After 13 hrs I gave up.
Maybe it is just the book isn’t for me, but I couldn’t find anything to sympathise with in any of the characters. The plot seemed to be more melodrama, or if not that, then “stock”; predictable, mechanical devices to drive the narrative. Action often doesn’t fit well with the development of the characters who act; the extent of the internal dialogue doesn’t match up with the impetuousness, thoughtlessness, or foolishness; mechanical devices.
Set in the last quarter of the 19th century, against the Franco-Prussian War and the French in the Sahara, the period should be fascinating, but it is never really a “character”.
The strength of the book is in the descriptions of physical details … Paris, action, the desert, etc; the physical aspects of the characters.
“…over the summer the moat became ever more elaborate, winding in a grand circle around the tree, with bridges made of branches where one had to give the password. And on the bottom of the moat were carefully arranged patches of rocks that—if you looked just the right way at them—became crocodiles that ate trespassers, tax collectors, and knights of the evil kingdom …”
The other strength, for me, was the reader.
The style of the writing, in audio book form, seemed to owe something to that of “The Count of Monte Cristo.”; but without that story’s heart.
It didn’t help that the description on the Audible site includes a spoiler … “…follows the lives of two cousins who are raised as brothers but destined to become enemies …”; I guess it’s somewhere in the other 13hrs.
Worryingly many of the threads of the book are still relevant today; of course, not all. It is remarkable how many things writers of that time, it was published in 1961, got predictions right - video phoning, mobile phones in cars, etc. But some of his notions are really out of date; his writing of women characters is very much the thinking of the 50s; although I can see him struggle with modern concepts of their place in changing times.
The reader does a good job with a long book. Sometimes the voices lose distinction and it is momentarily hard to work out who is speaking, but that is a minor issue. More difficult is the he uses whispering to indicate some of the "speech" which makes the dialogue un-hearable; good intentions, but doesn't work with an audiobook.
Some parts can drag on ... mainly because their novelty at the time doesn't translate to our modern times, but it's worth persevering. The original draft was 220,000 words, published in 1991, but the editors got him to cut it down to 160,067 words, 1961. I'm not sure which version this is. Received the Hugo Award for Best Novel (Wikipedia).
This is the third book of this series I have tried. One I sent back. The second found some reconciliation between reader and listener. This outing sees the writing find a good rhythm which allows the narrator to bring forth an entertaining interpretation.
Saberhagen does away with the first person perspective and the story benefits very much. Robin Bloodworth is able to avoid the forced voice of the previous books and set forth the drama more comfortably.
Three stars because it is a pot boiler that is great for listening to in the car ... enjoyable.
I found this book too demanding of my suspension of disbelief. To sum it up, and this happens within the first hour of the book, so I don't think it is a spoiler ... and you could see it coming from a mile off ... a (early 20s) boy who grew up on the streets has his pocket picked then doesn't notice the loss of considerable weight as he runs back home, several miles. Just silly; and an alternative to the plot twist was so obviously available.
That sums it up ... too obvious, too contrived - thrust on top of a "topical" story of the rent boy and the crime lord (again, not spoilers as they are stated from the get go).
It may read better than it narrates. The fist person perspective is always a difficult one to pull off and for my money, Jess Faraday or Philip Battley doesn't achieve it; maybe it's the combination. Though Battley has a good voice for narration.
The characters weren't unlikeable, but neither did they imbue me with a need to stick around for their story. I dropped in to the tale a few hours in just to see if it got itself organized, but the problems were the same.
Maybe the author relies on the setting, which is well drawn, to carry the story aloft, but it never got the momentum for me.
I didn't get far into this book ... about 3 hours. I understand why others liked it; it is a wholesome story about perseverance and honour. But the story wasn't for me. The characters weren't sufficiently adult for me to care much about them; good characters though they are for others.
I had trouble with the reader. His voice reminded me of a cartoon character from when I was a kid (1960s); I won't say which one. Although passionate I didn't find he transmitted excitement to me about events.
I like Martinez's writing generally. It often takes a time to settle in to the story but in the end it pays off; at first a relationship with the characters can be slow to develop. But this one is too little too late.
I'm up to 6 hours and am disinclined to continue.
This time round Martinez has failed to make the story paced well enough to keep going; as a result I don't care enough about the characters to finish.
Some good writing, but too disjointed for too long to develop the theme quickly enough to persevere.
Fred Berman's reading is very good. In this case it it the writing that lets us down.
A gentler, comic, rendition of the Napoleonic Wars from the point of view of a man of those times. "Gerard is modeled on the real-life Baron Jean Baptiste Antoine Marcellin de Marbot, a noted French light cavalry officer during the Napoleonic Wars" (Wikipedia).
Rupert Degas does a good job of hinting at the hubris of Gerard, who is very loath to mention his qualities, unless given the chance. His accents, oral caricatures, are just right; women histrionic, heroes manly. Yet, he does so leaving dignity to them.
Writing of its time; simple, lite and enjoyable.
I persevered for 2 hours then gave up. I had no interest in what happened to Bill; I would have liked to follow some of the other characters, but Bill was everywhere.
The story is told from the first person perspective … and Bill is very self absorbed and clichéd in his thoughts … a bad combination.
The internal monologue is very adolescent ... Women are objects only for lust (and rape through thought control - forced to be obedient, submissive); powerful men (read jocks, I guess) are objects of smugness and envy; other people have no worth at all.
Loads of self correction, self second guessing; endless asides, “Unfortunately that was probably the wrong time to pat myself on the back …”, at inappropriate moments (from the writing point of view, not the action).
The narration didn’t help me persevere. Frustratingly, it was probably apt for the character; self important tones; almost all sentences end with an exclamation!
It probably reads better than it narrates. Some will really like this series, and good luck to them. Give it a try by all means, but be ready to trade it back in.
Warning to some … quite a bit of swearing … some full on, some this silly TV word, “Frigging”.
Have a look at Kii’s review.
This is part of a series. The book fits into a bigger story line, but successfully brings things together in this episode that it doesn't simply feel like a con to sell more books.
The characters are quite interesting, but not gripping. I was quite interested in their faits, but not enough that I"ll look up the earlier books, or look for more of the series.
I like Alan Dean Foster as a writer and maybe it is that his works make better reading than listening to. What you can read in a moment of two draws out with narration.
Stefan Rudnicki does a good job with the pace, tone and accents. One or two slip a little, but enough to be annoying; very occasional.
I've read 3 other Martinez books and have enjoyed them all.
The characters take a little time to warm up to this time round, but going along for the ride was worth it once I could see where they were coming from.
Matthew Reilly has produced a book quite different form his usual action, action, action style. It is patient and detailed; reflecting the main device, chess. The game is less important than the moves in it.
Lucy Gaskell does a good job of narration. She matches the mood of the story very well.
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