I thought that was a very good audiobook, although I'm not too experienced with listening to books. Gould's voice definitely had the correct gritty depth, and once you get used to his fairly limited range and repertoire of vocal characterizations, it work really well. Chandler uses first person, limited point of view narration in the book, so a single narrator really fits the book. It is also unabridged, which appeals me as a reader.
This version is from a BBC radio dramatization by the BBC (no, none of the characters mysteriously acquired British accents). That means there are limited sound effects, and different actors voice the lines of the different characters. I only listened to twenty minutes or so, but I liked it.
Some specifics: one mild negative is that the actor playing Marlowe doesn't really have the right voice. There's no gravel in his throat from endless glasses (not merely shots) of whiskey and countless cigarettes.
Since there's a lot of interior monologue from Marlowe's perspective, the lead actor is switching from speaking lines that others characters are hearing, to voiceover lines that they aren't. Using other voices actually makes that a little trickier, but it worked fairly seamlessly for me; no trouble at all.
But that was the only poor casting choice. The voice of Moose Malloy was a delight; it perfectly matched the physicality of that character. The others I heard in that limited sample were fine, too. The sound effects made the action more accessible, helping to frame the change of scenes in the listener's imagination.
Which of the audiobooks should you listen to (assuming you don't want both, perhaps at different times)?
This version works a bit better at being engaging. Those sound effects and voice changes really help signal a change in scene and keeping characters separated. If you're on a commute or a roadtrip, for example, or in some other distracting environment, it'd probably work better. For the same reasons, it'll work well for those who aren't used to audiobooks, or specifically enjoy the theatrical aspect—there are a lot of good radio plays that have been made that don't get enough attention.
Gould's version, on the other hand, is unabridged and uses precisely one voice, as does the book. So it probably would appeal to someone that really wants the "book" experience. I listened to Gould read the first Marlowe book, The Big Sleep, while on a very long walk around San Francisco on a November evening and it was perfect (well, yeah, a Dashiell Hammett novel might have been better. I'll get to those). The second one I listened too on the couch while suffering from a cold a few weeks later. It worked well as a substitute for a book—when I listened to this radio play, I immediately detected the edits, so I'm confident I got about as much out of Gould's audiobook as I would have from the text.
Well, again, like the first book, there are some elements of historic social injustice reflected uncritically here, and that canWonderful, wonderful!
Well, again, like the first book, there are some elements of historic social injustice reflected uncritically here, and that can be disturbing. But given that complex limitation, the storytelling here otherwise excels.
The most obvious thing we recognize in Chandler is his hard-boiled tough guy narrative, and that deserves the attention. This is definitely part of the hyper-masculine world of John Wayne and Anglo Saxon machismo—the knight errant who never receives or even accepts the benediction of the affection of others. The closest anyone can ever get to a man like this is friendly wise-cracking camaraderie, and that is also portrayed well.
Another aspect, though, is how often Chandler spends time describing the scenery, and clothing. It verges on tedious at times, saved only by the incongruity of a tough guy—someone perceived as a brute—walking into yet another mansion and pondering the elegant architecture and landscape, then meeting someone and focusing so intently on the color and material of fabric, or the many other details that are supposed to be invisible to such an archetypal male gaze.
One difference between Chandler's second novel and the first, The Big Sleep, is that he didn't lose track of any plot threads here. Oh, no one has yet pointed out that one of the murders in the first novel remains unexplained? Well, that doesn't happen here.
The mere fact that the first book could work as wonderfully as it does with such an astonishing oversight points out what makes the Philip Marlowe novels so distinctive: the plot is chaotic, and simply all over the place. In this one, there are several plot threads that are never tied up, and at least three surplus villains. In comparison, all the other tidy drawing-room detective novels—even those that involve copious amounts of violence and far more mayhem than Chandler delivers—feel artificial in comparison. To the extent we understand how detective work must be, clearly there's never going to be complete information, or a settle resolution of any significant number of crimes, at least in the absence of a complete confession (and, given that the vast majority of violent criminals aren't firing on all cylinders, as it were, even a confession might not always provide logical closure).
