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David

Indiscriminate Reader

Member Since 2010

1136
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 230 reviews
  • 234 ratings
  • 496 titles in library
  • 45 purchased in 2014
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  • Kafka on the Shore

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Haruki Murakami
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett, Oliver Le Sueur
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1555)
    Performance
    (862)
    Story
    (857)

    Kafka on the Shore follows the fortunes of two remarkable characters. Kafka Tamura runs away from home at 15, under the shadow of his father's dark prophesy. The aging Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his pleasantly simplified life suddenly turned upside down.

    Melinda says: "Brilliant Meandering--what was in those brownies.."
    "Weird, oedipal, priapic"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Haruki Murakami is a fascinating and interesting writer and boy howdy is he preoccupied with his penis. I mean, his protagonist's penis. Penises in general. Every book of his I've read is penispenispenis.

    But boy can he write. Kafka on the Shore is "magical realism," which as the old joke goes, is "fantasy when it's not written in English." More seriously, it's one of those books where otherworldly things happen that the reader is asked to simply accept. There is no explanation for how someone can exist simultaneously as an old man and a fifteen-year-old boy in order to be in two places at once, or why conceptual incarnations take the corporeal form of Colonel Sanders, or why Nakata can talk to cats.

    Kafka Tamura is a teenager running away from his father's Oedipal prophecy. The voice in his head is a boy named Crow, who tells him he must become "the world's toughest fifteen-year-old." He takes up residence in a library overseen by a gender-bending librarian, encounters a woman who may be his mother and a girl who may be his sister, and screws both of them. It may be a dream. But Murakami describes every encounter in very corporeal detail. Penispenispenis!

    Meanwhile, Nakata, an old man who was mentally damaged/traumatized by an event that happened to him at the end of the war but left with the ability to talk to cats, has to find a family's housecat and stop a cat serial killer. This leads to him becoming a fugitive, where he encounters a truck driver who joins him on his quest to find a stone, in a bizarre urban Japanese inversion of your typical fantasy quest.

    Nakata's quest and Tamura's are linked, but the links are never clearly defined; indeed, it's not entirely clear how their two character arcs are connected at all, though they may be the same person.

    If this review fails to convey much sense of the plot, it's because Murakami's plots are... really hard to describe. He throws a little bit of everything into the story. And lots of penis. But the prose is liquid and lyrical, even in translation, and the story carries you along like a rushing stream, batting you about so you're not quite sure where you are going but you at least have a vague sense that you are going somewhere. And where it dumps you, who can say?

    I liked it. But it's weird. Like everything Murakami writes. And seriously, dude, enough with the penises.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • The Haunting of Hill House

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Shirley Jackson
    • Narrated By Bernadette Dunne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (599)
    Performance
    (520)
    Story
    (528)

    Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House.

    Mark says: "Superb Reading of Horror Classic"
    "Watch out for the quiet ones"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Shirley Jackson did not invent the "Let's spend the night in a haunted house" trope, but she owned it with this book. Arguably, her disciples Richard Matheson and Stephen King even improved on it, but The Haunting of Hill House is a study in how to generate understated shivers without gore or violence. (Okay, there is a bit of gore, but it's phantasmal... right?)

    The story opens with a straightforward expository introduction to Dr. Montague, who wants to spend the night in an 80-year-old house reputed to be haunted and shunned by the locals. It has the usual haunted house history - the builder was cracked, bad things happened, and everyone who's moved in since has left immediately. Dr. Montague hires two people with a history of paranormal encounters to stay with him, on the theory that people who've had weird things happen before are more likely to cause weird things to happen in a haunted house. The owners of the house also insist on sending their worthless heir to join the party.

    It's thin as pretexts to throw a bunch of strangers together in a haunted house go, but it works as well as most horror story setups. The plot itself is no more than the summary - this group hangs out in a creepy old house, and creepy things happen creepily. But Jackson really created characters. Dr. Montague is fussy, stuffy, and (when his wife shows up later in the book), completely henpecked and almost pathetic. Eleanor, the protagonist if this book has one, is a meek young woman used to being pushed around and disregarded. She shows up at Hill House because she figures anything has to be better than her life with her sister and brother-in-law. Theodora is a brassy, sarcastic single girl who occupies the "slut" slot reserved for every horror movie, though on the page she doesn't do much more than flirt with bad boy Luke (though more is certainly implied). There is also the dour local woman hired as housekeeper, and then Dr. Montague's domineering, insufferable planchette-reading wife, who really livens things up when she arrives, and her driver Anthony.

