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  • Artemis

  • By: Andy Weir
  • Narrated by: Rosario Dawson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 56,777
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 52,956
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 52,810

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A ferrari with no motor

  • By will on 11-18-17

Low stakes plot

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

Reviewed: 12-31-17

Good world and great characters. You want to spend a lot more time in Artemis. Unfortunately the plot is completely lacking in anything actually like real stakes. Things keep threatening to happen but never actually manage to do so. People die but it's all right, things blow up but it's all right, shadowy figures aren't so shadowy, and all the real threats are literally telegraphing their danger in from a distant planet. Even the MacGuffin turns out to be pretty prosaic, the equivalent to not so much a world-shattering twist as a nice investment opportunity you'd hate to miss. It's sci-fi thriller equivalent of confronting a troll who turns out to a pimply kid, or an unnecessarily long talk with someone who is totally into Bitcoin. It almost makes you want to think, but never gets around to it. Don't regret the listen at all, but hope for a bigger sequel.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Why Does the World Exist?

  • An Existential Detective Story
  • By: Jim Holt
  • Narrated by: Steven Menasche
  • Length: 11 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 219
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 194
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 193

Author Jim Holt explores the greatest metaphysical mystery of all: why is there something rather than nothing? This runaway best seller, which has captured the imagination of critics and the public alike, traces our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. Holt adopts the role of cosmological detective, traveling the globe to interview a host of celebrated scientists, philosophers, and writers.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent survey of philosophy book

  • By Gary on 07-20-13

Maybe read this one

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

Reviewed: 07-31-17

This is a charming book, which is kind of the problem. In my experience, there are two kinds of audiobook: the kind you concentrate on, and the kind you don't. It's not that don't pay attention to the latter, it's just that you don't really need to "hear" every word. You can space out for a few minutes and not lose your place. They're good for the background while you clean your kitchen or play a game or ignore your family.

The problem here is that this book is REALLY not that kind of audiobook, it's the other kind... the kind you need to really screw your brain up and concentrate on. Good for sitting in your garden with a cup of tea or walking aimlessly around the park or sitting around ignoring your family. But the author is one of those "fun scientist" types who reasons that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, and so he sugars up the gaps with amusing anecdotes about his journey of discovery to interview interesting people about interesting things. The meals he ate, the rooms he was in, the foibles of eccentric brilliant people aaaaand now for a refutation of Saint Anselm's proof of the existence of God. And you're like, what? Saint Anselm? Weren't you just contemplating the weather in Oxford? Weren't you just escaping death at the hands of elderly driver? Weren't you just jealously oogling an attractive student on a professor's sofa? Am I supposed to be paying attention now?

It's a pity, because this is good stuff in here, this is stuff I want. It's just unnecessarily hard to get at. It took me two times to slog my way through this and I don't feel I got half of it. It makes me long for a nice series of lectures from the Teaching Company.

If I had the book I could've just flipped the pages ahead to the good bits. My recommendation is that you do that instead, if at all possible.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Way of the Strangers

  • Encounters with the Islamic State
  • By: Graeme Wood
  • Narrated by: Graeme Wood
  • Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 219
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 196
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 194

Tens of thousands of men and women have left comfortable, privileged lives to join the Islamic State and kill for it. To them, its violence is beautiful and holy, and the caliphate a fulfillment of prophecy and the only place on earth where they can live and die as Muslims. The Way of the Strangers is an intimate journey into the minds of the Islamic State's true believers. From the streets of Cairo to the mosques of London, Wood interviews supporters, recruiters, and sympathizers of the group.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A longer version of the Atlantic article

  • By Nassir on 04-29-17

A longer version of the Atlantic article

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

Reviewed: 04-29-17

So Graeme Wood wrote an extraordinary and influential article in The Atlantic titled, "What ISIS really wants", basically arguing that ISIS is not a bunch of delusional nuts but are acting in the service of some pretty hardcore theology and mostly rational political philosophy, formed over a long period of time. It's grim to be sure, but it gives them ample justification for their actions and suggests they can't be defeated -- if they can be defeated -- by for example making sure that young people have good jobs and the proper education, or whatever. This is the book length version of the article. If you're in a rush, you could just read the article. The additions boil down to a lot of encounters with a bunch of radical Islamist types. Some are odd and some are unsettling but they don't really add a lot to the thesis in themselves, and they get a bit repetitious.

