An Audio-Book Review: Barbara Jean Truly Rises Above It

Jeannie Out of the Bottle

By Barbara Eden and Wendy Leigh

Published by Random House Audio

Read by Barbara Eden

 

The Book:

I read/listen to a lot of science fiction and fantasy so every once in a while it’s nice to take a break and listen to something else. This time it was Barbara Eden’s autobiography, which I have to say I found a charming experience, e4specially since Ms. Eden read the book herself.

On the off chance any of my readers do not know, Barbara Eden was the star of the hit TV sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie in which NASA Astronaut, Major Anthony Nelson finds an old bottle on a beach out of which Jeannie appears to serve him, whether he believes it or not. The show was one of the better sitcoms of its period and possibly a major reason why there have been so many such programs even though very few ever had the staying power of Jeannie.

The book details Ms. Eden’s life from the time she chose to learn how to act. She tells how she lived and worked in her early days in Hollywood, playing bit roles as a contract player for Twentieth Century Fox and her memories of various other actors and actresses of the period including Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Elvis Presley, Ann Sothern, Groucho Marx and more. Throughout she is never nasty in her memories even in cases when she did not get along with the others and, by and large, I got the impression that she genuinely respected and was in awe of so many of the acting greats she met along the way, even after she too became a star.

Naturally she spends a fair amount of time discussing what went on behind the camera on I Dream of Jeannie with many anecdotes about co-star Larry Hagman (who later went on to greatness as J. R. Ewing on the hit drama series, Dallas) and their other co-stars and guests on the show.

Her stories are amusing and touching, but none will touch you as much as her memories of her stillborn child with her first husband Michael Ansara, of her failed second marriage to an abusive drug addict, the loss of her mother and the death of her adult son.

Throughout, Ms. Eden retains her charm and her optimistic outlook. This is not only a good book for those who love to read autobiographies and stories about actors, but it also has a solid, uplifting message about how to face adversity.

 

The Audiobook:

No one could read Barbara Eden’s story better than she can herself. Throughout the book she speaks directly to the reader, and the experience gets more direct as she reads the words directly to the listener. That she is a fine actress is without a doubt and perhaps she was just acting as she read the book, but I don’t think so. Her acting experience gives her the poise to read well, but my feeling is that her reading was not acting at all, but her true feelings as though she were in the room talking to each listener one-on-one.

The book was a delightful experience to listen to and my only complaint is that it was not twice as long.

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An Audio-Book Review: Beedee beedee! The Return of Buck Rogers

The Airlords of Han

By Philip Francis Nowlan

Published by Librivox

Read by Alan Winterrowd

 

The Book:

Anthony (later called “Buck”) Rogers is back in the sequel to Armageddon 2419 A. D. The story pretty much continues where the first one left off but now the Han, those Oriental occupiers of New Yok and other parts of America. Sadly, it is hard to see this original version of Buck Rogers as the same adventurer of the serials, although at least Twiki the robot does not appear anywhere in the story.

Actually, in spite of name similarities the original Rogers has nothing in common with the TV series of 1979-81 and while a lot of adventurous stuff goes on in this story, so much of the excitement gets lost in the telling. Perhaps it is the fact that it is all told in the first person past (I did this, then I did that) but with very little emotion. In fact much of the time I kept waiting for the real action take place as so much of it seemed to have taken long before.

Also Mister Nowlan got all bogged down with trying to explain details that were not entirely necessary and ran into flashbacks that Rogers himself only learned about long after the story took place… and telling a story in the future about how something that happened in the past to someone else does little to push the plot although that was not the only confusing bit of exposition. That part involved his wife, Wilma and could have been told better and more directly later when the she actually comes to his rescue.