Chandler delivers something that feels real. Agatha Christie is providing a logic puzzle based on careful observation of details. Fun, but bloodless. Even when blood is spilt, many authors never seem to do chaos correctly.
Oh, yeah, there are plenty that have learned this lesson. Sure—but as far as I know, Chandler did it first, and he did it magnificently.
Oh, I listened to this as an unabridged audiobook narrated by Elliot Gould, who was an admirable choice, having actually played Philip Marlowe on the big screen in 1973. I liked the fact that it was unabridged; I also enjoyed the fact that a single narrator's voice fits the novel well, since it is a first-person narrative (most novels are in the third person). Gould's voice is also deep and nicely gravelly, and fits Marlowe's, even if it seems a bit off for some of the other characters.
I also listened to the first twenty minutes or so of an alternate version, which began existence as a BBC Radio Play. It has multiple voice actors playing the different characters, as well as some sound effects to set the scene, so it is more acoustically interesting, and undoubtedly more "accessible", which might help those that otherwise might not quicken to the moderately complex plot that Chandler lays out. It might also work better as, for example, entertainment on a commute or a road trip, where driving should be taking up some of the listener's cognitive capacity. That version was, however, abridged, so it isn't quite as pristine as a "book" experience. Oh, and the voice of Marlowe really wasn't tough enough. Still, good listening. ...more
I was really tempted to give this five stars. Can I really blame Chandler for including the misogynistic and homophobic that was undoubtedly an accuraI was really tempted to give this five stars. Can I really blame Chandler for including the misogynistic and homophobic that was undoubtedly an accurate portrayal of the brutish and nasty world of Philip Marlowe?
I'm afraid I can. I don't think anyone has ever written this kind of fiction better, and it is certainly hard to imagine someone shoehorning an enlightened attitude into the confines here, but it is what I wish for. Choosing to write the book in the first person certainly didn't make that task any easier.
Still, that fifth star tempts me. Chandler writes so perfectly, consistently finding the right phrase, and the right word, to economically and beautifully capture the nasty world our dark knight struggles against, with wit and a hard head.
From the study guide questions (!): “Book reviewers have called Flavia a rougher, tougher Hermione Granger; Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison as a child; aFrom the study guide questions (!): “Book reviewers have called Flavia a rougher, tougher Hermione Granger; Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison as a child; a combination of Eloise and Sherlock Holmes; and Harriet the Spy by way of Agatha Christie, with a dash of Lemony Snicket and the Addams Family.”
Yeah, about that. A seriously charming eleven year old girl....more
This classic of science fiction is a must read — and very fast-paced and easy to read. Asimov took on the challenge: before this book, it was believedThis classic of science fiction is a must read — and very fast-paced and easy to read. Asimov took on the challenge: before this book, it was believed that science fiction couldn't crossover to the detective genre, since science fiction could always, trivially, answer too many questions.
Asimov proved 'em wrong.
I don't remember how many books featured the odd couple detectives (one human, one robot), but it was a pretty good pairing.
I will note that Asimov does contradict himself. At one point, it is established that robots can only follow "the law", but later the robot explained his actions by arguing that there is a "higher law", above the law itself. Oops!...more
This is mildly amusing, but sadly informative. I finished Matt Richtel's "Devil's Plaything" recently and just came here to Goodreads to review it, anThis is mildly amusing, but sadly informative. I finished Matt Richtel's "Devil's Plaything" recently and just came here to Goodreads to review it, and was somewhat surprised to see I'd previously given three stars to the author's The Cloud.
The reason I find my surprise informative is that both stories are set in San Francisco, both feature the same protagonist, and I read the other book less than a year ago, but I simply couldn't recall it until I'd read enough other reviews that I rebuilt a sense of what the book was about (I'd been overly sensitive to spoilers, and left my own review too ambiguous).
So I'll 'fess up. The third star is generous, and I guess mostly because the author sets the stories in real San Francisco, not the tourist version thereof. But the protagonist isn't very inspiring, and the plot reaches farther than its grasp. Some folks give this author five stars, so YMMV, but I don't plan on returning to the scene of the crime....more
Good, verging on very good, although a bit too mannered and slow. Very deep psychological portrayals of the characters provide the big win. The plot wGood, verging on very good, although a bit too mannered and slow. Very deep psychological portrayals of the characters provide the big win. The plot was nicely convoluted, although the denouement wasn't much of a surprise.
