An Audio-Book Review: What Am I This Week?

A Miracle of Rare Design:
A Tragedy of Transcendence

By Mike Resnick

Published by Audible Frontiers

Read by Adam Verner

 

The Book:

I do not recall reviewing one of Mike Resnick’s books before, but I have read a lot of them and A Miracle of Rare Design is yet another in the long series set in Resnick’s future history. In fact it is Book #21 in his “Birthright“ series which includes the various “Tales of the Velvet Comet,” “Tales of the Galactic Midway,” “Legends of Santiago,” his “Starship” series, several novels that are thinly veiled versions of the histories of various African nations and a bunch more.

I’ve found that many of Resnick’s books are episodic, reading more like several novelettes and short stories stitched together until long enough to publish, although usually with a central theme that keeps it all cohesively built. This one is pretty much the same. Xavier William Lennox is a human writer known for intentionally placing himself in danger in order to write books about the natives of other worlds. He finally goes too far and intentionally goes into a sacred area and in retribution the people of that world maim him, blind him and leave him for dead. He is rescued just in time, but it is a near thing, his recovery is slow and he is left blind and without fingers and… (I forget what else is missing, but he is a mess).

In steps a member of one of the many governmental departments who hires him to go back to that world, only this time he will be transformed by radical surgery into one of the natives. Genetically, I imagine he is still human, but his metabolism, senses, abilities and even tastes and ability to digest foods are completely like those of the natives. This, by itself, I thought, was the grist for a long novel, especially since one of the great mysteries, seen by Lennox before he was caught, involved the voluntary suicide by some of the natives, who jumped off the top of a tall pyramid. The natives have vestigial wings, but they are not large or fast enough to fly and those who jump off that holy place invariable die on impact. He is mystified as to why anyone would do such a thing… Apparently, he has never heard of religious hysteria, although that explanation is never offered in the story.

Now, in the form of one of the natives, he is accepted among them although the shaman instantly sees through the surgical disguise, which he sees as a holy transformation. Lennox’s main mission is to set up trade between the natives and the colonial humans. Once that is done, Lennox remains for a time, still trying to understand the great mystery of the Pyramid, but eventual is convinced that as a human he could never understand.

Following that he is transformed again and again for various other missions and eventually chooses how he will spend the remainder of his life.  It was an entertaining story, but I kept waiting for Lennox to have an epiphany and come to understand why those first aliens were pyramid jumping. That never happens and for that reason I was dissatisfied with the story as a whole. So much was made of this mystery on the first world we see Lennox on that we are invested in finding the answer with him only to have it turn out to be of no value to the story. The thing is, Lennox did not have to have the correct answer. He could even have had several answers all of which made sense to him at various times but not later, but no. The answer was that you had to be one of those people to truly understand. That might be true in real life, but makes for a flawed story. Too bad, really, because it was a nice story otherwise.

 

The Audiobook:

Adam Verner reads this story well. Not too fast, not too slow. He varies his voice a bit for the different characters but not enough to be annoying, although I found Lennox’s voice to be a on the edge of annoying, but not quite over that edge. It was not a fantastic reading, but it was a good solid reading that, at times, I think we could use more of.

So, it’s an okay book that many readers ought to enjoy so long as they don’t mind being told (with the subtlety of a sledge hammer) there are some things they are not meant to know and the reading of is pretty good too.

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Posted in Audio Books, Books, Mike Resnick, Science Fiction, SF | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

An Audio-Book Review: Yum!

A Morbid Taste for Bones

The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael – Book 1

By Ellis Peters
Published by Recorded Books
Read by Patrick Tull

 

The Book:

I have not actually watched any of the Brother Cadfael Mysteries on PBS but understood they were mysteries written in a Medieval setting and thought this might be a nice break from all the fantasies (possibly including the political tell-alls) I’ve been listening to lately. I was right.

