Joe Colsco boarded a flight from San Francisco to Chicago to attend a national chemistry meeting. He would never set foot on Earth again. On planet Anyar, Joe is found unconscious on a beach of a large island inhabited by humans where the level of technology is similar to Earth circa 1700. He awakes amid strangers speaking an unintelligible language and struggles to accept losing his previous life and finding a place in a society with different customs, needing a way to support himself and not knowing a single soul.
I wanted to like this. The premise is fun -- modern specialized youthful academic gets transplanted to a down-tech milieu. The execution is mind-numbing. 45 minutes and 5 chapters in and the only actual *action* happened in the first chapter. Everything else has been clumsy exposition masquerading as dialogue and paper doll character development. Seriously, all of chapter 4 is a staff meeting among the military leaders in charge of the conquest and subjugation of a large island, wherein they tell each other the entire history of the campaign up until now. They're in charge! They know this stuff already! We readers are supposed to believe that these guys really don't have anything better to do than have a two hour meeting that could have been handled in five minutes? "Admiral, Doctor, General, I've received and read all your reports. We're moving out." There, job done.
Then, in chapter 5, we get a *recap* of the meeting as the guy who ran the meeting goes home to his wife and talks about his day. He lists to her all the meetings and paperwork he did all day, and he feels happy and satisfied about it, and she feels proud of him for being such an assiduous worker.
Meanwhile, the characters have no depth. I've spent a commute with this book and so far everyone is a paper doll. The author spends a lot of time telling us about details of appearance and characters' resumes, but nobody does anything. Therefore, all this description serves exactly the same purpose as coloring in fine tip pen on a paint-by-numbers mosaic pattern: plenty of details, but it's still flat.
The narrator does what he can, giving different voices to different characters and trying to shade the text with appropriate emotional nuance, but it's a losing proposition. No matter how dramatic the reading, an unrealistic status meeting where nothing actually happens is not going to be interesting. I feel angry about the waste of my time.
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A survey of the quirks and quandaries of the English language, focusing on our strange and wonderful grammar. Why do we say "I am reading a catalog" instead of "I read a catalog"? Why do we say "do" at all? Is the way we speak a reflection of our cultural values? Delving into these provocative topics and more, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue distills hundreds of years of fascinating lore into one lively history.
I found the work gripping; it's short, which meant that I wound up listening to the whole thing in one day. John McWhorter makes a compelling case for the influences of Celtic on English. He reads his own work, which on one hand means that he knows the words he's reading and gets the emphasis and pronunciation right, but he does make the rookie mistake of laughing at his own jokes, which is a bit off-putting. Fortunately, that's mostly at the beginning of the book.
Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe has a perfectly ordered life--solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient. In response, Marlowe finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this genius, a journey that will lead him into the lives of the women closest to Robert Oliver.
I was initially excited to listen to this book. I loved "The Historian" and had hopes for a similarly immersive story this time around. I think the book failed for me because it was so immersive - the characters are these people who are really deeply sad and Kostova does a great job of showing that, of pulling the reader into the characters. I don't want to be sad, and I don't like spending hours of my commute feeling the sadness of an impending divorce or looming madness and obsession.
When I was in my twenties, I liked going to see foreign films that were distinctly unhappy - Think of "The Bicycle Thief" or "The Nasty Girl" - but now I'm middle aged and I've seen enough real heartbreak and fallout from grim determination that I want my entertainment to be a bit lighter. I think this book is very well written and I do like the performance of the readers, but it's a major downer that I couldn't finish. If you are a person who would consider going to see "The Ice Storm" for fun, then give this audiobook a listen.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful