This book gave me a greater appreciation of the impact of the Great War. Although I'd read a little on the subject, I'd read much more on WWII. This book helped me to realize how pivotal WWI was in shaping the 20th century. Listening to this book helped make sense of WWI (as much as insanity can ever be made sense of) but also helped me understand WWII. I found the author to be very objective and even handed. While he did not get bogged down in minute arguments only of interest to pedantic scholars, I appreciated that he would indicate where a point was disputed, or where there were varying opinions on a historical fact. I really enjoyed the "Background" sections, where he would give brief overviews of different facets that contributed to the nature of the war - such as the history and character of Prussia, the Cossacks, Women in the war, and so on.
The reader has a very nice accent and reading tempo, as well as very good pronunciation of all the names of historical figures and the place names - names I never would have learned to pronounce otherwise.
First off, I did enjoy this book. The reading was very well done; Jonathan Davis is a very talented reader. The premise of the book is also tantalizing and interesting: Aliens visit our planet and lo and behold, they advocate a form of Intelligent Design instead of the commonly (on earth) accepted theory of Darwinian Evolution.
The idea is a great one, but the execution was less so. One of the reasons I love science fiction is that it invites you to think outside the box and imagine new realities and different ways of thinking. However, beyond superficial aspects, I didn't find the primary alien race to be all that interesting or 'alien'. They might as well have been Michael Behe. There was no real indication as to how their beliefs shaped how they did science, how it influenced their society, what religious significance they attached to their scientific pursuits, nothing. It seems that Mr. Sawyer was intent on following the ID mantra of "It's all about the science, and we aren't going to discuss other implications." That's all fine and good, but honestly it didn't make for very compelling or interesting story. The Spider People didn't really seem 'alien', they were just ID advocates with access to information we don't have. The 'Reeds' were a better attempt at describing alien thought, but their appearance is so brief, and the discussion about their moral intuition so hilariously bland and boring, that they feel like an opportunity wasted.
Honestly, the most alien creatures in the whole novel don't come from outer space, they come from the Southern USA. They appear in the form of horrifically stereotypical 'fundamentalists' bearing the names of JD and 'Cooter'. These characters and their actions have no real impact on the story or its final outcome, and seem to exist so that Mr. Sawyer can demonstrate in no uncertain terms that his book is not a subversive attempt to introduce creationism. As a creationist myself (though, I confess, I now have doubts about my sincerity now as I've never killed an abortionist or destroyed fossils with a submachine gun), I wasn't offended by the portrayal of these characters as much as I was annoyed at another missed opportunity. I'm sure rednecks like these exist, but someone who at least 'tried' to be scientific might have made for a more interesting antagonist. I would have been interested to hear the aliens rebut the creationists and correct their 'primitive' conceptions of god with a more enlightened view. But Mr. Sawyer went the boring, unimaginative route instead, unfortunately.
I also wonder if Mike Harris ran over Mr. Sawyer's cat. There are so many negative remarks directed to provincial elected officials that it almost seemed personal. It was very odd and frankly, distracting.
In closing, I don't really regret listening to this book. There were stimulating passages, and it did pick up toward the end. However, I have a nagging disappointment in this book that it didn't challenge me or live up to the potential suggested by the subject matter. It's a good book, but you probably won't be changed by it.
I've listened to a number of WWII history books now, and am in the middle of this one. The writing is good and engaging. If you enjoy political and social history, you'll enjoy this book. However, the reader has a strange cadence and pauses and hesitates in the oddest places. Normally I can get over something like that, but I have to admit that in this case, it's really bad and distracting. Not enough to ruin the book completely, but definitely irritating at times.
My favourite science fiction, especially vintage SF, has elements of the bizarre and alien, as well as a mystery or an unexpected twist. This novel has neither for the modern reader. Now, I realize that my familiarity with space travel and hive mind alien bug opponents is not the book's fault, but is a result of it having been so influential in the genre. That being said, the central story isn't really science fiction at its core. Its a story about becoming a soldier in a modern army, with some rather heavy-handed preachy sections. Now, I've got nothing against preaching - I'm training to be a preacher myself - but it's pretty blunt and non-nuanced, and thus pretty boring.
This book is interesting from a historical perspective; however, the story itself is showing its age and wasn't compelling at all to me. I'm returning it.
Frederick Davidson is the perfect narrator for Solzhenitzyn's ironic, wry authorial style. That authorial style is what makes this otherwise unbearable book manageable. It's a hard book to read/listen because the ugliness of mankind is on full display. It's made even more difficult by the fact that Solzhenitsyn makes sure we recognize this work not only as a window to see the evil of others, but also a mirror that reflects back the evil that dwells in each of our hearts. For this reason, everyone needs to read this book
Everything about this is brilliant. The story, the performance, the writing - everything. It's more than the sum of all of its parts, which is why I cannot imagine the movie is going to be anything special in comparison. Do yourself a favour and listen to this book.
Obviously, this is not a book for the casual listener. But if you are interested in the history of the Victorian period, WWI, the English Empire, or (obviously) Winston Churchill himself, you will not regret downloading this book. It is thorough, but not tedious, which in a book this length is quite the accomplishment. It is a far from a simple hagiography - we see Churchill with all his warts and poor decisions without any attempt at justifying or or explaining away incongruities. It does a good job portraying the wonderful complexity of the circumstances and personality that go into producing a great man like Churchill.
The reader deserves a special mention - his Churchill voice is very good, his accents are very good (except his Russian one!), and his reading is simply perfect for this volume. I highly recommend this audiobook.
I cannot say enough about this book. I've been on a bit of a WWI kick, and this book was a nice change from the normal historical narrative. It lends a human perspective to the War, but it's as much a book about the present and how we think about the Great War as much as it is about the Great War itself. Grover Gardner is absolutely BRILLIANT - he does different voices for each person in a subtle way, and even conveys the emotion in the voices of those who are relating their stories.
You should download this book. It is everything a non-fiction audiobook should be.
I read this book in hardcover as a teen; listening to it a second time forced me to listen to everything and I realized how thorough this book really is. It is definitely a political history rather than a military one, though of course it necessarily deals with a lot of military components. The pace is very good, though I do feel that Shirer spent too much time on certain aspects of the Third Reich - especially the conspiracies to murder Hitler. Since these were ultimately unsuccessful and incompetently handled, it felt strange that he would spend so much time talking about them.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book - it is a classic for a reason. As long as it is, there are of course some passages that seem to drag, but not as many as you would expect. Grover Gardner was the ideal reader for this book. He has a very even tempo and his voice is excellent.
If you're interested in WWII history and have never read this book, I give it my hearty recommendation.
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