I have to admit that for nearly half of the book I thought the only mystery was going to be whether or not the brothers of Cadfael’s monastery would manage to acquire a saint to move in with them (only the best abbeys have a resident saint, after all) and there are a lot of arguments made over why Saint Winifred (the Woebegone???) should be the one once they found her. On the whole the Prior of the abbey has a hard time trying to convince the local to let her go. The arguments against the monks having her are along the lines of, ‘Well, we’re Welsh. Sure, we pay her no really attention and let her grave go untended, but we’re Welsh. She knows us and what we are like and she knows we depend on her when we need to… We’re Welsh.” And so on. Really. I’m not making that up it all boiled down to the fact that the locals were Welsh and the monks (save for Cadfael it seems) were English. Admittedly, that’s a fairly believable reason right there, but the Prior wanted his saint and since, by definition, saints are always in short supply, it had to be poor Winnie. So, for almost half the book we are feasted on reasons why and how a saint could be translated (if that’s the right term) from one locale to another and forced to get through the long and unsuccessful negotiations for her until finally someone other than Winifred dies.

Am I taking this a little too lightly? Maybe a bit, but there are so many parallels between what happens in the first section of the book and the politics on our modern world that I decided not to dwell on those. Finally, however the local lord (the one who refuses to give up the bones of Saint Winifred) is killed under mysterious circumstances and the real mystery for Brother Cadfael begins.

Why Cadfael? Because unlike most of his fellows, He has not been a monk all his adult life. For him the monastery is a form of retirement. In his younger days he was a crusader, a womanizer, and so forth. In other words, he was a typical man, especially a man of his time, so while these days he may be more concerned with his herb garden, in this circumstance he is the only one with the life experience to solve the crime. It was not your standard sort of gumshoe detective sort of fair and I thought he did less investigating than I might have expected. It was more like, he just happened to be on hand as everything happened and thus turned out to be the one in the know.

I found the story interesting even if it did move fairly slowly until very near the end and if much of the action leading up to it was predictable, the ending was not and, in fact, I found it somewhat amusing. So, all told it was a satisfying read and a very nice change of pace.

 

The Audiobook:

Patrick Tull’s accents are not hard to understand but it did take me a chapter or two to get used to them. Actually, on having listened to it all, I doubt I would have enjoyed this as much if read in a standard Mid-western American accent. Mister Tull did an excellent job in subtly differentiating the characters and their voices and none had particularly funny-sounding ones so while it might have taken a bit for my ear to acclimate, I never cringed along the way.

So, all told, it was a good story read by a good narrator. I look forward to the next volume in the series.

Posted in Audio Books, Books, Ellis Peters, Mystery | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Legacy of a Misspent Youth

Back in the dim, dark days when dinosaurs made for the best computers to play games on, I was invited to be one of the play testers for “Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna.” That came about because the guy writing the scenario  for Sir Tech (Roe R. Adams III)  was someone I had met in the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (aka the SCA) and on learning that I enjoyed playing computer games and had especially enjoyed the first three games of that series… well, I think you get the picture.

Anyway, I play tested on an Apple IIc and did not manage to finish the game before the play-testing period was over because The Return of Werdna is arguably the ingeniously nastiest, most difficult and frustrating computer game ever to grace the world of gamers. (That’s a compliment, by the way).

I kept playing after it was released and eventually, my Apple IIc died and for a long time I was unable to play the game at all, having switched to a PC (and not wanting to go out and buy a new copy of the game – and actually I think, by then, it was no longer available in any normal venue – keep in mind that things like the World Wide Web and eBay were not yet a thing (hmm, perhaps the Web may have been, but I doubt there were any commercial sites yet… remember what I said about big scaly lizards two paragraphs ago.)

So a couple years ago I found I could download the game for free as it seems to have passed into the realm of abandonware (and if not, I probably owe Robert Woodhead a sushi dinner or something).  That time I managed to get out of the Dungeon (I was so close but was lacking the “Holy Hand Grenade of Aunty Ock” when I needed it during play testing and did not discover that until I played on the PC) and then life got in the way… like it does… and by the time I wanted to go back, I’d replaced the computer it was on (and like a dolt, I did not save the files when I transferred data over), so I still had not reached any of the endings other than dying a heck of a lot (and being thankful there was a save feature).