The pacing of the story is uneven and clumsy. Just as something starts to happen we suddenly pause to have a whole chapter on the technology of the Han invaders. This is followed by an equally long and rather boring chapter on American technology of the 25th Century. It all read like a magician actually telling us how he does his tricks. Frankly we don’t need to know the minutia of how the future tech works and, in fact, he goes into such detail as to make it unbelievable. He’d have done better to leave out most of the details and let his readers make of the rest for themselves. Certainly that part of the story would have stood up better in the long run. As it is, both Americans and Han would have a hard time holding off a band of 21st Century middle school science students since their so-called advanced technology seems a bit primitive now.

Once we are finished drowning in bad SF tech, we are treated to a verbose, but bland discussion of Han sociology and then finally we get back to a bit of action in which Rogers, having been taken prisoner of the Han, is not only given several guided tours of the Han City, New Yok (and don’t think that pronunciation wasn’t annoying!) but is then told of their plans for how to survive the current American attack. Why? Because the bad guy is required by law to tell the hero everything he needs to know to defeat the bad guy? If I want a bad guy going on about his fiendish plot, I’ll watch Phineas & Ferb’s Dr. Doofenshmirtz expostulate to Perry the Platypus. In comparison, Doof is an organized and intelligently crafty fellow.

Anyway, once Rogers and Wilma are back together they managed to use their Swoopers and Airballs to exterminate the Han in a happy ending… if genocide is a happy ending. But wait! There’s more. In an appendix to the story, Nowlan reveals that the “Mongolian” Han (who I thought were actually Chinese – Back, after over 1700 years… It’s the all new Han Dynasty! But no…) were actually hybrid people who were the offspring of aliens who bred with Tibetans. Yeah? Seriously? Why? Not only does this make no sense whatsoever, even by the known science of the time it was written (keep in mind the definition of species), but the explanation not only has no bearing on the story and explains absolutely nothing.

In all, this was a very disappointing story, no wonder the TV series had a mouthy robot!

 

The Audiobook:

I’m sorry, but Alan Winterrowd puts in a performance only slightly better than mediocre. That might not be his fault since the writing itself is so dire, but I have listened to other bad stories that were read by excellent readers who, somehow got me to enjoy listening to them and if this were a better story, I would probably have given Mister Winterrowd more credit for the work he put in. However it’s a poorly written story and the reader fails to bring anything to it, although it is hard to say if anyone could have done better. Perhaps this was just a matter of the wrong (or right) reader for the very much wrong story.

In any case, it’s not a great story, although the events obviously were adaptable to the screen, they make for exciting viewing, but old Buck just does not tell the story well, I guess.

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An Audio-Book Review: Semper Fi on the Galactic Rim!

The Empire’s Corps

By Christopher Nuttall

Published by Podium Publishing

Read by Jeffrey Kafer

 

The Book:

If you like military fiction, you’ll like this book, I am sure. The fact that it is set in the future when Mankind’s empire fills the Galaxy does not really change that, at its heart, this is a story about Marines. The science fiction setting is just a veneer. A setting in which these Terran Marines can do what Marines do best.

Okay there are a few differences such as the fact that Captain Stalker’s unit (Stalker’s Stalkers) has both men and women serving side-by-side with their male counterparts in battle situations. I like the fact that while that is presented as a situation of complete equality between the men and women, no one comments on it, not even to admit that once on a time it was not done that way. That, I think is what gender equality is supposed to look like. In Nuttall’s Terran Marines, you either are or are not a Marine. Gender has no bearing on the matter. There is no debate on whether a woman can stand up to the physical standard of being a Marine. If she is a Marine, she obviously can and does.

However, I feel that Mister Nuttall fell into a few cliché traps along the way. I don’t care if every sergeant in the world has the line “Don’t call me ‘Sir,’ I work for a living!” permanently burned into his (or her) brain. (Seriously, by now who has never heard that in a movie or TV show at least twice?) It would have been nice not to have it trotted out in the obligatory boot camp scenes… along with recruits calling him “Sir,” which I guess does happen in spite of it being shown in every TV Show and movie about military training, but I guess my real complaint was in using the cliché Marine training scenes in the first place. Was he trying to stretch the story out to novel length? I’m fairly sure it would have made it anyway and there really was nothing I had not seen in everything from the original Sergeant Bilko to Stripes and a dozen times, at least, since then too.

