No spoilers ahead.
This was a hard novel to review. I read it in my teens when all I read then was Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I loved it then. This was at a time when nuclear war was in the front of our minds and nuclear winter was being learned about. This novel provided wonderful optimism for the human race (kinda, you have to read it to understand what I mean). All these years later I had the chance to get this audiobook as a daily deal. Couldn’t pass it up even though Sci-Fi is rarely a genre I read anymore.
I have read a few other classic sci-fi books in the last few years and I am always judging whether the story feels dated. To this question the answer is: somewhat. Not enough to spoil the story though.
The biggest issue I have with the story now, all these years later and much reading under my belt, the author is more a scientist and less a writer. His prose leaves a bit to be desired. Arthur C Clark was a genius. He first conceptualized artificial communication satellites. It was this very technology that made the following possible. From the book “Soon people won’t be living their lives any more. It will be a full-time job keeping up with the various family serials on TV!” As far as I am concerned, he predicted reality TV as well. He missed on this one though. In regards to religion at the end the 20th century, “You (mankind) had put superstition behind you: Science was the only real religion of mankind.” He had no idea of the power of the religious right I guess.
The plot of this novel is ingenious. One of the better sci-fi plots. Would I recommend it? If you enjoy sci-fi, then most definitely. If you like to sometimes dabble in it, or more specifically classic sci-fi, then yes, it is a must read. I give the story 4 stars, and the prose 3 stars, overall 3 ½ stars.
The narrator. At best his performance was neutral. He didn’t take away from the story but he didn’t add to it either. In some part, that is because of the writing. The writing doesn’t lend itself well to good narration. I pulled my old paper copy out and read part of the story to see how I felt about book form verses audio. I would lean toward book form in this case. I give narration 2 ½ stars.
This is my forth Bill Bryson book and it is as good as any of the others I have read. So if you like his books, you are sure to like this one.
If you have never read one of his books, this is as good a place to start as any.
Why read his books? He has a way of making just about anything, interesting. In the case of this book, he has the whole of Australia to entertain us. Easy pickings if you ask me.
If I have any complaint, it is only that the book could have been longer. There is so much more that he could had told us about. Dam his schedule, apparently he couldn't spend as much time in Australia as I would have liked. Ha Ha.
The author narrates his book and does a very good job. His books always have a good dose of humor and this more than the usual. Because he is the author and the narrater, the humor shines. I have rated this book a solid 4 stars but if there were a category for humor it would get 5 stars.
I read this as a kid and loved it. I found it so funny. Now, all these years later I decided to give it a listen. I couldn't finish it. It wasn't funny. The words are the same. The narrater did a decent job. But I wasn't laughing. It was tedious and boring. I find this so odd. I usually like my humor read out loud but for this book maybe the paper version is best.
This book has a lot going for it. It has a unique plot, the main character is someone you really want to root for and it is an education of a way of life very remote for most of us.
I knew the story, I had seen the movie, but even so I couldn't put the book(headphones) down. As usual, the book was much better even though the movie was good as well.
If you enjoyed the movie and want to prolong the experience, give this a listen.
Narration was good.
Many years ago, I watched the 1997 film version of this story and liked it very much. This short audio version allowed me to enjoy it again. All the narrators preformed well.
Something to be gained.
We all have the ability to be so certain about what we know. It is important to see that the other side of the story, if we allow it, may in fact be the truer. I guess that is a lesson to be found with this short story.
A very good story. It is easy to recommend this book. It is classified as science fiction but really that isn't a fair way to group it. It is a book to stimulate the grey matter that asks you to suspended one small aspect of reality. That is, the idea that science has come up with a way to help those with intellectual disability. Not much to suspend there, it does seem like something science could achieve.
This is a book that pushes one to think. Not in a hard way, it isn't a difficult read/listen but there are ideas found within that cause one to adjust their perspective. That is true in the way you are placed inside the intellectually disabled person but there are also the many ramifications when that person is 'helped'.
For those wondering, this book does not feel dated. For the most part there wasn't technology discussed that would date it. It was written in a way that it feels current.
If you like uniqueness in you reading, this is a book you should read/listen to. For me anyway, it felt fresh. There are other books that come to mind that are similar but unique in their own way. A Clockwork Orange and Solaris are such books. Both opened my eyes to bigger questions.
If you have read and enjoyed The Curious Incident with the Dog in the Night-Time, you will like this book. Both allow you to spend a few days in the moccasins of someone quite different.
Book or audio? The narrator did an excellent job, he doesn't detract from the story.
