Not much to say except it's a great book, performed by a great speaker. I really can't come up with anything but good to say about this book. If you're into history, this is a keeper. The middle book in this trilogy, The Day of Battle, was just as good. I avoided The Army at Dawn because the narrator sounded like he was 80 years old, and that would get on my nerves after a while.
This book is not bad, really, but the content is so disappointing relative to what the title promises. I thought we might get some great detailed examples of the engineering challenges of WWII. Instead, we got a general overview of WWII with a glancing, superficial focus on broad engineering issues. The detail is so lacking in this book. Detail in the personalities of engineering is shockingly lacking. Basically for any engineering personality we get a name, a three-sentence biography, a one-paragraph summary of what the person did, and then we go back to the general history of WWII. I'm seriously thinking of returning this book for credit. If the book was advertised as being a general history of WWII with a soft emphasis on engineering, I could almost recommend this book. But as it is, I can't recommend it.
This book did provide some colorful insight into the people and processes of the New York Mafia, so it was worth reading. However, the content was so self-serving and self-glorifying that it almost became a joke at certain points. This is what happens when narcissistic psychopaths authorize their own biography. Then came the writing. So many weak and silly metaphors. This book really deserves a C grade. It's not great, it's barely good, it's almost bad, but it's not horrible.
How had I gone 51 years of voracious reading and never even heard of this book? Yikes, it's scary what we don't know. Anyway, The Power Broker is right up there with the very best history/biography books I've ever read. I'd place it right up there with William Manchester's "The Last Lion" and "American Caesar, and that's a pretty high standard.
The book is so great that I won't get into detail on how or why it is great. It's just great.
A few observations:
The narrator's voice is fine, it really is, but his voice is right there on the edge where it can be almost annoying. I'm not saying it crosses that line, but it's close. There's such a thing as having too deep and too rich of a voice. The narrator's voice almost sounds like it's on slight slow-motion sometimes. But I got through 61 hours of his voice and there was no point where I even didn't like his voice. But I didn't love it, either.
One part of the book that surprised me a little was how little Robert Caro got into the deep psychology of Robert Moses. Maybe Caro consciously chose to avoid psychology, thus avoiding a trap common to biographies. But Robert Moses showed such clear and overwhelming signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and I mean a REALLY EXTREME case of NPD.
And one last thing... I'm glad I listened to all 61 hours of this book, but after having gotten through it, I would love to read an abridged version and see how well all of Caro's main points could have been made in half the pages. This unabridged version does go on and on and on and really makes it's point no matter how long it takes. If Robert Caro wants to make a point, he will front-load it and back it up and fill in the background no matter how long it takes. If it takes 45 minutes to document one seemingly minor point, Caro will take that time. It would be interesting if I could get as much out of this book in half the pages. Maybe I could, and maybe I couldn't, but it would be nice to find out, because this book is a commitment.
That's about it. If you enjoy history, this book must go to the top of your wish list.
I want so much to love this book, because it is clearly so well written and fascinating. Unfortunately, for me at least, this book just doesn't work in audiobook format.
Both Volume 1 and Volume 2 are so filled with names and dates and places, that it starts to become a blur. There are so many details in this book that I couldn't keep up with the narrative.
The only way I could appreciate reading Shelby Foote is if I had the text in front of me so I could read at my own pace. With so many details coming at you, it's necessary to be able to slow down and even go back over paragraphs so you can get it all clear. Also I believe it is almost impossible to keep up with the flow of events without a map in front of you.
I listen to audiobooks mostly during my commute, so maps and slow reading becomes pretty much impossible. It's tough to keep rewinding for 30 seconds at a time to hear a tough passage again.
I'm writing not so much to criticize the book, but to let others know that it can be difficult to keep up without the text and maps in front of you. I'm sure many can keep up with the pace without aids, but I'm not one of those people. I suffered through Volume 1, and ended up returning Volume 2. Thank you Audible for your liberal return policy.
First, this is not one of Lee Child's best books in the Reacher series. In fact, it may be the weakest so far. Still, it's Reacher, and it's Lee Child, so there's really no missing it for me.