Not that following the recruits was not completely wasted. As this is the first book in a series about space marines, it is important to show what training is like and following the recruit named Michael was a good way to delve into the thought processes of recruits as they become Marines, it’s just that I think some of the same old lines and situations might have been avoided or at least glossed over for the sake of the story if not realism.

The rest of the story: After a disastrous mission, Stalker’s unit is transferred to Avalon, a Camelot-theme-named world as far from Earth as they can get. It is not an easy posting as the local government is corrupt, whose leaders are intent on keeping the population in permanent debt to them. Meanwhile there are revolutionaries seeking to topple that government, which as corrupt as it is, is still the legitimate government. And then there are the bandits, preying like vampire vultures on everyone they can, and are frequently in the pay of the government. Somehow Stalker and his men and women must find a way to save Avalon from itself while the Empire itself seems on the verge of collapse.

Well, obviously the marines have to win, because if they don’t it is going to be a very short series. How they get there is an interesting enough story once it gets past the obligatory clichés in the second half of the book. My only other complaint were on the bits where point of view moved away from the marines, the Sadomasochistic/B&D attitudes from the bandits were particularly unpleasant and felt like they were thrown in gratuitously. We know the bandits are bad guys. We don’t need to live in their foul fantasies. Fortunately such interludes were few and far between, but really added nothing to the story.

However, like I said above, if you are a fan of military fiction, this should be right up your alley even if you do not normally read science fiction.

 

The Audiobook:

Jeffrey Kafer reads the book well. No funny voices, no over-acting, just a good solid reading style. To tell the truth, unless I reminded myself to listen to him, I did not really notice his reading, which is not a bad thing. It meant he was careful not to upstage the story itself and gave the story exactly what it needed to be told.

If I had to describe the style of reading… and I guess I do… I would say that Mister Kafer reads this book as though it were a military report. That might sound could and emotionless – it is not – but it does match the characters well. So whether this is his usual reading style, I cannot say, but it works fine for this story.

So, it’s a pretty good story with a pretty good reader. Enjoy!

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An Audio-Book Review: Back to Landover

The Black Unicorn

By Terry Brooks

Published by Brilliance Audio

Read by Dick Hill

 

The Book:

This is the second book in Brooks’ Magic Kingdom of Landover series. Ben Holiday has been in Landover for over a year now so he can legally return to Earth without negating the contract that allowed him to buy the magic kingdom. That was when Ben had a deeply disturbing dream that his former partner, Miles, was in trouble. When the other members of his court turn out to have had strong dreams of their own, Ben decides he must return to Earth to make sure Miles is okay.

However the dreams turn out to be a trap, allowing one of Ben’s enemy, Meeks, to return to Landover almost literally on Ben’s coat tails. On Ben’s first night back he awakes to find Meeks gloating over him having cast a spell that switches their appearances and having taken the medallion that summons the Paladin, the protector of Landover. Now Ben finds he is an outcast, recognized only by his worst enemies and without the help of the Paladin to make it all right again.

The story is not particularly deep and , at times, feels more like fantasy by the numbers as though Mister Brooks had a check list; Evil Wizard… check, Wicked Witch… check, evil Dragon… check. Good Guy King… check, Good Wizard… check, Comic-relief Little People… check, Man permanently transformed into a dog… check. Woman who periodically becomes a tree… check and so forth. Even the situations are pretty much predictable and with the somewhat blatant clues a new character called the Prism Cat keeps dropping it is hard to believe that Ben doesn’t figure out how to fix it all by the end of the third chapter. Certainly the readers should have.

