Arlington Heights, IL, US | Member Since 2012
Wow, this was an awesome listen. I became a Murakami fan after listening to "1q84" and this was my second Murakami title. I am just as impressed. I found the story riveting, and I couldn't wait to see what happened next.
From the very start, the main character is introduced in full disclosure of all his neurotic, quirky traits. The coin counting, the immediate racing worries regarding the elevator being stuck, and everything else just makes him likable. He isn't like me at all, yet he is relatable, because I have my own weird eccentric quirks and habits. He is not an obnoxious caricature of a person.
The story involves a break from reality of sorts, in which suddenly, strange phenomena is described and we learn of unusual brain implants that the main character had, which exposed him to the domino effect of all that occurs within the story. The tale jumps between the eccentric, colorful man we are first introduced to, to a flat, droll, somewhat lifeless man in a gray and eerie landscape. We begin to learn how these two men are connected, and there is much symbolism and concepts of what consciousness, souls, reality and existence really are.
I don't want to spoil it, so all I will say is, it is a great listen and a fantastic book. Also, the very last few sentences (the bird flying off into the sky lines) really hit me for some reason, tears ran down my cheeks, I felt an eerie understanding of the soul and was reminded of one of my favorite quotes, by Herman Hesse, "The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must destroy a world. The bird flies to God." That is one of my favorite quotes, and it felt strange to see something so reminiscent of it in the ending of Murakami's book, and it left me thinking about the story for days after finishing it.
This was a very entertaining read. The main character's personality and voice was so distinct that I immediately found him likeable as well as believeable. I enjoyed the plot immensely and rooted from start to finish for our hapless hero.
I highly recommend this book, and don't want to spoil too much of the plot here, so all I will say is, I enjoyed not only the personas of the main character's friends via virtual world interactions, but as the plot progressed, I enjoyed learning the truth about the people behind the online personas, basically their "real life" selves.
The setting of the plot would likely be most easily understood by those who have played or are familiar with MMORPG games, and a lot of the novel takes place online within a virtual reality. However, I firmly believe someone like my mom would enjoy the novel, and she hasn't played anything except Dr Mario on Super Nintendo way back in the day. The familiar challenge of puzzles and quests, difficult opponents, needing equal parts weapons, armor and strategy - in one way or another, this is present in a lot of epic fantasy novels. It just so happens to be a part of this science fiction novel, as well.
This book might appeal most to certain target audiences, but I think it has a lot of potential for wide range appeal as well. I was recommended this novel by my tattoo artist, who had hours upon hours of time to chit chat with me as he inked me. He hadn't read a novel in a while, apparently, but the 80s nostalgia and video game culture references sucked him in. As I read this novel, I felt the author must have been at least somewhat like me - ultimately, a nerd that was interested in 80s culture, video games (both retro and modern), MMORPG culture, science fiction and the possibilities of a dystopian future. It felt like the sort of novel my friends would enjoy, and I find it a great book to recommend to friends when they ask.
I had higher expectations because I saw many positive reviews... Very much surprised at the actual quality and content of the story.
First of all, I found this was truly a Harlequin style romance novel, set in a fantasy world. The plot really circulated around the relationship between Elena and Raphael, and the slow escalation of their relationship from animosity to romance. If anyone reading this review is surprised by that or considers it a spoiler, I am shocked, because it was clear to me from the start of the story where this was all heading. In a way the novel reminded me of how some pornos take time to setup a scene to explain why ultimately there will be intercourse ("ooh I broke the sink, I should call the plumber"). The fantasy world seems to be fleshed out only enough to create context for why Raphael would seek out and meet Elena. This is exactly as much plot as 50 Shades of Grey has - the world it is set in has events going on and they impact the main characters and so on, but overall the world is pretty transparently there as just the stage for the shenanigans of the romantic leads. This is a romance novel first, a fantasy novel a distant second.
I didn't like Elena's character, I found her to be very cookie cutter, I have seen characters like her before. She had traumatic events in her past, is sexually repressed, is a lone wolf. She tries to be a strong female lead but it is impossible because ultimately the whole novel is just a vehicle by which she is driven into Raphael's seductions.
Elena is inevitably dominated and seduced, unable to resist the sexy, magical, unbelievably strong Edward Cullen - I mean, Christian Grey - I mean, Raphael. Boring type of male lead as well because I have seen this male character plenty of times before as well. In fact, this is cookiecutter bad boy from Harlequin novels, except he is an angel here because of the fantasy setting the romance is set in, instead of being a 1700s bad boy pirate, or modern era vampire/warewolf, or modern era businessman.
