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The Pale Horse has always been one of my favorite Christie novels, partly because it differs a bit from the norm. Although I love Christie's detectives, it made a nice change of pace for her to write this novel with a historian as her "detective". The audio version did not disappoint at all -- I liked Hugh Fraser's deep voice and felt that it matched really nicely with the overall tone of the book. He's a great narrator to listen to at night: soothing enough to relax, but engages the material well enough that you don't drift off to sleep too quickly.
This is the story that actually convinced me to start reading Georgette Heyer's novels -- previously, I had expected them just to be ridiculous modern attempts at Regency works. I was quite mistaken!
What I love about this story is that the two main characters behave as they are supposed to, not as fleeting passions or hormones or selfish desires might dictate. Adam and Jenny's marriage is a civil contract, but they both try so hard to build a real marriage out of it, which is what makes for a unique and interesting story. The tone is a little sad at times, and the pacing moves slower than other stories, but it is really quite lovely and believable.
The narration on the story was well done and makes for a pleasant bit of bedtime reading at night.
I'll start by saying that earlier Discworld novels are not as polished or as brilliant as the later works, but they are nevertheless essential for grasping the full storyline of the Discworld and its many extremely colorful inhabitants. Death is, in my mind, one of the most entertaining inhabitants, which makes a story about him taking on an apprentice tremendously appealing. The only slight downside (downside is a bit too strong of a word, actually) is that Death didn't really reach his zenith as a character until later in the series, so what you see here is a character not nearly as fantastic as in Hogfather, for instance. However, this story helps one to understand and appreciate Death better when encountered later and also helps to explain Susan more (she's not in this novel, but you learn some valuable backstory here). It's also good backstory if you were ever curious about Death's servant, Alfred. Also, it is still a really, really funny novel.
My personal feeling is that in the earlier novels, Pratchett tends to be more silly and whimsical, and was still developing as a storyteller. In the later novels -- I'd say after about 10 or so -- he truly became the master that we know his as now. So in this novel, you won't see as many of those artistic flourishes of unexpected depth/social commentary that you see in later Discworld stories, but you will see hints of them. If you like the sillier humor from stories like The Light Fantastic, you'll probably enjoy Mort more than you would some of the later works. If you just plain love Pratchett at any stage, than you'll be utterly delighted with Mort.
The main story concerns Death taking on an awkward young apprentice named Mort. Mort is eager to please, but can't quite make sense of his new master; additionally, Death's adopted daughter Isabelle doesn't seem to get on well with Mort (despite her father's not-so-subtle nudges). Death, as you will well know if you read other Discworld novels, has a habit of trying too hard to understand humanity, and in this particular story, he quite humorously wants to understand the concept of "fun" (he's dealing with a bit of burn-out from work). With Death off trying to have fun, Mort gets left in charge perhaps a little too soon . . . and from there everything dissolves into typical Discworld madness and hilarity.
I like Nigel Planer's narration, although I don't think he quite hits the right voice for Death, which is why I have to give four stars instead of five. I also feel like Planer never does as well with female voices as Briggs does. That said, I still laughed plenty as I listened, and I definitely am happy with this purchase on the whole.
As other reviewers have noted, this recording is not up to the usual quality of Pratchett's audio books. For some reason, there are occasional breaks in speech and long pauses like one would have when switching from one disc to another. It's mildly annoying, but not dreadful, and really doesn't take away from the story. This one is still very much worth purchasing (although it would be great of Audible to see is something can be done about fixing those minor errors, since normally Audible has such high quality of books).
One worry that I had when I first started purchasing audio versions of Terry Pratchett's novels was that I would lose the brilliance of his footnotes within the stories -- for me, a historian, the footnotes are one of the best parts of the novels (probably because I am so accustomed to them professionally that it just delights me to see them used in fiction). But as I have learned, a good narrator can keep the fun of the footnotes and the pace of the story going -- and Pratchett seems to have none but the best narrate his novels.
Going onto the storyline, this is one of the City Watch storylines from Discworld, and like all of Pratchett's works, you can expect quirky characters, brilliant satire, unexpected depth and insight into humanity, fantastic dialogue, and glorious mental pictures (Pratchett is master of many things, and describing a scene is among those). A string of murders, apparently committed by golems, along with the apparent poisoning of the Patrician set up the main plot in this novel, and as always in Pratchett's works, there are several minor story lines going on as well. My personal favorite of these is the storyline of the new dwarf hired to head up a forensics department of the City Watch, Cheery Littlebottom. I won't spoil any of it for you, but suffice to say, it's really funny. The relationship between Angua and Constable Carrot is further explored, we get to see Sam Vines struggling to come to terms with the wealth and position he unexpectedly ended up with after marrying Lady Sybil, and there's also some fun with Wee Mad Arthur (who at this point, still is unaware that he is a Mac Nac Feegle).
