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Mark

Berlin, MA, United States
  • 52
  • reviews
  • 12
  • helpful votes
  • 94
  • ratings
  • The Christmas Hirelings

  • By: Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • Narrated by: Richard Armitage
  • Length: 3 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,010
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,495
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,459

Sir John Penlyon is planning to spend Christmas at his estate with his niece and his friend Danby, the closest thing he has to family since disowning his daughter years ago. (She eloped with the parson, who was, of course, penniless.) Danby suggests that at Christmastime the estate needs the presence of small children, and offers to find some - the “hirelings” - despite Sir John’s skepticism. Three children duly arrive, and the youngest, precocious four year-old Moppet, quickly endears herself to Sir John. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A warm and lovely Christmas story

  • By Elisabeth Carey on 12-13-18

Delightful Victorian Story

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-04-19

Unlike the infamous English Christmas ghost stories (Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" being the most famous now), this is a slice-of-life story of a Member of Parliament (so it still comes with the usual Victorian class-bound trappings).

Still, anyone who isn't wholly charmed by the precocious Moppet has no soul.

Richard Armitage does his usual excellent work; I only wish his female voices were more distinctive. There were a few adult women characters who I had a difficult time telling apart.

  • The Vorrh

  • By: Brian Catling
  • Narrated by: Allan Corduner
  • Length: 17 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 129
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 121
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 122

Next to the colonial town of Essenwald sits the Vorrh, a vast - perhaps endless - forest. It is a place of demons and angels, of warriors and priests. Sentient and magical, the Vorrh bends time and wipes memory. Legend has it that the Garden of Eden still exists at its heart. Now a renegade English soldier aims to be the first human to traverse its expanse. Armed with only a strange bow, he begins his journey, but some fear the consequences of his mission, and a native marksman has been chosen to stop him.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Mixed feelings

  • By Christopher Torgersen on 09-05-15

Brilliantly-Written Story I Don't Like

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-04-19

You may love this. Author Alan Moore gives an extroduction (at the end of the book) and delineates the brilliant, marvelous talents of Brian Catling, and I can't disagree with anything Moore said. Catling's prose occasionally took my breath away, and in several places in "The Vorrh", my jaw dropped at the sudden plot twists or turns.

So why didn't I like this? The various threads of "The Vorrh" are deeply ensconced in the 19th or early 20th century colonial mind-sets, and while it's obvious that Catling doesn't expect us to treat his major protagonists as role models, too many of the things they did I found despicable, and many of those acts were never addressed again, much less brought to any semblance of justice. And for the flow of his narrative, we might understand why they wouldn't be.

It all still left a bad taste in my mouth.

That said, I'm not taking "The Erstwhile" off of my wish list just yet. The depth of Catling's writing may well echo in my dreams to the point that I _will_ want to know what happens next.

  • State Tectonics

  • The Centenal Cycle, Book 3
  • By: Malka Older
  • Narrated by: Christine Marshall
  • Length: 11 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 16
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 15
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15

The last time Information held an election, a global network outage, two counts of sabotage by major world governments, and a devastating earthquake almost shook micro-democracy apart. Five years later, it's time to vote again, and the system that has ensured global peace for 25 years is more vulnerable than ever. Unknown enemies are attacking Information's network infrastructure. Information's best agents question whether the data monopoly they've served all their lives is worth saving or whether it's time to burn the world down and start anew.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great Resolution to a Brilliant "What If..."

  • By Mark on 12-05-18

Great Resolution to a Brilliant "What If..."

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-05-18

I'm not really sure this would work as a stand-alone novel; if you have not read "Infomacracy", start with that one. That's the one which builds the world and asks "What If democracy was divided into manageable chunks of 100,000 people per 'state'?"

And, of course, there's the over-arching bureaucracy which "runs" microdemocracy: Information.

What's brilliant about this wrap-up to the Centenal Cycle is that it examines the benefits, risks, and drawbacks of the initial "What If", and draws the experiment to a plausible conclusion. At the same time, it leaves plenty of room for me to ask, "But What If it had been managed with...?", "But What If the bureaucracy had...?", and "But What If the corrupt elements were...?"

These are books about politics at the most raw: human interactions. These are also books about people dealing with the bad choices made by others, and then ultimately the bad decisions they made themselves. And, wonder of wonders, some of the characters are able to dig themselves out of previous bad decisions and actually be happy.

I see in some other reviews that some readers were not able to buy into Older's various narratives. I don't like thinking ill of people, but I can't help but wonder whether that's because something like 80% of the characters with viewpoint or speaking roles are women. I, frankly, found it refreshing to hear women being people, and not props. The men that are here are not "flipped stereotypes", except for one (who is explicitly not even given a name; he doesn't even have any lines). In fact, the men are also people.