The reading level is low, I found the author repeatedly reused phrases to a maddening extent. I really hope to not hear or read the phrase "cobalt lightning" again for a LONG time. I am also pretty exasperated with constantly being told about how Elena "felt herself get tight" or "felt a tightening", in her... Ahem. It was so constant, she could have crushed coal into diamonds with the below the belt constant crushing, tightening, churning pressure she must've had going on. It was exactly the same sort of wording I found in other romance novels.
I loved the plot of this story. It took me through several countries, and introduced me to complex, interesting characters from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life. There is a religious extremist/terrorist. There is an Eastern European hacker. There is a Chinese MMO gold farmer. A fascinating web of plot threads weaves together into a rich tapestry as the story unfolds. I found the climax of the novel so riveting I was almost late for work, as I sat in my car listening with rapt attention to the action packed shoot-out (trying to minimize spoilers, I apologize if this is already too much information for some). While it is a very long listen, I think it took me less than a week to listen to the entire thing, which says a lot about how interesting it is.
This novel reminded me of what I enjoyed about Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One", which was the inclusion of the MMORPG fad and it similarly predicted the widespread popularity and commonplace nature of nearly everyone playing an MMORPG in the future. I see this as a feasible outcome in the future, and I like seeing novels set in the future that incorporate it.
I felt this was a detailed, interesting world reminiscent of the quality to detail evident in other author's works (such as Brandon Sanderson novels).
The main character was interesting. I liked the plot, and felt intrigued enough to want to keep listening so as to find out what happened next. There were moments that touched me, certain tear jerker scenes, and I am not even an overly sensitive person. I found myself caring about the events in the story, and felt that the author presented challenges or unfortunate circumstances in a compelling way that made me care and drew me into the novel.
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fantasy novel fans. I found the author to be talented and will read more from this author. I have read all of Jordan's Wheel of Time, all of the books from the Song of Ice and Fire series to date, pretty much everything by Brandon Sanderson.
An interesting perspective on how we are all human, and the sort of subjective factors that impact surgeons and doctors on a daily basis. This was a very quick listen for me. I found it well written, peppered with humor as well as touching human perspective. I recommend it to those working in the medical profession as well as anyone interested in gaining some insight on the challenges that physicians face on a regular basis. While nobody likes to be the patient that ends up the one the doctor makes a bad judgment call on, it is inevitable, there is no perfect human being and nobody performs without error in ANY profession. The pressure is high and medicine is very tricky, and I feel books like this one help warm people's hearts and break down their ignorance. Perhaps it can help reduce the knee jerk reactions of those who are quick to judge doctors harshly or immediately want to sue over medical errors or judgment calls made in tense, critical moments of life and death.
Note that I am a nurse that is studying to be a nurse practitioner.
This book was a big surprise to me. I see chronically ill patients all the time, and I never considered conditions such as Lyme disease or babesia. I was amazed by the wide spectrum of symptoms that often get diagnosed as other conditions. In particular, I was amazed to read stories about patients that, when treated, recovered from chronic pain, disability (going from completely wheelchair bound to walking), and recovery from psychiatric symptoms.
This is a very important read for nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners and the like. Similarly, I highly recommend this book to those that have suffered from chronic conditions and haven't received answers as to why they weren't improving.
This was truly a clever book, filled with lines that had me laughing out loud. It was consistently entertaining. The plot moved at a fast and exciting pace.
I did not find it scary or truly a horror, perhaps because the humorous tone really kept things from getting too dark or frightening. I did enjoy the twists and turns of the plot and I feel I was able to enjoy the story even though I listened to this audiobook before its predecessor "John Dies at the End". I have since read the aforementioned predecessor as well and can say this book is even better than the first.
I write this review after having listened through the series up until the 8th book now, so I can say that the storylines have own on me and it makes for a fonder review of the first book.
The world that The Wheel of Time series takes place in has a lot of gender-related issues, from which genders may use magic to what gender roles are or are not. It is hard to get used to from a feminist perspective, but after immersing myself in this world, I have come to think, "This is just how this world is, and this is what is normal in this society." Certainly it is nothing shocking if one looks at the history of the human race in real life, anyhow.
There is a religious-like overtone surrounding the savior-like figure of the Dragon Reborn, reminiscent of several world faiths that have had or currently await a savior figure to be made flesh and turn the whole world around one way or another. The major divisions and organization of the religious/magic using order in this series is interesting and complicated, and we are introduced to it through the eyes of Rand, Perrin, Matrim, Egwane and Nynaeve. In this novel, we see that there is a lot of mystery, mysticism and distrust initially of the Aes Sedai.