However in spite of predictability, it is mindless literature and if you have been reading too many hard core fantasies lately this might be a nice change of pace. However if you are the sort of reader who likes their mind challenged, find something else. There is nothing challenging to the intellect here. This is the fantasy equivalent of a Slushy Romance novel without the benefit of having Fabio on the cover, although in some editions, the depiction of Willow is eye-candy for the fan-boys.

 

The Audiobook:

Dick Hill did not do a bad job reading this story, but I could not help but think he was trying too hard. This became especially obvious as the story reached the climax. Everything was read as though it was of the most mind-shattering importance and as though we really were supposed to be surprised and feeling Ben’s agony even more than he did. It was over the top and a less emotional reading of the narrative passages might have been better. It certainly would have highlighted what Ben was going through better. Maybe I’m wrong there, but considering I saw where the story was going long before it got there, the attempt at dramatics just hit me the wrong way. Actually my reaction was that Ben needed Leroy Jethro Gibbs on hand to slap him upside the head every time his so-called logic led him in the obviously wrong direction.

Fortunately the dramatic passages were almost all near the end because I would have been exhausted had I been expected to sit on the edge of my seat throughout the entire reading.

So I found this to be a passable, but mediocre story and while the reader technically gave the full emotional gambit to the text as he read it, it was too much for me and my most satisfying moment of this story was when it came to an end.

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An Audio-Book Review: Into the Soul-Sucking Darkness of Space!

Across the Sea of Suns

By Gregory Benford

Published by The Library of Congress- National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Read by Gary Tipton

 

The Book:

I really wanted to like this story, but I suppose that they cannot all be gems, even when by an author you usually enjoy. It is hard to say where this one went wrong. It has a classic SF premise and some good hard science background and was written by a Nebula Award-winning author, but somehow it just did not come together for me.

Maybe part of the problem is that because I was listening and not reading it was very hard to figure out what was going on since the location seemed to flash back and forth between Earth and an interstellar ram-scoop ship and the worlds it visited without any real warning. I kept thinking to myself, “Where the heck are we know? Is that ship large enough to have trees growing on board and taxies to take people from one place to the next?” Well, no, it just means I missed yet another scene transition and when I flipped back it turned out not to be an obvious to hear one. Very confusing, but I will be the first to admit that books are written to be read, not necessarily listened to. However a well-written book should not suffer when read aloud.

The first clue I had that this was not a book that adapted well to audio format was when some mysterious signals arrived from the stars and the reader was force to read out several minutes of the code. If I was supposed to listen to it and figure out what it meant before the character did, I’ll freely admit I was tuning it all out and waiting for the text to get back to something in English. It probably would have made more sense if read, but then I did have trouble even then. It turned out the message was a hodgepodge of Earthly words in a variety of languages, although why the person figuring it out should just assume they were words in Earthly languages is beyond me. It should have made as much sense as Hieroglyphics did before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, or as much sense as Mycenaean Linear B did before someone finally realized it was Greek. Admittedly if took years of travel to the world of the signal’s origin before they realized that it was an extra-terrestrial repetition of “The Arthur Godfrey Show” in various languages.

The starship travels to a number of worlds at near-light speed and experiences too many modern SF clichés for no good reason, such as casual (and not-so casual) gender changing and some vague lip service to some social issues that might come about (such as a husband waiting years to tell his wife he was born a woman), but the issues are just as quickly dismissed and have nothing to do with the plot, leaving me to wonder why it is even there. Maybe it becomes important two or three books later? Or maybe not?

And then we have the machine civilization that is bent on destroying organic life. I hope that in some book, Mister Benford gets around to explaining how the machines came about since they seem to exist in this story without any trace of an original lifeform to have created and programmed them (I assume they are self-aware and self-programming now, or, at least some are). And meanwhile some of their agents are on Earth causing problems that result in nuclear war which the starship hears about nine years after the fact (My bet is that there ought not to be much of Earth left by the time they get back, if they even bother to return). I did wonder what sort of communications technology they had to hear a coherent signal nine light-years away, but then the natives of the first world they visited were Arthur Godfrey fans… sort of. I honestly wonder if a coherent signal of a radio show could actually be detected that far out and not lost in the interstellar background noise, but apparently the beings on that world are better than our own SETI.