This was among the books listed on an ancient "all-time bests" newspaper clipping I found in my files. I think anyone who is a fan of mysteries should probably have already read it, right?...more
I think it started when I was looking at one of those web posts about hidden passages, or bookcases that open into a secret room, or a staircase downI think it started when I was looking at one of those web posts about hidden passages, or bookcases that open into a secret room, or a staircase down into an unsuspected cellar.
I always liked the old gothic-inspired stories that featured that kind of stuff. If I remember correctly, there wasn't really much of that in the Hardy Boys tales, but quite a bit of it in my sister's Nancy Drew mysteries.
Somehow I was led to this book. I added it to a list of books to pick up at the library, and then months passed. When, yesterday at the library I spotted it on the list and tracked it down, I was under the impression that I'd been impressed by a review by a GR friend who has kids, but when I saw that noone I know has shelved this book, I slowly pieced together the story.
It was fun. A somewhat spooky Hallowe'en-ish tale. The protagonist is a young orphan sent to live with an eccentric uncle, who turns out to be something of a wizard, but not as much as his ladyfriend, who lives next door.
Honestly, I don't know whether to recommend it for kids. It seemed too simple, but of course, this might be just the level of simplicity that makes for good kid lit.
Might be worth trying, if you don't mind the thought of giving your kid a book with some scary elements....more
This is a more playful, and much less subversive book than the blurb promises. There is, perhaps, a little too much authorial fantasizing and wish fulThis is a more playful, and much less subversive book than the blurb promises. There is, perhaps, a little too much authorial fantasizing and wish fulfillment. The meandering and nonlinear aspects are reminiscent of Calvino and other modern greats, but this is ultimately lighter in weight and intent.
Did I say it was playful? Yes — and a fun read. Perhaps this book is hard to characterize, but for modern light fiction, that's good....more
Sometime in the 1980s my local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, published the favorite mysteries of Dilys Winn, editor of Murder Ink and MurderessSometime in the 1980s my local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, published the favorite mysteries of Dilys Winn, editor of Murder Ink and Murderess Ink, which are apparently companion volumes for fans.
I used to clip the reviews of appealing new books with the intent of getting around to them — a pre-internet version of the To Be Read shelf. Like my TBR shelf here on Goodreads, that file got really thick, and most of the stuff in it was ignored and forgotten.
But I recently decided to get rid of some clutter, and got around to my files. Most of the stuff in the "Reading List" file went straight into the recycling bin, but a few caught my eye. One was a report I'd apparently requested and paid for on what books were considered required reading in American secondary education. I presumably wanted to double-check my literacy, and I see that I still haven't read many of those undoubted classics. If you want to take a look at the list, I turned it into one of Goodread's Listopias here.
Anyway, this was one of the favorites listed on that faded newspaper clipping. And I'm glad I read it — it's really good. Not "literary classic" good, but a cut above most of the detective/mystery fiction I've read. It's probably been twenty years since I read any Agatha Christie, but based on vague recollections, I think I like this better. I think it has a better... er, dynamic range of personalities than I remember from Christie. Maybe not.
What really struck me was that the people that populate this foggy London just after World War II seem closer in spirit to Dicken's London than our own. Some of the sad miscreants don't seem to have any counterpart in this modern world. That gives this a peculiar feel of a world times — now that coal is no longer a common fuel, even the legendary London fogs that provide such a mood within this story have now gone.
I see from Wikipedia that the author died many decades ago, so I won't encourage you to buy a new copy of this, but see if it is available at your local library and spend a few evenings with this gem.
Matt Richtel, a technology writer for the New York Times, also writes thrilling and provocative science fiction. The Cloud is set in — where else? —Matt Richtel, a technology writer for the New York Times, also writes thrilling and provocative science fiction. The Cloud is set in — where else? — San Francisco and Silicon Valley in the present day, and follows Nat Idle, an investigative reporter, as he painfully uncovers a story that questions the safety of some emerging technology (any more details than that would qualify as spoilers).
