It is hard to describe the structure of this book. It's not exactly what the publisher's summary might suggest. It is rather like going on a journey with Jon Ronson as he is pulled bit by bit into learning about so-called "psychopaths," one experience leading free form to the next. It was really pleasurable to watch his thought process develop from each incident or interview. Along the way we are exposed to the Hare checklist for diagnosing psychopaths, towards which Ronson conveys a respectful skepticism. The author reads the book himself, which can be a recipe for disaster, but his inflection here is droll and keeps you listening.
I devoured Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, fascinated with their brilliant and prescient creation of a dystopia in the near future. I was greatly looking forward to MaddAddam but was sorely disappointed in every way. The plot just ran out of steam, dragging on interminably about characters' prior lives. It also started to pile up a massive amount of gratuitous violence, repetitive and pointless. I also did not like the two main narrators. They both sounded like very annoying voiceover artists; they probably ARE voiceover artists. The woman reading the part of Toby sounded like one of those treacly female voiceovers in a laundry detergent commercial. The man reading the part of Zeb sounded like the growly, deep male voiceover in a futuristic action movie starring Bruce Willis: "In a world . . . Where humanity faces extinction . . . One man . . . Can save them . . .". That got really hard to take after five minutes or so. My recommendation is if you are hooked by the first two books in the series, check this third book out of the library, or sit and glance through it at Barnes & Noble without buying it. You can speed read the plot to see what happens, whereas with an audiobook you are forced to sit through it.
It took me a few hours to get hooked on this book, but once I did, I couldn't stop listening. Franzen is a keen, on-point observer of American culture and politics, but also of the intangible, illogical, and overpowering things that make up relationships of all types. I especially found the ending powerful and moving.
I also loved this narrator. I thought he hit the voices and cadences just right, even the Indian girl.
I love Bodhipaksa's voice, which has a soft Scottish accent. The narrators of many meditation CDs have voices that eventually grate on me, but never this one. It always relaxes and calms me.
As other reviewers have mentioned, I feel badly giving a pass on this audiobook, because it is well-intentioned. But I feel this was a waste of money, and wanted to warn others away. I honestly could not get through even half of it, I was so bored. There is a whole chapter on the author agonizing over whether to spend the time apart from his wife and family to do the last lecture; I had to agree with his wife that he just should have skipped it. Football coaches, astronauts, stuffed animals at carnivals to get the girl -- to me, it was cloying and trite.
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