    But the main character, of course, is Hill House.

    Hill House has bumps and shivers and shadows and cold spots and closing doors and whispering voices and all the other special effects of any self-respecting haunted house, but naturally the real horror comes from the effect it has on its victims. One member of our group of house-sitters proves to be most susceptible to its blandishments. I shan't spoil, though it's pretty obvious almost immediately who's not going to leave Hill House.

    This is a ghost story rather than a horror story; for connoisseurs of haunted house stories I wouldn't even say it's necessarily the best. But it is a classic whose influence can be felt in every haunted house story and movie ever made since, and Shirley Jackson does a lot with a little; definitely a must-read on a dark October night.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Leo Tolstoy
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    Overall
    (148)
    Performance
    (131)
    Story
    (133)

    Hailed as one of the world’s masterpieces of psychological realism, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high-court judge who has never given the inevitability of his death so much as a passing thought. But one day death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise he is brought face-to-face with his own mortality. How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?

    Alexandria Milton says: "Elegant, simple, and true"
    "Another of Tolstoy's grim moral parables"
    Overall
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    I find Tolstoy a gloomy writer. Despite his deeply religious beliefs, I have not read a single story of his that seemed to contain any real hope, optimism, or joy, just lives full of misery, hypocrisy, and disappointment, until the very end. Then there is redemption through grace - a very Christian message, but not exactly an uplifting one except to those who've already accepted that life is meant to be suffering and the only relief is your reward in the hereafter.

    The Death of Ivan Ilyich begins and ends with the title character's death. His colleagues and friends are notified of his death, and are deeply affected:

    "Ivan Ilych had been a colleague of the gentlemen present and was liked by them all. He had been ill for some weeks with an illness said to be incurable. His post had been kept open for him, but there had been conjectures that in case of his death Alexeev might receive his appointment, and that either Vinnikov or Shtabel would succeed Alexeev. So on receiving the news of Ivan Ilych's death the first thought of each of the gentlemen in that private room was of the changes and promotions it might occasion among themselves or their acquaintances."

    The story then goes on to trace Ivan Ilyich's entire life, from a fairly happy childhood to a tolerably happy marriage, descending into an increasingly bitter and joyless one, until Ivan Ilyich contracts a terminal disease and dies, in the end, after weeks of pain and suffering and his friends and family all pretending he's not dying, which only upsets him more.

    This novella is really Tolstoy indulging in moral philosophizing. The unfortunate Ivan Ilyich looks back on his life and his steadily decreasing pleasure in it, and then comes to a place of peace only at the very end. Tolstoy's prose (even in translation) is nuanced and subtle and a master artist's portrayal of his subjects.

    Simon Prebble's narration is excellent, and his tone perfectly suited to the story.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Stainless Steel Rat

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Harry Harrison
    • Narrated By Phil Gigante
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (982)
    Performance
    (767)
    Story
    (766)

    DiGriz is caught during one of his crimes and recruited into the Special Corps. Boring, routine desk work during his probationary period results in his discovering that someone is building a battleship, thinly disguised as an industrial vessel. In the peaceful League no one has battleships anymore, so the builder of this one would be unstoppable. DiGriz' hunt for the guilty becomes a personal battle between himself and the beautiful but deadly Angelina, who his planning a coup on one of the feudal worlds.

    SFF11C says: "Awesome"
    "Rogues in space"
    Overall
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    Story

    "Slippery" Jim DiGriz is a rogue in a society that is a peaceful, plentiful utopia and has mostly bred antisocial behavior away. That leaves men like DiGriz bored and, unable to cope with society any other way, they plan capers. Since there are so few people like him, there is a Special Corps dedicated to stopping these nefarious ne'er do wells.

    After a bank heist and a scam that turns the wrong way, DiGriz gets captured, and recruited into the Corps. Of course. Takes a thief to catch a thief, and DiGriz's boss is a former arch-criminal himself. DiGriz is sent to figure out why a peaceful, backwards planet is building a battlecruiser. This leads him into conflict with the beautiful and deadly Angelina, who mostly gets away with stuff because this book was written in 1961, so even in this far-future galactic setting, everyone expects a pretty girl to be a hapless doll, not a sociopathic mastermind plotting revolutions and conquest.

