I normally don't use the word wonderful, but there is no other word for Claudia Black's narration. She could make a Surgeon General's Warning sound sophisticated and enthralling. Martin's story is not bad either. But Claudia Black is the reason I am giving this story high marks. I'm looking forward to further narrations by this brilliant actress.
The story of Edgar Sawtelle, a retelling of Hamlet, is at once an amazing adventure and a terrific tragedy. The Sawtelle Dogs are a special breed of canine known for their amazing intelligence. As amazingly intelligent as they are, no one related to these animals that the way Edgar Sawtelle does. Edgar, who was born mute, is a third generation dog breeder and the pride of his parents, Gar and Trudie. Life is good on the Sawtelle farm until the arrival of Claude, Edgar's devious uncle. Claude and Edgar's father almost immediatelly resume a feud that began when they were mere children. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, he suspects Claude of the murder, but is unable to uncover any definitive proof. One night, in a fit of rage, Edgar does something horrible and as a consequence goes on the run. Along with three of the Sawtelle Dogs (Essay, Tinder, and Babu), Edgar makes his way across Wisconsin wilderness. His destination: a hippie commune that Edgar saw on the news. Along the way, he meets a kind yet lonely man named Henry. Henry grows fond of Edgar and his dogs, and they in turn become more and more comfortable living with Henry. But Edgar knows that no matter how far he runs, he must return home to confront his uncle.
This was an amazing story with action, adventure, comedy, tragedy, and a bit of the supernatural. Though the Hamlet framework was borrowed, the story stands alone as a great work of literary fiction. The characters and locations were beautifully drawn. The plot was intelligent and suspenseful. Everything about the story was unforgettable. Above all else, however, the greatest thing about the Audible version of this tale is the narration by Richard Poe. His voice is smooth and soothing and his characterizations were excellent. From now on, I will listen to anything that Mr. Poe narrates. I simply loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.
Ernest J. Clines' Ready Player One has an intriguing premise, but brings nothing new to the table. Wade Watts, whose online moniker is Parzival, is an average social reject who soon becomes the most popular, most envied, most hated gamer in the world when he cracks the first clue in a colossal "egg hunt" created by the James Halliday, an eccentric game designer and mastermind behind the fully immersive online environment known as the OASIS. The winner of the egg hunt not only becomes the sole proprietor of the OASIS, but also inherits a fortune of over 100 billion dollars; enough power and money to kill for. When he is nearly killed by the IOI Corporation, Wade goes into hiding, carefully unhatching a plan to reach the prize and bring down the corporation and their avatar army, the Sixers.
The plot has some interesting elements. The idea of online armies and online clans is intriguing. However, the virtual reality concept is one we have seen at least a dozen times before. Also, some of the pop culture references were interesting or addressed in a humorous way, but the majority were just fired out like pop culture vomit. It might have been more interesting if the author had developed more humorous scenarios for unleashing those references. Instead, the references are dropped willy nilly throughout the text and in snippets of dialogue. Later in the book, a War Games reference leaves an opening for some humorous commentary, but Clines drops the ball. This happens mostly in the second half of the book, but the blunders in plotting and dialogue are apparent from the start. When you finally do reach the end of the book, the meaningless references about Rivendale, you are so fed up with the lameness that you listen to the final confrontation simply because you're so close to the end, not because your really want to see what happens.
What happens, unfortunately, is completely predictable and monumentally lame. The dialogue becomes pedestrian and the descriptions become robotic, not that the dialogue and descriptions were particularly vivid to begin with. Most of the action is movements, characters walking across rooms, controlling their avatars, and making contrived gestures. It is almost as bad as Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden (the Dresden Files cycle) and his incessant, pointless blinking. Does Dresden have tourettes or is Butcher just a really bad writer? No and yes. Clines is a much better author than Butcher, but that's not saying much. My three year old niece has more descriptive power and character development than Jim Butcher.
The one saving grace of this audiobook is the narration by Will Wheaton. His narration is a bit contrived at times, and he tends to over enunciate, but when he does the Max Headroom stutter or a perfect impression of the computer from War Games, you can't help but smile.
Overall, there is some entertainment value associate with this audiobook, but it lies mostly in the performance of the narrator. The character development is weak, the descriptions are rudimentary, the dialogue is unnatural/boring, but the plotting is fairly well executed. I would recommend this story for less sophisticated readers. And I don't mean that as an insult. Word lovers and literature buffs will not feel at home inside this narrative. Casual readers, those who read Patterson or Meyer, will probably find this to be a comfortable little tale.
No Pulitzer prizes here. This is a quick story with an interesting cast and some unique action sequences. For a good time, call Clementine.
