This is a classic pacifist satire which deserves the attention of the current generation upon Mr. Vonnegut's death (and so it goes) and the state of affairs in the world today. It has been a pleasure to revisit words that helped shape my life when I was a teenager all that time ago. However, Ethan Hawke as narrator needed better direction. Affecting a world-weary, hoarse whisper, he fails to find the voice of the bewildered, uncool anti-hero Billy Pilgrim. Hawke's mispronunciations and butchering of the French and German phrases in the book are just painful. He actually says "nuke-u-lar." Arrrgh. However, it's such a beautiful book that it's worth listening to and forgiving all that. Don't miss the lagniappe at the end of this audio version: a jazz remix of Vonnegut himself reading that amazing passage where Billy comes just a little unstuck in time and watches the war movie in reverse, where the planes take off backwards and the guns suck bullets out of people, leaving them whole and unhurt. A lovely fantasy.
Jacobs really gets the grit and funkiness of Memphis right. The characters, from the gangster Tyrone to the good-ol-boy West Memphis police chief, are all true to life. The menace is real, the conflicts are believable, and the dialogue is perfect. Gritty but real Memphis.
I loved the characters, even the gangsters and the minor characters like the computer geek Rico and the cocktail waitress Jenny. Jacobs gives all of them just enough dimension (without slowing down the plot) that I feel like I will see these people the next time I'm in a Memphis bar. I also like the way he includes Memphis landmarks like the Redbirds ballpark, BB King's, and Harbor Town. (I would also like to thank Mr. Jacobs for avoiding the touristy, over-hyped Rendezvous as a location, by the way.) I've read many books that purport to be set in an interesting city (like New Orleans) but really could just be any urban environment. Memphis has a unique flavor, and Jacobs gets it right. I would know if he struck a wrong note, but that never happens. I suppose I could compare him to John Grisham. I definitely would say fans of The Firm and The Rainmaker will enjoy this book.
It's hard to be objective about the narrator because he is an old and dear friend of mine, but I am an avid audiobook fan and have heard so many gifted narrators that I feel qualified to say that he is amazing. He is a Memphis guy, so he gets the voices and accents just right. Also, his pacing perfectly matches the urgency of the story. He has so many facets to his rich voice. He is frighteningly menacing as the uber-thug Tyrone and the Mexican drug lord Ricardo, but also vulnerable yet determined as the heroine Angela Harwell. There are moments of violence and moments of tenderness, love and death and humor, and Rodney is great at all of it. I look forward to seeing reviews from people who are further removed and more objective, but I think I'm right in saying this is pretty great.
I laughed and cried. I also gasped and yelled back at the book when the plot took sudden turns. Rodney's voice and Rick's writing skill made these people so real to me that I was completely enthralled.
I hope this book finds the wide audience it deserves. Due to violence, language, and drugs, it is for adults only. But anyone who enjoys a good, meaty, gritty crime thriller will love it. Due to the considerable talents of Mr. Rastall, I believe the best way to experience this book is as an audiobook. Thank you, Audible, for making this happen.
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