World War Z consists of a number of interviews with survivors from various countries who related stories from different “phases” of the struggle against the living dead. Some of the stories are actual “short stories”, while most are really just set-pieces or vignettes. Most are quite well-written and make a lot of internal sense. The author has definitely given this a lot of thought and much of the technical military jargon is pretty good.
In particular, I liked the stories by the army grunt who explained why most of the military hardware was inadequate to the task since much of it (like land mines) was built to maim or terrify an enemy rather than to kill them.
But therein lies my issue with the book as a whole: it tends to concentrate on the “big picture” and how the world governments react to the looming disaster. In the “World War Z” universe, the zombies appear in Asia and it spreads from there. This allows the author to tell some interesting stories, like the Israelis withdrawing behind the “security fence”. This is neat stuff, but it’s not in the true “spirit” of Romero’s universe.
In Romero’s vision, the dead simply start rising to consume the living all over the place at once, forcing people to cope with it using what you have on hand in your previously quiet, suburban setting. Giving countries or organizations a few weeks or months to prepare lessens the possibility for the traditional zombie story of ordinary people uprooted and thrust into a nightmare without warning.
Now, Brooks’ universe never purports to be Romero’s and should not be held to the same standards. I would have liked to hear more stories about civilians and less about generals managing supply lines. Those were interesting, but it’s not what I was looking for – less Tom Clancy, more John Steinbeck I suppose.
This is my first Joe Hill book and I was struck by how tightly plotted the story is and how distinctive the various characters are. His writing reminds me a lot of his father's better work back in the 80s, and that's high praise.
However, I really wanted to write in praise of Kate Mulgrew's performance. Really fantastic. She is able to develop fairly distinct voices for each of the major characters, and she's not afraid to raise or lower her voice to better depict the mind-set of the speaker. Her narration here puts her at the top of my list of female narrators and I'm looking forward to hearing her in the future.
I loved the first book in the series and thought that the second one was... not quite as good. The third is a return to form, concentrating more on the alien technology and less on political squabbles.
The characterizations are a little better this time around too, and though we don't get anyone as deep or interesting as Miller from the first book the, the supporting cast is pretty good this time around.
Although the story winds up in a semi-coherent fashion, I'm hoping that the authors decide to revisit the "expanse" universe soon.
Pearlman as a narrator was fine -- his voices were all mostly the same with a few accents thrown in here and there, but he managed to get the tone down well and he relayed the action pretty cleanly. I expected a little better given all the voice-work he's done over the years, but I wouldn't be scared off of another audiobook if I saw him listed. He'd be great for non-fiction.
The book itself started out quite well, but went downhill quickly, especially in the last third of the book. I'd wave it off as first-timer's learning, but Del Toro had an experienced co-writer, so you can't even do that.
The first third of the book describes a Vampire infestation of NYC, and this is pretty good. The pseudo-science seems to stand up, and the actions of both the vampire bad guys and clueless good guys are logical and understandable. Del Toro obviously did a lot of research into various areas (rat infestations, how morgues operate) and this comes through nicely in creating a believable first act. The characters are pretty one-note, and despte an honest effort, they never quite get past the cardboard cut-out stage.
The second third of the book steadily grows weaker as each of the main characters settles into a pre-ordained "Dracula" role of Van Helsing, Harker, Quincey, etc. The careful "real science" that they cultivate in the first part starts to fall apart a bit as the rules they came up with are bent or broken to serve the plot, and the characters start to do dumb things that fly in the face of their earlier pragmatism.
The last third of the book is just a mess. The main characters blunder around like buffoons with weapons that Joss Weadon would have rejected from a "Buffy" script as too campy; the once uber-powerful vampires are now dispatched casually; and the super bad-guy alternates between demigod and staggering idiot as the action requires.
The book has a nifty sci-fi/vampire premise, and the author is good enough at describing action sequences to keep you wanting more. The characters are about as cardboard cut-out as you can get and character development approaches zero, but the inventive descriptions of the post-apocalyptic Earth are enough to keep it going. I liked it enough to give the second one a try; I'm hoping the author is capable of more character-building as the series continues.