What bothered me most though was an attempt at almost poetic metaphor sprinkled in here and there. That sort of thing should enhance the story, but in this case I felt it distracted from it instead. What can I say. The story had all the required elements, but even so, there was no chemistry.

 

The Audiobook:

It is not easy to assess a reader’s performance when you really do not enjoy the story. As in the first book of this series In the Ocean of Night, Mister Tipton turned in a good, if not an exceptional, reading. He avoids most of the funny voices and mispronunciations that frequently drive me up the wall. I know I do not usually mention when a reader picks a word, mispronounces it and then that word turns out to be repeated constantly in the text. Sometimes it turns out I have been saying the word wrong – I’m no more perfect than anyone and well… English is not predictable. And usually I have forgotten that in the midst of other flaws by the time I get around to writing a review.

However, Gary Tipton did NOT do that. He did vary his voice a bit and some of his vocalizations edged on annoying to me, but considering how hard it was to follow what was happening in the book when listening, that might be just as well. Like last time it was a good reading. It just did not sparkle.

So, to sum it up, this should have been a great book, but was not. Mister Tipton’s reading of it, however at least kept me from flinging it (and half a dozen other digitized books) out my car’s window.

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An Audio-Book Review: How Topical: a Political Rebellion

Catalina’s Riddle

By Steven Saylor
Published by Blackstone Audio
Read by Scott Harrison

The Book:

Once upon a time there was a politician. He was hated by his enemies and beloved by the trod-on masses who followed him even though, like his enemies he was one of the rich, elite class of the land. His enemies said he appealed to all that was worst of the common people, using their fears and hatreds to further his own greedy political goals. He was accused to making sexual advances to women regardless of the propriety of the time, place or person. His own words were used against him to show that he would betray his entire country to her international enemies and in fact his peers freely called him a traitor.

No, his name was not Donald J. Trump, although there are some parallels to be drawn.

It has been a while since I reviewed anything by Steven Saylor, not because I do not enjoy his stories, for the most part (in fact I enjoy most of them quite a lot), but because I had not been listening to them recently. Why not? Well, in my goal to produce one new review each week, I rarely have a chance to go back and listen to one of my old favorites. This book, which seems amazingly apropos to the current political climate in the USA is the third in Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series featuring the detective from the late Roman Republic, Gordianus the Finder.

In this book, Gordianus has retired from his work as a “Finder: and is now living on a fine Etruscan country estate, bequeathed to him by his old friend and patron Lucius Claudius. You might think that now that he is out of the back alleys and fora of Roma he might be able to settle back and enjoy life, but… Ha! That would make for a very boring story. Gordianus might be merely trying to improve and enjoy his inheritance, but his neighbors are all Claudians who not only resent the land going to a non-relative, but who each thought the land ought to have been given to them and at least one of them is actively trying to change that situation. Robert Graves’ in I, Claudius and the sequel repeatedly said that there were two types of apples that grew on the Claudian tree, the sweet and the crabs. Gordianus is surrounded by crabs. And yet, that is not the main story.

