Wakefield, United Kingdom | Member Since 2012
I wasn’t finding this a particularly easy book to read (or at least to listen to) until I was about halfway through. Then something clicked, and I realised what it was about the writing that felt strange: there’s no plot - or should I say that the plot is so old and well known that the author doesn’t bother with it. The characters are real people from our past and their life stories are history: set in stone, in a thousand textbooks, their fates are already decided, even if it's only us - the readers - that know it. And Hilary Mantel presumes we do, and so, freed from twisting and shaping a plot, she concentrates on their language: their thoughts and inner voices; the words they might have spoken; even their body language is used to take us deep into their lives and motivations, and Hilary Mantel certainly can write. Whether it’s Thomas More intellectualising his inhumanity or a coarse fisherman going on about some prostitutes her writing is fluid and believable.
Thomas Cromwell was unknown to me before I started Wolf Hall but now I’ve got the feeling that he’s going to stay with me as one of the great (non?) fictional historical characters. (I don’t know, or really care, if this is a true portrait of Thomas Cromwell, but the author made a great decision by putting him at the heart of this pivotal moment in history.)
He’s a wonderfully complex man: his fidelity to his friends, family, masters and ideals contrasts with the ruthlessness of his politics; his drive to free England of the shackles of Rome is bizarrely made possible by the whims of his King, and he accepts this and uses it; and most of all, his comfortableness with the commoners combines beautifully with his ability to motivate and manipulate his betters.
The narrator - Simon Slater - gives every character their own distinctive voice and he adds depth, menace or lightness as needed. So, overall, not an easy read but a beautiful and worthy challenge.
PFH's writing and storytelling just keep getting better as the decades pass, and with this novel he's being more adventurous with the construction of the narrative too. It's a wonderful mix of hard SF and political fantasy, with a dollop of Ankh Morpork and Marxist revolution in too. Thoroughly enjoyed, as expected, and brilliantly narrated.
Absolutely wonderful! Great, tense writing, flawless narration and spotless production - what more could you ask for? It's not literature, but it is one of those truly visceral books that made me smile, laugh and wince at every calamity that befalls our poor, yet brilliant, hero. Read it!
A vast and epic account of the blood-soaked centuries that saw the fall of the ancient Zoroastrian and Christian empires, and the rise of Islam. I found the book quite difficult, but I think this was due more to the audio format - where it is more difficult to keep track of the names of people and places - than to the writing itself. However, it was very interesting and the tales from that era are certainly full of drama. And blood.
I'm a sucker for a good allegory, and Herman Koch serves up a deliciously dark apologue in "The Dinner" with the dysfunctional families at the heart of the tale representing those of us in the privileged West, and how - either through complacency, complicity or actual downright bloodyminded and fully conscious awareness - we'll cross our so called "civilised" moral borders in order to protect our own, and hang onto our entitled lifestyle, should they be threatened.
There's nobody to like here and, wonderfully, the only character who's willing to do what's "right" is the one we universally and instinctively despise: a vain and self-serving politician. We're all in here somewhere, no matter our class, and we're all found guilty. A wonderful and disturbing book that was brilliantly narrated.
Wonderfully dark and full of adventure, intrigue and rum. An absolute classic that I can't believe I've waited till I'm nearly 40 to read.
This is a great piece of scifi that's not as brutal as Asher's other books, and probably the better for it. Thoroughly enjoyed.
As has been said - repetitively - by other reviewers, this is a very repetitive book. And not just thematically. If you removed the words "inclusive", "extractive", "institutions", "glorious revolution of 1688" and ”creative destruction" the book would be about 9 hours shorter. It's still quite interesting (especially when they zoom in on specific histories, like with Botswana, Uzbekistan and Brazil, about which I knew nothing) and I kept going to the end, but the Grand Theory being espoused doesn't seem all that remarkable, unfortunately. (It can be summarised as: If your public institutions are strong enough to stop the gangsters from getting in charge, you're probably going to be okay, if not, you're screwed.) So, not bad, but not brilliant either. (Did I mention it's repetitive?")
Best read on a beach - stoned - with someone else who - also stoned - wants to discuss life, the universe and everything. Buddhism is just as strange and plausible as most other religiophilosophical creations, but at least it values the profane as much as the heavenly. A cool little book with unexpected twists, dreamily narrated.
The point of great satire is to poke a stick at the great and the good, the bad and the ugly, and you don't get much uglier than Hitler. And the author brilliantly uses Hitler as both poker and pokee. Through his eyes he dissects our modern society, with its technological marvels and freedoms, and shows us to be less than what we should be (to put it mildly ....), while contrasting us against Hitler's pure self-assuredness with his monstrous ego and vision of how the world should be. Nobody - not the characters or the readers - come out of this looking good, and that is the sign of great satire. Beautifully translated, narrated and produced, I'd recommend this to everyone.
Tad Williams set himself quite a task writing a detective noir novel set in heaven, but I think he pulls it off quite nicely. The narration is spot on, getting just the right level of humour in the darkness, and the writing is rich with one-liners and smart descriptions. Overall, pretty damn fine - on to the next one ...
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