This was an enjoyable read. Very funny at times. I liked finding where in history our main character would end up next. The narrator was good and his voice was appropriate to the story. You should read this book if you need a break from your usually reading. The story takes very little mental investment. Just sit back and see where it goes. Even though it is an easy story to get into and enjoy, it is entertaining.
With as many reviews as this book has received why write another? I had a few concerns before deciding to purchase this book and want to share what I have learned. I haven’t finished this book yet but for this review it isn’t necessary.
At least one reviewer commented on the narrator yelling the part of Gus. This worried me. If the narrator takes away from the book then I would just as soon read it than listen to it. Lee Horsley read Gus just the way he was written. Gus is written as a loud man. To not use a loud voice would have been a mistake. Now that I am ½ way through the book I have to say that although his voice is elevated, the voice of Gus is not too loud. I wouldn’t want him any other way. All the characters were well done and in accordance with the way the author wrote them. Because of Lee Horsley this is a book that is better when read though the ears rather than the eyes.
Another concern I had after listening to the sample was the pace at which the narrator was reading. With the sample I felt he was sprinting, barely pausing for a breath. I very nearly didn’t buy this book for that reason. I felt exhausted after listening to the sample. Still there were all those glowing reviews. Could they all be wrong? I decided to go for it. I am glad I did. Although the pace without a breath continued beyond the time of the sample the narrator soon realized that if he didn’t slow down he would not make it to the end. In short order he fell into his rhythm.
One concern that has turned out to be real is the audio quality. The sound level does vary and at one point there is an annoying hum. For me this doesn’t amount to much of an aggravation. The story and narration is on a level that it is easy to overlook the audio quality problems. It is unfortunate though; this should have never left the studio with these issues. Even now most of the quality issues could be cleaned up without re-recording.
With a rating of 4.5 stars and approaching 9000 ratings it is hard to go wrong with this audio book. If westerns aren’t normally your genre but occasionally you do enjoy one, which is the case with me, this is a good one to choose. I am enjoying it very much.
An excellent collection of short stories.
I won't get into the details of the book. There are plenty of reviews that do that. I would like to say that if you have never read George Saunders, his writing style is very unique. He is fresh and original. On paper I would image he may be a little hard to follow. Read out loud though and you get the full effect of his writing. He writes much like people talk and that doesn't always translate into the best reading experience. Because his writing is like no one else, intelligently written and unafraid to go where others fear, it is hard not to like him. All that is required is an open mind.
The author did a good job narrating. Yes, someone else may have done better but his performance didn't hurt the listening experience. Listen to a sample and judge for yourself. I gave him 3 stars but 3 1/2 would be more accurate.
The only problem I have with the book is the poor job Random House Audio did in dividing out the chapters. Often it doesn't matter but with a short story collection it is helpful if the audio book chapters line up with the book chapters. They do not. Someone at Random House needs to find a new profession. I found one story I could not finish (The Semplica Girl Diaries). I spent god knows how long trying to find the end of the story. It is harder than you think. I didn't know if I was still in the same story or if I had jumped into the next. It was a real pain. Some of these stories should be listened to again and again. Being able to find them easily is something Random House should have considered. I took the time to locate the chapter start times.
Victory Lap 00:00
Escape From Spiderhead 53:20
Al Roosten 1:50:52
The Seplica Girl Diaries 2:15:17
My Chivalric Fiasco 4:32:13
The Tenth of December 4:48:52
I enjoyed this book and can recommend it. However, I began to lose interest halfway through. The initial appeal began to run thin and it seemed like the second half was just more of the same. I had to see it to the end though; I wanted to see what became of Dean Moriarty. I guess that says something. Often I won’t stick with a story if I get bored. The experience of this story was insightful and enjoyable. It was an experience, much more than just a story. I did like learning about the beat generation. The slang of the time was a riot. Will Patton did a wonderful job narrating. He did Dean like no one else could. He was Dean.
I wonder if what made this story so popular at the time, is not as applicable now. We are a nation of drivers. It is nothing, now, to take a road trip. Then though, maybe the idea of seeing the country was a bit of a novelty. This story is much more than that. It is a peek into a subculture that is past, never to return.
Because of Will Patton, this is a book that is much better in audio form. If I were to read it, the experience wouldn’t have been as good. The language of the day needs to be heard out loud and Will Patton does it so well.
3 ½ stars. If you want to learn a bit about the beat generation, or want to know what all the acclaim is about, or if you like Will Patton, read this book. Most likely you will enjoy it.
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