Gordianus’ old friend and sometimes employer pays him a visit to enlist him in a plan that he hopes will keep that ancient Trump-clone under control. And who is this Trumpian menace? Lucius Sergius Catalina (also known as Cataline), who is currently running against Cicero for the Consulship of Rome. Cicero who represents all the finest people of Rome sees Catalina as a threat to national security and fears that his administration would not only destroy Rome, but Cicero suspects Catalina would fail to acknowledge Cicero as the winner if Catalina loses the election and that the he would raise up an army of the people in his attempt to take over the Republic. Does any of this sound familiar? (History scholars, put your hands down! J )

In any case, all Gordianus has to do is allow Catalina to stay at his farm when passing through. The problem is, Catalina seems like a pretty nice and charismatic guy and as the visits continue, Gordianus find himself liking Catalina who it appears like to pose riddles. However, when Catalina poses a riddle involving a headless corpse and then just such a corpse shows up on Gordianus’ farm, the Finder must solve Catalina’s riddle for the good of the Roman Republic.

It’s a very good story and I recommend it to devotees of both historical fiction and mysteries alike.

 

The Audiobook:

Once again Scott Harrison turns in a very listenable performance and one that fits Gordianus’ character perfectly. I said in an earlier reviews that sometimes it seems like all ancient Romans speak with a British accent and while I realized that was because so many books by or about them seem to be read (or enacted) by British actors. To my very Yankee ear, the British theater accent used sounds right because to me it sounds like the way a Roman patrician might speak if he or she spoke English. It sounds rich. However Gordianus is a plebian and the more American (and common to me) accent of Scott Harrison fits him better. Of course, I like this book enough that I would probably enjoy it if the reader was British, but I’m very glad to have this recording of the book.

An enjoyable booj with an equally enjoyable reader.

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An Audio-Book Review: Don’t Steal (or Buy) this Book!

The Rapture of the Nerds

By Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross

Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Read by John Lee

 

The Book:

Some time ago I wrote a review that was entitled “Listening Bad Books So You Won’t Have To.” I was referring to Edward G Bulwer-Lytton’s travesty of literature, The Last Days of Pompeii, which for some reason I am unable to understand has been adapted to various performance arts more often than it deserves. However, in spite of my disdain for the works of Bulwer-Lytton, that horrible book was a literary masterpiece when compared to The Rapture of the Nerds. Rarely have I encountered such a sloppily written, badly paced and intellect-insulting read.

The whole thing is a tale of post-singularity world after many humans have chosen to upload themselves to the cyber-world and those left on Earth are either technophobes or just flat-out crazy… No I take that back, they are all flat-out crazy. There are no good excuses.

It is hard to know where to begin on critiquing this book, but let’s start with the beginning. The authors somehow believed that the best way to introduce a possible future world is to throw the readers under a bus. No not literally, that might have been better, but instead we are thrust into a nonsensical tsunami of bad science fiction clichés and stereotypes without even the life preserver of a single familiar fixture from the past from which to translate the differences between their fiction and the world we live in now. Something, anything would have helped, but instead they went out of their way to twist their world out of all possibility, frequently throwing out a term that sounds familiar but turns out to be just the opposite or at least have little to no relationship to Twenty-first Century meaning.

After a while, the reader starts to get the notion that everything they know is wrong or that the authors just don’t care. Indeed as new facets of their world come to light I could not but help think they were making it all up as they went along, which is a horrible way to invent a new world, that sort of thing needs to be planned if you want a coherent fictional world. I will not say this world was not planned from start to finish, but if so, there should have been more thought put into it rather than jamming in various clichés into a soft bit a verbal Playdoh expected to hold them all together. So when reading, you do not really ever have a firm grasp on the sort of world these people are living in, especially in the final section which mostly takes place in cyberspace. The reader does, from time to time get a grasp on the shape of the world only to have it kicked out from under their feet a moment later. That can be effective, but was just tiring in this case and frequently did nothing to enhance the story.

