From the moment Anthony Heald begins reading When the Killing’s Done, the energy of the novel bursts to life, creating an experience that will have lucky listeners believing that they have survived shipwrecks, chased feral pigs through the underbrush of island wilderness, faced the wrath of hostile protesters, and dined with one of the most irritating individuals ever.
So vibrant is T.C. Boyle’s prose that Heald has a seemingly limitless reservoir of characters and experiences from which to draw. The novel pits passionate animal rights activists against the park service ecologists who are equally passionate about preserving the flora and fauna of the Channel Islands, located just off the coast of California near between Ventura and Santa Barbara. When the Killing’s Done manages to state the case for each side while pointing out the hypocrisies inherent in trying to maintain a black-and-white, take-no-prisoners adherence to any cause.
Where Boyle excels and Heald triumphs is in the vivid descriptions of life on the islands of Anacapa and Santa Cruz and the voyages various characters, past and present, have made to the islands’ rocky shores. Heald’s performance of the wreck of the Beverly B and survival of Beverly Boyd, grandmother of the novel’s female protagonist, Alma Boyd Takasue, will have listeners reaching out to walls or handrails to steady themselves, so realistic is the depiction of the capsizing. There are idyllic journeys led by coastal dolphins and furtive cat-and-mouse chases between activists and Coast Guard boats. Heald relays the imagery in such a realistic manner that sounds and smells of the open ocean are palpable to the mind.
Heald’s tour-de-force is his characterization of wealthy, self-absorbed animal rights activist David LaJoy, a man of unrelenting ego who has embraced his cause with the unbridled zealotry of the newly converted. The man has the money to make his desires reality and the personality to insist upon it. Witheringly rude to all he considers beneath him, mostly everyone, LaJoy is an extremist whose commitment veers off into deadly irrationality. Boyle playfully jabs at LaJoy and Heald perfectly captures the outraged exasperation as the animal rights activist sees his newly-sodded lawn done in by invasive raccoons. An equal opportunity jabber, Boyle also has a final zing for Park Service biologist Takasue as well.
Heald’s tempo and energy keep When the Killing’s Done constantly bounding forward. Boyle’s writing is so crisp and Heald’s delivery so exuberant that listening to the audiobook will be a temporary obsession for all who choose it. Carole Chouinard
From the best-selling author of The Women comes an action-packed adventure about endangered animals and those who would protect them.
Principally set on the wild and sparsely inhabited Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, T. C. Boyle’s powerful new novel combines pulse-pounding adventure with a socially conscious, richly humane tale regarding the dominion we attempt to exert, for better or worse, over the natural world.
Alma Boyd Takesue is a National Park Service biologist who is spearheading the efforts to save the islands’ endangered native creatures from invasive species like rats and feral pigs, which, in her view, must be eliminated. Her antagonist, Dave LaJoy, is a dreadlocked local businessman who, along with his lover, the folksinger Anise Reed, is fiercely opposed to the killing of any species whatsoever and will go to any lengths to subvert the plans of Alma and her colleagues.
Their confrontation plays out in a series of escalating scenes in which these characters violently confront one another, contemplate acts of sabotage, court danger, and tempt the awesome destructive power of nature itself. Boyle deepens his story by going back in time to relate the harrowing tale of Alma’s grandmother, Beverly, who was the sole survivor of a 1946 shipwreck in the channel, as well as the tragic story of Anise’s mother, Rita, who in the late 1970s lived and worked on a sheep ranch on Santa Cruz Island.
In dramatizing this collision between protectors of the environment and animal rights activists, Boyle is, in his characteristic fashion, examining one of the essential questions of our time: Who has the right of possession of the land, the waters, the very lives of all the creatures who share this planet with us?
©2011 T. Coraghessan Boyle (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“[Boyle’s] sleek prose yields a tale that is complex, thought-provoking, and darkly funny—everything we have come to expect from him.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Boyle’s great subject is humankind’s blundering relationship with the rest of the living world…Incisive and caustically witty, Boyle is fluent in evolutionary biology and island biogeography, cognizant of the shared emotions of all sentient beings, in awe over nature’s crushing power, and, by turns, bemused and appalled by human perversity. Boyle brings all these powers and concerns to bear as he creates magnetic characters and high suspense, culminating in a piercing vision of our needy, confused, and destructive species thrashing about in the great web of life.” (Booklist, Starred Review)
“Alma wears the white hat, LaJoy the black, but Boyle lets neither off the hook, showing how nature will always bite back and turn even the best human endeavor to water and dust. ... Boyle makes us laugh and wonder at his dazzling gifts but his comedy is a dark business." (Los Angeles Times)
An icy narrative lacking the intimacy and high drama of prior yarns. Even the caddish Frank Lloyd Wright ("The Women") exacts more compassion than anyone in this book (except Anise's mother, who disappears). Never completely sold on the science or ethics, which come across muddled. Anthony Heald surely shines, but would have preferred the author himself reading it with less fanfare. Doesn't come close to "The Tortilla Curtain," which put the reader, not wild hogs, in the crosshairs. Does offer the usual, brilliant, unparalleled descriptions and narration one expects from T. C. Boyle, making it worth the effort; but, alas, a rimshot compared to his previous masterworks of moral reckoning.