So, recently I decided to try again because I really did want to get to the ending and, well… I’m a sucker for that sort of punishment. Now if you want to try the game for yourself, find a nice virus-free web site you can download the game from and run it on a good DOS emulator (because this came out back in the days of Windows 1 or 2… if that). I recommend DFend Reloaded, by the way. A few years ago you might have had to load up DOSBox and then DFend and get them working  together (DFend was written as a front end to DOSBox and it was a pretty good one, but there could be issues), but the newer DFend Reloaded includes both so you can just install it and toss in the DOS programs you want to run. I would give better directions, but it is not hard to find more official ones. Use Google or Bing.

Anyway, so I , as Werdna, woke up dead yet again and started clawing my way upward and out of the dungeon. I remembered almost everything (actually I got all the essentials I was looking for) and finally started poking about Level 0 (aka the sleepy little hamlet of Llygamon known for the Training Grounds, Boltac’s Trading Post and a castle. All that took me a while, but if you’re looking for hints or a walk-through those are available too (this is a legendary game after all).

I blew though the House von Halstern squires easily, made the mistake of trying to shoplift at Boltac’s and then finally got around to  poking my nose around town. That’s when I got killed by myself.

Uh huh! I did not realize that Roe had written me into the game. Look here:

See that guy in the #1 spot. That’s me. In the SCA I am known as Yosef Alaric.

On modern machines the fight flashes past too fast to read it all, so I may not have been the cause of my own death that time around, since Baroness Elspeth cast a Tiltowait spell at me. The Tiltowait is described as having the power of a small nuclear explosion. I would take issue with that as a lot of attackers seem to just shrug it off, but hey, it’s a game, right? The shock was seeing my own name on the screen when I was not expecting it. (My real name, btw, is listed as one of the fifteen play testers in the official game manual, as close to immortality as I am likely to come… it lasted a little over 15 minutes, I think)

Oh sure if you have never heard of the East Kingdom of the SCA or have no acquaintance with some of the leading personalities in the latter half of the 1980’s, none of these names might by familiar, but just to show it is not a coincidence of names, you might see this screen if you come at them in a different manner:

I’m not in first place this time around, but I’m there. I won’t explain the joke, it would take too long, but for some reason Roe decided to make me a ninja. My friends in the Dark Horde may never let me live that down.

Anyway, I still have not finished the game, but I hope to soon.

 

Posted in Commentary, Games, Jonathan Edward Feinstein, Real Life, Wizardry | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

An Audio-Book Review: And the Award for Most Cliché Fantasy Title Goes To…

Demon Lord of Karanda

(Book 3 of The Maloreon)

By David Eddings
Published by American Printing House for the Blind
Read by Hal Tenny

The Book:
I recall when this book was first released in hard cover, I was fairly anxious to read it and carried my copy around with me so I could read during whatever spare moments I could find. I had enjoyed the series and its predecessor The Belgariad so far and while I never saw it as perfect, I did look forward to each volume as it came out. That title, though!
Try telling someone who only reads mainstream fiction and nonfiction that fantasy can be just as serious a form of literature as any other and then have them spot a book called “Demon Lord of Karanda” in your hand. Let’s face it, the title reads like a really bad movie; the sort Mystery Science Theater 3000 might riff on in their revived Netflix series. Some of the other titles in this series are nearly as bad; “Sorceress of Darshiva” coming in a lose second, but even that is not in the same class as “Demon Lord.”
Okay, the genre is filled with titles like this one, although you do not find a lot of them written after 1959.
The story, itself is still a fairly good one, but my complaint from the first two volumes of the series remains; there’s a lot of fluff to stretch on the series into five books that probably should have only been a trilogy. It sort-of reads like a classic lecture in which the speaker first tells you what you are going to hear, tell you what they just promised to tell you and then winds up by telling you what you actually heard. There’s a lot of repetition and a lot of needless travel scenes from one place to another which I did not really notice on my first reading but have subsequently.
There is also a lot of intended repetition of scenes from the first series although some of those repetitions are imperfect at best; one of the characters will think he sees a strong resemblance, that goes right by me even when pointed out at hurricane force.
There are a lot of scenes in which the characters just sit around wondering what to do next and, in some cases, working on amazingly convoluted, over-complicated and ultimately failed schemes for no particularly good reason. They alternate between “We must go now” and “Just sit back and wait, the prophecy will find a way to get us moving again when it needs us” and sometimes it is the same person saying those two conflicting things.
When the story is in motion, however, it is a pretty interesting story and if you just skim through the slow parts you are not going to miss much, but you might miss the one bit that allows all the rest to make some sort of sense. There are no Cliff Notes for this series, however. There are a few sites where you can read a detailed summary, but I think that’s worse than having to slog through the excess verbiage, and as I said, on first reading you may not notice it, so just sit back and enjoy the tale.

