"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
Fifteen years reviewing books, audiobooks, graphic novels, movies and music!

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

ENEMIES AND ALLIES (audiobook) by Kevin J. Anderson

     Just About as Perfect as It Could Be

Published by GraphicAudio in 2013
Multicast Performance
Duration: about 6 hours
Adapted from the original book.

As D.C. Comics gears up for their big Batman vs. Superman release next year it is interesting to look at how these two iconic characters ever ended up meeting, working together and then become trusted allies.

I grew up in the era when Superfriends and the Justice League were Saturday morning mainstays. Unfortunately, these were horrible days for the Batman franchise. Batman was reduced to being a sidekick of Superman with his only saving grace being that he was the only sidekick with a sidekick (Robin). The first Micheal Keaton Batman movie brought a dark side to the character that had probably never been seen on screen. 


Batman has trust issues. He is secretive and he is often the only force for justice in a city that perverts the law to do the work of evil men. He must work in secrecy and hide in the shadows. This audiobook captures that side of Batman perfectly.

The spirit of Superman was captured well in the old TV show and in the Christopher Reeve movies. Those movies had plenty of issues but I have not heard of anyone that does not think the Reeve nailed the character of Superman perfectly. But, for some reason, modern movie makers have had a hard time understanding this iconic character. It's not hard. He is the ultimate Boy Scout and he is internally motivated to be that way. He is the guy that does the right thing all of the time. He is powerful because of his genetics. He is good because of his upbringing by his adopted parents. This audiobook understands Superman and captures his personality perfectly. 

But, what happens when the Gee Whiz! Aw, Shucks farm boy meets the man who wears a scary costume and  works out of the shadows? 


If you like your Superhero tales told in the classic form (I do - I am something of a comics Fundamentalist), you will thoroughly enjoy a story in which nothing new is told but it the story is still very entertaining. There are no out-of-left-field plot twists (like Alfred is really Bruce's dad! or Lex Luthor used to date Lois Lane!) - this is the same old story but told really well. Perry White yells all of the time, Lois Lane is too curious for her own good, Alfred the butler is efficient and mysterious, Gordon is the only honest cop in Gotham City and Lex Luthor has a diabolical plan that could shake up the entire world.

And it's just about as perfect as it could be.

My daughter and I listened to this audiobook as we commuted back and forth to school for a couple of weeks. When it was all done and she pulled the last CD from the CD player she said, "That was awesome! That was amazing! That was amazingly awesome!" 

The story is set in the 1950s and Lex Luthor is stealing Wayne Enterprises military technology so that he can dominate the Cold War military buildup and playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne doesn't seem to notice. Clark Kent has been sent to Nevada to look into a secret military base called Area 51. Rumors of alien visitors have made him quite curious. And, both Batman and Superman are getting curious about each other as their stories are starting to spread - Superman, the hero with a smile and a kind word. Batman, the vigilante in the dark.

If you are not familiar with GraphicAudio you should be. Their tag line is "A Movie In Your Mind" for good reason. They make each production like an old-fashioned radio show with sound effects. This production had 26 different voice actors - some with big parts, some with tiny parts. It keeps the story lively and it is much easier to picture Superman ripping open the roof of an airplane hanger when you hear the metal tearing at the same time.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

 This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Enemies and Allies

Sunday, September 6, 2015

THE CONSERVATARIAN MANIFESTO: LIBERTARIANS, CONSERVATIVES, and the FIGHT for the RIGHT'S FUTURE by Charles C. W. Cooke

  Libertarians and Conservatives - Natural Allies, Natural Rivals

Published in 2015 by Crown Forum

Charles C. W. Cooke is a writer for National Review and as such he has been in the center of a storm as the political Right works through a new generation of thought on a variety of issues. In some issues, the political Right is united, such as on the concept of Limited Government and keeping taxes as low as possible.
Ron Paul

Generally speaking, Libertarians bond more readily with the Right than the Left, which is why Ron Paul identified as a Libertarian for years yet caucused with the Republicans in the Congress and ran for president as a Republican. The dislike of the Nanny State on many issues pushes them together as temporary allies on many issues.