There's no doubt this book is well-written, and it is an interesting insight into the Channel Islands. The mechanics of the plot are interesting. My biggest struggle with it was that I just didn't care about the characters - the best two are a shipwrecked woman in the beginning and a cook on a sheep ranch towards the middle - but they're not the major characters and we don't spend much time with them. Both major characters - Alma and Dave - are one-dimensional and neither interesting nor sympathetic, and Dave is downright unpleasant but not in an engaging way. The reader, Anthony Heald, is not a good match for the womens' story lines since so much of their stories are physical and interior. And he is distractingly snide in an overblown way when reading Dave's storyline, which is irritating enough without the overblown tone. The best thing about this book was my visit to Santa Cruz Island to see what the fuss was about, and it is spectacular. The people in this book who are so caught up with these islands are mostly broken and don't demonstrate any growth through the book. However, the plot itself was interesting enough that I stuck it out until the end to find out what happened.
I'm a great fan of T.C. Boyle. I enjoyed the tale and probably would have given it 4 stars, but for the narrator. I find Heald's voice and tone grating, but that actually worked with this somewhat grating subject matter and not very sympathetic characters. However, using that tone of voice when mispronouncing words like "quay" and "dais" just makes him sound pompous and undereducated. Not a good quality in a professional narrator. (Pretty easy to check pronunciation these days with online dictionaries.)
With all respect to Audible's reviewer Ms. Chouinard (above), I did not find that "Heald’s tempo and energy keep When the Killing’s Done constantly bounding forward. Boyle’s writing is so crisp and Heald’s delivery so exuberant that listening to the audiobook will be a temporary obsession." Her review mirrors Heald's breathless narration, actually.
I'd never read T.C. Boyle, but heard of this book through several interviews he gave with local NPR stations. The plot sounded intriguing, the issues are important, and fiction is a great vehicle to explain issues. Yet the characters in this story are flat (and I wanted to hear more from Alma, but didn't) and the narration irritating (albeit Mr. Heald can do accents, and definitely characterized LaJoy well). I probably disagree with what "crisp" writing means - Mr. Boyle's narrative describes settings in great detail, but without Victorian embellishment. Perhaps this is crisp?
Also, novels written in the present tense just annoy me. I suppose it's a stylistic device intended to create more suspense, placing the reader in the subject's position, not knowing what will come next, but the technique feels artificial to me - I'm reading a story, not watching a movie.
Still, a novel based on a setting that's local will get me out to explore and appreciate the Channel Islands more than I have so far. Perhaps that's what the author fundamentally wants the reader to do.
I wish T.C. would get out of his maudlin state. I keep reading his books, hoping to find some of the funny dark side of life, like "Drop City," but I guess he is stuck in the dark absurd state. Anyway, it was an okay read and the narrator was good.
The readers voice and over dramatization was really annoying. The story was rambling, looping and so filled with pointless details, descriptions and clichés that I was pulling my hair out. One poorly executed social statement after another. A disappointment for someone deeply interested in the topic at hand.
If you want to know what kind of mustard was in the sandwitch, or whether the eggs were runny or semi-hard boiled or how the bark of a eucalyptus tree looks pay close attention, its all here. But the plethora of detail only delays a very good story with great charactors and a noble theme. The one star downgrade is only for having to wade through five minutes of how you run over a squirrel with your car.
This was my first T. C. Boyle book to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite its rather glaring flaws. A picture is worth a thousand words and in Boyle’s case that picture is very finely focused. If crisp literary description is not your thing, you are likely to finds this book tedious.
Despite all of the fine description these characters remain rather one dimensional and predictable. He seems to set out with a literary device that he does not have patience to fully develop. Two of his characters get the embellishment of lineage. Despite the context of parents and grandparents, these characters remain of rather limited dimension. Furthermore, the author seems to tire of the device and does not stick with it very well.
He sets out on the noble path to show two sides of a complex issue but there, too, he fails. His amazing power of description just does not extend as well to character or context. One side of the story gets many more pages, more context and less villainous characters. Despite himself the author takes a side.
But, for me, his ability to describe, not just the physical world, but perception of it, is well worth the structural problems. In fact, I found it surprising and interesting that he could describe perception so well without emotional complexity. Emotion is viewed through the same objective lens as a foggy coast line.
I am a commercial artist working in my studio in central Virginia. Audible keeps me company and extends my painting hours.
I have not finished listening, but am already distracted because someone didn't proofread or check the continuity. Anise went up the courthouse steps in "all white, down to her red vinyl boots..". and a few minutes later, Dave was ranting about why she was dressed all in black. Must have done a switch in the loo!
That said, I found the subject interesting but it is not a book I would listen to again.
I found this novel to be interesting on many levels -- the way the author weaves the history of the Channel Islands with the stories of the main characters and their families, the struggle to decide what and who is "right", the strength of nature as seen in the power of the ocean and the rain and the will of animals to survive (and of humans to decide and influence that survival). I'm not a fan of Boyle's historical novels (e.g., The Women, Road to Wellville), so I was happy when this more fictional novel came out, and I wasn't disappointed. I compare it to Drop City and Talk Talk as recent favorites from Boyle. I thought the narrator was good, with a bit of cynicism and touch of accent where you would expect it.
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