It stops being funny after the first verse. This is shameful garbage which Audible should refuse to feature on their site. Unlike the equally profane Sh*t My Dad Says, this story has no heart. In the interview at the start, Jackson claims he would often tell his own children to go the f to sleep. That just screams awesome dad, then again what can we expect from a former crack dealer? If any parent is telling their kid to go the f to sleep, they need to work on their parenting skills. I understand that this is a joke, but it isn't funny or clever, it just demonstrates how unsophisticated and base American society has become. My advice to potential readers, do not waste even six minutes listening to this stupidity. Go the f to sleep needs to go the f away.
Sherman Alexie's uncompromising view if Native Anericans is always refreshing and is most evident in Flight. He shows the good and the evil of both the native world and the world of whites. Alexie proves again that he is one if our most important cross-cultural writers.
The story of Zits is equal parts bizarre and tragic. When he enters a bank and starts shooting people, we think his fate is obvious, but the universe has strange intentions for this sarcastic delinquent. Combining a touching coming if age tale with a warped adventure through time and space, Flight is unlike anything you have ever heard before. Adam Beach's narration is the perfect blend of raw youth, emotion, vulgarity, and stoicism.
George R. Stewart's tale is clearly a product of it's time; rampant racism and classism abound. There is also the hint of eugenics, or, to use a less frightening term utilitarian bioethics. Not only is the mentally handicapped Evey referred to as a half-wit, the people of the "tribe" adamantly refuse to let her breed. Also, one character apologizes essentially to another for being at least partially African, which occurs after she becomes pregnant with a "half-breed" child. I am not sure if this is the opinion of the author or just another flaw of these supremely flawed characters. The focus of the story, Isherwood Williams, is arrogant, hateful, judgmental and even refers to himself as a God at one point. But I do not think the author wanted the reader to find Ish likable, instead Stewart wanted him to be horribly flawed to illustrate that while man falters and fails, the Earth abides. The language is flourid, the plotting is slow yet observant, and as far as post-apocalyptic fiction goes, this is the Moby Dick of the end times. Highly recommended if you can accePt flawed characters. There are, I am sorry to say, way too many cookie cutter good guys in modern fiction. The un-pc is impactful and memorable and real. The ACLU doesn't write fiction for obvious reasons. That universe would be confusing, offensive and inoffensive all at once. Utterly sterile.
Nobody Owens is a fairly normal young man, but that he lives with the dead. When his family members are murdered in their beds by The Man Jack, a curious toddler wanders innocently from his home and into the loving arms of Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a jovial pair who make their home in a graveyard, and because of some morbid fascination with the dead, but because they themselves are deceased, and they are not the only restless spirits lurking about. The graveyard is inhabited by the old (a roman aristocrat), the forgotten (a girl forever burdened with the title of witch) and the undead (a kindly vampire with his fair share of secrets). Together, they will determine the fate of this unique young man, and each will play a crucial part in his inevitable confrontation with The Man Jack, all while helping young Bod through the trials and tribulations of his lonesome childhood and his more restless teenage years.
With The Graveyard Book, Gaiman has created a masterpiece of young adult fiction. The story of Nobody "Bod" Owens is both fantastical and relatable. No one seems as adept as Gaiman at blending the humdrum with the epic. The audiobook is given even more gravitas by the music of banjo superstar Bela Fleck and Gaiman's always wonderful narration. One wishes he could do the same with his masterpiece American Gods, currently narrated by the anachronistic George Guidall.
Also recommended is The Anansi Boys as read by Lenny Henry.
In reference to the person who gave this two stars, Redwall is not a story for children, nor is it a story for squeamish adults. There is violence throughout and anyone who buys this for their children will be shocked by the acts of violence. Redwall is, however, an excellent story full of interesting characters, a rich tapestry if adventure, friendship and courage. The two star review claims that Redwall is a disappointment similar to Watership Down. That would imply of course that Watership Down is anything less than stellar literature. Of course the plight of the animals in Adams story is bleak, and of course many of the characters meet violent ends, but what else is life for an animal if not short, violent, and bleak. As far as Redwall is concerned, the story demonstrates the turbulent life of medieval monks, the despicable nature of warlords, and the harshness if the animal kingdom. Even O'Brien's beloved Mrs. Frisky is confronted with despicable tyrants and violent upheaval. In that story, almost the entire population of mice who escape NIMH are killed in a horrifying moment by a blast of ventilated air. Furthermore, most beloved fables are terrible and violent. Does the flippant grasshopper nit starve to death while the diligent ant lives on through the lean winter months? Reality is not a carefully censored and adequately anti-violent Disney film. The mice at Redwall abbey live and die, sometimes their death is violent, sometimes quiet. And the heroes if Redwall are also capable of the same brutality and arrogance as the rats who lay siege on their precious home. Rats and mice, owls and shrews, foxes and death adders do not live together in harmony in the wild so then why should the same animals live as one when civilized by the fiction writer? Redwall is for adults, plain and simple, and anyone who would criticize an adult oriented novel for it's stark portrayal of life and death obviously needs to consider that some might have evolved sensibilities.
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