But, on other issues such as the War on Drugs and Gay Marriage the Right is split and split deeply. Cooke is attempting to nudge the Republicans a little more to the Libertarian point of view on things so that these temporary alliances between the Libertarians and Conservatives can become more permanent.

This can be difficult, though. The Libertarians tend to view traditional Conservative views as hypocritical - too willing to promote some intrusive acts by the government while decrying an intrusive government. Conservatives tend to view the Libertarian position as naive and too willing to walk away from any sort of compromise because compromise is in and of itself unacceptable. Or, as Cooke puts it on page 32, "...convinced that logic-on-paper can answer all the important questions about the human experience, dismissive of history and cultural norms, possessed of a purifying instinct, and all to ready to pull down institutions that they fail to recognize are vital to the integrity of the society in which they operate."

So, the two sides clash "...when the question is 'What should we do' rather than 'what should we oppose?' " (p.33)

So, that is the crux of the book. The two sides have deep divisions but large areas of agreement about where government should not act. It is a well-written, quick read. I come at things from the Conservative with Libertarian leanings camp (like Cooke) so I readily see what he is advocating. My Libertarian relatives are not likely to compromise on any issues, even in the name of making real advances on issues that they hold dear. For them, it is an all-or-nothing proposition (which I get - they hold all of their ideals dearly) but that just is not the way that politics works. Play the game and move towards what you really want. Don't play the game and get none of what you really want but stay ideologically pure.

At least this can be a place to start the discussion.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon here: 
The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right's Future

Friday, September 4, 2015

TO TRY MEN'S SOULS: A NOVEL of GEORGE WASHINGTON and the FIGHT for AMERICAN FREEDOM (audiobook) by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen



Published in in 2009 by MacMillan Audio
Read by William Dufris, Callista Gingrich and Eric Conger
Duration: 12 hours, 23 minutes
Unabridged

To Try Men's Souls is a powerful piece of historical fiction that focuses on three men in the American army at its lowest point in the Revolutionary War - right before the famed surprise attack on the Hessians at Trenton. The story follows three men - one is a New Jersey private with family on both sides of the war, the other two are George Washington and Thomas Paine.

The book is fairly complicated in its structure with lots of flashbacks and intertwining story lines. Through George Washington the reader learns the long sad story of the shrinking American Army's numerous retreats throughout the summer and fall of 1776 and how Washington gambled it all on a surprise raid to raise American morale.

Thomas Paine's character was a bit more complicated. These are the months just after the success of his tract Common Sense that argued for independence. Now, in the light of all of these defeats, men keep asking him to write another Common Sense - another tract that will galvanize American sentiment. Eventually, he does come up with The Crisis, another tract that perfectly catches the feeling of the remnants of the American army. It inspires and cajoles. It is published just two days before Washington's army begins to move on Trenton. It's famous opening lines are: "THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

The third character, the New Jersey private, stands in as a kind of every man. His family is split, but he is sure that he is right. But, despite his being sure, he is comforted by the powerful words of Thomas Paine, delivered at just the right moment.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868).
Yes, the painting is full of inaccuracies, but it is iconic.
This book could have easily slipped into being hokey but it does not. Instead, I found myself with a renewed respect for the soldiers of the Revolutionary War and for Washington's ability to just not lose. He did not win a lot, but he also managed not to entirely lose either. He somehow managed to elude defeat or capture and keep on fighting.

The reading by William Dufris was quite good. He was joined by Callista Gingrich who read the few parts spoken by a woman. She was fairly weak as a narrator - she did not sound like she was trying to interact with the other characters as she read her isolated parts. They probably just put her in the sound booth and had her read her parts with little regard to what was said before and after her reading in the story - and it showed. Conger read the text of The Crisis found at the end of the book. There is also an interview with Gingrich and Forstchen at the end of the book.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon here: 
To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom