- The 2012 Audio Book Challenge hosted by @teresasreading at Teresa's Reading Corner:
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Wade Owen Watts is a teenaged gamer escaping the reality of life in the stacks (RVs and trailers stacked one atop the other in towers) in Oklahoma City. The year is 2044 and it's the third decade of The Great Recession in America. Infrastructure has deteriorated and people look to the cost-efficient technology of virtual reality for entertainment and education. In fact, the "massively multi-player online virtual reality reality game" of OASIS has become for many, the preferred existence: a place where you can create a better version of yourself and live a more interesting life.
"Parzival" is Wade Watts' avatar in OASIS and Parzival is playing a contest within the realms of OASIS, a game within the game wherein the objective is to locate three keys that will ultimately lead to an Easter egg. The winner of this contest will inherit Jame Halliday's (co-creator of OASIS) fortune and interest in G.S.S. (Gregarious Simulation Systems) - the company that has top administrative control of OASIS. The power and revenue of this fortune and interest are immense and so the competition for each of the keys and the Easter Egg is stiff. Wade/Parzival must battle IOI, a mega-corp with deep resources, both in OASIS and IRL for the Easter Egg.
Wil Wheaton, the eighties icon known as the actor who played Wesley Crusher in the television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, is the narrator for Ready Player One; and he was the perfect choice. He sounds like a young adult and handles the all the time-cultural references easily and naturally. In another very cool meta experience, Wil Wheaton's name occurs within the story :-)
Ready Player One is a fun, clever story and the audio is an equally fun and clever production in its choice of narrator.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
"Saigon, the center, where every action in the bushes hundreds of miles away fed back into town on a karmic wire strung so tight that if you touched it in the early morning it would sing all day and all night."
Dispatches is Michael Herr's first-person account of his experience as a freelance journalist - embedded with various USMC units in Vietnam, 1967-68. It is, admittedly, an extremely difficult novel to get traction on as the opening passages seem wildly discursive. The trick is to let go of trying to parse out sentences or even whole paragraphs, and just roll with it as whole as the picture comes into focus. In many ways, Dispatches is like an Impressionist painting: best appreciated with some distance from the object rather than with intentness upon its component parts. What emerges from the writing is the inanity of The Vietnam War for all the high ideals propounded by Mission commanders. In many ways, the insensibility of the War is reflected in Herr's rambling, at times near stream-of-consciousness, prose. The images coalesce into the run-up, action of, and the end of the three-and-a-half month Battle of Khe Sanh.
As the North Vietnam Army (PAVN) feinted and eventually engaged at Khe Sanh, the Marine base there was besieged. The US committed all resources to operations at Khe Sanh, President Johnson mandating that the base be kept at all costs. Ultimately, the base was destroyed, the Marines pulled back and, the US claimed victory on the premise of casualty figures and the fact that PAVN forces withdrew suddenly afterward. PAVN forces also claimed victory, as after all, they destroyed the base and forced the Marines to evacuate. Dispataches questions the significance of the dual claims of victory and the sudden withdrawal of the North Vietnamese Army, especially in context of the Tet Offensive.
Herr's portrayals of the men who fought and reported in the war are the smaller brushstrokes that make up the bigger picture of that time and place. Herr talks and travels with Marines and other reporters, perhaps none more poignant and intriguing than that of his colleagues, Sean Flynn , Dana Stone and Tim Page. Flynn, Stone and Page were photojournalists who cut careless, romantic figures. They were each extremely intelligent, talented men whose ambitions and impulses exacted dear prices. Their legacies and fates are equally breathtaking.
Ray Porter is the American narrator who reads Dispatches. The book is either the result of giving a typewriter to an inebriated soul and/or; drugs and alcohol to a journalist. Either way, managing the text and propelling it forward had to have been a challenge. Ray Porter met the challenge, framing the material in a natural voice without caving into a hyperbolic interpretation of extreme and intense situations. There may be a mispronunciation or two ("artillery" is pronounced as "artillerary" in one instance); but over all the delivery is on point.