    DiGriz is the archetypical scoundrel who's secretly a decent guy, and his crimes are mostly bloodless ones. He reviles Angelina's bloodthirstiness, yet still falls in love with her... because she's hot? And also because she's a criminal mastermind like him.

    Coal-burning robots, giant battlecruisers that exist for no particular reason, thousand-year-old galactic civilizations, and guys 'n dolls. Nothing deep here, but it's an entertaining space romp. This is a classic space opera and light-hearted sci-fi that shows its datedness a bit, but will be fun for anyone who likes the old stuff.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Persuasion

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Jane Austen
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1227)
    Performance
    (887)
    Story
    (898)

    Anne Elliot has grieved for seven years over the loss of her first love, Captain Frederick Wentworth. But events conspire to unravel the knots of deceit and misunderstanding in this beguiling and gently comic story of love and fidelity.

    Emily - Audible says: "Juliet Stevenson is Simply Amazing"
    "Not Austen's best, but still Austen"
    Overall
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    I have now read five of Austen's six novels. Persuasion seems to me to be the most outright romantic of those I've read, meaning that while the entire trajectory of the plot, like all of Austen's novels, was to bring the designated couple together in the end for their Happily Ever After, there wasn't a lot else to it.

    Anne Elliot, a single woman who has "lost her bloom" at the ripe old age of 27 (!) has a vain, foolish father and a couple of vain and selfish sisters, but somehow has herself grown up to be wise, discerning, self-willed, and charitable. She's definitely one of Austen's most likeable heroines.

    Seven years ago, she had an offer of marriage from a young man named Frederick Wentworth. Despite their being very much in love, Anne was persuaded against the marriage (hence the title) by a family friend and substitute mother figure, Lady Russell. F.W. went off heartbroken, joined the Navy, and came back rich.

    Anne, of course, is still in love with Captain Wentworth. Captain Wentworth is still in love with Anne. Will these two star-crossed lovers somehow manage to get together again?

    SPOILER: Yes.

    (It's Austen. Duh.)

    This was Austen's final work, and apparently it's many peoples' favorite Austen. I cannot say it was mine. The simple nature of the love story left few surprises, and while of course there are the usual misunderstandings, false "entanglements," misapprehensions about who's in love with whom and who's going to get married, etc., these are all very obvious red herrings to the reader, as Austen practically spells out everyone's true motive from the beginning.

    That's not to say I didn't enjoy it - I always enjoy Austen. But Persuasion was lacking the thing that made Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Emma so delightful: humor.

    That's not to say there was no humor at all (setting it above Mansfield Park, in my estimation). Anne Elliot's father, Sir Walter, is a perfectly silly man who's amusing because he takes himself so very seriously.

    But the humor is biting; Sir Walter doesn't have any amusing lines, he just goes around sniffing at those beneath him, acting vain and prideful in the face of financial ruin, and generally being an aristocratic fop with zero self-awareness. Likewise, Anne's sisters and her father spend the latter half of the book kissing up to some distant noble cousins, the Dalrymples, who themselves are dull and uninteresting and only important because they've got blue blood, and thereafter making a ridiculous fuss name-dropping their connection.

    So, the foibles of Anne's family are somewhat amusing in an ironic way, and there are other quotable lines, but it's basically a story about one sensible, good-hearted woman in imminent danger of spinsterhood getting properly married despite her spendthrift father and superficial, self-centered sisters.

    Given Austen's own sad fate as an unmarried woman who died at 41, one cannot help suspecting a certain amount of self-identification with this heroine more than any other.

    The themes of the novel are persuasion (when it's good to allow yourself to be persuaded by others, and when it's not) and a bit of proto-feminism (maybe that's just my reading of it) as Anne and Captain Harville argue over whether men or women feel more deeply and more constantly.

    ""But let me observe that all histories are against you--all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men."

    "Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."

    Persuasion has all the usual Austen virtues - fine prose, wittiness, and sharp social criticism - and an assortment of characters just large enough to make for an interesting cast, with heroes and villains in the romance wars. But the simplicity of its plot and the missing humor element can't make this one my favorite.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Ex-Communication

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Peter Clines
    • Narrated By Jay Snyder, Khristine Hvam, Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1329)
    Performance
    (1231)
    Story
    (1231)

    In the years since the wave of living death swept the globe, St George and his fellow heroes haven't just kept Los Angeles' last humans alive - they’ve created a real community, a bustling town that's spreading beyond its original walls and swelling with new refugees. But now one of the heroes, perhaps the most powerful among them, seems to be losing his mind. The implacable enemy known as Legion has found terrifying new ways of using zombies as pawns in his attacks.

