LISTENER

Adam

Dunton, United Kingdom
  • 10
  • reviews
  • 14
  • helpful votes
  • 15
  • ratings
  • The Fellowship of the Ring

  • The Lord of the Rings, Book 1
  • By: J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Narrated by: Rob Inglis
  • Length: 19 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 4,893
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,074
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 4,069

Continuing the story begun in The Hobbit, this is the first part of Tolkien’s epic masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, available as a complete and unabridged audiobook. Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power - the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring - the ring that rules them all - which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant

  • By Nat on 20-02-11

Only one road....

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

Reviewed: 03-11-18

Rob Inglis is the perfect choice to read these epochal works. He has gravitas and a lightness of tone that matches both the bright radiance and dark terrors of Tolkien's Middle Earth. He is a great character actor, bringing life to Hobbits, men, elves and monsters. He lends the songs melody and charm, history and tradition. The temp quickens in the more dramatic passages in a way that makes you sit up and listen. Sheer brilliance. His reading of this work has calmed me at night so that I drift into sleep, as well as completely commanded my attention and made me forget everything else on my commute into work.

The tale itself is well familiar to me and many others, but if you are new to this world, welcome and I envy you, to see it all with an explorers eyes for the first time. Frodo Baggins inherits his Uncle Bilbo's ring when Bilbo leaves the Shire, exhausted after the adventures of 'The Hobbit' and by his possession of the ring, which draws from its bearer a heavy cost, as well as magical boons such as an unnaturally long life. This may be granted but it comes with a dep fatigue of 'being spread too thin.' It also belongs to the darkest power in the land, Sauron, who now seeks the ring as it is the key to dominance of all life. The wizard Gandalf sets Frodo, his gardener and friends Sam, Merry and Pippin, on a quest to find out what to do with the ring. They meet up with Aragon, 'a ranger from the North,' and journey to the Elves of Rivendell to take Council, where the fellowship grows, and they begin their epic quest to destroy the ring....

The Lord of the Rings is the last word in world building, J R R Tolkien having invented whole languages, histories and mythologies for his world through his life, informed by his career as a soldier in World War One and by his academic career as an Oxford Professor.
Just typing this makes me feel 'not worthy' and 'stretched too thin' to do this work justice. just sink into it, and be renewed.

  • Nicholas Nickleby

  • The Dickens Collection: Original Audio Show
  • By: Charles Dickens
  • Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
  • Length: 36 hrs and 20 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 28
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25

When 19-year old Nicholas Nickleby is left destitute after his father's death, he appeals to his wealthy uncle to help him find work and to protect his mother and sister. But Ralph Nickleby offers little help and proves to be both hard-hearted and unscrupulous, leaving Nicholas to make his own way in the world. Nicholas' adventures take him to Yorkshire boarding school, Dotheboys Hall, and then back to London, meeting an extraordinary gallery of rogues and eccentrics along the way. Like many of Dickens' novels, Nicholas Nickleby is characterised by his outrage at cruelty and social injustice, but it is also a flamboyantly exuberant work, revealing his comic genius.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Not my usual listen...... but so good!

  • By Ms. H. J. Stephenson on 16-10-18

An epic melodrama and a wonder of character acting

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

Reviewed: 31-10-18

This audible production of Charles Dickens's classic Victorian melodrama has been released in nineteen parts (mirroring Dickens's original print serialisation), averaging about two hours each. It has it's own epic, sweeping theme music, and a 'next time on Nicholas Nickleby' teaser trailer to the next episode, which cleverly utilises Dickens's original chapter headings.
Left Destitute after his father's death, Nicholas, his mother and sister Kate travel to London looking naturally for family help from his Uncle Ralph Nickleby. Unfortunately Ralph is anything but natural, he is a debased, scheming Usurer or money-lender, who has utterly disregarded his humanity in his quest for wealth. Ralph sets Nicholas on his apprenticeship to the schoolmaster Wackford Squeers, who with his family run a brutal boarding school regime where physical, mental and emotional abuse are the norm. Nicholas is driven to an act of rebellion that leads to him going on the run with the friendless, abused, damaged and abandoned lad, Smike. This is only the start of Nicholas's adventures, however, and through the course of the novel we shall encounter theatrical troupes, ruined dressmakers, suffering servants, heroic philanthropists and a range of heroes, villains and grotesques, moments of high comedy, incredible dramatic coincidences, edge of the seat drama, social criticism and satire that hits its mark every time.