Any fan of the Reacher series knows that you REALLY have to suspend your disbelief to wade through some of the truly incredible plot developments and character motivations in these novels. We know Reacher is going to sleep with at least one of the main female characters. We know Reacher has superhuman physical capabilities (literally), as well as superhuman psychic powers. That's all part of the show.
So it's Reacher, and most of us know what we're getting into.
What I didn't know I was getting into was this narrator. This was my first fiction book on Audible, and I didn't know what to think of the narration. It sounded horrible to me, but I thought that was just how things are done. I actually decided early on in this novel that I would stick with non-fiction in Audible, because I couldn't handle being jarred out of the story by the crazy choices of the narrator.
Now that I have a few other Audible fiction books under my belt, I can say that no, it was just this narrator who was so bad. The most glaring flaw of this narrator is that he uses a ridiculous falsetto when he does female voices. Imaging using the worst, most ham-handed impression of a man doing a female voice, and that's what you get here. It almost sounded like a joke to me at first.
After a few more Audible fiction books, I know that men can do female voices just fine without sounding silly.
Another weirdness of this narrator is that he has to give each and every character a distinct dialect. Each person is either southern, or New Yahwk, or Bahhhston, or doing a Dan Akroyd Chicagoan impression from Saturday Night Live.
Do you get the idea I didn't like this narrator? Good.
If this same narrator is doing any of the other Audible Reacher books, I'll stick with the Kindle version.
The first half is a fine history of Ghengis Khan and the birth and development of the Mongol empire. The second half of the book takes place after Genghis' death, and covers the Mongol empire's rise and fall.
So we get half a book of perfectly good history and biography, and half a book of sometimes disjointed and murky history and biography.
It isn't just the subject matter that changes at the half-way point; it's the style and the detail that fall off abruptly. The first half is full of specific detail explained clearly, and the second half is full of specific detail that isn't told well or explained well at all. This leads to long sections of details and place names and people's names that don't seem connected to any theme or purpose.
One of the main points of the book is how the Mongol Empire set the tone and structure for so much in the modern world. But this point is really only made in the final few chapters, and the point is not made so well. The impact of the Mongol empire on the modern world is not a theme woven throughout the book, but is instead presented as a summary at the end.
I picked up this book on one of Audible's sales, and I'd say it was worth the $6 I think I paid for it. But it wouldn't be worth any more than that to me. A good book, but not great.
Winter of the World is classic Follett. His control of narrative, here, is as strong as ever. Unfortunately, the material is not as strong as that of Fall of Empires, the preceding book in this trilogy.
And when the narrative is so tightly controlled, the weakness of the story-line becomes more obvious. There are many arcs and themes in Winter of the World that make me want to fast forward through certain scenes, and that's rare for me when it comes to Ken Follett.
Winter of the World sometimes seems pedantic in the way that Follett is so clearly trying to educate us. In Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, the story-lines and the characters were so strong that the history just blended seamlessly with the narrative.
In Winter of the World, the history-telling sometimes overtakes the story-line, and I feel I'm being instructed, rather than immersed in a fictional world.
Still, though, this is great writing, and I'm always eager to get back to my iPod to hear more. Winter of the World may not be Follett's best, but it's still better than most historical fiction out there. I still recommend it.
I did read the couple of reviews that said this book focuses more on the personalities of scientists than on science itself, but I went ahead and downloaded the book anyway. Like my headline says, I should have listened.
The first several chapters start out well enough, with some interesting descriptions of science in detail. But soon enough, we're hearing one anecdote after another about the quirky personalities of 18th- and 19th-century scientists. Obscure name after obscure name, anecdote after anecdote. It becomes dizzying and somehow disorienting.
About a third of the way through the book, I found myself getting too irritated to continue. The book becomes 80% biography to 20% science. What science we do get isn't very in-depth or even satisfyingly informative. But then again, the same applies to the biographies. It all just begins to run together.
The author's many stabs at humor are also okay in the beginning, but at some point I began asking myself why the author couldn't have focused more on substance rather than going for laughs with cute wordplay and admittedly well-turned phrases.
Now it's very possible that many people like this style of writing. I just thought I'd write this review so other people can know what they're getting into when they download this book.
Report Inappropriate Content