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Really great, worthwhile listen

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

Reviewed: 13-05-20

I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The author/protagonist is a bit of a prat who seems to luck out in getting a relatively easy ride through prison while simultaneously having minor breakdowns when he gets good things like a larger cell. He is also quite left wing and that shows in the writing.

However, once you get past that issues the anecdotes and information about prison life are brilliant and often incredibly funny. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys autobiographical styles of work or novels that are based on true stories.

The author narrates the book and adds a lot of flavour to the text. His narrating voice is good and I think I benefitted from listening by audiobook rather than reading a physical copy. I would say that I normally listen at 1.1x and for this book I went to 0.9x as he speaks quickly.

(Having now read other reviews I should mention that the author quite clearly states at the start of the book that light music is played when he goes into non-narritive bits of exposition to explain terms or concepts in the story. This was obvious and acceptable to me but apparently intolerable and confusing to many.)

Did not finish

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

Reviewed: 15-04-20

This book really doesn't seem like a sequel to the others. None of the secondary characters feature much if at all and the main character is thrust into a completely different setting - some kind of alien UN. There's lots of space politics and half-arsed espionage. Rather than having a competent, powerful protagonist we get one that skirts by on luck and deus-ex-M-bot.

I was going to plough on until I realised I wasn't looking forward to the book at all. I was trying to build up the courage and grim determination to force myself to finish it. Life's too short for books like that.

It's a shame because Skyward was one of the best books I've read in ages. Maybe I'll try this one again when the sequel comes out.

Truly brilliant book!

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

Reviewed: 29-03-20

You forget, when seeing the junk Sanderson plops out in the Stormlight series, that he can really, really write. This book was fantastic from start to finish.

The plot was good, going through the various stages of the story felt natural and there weren't any major deus ex machinas. Everything just felt tight and well told. Really immersive and exciting story.

The characters were fantastic too. Each one felt fleshed out and even the villains motivations made sense despite how much resentment you feel towards her. The main character is compelling and a smidge immature but then she's meant to be 17 so it makes sense. Minor spoiler: [There's no unnecessary love story shoehorned in which is a miracle nowadays.]

The narrator did a fantastic job too. I'm actually nervous about reading the second one because Sanderson did such a good ending here and is normally a disappointing sequel writer. Fingers crossed for a sequel that does justice to this story.

The main character is very unsympathetic.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 25-03-20

This started out quite well, woman finds out husband is having affair and begins to plot revenge but then it went off the rails.

The main character is just not sympathetic, a sexless, obese (over 15 stone), chronically unfit, anti-social bore who is surprised her fit actor husband is having an affair with his attractive TV wife. Apparently this is entirely the husband's fault.

She then goes on bizarre self improvement spree that is unrealistic at best. Have you ever known any fat person go "I'm overweight and unfit so I'm going to get a personal trainer and only eat healthy food from now on. Salad here I come!" and have that last for any length of time?

Not only that but she schemes to plot her husband's and his lover's downfalls to make their lives a misery and spends months being manipulative and creepy to achieve this. Just move on!

She also is a fantastic actress and master manipulator who can change her target's internal thoughts with a twitch of an eyebrow like Sherlock Holmes meets Derren Brown. Then she falls for some of the most obvious ploys by her adversary that you can imagine.

The ending is just too twee as well. Narration decent. Good start but not my cup of tea.

Just not that good.

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

Reviewed: 20-03-20

I read Dune and thought it was fantastic. I saw this book tied with it for some award and thought "That must be a really good book too. I'll give it a go." I was wrong.

The book reads like you've asked an edgy teenager to write an 'epic'. Lots of oblique references to huge events, a bleak landscape and a band of adventurers. The cast was too big for the story and keeping track of everyone was a bit of a pain.

The main character is, unsurprisingly, somewhat immortal but this is never elaborated on. I know people often complain of clumsy exposition but I'd rather have some than none.

I never really gave a crap about the characters. Hard to do that when no-one knows why they're fighting each other. I find it hard to believe soldiers who fought shoulder to shoulder would both fight each other to the death just because they felt they were meant to. And Earth is not a happy place but I'm supposed to care about it?!

Overall this story got too big headed for itself, I didn't like the style and the narration was just sufficient. Would not recommend.

Not nearly as good as the first

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

Reviewed: 17-03-20

I gave the first book a lot of leeway because it was fun but this book just didn't have the same zazz.

Firstly the phrase is "I couldn't care less." NOT "I could care less." which means you care to some degree. This cropped up repeatedly and really annoyed me. How it got past 2 writers and assumedly some editors IDK.

I also feel like having all your main characters pig out at McDonalds all the time and being super fit and attractive seems... disingenuous I guess. It just pulls you out of the story a bit.

The romance does that too. It could have been written by giggling teenagers for how badly it was handled.

