Colorado Springs, Colorado United States | Member Since 2013
Richard Morgan has a way with words and a great sense of pacing. His depiction of action sequences, especially hand-to-hand combat, is unsurpassed. His characters are well fleshed out; you will get to know them as the story unfolds—get to know them perhaps a little too intimately for your comfort level. You may cringe every time they have a scene, but they will not bore you.
As I alluded to above, this book fits nicely into the category of Modern Fantasy. Gone are the world-saving quests of Middle Earth. There is no Elven magic ™ here; no grand struggle between good and evil. What you will find here is a story set in an un-kinder un-gentler world; a world where the heroes are unlikely and oft times unlikable, but, for that reason, all the more believable. Richard Morgan has a real sense of the inherent depravity of man which he employs in character creation that makes everything he writes essential listening—this is proved by his mastery of first Science Fiction, in his earlier books, and now Fantasy.
And now for something completely different: a bit of awkward philosophical introspection. I first read this novel in print after reading the amazing Takeshi Kovacs series. Fantasy is not my usual thing but Morgan is so good that I thought it was necessary to read. On that first pass, I was revolted by the explicit depiction of the deviant sexuality of the main character, Ringil. I examined my outrage and discovered that it was founded on my sense of morality, a sense that should have elicited the same level of disgust when reading depictions of fornication and adultery, which is prominent in much modern fiction. Take for example two very popular fictional characters: Ian Fleming’s womanizing spy, James Bond or Donald Westlake’s murdering thief, Parker. If morality is the basis for outrage then these need to be considered offensive as well. So my self-righteous outrage was misplaced. It was based on my personal proclivities on such matters. Now that I have dabbled in other modern fantasy novels I find this level of sex to be a common feature in the genre. Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series comes to mind as another example. The thing is, these novels are not about sex, the author uses it as a device to provoke a gut response in the reader — once you realize that, you can see it for what it is and try to enjoy the story. Morgan has chosen to populate this book with characters that are rude and crude and worldly. If they did not engage in despicable acts they would lose their credibility as ruffians and blackguards. Without crossing the line of decorum let me try to give another observation. A tabulation of the hetero acts that are explicitly depicted in this novel will reveal only those “positions” that can be performed by homo practitioners as well. This indicates to me that Morgan is tweaking the audience. Yes he has an agenda of promoting tolerance based on his anti-Christian worldview. No it not done gratuitously. Morgan is systematic in his agenda, deliberately forcing us to examine our own hypocrisy in having selective outrage. I am still not comfortable with the scenes in question, but my second pass through this novel has made me realize that they are effective in evoking an emotional response from the listener; no mean feat for a seemingly simple Sword and Sorcery tale. .
Simon Vance has the air of a proper English gentleman. His vocalizations help smooth out the rough patches and make them less irritating. When a particularly harrowing, or particularly explicit, scene is being read by Mr. Vance (or is it Sir Vance?) I cannot help but think of Monty Python who could make the ridiculous seem sublime.
This is Steinbeck’s masterpiece. Here is exposed the evil that is in men’s hearts. John Steinbeck depicts some people as monsters. Not the creepy paranormal monsters of Stephen King but a much more horrifying type of monster; the kind that lives in the head of everyone. The people in this book are complex and realistic, all the more so because their proclivities toward evil are uncomfortably familiar to anyone of Adam’s race. I recommend this as a lofty example of American novel writing, and an engrossing excursion into the true nature of man. Richard Poe narrates in a voice that just seems perfectly apt for that of a young Steinbeck. This is everything I look for in an audiobook: captivating entertainment with a hook that forces your mind to ponder.
Listening to this was like reliving the TV miniseries from years ago. Every chapter brought to mind a scene from the video production and I realized that the movie was very faithful to the book. There are very strong influences of the television production evident in this audiobook. Lee Horsley is wonderful as the narrator, and his voicing of the character Gus is a perfect impression of Tommy Lee Jones. There is so much beauty of characterization in this book that one must wonder what cruel intention was in McMurtry’s mind when he penned such fixation on death that pervades every story arc in this novel.
