Audiobook Review: Interface by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George

15 03 2011

Interface by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George

Read by Oliver Wyman

Audible, Inc

Genre: Science Fiction Thriller

Quick Thoughts: A thrilling, and fun look at a Presidential election with a touch of science fiction and an excellent performance by the narrator. \

Grade: A-

I like when they mix good things together. I love peanut butter and chocolate, strawberry cheesecake, and bacon cheeseburgers. I like musical artist, like Beck, who blend styles giving country a hip-hop style or Rock with a bit of a Jazz tinge. I like cross-genre movies and books where authors and directors flip convention on its head.  So, when I saw the listing for Interface, I was quite intrigued. It seems they packed that full of a whole lot of good stuff. A political election conspiracy thriller with a touch of science fiction, add to that a highly lauded science fiction author with a noted historian (who happens to be his uncle), and top it all off with one of the best narrators working today, well, for a minute it almost seems like perhaps we have too many good things. To make matters even more compelling, the central issue of the book is one that has interested me for a while. The basic premise of using microchips to help deal with brain injuries is something that has always fascinated me, perhaps because I have worked quite a bit with people suffering from traumatic brain injury.  So, with all this anticipation afoot, how could this book be anything other than a disappointment?

Well, I am happy to report that this book didn’t disappoint in the least.  In fact, I was quite surprised that it exceeded my expectations. Interface has everything you would want in a good thriller, a fascinating plot, great human characters to cheer for, nefarious evil doers and a believable, if somewhat chilling story. Yet, it also had something that I didn’t expect, which was an incredible sense of comic timing. Despite that fact that it was dealing with serious topics, there is a great sense of tongue and cheek humor in this book. The authors took one of our countries biggest spectacles, the presidential election, and presented it in almost an absurdist level. Yet, despite the craziness and dirty dealings in the story, sadly, they didn’t push it beyond total believability. Yes, things may have been pushed to the extreme edge of believability at times, but anyone who watches the manufactured political campaigns of our times knows there is an inherent absurdist element to the whole show. In Interface, the authors are able to tap this for humorous moments, without making the whole thing come off as simply a satirical comedy. In the end, the book asks some serious questions about modern technology, media manipulations, and in the end, what truly is free will.

The producers of this audiobook must have been struck with a bit of heavenly inspiration when they choose Oliver Wyman to narrate this tale. There are some narrators that excel at reading the prose of the story yet when it comes to dialogue, fail to capture the essence of the characters. And there are others who are great at creating voices and personalities of the books characters, yet fail to find the rhythm and flow of the book. Oliver Wyman is one of the few narrators who excels at both aspects of narration. He is one of those narrators that not only can handle the accents and styles of speaking among the characters, but actually infuses them with life and personality that enhances the experience of the book. In a book like Interface that has such a large number of important characters, Wyman shines, almost creating a movie in our heads. Altogether this audiobook was indeed an abundance of good things.

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