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Dubi

People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.

New York, NY, United States

ratings
139
REVIEWS
138
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
7
HELPFUL VOTES
214

  • Helen & Troy's Epic Road Quest

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By A. Lee Martinez
    • Narrated By Khristine Hvam
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (296)
    Performance
    (276)
    Story
    (278)

    Witness the epic battle of the cyclops! Visit the endangered dragon preserve! Please, no slaying. Solve the mystery of The Mystery Cottage, if you dare! Buy some knickknacks from The Fates! They might come in handy later. On a road trip across an enchanted America, Helen and Troy will discover all this and more. If the curse placed upon them by an ancient god doesn't kill them or the pack of reluctant orc assassins don't catch up to them, Helen and Troy might reach the end their journey in one piece, where they might just end up destroying the world.

    Charlene says: "A little twee but very funny."
    "Gods and Monsters (Go Monsters!)"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    At first, I would not recommend this type of audiobook to my wife. Fantasy and sci-fi was just not her thing, no matter how good I thought it was. Then she tried one by accident, and loved it. Then I recommended another, and she loved it. I can't recommend everything to her -- one wrong move and she'll probably revert to her initial stance of not liking the genre. Helen and Troy, however, will be one that heartily recommend. The humor helps -- and the good humor inherent in the writing and the reading.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The subject matter is not original, but the charismatic characters and cheerful tone make it stand out as unique. Others have imagined our world, as it exists in reality for us, peopled by magical or supernatural or mythological beings (cf. of course Harry Potter). Helen and Troy live in such a world, where an ordinary young woman like Helen can have familiar problems but also be a minotaur, and she can be sent on a magical quest by a god (one of many) that she meets in the burger joint where she and Troy work, and she and Troy can be recruited by an FBI-CIA-type agency to carry out that quest.

    On one hand, the consistency of the world created by A. Lee Martinez makes it work, but on the other hand it's the humor and good humor that make that world and its characters so likeable -- sorry to be repetitive, but humor is one thing, something that makes you laugh, which is frequent while listening to this book, but good humor doesn't mean that the laughs are good, it means that it's all done with a jovial spirit that is irresistible. And it is.


    Which character – as performed by Khristine Hvam – was your favorite?

    Helen is another wonderfully empowered young woman, not least because she has minotaur blood, and her youthful sarcasm never bites, as performed by Khristine Hvam. But with all due respect, my favorite character was Nigel the Orc. An accountant in a world of gods and monsters that has been thoroughly updated to 21st century civilization, he first buys into the traditional violent villainy of being an Orc, but then discovers that it is more heroic to be an enlightened creature. Wonderful stuff, especially with the cockney accent Hvam gives him and the other Orcs.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    There has been a lot of snow in the Northeast US this winter. I've had to shovel the sidewalk three days in a row now. Not just shovel -- I've had to scrape the ice off my heavily trafficked sidewalk. I listened to much of this book while doing that. So not one sitting -- just a tad too long for that -- but definitely a big help in getting through a tedious chore.


    Any additional comments?

    As I said, the idea of placing magical, mythical beings in a normal human setting is not original. Beyond the obvious Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman's American Gods imagined our contemporary world with the pantheon of ancient gods living ordinary lives among the mere morals, Hard Magic peopled the film noir world of the gangster era with people possessing magical powers, Christopher Moore's entire body of work (mostly) takes them one at a time, and on the big and small screen, and in comic books, we've seen X-Men, Heroes, Alphas, The 4400, etc. etc. etc. (not to mention countless vampires and werewolves, which I mostly hate).

    In this context, I'm not sure why I even decided to try Helen and Troy, since the last time I went for something in this sub-genre (Hard Magic), I was sorely disappointed and felt that the territory was too well trodden. But I'd seen Martinez mentioned often alongside authors I like (like Moore), so I gave it a shot, and am glad I did, because Martinez makes it work beyond its well-worn territory with, as I've already said more than once, the humor and the characters and the tone.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By L. Frank Baum
    • Narrated By Anne Hathaway
    Overall
    (2605)
    Performance
    (2312)
    Story
    (2332)

    One of the best-known stories in American culture, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has stirred the imagination of young and old alike for over 100 years. Best Actress nominee Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married, Alice In Wonderland), fresh from filming The Dark Knight Rises, lent her voice to this uniquely American fairy tale.