What a joy this production is. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's narration is a wonder of character acting; from the rasping, biting tones of Ralph to the free ranging witterings of Mrs Nickleby, the wheedling whining of Squeers, the quietly spoken heroism of Nicholas, and much more. Narrator and writer seem perfectly matched,and the result is one of the happiest, most compelling listens I have found on audible. It is first class, and its production values and use of music lift the mood and atmosphere further.

My recommended audio-book of the year and definitely in my top five of all time.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • We Are Here

  • By: Michael Marshall
  • Narrated by: Jeff Harding
  • Length: 14 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 36
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 25

It should have been the greatest day of David's life. A trip to New York, wife by his side, to visit his new publisher. Finally, after years of lonely struggle it looks as though the gods of fate are going to lift him from schoolteacher to writer. But on the way back to Penn station, a chance encounter changes all of that.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Glimpsed from the corner of your eye....

  • By Adam on 23-06-18

Glimpsed from the corner of your eye....

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

Reviewed: 23-06-18

A review of Michael Marshall’s “We are here.”

I first read Michael Marshall Smith, as he was then, over 10 years ago. He wrote powerful, original, imaginative science fiction; funny, tragic, and brilliantly written. Such work includes Spares, Only forward and One of Us. Then he started writing more in the thriller genre, dropping the ‘Smith’ part of his identity, and I read the ‘The Straw Men’ trilogy. These were horror-thrillers, the kicked that Thomas Harris kicked into orbit with ‘Man-hunter’ and ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ The horror, rather than the humanism and the humour of the earlier works, is what I remember.
And since then he appears to have stayed predominantly in the thriller genre. ‘We are Here’ has elements of that, and something new, urban fantasy of a Neil Gaiman flavour, with the occasional horror reference. This is territory that Stephen King and others have explored. Believe hard enough in someone, and they just might appear….
The story has a strong opening. A serial killer on the run reviews his career before burning burning to death in a motel room, apparently aided by the voice in his head that urged him to kill, now literally in the room with him.
Jump to an author on a trip to New York to meet his publisher. A chance bumping into a stranger in the street, not once but twice, unsettles him, especially when said stranger says ‘remember…’.
Are these incidents related. This made me eager to find out more. Then we move to an ex intelligence operative John Henderson, and his girlfriend Christine, who decide to investigate a complaint from one of Christine’s friends that she is being stalked. Again, we wonder about the connection.
And we are kept wondering for a very large section of the book. There is a very slow reveal. And unfortunately, a bit like me at 49, it gets very baggy in the middle. There appears to an urban sub culture, planning something, and there is a flavour of the supernatural about their affairs and how they are organised, with ‘corner-men’ and ‘journey-men’ and so on. This is what reminded me of Neil Gaiman. What are they? Ghosts? The recently departed? Some kind of other supernatural beings?
When the reveal comes you’ll either snort with derision and slam the book shut or keep going. I think most of you will keep going.
In the last quarter things hot up and there are some gripping set pieces where you genuinely don’t know what will happen. And horrible things do happen to good people. The chief baddie, Reinhardt, is a type of demonic gangster with apocalyptic plans. And I didn’t honestly know if they would be brought to fruition.
As it happens I still don’t. The novel ends in a tangle of unanswered questions. At one point there is a reference to a lot of deaths told in a few short sentences. Characters disappear, literally, in clouds of smoke. I honestly don’t think Michael Marhsall knew himself how to close. A shame, as this has has some cracking scenes and ideas, but they don’t really gel into a coherent whole. The characters are also incoherent and hard to realise imaginatively. I definitely did not have this problem with his earlier work.
The audio book is narrated in the dead pan, sardonic tones of the PI genre by Jeff Harding. His narration of the female characters grated a little, others have done this tricky feat a lot better.
Go with this if you are patient and appreciate novelists who take risks. There are definitely moments that will reward you, as there are ones that exasperate.

  • Kermode on Film

  • By: Mark Kermode
  • Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 17

Mark Kermode - the UK's pre-eminent film critic and cultural observer - delivers opinion, analysis and his trademark rants on all things cinematic. Presented with intelligence, humour and unrivalled depths of knowledge, Mark delivers a series of high profile interviews, compelling lists and must listen to reviews from the movieverse. The Kermode On Film cinema presents a rich and varied bill of cinematic entertainment.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent - Will there be more?

  • By Rwfbreen on 09-05-18

Good stuff. Want more.

