Audiobook Review: The World House by Guy Adams

4 02 2015

The World House by Guy Adams

Read by Paul Boehmer

Audible Studios

Length: 10Hrs 43Min

Genre: Fantasy

Grade: C-

I’m not sure what just friggin’ happened. I mean, I kinda know. There are these characters, and a weird house, and time travel, and god like people, and amnesia, and a cool game of Snakes and Ladders, and I think that one guy is also that other guy or maybe I am thinking about someone else. Oh, and that girl is like maybe autistic, which of course means she has some special ability or perception that will help save the world, or destroy it, or maybe stop the bad guy who I am not sure is really bad because that’s that’s what mentally challenged people do in fantasies… and, well, maybe I’m just an idiot who can’t follow the authors disjointed train of thought. I mean, I get this way with “high brow” stuff where I think I am supposed to get it. Like Birdman, which I guess had moments, but still, I didn’t get it. Like art or jazz or that weird class of philosophy I took…



So really, maybe Guy Adams is a genius who created this beautiful mosaic of a novel, full of complexities and layers upon layers, creating a mesmerizing tale that blends generations and genres and I am just too dumb to figure it all out. I know I feel like this when I attempt to read China Mellville and Paolo Bacigalupi, which people I respect tell me is brilliant, but turns my brains to mash, and, well, kinda bores me at the same time making me want to pull out something with explody monsters hunters or time traveling Nazis.

Or maybe Guy Adams just wrote a book that had some brilliant moments, was fun at brief intervals but was mostly a mess that barely held my interest and often left me confused about exactly what the hell just happened.

But maybe not…

I’m confused.

One thing I like about Paul Boehmer is that he has a unique narrative voice. His voice has a tone that reflects an international feel yet isn’t specific to any particular nationality. It reminds me of the subtle accents that many 1800 era American period pieces use, not really modern American or Modern British but somewhere in between. This is why I think Boehmer is excellent in historical fiction and has been underused in the fantasy genre where straight British accents seem to be the preference of audio producers. This is why I thought he was perfectly suited for a book like The World House. But, now I am not so sure he was, mostly because I really didn’t care about the book enough to figure it out. His characters were fine. I often found the perspective shifts were not distinct enough, but this may just have been because I wasn’t invested enough in the characters to realize that they had shifted.

Oh well….

Basically, The World House was a book that constantly had me on the edge of thinking,”Let’s end this and move on to something else” but that little part of me said that eventually there would be this sort of AHA! Moment that pulled it all together and made it worth it. And I guess there was something like that, but by that point I just wanted it all to be over.

Now maybe some time traveling zombies or talking unicorns or sexy dragons….

Audiobook Review: The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

22 08 2012

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

Read by Paul Boehmer

Random House Audio

Length: 22 Hrs 45 Min

Genre: Historical Fiction/Alternate History

Quick Thoughts: The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln is a well plotted tale, with a touch of romance, action and a whole lot of betrayal, set against one of the more misunderstood periods of American History. While Carter tends to weigh down his prose with some unnecessary exposition, he fills his tales with complex and interesting characters and steeps them in a rich and divisive history.