    Thomas M Clifford says: "In Time for the Holiday.Give the GIFT of a STORY!"
    "Good, Not as Great as the Movie"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    You probably never heard of Noel Langley. He was the South African novelist who wrote the original screenplay as well as the final screenplay for The Wizard of Oz, the beloved 1939 movie. Before Langley, no one ever heard of Miss Gulch, or of the three farmhands working on the Gale farm in black-and-white Kansas. That's because he invented them and added them to Frank Baum's original 1900 children's novel. Langley chucked most of what his co-writers Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf added to the screenplay, but he did keep one of their creations, Professor Marvel, also not in the book, though similar to Oz's alter-ego who appears toward the end of Baum's version as the man behind the curtain.

    Baum's book is mostly the same as the movie. The latter has the extended introduction while the former has a more elaborate ending, the one making up for the other. There are other differences, but not enough to throw anyone off. Other than Kansas, Baum has more going on than the movie, and that's good. Of course, there's no music. Instead, the audio edition casts Anne Hathaway as the slightly overboard celebrity narrator -- to mixed results, if you look at the body of reviews. I thought her voices were pretty good, mostly based on the film voices, but some sounding like Valley Girls.

    What I paid most attention to in listening to the original book was the allegory. It has been postulated that Baum, a turn of the century populist (or maybe not, depending on whom you read), crafted his story to closely allegorize the political issues and personalities of his day. For example, Oz is the abbreviation of ounce, referring to the silver standard that was hotly debated at the time, as well as the ruby slippers, which in the original are silver. The wicked witch of the east is Wall Street, the munchkins are the little people, the scarecrow represents farmers, the tin man workers, and the emerald city is DC, Oz the president.

    Since the movie script did not adhere to this allegory (e.g. ruby instead of silver slippers), I was interested in trying to pick up on these details in the original narrative. I wasn't really able to -- I think it would take a more Talmudic approach to parsing the actual text. will leave it to scholars to do that. Meanwhile, I'll cue up Dark Side of the Moon and watch the opening sequence of the movie again.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Night

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Elie Wiesel
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2598)
    Performance
    (1312)
    Story
    (1330)

    Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Gold Medal, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel offers an unforgettable account of Hitler's horrific reign of terror in Night. This definitive edition features a new translation from the original French by Wiesel's wife and frequent translator, Marion Wiesel.

    Jacobus says: "A quality production of a gripping tradegy"
    "Night Terrors"
    Overall
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    Eliezer, the main character of Night who is mostly but (possibly) not completely the alter-ego of Elie Wiesel, has a moment, early during his Holocaust experience, where he believes, hopes, that it is all a nightmare from which he will imminently awake. He soon realizes that it is all too real, worse than a living nightmare, a relentless series of night terrors for him and his father and the people around him.

    Wiesel's pared-down memoir of the Holocaust is mostly straightforward description of what he experienced, how he went from one place to the next, how he was treated, how he found food, how he survived illness, what was happening to those around him, most notably his father, with him most of the time. Only on occasion does Wiesel delve into his feelings, but when he does, that's where his account really hits home.

    Worst of all are his feelings about his father. As much he strives to keep together and stay alive, he agonizes over the sense that his own chance of survival would improve if his father was not there. He feels terrible guilt about being rendered powerless to intervene when his father is mistreated. Sadly, Wiesel does not attempt to explore how his father felt about having to play the same role for his teenaged son.

    There is also Wiesel's famous abandonment of God during the course of his experience, quite understandable but not nearly universal among survivors.

    For me, this book was more personal. My father's experience was nearly identical -- dread of impending war overlaid by unfounded optimism among those who chose to stay (one of my father's brother emigrated to Palestine before the war), years in the ghetto (Lodz for my father), deportation by cattle car to the camps (most of my father's family died in those cars), arrival at Auschwitz and the selection process under the evil glare of Mengele, death march in mid-winter to a far-off camp, loss of a family member (sister) just before liberation.

    My father rarely spoke about those things. Later in life, when he did, it was mostly about the broader events. Wiesel gets into detail, how the camps were organized, how they were supervised, how the selection process worked, how they were fed, how they dealt with each other. And how people died. I found incredible and indelible power in his spare but detailed account, punctuated by the profound of emotions about his father, his God, his guilt, about humanity and inhumanity, the survival instinct, and having to live with terrors that cannot and should not be forgotten.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • SPQR I: The King's Gambit

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By John Maddox Roberts
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (499)
    Performance
    (405)
    Story
    (407)

    John Maddox Roberts takes listeners back to a Rome filled with violence and evil. Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey, routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike. So the garroting of a lowly ex-slave and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the Roman hierarchy.

    Abigail says: "Love these! Need more!"
    "Anachrophobia"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A young lawyer investigates a series of murders, uncovering political corruption, gangland rivalries, foreign intrigue, class warfare, femme fatales, and vast conspiracies. Film noir? A contemporary procedural? No -- it all takes place in ancient Rome in the waning days of the Republic, with a young Julius Caesar making a couple of cameo appearances long before his ascendancy to the role of emperor.

    In the first half of the first book in his SPQR series, what John Maddox Roberts does best is paint a portrait of life in Rome, using the form of the modern murder mystery as a framework. And maybe if I read SPQR before watching the HBO series Rome, that might have been more interesting than it was -- predating the TV show by 15 years, the Rome of SPQR, even with its murders and swordplay, is quite tame.

    But the big problem with SPQR is that the mystery fails. Big time. "Why am I telling you all this?" says the villain to the lawyer during the final hour after explaining the reason behind the murders. The Talking Villain -- one of the most hackneyed, trite, and laziest of mystery conventions. Long ago discredited. And in any credible mystery, you have to give the reader a chance to figure things out along the way -- the reveals in SPQR are totally out of left field in terms of who done it as well as why they done it.

    Newsflash, JMR: The game of chess was not invented during Roman times, and was still a millenium away from reaching Europe -- one thousand years! Maybe you thought it was OK for you to include such a blatant anachronism since Shakespeare included a number of them in Julius Caesar. Further newsflash, JMR: You are no Shakespeare.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Under Their Thumb: How a Nice Boy from Brooklyn Got Mixed Up with the Rolling Stones (and Lived to Tell About It)

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Bill German
    • Narrated By Tom Richards
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    Bill German was a fairly normal teenager growing up in Brooklyn - frustrated at girls, frustrated at school, but mostly frustrated at the poor reporting in magazines and on the radio of his favorite band, The Rolling Stones. So, on his sixteenth birthday, dressed in his pajamas, he set out to, well, set the record straight on Mick, Keith, Ron, and Charlie. Beggars Banquet started as a simple fanzine, but as luck would have it, the band was living only a subway ride away. You want to hang with the Stones? Be careful what you wish for....

    Dubi says: "Living the Dream"
    "Living the Dream"
    Overall
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    If you're a Rolling Stones fan, you will identify to some degree with Bill German. As a teen in the 70s, he launched a homemade Stones fanzine and soon transformed his rabid fandom into a dream career of covering his favorite band full time. He got to follow them around the world on tour, and even became close friends with Keith Richard, Ron Wood, and various other members of the Stones entourage.

    But be careful what you wish for. Or as Billy's teacher warned him, if you make your work feel like fun, your fun will eventually feel like work. It takes Billy 17 years to figure this out. His fellow Stones fans may envy him for getting in with their idols, getting into their shows and parties, but he eventually comes to envy them their freedom to just be fans and enjoy the music.

    Billy makes the Stones -- Keith and Woody, at least -- seem like real people. There are few tales of sex and drugs, since Billy, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, didn't participate in that side of it (though he doesn't whitewash it either). Instead, they come off as family men and good friends with their hearts in the right place. All except Mick -- if you're a big Jagger fan, you are not going to like this portrayal at all. If it's always Keith vs. Mick, Billy is with Keith, and for good reason.

    What really hits home is Billy's constant insecurity, one foot inside the inner sanctum, one foot as the perpetual outsider, always the independent journalist and the opportunistic fan, rarely a trusted and welcome member of the greater Stones family (except in his personal relationships with Keith and Woody). I relate to this, having gone through a similar exercise (at a more advanced age) with my favorite sports team, publishing a magazine and website for my fellow fans, trying to act like a professional sportswriter, but never fully accepted as such by the team (though there were notable exceptions among some of my fellow writers).

