"Read the Selfish Gene instead"
The Blind Watchmaker is an interesting listen. As with the Selfish Gene, the duo of Dawkins and Lalla Ward makes for excellent narration. It covers a great deal of interesting material, and if you haven't listened to the Selfish Gene, I recommend it.
The premise of the book is a rebuttal of the Watchmaker argument for an intelligent designer. The theory of evolution itself is an excellent rebuttal of most of this argument, so I was hoping this book might concentrate on the principal weakness of arguments for life without design: the origin of life. Instead, this is covered in a part of one chapter, and in no great depth. I was left disappointed.
The Selfish Gene is an excellent introduction to evolution, and mostly covers the same topics as Blind Watchmaker. The Blind Watchmaker has more examples, but they're really going over much the same ground.
"Narrator so awful I couldn't listen"
This book apparently has 6 narrators. However, the only relevant one is the first, because he's so awful that for the first time ever I have abandoned an audio book. He pauses audibly in random places in sentences, I'm guessing at the ends of lines in his script. He pauses audibly before unusual words, which he then invariably mispronounces. He doesn't pause when sentence structure demands it. He shuffles papers audibly. His voice is utterly monotonous.
He sounds like he has done no preparation whatsoever for the job. I regularly read aloud to my children, and I can confidently say that that experience alone means I would do a better job myself.
I tried to tell myself that the other 5 narrators would no doubt be up to the expected standard, but after just over an hour there was no way I could force myself to continue. I will be returning this title.
"Cheesy with bad narration, but enjoyable anyway"
There are a couple of strange things about this novel. First is the narration. I initially hated Bernadette Dunne's novel so much I wasn't sure I would make it to the end. I did eventually get used to it, though. It's not great, but with a little perseverance it does become listenable.
Secondly, there's the introductory chapter, which purports to be the translator's notes. I was quite some way into this book before I worked out that it wasn't a true story, or even based on one. When I did, I felt like I'd been misled.
As for the story itself, I certainly had no trouble becoming immersed in it and I really enjoyed it. It's hard to say why, though, because the characters were all very 2 dimensional as was most of the plot. I think it was ultimately carried by sheer cheesy feel-good factor.
"Great narration, but Melville needed an editor"
If you've already decided you're going to listen to this famous American novel, this is a great edition to pick: Frank Muller is an absolutely joy to listen to. His pitch and speed are very easy to listen to, and he handles the wide variety of characters, scenes and expositions expertly. Highly recommended.
On the other hand, if you're trying to make your mind up about the novel itself it's not so clear. While Moby Dick has a great central story, it's not nearly as long as its enormous length implies. This regular length story is padded with an enormous amount of detail. Most, but by no means all, of this detail is interesting, but having sections of encyclopaedia unapologetically crammed into various parts of the story is jarring. Melville could have done with a good editor, who would hopefully have forced him to weave the pertinent detail into the story and leave the rest out!
The other issue is the characters' use of language. The novel was published in 1851, so obviously you'd expect a certain amount of archaic language. However, I suspect that this dialogue would have been considered flowery and archaic even in 1851. Pompous, even.
I don't want to leave you with the impression that it's a bad book: it's not. I have enjoyed it, and its insight into whaling in the first half of the 19th century. However, despite its reputation, it's certainly not without some significant flaws.
"Trashy soft-core porn in a historical context"
This is my first Ken Follett novel, so I didn't know what to expect. Having read the synopsis I was hoping for an intelligent discussion of the causes and effects of the various upheavals around the time of the Great War told through the fictional lives of a group of inter-connected players. The book doesn't entirely disappoint: it manages to cover quite a lot of the history. However, all the characters are laughably 2 dimensional, and the contrivances required to introduce monologues of historical explanation strain the flow considerably.
But the greatest distraction of this book is the incessant, poorly written, graphical descriptions of sex. It's not as if we have a couple of well-developed characters leading up to a climactic moment of passion which is integral to the plot. While it wouldn't be true to say it serves no plot purpose at all, a blow by blow, gynaecological description of mutual masturbation, or of taking somebody's virginity is completely incongruous. If I wanted a turn-on I'd have bought Razzle. All it actually does is further lower the tone of an already trashy book.
All told, I won't be buying another Ken Follett book.
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