Firstly, I can't overemphasise how much I enjoy Bryson's narration over William Roberts'. Perhaps the most compelling evidence is that I actually bought his abridged version of a Short History, even though I owned and had twice listened to the unabridged one simply because I wanted to hear Bill Bryson reading it.
It's really surprising to hear other people haven't enjoyed his narration, because I think his delivery is perfect although, it must be said, he does speak in a low tone.
I had always avoided the more anecdotal Bryson novels over the more factual ones, feeling that novels like a Short History and Private Life were more nourishing. A Walk in the Woods changed my mind on that, so I bought this and enjoyed it so much that I think it could be my favourite Bryson audiobook.
I guess the chances are slim that Bill will narrate an unabridged version of a Short History, but if he does, then I'll find myself with three copies of that damn book....
First off, the story is very interesting. The events and the manner in which they unfold would probably make a good movie or biography.
My problem is Mitnick's style of writing, it's extremely self-congratulatory and brimming with arrogance. It really doesn't help that the narrator sounds like Brian from Family Guy.
It's not that I want him to be contrite or self deprecating, but there's no sense of reflection here. It's like Mitnick is remembering all of his shenanigans for the first time and high-fiving himself for his daring genius. He is obviously a fiendishly clever guy and his skill as a hacker depict a creative and analytical thinker, but his skill as a writer depict a high-school loner in love with his own self-image.
There's a lot going on here. It's a book about running that weaves a thrilling story of an adventure race in the Copper Canyons in Mexico, the culture, attitude and history of long distance running, the science behind endurance running, the mystery of a hidden culture of Mexican Indian runners and their unlikely US Ambassador and - most importantly - the author's journey into, and successfully out the other side of the world of adventure racing.
McDougal's skill is to make the characters larger than life, make his own story relevant and interesting and keep the narrative from getting to bogged down in history, science, statistics or geography.
It's an adventure story, a travelog, an inspirational tale, an informative journal and a very funny and memorable story. The narration is first class as well, keeping the wit dry and the pace just enough to keep your breath.
I fell in love with this book; it's a brilliant journey through the surface of the world of maths and is very likely to change the way you feel about geometry, luck, statistics and baguettes. The author's narration is good and never loses your attention, my only criticism is that, without the numerous diagrams that exist in the book version, quite a lot is lost in translation. The beauty of Euclidian or the Fibonaci spiral are impossible to describe, but he does his best.
The narration is a little dull, as is the story. There is something strangely captivating about it, despite all that and the characters have an almost unlimited depth to them, but it's not the most colourful book I've listened to...
You do have to concentrate to keep up here. Normally when I read a book that has this many central characters (all of whom have critical distinctions), I'll leaf back a few pages to remind myself who each one is - you can't really do that with an audio book.
It helped that there exists and recent movie with an unforgettable cast. Although I hadn't seen the movie, I knew the cast, so was able to put faces to the names while listening to this book.
The narration is superb. Smiley, in particular, comes completely to life.
Before long, it gets under your skin and stays there for a long time...
I've often watched Kermode review a movie and thought: "Why should I care what you think?" As, indeed, he would probably think if he ever read this review.
I'm none-the-wiser really, having listened to this book from start to finish. There's nothing wrong with it, maybe it's a wee bit irritating at times, but essentially it's a biopic of Kermode's life with particular attention to his relationship with films filled with personal anecdotes and revealing stories about films and the people who make them, but I just didn't really connect with it.
What's missing is drama (apart from the bit where Werner Herzog's pants explode), it's lacking in comedy as well, or horror or romance. It's not a movie, it's not quirky enough, or racy enough or exciting enough. It's just a story about a guy who likes watching movies but don't be fooled into buying it simply because you like watching movies too, because it's not that kind of movie.
This is a brilliant audiobook. Possibly the best audiobook ever written slash read by a man. I can't think of an audiobook that I would rather hear read by its author than this one, except for maybe the Steve Jobs one, because then it'd mean Steve was still alive but I only just thought of that, so it doesn't count.
Anyway, if you're either a fan of Alan's or the sort of person who would really like his stuff then this is definitely for you.
I just realised the Steve Jobs reference doesn't work because he didn't write the biography, hence it's a biography and not an autobiography. I should, therefore remove all reference to it in this review since it is, strictly speaking, out of context, but if I do that the review will be a 'bit light', so it stays.
I've made it a third of a way through the book twice now and decided that the audiobook was the way to go. It's not always easy to listen to and you do have to work at it, but before long the story and - moreover - the characters get under your skin and they stay there for a very long time.
The narration is really excellent. The pronunciation, individual characterisations, constantly shifting pace and erratic mono and dialogues would challenge any narrator. He does a stunning job of keeping on top of the delivery.
As to what was going through Dostoevsky's head when he wrote it, I'm not too sure. It's a journey, in any case. Partly through the world as it was at that time and partly through the mind of a man who's not quite the full kopeck...
The subjects are interesting and well researched, but like some others I've found the tone off-putting. You do learn a fair amount and will probably find much of it strikes a nice balance between being informative, humorous and passionate.
I'm not entirely sure whether it's the narrator or the combination of narrator and material that annoys me, but I find myself getting as angry at the sweeping statements and condescending remarks as Ben Goldacre gets at the bad scientists. There's something about smug self-righteousness that makes me root for the other guys, even if - as in this case - they're mostly borderline lunatics.
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