    In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I knew Billy German. Of course, he was just ten years old, I was just a teenager -- he was friends with my little brother and sister, and remains in touch with them. I haven't seen him since then and was surprised to learn upon the publication of this book that he had spent the better part of his life working so closely with the Rolling Stones. I have to say, recalling that sometimes bratty tow-headed little kid, I am impressed.

    So this is Billy's story. As I said, I had my own brief experience as a fan-journalist covering the NY Rangers (I wrote a book about it, but the only way it will ever see the light of day is if I self-publish). And then there is Larry Sloman, an acquaintance via the Rangers, who started his own career as a writer by going on tour with his favorite artist, Bob Dylan, so pricelessly chronicled in his book, On the Road With Bob Dylan. And don't forget Nick Hornby's debut was about being an Arsenal fan (no, I don't know him). It's a great genre for the fan in all of us.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Wormhole: The Rho Agenda, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Richard Phillips
    • Narrated By MacLeod Andrews
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1166)
    Performance
    (1050)
    Story
    (1053)

    When the Rho Project’s lead scientist, Dr. Donald Stephenson, is imprisoned for his crimes against humanity, the world dares to think the threat posed by the Rho Project’s alien technologies is finally over. The world is wrong. In Switzerland, scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider have discovered a new threat, a scientific anomaly capable of destroying the earth - and only Rho Project technology can stop it.

    Brian says: "SPECTACULAR SERIES!"
    "Of Wormholes and Plot Holes"
    Overall
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    The three high school kids from The Second Ship and Immune are back, and they once again must foil the mad scientist hellbent on global domination (despite having already foiled him in Immune). More than that, they must save the world from a black hole and an alien invasion (though they cannot save the world from its own insanity, including nuclear bombs).

    The watchword for Richard Phillips in the first installment of this trilogy was how well he put the science back in science fiction, having studied and worked as a physicist. The next entry was lighter on science and heavier on action, but still retained its credibility, despite banking on Area 51 conspiracies as its basis.

    Wormhole remains strong on science and long on action. But its credibility is riddled by plot holes wide enough for space ships to fly through. I can't be too specific in order to avoid spoilers, but let me say that there is a major transference from one character to another that is never brought up again.

    I would expect this to reappear in a future Rho Agenda book, except that Phillips says he has no plans for a direct successor to the series. Anyway, this plot twist is as central to this story as one can imagine, so it really needed more attention here. There are other situations which are left unattended, and other revelations that strain credulity, even as the two-hour denouement goes totally over the top and off the charts.

    Still, a good science fiction thriller, a decent conclusion to this trilogy. One star deducted from the Story rating for the plot holes. I already have the audio version of the first of two completed entries in a second Rho Agenda trilogy, a prequel featuring Jack "Ripper" Gregory. He's a great character so I have high expectations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Immune: The Rho Agenda, Book Two

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Richard Phillips
    • Narrated By MacLeod Andrews
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1342)
    Performance
    (1206)
    Story
    (1208)

    Anyone who dares challenge the Rho Project is being systematically picked off. At the top of the hit man’s death list: NSA fixer Jack Gregory, and the three teenagers who first exposed the Rho Project’s dark agenda to the world.On the run for their lives, Heather, Mark, and Jennifer know that the Rho Project’s alien nano-technology has been released into the world, disguised as a miracle cure. But what they don’t yet know is that the serum has taken on a life of its own....

    Orson says: "A second volume that stands alone - brilliantly"
    "Ripper Good Yarn"
    Overall
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    Richard Phillips first caught my attention with his attention to detail (scientific detail) in The Second Ship, the first entry in his Rho Agenda series. I liked it enough to want to listen to the next entry, but I wasn't ready to dive into it right away. After listening to Immune, I'm going right into Book Three without wasting any more time.

    Less scientifically rigorous but packed with action, Immune continues the story of three Los Alamos high school students who discover, and are empowered by, the technology on a derelict alien space ship. An indestructible CIA agent (known as the Ripper) and his aide help the trio uncover and foil an insidious plot to perpetrate a lot of evil that I won't go into in order to avoid spoilers. There are some memorable bad guys too, some of whom are sure to be back in the third volume.