The suspension of disbelief required for buying into the premise in the first book is rewarded in this book, because most of the unasked questions get addressed (if not answered). On the whole, I loved this trilogy, and will be returning to it from time to time (if only to be back in the company of Mishima).

  • Hi Bob!

  • By: Bob Newhart
  • Narrated by: Will Ferrell, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, and others
  • Length: 3 hrs and 34 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,082
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,252
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,166

In Hi Bob!, American icon Bob Newhart gets together one-on-one with a handpicked cohort of luminaries in the world of entertainment, whom he happens to be friends with. Bob gets deep with each performer about their aspirations, their careers, how they got started, and how they grew to be where they are today. They make TV shows, movies, or albums, but they all like telling stories.    

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • really well edited, funny, sincere

  • By RCC on 09-24-18

Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-28-18

Over Bob Newhart's long career, he has blazed trails, ridden the mainstream, been gentle, been caustic, and worked with many other comedians. Several of these comedians came to Bob to talk shop.

There's an entire chapter dedicated to Don Rickles, Bob's unlikely best friend.

It's partly biography, partly a view of how comedy has changed our culture and in turn been changed by it, and mostly an easy-going set of conversations. "I love radio. I love it now that they call it podcasts."

  • Null States

  • The Centenal Cycle, Book 2
  • By: Malka Older
  • Narrated by: Christine Marshall
  • Length: 12 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35

The future of democracy is about to implode. After the last controversial global election, the global infomocracy that has ensured 30 years of world peace is fraying at the edges. As the new Supermajority government struggles to establish its legitimacy, agents of information across the globe strive to keep the peace and maintain the flows of data that feed the new world order.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great Book 2 of 3

  • By Mark on 11-19-18

Great Book 2 of 3

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-19-18

We get more Mishima! We get a lot more Roz! This book keeps us hurtling along the micro-democracy of the near future, addressing the biggest question I had about Infomocracy (the first book): did everyone really just go along with this radical new set-up?

The answer, of course, is "no", and Older delivers several different plausible reactions from people who would _not_ approve of such a complete overhaul of what it means to be a "government" in a (mostly) post-nation world. This is the meat of the book, and as such, it's very satisfying.

But what this book does _not_ do is end. As the middle of a trilogy, that's fine, but as a stand-alone volume, it really isn't.

This doesn't matter much to me at this time, because I've already downloaded Book 3 ("State Tectonics"). That should tell you something: Older has built a world and a supposition that I still want to see more of. She also writes characters that I wind up caring about (which is more on me than on other authors: I usually care much more about plot than characters or even prose).

But if each book of a trilogy is supposed to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, I'm afraid this one doesn't have the last. The next book better end, or Older will join Neal Stephenson in that particular foible.

  • Feeding the Dragon

  • By: Sharon Washington
  • Narrated by: Sharon Washington
  • Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,436
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,876
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,847

Sharon Washington’s autobiographical one-woman play, Feeding the Dragon, delighted audiences off-Broadway and is now available exclusively on Audible. The one-act play invites listeners into Sharon’s unorthodox childhood, growing up in an apartment on the top floor of the St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library, where her father served as the building’s custodian. A love of literature and boundless imagination helped the playwright as a young woman persevere over dragons of all forms.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent story!

  • By Imara Walker on 09-07-18

Unexpected Delight

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-21-18

After enough people convinced her that her childhood was a fairy tale, because she LIVED IN A LIBRARY!, Sharon Washington finally wrote this beautiful, magical, but most of all real story of her childhood. Perhaps it's because she's roughly my age, I could identify with most of her settings, even though that's just about all we have in common.

Her accents of the various people in her life, most notably her mother, keep everyone involved in her narrative distinct.

I'll be listening to this again.

  • Emma

  • By: Jane Austen
  • Narrated by: Nadia May
  • Length: 15 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 563
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 359
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 362

First published in 1816 and generally considered Jane Austen's finest work, Emma is a humorous portrayal of a heroine whose injudicious interferences in the life of a young parlour-boarder in a neighboring village often lead to substantial mortification. Austen brings to life a myriad of engaging characters as she presents a mixture of social classes as she did in Pride and Prejudice.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful!

  • By Kathleen on 07-16-07

Manners

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-31-18

Austen always wrote for the upper-class, and there are many times when that cuts through the narrative. But given that our contemporary middle-class lives at or above the levels of the country aristocracy portrayed here, many of us can still find it relatable.