The characters are a malleable as the landscape, though. We get a hint of that when the authors slip in that a person can change their gender on a whim and frequently do as easily (and in the same room) as they brush their teeth. It is predictable that eventually the main character, Huw (pronounced Hugh or Hue) would undergo a change of gender too. Well, why not? It’s been a common SF theme for as long as I’ve been reading so while it is hardly an original theme. Actually there are examples of sex-change in stories going back to the ancient world so in some ways it’s a tired old notion, but then there really wasn’t any feature of the fictional world I found new or original. And, even more disappointing, gender makes absolutely no difference on the characters, other than wearing different clothing they barely notice they have suddenly “changed teams” so to speak. I suppose that is a good way to say that people are people and that gender is only a distraction, which I can agree with most of the time, but if that is the message it gets lost in the haze. No, the only difference is figuring which pronoun to use depending on when one is talking about Huw.

The story is full of pop-culture references that were frequently out of place or inappropriate or just plain distracting. I really could have lived without the constant references to other authors’ SF and fantasy series. There were so many it felt as though they were thrown in to stretch the story out to a required length.

My recurring impression was that the authors were bullies and just wanted to shove me around to make me miserable for their own enjoyment. It’s a shame when an author doesn’t appreciate the fact that their readers are. Ultimately, the source of their income.

Okay, so it’s a hodge-podge whirlwind of a kludged-up world. One could argue that if you tossed a copy of any 2016 New York Times mainstream bestseller at a book club in 1916 they would have just as much trouble understanding the world within it as I did with this book, but the difference if that the 2016 book would have been written for a 2016 audience and not one living a century earlier. However, let’s put aside my rants about the world the story takes place in. I won’t even go into the details of the haphazard way in which the plot was stitched together so badly even Doc Frankenstein would not have bothered to try reviving it.

How many times can you drop the “F-Bomb” before the whole story blows up? Certainly less often that what I went through here. Why do some authors think that swearing is a sign of sophistication? Too many I fear. Don’t give me the argument that that is how real people talk. Maybe you do, maybe the authors do. I do not nor do most of the people I hang out with unless they get very angry, but in this case Huw and almost everyone else at the start of this book use the F-word as though it is a vitamin and they are desperate to get their recommended daily minimum dosage of it. Every page, especially in the first two sections of the story has a scattering of F-bombs as though the authors placed them with a pepper shaker. Were they trying to make the word just so much meaningless noise? If so, they succeeded especially since even the narrative passages used the word which is just very bad and sloppy writing. There is never a reason for a third person narrator to swear. Never.

I also found their tendency to write this sloppy story in the third person present tense (as in “Huw takes a drink and then goes to wash his ‘effing’ hands”) somewhat distracting, but then I was taught to write such passages in the past tense. I’ll let that one go since with all the other flaws, that was a mere annoyance.

Is this story supposed to be a parody? A satire? If so, it very much missed the mark. There are one or two moments that I did find amusing, but none of it was thought provoking, at least it did not provoke any thoughts other than wondering how much longer it was going to go on.

Now I know that this book has received positive reviews. I don’t know why, but it has and if forced to guess I can only hazard that the authors made good use of the old adage, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bulls**t.”

The Audiobook:

It is hard, sometimes, to review a reader’s performance when the subject matter is so jarringly offensive, but I am sorry to report that John Lee’s reading could have been much better. To give Mr. Lee his props, He does seem to have a vast supply of different accents, although nearly all of them are so thick you need a machete to get through them.

Huw, for example, is supposed to be Welsh. I had trouble hearing him as Welsh, but perhaps the accent is accurate and the few people I have met from Wales were the exceptions. Certainly his constant whining made it hard to pin that accent down. But when in Tunisia, the accents, while vaguely Middle Eastern occasionally sounded like they were slipping over to India for a brief vacation and the accents in South Carolina =ranged back and forth between Alabama and Texas, but never quite reached the East Coast.

I think Mr. Lee might have done far better not to use the heavy accents. Just reading the story might have made it easier to swallow. Maybe I’m wrong there. His performance is not the worst part of this book and even the finest reader could not have saved what turned out to be an excruciating experience of story-telling gone wrong. I only listened to the whole thing because of my policy not to review a story I have not listened to completely. I did it, so now you won’t have to.

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