The early days of game consoles could be such an interesting subject. The pre-publication excerpt from this book I'd read (about the creation of Donkey Kong) was a great example of that. Unfortunately that excerpt was not representative at all, and mostly the book doesn't do justice to the subject. There are a number of minor problems, but two main ones.
First, the book is largely written in the form of cheesy reconstructed scenes with overly dramatized dialogue that just feels incredibly fake. Even the more factual parts are written with absurdly purple prose. It's just embarrassing to read.
Second, the book is bloated. This is only partly due to the dialogue-based storytelling method. The other issue is that the author hasn't been anywhere near sufficiently selective with what events to include. It feels like 50% of the book is detailed descriptions of the preparation of chickenshit marketing stunts with little apparent impact (as an example there was probably 20 minutes of detailed description of some kind of a Sega advertising event in 20 malls). Another 25% is human interest fluff with no relevance at all to the main story (often of bit players who really did not need to be fleshed out, so no reason at all for their inclusion).
Fred Berman does a good job as a narrator, but the original text is not salvageable.
Probably not. In theory the structure of the book should be really well suited for an audiobook. The events of July of 1914 make for such a dramatic and gripping story. With many non-fiction books it's easy to phase out while listening, and then realize you've have no recollection of the last 15 minutes of the book. There's no danger of that here. But the constant mispronunciation of names is grating, and a real problem.
The most interesting bits to me were the handling of the crisis in France and Russia. The pre-planned French Balkan Inception scenario, the aggressive stance of Poincare during the StP meeting, and the prepared plans and execution of the Russian mobilization (based on a hidden early mobilization while trying to prevent German mobilization for as long as possible via diplomacy). McMeekin's telling of these parts ends up painting a very different picture than the "standard" explanation where the German war council of 1912 is treated as the smoking gun.
But this isn't a one-sided book by any means. In the final analysis McMeekin seems happy to heap blame of the war on everyone involved. (Even the British, who if this book is to believed must have had one of the most gullible diplomatic corps and least effective foreign ministry of the era.)
Maybe one that doesn't have difficult foreign words for him to mangle. It wasn't a bad narration otherwise.
I'd recommend the written book to anyone interested in history -- some fascinating detail in there. The final chapters veer from history to modern trade policy, and were less compelling to me.
I would not recommend the audiobook to anyone.
No. The dull monotone, the odd cadence and substandard pronunciation make listening to the narration a grating experience.
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