I recently concluded listening to several books on various elements of world history and this was the best. At first I thought this was too dry for my taste and the narration by Michael Prichard brought to mind the voice-overs of old Cinema news-reels. But after paying attention for several hours I began to track with the writer and discovered that Kaplan is in touch with current academic thought and is able to distill information from a wide variety of sources and relate it in a fashion that is understandable for the layman. Despite the title, this is not an unmitigated defense of geographical determinism. This books does, however, put forth many examples from history of people groups who—for a time—defy the restrictions of topography, in ambitious exploits of martial glory, only to succumb to the inevitable forces of the lands in which they live. For me, this book was a glimpse into the realm of the political experts that advise the movers and shakers of the world. It is useful for those trying to make sense of the ebb and flow of ancient civilizations—and attempt to predict what may transpire in our own time.
This book is less a history lesson than it is a worshipful panegyric extolling the virtues of materialistic atheism. I found it to be well written and wonderfully narrated by Edoardo Ballerini. What I did not find it to be was correct. Greenblatt’s premise is that the lost poem of Lucretius, “On the Nature of Things” was instrumental in shaping the modern way of thinking. And what was this great rediscovered revelation so nearly lost to history? “The denial of divine providence and the denial of the afterlife were the twin pillars of Lucretuis’ whole poem” (8:29). I hardly think that atheism was in danger of being forgotten. Greenblatt succumbs to the common error of many who spend their lives in the hollowed halls of higher learning: he fails to consider that the normal state of man is a life lived in rebellion against God. For Greenblatt the recovery of this lost poem of Lucretius was not just a boon to literature but to epistemology as well; for through it we remain connected to our classical atomistic roots. He attributes Lucretius the virtue of restoring our atomistic understanding of the ontological nature of the universe. This was summed up in the words of the modern popularizer of atheistic thought, Carl Sagan, who famously, and nearly reverentially, put mankind in his place with the words, “We are star stuff.” No humanistic, materialistic atheism was never in danger of extinction. That said, this book is an entertaining excursion exploring humanistic thought and Greenblatt makes his case as well as he can considering his presuppositional basis of Godlessness.
Any attempt to understand the modern world must explain the shape of the Middle East. This is a serious attempt to dismantle the Middle East turmoil from the perspective of World War One and the enigmatic figure of T. E. Lawrence. After listening, I can say that I think I grasp the shape of the political forces of the Middle East a lot better but that I fail to know the strangely paradoxical figure of Lawrence. Far from the romantic Peter O’Toole version of Lawrence of Arabia, Scott Anderson paints a portrait of the man that is more realistic and contradictory.
Malcolm Hillgartner submits a journeyman’s effort here. Nothing spectacular, but clear and unobtrusive.
Consider the sweep of world history from the perspective of governmental structure. This book is useful to gain an understanding of our modern world by looking at the development of the various strategies employed by the ancients. I now have a better understanding of how China can have a tradition of central government going back thousands of years and still not have any sense of ethics in their leadership. I now know how Russia seems to have difficulty implementing Western-style democracy when all they have ever known is authoritarianism. Of course, for it to fully sink in I will have to listen to it a second time; but first I may tackle volume two. This book is structured much like a series of scholarly lectures. Narrated by the always excellent Jonathan Davis.
This book has been in my library for years, and since I was on a history kick I decided to tackle it now. The first thing that struck me was the disparity in narrative impact between Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel and this book. Collapse has none of the human interest of the earlier work. He does give several examples of his theory of the reasons for cultural collapse—all of which are some variation of environmental damage. This reads (listens) like a piece of propaganda for the Climate Change believers.