Richtel's strong suit is the relentless energy of the plot and, with caveats, the likeability of his characters. On the other side is the over-likeability of those some characters — far too many of them are super-sized and exaggerated to the point of being superheroes. Probably the weakest element of the story is that Richtel throws in too much: there are so many elements to keep track of that it almost becomes necessary to keep notes, and this burden undoubtedly is enough to turn off some readers. The abundance left a few aspects and some characters half-baked. Richtel either needs a longer, more carefully paced book, or he needs to exercise a bit more discipline and get rid of some weeds.
The ultimate answer found in the reporter's quest won't surprise anyone that closely follows criticism of technology, although the danger is elevated here for dramatic emphasis. The only other place where current technology steps over the line into fiction is holography, which has been teasing technophiles for decades now.
The Cloud is a quick read and a quite enjoyable fast-paced adventure. Don't expect too much more and you'll enjoy it. ...more
Spendid: I can see why this has been so popular. It was nice divnig into a page-turner after reading a long series of books that took days or weeks toSpendid: I can see why this has been so popular. It was nice divnig into a page-turner after reading a long series of books that took days or weeks to finish. This one took approximately eleven hours uninterrupted reading from cover to cover. Now I can watch the movie....more
When I finished this I first gave it four stars, but as I thought about it and pondered what I had to say here, that rating kept nudging up. Oddly, IWhen I finished this I first gave it four stars, but as I thought about it and pondered what I had to say here, that rating kept nudging up. Oddly, I think I liked this book more than it deserves.
First, the obligatory synopsis: Miéville has presented us with a fable set in contemporary times. The novel is a murder mystery and police procedural: a young woman has been killed in Besźel, and the story is told from the perspective of the investigator of the crime. Besźel is a struggling city, apparently located somewhere in or near the Balkans — but the real difficulty is that it has a twin city, Ul Qoma, lying in the same place, yet in a different place. It appears to the reader that the two cities overlay one another — perhaps on different planes of reality? — although the nature of their co-location and separation remains somewhat ambiguous throughout the story. The two cities do not have a very good relationship, but moreover their occupants are forced to live apart, in conscious denial of one another’s presence, by culture and law and something more.
This bizarre aspect makes this a new weird story — something Miéville specializes in — which makes this an engrossing puzzle and ultimately a triumph of authorial legerdemain.
The book’s blurb ends with
Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.
Some of that is hyperbole. The allusion to Kafka is superficial; perhaps Camus would have been a better choice. Any murder story is likely to feel somewhat menacing, and the politics of eastern Europe will amplify that (ergo Chandler); the strange aspect of two cities physically juxtaposed yet kept socially apart is definitely surreal, but has none of Kafka’s mysticism.
But Philip K. Dick, like Camus, will take such bizarre situations and see how personalities and societies cope or unravel.
It takes several chapters before the reader even understands the topology of the City and the City. Is the separation supernatural? Or due to some strange rift in space and time? Each city has some territory that is all theirs, called “total”, and some areas that belong strictly to the other city, called “alter”. The strangest portions are those that are “crosshatched”, where citizens of each city might be standing side-by-side but must remain explicitly unconscious of each other. They learn to how “unsee” (and “unhear” and even “unsmell”, etc.) what is happening immediately before them, but in the other City.
What does it mean to “unsee”? From the narrator’s perspective, “unseeing” is an act of will that natives learn to do automatically as children. Perceiving across the divide can trigger a “Breach”, which is both the act and the name of the secretive organization that polices the boundary. Casual and inadvertent breaches are usually overlooked, and children and visitors seem to be subject to less oversight, but even the most trivial violation might be punished. Frankly, further details would be spoilers.
Miéville has stated in interviews (vide) that he has a “cordial dislike of allegory”, and does not intend his novels to be read as allegory, although he agrees that metaphorical content is natural in fantasy.
