Have to say that Sawyer handles aliens better than he does humans. I loved his "Calculating God", but I found this one a bit difficult what with his trying to deal with a somewhat dysfunctional human family and the resolution of marital and familial discord.
Interesting concept - running time backward. From death to birth. I kept trying to find inconsistencies in the narrative, but could find few. An interesting read that reminds me of the movie, Memento, though the idea is different.
I finished this book about a month ago and it has stuck with me. Pieces of it come back to haunt me frequently. I would love more....don't know if a sequel is planned or not. I think I'd like one, but the ending almost precludes that, but then I'm not a creative writer, so maybe. I loved the way Beckett morphed language over time, and it definitely does change. I find myself saying things like, "boy it's hot hot today," or "I'm hungry hungry."
I was captivated by the description of Dark Eden, on the rogue planet with no sun. It seemed absolutely beautiful, with the lantern trees and animals having evolved their own lanterns to provide light for themselves, and the "starry swirl" which was apparent at cloudless times. But for the marooned people there who longed for Earth and its sun, it was very sad. Also sad was the fact that their gene pool was very limited, everyone having descended from the original two humans who were marooned there. Predictably, birth defects abounded, "bat faces" and "claw feet.," and the people of "the family" knew and understood that. And they waited to be rescued. So a sadness pervades the book. I'm waiting for them to be rescued, too.
The characters were all stereotypes; Menina - the good girl, her parents - the hayseeds from GA, the nuns, ah the nuns! - all old lady nun stereotypes. And the narration. My first irritation was the adoptive parents' fake-y southern accents. If I'd been the Mother Superior at the orphanage, I wouldn't have approved the adoption, not because the they were Southern Baptists, though I think that would have given most Catholic nuns pause, but because they didn't seem quite bright.
Lots of things happen to Menina that don't make sense - first of all, her name, which if I remember correctly was the middle name of some relative of her parents. Menina....really? I live in GA and I've never heard it as a given name.
The narration also included lots of fake-y Spanish accents, some Castillian, some not. And everyone could always seem to speak another language if it moved the story along and be unable to if it didn't. Menina particularly, who apparently knew Spanish well but at one point was too tired to speak it.
I guess I understand the use of a Spanish-y accent for people when they are speaking Spanish in the book, but I don't understand using it for the 3rd person narrative parts. It's an English book written for people who speak English.
I also found jumping back and forth in time an annoyance - sometimes I didn't know which time I was in because the characters in both times were similar - young women and nuns in the same rickety old convent.
All in all, it was a slow-go for me. I read about 2/3 of it and skipped to the (predictable) end and don't feel I missed anything.
And what's up with the swallow?
That is, to use a term that I learned has almost dropped out of our language to describe something good. So many tidbits of interesting information. What it made me realize is the huge difference between spoken and written language and the relationships between languages that you wouldn't suspect. For instance Maltese, which apparently sounds very much like Italian and uses some Italian words, is more closely related to Arabic, though it uses the Latin alphabet.
As others have noted, this does move very fast and I would probably have to listen again if there were a final exam and I wanted to pass the course. Fortunately, Audible does not have final exams! I may listen again anyway.
I did finish listening - the story was not boring. But the dialog was rather clunky and awkward to listen to, especially between Mary and Ponter. Lines from Gone With The Wind, ET, and The Wizard of Oz were shamelessly borrowed. The ending, even for SciFI, stretches credibility to the breaking point and I'm happy to leave the story at its end, though there is a sequel, which is previewed and advertised at the end of this recording.
The narrators were good, though my usual criticism of males affecting female voices applies here - the females sound pretty much like, well, men trying to sound like women.
The names of the Neanderthals didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason - did they all have surnames and if so, how were they derived? I didn't look up the characters to see their names in writing, but I enjoyed hearing them as I imagined them - Ponter's daughters, Jasmine, Jazz-bo, Jazmo or Jazno, and Meg-a-Meg, and many whose names I just couldn't figure out at all.
I was annoyed at the continued put-down of human history/society and the elevation of the noble (and brilliant!) Neanderthal society. Of course there are things in human history that merit our shame, but I don't understand the purpose of the comparison in this book and its creation of a fictional "perfect" sentient species.