And it is _so_ relatable! The foibles of young love are on parade here, and nobody, not even the primary protagonist, is spared. While we can watch and sympathize with Emma, we can also feel quite strongly when her behavior is brusquely called out. Correctly. Emma is capable of feeling shame (when it is deserved), and that was probably a rare trait in 1816, and not all that common now.

The narration was great; Nadia May gave distinct voices to the main characters, and even carried off the male voices admirably.

  • City

  • By: Clifford D. Simak
  • Narrated by: Peter Ganim
  • Length: 9 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 363
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 268
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 274

Jenkins was a robot. He was built to be the perfect worker, tireless and uncomplaining. But, quite unexpectedly, he also became a close companion to generation after generation of his owners as the human race matured, moved beyond the confines of its once tiny planet, and eventually changed beyond all recognition.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • City

  • By Amazon Customer on 09-03-18

Despondent, Yet Uplifting

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-13-18

How can one summarize Simak's "City"? For one thing, the city itself is gone after the first chapter, abandoned and obsolete. For another, it's a long-ranged look at a future in which humanity becomes abandoned and obsolete. Eventually, everything, including the Earth, becomes abandoned and obsolete.

So why does it feel uplifting? The homey touches Simak always brought to his works helps. So do the notions that everyone who abandons our familiar touchstones have all gone on to something better, even if we barely get glimpses of it. And as the familiar is abandoned, the universe (or multiverse) opens up to wider and wider vistas.

Which can leave Jenkins a bit wistful about it all, even as he, too, abandons the familiar.

There are some period (1950) attitudes that a modern adaptation of this book would revise, but the core story is still strong.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

  • A Novel
  • By: Neal Stephenson, Nicole Galland
  • Narrated by: Laurence Bouvard, Shelley Atkinson, Laural Merlington, and others
  • Length: 24 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 6,582
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,102
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 6,087

From best-selling author Neal Stephenson and critically acclaimed historical and contemporary commercial novelist Nicole Galland comes a captivating and complex near-future thriller combining history, science, magic, mystery, intrigue, and adventure that questions the very foundations of the modern world.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Exceptional voice cast, unconventional format

  • By Amazon Customer on 07-03-17

What a Yarn! What a Great Tangled Yarn!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-31-18

I was not at all familiar with Nicole Galland, but now I want to be. Her historical fiction roots are clearly the core of this story, which is a post-modern blend of magic and science fiction. (Neal Stephenson probably contributed a bit of the latter, but his influence more greatly appears in the tangled politics and broad-brush villain caricatures, which recent politics have shown us are not actually unrealistic).

That said, the few villains of this piece are quickly overshadowed by opposing factions, and characters who could easily find themselves on either side of the fight (and some do, for perfectly good reasons).

Time travel to the past, known by anyone with a decent knowledge of modern physics to be a fantasy, is exactly magical in nature in this book. Accept that, and you'll love this. If you tend to love magic more than science, this book will tell what magic would have to contend with today.

This book does not require a sequel at all, but I wouldn't be the least bit offended if the authors decided to produce one together.

  • Brave New World

  • By: Aldous Huxley
  • Narrated by: Michael York
  • Length: 8 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 14,157
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 12,368
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 12,422

When Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation, we experience how Utopia can destroy humanity.

Cloning, feel-good drugs, anti-aging programs, and total social control through politics, programming, and media: has Aldous Huxley accurately predicted our future? With a storyteller's genius, he weaves these ethical controversies in a compelling narrative that dawns in the year 632 A.F. (After Ford, the deity). When Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation, we experience how Utopia can destroy humanity.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • “Oh, Ford, Ford Ford, I Wish I Had My Soma!”

  • By Jefferson on 10-03-11

A Classic for a Reason

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-21-18

Michael York's narration is a treat; he clearly loves this book, and gives his all at bringing the various themes to the forefront.

If you're not familiar with this book, it is a classic of "social Science Fiction", and paved the way for George Orwell's alternate takes on extrapolating the trends of his time. Huxley, however, wasn't so much worried about totalitarianism, but rather about our tendency to just keep making things easier for ourselves. His juxtaposition of "the savage" (a stand-in for the readers of 1932) and "civilization" (his dystopian creation) has a few anachronisms, a few of which now interfere with total enjoyment. The amazing thing is just how few there are.

But the biggest one is basic: if civilization is founded on all people being grown in a lab, and "mother" and "father" become dirty words, why are the roles for men and women still so rigidly segregated? Huxley goes out of his way to talk about class differences (to the point of his dystopia making such differences a biological imperative), but he never examined gender roles.

If that's the most glaring omission in his vision, I think we can safely write that off as a period piece (possibly keeping it relatable to his readers). The rest is still a touchstone of literature and the best jeremiad in science fiction.