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

Reviewed: 22-05-18

As a long term listener of the Kermode and Mayo Five live 'Wittertainment' radio show, I was looking for a shorter, sharper fix of the Doctor's critical wisdom. He is funny, wise and an insightful commentator. Here we get a range of show formats:
* 'Listomania;' as it sounds, an exploration of various movie themed lists, including for example John Hurt's best films, Jesus films, etc.
* One on one interviews with e.g. Barry Jenkins, Duncan Jones
* Hell's Video Store (my favourite): really humdingers of rotten tomatoes
* 2001 films you must see before you die: as it sounds
* And some shows that were recorded live at the BFI, with various guests.

It's a good mix of formats, which keeps things fresh. They are bite size, 25 minutes in length, more digestible perhaps than the epic 2 hour Five live shows, and more focussed on movies.
But at 15 shows this is a short run, these formats could run for much longer. How else are those 2001 films going to be covered? So, hoping we'll get more.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Doctor Who: Survival

  • 7th Doctor
  • By: Rona Munro
  • Narrated by: Lisa Bowerman
  • Length: 3 hrs and 51 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9

The Doctor brings Ace home to Perivale - but on a summer Sunday it seems the least lively place in the universe. All the members of Ace's old gang have gone away - each one disappeared. What is killing the domestic pets of Perivale? Who are the horsemen whose hoofprints scar the recreation ground? Where have the missing persons been taken? Is the Doctor stepping into a well-prepared trap - and if so, can it be the work of the Doctor's old adversary, the Master?

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Feeling feline

  • By Adam on 22-05-18

Feeling feline

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

Reviewed: 22-05-18

Where as I’ve never seen Survival, the audio book made a great holiday listen, and if you are a fan of Doctor Who, especially the Classic series, and thrice especially the Target novelisations, this is something of a poignant treat. Poignant because Survival is both the final serial of the 26th season and also the final story of the entire original 26-year run of the Doctor Who. The story was first broadcast in three parts, weekly, from 22 November to 6 December 1989. The story contained a number of finals, the final regular television appearance of Anthony Ainley as the Master, of Sophie Aldred as Ace and the last regular television appearance of Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor.
The audio book is narrated by Lisa Bowerman, who played Karra, a ‘Cheetah-person’ in the tv Survival story, and has also voiced the New Adventures / Big Finish audio drama favourite Bernice Summerfield.
The book’s settings are, variously, Perivale in West London and a dying Alien world. We begin in West London, where the Doctor brings his companion Ace back to her home, Perivale, to catch up with family and friends. Other than Ace being in a real mood about the whole thing, something is very wrong (as it would be). People are disappearing. And a particularly feral black cat watches from teh sidelines, as does the Doctor’s most implacable foe…
It transpire that people are being chased by horse mounted ‘Cheetah-people’ into another dimension, where they run and hide or are killed by for sport by the same cat creatures. Worse, the planet itself is directing everything with a malign force that seeks to compel an accelerated Darwinian struggle and spread it to new worlds. Turns out the Master is stuck on the planet, and needs the Doctor’s help to escape…
The story has a number of characteristics typical of the show of this time. First, it is an original and pacy story. The show had not strayed into interminable story arc territory at this stage. It combines very domestic and familiar settings (London estates, suburbs, youth clubs, and so on) with alien worlds. It is full of the Seventh Doctor’s particular characteristics, the rolling, r’s, a kind but determined and persistent approach, and the familiarity of a trusted Uncle with vert eccentric habits. And the inter-play with Ace, extreme banter and a real bond.
It also has the casual and violent ends of quite a few minor characters (still a trope) that keeps dramatic tension high. You really don’t know who is going to make it (apart from the Doctor and hos companions. Companion death was still relatively rare.
The Master is a strong component in this story. He is thoroughly evil, some of his actions are wholly irredeemable, and yet darkly witty and engaging. We get some intriguing backstory of the Master and the Doctor’s shared story in this novelisation as well
Lisa Bowerman’s narration is really well done. She is clearly enjoying herself, conjuring the 7th Doctor, Ace and others before our eyes, and that is infectious.