I saw this guy interviewed on the Daily Show a couple weeks back and I was intrigued by what he said was in the book, so I picked it up. When I saw it was narrated by the author, I was originally put off -- on the Daily Show he was a bit of a slow talker, and generally the authors don't do as good a job as professional narrators. But the editor did a good job chopping out the pauses, and Hitchen's tendency to mumble his hard consonants was not too bad unless there was a lot of noise in the gym.
The book is... ah, I'm not quite sure how to describe it. A screed against religion, I suppose. Initially it seems to be a long essay on why atheism... or perhaps Atheism... is the proper way to go if we as a planet are to move on. But it often devolves into a series of anecdotal vignettes on why religion and the religious are bad for... well, everything. Many times this is fascinating and sometimes it's a bit unfair (he tends to cherry-pick assumptions and forgive ignorance cases where it helps his cause and lambaste it in places where it does not), but it is always very entertaining.
I enjoyed the dense allusions to classical literature and puns; pretentious maybe, but if you are reading the book you'll probably like it too.
It's kind of an indulgent book, written as it is about a famous writer's wife and how she deals with the various strange things that happen to him, his descent into near-madness, struggles with alcoholism, fame, and eventual death. Sound semi-autobiographical? Well, it's probably supposed to, and the heroine is supposed to be sort of like King's wife, but not too much.
The other half of the book is about a magical place where this writer goes and receives his inspiration (both for prose and horror), and there is more symbolism there than any one stick could be shook at. King tries some fancy literary stuff, indulging in multiple-layered flashbacks within flashbacks, and his prose gets a bit more lurid than his typical "everyman" talk, even threatening poetry via his writer alter-ego at one point.
Still, after "Cell" this is a much tighter and more personal book, which is where I think his power really lies (The Stand, notwithstanding). Moreover, the narration by Mare Winningham is excellent; she'll never make you wonder whether there are actually multiple people narrating, but she imbues her voice with excellent levels of emotion when needed and does a good job with various accents and ways of speaking. Plus she handles King's propensity for (parenthetical) prose quite well.
Coming into this book, I had only a rudimentary knowledge of the Six Day War, and I probably often got it confused with the Yom Kippur war or the 1958 Sinai incident. The book managed to indoctrinate me into what the author calls the Middle East “Context” and I am finding that I am looking at the current events in the area with new eyes.
The book is split into four distinct sections. The first deals with an abbreviated history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and provides a summary of the 1948 and 1958 wars, the rise of the dictatorships in the neighboring countries (especially Nassar in Egypt). The second portion deals at length with the events and diplomacy that led up to the war. The third portion deals with the military and political maneuvering that went on during the actual armed conflict. Finally the end of the book provides a “wrap up,” describing how the major players ended up and what the war did to change the political landscape of the area.
The author manages to dramaticize many of the decisions quite well -- the Liberty incident as narrated in the book is a real nail-biter, as is the initial Israeli first-strike on the Egyptians. Oren reminds me a bit of Shelby Foote ("A Narrative History of the Civil War") in how his writing turns the history into drama in places. The pathos of the historical characters is wonderful as well: Nassar of Egypt is a classic flawed and corrupted ruler, and I liked the idea of Anwar Sadat as Achilles brooding in his tent; Dianne, Rabin, LBJ, Eban and the others play out like characters in a Shakespearian drama in places. Though you know how it all will play out, there is a great deal of pleasure in hearing it play out.
For me, the book was very revealing. I’d recommend the book for anyone who would like an entertaining “primer” into the history of the modern Middle East and into the historical Israeli outlook in the region.
If you've liked any of Cornwell's stuff in the past, you'll likely enjoy this one as well. It has many things in common with both the Archer's Tale, and the superior Winter King. In the end, many of Cornwell's themes and plots are similar, but it's certainly a page-turner and (as always) his historical details are top-notch.
I fully enjoyed the audiobook, but I wonder if I would have liked the abridged version better. The first half of the book gives a number of very interesting anecdotes about the nature of globalization, and the second half provides some chilling statistics of America's potential struggles. All very interesting. However, Friedman simply repeats his main points far, far, far too many times
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