R. Jordan has his quirks as a writer. He does tend to immediately describe the breast size, poutiness of the lip, and clothing of introduced female characters, then revisits it frequently whenever the female character returns in and out of the storyline. He also tends to describe the size of the nose, the appearance of facial hair/ mustaches, height and clothing of male characters in the same fashion. It does get annoying at times, but it has never frustrated me to such an extent that I would consider putting the book series down and choosing another.
The first book struggles with truly making us understand the unique characteristics and personalities of Rand and his village friends, and it isn't until later in the series that I realized that Perrin was my favorite, followed by Matrim as my second favorite. Their characteristics, thoughts, attitudes and behaviors are initially lost behind the likely necessary attention the author pays to fleshing out the world the story takes place in. It takes some getting used to in order to keep track of all characters and all the locations and the politics of the story, but it is not different from Song of Ice and Fire in that respect. It isn't too complicated, but it does take a bit of adjustment and getting used to.
As for the performance, we do not hear much from Kate Reading in this book when compared to the other books. She has a pleasant, eloquent voice and I like her characterization of the characters. I also like Michael Kramer's performance, which dominates the majority of this book. He has narrated several audio books I have listened to, and I am used to his voice and enjoy it. He doesn't overact or get too crazy as he narrates, he is just a solid, steady voice and therefore has never been annoying or unpleasant to listen to.
It was hard to get my head around the fact the voice of Harry, James Marsters, wasn't going to be the narrator. Glover does a good job but he had tremendous shoes to fill, and after 12 audiobooks and hundreds of hours of Marsters narrating, it was very difficult to hear Glover narrating and think it was still Harry. Glover' performance is good, but he doesn't have the acting range Marsters does, so he doesn't shout as passionately during heated moments, doesn't get as emotional, etc. Glover's performance is in line with traditional audiobook performances, but I missed Marsters for his acting chops, and for how real he makes Harry Dresden. I feel like I am in Harry's head listening to him think as he goes along through life when it is Marsters narrating, and Glover just felt like a guy reading a book to me.
All that aside, I really enjoyed this book! I think the series dances around what lies on the "other side" and therefore it is definitive proof that there are souls, and that souls survive death, which is in line with my spiritual beliefs. I therefore truly enjoyed the exploration of what it is like to be a ghost or spirit, though we could not see the next step further (what lies beyond when spirits aren't tied to reality but instead go on to wherever they go on in the afterlife)... Harry wonders, too, and I am starting to wonder what the setup is of the afterlife in the Dresden Files universe. I hope that we see more angels and demons, and exploration into the soul and the nature of reality, as the series progresses, simply because I go bananas for any books or TV series that tackle those topics.
I had been worrying how Harry Dresden would pull off sticking to his moral and ethical stances once he is sworn to his post as the Winter Knight. I did not want Harry to make choices that I couldn't at least defend to an extent, as part of why I love him as a character is that I can understand his thought process and how he makes decisions when things fall apart. I can relate to his moral prerogatives and concerns, and even when he makes mistakes, they aren't the sort that make me feel like he has irreversibly betrayed some precious moral code.
I found myself liking how Jim Butcher handles Harry's role as the Winter Knight, since luckily Harry manages to maintain a grasp on his moral compass. Furthermore, Harry is never subservient by nature, and even when under the thumb of queen Mab, he finds ways to do things his way.
I do see that Harry is having some changes, mostly becoming more primal and angry in heated moments, so I hope that Jim Butcher does not keep Harry committed to the Winter Knight post too long. I continue to dread the day that Harry's character loses his grip on his moral senses entirely and does something that will make me feel distaste and disappointment with the series. So far, it's been a tight rope walk that keeps me guessing but which has ended to my satisfaction, but the Winter Knight business is the biggest threat yet to Harry's moral compass.
I love having Marsters back as Harry's voice, I do not want the series to stray from Marsters again, as one of the biggest attractions of the audio books has been the fantastic performance that Marsters does. I have a huge crush on Harry Dresden, because I have had a huge crush on Marsters ever since he was Spike in Buffy.
The series continues to tease us about whether Harry finds a happy, romantic outcome with Karen Murphy. Harry has been single way too long, but his life is complicated, and his feelings for Karen have continued to develop. I have my hopes up that the moral, stabilizing force of Karen in his life will help Harry in the future, especially if the personality changes brought on by being the Winter Knight continue to progress.
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