  • Collusion

  • How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House
  • By: Luke Harding
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Aris
  • Length: 10 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 147
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 124
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 123

A gripping exposé about the biggest political scandal of the modern era. Moscow, July 1987. Real-estate tycoon Donald Trump visits Soviet Russia for the first time at the invitation of the government. London, December 2016. Luke Harding meets former MI6 officer Christopher Steele to discuss the president-elect's connections with Russia. Award-winning journalist Luke Harding reveals the true nature of Trump's decades-long relationship with Russia and presents the gripping inside story of the dossier.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Devil's Bargain

  • By Adam on 14-02-18

The Devil's Bargain

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

Reviewed: 14-02-18

Luke Harding's journalism has given us a depressing but gripping take on one of the most blatant, brazen and frightening political twists of modern times: that Russia, based on it's existing cod war, KGB and espionage infrastructure has launched cyber war on the West, and, Manchurian Candidate style, installed its own puppet in the Whitehouse. One that fit a template they had for such a candidate: vain, paranoid, ultra-wealthy, and with powerful connections, and the media presence and warped charisma to gull a large percentage of the American presence.
The book alternates between recent events of Trump's candidacy and presidency, and the larger backstory of Russian politics and espionage. The characters range from the naïve and utterly stupid to the ruthless Machiavel. Guess which one is which. It's not Trump with his hand rammed up the puppet's hole and squeezing.
For the audiobook the Russian story can be at times confusing, those long Russian names crossing and criss-crossing can tax the short-term memory. But it is very much worth the effort.
Luke Harding writes with a ruthless objectivity, but he cannot hide his dismay and contempt for Trump his Presidency, those who have profited and helped bring it about, and the amoral ruthlessness of Putin. The narrator, Jonathan Amis, does a good job of switching between a clear, dry delivery and absolute incredulous disgust. The switch from one to the other is sometimes almost comical.
It's the more intellectual sibling of Fire and Fury.
Read, and pray for the light to dawn.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Fire and Fury

  • By: Michael Wolff
  • Narrated by: Michael Wolff, Holter Graham
  • Length: 11 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,800
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,484
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,465

The first nine months of Donald Trump's term were stormy, outrageous - and absolutely mesmerising. Now, thanks to his deep access to the West Wing, best-selling author Michael Wolff tells the riveting story of how Trump launched a tenure as volatile and fiery as the man himself. In this explosive audiobook, Wolff provides a wealth of new details about the chaos in the Oval Office.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A Whirl of Staff and Ideas

  • By Ricci on 22-03-18

Gossip powered current affairs

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

Reviewed: 14-02-18

So you want measured scholarly analysis of the Trump Presidency? You want a sober, analytical dissection of this political phenomenon? Look elsewhere.
Because this is high octane "wait 'til you hear this" gossip, delivered by someone who corners you at the bar with a manic gleam in their eye, flushed with excitement. You try to catch someone else's eye, to make your excuses and leave, but before you know it, you're hooked.
This is larger than life (or in a sane world a would be) American grotesque. Like some kind of film where maniacs seize the White House, and you scoff at the implausibility, but snuggle down to a guilty pleasure, because the writer knows what he's doing.
And I do think that at its core is truth. The direction of travel it tells is attested whenever we read a Trump tweet, or see him on the news. I'd love to dismiss the contents of this book as lurid tittle tattle. But that it is not wise. For the barbarians have breached the gates, and have their torches poised to burn down the city.
Michael Wolff tells a story that is a demonic retelling of the American dream. Donald Trump, surrounded by a crowd of sycophants, power brokers, machiavels and political mercenaries makes a bid for the Presidency. The book reveals that he would like to have lost, as does his wife, the beleaguered Melania. Most of the rest share the conviction that this candidacy is a doomed bid, but one that will bring victory in defeat: an enhanced brand of the wronged 'man of the common people' contender brought down by Crooked Hillary. Stocks will soar. Portfolios will go stellar. This sounds plausible. Just as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove looked horrified to have helped win Brexit, so the Trump team looked visibly stunned and aghast at their victory. Especially Melania. But once victorious, Trump convinces himself that maybe he is the best President ever, and his team resolve to salvage what they can, make the best of it, and rescue Trump from himself, variously.
So you'll be familiar with a lot of this book's revelations, which have been well reported. The diet cokes, cheeseburgers, two tv screens in the bedroom, manic rages, air of contempt in the staff, bloody infighting, treason, and more, is all there, told in dry and sardonic tones that occasionally break into open disgust.
There are insights in addition, less well reported, as to why, for example, Paul Ryan is so supine, and of some of the pressures, internal and external, that lead to Trump saying such breathtakingly stupid and beyond offensive things, the "good on both sides" when talking about death dealing fascists for example, and more, too much more.
Wolff also conveys the culpability of large sections of the media, that can't break out of the hyper-speed news cycle, can't dwell on anything long enough to let it breathe and cause the damage and concern it should do, before falling into Trump's trap and speeding onto the next beyond belief stupidity.
Steve Bannon plays a big part in proceedings. Obviously Wolff's principal source, the book paints a very vivid picture of him, and I think it does give him too much attention. The portrayal steers over too much into anti-hero or likeable rogue. No, he's a grotesque, eviscerated by even Trump, not worthy of so much attention. He literally has the last word in the book, and shouldn't.
That said, this is un-missable. Historians are going to have so much fun separating fact from fiction. Grab a copy, because events are moving fast.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The X-Files: Cold Cases

  • By: Joe Harris, Chris Carter, Dirk Maggs - adaptation
  • Narrated by: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, and others
  • Length: 4 hrs and 4 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,167
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,066
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,073

Based upon the graphic novels by Joe Harris - with creative direction from series creator Chris Carter - and adapted specifically for the audio format by aural auteur Dirk Maggs ( The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Alien: Out of the Shadows), Cold Cases marks yet another thrilling addition to the pantheon of X-Files stories. Featuring a mind-blowing and otherworldly soundscape of liquefying aliens, hissing creatures, and humming spacecraft, listeners get to experience the duo's investigations like never before.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • oh, how I missed it.

  • By evgenia on 18-07-17

I still want to believe...

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

Reviewed: 01-10-17

If you are new to the X-Files, welcome to a world where shape-shifting aliens bent on colonising the planet, various monsters and supernatural happenings are grist to the mill for our two dogged FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. The show aired ran for nine seasons from 1993 to 2002, spawned two follow up feature films, a recent new series in 2016, and various spin offs, novels and graphic novels.
This drama is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Joe Harris. Series creator Chris Carter provided creative direction, and it was adapted specifically for this audio format by Dirk Maggs, who has been behind the excellent ‘Alien’ audio dramas on Audible.
And what a fantatsic listen it is. I loved the show for at least it’s first three seasons, before losing patience with the patchy quality of the stories and the increasingly convoluted story arc, where someone revealing things like, “actually, I’m really your father” became increasingly eye-rollingly familiar and ridiculous. However, when the show was on form it was really on form, with scary, original monsters (remember Tooms?), an epic feel and knuckle chewing cliff-hangers.
This drama feels like those earlier, show stopping episodes. The mystery is back and it’s a successful re-boot, scary, thrilling and fun. The original cast of Mitch Pileggi, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are back and clearly enjoying what they are doing, which is completely infectious. Also get ready for the return of William B , Davies, literally resurrected as Spender, or Cigarette Smoking Man. That familiar voice of quiet, genial menace together with the rustling packet of Morleys will bring a huge grin to any fan. Get ready also for many familiar names, monster, bad guy and good guy. I won’t spoil them all here, but warring alien factions, shape-shifters, and a certain black oil feature. It’s like a roll call of the original shows’ greatest hits, and yet it is testament to the writing and production that this never feels contrived. When each familiar face took the stage, I felt like cheering.
I loved this, and can’t wait for the follow up due next month.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The King's Justice

  • By: Stephen Donaldson
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 3 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 20
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 16
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 16

Stephen Donaldson devoted many years to his epic creation, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Now he is back with an all new novella - 40,000 words of richly imagined fantasy with beautiful world building and intense characterisation. The perfect listen for existing fans and new listeners alike. A man on a horse, confident in his powers but alone, rides a long and lonely road through rain-soaked woods. But he is on a path that he knows, and he is bringing much-needed justice with him.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A man rides in

  • By Adam on 08-10-16

A man rides in

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

Reviewed: 08-10-16

“The Kings Justice” is a fantasy novella of sorcerers, elemental forces, and good versus evil.

It begins with the enigmatic, cloaked figure who calls himself “Black” arriving at a small town settlement called “Settler’s Crossways.” He’s driven by a burning purpose that draws him on, a need to ensure that a terrible war between elemental forces is not repeated. He can smell evil, and Settler’s Crossway’s reeks of it. He gradually learns of the brutal murder of a small boy that has left the community stunned and reeling. What has this to do with his wider mission? Is someone or something attempting to conjure monstrous new elemental forces? What is the nature of “The King’s Justice” that the townsfolk have called for and how can Black deliver it?

This book is a rock hard diamond of compact storytelling. Not one word is superfluous, each syllable drives the story forward with a terrible urgency. In 119 pages it’s a masterclass in concentrated world-building. Donaldson’s Kingdom of elemental wars, Sorcerers, “Shapers” and “Shaped men” focused on a small community visited by a terrible evil has complete narrative integrity. Black is a familiar genre figure, the driven, cloaked and armed loner as an agent of justice. But the difference here is that he is a “shaped man,” covered with glyphs and sigils that can summon the elemental magic he strives to keep in balance in his world.