Grade: B

It seems every time my television accidentally tunes into one of the 24 Hour Newsertainment channels, or I stumble across a group of people discussing some hot topic working its way through our legislature I encounter a statement by someone on just how divisive politics have become. They talk about how our legislature and media have lost their sense of civility in the debate and discussion of current issues. I often think it would be nice to take a trip in their brains to when legislative bodies were a gentlemanly sport of friendly banter and constructive give and take. Back when the news media stayed unbiased when reporting events, and ethically avoided even the appearance of impropriety. This is a land where "Fair and balanced’ was not just a witty rejoinder made to rub in the faces of everyone that this state is in fact, it’s exact opposite. In this world, children are paid in lollipops to clean the streets that are unlittered and full of elaborately dressed women wishing them good day. Everyone worked 9-5 with an hour for lunch, and only had to come in on the weekend for the rare emergency. I like to call this land that existed before we lost our civility, Fairytale town, ruled over by The Good Lady Pipe Dream. One of the things I like about well researched historical fiction is it gives us a taste of the reality of those good old days so many dream of, often throwing dirt over their pristine reputations. I think that the true reasons that our politics seems so unseemly, and our news coverage overly biased is because we just have more information today. We have more access to the machinations of government then ever before. We have numerous cable news stations that spend more time covering what the other channels cover than the actual news. America’s history is full of biased news coverage. If you think the coverage of Gay Marriage is contentious, you should see the battlers between the newspapers supporting the Rebels, and those loyal to England during the American Revolution. The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, while an alternate history, takes place during a time where Congress and the Executive branch were constantly at each others throats. Impeachment threats were a tool use often by congress to attempt to reign in the power of the Executive. It was divisive, and not very civil. Sound familiar?

In The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln author Stephen L. Carter asks a fascinating "What if?" What if, on the fateful night at a small Washington Theatre, Lincoln met with grave injury at the hands of a traitorous actor, yet managed to pull through. What if the attempted assassination of Vice President Andrew Johnson actually succeeded and Mary Todd Lincoln dies in a tragic accident. These changes, as well as many other historical alterations set the stage for a complex tale of treason, espionage, and murder. As the Radical elements of Lincoln’s own party accuse him of going too soft on the South and attempting to turn his position as President into a Tyranny, a young colored women named Abigail Canner gets hired as a clerk for the firm defending the President. After one of the firm’s lawyers is murdered, Abigail and her fellow clerk, the white upper crust Jonathon Hilliman, get entangled in a messy conspiracy aimed to bring down the president and subvert justice. First, I should point out, this is a work of fiction. While Carter pulls heavily on actually history, he also takes liberties with history and social mores when it suits the plot. Carter has managed to create a fascinating story that gives us a good glimpse at the diversity of Washington Society right after the end of the Civil War. While a lot of the early parts of the novel are heavy in professorial exposition, he makes up for it with a compelling, if not a bit overly complicated plot, and some wonderful characters both historic and fictional. One of the more fascinating elements of the novel is Abigail’s navigation through the social society of Washington. As one will imagine she has a seemingly overwhelming number of obstacles to overcome set up by a very racist society, yet even more fascinating is the responses she gets from the so called supportive element which are often even more demeaning. Part of me wondered if she, being black and a women, could actually have accomplished many of the things she did in the novel, but again, this is of course fiction and some level of suspension of disbelief is required. The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln is a well plotted tale, with a touch of romance, action and a whole lot of betrayal, set against one of the more misunderstood periods of American History. While Carter tends to weigh down his prose with some unnecessary exposition, he fills his tales with complex and interesting characters and steeps them in a rich and divisive history.

In many ways, my feelings about the narration echoes my feelings about the book, it was good, but it could have been better. I really don’t fault Paul Boehmer for some of the issues I have. He is an excellent narrator who can handle a wide cast and really shines during fast paced, intensive scenes. In particular, in this novel, he handles the actual Impeachment trial scenes wonderfully, and his pacing and tone on the action scenes were impeccable. The problem was, this novel exposes some of his weaknesses as a narrator. Boehmer’s tone becomes a bit dry and mechanical during many of the long expositional parts of the prose, and since this novel is plagued with them in the beginning, it takes a while to really get into the novel. I think that casting a narrator like Dion Graham who can pull the beauty out of the driest text could have bolstered this story a lot. I think this was one of those books that needed something more than just a solid, professional narrator. I think it would have benefited from an African American, or even female narrator. I would love to hear the transitions between mild mannered but opinionated Abigail, and the society women that someone like Katherine Kellgren would pull off. I should reiterate that Boehmer does a good job, especially in the latter moments of the book, yet, I couldn’t help maybe wanting just a bit more for this novel.