I'm not normally a great consumer of audiobooks. Generally, I find they require too much concentration for the times and locations that they claim toI'm not normally a great consumer of audiobooks. Generally, I find they require too much concentration for the times and locations that they claim to be perfect for – I like to concentrate on my driving while driving, I don't have a garden to tend and, to be honest, while I'm out running I'm too busy thinking about avoiding traffic and not having a heart attack to be listening to audiobooks. Train journey's, flights and other travelling it's just as easy to read a book proper anyway, so why bother with audiobooks? However, after a speculative subscription to audible, I found myself with a cache of long un-listened-to audiobooks and a recent holiday, with a flight, gave me the perfect opportunity. But – to throw a spanner in the works – Humble Bundle announced a bonus, limited edition, audiobook of Will Wheaton (commissioned by Doctorow himself) reading Homeland: a book that was already at the top of my next-in-series list, and my previous plans went out the window...
Homeland is the second in Doctorow's Little Brother series. As with the previous novel, if focuses on the young Californian hacker Marcus Yallow. After his traumatic treatment at the hands of Homeland Security in that first novel, Marcus seems keen to try and move on. Intent, instead, on attending his first Burning Man festival. However, when he sees one of the Agents who held him filming people there it seems as if Marcus's past isn't going to let him go. Coupled with an apparently chance meeting with Masha (his nemesis from the previous novel), who leaves him with a USB stick of potentially explosive leaked documents, Marcus is thrown back into just the kind of world that he was hoping he was done with.
Where Little Brother was a story about terrorism, and more specifically, the security services' complete over-reaction to terrorism, because you know ... terrorism. Homeland is Doctorow's take on the Wikileaks and Snowdon stories. In Doctorow's novel they decide not to pass the information to the Guardian and let them work through it, instead they form a hacker collective and sift through the information themselves. As a result, Marcus and his friends feel the weight of both the information and the responsibility – Marcus's new job is clearly dependent on not even a whiff of trouble being attached to him – of the decision to leak or not to leak.
Wheaton's narration is a pleasure to listen to. And with Doctorow having personally commissioned Wheaton's reading, this was clearly a labour of love for both of them. I would have loved to have been there as Wheaton reached the part of the novel that he briefly cameos in – he manages to make it not seem like a big deal in the reading – but listening to his breathy wading through, what was presumably several pages of, Pi was both surreal and an experience I just had to stop and offer to share with those around me – they declined; their loss. If all audiobooks were this much fun to listen to I'm sure we'd all do it far more often.
Doctorow's usual level of research and explanation of technologies, maths, products, hacks and special installs fill out the novel without taking it over. If you like your YA with a strong technological and libertarian bent, then Doctorow is hard to beat. Plus there's lots of geeky name dropping....more
An early Christmas gift from my sister – although she assured me it was, at least in part, meant as a joke – this is a Doctor Who style adaptation ofAn early Christmas gift from my sister – although she assured me it was, at least in part, meant as a joke – this is a Doctor Who style adaptation of the Where's Wally style book that we must have all seen at least once. In this one we are presented with thirteen double-page spreads representing various adventures of the Doctor: from Ancient Egypt through Victorian London and on to the End of the World; even alien worlds like Metebelis III. Each spread challenges you to find – somewhere – hidden in amongst hundreds of little drawn people: a Doctor, a Tardis and an Amy and a Rory.
I'm pretty sure that any book published by BBC Children's Books isn't really aimed at the 40+ market, but that didn't stop me working my way through all thirteen drawings and finding the Doctor and his assistants. This turned out to be a pretty simple task, although the St. John's Monastery did prove something of a challenge with all those Gangers everywhere to confuse you.
Luckily, that's not all there is to it. Once you get to the end you're presented with another – even greater – challenge. Thirteen lists of twelve additional items to find; one for each of the thirteen drawings. Obviously these are aimed at the more advanced 40+ Whovian hunter, and they took me a fair bit longer than the first run through. Some items are easier to find than others. Two items on each list are at least pictured so you know what you're looking for, but the rest might require a bit of research – I had no recollection of what the Isolus even was, let alone what one looked like – and picking out Miss Hartigan's and Jackson Lake's unique outfits in the morass of little people was proving next to impossible. Luckily my other sister had, coincidentally, bought me a Doctor Who encyclopaedia which came in very handy....more
It's hard not to like any book when it's read by Mark Oshiro of Mark Reads – and he's read Twilight so I suppose I could put that to the test. SometIt's hard not to like any book when it's read by Mark Oshiro of Mark Reads – and he's read Twilight so I suppose I could put that to the test. Sometimes chapter by chapter reviews, sometimes YouTube narrations, sometimes a mixture of the two. Flushed from his recent Hugo nomination, he was asked to read the short story, Ponies (a Nebula winner itself), from fellow Hugo nominee Kij Johnson.
Mark manages to get so into any story he's reading, and the dark themes of this one were always going to play with his mind. Barbara has a pony (think My Little Pony but with wings, a horn and they can talk) and the time has come for her 'cutting out' party so she, and her pony, can be accepted by THEOTHERGIRLS. Like any ritual to join a group ruled by peer pressure, there's a strong element of bullying. And that's where the horror starts for both Barbara and Mark as he's as in the dark about the story as we are.
Short though the story is (the YouTube video clocks in at just over 10 minutes, and that includes a lot of Mark's own shock and thought processes), it's an exploration of peer pressure, group bullying, social expectation and the need to join a group that doesn't really want you, and you might not even be comfortable in. Fantastically narrated, as usual, and that might have coloured my view of the story somewhat too......more