    Lore says: "Corpse Girl for the win!"
    "Book 3 in the zombie apocalypse-superhero mashup"
    Overall
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    Story

    I started reading the Ex-Heroes series because I have a geeky affection for zombies and superheroes, but Peter Clines is growing on me. The second book was a little better than the first, and the third book, while more of the same story-wise, continues to improve. It's still just a comic book in novel form, but like any ongoing series, if you stick with it you start to get attached to the characters and conversant with the continuity.

    The heroes guarding the walled enclave of Los Angeles, surrounded by several hundred thousand "Exes," or zombies, ended the last book with a new arch-enemy: Legion, a superhuman who has the power to spread his consciousness among an ever-growing number of zombies and control them. In Ex-Communication, Legion continues to try to get at the survivors, but then a new Big Bad appears. St. George, Captain Freedom, Stealth, Cerberus, and Zap have to defeat an honest-to-God demon lord from hell.

    The addition of actual magic into the Ex-Heroes' cosmology does it no great damage; it was already a comic book world. St. George continues to be the Superman of the series, and Stealth (now his girlfriend), the Batman. Zap is the Green Lantern, Cerberus is Iron (Wo)Man, and Captain Freedom... well, guess.

    Clines spins a fun yarn, and it's about as consistent and coherent as a superhero/zombie novel can be. There are the usual twists, reveals, a little more worldbuilding, and some clever power stunts, but at this point the books are just new installments for fans of the series. Hopefully Clines will expand this universe and stretch out a little before it gets stale.

    The audio performance is almost the best part about this book; the multiple narrators give each hero (and villain) a distinct voice, and greatly add to the entertainment value, making it even more like listening to a comic book being roleplayed with perfect earnestness.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Into the Storm: Destroyermen, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Taylor Anderson
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2357)
    Performance
    (1554)
    Story
    (1556)

    Pressed into service when World War II breaks out in the Pacific, the USS Walker---a Great-War vintage "four-stacker" destroyer---finds itself in full retreat from pursuit by Japanese battleships. Its captain, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Patrick Reddy, knows that he and his crew are in dire straits. In desperation, he heads Walker into a squall, hoping it will give them cover---and emerges somewhere else.

    Lore says: "It just never grabbed me."
    "Lemur-people vs. Dinosaur-people"
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    A World War II destroyer is sent back in time and joins lemur-people in a war against dinosaur-people.

    If that concept sounds awesome to you, then you should read this book. If that concept sounds silly to you, then I've just told you everything you need to know.

    Now, to be more precise, it's not entirely clear whether the USS Walker goes back in time or sidewise, but either way, the ship, on the run from a vastly superior Japanese fleet, winds up in an alternate timeline in which humans never evolved. Instead, they find themselves in a South Pacific inhabited by "Lemurians," who sail the seas in gigantic aircraft carrier-sized "home ships," and are currently facing an invasion by the savage, saurian "Grik"... who have sailing ships that are direct copies of 19th-century vessels from our timeline. Obviously, the Grik at some point encountered other humans who wound up in this timeline.

    The USS Walker's crew includes a large cast of characters notable mostly for their individual personality quirks, like any war movie, and the Lemurians also get some named characters who will obviously be important in future volumes. The Grik, at least in this book, are just a bloodthirsty horde of nameless monsters, and all we learn about their culture is that they're insanely violent and driven to conquer. They are so mindlessly violent, in fact, that it seems incredible they could even take the time to learn how to operate sailing ships. Hopefully they'll get fleshed out a bit more in future books.

    Into the Storm is the first volume in what appears to be a long series. There is nothing deep about it, but the writing, while nothing remarkable, was straightforward serviceable storytelling with brave men (and Lemurians) fighting a vile foe, and a lot of naval tactics, resource management, and inter-species diplomacy. I found it great fun, enough that I'll continue with the series unless and until it loses steam.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Tell No Lies

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Gregg Hurwitz
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (662)
    Performance
    (580)
    Story
    (579)

    The scion of an old-money San Francisco family, Daniel Brasher left his well-paying, respectable money-manager position to marry his community organizer wife and work at a job he loves, leading group counseling sessions with recently paroled violent offenders. One night he finds an envelope - one intended for someone else that was placed in his office mailbox by accident. Inside is an unsigned piece of paper, a handwritten note that says, "Admit what you've done or you will bleed for it."

    karen says: "The purgatory of group therapy"
    "Murder in San Francisco"
    Overall
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    Story

    Daniel Brasher is the scion of a super-wealthy San Francisco family who is trying to sever his difficult, snooty mother's apron strings. Having walked away from the lucrative trade of managing the family fortune, he's now a psychologist working with violent ex-cons. Not that he's donned sackcloth and taken a vow of poverty - he still has his money, and as the book begins, he's making plans to start a private practice in a nice luxury office suite.