    Why does one sci-fi series grab me while another leaves me underwhelmed? My reasons may or may not overlap with yours. John Scalzi and Lee Martinez grab me with humor and clever stories. Robert Sawyer chooses controversial subjects and researches them well. Phillips, utilizing his background as a physicist and a military man, has created a credible series of sci-fi thrillers based in contemporary times, building on the Roswell myth.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Being There

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Jerzy Kosinski
    • Narrated By Dustin Hoffman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (548)
    Performance
    (491)
    Story
    (488)

    Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman gives an understated and exemplary performance of this satiric look at the unreality of American media culture. Chance, the enigmatic gardener, becomes Chauncey Gardiner after getting hit by a limo belonging to a Wall Street tycoon. The whirlwind that follows brings Chance to his new status of political policy advisor and possible vice presidential candidate. His garden-variety political responses, inspired by television, become heralded as visionary, and he is soon a media icon.

    Ilana says: "Darkly Funny"
    "Still There"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Amazing that 45 years later, Jerzy Kosinski's political fable remains not only relevant, but magnified by contemporary American politics. In 1970, Kosinski imagined Chance, the newly homeless gardener, as just one slow-witted figure who is given the steering wheel to the political bus by people who should know better. Today, we have the clown car of candidates, filled to overflowing, growing more crowded each day, taken far too seriously by people who should know better.

    Being There posits the notion that politics is all about just, well, being there -- years before Woody Allen coined the phrase "80% of life is just showing up" in Annie Hall (although some still debate whether Kosinski actually wrote any of this stuff himself). Thus does Chance, despite his mental handicaps, rise to become a revered political pundit and even presidential candidate within a matter of days, his truisms about gardening and TV watching mistaken for profound metaphors about the political and economic climate (pun intended).

    The 1979 movie version is wonderful, one of my all-time favorites, Peter Sellers pitch-perfect as Chance ("I like to watch"), as is the entire supporting cast, and with Basketball Jones making a memorable video cameo. The original novella is not quite as fully realized, the difference being a more complete depiction of the impact of TV upon a simple anonymous character like Chance, via actual TV clips like Basketball Jones (easier for a visual medium like film to pull off).

    But it is still a great, quick read. I read it way back when, and welcomed this opportunity to listen to Dustin Hoffman narrate it in audio format. Hoffman's reading is a tad slow and gruff, but it is still a treat.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Funny Girl: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Nick Hornby
    • Narrated By Emma Fielding
    Overall
    (372)
    Performance
    (314)
    Story
    (313)

    Set in 1960's London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingnue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

    Minta says: "Fab first 9 hrs. so can forgive the last 1.3 hrs."
    "Imitation Game"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Art imitates life and life imitates art in Nick Hornby's latest novel -- back and forth until using that old saw is no longer apt. Indeed, Hornby's characters, starting with Lucille Ball wannabe Sophie Straw (nee Barbara), start out crafting their mid-60s BBC sitcom based on their own life experience, and then, when it succeeds, mold the series to the needs of their real life, including the impact of their newfound celebrity.

    To take it one step further -- and to state the main reason while I liked this book a lot, despite its decidedly mixed reviews -- the deeper theme is about the creative process, how one's own experience informs that process and how one's own life has to alter in order to maintain creativity over the long haul. Hornby does an excellent job exploring the nuances of creativity while drawing a team of engaging characters and mildly humorous episodes.

    Funny Girl will not make fans forget High Fidelity or About a Boy, or even one of my personal favorites, Juliet Naked. But it is solidly in there with the remainder of Hornby's fiction (except for the woebegotten Slam). It is worth the price of admission just for the chapter about the stuffy talk show Pipe Smoke where Sophie's producer Dennis destroys his joyless old school counterpart on the subject of what constitutes appropriate TV material.

    If I have one bone to pick, it is the relegation of the 1960s to a bit part, despite its indelible influence as a revolutionary cultural era that set the stage for the show within the book to break new ground. Yes, there is occasional reference to the Beatles, Stones and Yardbirds, and the even more groundbreaking sitcom Till Death Us Do Part (the model for the US hit All in the Family). But it would have been nice to have a better sense of what was going on at the time. In fact, it is often not even clear that the story is set during the heart of the 60s.