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (by Karl Marlantes; narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
The Things They Carried (by Tim O'Brien; narrated by Tom Stetschulte)
The Lotus Eaters (by Tatjana Soli; narrated by Kirsten Potter)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Zorro, a masked figure whose mission it is is to vindicate the poor and oppressed, cuts a romantic figure against the landscape of Spanish California, circa 1806.* The governor, Luis Quintero and a local garrison commander, Captain Ramon, are corrupt martinets who disenfranchise the wealthiest and most respected families and cheat and abuse the poor - all in order to consolidate their political influence, shore up their family bloodlines and enrich themselves. Zorro tracks these villains down to redress social injustice. Exactly who Zorro is and why he must go about his missions disguised is not explained in the story; but the listener is treated to a swashbuckling tale on the order of Robin Hood :-)
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Political Assassination: Cause and EffectThe point is made that Julius Caesar was killed not for what he had done; but for what he might have done and yet, clearly the Roman Republic represented in the persons of Cassius and Brutus felt compelled to move against Julius Caesar personally, and at this time. What was the flash point?Julius Caesar had already crossed the Rubicon, defeated the Republican forces under Pompey, and consolidated his position by marginalizing Republican politicians (and thereby repudiating Republican ideals.) Was it the Lupercalian festival conflated with Caesar's triumphal procession the "final straw;" to see the public fickleness or sheep-like willingness to go along with the prevailing authority despite their disenfranchisement? But this does not address Caesar's ambitions, which were ostensibly part of the faulty logic used to justify the assassination. Did Shakespeare, in moving the time of the declaration of Caesar as "dictator perpetuo," seek to plant this intention as the act of Caesar's ambition, vanity and arrogance to which the audience would react? Historically, the trigger was when Caesar failed to rise to meet a senatorial delegation that had come to inform him of new honors that had been bestowed upon him (he was already "dictator perpetuo.") Interestingly, Shakespeare has removed this much clearer example of Julius Caesar's exaggerated sense of self and opted for the much subtler exemplification of supposed intent.If it is true that Shakespeare wrote this play so that Elizabethan audiences could draw parallels between their own situation (For Elizabethan audiences, the English Settlement was a bone of contention as the Emancipation Proclamation was for 19th century Confederates and, the Patriot Act for many 21st century Americans. These are issue of civil liberties and rallying points for action) and that of the Roman Republic, he fails to make clear that critical "thing" upon which the play's action is impelled. In justifying the murder of Julius Caesar upon "what might be," the assassination becomes an act of envy and cowardice (Cassius) as well as naivete (Brutus.) The assassination is not a proactive move to defend democratic principles, but the last ditch effort of the fearful and desperate to gain traction with the public. It becomes more personal and less political. The assassination becomes, not the wrong thing done for the right reasons; but the wrong thing done for the wrong reasons.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
- The tin in the top left corner of the photo contains a lot of old marbles. It's pretty heavy and I use it as a book end for the row of audiobooks that sits across the top of my NF shelves;
- There are two watches (top left of the tray) one yellow and one black. One is set to standard time and the other to daylight savings time. Each cost less than $3.00 at Rite Aid. No more fussing with re-setting my watches or wondering if my time is correct! Even though I carry an iPhone which carries the correct time always, I've been in a situation or two where my iPhone was unavailable (see drowned iPhone incident above) and having a watch was very handy.
- The wallet (bottom right of the tray) was a gift from a friend who was sick and tired of me using a raggedy pink thing from Target. Unfortunately, as much as I love black, the wallet was always difficult to find when it slipped under the car seat or come other equally dark and mysterious place. So I got a little leopard print duct tape and slapped some on the wallet. Now the wallet has greater visibility and can no longer lurk in the shadows undetected.
- At my workstation I have a few items that need to recharge overnight. In the mornings, when I would pull whatever fully charged item(s) I needed, the cables had a propensity to slide behind my desk. There is a bulletin board over my desk, so I jury-rigged some hooks from tacks and they seem to be doing the trick! (see above, bottom left photo)
- As for all the writing implements and scissors and bookmarks and chopsticks that I own, I placed many of them in pen holders which were formerly cake frosting containers. The highlighters went into a wire penholder that actually couldn't hold anything else as everything else kept slipping through the openings :-/ Anyway, the four pen holders then got put on a 12" lazy susan which in turn got placed in one of the cubbies at my work station. The whole things saves space and keeps all that stuff convenient and organized!
Friday, March 9, 2012
AUDIO DRAMAThe Mark of Zorro (based on the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer; Blackstone Audio, Inc.)We're Alive: Season 1 (by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - I will most likely post the review for this in May (Zombie Month)
FANTASYRumo & His Miraculous Adventures (by Walter Moers; narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Bronson!
MYSTERYOne Dog Night (by David Rosenfelt; narrated by Grover Gardner; Listen & Live Audio) - This could be tricky because I haven't listened to the two titles in the series that precede this one and, I'm the kind of person who listens to series titles in order; but I'm going to try and get all three in :-)
The 4 Percent Universe (by Richard Panek; narrated by Ray Porter; Blackstone Audio, Inc.)My Korean Deli (by Ben Ryder Howe; narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Bronson again!
ORIGINAL WORKThe New Adventures of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Vol. 3 (by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane; performed by a full cast starring Stacey Keach; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Hmmm, I didn't really like the first volume; but the second volume got an Earphones Award and now this. Maybe I need to re-visit.
