Far be it from me to argue its (and Heinlein's) contribution to the this genre, especially when taking into account the year in which it was originally released (1961). I had not even been born by that time, but even I can appreciate how fresh and original this book must have been for its time. It was undoubtedly ahead of its time, and as far as 50+ year old sci-fi novels go, the underlying theme (and even some of the technological predictions) holds up fairly well.
Still, with due credit to the book and author given, for me this story was not quite to my taste. Heinlein's writing and the narrator's performance were good, and I remained mostly engaged throughout, but it was not enough to leave me feeling particularly satisfied or craving more. Just my personal taste. I did enjoy Heinlein's exploration of religious themes and (what I took to be) the thin line between religions and cults - although to be fair there was far more to this story than just those themes. However, while this was a book set in the future, it was still very much a 1960's novel loaded with over-the-top sexism and 'free love' which - although typical of that era - had me rolling my eyes on more occasions than I care to recall.
My recommendation? I suppose in part, I chose to purchase this book out of a desire to explore and (in a way) perhaps educate myself on "the classics" of the genre. For that reason, I picked this novel up. If you are seeking the same, then go for it! However, if you have a similar taste in novels as myself, and have no particular desire to explore "the classics," then perhaps seek your sci-fi escape elsewhere. Just my opinion.
What can I say that has not already been said about Life of Pi? After all the wonderful things I had heard about this novel from friends, family, and strangers, I finally decided to give it a go (again).
I had actually tried unsuccessfully to read the book shortly after its original release. I had been warned that it had a slow start, and told to just keep at it, but sadly I did not make it past what seemed to me at the time to be a slow and drawn out start. Am I ever glad that I gave it another whirl though.
If you are like me, the first few chapters of the book may be a challenge to get through, but the pay-off is well worth it. In hindsight (which of course is always 20/20), you realize by the time the novel comes to a close just how important those first few chapters truly are to the story. Admittedly, the audio version of the novel helped me tremendously with those early chapters, and in truth I probably would have just settled for the movie version had it not been for it. However, while the film adaptation was very loyal to the book, I would still recommend reading/listening to this novel.
What has made this novel such a beloved tale? It's difficult to put into words and may be different for each person. For me, it was the author's ability to use such a grand tale of survival to examine what is really a very simple truth about the human condition. The story hinges significantly on ideas of religion and belief, but does not in any way preach. Believe me when I say, those (like myself) who are not religious in any meaningful way will appreciate the story and the simplicity of its message just as much as those who are, and perhaps more so.
I must also add a quick note of praise for the narrator, Jeff Woodman. His performance was in my opinion nothing short of marvelous. Half way through the book, I had to stop and search his name online to find out more about him. He is known in the voice-over community as a master of accents and this book is proof. I would not normally search for other books based on the narrator, but I may do just that for this performer.
If I was giving this novel a grade, it would be an A+ all the way. Give it a try. You won't be disappointed!
Not only was 'American Gods' the first Neil Gaiman book I've listened to, but this is my first review. This is the book that finally motivated me to write a review.
Quite honestly, the overall plot/premise of this book is not one that would generally appeal to me. I am more a fan of (space-based) sci-fi, than fantasy (the genre I think this story most arguably falls into). However, there is no denying that Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller. For my next book, I will seek a different author to change things up, but I already have other Gaiman books in my wish list and plan to return to the world of his imagination soon.
As to 'American Gods,' well there is very little negative I can say about it. The story was interesting and unique, but as I stated above not normally one that would compel me to pick up a book. However, I wanted to explore Gaiman beyond the silver screen versions of his books and for whatever reason I settled on 'American Gods.' I am glad I did.
Gaiman has a fantastic way with prose that draws you into the story. You are not just reading a story, but rather you can actually see the characters, their gestures, and subtle nuances that make them human (or in this case, Gods with very human foibles). So while the plot (for me) was only mildly compelling, I must admit to being completely drawn into the story and vivid characters along the way. For that, I would very much recommend this book.
Of course, due credit must be given to the production value. The 10th Anniversary Edition of this novel was performed by a full cast, and no doubt that added to the enjoyment factor and richness of the characters.Gaiman himself takes a turn at reading certain sections of the book which fall outside of the primary story arc, and it very much works.
If I have any criticism at all, it might be that certain portions of the book seemed unnecessary or too drawn out. Ironically those may be the very same portions of the book that were added back in for the 10th Anniversary Edition. As a foreword to the book, Gaiman explains that the original release of the novel was shortened at the request of his publisher, and that much of that extra text was added back in for the anniversary re-release. So I suspect that perhaps much of those sections I felt unnecessary may have been the same sections cut for the original release. I should like to perhaps read the original someday to see how it compares. Still, I am glad to have heard the novel in the way the author originally intended, and I would still recommend this version.
All in all, if you are looking for good old-fashioned storytelling brought to life by a great cast of voice actors, you would be hard pressed to find a better example.
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