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Nellig

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Nice chewy one

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

Reviewed: 28-05-17

This is a nice long, workmanlike, properly-researched account of Shirley Jackson's life. Very listenable. Perceptive and sympathetic without losing objectivity. Kept me entertained for ages.

Over-egged and under-edited; strangely addictive

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-10-11

Well this thing will definitely give you a run for your money. The writing is often horribly clumsy, but sometimes hits a lovely precise perfection.

As with Embassy Town, the best bit is the set-up. Here we learn about the huge roiling vibrant messy city of New Crobuzon, and the engaging protagonists of the story. I could have done with even more of this stuff.

Then the action starts, and while the author's amazing creativity goes into overdrive, the character development is sacrificed to the needs of the plot, and the protagonists do all sorts of things that don't really make internal sense. The prose gets larded and encrusted with excess verbiage, and the whole thing generally turns to custard (still quite tasty). I just wish he'd had an old-school editor (Diana Athill would have been ideal) to stop him using the word "pugnacious" more than three times a page, making detours totally irrelevant to the plot, and things of that nature.

The text makes huge demands on the narrator, and Jonathan Oliver does an inspired job.

In short, it's a baggy old mess, but still vastly entertaining.

10 people found this helpful

A bit of a corker

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-07-11

This is a proper, muscular SF novel that grabs you by the arm and pulls you right in. It sets the stage magnificently, laying out a believable society with enjoyably mind-boggling features. At first, quite a lot is left half-explained, and only make sense later: this is really delicious, and skilfully done.

This stage-setting takes up a huge chunk of the book, but it’s so fascinating I could have lapped up quite a lot more. When the plot gets going, things get a bit hectic, but it’s worth holding on tight right to the end. There are some nice twists, plenty of momentum, and a good resolution.

The whole issue of language is so often dismissed or sidestepped in SF, but here it’s at the heart of things. China Mieville has actually done something new here.

There’s a special kind of shivery exhilaration that only high-class SF can deliver, and this story comes across with the goods. It’s also excellently read by Susan Duerden, who deftly fleshes out the characters (I particularly liked the way she voices the aliens and the AI) and makes them a bit more 3-D.

Basically, it’s a bit of a corker.

9 people found this helpful

Within a Budding Grove, Part 2 cover art

Relax and float downstream

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-05-11

The outrageously wet, spoiled and weedy teenage Marcel is taken to the seaside by his granny, and makes some new friends, thank goodness. Intensely soppy and prone, much like Fotherington-Thomas, to holding conversations with hawthorn-bushes, he also manages to be a shocking snob. He falls in with a bunch of schoolgirls and has long reveries about them, with his typical diffuse lecherousness, and eventually makes a great big clumsy pass at one, who quite properly handbags him sharpish.

The narrator, John Rowe, does a bang-up job of this, suavely keeping abreast of all those nested relative clauses and endless tangents. This is no mean feat, and without his impeccable pacing and surefooted navigation down the winding paths between full stops, the listener?s brain might well explode.

If you don?t mind ponderous, dreamy wallowing, the whole thing is strangely addictive.

3 people found this helpful

Ripping yarn!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-03-11

An engrossing tale of maidenly virtue rewarded, with plenty of top-notch melodrama, muslin, beef tea, vague Victorian illnesses, worsted, swooning, rampant xenophobia and tea-drinking.

The narrator, Josephine Bailey, deserves some sort of award. She manages to sound Victorian, and gives every character just the right accent and energy; each individual leaps, as it were, from the page, three-dimensional and totally convincing. The whole thing feels like a brilliantly-directed radio play. Loved it.

2 people found this helpful

Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck's Life in China cover art

Fascinating story, badly narrated

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-03-11

This is a proper, well-researched, serious biography of a fascinating woman who lived in interesting times. I got a real sense of what Pearl Buck was like, and even better, what it was like to live in China in the early 20th century (i.e. eye-wateringly tough).

The major drawback of this edition is that it?s badly narrated by the author. She reads in a flat, lifeless drone, with many frogs-in-the-throat and slips of the tongue. I know we all make slips of the tongue, but in this case, it makes the book sound as if it were riddled with typos.

This just goes to show that it?s worthwhile getting a trained actor to narrate a book properly. Miriam Margolyes, for example, could have made a magnificent job of this book.

2 people found this helpful

Totally engrossing

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 20-04-10

Fantastic. Tried to ration myself, but ended up gobbling this one in two days.

Each of the point-of-view characters is made totally understandable, even the most revolting ones. Loved the cool, precise description of their thoughts and experiences. She makes it easy to watch the movie in your head. Lots of nice sneaky prefiguring, and things are tied up in a satisfying way. Delicious, high-protein, slow-release food for your head.

Juliet Stevenson reads this really, really well.

9 people found this helpful

Floated my boat

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 20-09-09

Yup, it's up there with Oryx and Crake. I followed Toby and Ren with bated breath, those truly dreadful hymns notwithstanding. Nice how the God's Gardeners religion is cringeworthy yet ultimately effective. Loved Toby's arc. Could have done with more nuanced baddies, but hey, this is still top-quality stuff.

6 people found this helpful

Surprisingly dull

Overall
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-08-09

Michael Palin is adorable, but does not spill any beans. These diaries are too safe and innocuous to be of interest.

3 people found this helpful

One of the best ones

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-08-09

Very nice. Lots of stuff about the dwarves. Carrot, Angua and Cheery feature prominently, which is always a good sign. Fairly taut plot and not too much dawdling for predictable jokes.

2 people found this helpful