The tale’s examination of wider themes of good and evil does not stop at cliche. They are powerful and transcendent. The evil here is not just a fuming Dark Lord, but crimes of the most appalling violence that unfortunately we are all to familiar with in our own world. Donaldson writes compellingly of the effect of these crimes on those most closely affected, such as a grieving father. The powers of goodness are described are not twee or completely overshadowed by the evil as in some current popular fantasy series, but compelling and redemptive. Donaldson starts by having a his hero describe a reductive worldview where the world and all its elemental forces are all there is,(substitute these forces for science and our world and you’ll get the idea), and then transcends it as Black and those around him experience much more.

This is narrated by the excellent Scott Brick. His reading has a contained, driven passion that completely suits the tale.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • 11.22.63

  • By: Stephen King
  • Narrated by: Craig Wasson
  • Length: 30 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,952
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,782
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,773

What if you could go back in time and change the course of history?11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot - unless.... King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 - from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill who becomes the love of Jake's life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Return to top form

  • By John on 14-12-11

The obdurate past

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

Reviewed: 01-01-14

King's time travel tale is a triumph on many levels; as science fiction horror, as an intriguing 'what if' tale and as a plunge into American history and the American psyche.
King has stated that he started this in the 70's and stopped it because of the huge amounts of research involved. He came back to it later in his career with the help of a researcher, and we can be glad he did.
Jake Epping is an English college tutor in a rut. His marriage to an alcoholic has derailed. He is frustrated and uninspired by his job as a teacher. Then, one day, grading an assignment whereby a college janitor recalls a terrible atrocity, he’s launched on a chain of events that culminates in Jake Epping attempting to change the course of American history. He receives a call from a local diner owner who has discovered a time portal in his pantry (stay with this) leading back to the US of the early 60's. Treating it first as a holiday, the diner manager realises the potential it has to avert the Kennedy assassination. He is stopped by lung cancer, but he passes his notes and mission to Epping, who decides to use the janitor's family atrocity as a trial run. If he can change that without a dreadful effect to the present, he reasons, he can proceed to try and stop one Lee Harvey Oswald...

The novel proceeds in a series of acts. The introduction to the present and the time travel mechanism and the US of the 60's; The early attempts to change history culminating in a Hellish scene at the janitor's family home; A large pastoral section where Epping (calling himself George Amberson) falls in love with early 60's America and with a young librarian called Sadie. Then there are investigations into Oswald and an attempt to eliminate the possibilities that he did not act alone; Then the dramatic day itself, 11/22/63 in Dallas.
Then there is a fascinating and horrifying ‘What If’ scenario when Amberson/Epping goes back down the 'rabbit hole' to see how his actions have affected the present (2011). Then he attempts to reverse the damage caused...
This is one epic novel, and whether you persist with it will depend on your patience with the sizeable 'pastoral' section of an ideal America and an ideal romance. Amberson realises that there is a much myth as romance, and the novel does not downplay the ugliness of this era of America (segregation, racism legitimised by Christianity, pollution etc.), but still he falls in love with the past and the woman, and his work as a teacher, forging relationships with colleagues and students, putting on plays etc. does weigh the main drama down. But it does not ruin the narrative, as King is always ready to point out the shadows at play and the storm gathering in Oswald's personal history and the national history of America.

There are some fascinating ideas; the obdurate past, fighting at attempts to change it through seeming accidents and frustrations, the mystery of the 'green card men' guarding the port-holes and attempting to prevent damage being done, different timelines colliding and tangling, a Hellish 'what if ' present that is a fascinating exercise in history by itself. The horror, not being constant but played in a series of blinding set pieces trough the novel, is utterly chilling. As usual King's most effective monsters are the human variety; Alcoholic husbands’ destroying their family with a sledgehammer; Horrifying matriarchs manipulating and damaging their children (as with Oswald's Mum), and Oswald himself, a scared and damaged kid who is also a prissy and pompous agitator and wife beating and President killing monster.
Thankfully the novel does not respect ridiculous conspiracy history, although acknowledges its impact on our collective imagination. King states in an afterword that the killing of Oswald means that the truth will never definitively be known, and so conspiracy springs up in the gaps.

Kudos also to Craig Wasson's fantastic narration. He nails King's sardonic wit, and he shows brilliant and smooth character acting in the inflections he gives to different roles.

This is an immersive, fascinating tale, one of King's best. Seek it out.