PACKAGE DESIGNOne Grave at a Time (by Jeanine Frost; narrated by Tavia Gilbert; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Actually, I won't be listening to this one! Since it's about cover art, I probably post something related to graphics :-)
THRILLER/SUSPENSEThe Bone House (by Brian Freeman; narrated by Joe Barrett; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Oh good, this is non-series title (so no backlist listening required)
Out of My Head (by Didier van Cauwelaert; narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - More Bronson!Silent Screams (by Karen Rose; narrated by Marguerite Gavin; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Karen Rose's canon of works have recurring characters; but stopyourekillingme.com avoided using the word "series" to describe her work. This may be like Carl Hiassen's world where order doesn't matter. At least I hope not :-/
I will be posting honest reviews of what I listen to. And maybe risk getting fired and/or divorced in the process; but at least no one will be able to accuse me of playing false or being a tool :-)
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Hater is the first in the Hater Trilogy and originally an online novel that the filmmaker Guillermo del Toro sponsored into print (and purchased the film rights to.) It's a horror novel about outbreaks of unprovoked violence that have reached pandemic levels. The aggressors have been labeled as "Haters" by the media and the government has warned all unaffected people to bunker down. Danny McCoyne, frustrated worker at a Parking Fine Processing office, henpecked husband, and exasperated father, bears witness to the early stages of the outbreak; and when it becomes clear that the social fabric of his town has been rent, he secures his family in their home. The sections where Danny is locked in, cut off from media interpretation of events and not knowing what is going on, are reminiscent of I am Legend (by Richard Matheson) in that we see the protagonist undergo the psychological change of the besieged; but the main interest and appeal of the story lies within the chapters in which there is a fundamental change in perspective. This is where moral certainty disappears and the reader/listener wonders who the true villains of the piece are. Unfortunately, the ending of the novel is poorly executed in terms settling up on the score of moral equivocation (Is a preemptive strike morally correct?); and unsatisfactory in terms of a denouement. The latter may be to entice readers onto the next installment in the series, Dog Blood; but by the end of Hater it is doubtful whether the listener could care as to what happens next to either Danny or anyone else.
Gerard Doyle is the Irish narrator of Hater. The setting of the story is never specified; but it can be inferred that Hater takes place somewhere in the UK and an Irish setting is as good as any for the story. GD does a great job of narrating the role of the beleaguered, whiny, spineless Danny and taking us through the changes in Danny's life as he becomes more assertive. The pacing of the narrative matches the character's development: Doyle starts off with a lazy, slow pace; but quickens as the tension and action mount.
- The 2012 Audio Book Challenge hosted by @teresasreading at Teresa's Reading Corner
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
This is an odd and disappointing book in The Dresden Files series. The writing, copy-editing and narration are poor, non-existent and "off" respectively. One of the things that Jim Butcher has done very well in the forerunners to Blood Rites is create interesting characters, i.e. Harry Dresden, the only practicing wizard in the Chicago phone book, is full of pathos and moral equivocation and; Murphy is the steadfast, if repressed, police officer in charge of the special crimes unit. In a series, it is understandable that authors wish to avoid having their characters become static or flat. Seeing a character evolve over the course of time is a great reward for series readers; but having the characters change into completely different people is something else again. The core of a person doesn't really change. This is why after years of not talking with your best friend, you can meet-up and take up as if no time had elapsed at all. It's a special chemistry or synergy that is very much like the relationship with the reader to his or her favorite characters in a series. So when Murphy goes from being a dependable, pragmatic friend to a buxom sex symbol with emotional uncertainties, she has become unrecognizable. Harry too, in Blood Rites, has regressed to an adolescent version of himself. Instead of reaping the benefits of his experience and exhibiting some emotional stability, he has been imbued with some seriously lame cliches. Actually the whole of the book's world is nothing but cliches whether it be dialogue, characters, action sequences or settings.
What is this world? It is an industrial park outside of Chicago where porn films are made. Harry Dresden is hired by a film director to investigate why the film's starlets are being killed off by "The Evil Eye." Harry takes on the assignment at the behest of Thomas, a White Court Vampire. Why would Harry do something for a vampire? Ostensibly because Thomas has been a friend to Harry in the past; but of course there's more to it than that and; the relationship between Harry and Thomas becomes defined if not fully realized in this book.
James Marsters continues in his narration of this series; but all the characters seem slightly less than their normal selves. Bob, the ancient Anglo/British spirit that resides in a skull in Harry's lab sounds less British than in books #1-4 and; Harry & Murphy sound like there's a forced naturalness to their voices. The characters are given expression in a conversational range; but there is no subtlety and the dialogue comes off as oddly superficial, like they are all acting onstage in a community theater :-/ Blood Rites was recorded out of sequence of The Dresden Files (recorded at approximately the same time as Changes (#10) and Dead Beat (#7 ) and the listener may wonder if Marsters has telegraphed some of what he learned from future books back into Blood Rites.
In every series, there is the one book where the writer has run amok. Things are never quite the same after that and for those who not of the most optimistic and ardent fans of The Dresden Files, Summer Knight (#4) is a good place to leave on good terms with the series. Death Masks (#5) starts to show the cracks and is passable; but the massive continuity errors (too numerous to list), cliche infested passages, and the strange narration makes Blood Rites almost unbearable.
For the hardcore Dresden Files fans though, Blood Rites is a necessary evil: The relationship between Harry and Thomas will become integral in future titles; and Butcher brings into the series another strong female antagonist. Plus, there's a dog :-)