The Audiobook:
All told, Hal Tenny is not a bad reader, but I do have complaints. First of all, as I have said in the past, I don’t like all of his vocal depictions of all the characters. For example, take Silk, a.k.a. Prince Kheldar of Drasnia. He’s a spy and a private business man, amazingly unscrupulous (which kind of follows, I suppose, at least in fiction) and his favorite hobby is being a thief. Well, I could get into long and vicious debates over that characterization and maybe mostly because for Silk it is all one in the same. I might also get into trouble saying that theft is just a hobby for him or by not mentioning that he uses thievery as a means to both spy and do business. Regardless of what he is like, his face is described as being thin and rat or weasel-like. Because of that, Mister Tenny constantly makes him sound like a weasel with a thin and unpleasant voice, which makes it all the more mysterious that Silk’s fellow Drasnian, the younger and prettier spy, “Velvet” is in love with him. I know he sort of looks like a weasel, but never thought he sounded like one as well. If that was the only vocal choice I disagreed with I probably would not make an issue of it, but Hal Tenny seems to have a limited range of vocalizations and I frequently found myself wondering who was talking, especially when minor characters had dialogue, because many of them sound alike. Of course, part of that might be the author’s fault as well, but I was more noticing the same voices and not their words.
My only other real complaint comes from the way he pronounces some of the characters’ names (and some place names too, but less often). I will not claim that I am right and he is wrong. I honestly do not know but I found it odd that in names I chose to accent on the second syllable he accented the first and vice versa. That threw me off a lot, but I had to keep reminding myself that I honestly do not know how Eddings himself, pronounced them so maybe Hal was one hundred percent correct and I was wrong. Being wrong is something I do well – one of my greatest talents sometimes.
Other than that, the story in this middle volume is a pretty good one even if it does drag a bit and Mister Tenny’s reading, in spite of my gripes is better than many I have managed to endure.

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An Audio-Book Review: …and Loathing on Pennsylvania Avenue

Fear: Trump in the White House

By Bob Woodward

Published by Simon & Schuster Audio

Read by Robert Petkoff

 

The Book:

No sooner did I finally finish Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged when word of this book came out. Well, I downloaded it immediately on the day of publication and started listening. Given my publication schedule this may have become another forgotten book by the time this review comes out, but what the heck?

Btw, I promised this book would be the next I reviewed, but it took longer to listen to than expected and I forgot I had another queued up to release automatically.

For starters, I would have to have had my head under a rock, no… a whole pile of rocks, to have not heard or read others review and/or release tidbits from this book. As usual, most of them dragged out their data from the prologue and maybe the first chapter or two before the actual book was released. Since then other juicy bits have been discussed, although for the most part, there’s not a lot in here of real significance that we did not already know. I said the same thing in my review of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s book, Unhinged. The difference is that this time the author has a lot more credibility honed on decades of experience. Mister Woodward is a respected journalist who has been researching and reporting for a very long time. His books are only sensationalistic when they contain sensational information and he has not made a habit of manipulating his way into the White House as Michael Wolff did, nor is he a former government employee who was fired and now writing a book about his experiences like James Comey and Omarosa did. The fact that most of them tend to agree on the stories, such as Rex Tillerson calling Donald Trump a moron, tends to give credibility, but none more so far as when Bob Woodward reports it.

