As a fan of Lowenstein's earlier book about LTCM implosion, I snatched this up the minute it was available. Unlike the LTCM story, however, most of us have lived through the recent crisis in real-time and have probably read quite a bit of what was happening ad nauseum. Although Lowenstien has done in homework, as usual, and supplies us with "fly-on-the-wall" tidbits, such as conversations that took palce inside boardroom meetings.
What the book does mainly is to paint a more nuanced and complete picture of the crisis, tracing it back to its early origin. The media has tried to pin the blame on specific persons (such as Greenspan or the greedy bank CEOs) or institutions (such as Goldman), but the truth is much more murky. We get a better glimpse on the CEOs, who acted on both peer pressure and their own ignorance about the actual complexity of the products. The political landscape is also an important factor, which has to do with Democrats that pushed homeownership and its unintended consequences.
For me, the book answers (though not definitely), some lingering questions, such as why the Fed decided not to bail out Lehman, and whether Henry Paulson was only the banks' interest.
Compared to Michael Lewis's "The Big Short," which cuts a narrow swath by focusing on several fringe players who profited from their prescience, "The End of Wall Street" is more like the definitive recounting that covers all the bases. I would strongly recommend reading both books to get the full picture.
As for the narration, I personally find it amateurish and annoying. He sounds like a college kid doing a bad impression of an old-time PSA (he hits the last word of each sentence hard and quick). I find the voice not only lacks gravitas but worse yet, sounds as if he's just "reading" without real comprehension. Check out the sample before making your decision.
The book itself:
Admittedly, I’ve only read Chidlhood’s End and Collected Short Stories by Clarke. Rendezvous with Rama is consistent with what I’ve read so far, in the sense that it can be classified as hard sci-fi with painstaking technical descriptions. While the novel is devoid of interesting characters, which can be excused, the problem is that the world of Rama itself isn’t all that interesting. In fact, I would say this book is extremely similar to Ringworld, especially the anti-climactic ending.
The narration is by far the worst I've ever heard. I can excuse the flat, emotionless voice. But the total lack of intonation is inexcusable. The narrator would break off mid-sentence, pause, and starts the rest of the sentence as if it were the beginning of one. It's as if he is doing an enunciation exercise with total regard for intonation. Strangely, he sounds fine in other books, so perhaps this was his early work. I literally had to will myself through the book.
In short, check out the print version if you want to read it. I would give 2 stars to the book and 0 star to the narration.
The Gimmick: The basic gimmick is that the earth finds it self "covered" by something, which renders the moon and the stars invisible. The period following this phenomenon is called the "Spin Era". In the spin era, there's an ubiquitous sense of uncertainty, followed by the rise of cultish religious groups. One of the main characters, Jason Lawton, on the other hand, devotes his life in finding a scientific explanation/solution to "The Spin."
Genre: The "Spin" is neither hard core science fiction nor dystopian. Rather, the book is an exploration of how humans react when apocalypse is certain.
Literary level: The plot unfolds rather slowly and is certainly NOT "action-packed." While the book is more character-focused, I found the main characters not particularly interesting. The narrator, Tyler, is bland as can be, while the book never fully explains the real motives the Martian who lands on earth.
Narration: As a fan of Scott Brick, I always find that he adds a nuanced narration adds an extra layer on an emotional level. (He's great narrating the Jonathan Trooper novels.)
Interesting tidbits: Written in 2005, the book openly references classic science fiction novels. In fact, the Martian who lands on earth is given classics such as "Stranger in the Strange Land," and "The Martian Chronicles" to read. The narrator even jokes with the Martian about being "water brothers."
Bottom line: Clocking in at 17.5 hours, "Spin" is epic in length, but unfortunately not in substance. There are some interesting ideas that were not fully explored and there is no big pay-off at the end. Again, be warned that this as soft science fiction and probably would not please the hard core genre fans.
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