I was pretty excited when I saw this release. I hadn't read The Great Gatsby before, but I was aware of the soon to be released movie. I am a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal as an actor and I was curious about how his first audiobook narration would go.
To be honest, the listening was very dissapointing. From the very beginning I noticed how Gyllenhaal was merely whispering his way through the book. At first I thought this was needed to keep a nostalgic mood for the novel introduction, but the pace, tone and volume kept exactly the same till the end.
I even wondered wether Jake was trying very hard to sound what, sexy? Except that didn't work when he had to switch between different characters. When dialog occured, I had a very hard time distinguishing what character was supposed to be talking, the voice-acting being so plain. Only Tom and Gatsby sounded distinct (if not cued by hearing "oldsport" at the end of every Gatsby's line). Appart from them, even male and female characters were undistinguishable from each other, for they all had the same dull, muted voice of Nick, the narrator.
Also, there's lack of emotion everywhere. Not even lines like "oh my god" (hint: near the end) sound convincing enough to me. When characters are supposed to be really angry, Jake makes them sound like presenting their arguments as-a-matter-of-fact-ly. Several times I found myself mentally repeating the lines with my own expression added to it, in order to try and enjoy the novel a bit more.
Unfortunately, there's something else to add. There are several occasions in which listeners will notice audio editing, (i.e. cut and paste voice clips in the right place), like when the narrator does a mistake during recording and has to do a second take, but resumes from few words behind (presumably after a comma) instead of reading again the whole parragraph. You can tell where's the cut because of the change in Gyllenhaal's breath or the apparent variation in distance to mic (different envelope or openness sound).
As for the story... I didn't like it. But I can't tell to what extent the negative experience was due to the narration performance. It could simply be a different writing style than I was expecting, though. As I stated before, I didn't know the story before.
Bottom line: I don't recommend this audiobook. I sincerely hope Gyllenhaal gets better at narrating if he seeks this path.
I decided listening to Doomsday Book when I learned that "To Say Nothing of the Dog" -which I listened first and loved- was book number 2 in Willis' Oxford Time Travel series.
I wanted to read more from the author and maybe get to know a bit better the series universe. Alas, "Doomsday Book" doesn't have anything I liked from "To Say...", which is: memorable characters, humor, and scene tension.
Instead, Doomsday Book is a long story (way too long) filled with repetitive dialog spoken by uninteresting characters and a poor sci-fi setting for a plot leading nowhere.
When I say uninteresting characters, I'm not saying they're plain. Willis does an excellent job depicting a wide variety of personalities, motifs and communication styles. You can perfectly picture each of the characters in the novel and they will all have a special uniqueness to them. The flaw resides in that the reader (or listener) cannot identify with any of them, or care about them when bad stuff happens. You will simply not get engaged with the characters, not even with the heroine (if you can call Kivrin that).
Talking about Kivrin, you will never understand why travelling to the middle ages was so important to her. And throughout the story she never evolves... except at the very end when, for some reason, Willis makes her act so out of character that you feel a bit betrayed.
The story itself is not bad; it's just too long and repetitive and it really does not deliver any satisfaction when you're finally done with it. Also, the sci-fi side of the novel is really soft/loose. There is no explanation for the time travel mechanics, rules or "paradoxes", only statements for them (like when a character tells someone else "they're not rules, they're paradoxes. We couldn't break them if we wanted")... that's about the deepest it gets.
The performance was pretty good. I enjoyed listening to Sterlin's different voices and intonations (even if other reviewers are right about American accent not correctly pulled out). I was amused at her ability to interpret kids and old people; and was surprised at how male characters sounded great too. Her latin is not good though.
In brief... I don't recommend this to sci-fi or adventure lovers. Maybe only to non-fiction history lovers. On the other side, if you're looking for a good laugh with a bit of time travel, go for Book 2.
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