Nigel Planer is a great narrator. I keep debating whether I like his work or that of Stephen Briggs better, and I really cannot decide. They both have certain types of voices that they do better. I think I like Briggs' handling of Sam Vines best, particularly in Snuff, but Planer keeps the story moving so well and understands the characters so marvelously that I can't complain.
On the whole, I heartily recommend this audiobook.
June Whitfield has done a very good job of voicing Miss Marple each time she's done it, and the BBC is quite reliable for putting together good casts, good scripts, and overall good performances. I like these radio play adaptations of Agatha Christie because they're a little safer for listening to while driving, in my opinion, than audio books would be -- I say this because with the plays, you don't have to pay as close of attention to every word in order to follow the story, thus enabling you to remain a good, attentive driver. They're nice for airports, too, because you can usually fit one or two right into the average layover. Nothing too deep to weary the mind; just a fun little mystery.
In this instance, I felt like the BBC trimmed out a few too many of the details, which made the solution and the story itself far less interesting (and also made things less clear than they were in the book). For instance, Joanna's entire storyline was pretty much removed. Those secondary storylines are, in my opinion, part of what makes a Christie novel so enjoyable to readers. So, the story does suffer when you remove them, even though they may not directly advance the main plot. If you are a Miss Marple fan than this might not be the book for you -- her part in this story is very "deus ex machina"-esque, although the BBC manages to insert her a bit more in the radio drama than she appears in the book (in the book, she doesn't really show up prominently until the last fourth or so).
Most of the cast did quite well, although I really didn't like how they interpreted Megan -- she's kind of a space cadet in the novel, but in this radio play she's so irritating that I could scarcely stand her voice! I kept wishing I could step in and rewrite the script to have her killed off!
Overall opinion: This is not one of the best Christie adaptations put out by the BBC, but if you are already a fan of the novels, you'll still probably enjoy it. I would buy many of the others before this one, however.
When I was a high-schooler having a rough day and crying in the girls' bathroom, our school librarian found me and gave me a copy of this book. It's one of the most joyful, happy books you'll ever read, and the fact that it's a true story just makes it that much more magical. The Gilbreths were such a fascinating family: parents who were motion study experts raising their twelve children in accordance with the principals of motion study. It's almost as though the parents decided to script out their very own comedy from the beginning! And the love that this family had comes through, too, and (for me, at least) makes you start reminiscing about family stories of your own. In short, every person ought to read this book.
That being said, this is one of the worst narrations I've come across. In the first ten minutes, I wondered if the narrator was trying to set some sort of speed record, as she was racing through the text so fast that I could barely follow her! To make matters worse, she had the backdrop of a hideously loud incompetent musician belting out poorly scored hits of the gay nineties. I almost returned the book without finishing it at that point, because the loud music (for lack of a better term for the noise) and the speed-demon narrator were about to give me a headache rather than lull me to sleep (as had been my hope). I stuck with it, though, and learned that the narrator does eventually slow down, and the music only happens for the first page or two of each chapter (and is equally terrible each time).
After we got into the story, my chief complaints were that the narrator makes every child sound cloying and high pitched, and the mother always sounds like a washrag or prude. Quite a disservice to the real Lillian Gilbreth, I felt, since she was such an accomplished and remarkable woman. If I were a child listening to this story, I would likely feel insulted that the narrator was talking down to me, and as an adult listening, I feel like it's a dreadful thing to have happen to such a wonderful story. I stuck with it to the end only because I love the book so much. My advice is to only buy this one if you are a diehard fan of the book -- otherwise, there are simply hundreds are far better narrators to listen to on Audible.
To be honest, I was a little reluctant to purchase this one because I didn't think I'd like a female narrator tackling Narnia -- and although Lynn Redgrave is a celebrated actress, she's not really my "cup of tea" as a viewer. However, I am now pretty well sold as to her virtues as a narrator.
Story-wise, you simply can't go wrong with any Narnia book. Or any C.S. Lewis book, for that matter! Prince Caspian marks the second appearance in Narnia for the Pevensies, and it absolutely lives up to the high standard set by The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. This is great story for bringing up interesting doctrinal discussions later with friends/kids/anyone you listen with, but a non-Christian reader could enjoy the story perfectly well without getting smacked over the head with allegory.