When I began listening, the book was hilarious. Lots of sarcastic put-downs of pretentious people and a restaurant. I thought I was in for a funny ride. But the book does turn dark...very dark. We discover things about the characters that we didn't suspect. Many things. Getting pertinent information out of the main character and narrator is like pulling teeth - very frustrating but effective. He tells us many times of things he thought of saying in a particular situation....but then he didn't say them. We gradually learn many very relevant tidbits that we wouldn't have suspected that add to the development of the story. An interesting read, but I which Koch had stuck to funny.
This one was compelling and earnest. I had thought that because the author (father) was a pastor meant that it would probably seem or be contrived. The recounting of Colton's experience when undergoing an appendectomy evolved over time. He was only 3 or 4 and didn't tell his parents at the time it happened, but gradually made statements about the experience which brought his parents to understand what had happened to him. The difficult part for me were Colton's seeing things in Heaven (monsters, Satan, Armageddon, battles, etc) that I have taken to be metaphorical at best. Colton's account pretty much sticks to Christian biblical orthodoxy, about which his father insists that Colton previously knew very little and none of the details. Most other accounts of near death experiences that I've read, like Anita Moorjani's "Dying to be Me" and Eben Alexander's "Proof of Heaven" really emphasize God's love for all of us, regardless of what we've been guilty of in earthly life. This book tries to present itself as proof that Christianity is the only "right" religion and pretty much the only way to get to heaven.
Prof. McWhorter maintains that "funnest" is not a word you can use, but I'll bet he knows what I mean.
Maybe the best thing I can say about this lecture series is that, like a very good and compelling novel, I found myself driving around the block or listening in the garage because I found it so engaging. On one hand, I didn't want it to end, but on the other, I did so that I could write a glowing review.
So many interesting tidbits about English and other languages and how words and expressions evolved. He gives great examples - some very humorous. He explains the difference between spoken and written language; in all languages, spoken is much more casual and less rigid than written, which allows you to plan, go back and re-write and edit (as I'm dong now) what's being written. He maintains that language is always evolving and will always continue to, and that the new electronic ways of communicating - e-mail, texting, IM, are really more like speach than writing. He finds no linguistic problem with these forms nor does he feel that they will affect the written language in a bad way.
He's very entertaining, easy to understand and skirts around socially offensive "bad" words without actually saying them, but in a very funny way.
I'll mention the applause between lectures as I did for another of the Great Courses Lecture series. I think it should be done away with - it's distracting.
For instance, that in addition to water, other liquids including coffee and tea can be counted as hydration. According to Goodman, they are very mild diuretics - otherwise they would be used as such medically. And that the sensation of thirst does not indicate serious dehydration (as many maintain} because thirst is the first indication of the need for liquid. Also, that it doesn't matter if you eat late at night - a calorie is a calorie no matter when you eat it. He also says that you should "listen to your body" re eating and drinking and do what it dictates.
Much of this lecture series, however, is devoted to highly technical instructions about food and drink before and after strenuous exercise, like weigh yourself nude before exercising and then again after exercising (nude again, since your post-exercise clothes may retain sweat) to determine how much water was lost and drink a specific amount based on the difference in weight. This I suspect is aimed at very serious runners and workout artists.
This is not me....My exercise is limited to 30 or so mins on an exercise bicycle or walking around a lovely wooded 3 mile path by the river. I try to do this daily, but am known to slack off sometimes.
All of you marathoners will probably get a lot of good information from this book.
Goodman's lecture style is good - he speaks clearly and animatedly and obviously enjoys his subject.
A note on the production style of all the Great Courses: To me, the applause before and after each lecture is somewhat distracting. I don't think for a minute that these lectures are actually recorded in a lecture hall - the quality is too good for that. It's sort of like the laugh-track on TV comedies.
I've listened to about an hour of this and its about the weirdest thing I've ever heard. Read some reviews - some of them glowing from folks who found it hilarious. Haven't seen hilarity yet, just grossness for no apparent reason other than to be gross. This reminds me of Saturday Night Live, which I used to find outrageously funny. My husband and I have followed it for 30 years or so and still look forward to it at 11:30 on Saturday night. We're always disappointed these days - it all seems very silly. Have we changed or has humor changed? Don't know, but I feel the same about this book. How anyone could give it 5 stars I just can't comprehend.
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