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  • Consider Phlebas

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Iain M. Banks
    • Narrated By Peter Kenny
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender. Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it....

    Hyacinth says: "The Culture is a magnificent and enticing vision."
    "The Culture is a magnificent and enticing vision."

    I don't know why I'd never heard of Banks or the Culture before. After finally discovering and consuming what little of the series we've got on offer here at Audible, I've started to see references to it everywhere. Go figure. But if you, like me, are into the kind of science fiction that rewards a thinking and speculative approach, then you'd do well not to let this series pass you by. Iain is deathlessly funny in the blackest of black ways, and the narrator's quick and cunning reading really highlights the flippantly grim nature of the galaxy in which the Culture thrives--seriously, tried listening to some other Culture books with another narrator who tried this whole somber style, really didn't work out.

    Consider Phlebas is the story of a war between the hyperliberal semi-transcendental post-human Culture civilization, the quintessential 'good guys' of a near-endpoint technological civilization, and a race of near-immortal warrior-poet types spreading their religion to the galaxy. Yeah, yeah, it sounds preachy, but it ain't. Through three or four intertwined narratives (the Culture books almost always do that Charles Stross thing where stories with unclear connections come together to a harmonious narrative), we get to know the civilizations we're looking into and watch as they breach the territory of a genuinely transcendent godlike mega-species, the Culture to rescue one of its own artificial intelligences, their enemies to capture that same mind for the technology it will offer them. But the plot, elegant though it is, isn't even the best part; it's the beautifully flowering exposition of the society of the galaxy, which Banks pulls off with an impossible grace. You'll wanna go there.

    Just get it! You won't regret it, swear.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Bill Bryson
    • Narrated By Bill Bryson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.”

    Tina says: "Another wonderful Bryson"
    "Standard meandering Brysonian excellence"

    At Home is what we've come to expect from Bill Bryson's essaybooks: Thoughtful, sympathetic, patient and wide-ranging, in this case to the point of unfocusedness. That doesn't detract anything from the final work, though; At Home is very much a series of historical vignettes attached to a loose theme, the development of the private life of a citizenry, particularly that of Britain and particularly during the nineteenth century, though he does occasionally range further. Bryson delivers his usual excellent performance--see a picture of him once and you can see every facial expression he must have had while delivering the reading from his voice alone--and, if not attaining the heights of fun he did with In a Sunburned Country, still manages to imbue the whole thing with a wit that'll keep you intrigued.

    If the book has a fault, it's only that it's wandering. The specific topic isn't adhered to very strictly, so if you're the kind of person who thinks that no chapter of a book should diverge from its thesis, you might find it occasionally frustrating. Occasionally forgetting exactly what the entire book is about, though, is a small price to pay, as almost every one of the many topics discussed is self-contained and excellent. Pick it up, yo.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Mary Roach
    • Narrated By Shelly Frasier
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    For two thousand years, cadavers have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. They've tested France's first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender reassignment surgery, cadavers have been there alongside surgeons, making history in their quiet way.

    Matthew says: "Darn funny if you're open to the idea."
    "Well researched, interesting, entertaining"
    What did you like best about this story?

    Shelly Frasier's superb reading brings out the sardonic wit in this well-researched description of the various clever (and not so clever) fates that human corpses have been subject to. The topics (human composting?) are sometimes uncomfortable, but they are handled with matter-of-fact sensitivity (and a touch of gallows humor) that left me full of admiration, both for the author and the researchers she's interviewed.

    One comment: My son and I moved on from this book to Mary Roach's

    Have you listened to any of Shelly Frasier???s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Haven't listened to others yet but am eager to find more.

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

    No. In fact, due to the somewhat disturbing subject material, we found it best to listen to a chapter or two and then switch to something more light-hearted for a break. But we were always eager to get back.

    Any additional comments?

    Highly recommended

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Bleak House

    • UNABRIDGED (37 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Charles Dickens
    • Narrated By Hugh Dickson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce has ground its way through the courts for generations. At its heart are Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, who find love - and terrible loss - through their involvement in the endless battle. Meanwhile, her friend Esther Summeson, who believes she is an orphan, gradually discovers the truth of her identity. The court case throws out a web ensnaring all who come near it, including Lady Dedlock, the menacing lawyer Tulkingham, detective Bucket and tragic little waif Jo.

    Deborah says: "Ideal as an audiobook"
    "Reader cannot be praised too highly"
    What made the experience of listening to Bleak House the most enjoyable?

    Fabulous reader with a huge range in voices, each flowing seamlessly from the narrative, breathes life and vitality into an novel famous for its abundance of secondary characters.As with any Dickens novel, the plot of Bleak House bumps and rumbles along (and along and along) presenting not so much one story as a collage of interwoven stories punctuated by long, evocative descriptions. But the writing is excellent and Hugh Dickson's reading carries even the lengthiest description of London Streets and well-situated country views, and the main character, Esther, manages to be both a fascinating portrait of Victorian ideals about womanhood and an interesting person in her own right.

    Have you listened to any of Hugh Dickson???s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is the first Hugh Dickson performance I've heard, but I will be looking for more.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Wyrd Sisters: Discworld #6

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett
    • Narrated By Celia Imrie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Chris says: "Which Discworld?"
    "Awful narrator!"

    Anyone familiar with Nigel Planar's enchanting reading of this series will howl in agony as soon as this book starts to play. Listen to a sample before purchasing. I wish I had!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Jeanne Birdsall
    • Narrated By Susan Denaker
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel's sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel's owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

    M. Gerstenblith says: "Absolutely delightful and charming!"
    "Not well read"

    I can't review the novel, which I've heard is charming. The reader is artificial and dreary...marginally listenable until she gets to imitating children's voices in squinched up tones that sent my son and me running for the TV set.

    I strongly recommend previewing a sample before you purchase this audiobook.

    7 of 12 people found this review helpful

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