It's always a risk for authors to narrate their own books, and I've given up on a few because they really should not have. Happy to say, Wood does a good job, illuminating a lot of sticky bits with emphasis that a professional narrator might have missed.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • The Marches

  • A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland
  • By: Rory Stewart
  • Narrated by: Rory Stewart
  • Length: 12 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 36
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 34
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 34

Ten years after the walk across Central Asia and Afghanistan that he memorialized in The Places in Between, Rory Stewart set out on a new journey, traversing a thousand miles between England and Scotland. Stewart was raised along the border of the two countries, the frontier taking on poignant significance in his understanding of what it means to be both Scottish and English, of his relationship with his father, who's lived on this land his whole life, and of his ties to the rich history and culture of the region.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Should've hired a professional!

  • By John S. on 08-13-17

Uneven and unexpected, still worth it.

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

Reviewed: 04-29-17

You should read this book if you've read Stewart's previous books and enjoyed them, otherwise it's probably skippable. It's extraordinarily unexpected. It's almost like it was supposed to be one of those books that rising politicians always tend to write, where they encounter Real People from True Country, whose innate and good knowings trump the elitist swots from London (or Washington, or where have you) who think they know best. Fortunately, Stewart has way too much going on upstairs and has seen way too much in his life to write a book exactly like that (although the second part of three comes pretty close.)

As Stewart walks along Hadrian's Wall and from England to Scotland, he bring along the eye of a man who has both seen and experienced empire, and who has negotiated borders more stark than any in the British Isles. What he sees as a result is not what he expected or hoped to find, not in the landscape or the people. He's aided by the presence of his elderly father, a man who is the same time a lovable old eccentric and an old pillar of the British Empire, a man who in his 90s still speaks several dialects of Chinese, was once known as the "Butcher of Penang" (possibly a joke?), and served as the quartermaster of the intelligence services ("Q", in James Bond terms.) The two Stewarts, as warriors, spies and diplomats of real calibre, barely stand out as they negotiate a landscape apparently used to their type. Here there is a statue to the man who conquered India, here is a farmer whose ancestor once captured the king of Afghanistan, here is a man who sings songs in the language of a nation nobody now remembers...

What does it all mean, about Great Britain today? Stewart has no idea and frankly admits as much, several times despairing his father that he has no idea what kind of book he's going to write. This gives it all a frustrating, meandering nature. But it's stuck with me, in a vaguely unsettling way. The suggestion in the end is that where we are from is at the same time somewhere and nowhere, and that this is no new phenomenon of modernity. The stories we tell and the artifacts we venerate are made as much of projection as of actual history, and that our own lives await the same inevitable, inescapable interpretation, and not always before we ourselves are gone from the scene. So not a typical politician book.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Mort(e)

  • A Novel
  • By: Robert Repino
  • Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot
  • Length: 11 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 832
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 767
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 767

Former house cat turned war hero Mort(e) is famous for taking on the most dangerous missions and fighting the dreaded human bioweapon EMSAH. But the true motivation behind Mort(e)'s recklessness is his ongoing search for a pretransformation friend - a dog named Sheba. When he receives a mysterious message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive, he begins a journey that will take him from the remaining human strongholds to the heart of the Colony.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Just don't think about plausibility

  • By JDickey on 03-31-15

Nuts

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

Reviewed: 10-29-15

tl;dr: This book is about a heavily-armed cat-man with no balls who goes to war with God in the name of love. If that appeals to you then get into it.

The thing that threw me off is that it starts with one unbelievable twist -- domesticated animals mutate suddenly into intelligent humanoids -- but after you swallow that it becomes fairly conventional. It's like the author is doing a riff on Animal Farm by way of The Deer Hunter. In Animal Farm, the animals overthrow the humans but the pigs then start taking on human characteristics, and that's meaningful in several unsettling ways. It's almost like Mort(e) is saying, screw it, we'll START with animals getting the human characteristics and just get that twist out of the way. Then we'll do the Animal Farm thing about being human, but add a heavily-metaphorical villain and some war and PTSD and just generally make it more badass. And if it had just been that, I would have been fine, and I guess a lot of reviewers here would have too.