If I have a criticism of this book it is that it is obvious that Woodward has been writing newspaper articles all his life. Each chapter is a self-contained story that is about the same length as an in-depth thought piece. I imagine that after his long journalistic career this length is one he is most comfortable with. However, each chapter does not quite connect to the others. Because each chapter is about a single issue or incident. He takes the start and follows that thread either to an end or a good stopping point because some of those threads have still not been resolved, but keep coming up over and over, such as Mueller’s investigation. So, while it gradually works its way forward, it is not entirely chronological and there is little sense of the confused combination of crises, distractions and outrages that have been going on for the last two years. Reading this book, one might almost think that each problem came up and was solved before the next arose instead of so many of them happening at once.

POLITICAL RANT WARNING: (skip ahead if you don’t care to read the ramblings of an Heinleinian anarchist)

Well, one could only wish Bob Woodward had waited to cover the Kavanaugh controversy because I swear to God that something stinks in that one on both sides of the aisle. Admittedly, the stench is different depending on where you stand but, as I see it, neither came out of this clean. I used to think that both parties should be abolished, but now realize that it really would not make a difference, they would just form new parties with the same members. I read the results of a poll once that claimed that the vast majority of Americans think everyone in Congress should be fired… except for their own senators and congressmen (or women). That is why the system perpetuates and why most of them continue to keep their jobs. These days I contemplate how different it might be if the “Two-party system” were abolished. There is nothing sacred about it. There are no laws demanding that Congress be divided into only two parts and maybe if our politicians were forced at times to build a coalition (or not). The two-party system is maintained by the rules of the House and Senate and what passes for US tradition. These are the same rules that were modified in the so-called “Nuclear Option” by the Democrats and then applied to Supreme Court appointments by the Republicans. (Had they kept the necessary approval at 60% we would not have had borderline nominees like Kavanaugh in the first place.

FTR: I abhor sexual abuse in all forms and stand with Dr. Ford, but my strongest objection to Kavanaugh is based on his infantile shouting and crying and whining temper tantrum that he used as a defense. A person who behaves like that in public (keep in mind that he spent days at the Whitehouse being prepared for that testimony so I cannot believe it was not calculated and intentional) does not have the temperament to serve as a judge at any level. His partisan ranting further disqualifies him and his lies under oath about not drinking (his college roommate says otherwise, but for some reason the FBI chose not to ask the question) and the definitions of “Boof” and “Devil’s Triangle,” make him instant fodder for impeachment. No, I don’t think that will happen, but it ought to. The sad thing, however is that the situation were reverse and he was nominated by a Democratic president, the two sides would have just traded each other’s arguments.

Politicians really do not care about ideals as a group. As individuals, I am sure they all have their deeply felt beliefs as to what is best, but as a group their morals are compromised with every deal they make. It’s possible to quantify that moral decay in mathematical terms. Something like Moral Constancy on any given issue (M) equals 1 divided by the Number of Politicians involved (N)  or M=1/N. call this the Moral Quotient  (of any form of committee). So the Moral Quotient of the US Senate is 0.01 and that of the House of Representatives is 0.00187 if all members are present. Those of you from other countries will have to do your own math and keep in mind that I may be too optimistic!

Now what can we do about it? Darned if I know! Protests don’t seem effective these days. If anything, they seem to be encouraging contrariness and defiance in our politicians. Look at Susan Collins who apparently listened to several victims of sexual abuse from her own state and gave them every impression that she had been convinced to vote against Kavanaugh but then gave an overly long speech top the Senate with a beatific smile on her face as though she had a religious experience in her conversion to Trumpism and promised her vote to Kavanaugh. It was that smile that offended me most. But so long as Americans are blind to the faults of their own politicians, there is very little we can do. Keep that in mind when you walk into a voting booth; not only this November but each and every election.