    Nice job by Emma Fielding reading the book, especially reading Sophie's lines. A little too breathy on occasion, but otherwise spot on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Patriot Threat: Cotton Malone

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Steve Berry
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (204)
    Performance
    (173)
    Story
    (170)

    In an innovative new approach, Macmillan Audio and Steve Berry have produced an expanded, annotated writer’s cut audiobook edition of The Patriot Threat. The 16th Amendment to the Constitution legalized federal income tax, but what if there were problems with the 1913 ratification of that amendment? Secrets that call in to question decades of tax collecting. There is a surprising truth to this possibility—a truth wholly entertained by Steve Berry, a top-ten New York Times best-selling writer, in his new thriller, The Patriot Threat.

    Brian Certain says: "Can not tell you how much I LOVE this format"
    "This Threat Is a Treat"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Cotton Malone and Co. have to solve a puzzle that jillionaire Andrew Mellon left behind for FDR back in the 1930s. And they have to stop the North Koreans and Chinese, and a rogue American conspiracy theorist, from solving it first in order to protect secrets that could bring the U.S. economy crashing down. In other words, classic Steve Berry, nicely rebounding from the disappointment of his previous effort.

    Making this audiobook special for longtime Berry fans like me is a version that features post-chapter commentary by the author. Berry always includes a postscript to his books detailing what is historically accurate, what may be speculation by various entities (some scholarly, some not), and what are his own fictional creations. I often refer to his afterword as I read in order to know these distinctions as I go along. Here, we get some of that information at the end of each chapter, plus the full afterword at the end. Great stuff.

    My one problem with this book, for which I deduct a star, is some weakness and distortion in the main element of the story. I don't believe the prime secret rises to the level of existential threat to our economy. We have never provided reparations for slavery or genocide, and more recently have not held anyone accountable for the fraud used to launch a war that killed thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands overall, or held anyone accountable for crashing our economy, so I don't think we'd allow some arcane legal argument undo a century of reality.

    I also find the author remiss in failing to fully explain the situation with the real-life book that is the main source material for this conspiracy theory. He notes that courts have ruled it to be without sufficient evidence to make a real case. In fact, it has been deemed to be lacking in any proof whatsoever, and indeed has been ruled to be a fraud perpetrated by its author in order to make money. Knowing that, as I did before starting this book, further diminishes the power of the McGuffin that drives The Patriot Threat.

    On the other hand, there are other redeeming qualities to the book, including the second secret pointed to by the puzzle, and even more so the look inside North Korea and its prison camps. Hana, one of the main characters, and one of two windows into North Korea, is a brilliantly realized character, more compelling (in this particular volume) than Cotton Malone himself. Overall, despite the weakness of the main secret and the plodding narration of Scott Brick, The Patriot Threat is a treat, especially for Berry's fans.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Randall Munroe
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton
    Overall
    (1840)
    Performance
    (1672)
    Story
    (1661)

    Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe's iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following. Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent of the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there were a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

    Charles says: "Good in Smaller Chunks"
    "Not All That Serious"
    Overall
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    Story

    If, like me, you enjoy non-fiction that attempts to explain science, history, economics, or what have you to readers who are not fully educated in those fields, and particularly enjoy them in audio format, then you really can't go wrong with What If, the longtime New York Times best seller. The premise is immediately captivating, as expressed in the subtitle:serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions. Like, what would happen if you drained the oceans, or if the sun was suddenly extinguished?

    That the answers are not as completely serious as the subtitle suggests is actually a good thing, especially with the incomparable Wil Wheaton reading the droll explanations, leading us to their inevitable punch lines. For example, the answer about the sun is all about the positives that might result in the absence of sunlight, until the punchline -- we couldn't realize those benefits because we would all freeze to death.

    Still, the good thing about answering absurd questions in this way is arriving at backhanded explanations of serious scientific subjects, such as the ways the sun can be a detriment, despite being so essential to life. Unfortunately, not every topic is as informative as this best of examples. To be honest, some of the answers, scientifically rigorous though they may be, are actually as silly as the original questions, and do not really impart any useful knowledge.

    In the final analysis, I find What If to be consistently entertaining, but not consistently edifying -- I certainly like to be entertained by these kinds of books, but not at the expense of learning something new.

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