    Much of the human interest involves his group of felons whom he meets with once a week as part of the terms of their parole. They are your usual assortment of poor, mostly non-white people who have made bad life choices, but each one has their little facets and secrets which are unveiled to give them a bit of added dimensionality. Much of the book takes place in their group counseling sessions, which of course turns out to be more significant when Daniel suspects that one of them is a killer.

    Without spoiling anything, the killer is out to avenge a perceived injustice, and naturally Daniel turns out to be involved personally. Most of the plot moves in predictable fashion - you can tell when a "twist" is coming by how much of the book is left - but despite it being both somewhat formulaic and implausible (I really don't think the SFPD are going to keep asking a civilian who also happens to be the son of one of the city's most prominent families to keep coming to crime scenes where a serial killer may still be lurking about), I found it entertaining most of the way through. Only at the very end did it become so formulaic as to make me wish it had ended a chapter or two earlier.

    Not a particularly thrilling thriller, but the plot moves nicely with a diverse range of characters, and being an expat Californian, I appreciated the San Francisco setting.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Steel World: Undying Mercenaries, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By B. V. Larson
    • Narrated By Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1770)
    Performance
    (1652)
    Story
    (1660)

    In the 20th century Earth sent probes, transmissions, and welcoming messages to the stars. Unfortunately, someone noticed. The Galactics arrived with their battle fleet in 2052. Rather than being exterminated under a barrage of hell-burners, Earth joined their vast Empire. Swearing allegiance to our distant alien overlords wasn't the only requirement for survival. We also had to have something of value to trade, something that neighboring planets would pay their hard-earned credits to buy. As most of the local worlds were too civilized to have a proper army, the only valuable service Earth could provide came in the form of soldiers....

    D says: "Classic Space Opera"
    "Not Heinlein, but a passable substitute"
    Overall
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    Nothing much original here - it's another wannabe Starship Troopers. But it does a good job being what it is, even if B.V. Larson is no Heinlein.

    The premise is simple: Earth was forcibly inducted into a Galactic Empire, in which every planet must have something of trade value or they get blown up. The only thing Earth had was its people — specifically, its soldiers. Yes, another interstellar civilization in which humans turn out to be the meanest fighters 'cause we're just so savage and violent. So young men and women (as is typical of modern military SF, this is another imagined future in which men and women fight side by side in undifferentiated roles) join Earth's Legions to go to distant, exotic planets, meet interesting aliens, and kill them.

    The protagonist, a slacker named James McGill, is sitting around in his tiny shared apartment playing video games until his mother tells him the government dole has run out. This is his impetus to go join the Legions. He fails the test for the higher status, more glamorous Legions, because he's too much of an "independent thinker" (i.e., a wise guy with poor impulse control), but just when he's about to give up, he finds himself recruited into Legion Varus, which has a reputation for doing a lot of hard, dirty, "real" fighting. With almost no training, McGill finds himself given a gun and sent to a planet occupied by lizard men. The rest of the book consists of McGill repeatedly getting himself in trouble and navigating the petty politics of both the Legion and the Galactics, in between bloody battles in which half the time he and his buddies wind up dead.

    Oh yes, they have "Revival Units," i.e. respawning. So when a soldier dies, his backed-up memories are dumped into a newly-grown body. For McGill, this is disturbing and disorienting and quite upsetting the first couple of times it happens, so the author tries to emphasize that infinite respawning does not come without a cost, but McGill also comes to understand that some of his superiors have been killed and regrown over and over and over, for years, which certainly gives them a different take on life.

    Besides the respawning, it also turns out that the Galactics monitor all mercenary battles and score it according to arcane rules which, it turns out, are heavily biases against Earth. The real plot consists of McGill finding out how Legion Varus's battles on Steel World may determine the fate of the Legion, and of Earth itself.