END POLITICAL RANT (okay it’s sort of safe to come out now)

I have to admit that was nothing important in this book I had not heard before. In spite of the hype, there were no real new bombshells being dropped, but the fact that it was in Woodward’s book rather than Omarosa’s or Wolff’s verified it. Yes, there were a few details the others did not present (and in Wolff’s case he rushed to publication before the really juicy stuff dropped) but one can only assume that we’re still just at the beginning of it all. There are going to be a lot of books forthcoming.

Last month The Plain Dealer one of Cleveland’s leading newspapers – incidentally one I read most mornings while I lived there – asked if Trump wrote a book about his time in the Whitehouse, would you read it? I think I would not. In fact, at the moment I have reached my limit. Only something really different and important would get me to return to this subject. In this constant merry-go-round cycle of crises and controversies, it all keeps going round and round and only those riding the bouncing ponies changes from time to time.

 

The Audiobook:

Huh! I forgot after all that I was suppose to write a review of the reading. Robert Petkoff reads the book well. He did not try to imitate the salad of accents related to the people involved as Omarosa did and gave us the text in the same manner a good reader might present a newspaper article; appropriate and easy to listen to. He  sometimes attempted to indicate the emotions of the people quoted, but he was not extreme about it. I did not get the impression he was trying to put his personal stamp on the book, just to present it in an interesting manner that allowed Woodward’s words to take center stage.

So, in any other day this might have been an influential book. These days, it is just another book. Well written and presented, but it was quickly lost in the flurry of other controversies that piled on in its wake and, we are not even two years into the current administration even if it does feel like twenty in “Trump Years.” If you have not read it yet, there’s no hurry. Take your time. The facts are not going anywhere and they may mean more when we are closer to 2020. However, it was interesting to listen to.

Posted in Audio Books, Books, Journalism, Nonfiction, Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

An Audio-Book Review: Sim Sala Bim!

The Dragon and the Djinn

By Gordon R. Dickson

Published by Audible

Read by Paul Boehmer

 

The Book:

This is the sixth book in the Dragon Knight Series, but I still think the best of the series was the very first, The Dragon and the George. That first one was an amusing and light adventure tale that very much reminded me of the “Compleat Enchanter” series of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. After that the stories pretty much settle down to life in the fourteenth century if magic existed and the stories lost the satirical bent of the first one. The later stories are more serious (albeit they are possibly better written) but except from the fact that the lead character, Jim Eckert, and his wife, Angela, are from the 20th Century (without magic) it’s just a typical Medieval-based fantasy adventure. I realize that is a very popular subgenre and if you enjoy such stories, I think this will be right up your alley.

Side note here: I got tired of medieval-based fantasies decades ago. To me they seem remarkably the same even while styles and approaches differ. I still read them from time to time, but when writing I have opted instead to base my fantasy stories in different eras (Late 19th Century, mid-18th Century, the 1960’s and 70’s and even the future) because I find that more interesting. Then again, I remain a self-published author, so it could be I’m alone or, at least, in a very small minority on that. Back to the book…

As I sort of said above, I found this book well-written for the most part, but there were quite a few details I disliked. For one thing, the story starts out with Jim’s magical mentor, Carolinus, telling Jim that while he has an “unlimited magical account” (this is something that went back to a humorous bit in the first book with the disembodied voice of the “Accounting Department,” making pronouncements when Carolinus asked, but since has lost any humorous aspect) other mages would prefer if he only used as much magic as Jim ought to at his particular level (Grade C, whatever that means). However, Jim is a master of justification and convinces himself throughout the book that everything is either in keeping with that or else is an exception. I found it hard to believe, for example that turning his wife into a Dragon, just so they could fly a few miles rather than ride was a minor amount of magic. I was even more annoyed, when later Angela decides to turn herself into a dragon and tries to turn her friend Landy Geronde into one too and is only stopped by Carolinus.