At first I was disappointed that I had mistakenly obtained the abridged version, but after the first hour I began to wish for the end to come even sooner. I can recommend Guns, Germs and Steel as a thought provoking book; important for the cultural literacy of any conversationalist. Reading this book will not make you the life of any party. Hearing the doom and gloom of such cautionary tales from those looking to government to solve all of society’s ills is tedious and not at all entertaining.
This book filled in some gaps in my understanding of the history of Western Civilization but failed to thrill me as some other periods of history were able to do.
Charlton Griffin is a fine choice for narrator here. The production values employed here are quite high. I particularly enjoyed the treatment of quotations in this audiobook: When quoting, Griffin’s voice is given some reverb, thus setting the quotation material apart from the explanatory text.
It is amazing what Genghis Khan was able to accomplish from the steppes of Asia. The empire he established would eventually reign over all of what are now Chinese lands and extended to the realms of Europe. Most interesting was the high level of organization the great Khan instilled in his government without a dominant centralized capitol city. I found this to be an interesting historical account.
Jonathan Davis is one of my favorite narrators. I found his effort here to be a bit slow-paced. Increasing the playback speed to 1.5X retained all the qualities needed to understand his voice and helped me retain my interest.
Winston Churchill is a towering figure in the history of the twentieth century, and a master of the English language. I recommend that you listen to the three volume, 132 hour-long, biography by William Manchester (vol. 3 with Paul Reid)— titled collectively, The Last Lion—in order to get a picture of the man Churchill before delving into his voice in these speeches.
Churchill has been called a great orator, and that is certainly true, but this not because he possessed a Stentorian voice, or even great talent of diction. On the contrary, his voice is almost comically wispy and his annunciation is often muddled. He had a slight speech impediment that brings to mind Elmer Fudd when you hear him speak. The monumental force of his will, his penetrating mind, and his razor sharp wit combined to force him into the public forum. He knew that he had to become a great public speaker and set out to achieve that goal with his typical purpose and drive. Reading his biography we learn that he had to overcome his fear of public speaking with designed determination. He spoke from notes, and not just from a brief hand-written outline: He had his speeches typed out in what his staff called “Psalm form.” By this they meant that each line was printed on a separate line, like a poem. He made notes on inserting effective pauses, on where to raise his voice, and where to pound the podium. Just like he overcame his weak body to become a star on the Polo field, overcame a learning disability to become a scholar, in like fashion he overcame his natural limitations, in diction and forcefulness of voice, to become the great public speaker that he knew he needed to become in order to motivate men to undertake the terrible task of fighting the forces of evil in this modern world.
I thought I had a good grasp of the period of history and Chuchill’s place within it from reading his biography and his Memoirs. But listening to him speak lifted this history off of the page and made it real. He made it a point of mocking Hitler by consistently calling him “the Corporal” and purposefully mispronouncing “Nazi” as Nahzee. I have read of these disparaging tactics employed by Churchill but hearing them has forever cemented it in my mind. It is remarkable how spectacular it must have been to witness these events as they unfolded. Hearing Winston Churchill recount the progress of the war gave me a much better understanding of the mood and the times of the Second World War.
This production is billed at a 17:16 package. At about the 10 hour mark I noticed that the speeches were being repeated. For example: At time marker 2:25 there is a speech called “Broadcast from London to the United States,” which begins, “Alexander the Great remarked that the people of Asia were slaves because they had not learned to pronounce the word ‘no.’” This same speech is repeated at the 10:04 mark. From the ten hour point onward many, if not all, the speeches are duplicated. I skipped from chapter to chapter and noticed that up to the ten hour mark the speeches were in chronological order; taking the reader from the years leading up to WWII to the time of the surrender of Germany. After the ten-hour mark this production returns to the year 1939 and the speeches are duplicated.
These are vintage recordings of speeches and readings from Churchill himself and the clarity of the recording is expectedly not up to modern standards. The words of Winston Churchill set their own high standard; one that no orator utilizing all the advanced technology nowadays can hope to equal.
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