But then you reach a point where the entirely obvious villain reveal happens, and the whole thing suddenly dives off an edge into unbelievable nuttiness. By unbelievable, I mean that I couldn't believe that the author was pulling it off. There were several points where I felt like I should, objectively, be giving up on this book. Instead... completely riveted. There's a final showdown that plays out on a near-cosmic scale and manages to pull off some pretty heavy conceptual work while still feeling like you're in an action story. It's been a couple of weeks and I'm still thinking about how it ends.

So I guess that might not be for everyone. This is a book for readers with patience for big weird thoughts in big weird packages. Mort(e) is like Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Margaret Atwood got high and had a book baby. It might go down easier if the author telegraphed what's coming a bit better, but I guess that's what this review is for.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The History of Ancient Egypt

  • By: Bob Brier, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Bob Brier
  • Length: 24 hrs and 25 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 2,417
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,255
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 2,250

Ancient Egyptian civilization is so grand our minds sometimes have difficulty adjusting to it. It lasted 3,000 years, longer than any other on the planet. Its Great Pyramid of Cheops was the tallest building in the world until well into the 19th century and remains the only Ancient Wonder still standing. And it was the most technologically advanced of the ancient civilizations, with the medical knowledge that made Egyptian physicians the most famous in the world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Incomprehensibly complete

  • By Nassir on 07-09-13

Incomprehensibly complete

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

Reviewed: 07-09-13

I once had the opportunity to listen to this series, and I did so twice. Now the opportunity to own it on Audible has put tears in my eyes, literally tears in my eyes. This series won't make you an Egyptologist, but you will know so much by the end of it that the uninitiated might mistake you for one. I once visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a friend and when we hit the Egypt section I turned into a tour guide. After explaining how the Temple of Dendur ended up in New York, I turned and drew her attention to the interesting art style of the Amarna panels, and at this point she stopped me and asked, "How do you know all this?" This is how I know all this. I once held a group of people around a campfire in Eastern Washington spellbound for an hour as spoke on what we owed to the Egyptians, the basic ways of thinking and acting that we owe to them. I'm serious... spellbound (it helped that everyone was a bit intoxicated.)

This series will make you interesting. They might as well stick a guarantee on it.

Just to give you an idea... there's a half hour on mummified animals. Mummified ANIMALS. There's already about two solid hours on human mummies, but Brier feels that to be complete you need to know about the animals as well. If you are thinking, "How am I going to get through thirty minutes on dried up animals, let alone 24 solid hours on Egypt?" let me assure you, it will be over before you know it and before you want it to be. I've listened to a lot of Teaching Company lectures in my time, and while they never have anyone truly boring you often are reminded that these people are all university professors. But Brier's delivery is almost mesmerizing, his enthusiasm for the subject positively boyish. This series will never require your patience.

There may be special interest to those with an interest in Biblical history, whether you are Christian or otherwise. Whenever you reach a point where Biblical history intersects with Egyptian, Brier will stop and discuss it. There are several lectures devoted exclusively to the topic. I'll lay it out: Brier is a historian and therefore does not regard the Bible stories as literal truths, but he treats them with true sympathy and interest. His conclusions really surprised me, especially regarding the Exodus. His speculations on Joseph are perhaps more of a stretch.

The one rather slight downside to the whole series is that Brier has some rather fanciful theories about the life and times... and death... of Tutankhamen, a lot of which have been, if I'm not mistaken, disproven in the years since this first came out and which anyway were never taken seriously in mainstream Egyptology. Speculating about the Bible is one thing, but Brier doesn't pretend it's anything but speculation. His Tutankhamen material is, despite disclaimers, told with the passion of a true believer, which makes it slightly tragic when you discover afterwards that some of the basic facts just aren't there. It makes for an interesting listen, at least.

Overall, this is a MUST PURCHASE. Everyone needs a pair of really good shoes, a couple of good jackets, and a lecture series on Ancient Egypt. Do not hesitate.