I’m not sure which annoyed me more, however, the fact that Angie was capable of doing that by thinking she could (sounds a lot like the Harold Hill School of Magic to me) or the fact that Carolinus could just turn off the magic and undo it because its use offended him (and that it would make things too complicated for him). It made me wonder why he didn’t just send Jim back to his own world and time on first meeting, since he obviously had the power to do so. Admittedly it would have made for a very short story, or the start of a very different one.

Well, that’s not the way it went, so never mind. This time around we finally get to the inevitable story of Sir Brian going to the Holy Land to seek out Angela’s father and to get his official approval so they can be married. Well, nothing can be that simple and, in fact, Jim is unable to join Brian at first and needs to catch up about halfway there, where it turns out that Brian’s gambling habit has led him to be cheated out of most of his traveling funds. Once again, Jim uses magic to correct the account… after a long self-justification that not only was he not using magic aggressively. Apparently magic has some strange limitations such as, you can not use it to attack, only defend and Christian-cast magic has no effect on a Muslim. That part made little sense to me and I wondered what would happen a couple centuries later when that world’s Martin Luther came alone. For that matter, does “Christian magic” apply to all Christians or just the Roman Catholics (which all the European characters seem to be)? And what about Jews and members of other religions? What about the Eastern Orthodox Church? Seems to me that was not as well thought out as it might have been.

I also was not particularly impressed with the abrupt way the story concluded (which I will not go into for those who have not read it). It just sort of stopped with many unanswered issues like the latest episode of a soap opera. These were the days of our lives.

 

The Audiobook:

Paul Boehmer read the story well. I hate to damn with faint praise, but that is the way this sounds to me. I think he could have been a lot better. He was not an exceptionally great reader, but he’s by no means a bad one either. He reads the book in a measured, no nonsense manner. He raises and softens his voice for female characters, puts on appropriate accents for various other characters, but never goes over-the-top or resorts to what I call “funny voices.” I can listen to him for hours (and did while driving across several states recently) without complaint, so, yes, He’s a pretty good reader.

So, while not to my taste, I think most fans of this series and of medieval-based fantasy will like this book and Mister Boehmer reads it well.

Posted in Adventure, Audio Books, Books, Fantasy, Gordon R. Dickson, Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

An Audio-Book Review: “Complicit”

Unhinged

Written and read by Omarosa Manigault Newman

Published by Simon & Schuster Audio

 

The Book:

I was hoping to review this one before its fifteen minutes were up, but it took me too long to get to it. Well, I’ll review it anyway. It will serve as a virtual shower to clean off the experience. As for the title of this review, many will recall the Saturday Night Live ad spoof starring Scarlett Johansen as Ivanka Trump and, if not, it comes up twice in this book, but it  is just as applicable to Omarosa Manigault Newman.

My first conundrum, listening to this book was over the believability of the author. By her own words she portrays her self as an actress, a reality TV star, and a political functionary in two administrations. None of those tell me I can rely on anything she writes. A lot of what she writes about her time in “Trumpworld” is diametrically opposed to anything she said or implied before she was fired.

Keep in mind that if you have read Michael Wolff’s Fire & Fury or just listened to the news in the last two years or so, there is nothing new in this book. Well, not about Donald J. and his administration. Half the content is actually about Omarosa; how she grew up, her family, her university education (not to be sneered at, btw) her various careers, how she got involved with reality TV, her personal triumphs and tragedies and so forth. I suppose this is reasonable content, but I could not help but see a very important parallel between her and Trump; no matter what is said, it always comes back to the first person. It is as much or more a book about Omarosa as it is about anything else.

So, as I said, no new content about Trumpworld. I doubt she did this, but it is almost as is she culled everything she wanted to say about Trump and his cronies from the news and other people’s books and articles. The whole book stands as possible confirmation for all those stories we have been hearing, but without any new evidence to back it up.