But I have to object. What he doesn’t want is a single allegorical reading: a one-to-one match between his story and a single other interpretation. That’s fair, but his fable here cries out for something more than simple metaphor. Perhaps he didn’t intend any specific allegorical reading, but what he delivered to us possesses a power and an ambiguity that lends itself too easily to such alternative views.
My own allegorical interpretation can’t be stated without spoiling the story, so I’ll postpone it to the “comments” section of this review. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if other people had drastically different responses.
This shared the Hugo Award with Paolo Bacigalupi’sThe Windup Girl. When I read the latter I couldn’t have imagined such a tough race. Both books are marvels, but I think Miéville has the edge. Bacigalupi’s story has contemporary appeal because of its link to climate change, but Miéville’s seems to me to have a deeper and timeless appeal.
I used to love Turow's legal thrillers — but either my taste has changed or Turow's writing has. I just got bored. Of course, it doesn't help that I'vI used to love Turow's legal thrillers — but either my taste has changed or Turow's writing has. I just got bored. Of course, it doesn't help that I've got seven or eight other books sitting on the bedside table and I'm thinking about the trip I'm about to leave on...
Did Turow's characters spend so much time in his earlier books staring into their navels and thinking about themselves? The lead character here gets all of his chapters written in the first person, and he has an incredibly dull inner monologue running. Me, me, me.
The chapters centering on other characters are written in the third person, and they seem to be better. Still to much moaning and bitching about their lives — everyone here is pretty dysfunctional — but there seems to be a bit more action.
I remember Turow as writing — essentially — the courtroom attorney's version of a police procedural. Instead of casting some overweight and emotionally broken cop and watching how he thinks and obsesses about solving some puzzling crime, you'd have an assistant DA doing the work.
The chapters that focus on that part of the story were the best part, and the only reason it kept two stars. But I couldn't skip the boring parts, or I'd spend too much time backtracking to fill in the missing pieces.
So I ended it. Too bad; I used to have great memories of Turow's novels, and now I wonder if I re-read them whether I'd re-like 'em. ...more
I don't know whether I'm getting used to Halliday's stories or if the latest actually was a bit better, but I enjoyed it more. Still pretty low-gradeI don't know whether I'm getting used to Halliday's stories or if the latest actually was a bit better, but I enjoyed it more. Still pretty low-grade pulp, but a bit more fun. At least this time he only got beat up once and didn't get shot at all....more
But there really isn't much similarity. Yeah, I guess some of the basic shape of the murder mystery was borrowed from Halliday, but pretty much everything has been changed. I'd have to see the movie again to really compare, but here's a quick synopsis:
Our hero, private detective Michael Shayne, is about to hop on the train to New York with his beloved new wife when he gets an emergency call at his nearby office. An obviously drugged girl staggers out of the elevator, barely slurs her question confirming his identity, and passes out. He puts her to bed to sleep it off and regretfully tells his wife he'll catch a later train. When he gets back to his office after dropping her off at the station, he discovers the unknown lass has been strangled, and he barely has time to hide her body when the police drops in to investigate a reported disturbance.
Shayne cons a reporter buddy into helping him, but they can't do anything before a sudden visit from a different detective along with a fellow who happens to be running for mayor. It seems his daughter is missing and Shayne, who is publicly supporting the fellow's opponent, is under suspicion of kidnapping the daughter.
After getting rid of them, Shayne leaves to decoy any watchers while his reporter buddy goes to get a car and get the body out of the apartment. But when the reporter gets back, the body has disappeared...
Mike Shayne appears to be the resident hardboiled private detective out of Miami, the same way Sam Spade works out of San Francisco and Philip Marlowe covers LA. I had to go to Wikipedia to learn that, sure enough, the first one out of the mold was Race Williams, who's beat was New York.
Brett Halliday doesn't seem to be at the same level as Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, though. Much of each story is pretty predictable, what with the extremely heaving drinking, constant smoking, frequent beatings, and casual racism, homophobia, and treatment of women as childlike angels, cold harridans, or sluts.
His plots do have a nice complexity, but it can be disconcerting to slog through such cultural dross to enjoy it. It is only that nice complexity that was retained in the movie, and even that was heavily modified. ...more