120 of 122 people found this review helpful

  • Absolute Monarchs

  • A History of the Papacy
  • By: John Julius Norwich
  • Narrated by: Michael Page
  • Length: 19 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 220
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 198
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 202

With the papacy embattled in recent years, it is essential to have the perspective of one of the world's most accomplished historians. In Absolute Monarchs, John Julius Norwich captures nearly 2,000 years of inspiration and devotion, intrigue and scandal. The men (and maybe one woman) who have held this position of infallible power over millions have ranged from heroes to rogues, admirably wise to utterly decadent.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A relentless succession of very old men

  • By Nassir on 11-01-11

A relentless succession of very old men

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

Reviewed: 11-01-11

This must have been a hard book to write, and it's therefore something of a hard book to review. There are a lot of Popes, over a long time, and this is not ultimately that long of a book. Something had to be sacrificed, and I supposed the author should get credit for not sacrificing any of the Popes. They are all here, and they all have their moment. They all get a biography and a judgement of their reign, even if it only lasts a few lines. Choices are then made about which Popes are the more important and/or interesting Popes, and these Popes get a little more attention. How were these greater Popes chosen? Not difficult, as they are the same Popes every historian considers important and/or interesting. The author makes no attempt to be neutral, as he is not a Catholic and is unapologetically modern in his outlook, but the judgments never take over. If a Pope kept mistresses, built palaces for each of his twenty nephews, started a few wars, and killed some Jews, the author goes ahead and calls that a "bad Pope" and moves on, although such a Pope might get some grudging respect for building a fine library or reorganizing some bureaucracy. If a Pope does warrant a lot of contextual history, that history is almost invariably an account of the wars in which they were involved. And that is the book, pretty much: Names, dates, wars, and the judgments of an elderly British aristocrat. No wonder The Economist reviewed it favorably! It is a fascinating story. It would take a hamfisted historian indeed to make a history of the Papacy seem dull. But couldn't we have had a little less completeness? Couldn't some of the Popes been clumped together in their insignificance, freeing up space for the better ones? There are occasions where you wish he would just let loose with a little more of the dry wit, and stray a little further from century after century of the relentless succession of very old men. When he does do these things, this is a fantastic book. The accounts of the creation of the Holy Roman Empire, the lengthy and unexpected discussion of the myth of Pope Joan, and the delicate, merciless vivisection of Pius XII are worth the price of admission alone. These are but some of the many brilliant parts. The rest, unfortunately, is just history.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Ready Player One

  • By: Ernest Cline
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 15 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 199,056
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 185,862
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 185,464

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I’m sorry I waited so long to read this book.

  • By Julie W. Capell on 05-27-14

Overburdened

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

Reviewed: 09-05-11

This is a book of lists, apparently intended to prove that the author was either alive in the '80s or has access to Wikipedia. Most of us are one or both of those things, so why we need it all explained to us again and again and again is beyond me. Who is picking up this and going, "Con-poo-tur games? I don't understand. Star Wars? Wars in space, what next!"

This is unfortunate, since all this '80s underpin a gripping mystery that is cleverly written and fun to follow. I only managed to solve a handful of the bits myself, and was appropriately charmed and delighted when the rest were revealed. If only that were the entire book, and the vast tiresome gulfs of irrelevant trivia in between were done away with, or at least less of a slog to get through. Instead we get endless explanations of how virtual worlds work like this is Neuromancer, petty revelations packaged in trite soundbites like the last 30 seconds of He-Man, and an agonizing romance constructed entirely out of artificial conflicts, like... that's right! Anakin and Padme, not Han and Leia! See? Anyone can do this. Perhaps that is the point. Perhaps this is all some kind of winking self-referential meta-fiction about how shallowly commercial and self-centered the culture of the '80s actually was. That doesn't make it any easier to read, or its characters any more likable, or its point any more... wait, I can't actually remember what the point was. Hmm.

It's a worthy waste of time anyway. I didn't stop listening to it once I began, just spent the majority of it rolling my eyes and shouting, "Get on with it!!" to nobody in particular. Wil Wheaton is a great narrator who I'd listen to again. I'd just rather have spent my time on some actual stuff from the '80s.