For me, one of the crucial characters to get right in this particular book is Reepicheep. Being a mouse and yet also a noble warrior, he's not the easiest character to give a voice to, and I worried about him coming out too squeaky and/or irritating and thus spoiling the book for me. Fortunately, Lynn Redgrave managed to do quite a decent voice for him, as well as for most other characters. Her reading of Lucy was a bit cloying at first, but you get used to it as the story goes on. I was, frankly, impressed at just how different Ms. Redgrave was able to voice all of the many, many characters in the story. She has a good pace, as well, and really understands how to move with the story, pause at the right moments, etc. I felt that she had a deep affection for the story as she was reading it (or perhaps she really is that great of an actress), which made her storytelling even more effective.
I still wish they had had Kenneth Branagh do the entire Narnia series, but at least my money was still well spent on this audio book.
The combination of Pratchett and Gaiman was a truly beautiful thing that absolutely should have culminated in more novels! Their styles weave together seamlessly in this story, with a result that you spend most of it laughing until your sides hurt . . . but you also find yourself doing a bit of thinking.
The narration, voice-wise and acting-wise, is stellar. I was a little sad not to have one of Pratchett's usual narrators, at first, but I rapidly came to love how Jarvis handled the material. My one complaint, though, is his lack of pauses. He doesn't give space from one section to the next, which actually does compromise the story a bit. It makes some scenes confusing for a minute or so, and renders others a little less effective. My advice is to go ahead and buy this one, because it's still brilliant, but read the book FIRST. That way, you can fully appreciate the full marvelousness of Pratchett and Gaiman's collaboration, and then you can have a great time listening to the story over and over again.
Moist von Lipwig, the oozingly charming and incredibly clever conman-turned-postal-worker, is probably my second favorite Pratchett character (I think I have to rate Death just a little higher, because he's just such a fantastic anthropomorphic personification). Moist is hilarious to get inside the mind of, and even though he's seemingly irredeamable for the first chunk of the story, you just can't help but root for the guy -- he's such a skilled con artist that he even charms the reader (or, in this instance, listener)!
On top of Moist, you have Adora Dearheart as his perfect love interest (perfect for giving bystanders great amusement, that is), the inimitable Night Watch, Lord Vetinari (the most genius totalitarian ruler anyone could ever meet), loads of other "usual suspects" from Discworld, and of course some great new characters from the post office and the world of crime, all tied neatly into a hilarious storyline. You really cannot ask for more from a novel.
I feel that Stephen Briggs is probably the best person possible for narrating a Pratchett novel (although I do like Nigel Planer, too). He does a great job of giving every character their own unique voice/personality, just as Pratchett intended. As much as I love reading these books, I think that Briggs actually emphasizes comedic elements that I sometimes miss when reading -- or maybe he just helps me see the material in a slightly different way. At any rate, I always feel that my money is well spent on these audio books, and this particular one is a clear favorite.
Word of caution: You might not want to listen to this one in public. I embarrassed myself a bit by snorting and chortling in a socially inappropriate manner on a Beijing bus while listening to this one. Witnesses to my behavior definitely thought I was nuts!
I honestly don't think Terry Pratchett is capable of writing a story that is less than excellent. He combines satire, social commentary, fantasy, and slapstick humor into absolute masterpieces -- and the way he uses and twists words about is something akin to a skilled painter with his brush. No matter how ridiculous the character or the situation, there's always something about it that you find yourself recognizing from real life. I've never seen another modern writer with a gift like Pratchett's.
As for the narration, Nigel Planer is well up to handling the material. I like Stephen Briggs a little bit better, personally, but Planer is also a delight. He really GETS Pratchett, and it's reflected in the treatment he gives to each character and to the story itself.
The quality of the recording is also quite good. I am immensely pleased with this purchase -- it made a thirteen-hour flight feel much, much shorter because I got so absorbed in listening.
This is best audio treatment of the Bible that I have ever listened to. The main narration is done in an excellent deep voice that embraces the words while also adding power to them. The sound effects, rather than distracting, add depth and make you feel more present as you listen. I particularly liked Richard Dreyfuss's reading of Moses -- he's a talented actor and he did a great job here. My one complaint was the reading of Esther -- she's made to sound like a sultry vixen, which completely distracts one from the power of that particular story (the real Esther was a scared teenage girl, making this a lamentable piece of poor casting). Ruth, I am happy to say, was handled very well. As for the New Testament, I felt like the reader who handled Paul did the best work -- that's very much how I imagine the real Paul might have sounded. On the whole, this work is truly a masterpiece.
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