Brown Deer, WI, United States | Member Since 2005
How do you ruin a great short story? Turn it into a novel. Great premise (though not entirely original) that could have really gone somewhere if it had only gotten there sooner. For an author who made his name writing short stories, he really does yammer on in this novel. And the story's mainspring winds down about halfway through.
Lake should have deleted that third quarter of this book and put his energy into crafting a better ending. It wasn't that I didn't understand the ending, it was that I thought the ending was weak and hastily written. He spent long sections dwelling on pointless environmental detail during the adventure, but at the end, he summarizes major plot points in a single sentence.
Clearly it's a fable, probably an Intelligent Design fable... but I think that's just a stylistic choice to get off the hook for the weak logic. He alternates between reveling in his world building skills and describing things in detail, as if to say, "this could really work!" But when he gets too close to serious engineering questions, he leaves that vague and uses God to explain it. That's not Steampunk as some reviewers have said, that's Faithpunk. (Incidentally, anyone who knows anything about mechanical engineering will tell you that the gear he describes for the Earth's rotation would vibrate so horribly that not only would people near it go deaf, but the whole planet would also be shaken apart.)
Jay Lake comes off as very sharp and insightful in interviews. I wonder why there wasn't more of that in this book.
As for the Audio, the reader is good, but a little melodramatic, as if he himself is constantly in awe of the world that Lake has rendered.
Firstly, I really enjoyed this reader. There were times where his delivery was so enthusiastic that I thought maybe HE wrote the book. Lawlor was the perfect match for Morrell's direct, clean, and clear prose.
This book features lots of advice and tips on writing the types of books Morrell writes -- thrillers. (I don't mean that pejoratively, if it sounds that way.) There's a good assortment of life stories on everything from Morrell's life before publication up to and including his present day success. I was pleased to hear a few real world figures. He includes statistics on how few people actually make a living as a professional writer. Morrell is one of the few writers to tell you honestly what he was paid for one of his projects. He breaks down the sale and history of First Blood for you.
He has an extended section where he rails against the use of first person point of view in fiction. For a former Literature professor he's surprisingly literal-minded when it comes to a first person story telling. He seems to accept only diary entry or oral history transcribed as the only plausible explanations for how a first person story gets into a reader's hands. I've always taken it as one of fiction's conventions that you were more or less inside the narrators head as the story is laid out for you.
That minor quibble aside, this book lives up to it's reputation and is well worth a listen.
I was a big fan of Barabasi's first book, "Linked," and bought "Bursts" the minute I saw it without looking for reviews or anything. I regret that impulsive burst. This book is made up of only a small amount of science, the majority is history.
He tries to shoehorn a long and painstakingly detailed description of a 16th century peasant's revolt into his thesis that human behaviors and actions come in bursts. (It quickly becomes clear that this story is important to the author because it takes place in the country of his birth. Unfortunately, he fails to connect it with anything scientific.) Even the discussions of science are largely chronicles of what happened, but with little scientific analysis. We hear about how the author researched Einstein's letter writing habits, or how time and again some simple mathematical model failed to explain the complex behaviors of people and animals.
The book's main premise is unfulfilled. He claims that the science of "bursty" behaviors will allow us to predict human action. He describes dozens of cases, but never brings it all together. Because Linked was such a good book, I gave Barabasi the benefit of the doubt all the way to the end, but I came away feeling that this was the rough notes for what could be a good book.
The book is not a total loss, though. If I had been interested in a history lesson (sometimes I am!) this would have been a much more enjoyable listen. The writing is clear and direct. And the reader does a very good job.
This is the worst abridgment I've ever heard, and an excellent example of why I usually steer clear of them. It's only a slim exaggeration to say that it seems as if the editor who chopped this book down did it without reading the text. In one sequence, we go from our hero standing by himself to "...stepping away from her..." with no indication of when the "her" walked onto the scene. These sorts of jarring omissions occur every 15 minutes.
Equally frustrating are the times when the book refers back to events that were chopped out. Chabon's writing is so good that you feel genuinely ripped off by the omissions.
From now on I won't buy abridged titles unless they are approved by the author.
The ideas in this lecture are covered in "The Hero's 2 journeys." That lecture is a tag-team effort from Chris Vogel and Michael Hauge and covers much more ground. If you have already listened to that lecture and want more of Vogel's ideas, this lecture has a few extra details and a little more depth.
It's a testament to Feynman's interesting life and perspective that I was able to sit through a reading by what I consider the absolute worst reader ever. Listen to a sample of this one before buying it. The reader uses the same limited cadence and inflection for everything! From a funny story about a cocktail party to a death in the family, the reader's delivery is static. To make things worse, he reads everything with what sounds to me like a haughty, almost concieted tone. Feynman was well known for his self confidence, but not for arrogance.
As for the content of the book, only a small percentage is directly related to physics. This book has more insights on how to live life than anything.
McKee's Story has become so popular and influential that it's easy to forget the the author has never sold a screenplay for the sort of blockbuster he claims his approach will help you create. That's not to say he's a hack or a dud, he certainly has experience in the story telling business, but if his magical insights were as spot on as his confidence would have you believe, he would be making a living selling scripts instead of giving lectures on how to write scripts.
That said, I think Story is the sort of book that ALL writers should read at some point. Fiction, non fiction, screenplay, and novel writers will learn some very concrete techniques to add energy to their work.
If you haven't seen the movie Adaptation, it features a fictionalized McKee.
In addition to Story, I recommend "The Hero's Two Journeys" it's another concrete breakdown of what makes a story work (especially in Hollywood) by two guys who DO have all kinds of writing credits.
The only other Vonnegut I've read is Hocus Pocus (which was very good) but I've always wondered why some of his older books are referenced so widely in pop culture and literature, now I know. He's like a postmodern Mark Twain. More interestingly, I can see that many authors after him have been "ripping off" (...um... imitating) his writing style. He tells a story in a way that's very intimate and personal, it feels like he's writing to directly to you.
I've been told that this isn't the best representation of his work since it's more of a book length philosophical musing, if that's the case, I'll have to add all his other works to my list. As a warning, note that this book is rated-R. While Vonnegut never gets nasty or raunchy, he does get a little naughty in spots of this book.
The reading by Stanley Tucci is one of the best I've heard. This isn't just a novelty, "celebrity" appearance, Tucci's acting talent makes him a top notch reader.
This audio book has a 5 minute interview with Vonnegut at the end. It's a nice treat, but superfluous.
A cleverly contrived plot in Twain's familiar fable style makes "Hadleyburg" a worth while visit. The story is filled with twists and interesting "what-if" situations. As with many of Twain's morality stories, this one has plenty of cynical satire -- fun and sometimes funny.
Norman Dietz does a great job with the read. He doesn't fall into the trap of trying to "sound" like Twain. Dietz is dynamic with out over acting.
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