The whackiness from before has been replaced by absurdity. Big explosions, bunker buster missiles, crazy coincidences than make no sense and lots of people being "knocked out" by severe blunt force trauma to the head. This, unfortunately, is just like American TV where only really, really bad guys die and everyone else gets tied up or knocked out. There is no interesting morally grey stuff.

Speaking of morality this suffers from the same problem all con man shows suffer from. The cons stop being cons and become super high tech or ridiculous bouts of thievery. Almost all of the cons are just eyeline distractions for theft. Not engaging at all.

And Scott Brick's narration was slow and dull again. i normally listen to books at 1x or 1.05x this one was at 1.45x and could have gone higher.

The first book I wanted to listen to more of, this book I wanted to get to the end.

Just fun.

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

Reviewed: 12-03-20

There are a lot of bad things I could say about this book. The characters are a bit one dimensional, the plot goes deus ex all over the place, the romance is a bit weak and it's ridiculously over the top HOWEVER none of that matters because this book is just fun. Big, silly, ridiculous fun. I just enjoyed listening to this and going along for a mindless enjoyable ride.

I do dislike Scott Brick as a narrator though. He just speaks so slowly and in a dreary monotone. I normally listen at 1x or 1.05x but with this I listened at 1.35x and the book sounded normal. I think the faster playback might have even made the emotionless Brick convey a bit of character.

Nice fun mini-romp.

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

Reviewed: 11-03-20

Obviously don't read this if you've not read any others in the series although you only need to have read The Heist. This is a fun little ficlet that might make you smile.

I personally really dislike Scott Brick's narration. Usually I listen to fics at 1x or 1.05x (basically normal speed). I found this sounds normal only at 1.35x. Why Brick reads like he is paid by the minute I don't know. Maybe he is, it would explain a lot.

A good read but with its flaws.

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

Reviewed: 10-03-20

The narrative jumps about quite a lot. If the author intended this story to be told chronologically then he should have done it as such. Instead it seems you get a big chunk of miltary activity told chronologically, then a big chunk about prisoners of war in general (for example) then back to war activity. I can see why some might prefer this style but I’d have preferred to either go topic-by-topic individually or at least have the war narrative as an entirely separate section (it mostly makes up the start of the book though).

Speaking of separate sections there is a clear divide between narrative war history and human-interest personal stories. You go from following a narrative to hearing personal stories for a long portion then back to the narrative. Personally, I’d have liked the personal stories sprinkled throughout the narrative rather than clumped together (although in some sections I understand this is inevitable).

The author tries to provide an unbiased viewpoint which he does to some extent. I think there is the same problem as in his book on The Falklands War that he relies almost entirely on Western sources. I know the Chinese aren’t keen on information going out but I’m surprised he couldn’t have found more than a handful of Chinese veterans to interview. Having said that, I now realise this book was probably not a best seller and the budget may not have facilitated any travel or many interviews. You’ll hear from the perspective of Westerners pilots but not their adversaries.

The narrator seems dull. His speech is very precise and I never struggled to understand what was said but he just gives off a boring teacher vibe to me that I had to fight against.

Having gotten my criticisms out, this is still a good book and you can learn a lot but I think if you want a brief overview the "History in an Hour" on this covers everything albeit to a less deep level. I don't feel like I "learned" as much from this book as I have from some of Max Hastings others and I don't know why. Just something not quite right. I got a bit fed up of references to Vietnam too.

A memoir of his stand up years not a biography.

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

Reviewed: 26-02-20

I came in expecting a Steve Martin autobiography and instead got memoirs largely centred around his stand up years. As that was a bit before my time I didn't know he had done stand up nor did I know the names of many of the undoubtedly famous people that he mentioned working with.

My biggest problem with this was the lack of a coherent time scale for things. One minute he's sleeping in his car at 21 the next he's decided to pursue his dreams despite turning 30. You never really get a firm grasp on the chronology. In the last few minutes he describes this as his memoirs which makes more sense considering I thought it was biographical (as he says at the start).

Don't expect lots of funny behind the scenes bits as well. Not only is Martin intensely private but he was also alone for much of his career so you get a lot of talk about him and his act but stories involving meaningful interactions with other people are few and far between.

On top of that these memoirs are focused very much on his stand up career. There are maybe half a dozen stories outside of that bracket but he has restricted himself quite harshly. As he is an accomplished author and smart guy I can only assume this was a very deliberate move.

Having said all that it was interesting to hear how his act came together and how it grew iteration by iteration. The book is short so you don't have much time to get bored but equally nothing is explored to any great depth. I think this is more of a story for Martin fans who remember this era.

His narration was excellent though and his banjo playing made for a fun chapter transition effect. I did laugh a couple of times but not as much as I thought I would.