4 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • The Year of the Flood

  • By: Margaret Atwood
  • Narrated by: Bernadette Dunne, Katie MacNichol, Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 14 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,225
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,561
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,571

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners - a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life - has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Atwood at her very best!

  • By Linda Novak on 10-18-09

Read Oryx and Crake one last time before this

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-10

The Year of the Flood is Margaret Atwood at the height of her powers. Very few authors have the courage to attempt the whole "create a religion" thing, and practically none of them can actually pull it off. Yet Atwood has here a whole book detailing a minor religious sect that isn't ridiculous on the face of it, even writing hymns that (while admittedly tedious to listen to) actually sound like hymns. This all but blows the mind.

Unfortunately, Atwood has set this whole thing in the same universe as her absolute classic, Oryx and Crake. Why? What was the point? It's like watching the greatest conjurer of all time, only to have the climax of her act be a rabbit pulled out of top hat. This book all but ruins its predecessor, filling in gaps, dispelling mysteries, and answering questions that nobody on earth wanted filled, dispelled, or answered.

OK, you know Pulp Fiction, the Quentin Tarantino film? Remember that one scene where Vincent and Jules are shaking down those kids in the apartment, and Vincent opens a mysterious attache case and stares in wonder at whatever is inside? And later, Tim Roth's character does the same thing? And you're like "what's in the case?!" Then what happened? YOU GREW UP. Now, what if Tarantino made a sequel to Pulp Fiction starring, like, Steve Buscemi's Buddy Holly waiter, where he FINDS OUT WHAT'S IN THE CASE and it's like the most obvious thing imaginable. Only fat useless nerds who don't get it at all would be super happy to see this film.

That's what this book is. It's what's in the case. Oryx and Crake was flawlessly built up to an ambiguous ending, where Jimmy's intentions are unclear and subject to a massive amount of debate. Guess what? NOT ANYMORE. Now we know what happens, and it's a load of old bunk. A lame attempt is made to replace it with another kind of cliffhanger, but it's the kind of cliffhanger where a bomb is ticking down and the screen cuts off at 00:01. WILL THE BOMB EXPLODE?

Who cares?

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • God Is Not One

  • The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World - and Why Their Differences Matter
  • By: Stephen Prothero
  • Narrated by: Paul Boehmer
  • Length: 14 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 232
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 137
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 132

At the dawn of the 21st century, dizzying scientific and technological advancements, interconnected globalized economies, and even the so-called New Atheists have done nothing to change one thing: our world remains furiously religious. For good and for evil, religion is the single greatest influence in the world. In God Is Not One, Prothero provides listeners with much-needed content about each of the eight great world religions.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Useful, but doesn't live up to its introduction

  • By Nassir on 11-03-10

Useful, but doesn't live up to its introduction

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-10

I want to expand on the previous reviewer's comments, which I essentially agree with. The introduction to this book is a blast against both the regressive fallacy that one religion can be better than others and the progressive fallacy that all religions are in a lovey-lovey way all the same. This is not the case, he declares; instead, each religion has its own independent character and instincts, appeals to different needs and desires, and aims to take you to different mental places -- this is what he means by calling them "rivals". It's a bracing call for a full-frontal tolerant plurality without wincing away from points of contention. It's a promising thesis to begin a book with.

Unfortunately, that's as far as it goes. The rest of the book consists of eight essays concerned separately with a "major" world religion (sorry Sikhs, Jains, Shintoists, and Scientologists... nothing here for you) that, while pleasant to read/listen to, are ultimately nothing more than pedestrian glosses. This book is, in fact, a direct sequel to Prothero's previous book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know" which called for Americans to learn more about the religions of the world. As he say towards the end of the introduction, people were writing to him asking for a book to GIVE them that literacy. This is that book, and if that is what you want then this is the book for you. Each essay starts from basic facts, breezes through some history and contemporary issues, and ends there. Without a rhetorical connection between them the original thesis is nowhere to be seen. I was hoping for more depth.

There is still much of value here, particularly in the surprising choice of Yoruba as one of the major world religions. I like to think that I'm slightly more literate than most Americans when it comes to world religions, but was frankly ignorant about this West African religion and its many New World descendants. Touche, Mr. Prothero; consider me educated.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful