"Good but not suited to an audiobook"
Whilst far from being an expert physicist I have read a fair bit about relativity and quantum mechanics etc so I was coming to this book looking to get a clearer understanding of the subject matter it deals with. The only problem is that I don't think I'm any clearer now than when I started.
I have no doubt that this is in large part due to the fact I was listening to it as an audiobook rather than reading it so don't want to put the book down too much. The book started off okay but quite quickly descended into multiple equations that I just found impossible to follow in my head which meant that large swathes of the book became impenetrable - and since each section relied on the previous it meant that everything went pear-shaped for me quite early on.
The book is a good attempt to explain how Einstein reached his famous equation but in the end, at least as an audiobook, the ideas just required too much abstract and mathematical thought in order to properly ensure understanding.
"A return to form"
A total return to form for Palahniuk and the most I've enjoyed one of his books for many years.
After loving his first three or four I felt he went off the boil, moving away from the dark underbelly of human nature into other areas that just didn't have the same edge. SNUFF makes up for that, however, an intricately structured, utterly engaging listen.
There are the usual tics (verbal and literary) which have become Palahniuk's trademark and although at times it can get a little much it also really does help to crystallise the individual personalities of each of the main characters. There's also the trademark twist which wasn't exactly a surprise but the story kept me involved deeply enough that I wasn't really thinking too much about what might happen.
Snappy, hip but also extremely moving and perfectly shaped (sorry to go a bit synesthetic), this was a fantastic listen
"Needed a good edit!"
This is one I first picked up years ago but only got about 40 or so pages in before losing interest and, to be honest, it was a bit of a struggle to get through it again.
The concept was exciting - Chuck writing a portmanteau horror-ish book, a group of writers gathered together to create their masterworks all slowly going mad - but too often I found myself getting annoyed by it. With that said, several of the short stories were excellent (in particular I loved Mother Nature's story about the dark side of alternative therapies and the one about the life-saver doll) but the main problem was with the parts which joined the stories together.
There were too many characters and I was kept distanced from caring about any of them because of their monikers. I'm well used to the Chuck-isms of strange character habits but this is often in opposition to the 'normal' world - in Haunted there is nothing BUT Chuck-isms and it was just too much. It felt at times like Tom Morello's guitar playing, you appreciated the creativity but every now and again just want to shout at him to do a normal guitar solo!
This was the Palahiuk book I felt needed an editor to be whacking him across the head and telling him to cut 1/3 of it out, to cut half of the characters out, and to tone down the Chuck-isms. There was so much potential there for a cracking book but I think it just went too far and lost touch with what Chuck is often good at and that is using strangeness to highlight things which affect all of us.
"An interesting, quick listen"
A great, quick listen - not my usual fare (straightforward crime fiction) but the story is expertly structured and very light-handed in terms of the prose.
There is only as much in there as needs to be, but hints at a lot more.
A bit of a disappointment really, this is the sort of book which I think Dawkin's 'God Delusion' put in its place, or at least should have done.
Humphrys explains that his book isn't meant to be like Dawkins', it isn't an attempt to talk people out of belief, but instead to ask why people believe in the first place and this is where I think it falls down. To me, you can't argue belief, you can't convince another to believe what you believe, or explain it fully to them, so to base a religious debate on them seems doomed to failure.
The only thing left, therefore, is reason, and this is what Dawkins did in The God Delusion. He recognised that reason, at least potentially, is shared whereas faith/belief is person and can't be argued. That, to me, was the power of his book. Humphrys, on the other hand, deliberately avoids this and falls back into the old ways of aethists being almost apologetic for their beliefs, or lack thereof.
In the end he actually seems to spend more time attacked Dawkins and his (in Humphreys own words) 'militant aetheists' than anything else and so the book just comes out as nothing more than him expressing an opinion he doesn't even seem that willing to back up. He then spends a lot of time tying himself in knots about why we shouldn't 'attack' people of faith and creating straw men aethist arguments that he can knock down and it comes off as confused, weak and pointless.
"Interesting but not interesting enough"
As a huge fan of Kermode's film review show with Simon Mayo on Five Live for several years this was an interesting listen but ultimately, it's the story of how a film critic became a film critic. There's a bunch of interesting anecdotes (his horrific trip across Russia, Werner Hertzog getting shot whilst being interviewed by him), most of which I was already aware of from the show, and beyond that there's not much else.
It was good to hear Mark reading the book himself but there just wasn't enough meat on the bones for me.
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