    So, very heavily reminiscent of a RTS game. Steel World has a lot of action and cleverly-deployed aliens and technology, and decent characterization. (I found McGill himself the most annoying - even after being killed a few times, he's still kind of a whiny, entitled punk.) Some pieces of the plot were a little implausible, and at times the characters' actions stretched credibility just to introduce some artificial tension, but overall it was a fun, pleasant read to fill a few hours when you are in the mood for yet another Johnny Rico clone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Metro 2033

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Dmitry Glukhovsky
    • Narrated By Rupert Degas
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (190)
    Performance
    (181)
    Story
    (179)

    The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct and the half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boundaries, they say, lie endless burned-out deserts and the remains of splintered forests. Survivors still remember the past greatness of humankind, but the last remains of civilisation have already become a distant memory. Man has handed over stewardship of the earth to new life-forms. A few score thousand survivors live on, not knowing whether they are the only ones left on Earth....

    Jameson says: "Fantastic voicework and great story"
    "Mutants on the metro!"
    Overall
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    A nuclear war in 2013 wiped out most of the population of the world, and the remnants living underground in the Moscow subway tunnels believe they are the only humans left alive. Each station in the old metro is now its own little city-state. The main character, a young man named Artyom, is sent on a quest to another station. Along the way, he meets Nazis, Communists, Satanists, monks, cannibals, cultists, flying monsters, and mutants. The ending is ironic and grim, as befits a Russian novel taking place after the bombs fall.

    Apparently a big cult phenomenon in Russia, which has spawned sequels and video games, Metro 2033 reads a lot like an old-school post-holocaust fantasy, with a man of the new world journeying through the wreckage of the old one, missing the references that are left for the reader to recognize. It also reads a lot like an old-school dungeon crawl, which makes it both repetitive and fun, though I'm afraid the repetitiveness caused me to tune out at several points in the story as I listened to the audiobook.

    Artyom's quest basically consists of going from one station to the next, finding each ruled by some twisted microcosm of the old world (the Red Line, the Fourth Reich, the Watchtower, etc.), escaping, and moving on, acquiring and losing companions along the way.

    It's not hard to see how this would adapt well to a game. The writing was often psychologically deeper than your typical mutant-haunted post-apocalyptic tale, but the descriptiveness of the prose seemed to fall a little flat in translation. It's definitely a little different in tone from a Western sci-fi novel, even though it conforms to the genre fine. Had it been a little bit less of a dungeon crawl, I would probably have enjoyed it more, but after the third or fourth narrow escape from underground morlocks, I began to simply become impatient for the climax. I suspect, however, that there are a lot of references and in-jokes that didn't translate well into English.

    I was not a big fan of the narrator, who was not terrible, and had a properly deep, sonorous Russian voice, but his tone was flat and he frequently dropped his voice so low that I could not hear his words while driving unless I turned the volume all the way up.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Metamorphosis

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Franz Kafka
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (327)
    Performance
    (292)
    Story
    (293)

    “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.” With this startlingly bizarre sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young traveling salesman who, transformed overnight into a giant, beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. Rather than being surprised at the transformation, the members of his family despise it as an impending burden upon themselves.

    Patrick Weldon says: "Kafka-esque terrific"
    "So this guy wakes up as a bug..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    So, this guy Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning as a cockroach. (Actually, the Wikipedia article has an interesting discussion about how Kafka never specified exactly what kind of bug Gregor turned into). His family freaks out a little, as you might expect, but then they sort of come to accept the situation. Gregor feels increasingly isolated as he cannot really communicate with them and he can no longer support them as he once did. Coexisting in a tiny apartment with a giant cockroachinsect becomes increasingly burdensome for the family. Eventually Gregor dies (implied, that he wills himself to death to spare his family further burden) and they're all relieved. The end.

    Sort of a downer. I think it loses a lot in the translation, as apparently Kafka's prose in the original German was much of the reason for The Metamorphosis's high literary status.

    This is a surrealistic piece which, technically, you could probably call "magical realism." (No explanation is ever given for Gregor's transformation into a giant bug, and no one seems curious about how such a thing could happen. They're just all rather distressed by the whole thing without ever really talking about it.

    Frankly, as a story it was a bit flat and anti-climactic, and if there is some deeper meaning, I'm afraid I missed it. Would probably enjoy it more if I read it in the original German.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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