One theme that ran through the book was over the putative recording of Trump using the “N” word in an out-take from “The Apprentice.” She apparently heard about that early on and repeats that she was told that the recording really exists, but this is a second-hand account from an unnamed source. How credible is it? Now do I believe Trump uses such language? Oh yes, yes I do. Did he do it on set?” It would not surprise me, but being told that such a tape exists because someone I do not know says someone else I do not know told her there is a “tape” is not even proof of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (unless there is a subatomic particle that spreads lies… hmm? I suppose it might be called the “Ratatoskon” (after the squirrel that carries messages up and down the world tree Yggdrasil between Odin and Niddhog) and, like the tachyon, such a particle would have to travel faster than light… uh… never mind.)

In any case, Omarosa asks herself several times whether Trump might have been referring to her when he used that word. As she heard about it fairly early on, it’s a reasonable conjecture, especially since she was one or only two African Americans on the show that season. Like much of Trumpworld, the cast was very white. In fact, when Wikileaks announced that by their own analysis the recent op-ed in the New York Times “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration” was written by an older white male it was obviously not so much an analysis as it was a blinding glimpse of the obvious. Certainly, it’s a safe bet considering how many old white males are in the administration.

However, while it comes up several times, and each time she confesses to having serious concerns, it is obvious that each time she put her concerns back into her pocket and continued to associate herself with Trump.

She also goes on and on about how she was betrayed by Hilary Clinton and I found myself waiting to hear what that was about. Apparently, early in her career she had a minor job in the Clinton Whitehouse and so when Hilary started considering her 2016 run, Omarosa joined the organization (a PAC? I forget) that did the advance work for two years. When Hilary finally declared her candidacy, however, she did not choose as campaign manager the person who had been running the pre-candidacy organization, nor was Omarosa offered a top job in the campaign. That’s betrayal? Obviously, she did not get the job she wanted, nor did her boss, but bringing outsiders to run any organization is hardly unusual. And she apparently had no trouble with her hero, Trump (or DJT as she constantly calls him) bringing in Manafort to replace Lewandowsky and then Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to replace Manafort. None of these were exactly promoting from within.

Back to the “N” word, which haunts this book as it does in one form or other all African-Americans. Every time Omarosa has a choice to make, the possible “tape” rears its head and then she puts it aside until she finally decides it might be time to leave the Trump administration. Supposedly her plan was to leave in January, 2018, the one-year anniversary, but given her stated reasons for wanting out, I think she should have simply packed up and written an “I quit” resignation letter. Instead, she was fired by General Kelly before she could resign. Is that true or just another story for our consumption. Well, we will never really know, will we?

In short (I know, too late!), the only verified facts in the book about the Trump administration are those that we’ve already read or watched in the news. The rest is speculation those of us who do not trust Trump already believed, but if we’re honest still have no real proof of or else is Omarosa telling us about her life (which I have no reason to doubt nor is it my intention to call into question). Despite all her stated reservations as time went on, she was as complicit in the actions of the Trump administration as anyone else on the inside. In all, the book is probably not worth the 20% off cover price it was released at unless you really want to hear her side of the story.

The Audiobook:

I could say something sarky like, “Omarosa Manigault Newman reads this book as if she had written it herself… oh wait!” but to be quite honest she does read it very well for the most part. She does have an unfortunate habit of imitating the people she quotes and in most cases the imitations are far from flattering. Hope Hicks sounds like a bubble-head. Kellyanne Conway never says “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!” but there is a definite touch of the Wicked Witch of the West Wing in there. Most of her vocal depictions sound dead on, actually, at least in tonality and accent and some might be realistic in depiction too although Her version of Trump himself sounds more like someone from the heart of Brooklyn than Queens. I had no trouble imagining Trump saying the words she attributes to him, but not in that accent, or maybe having grown up in Ohio, she does not really hear the difference. Most of the accents she used were standard theatrical accents and theatrical accents are not really varied enough to differentiate by neighborhoods.

So, I’d say it’s a fairly good reading of a book that is at best mediocre. Next up, let’s compare it to Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the Whitehouse. (coming soon!)

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