Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dracula by Bram Stoker Audiobook Review

Listening to audiobooks has let me to catch up with lots of the classics that I wouldn't have read otherwise. Everybody has accumulated a list of books they mean to read but never get to actually doing it. Dracula has been on this list for me and I wanted to read it just because it's a book I feel like I should read, not expecting to get lots of entertainment or enjoyment out of it. I have to say, this audiobook version made the experience so much better.
Seriously, I imagine reading Dracula in print and I don't see how I would have finished it. The plot is SO slow to go forward, the characters don't have almost any dept to them and the action is almost nonexistent which for a horror novel is pretty lame. To be honest it's quite boring at some points.
Modern horror novels have been taking ideas form Dracula and transforming them into other stuff for years with the end result being much better than the original. I guess you could say modern literature ruined Dracula.
For example, Van Helsing is not a badass in a leather outfit but just an old overweight man with a funny accent. Yeah, I know. It gets better – Dracula is an old bloke with a white mustache. Yep. You'll be guessing right if you thought that battles would be more of the mental sort than physical action sequences.
People trying to outsmart each other can be quite interesting too. This kind of standoff is what makes a whole bunch of modern books awesome. However, the effect is minimized by how stupid the main characters are. Still, considering that their ability to investigate was limited it wasn't that bad.
The thing that was annoying to me was close to the end of the audiobook. The protagonists figure out what has happened to Lucy and then they just watch her turn into a vampire and murder her. Then of course they need to chase Dracula and kill him too but they refuse to take Mina with them just because she's a woman and ladies are not supposed to get their hands dirty even though she's smarter than both all of them. They leave without her and surprise, surprise – when they come back she's showing the same symptoms Lucy had before turning into a vampire and it takes them forever to figure out that I don't know, maybe Dracula has something to do with it. It's really, really dumb.
I understand the books is written in a completely different time and this was the social norm then but it's still annoying how little respect Mina received. Sure, the men see that she's got useful skills but in the end she's not treated as an equal to them. She's just a shoulder to cry on and is left out of everything that matters even though she's the one that comes up with most of the good ideas.
Also, if I had a dollar for every time God was mentioned I would have a small fortune right now. I didn't give it much thought at first because “it's in God's hands” is the sort of thing people say when they're distressed but boy, does it get old fast.
The good thing that made the book palatable was the excellent job the folks at Audible did in producing the audio. The actors did an amazing job and really brought the characters to life. I wasn't all that excited about the weird accent Tim Curry did for Van Helsing but otherwise it was enjoyable. Whether you think you'd like Dracula or not, this edition is the best way to read it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Audiobook Review

I finally got around reading the 11-hour long audiobook of The Hunger Games which I got through earlier but kind of forgot about for awhile. It's written by the all-time bestselling Kindle author Suzanne Collins, so I had high expectations. I started listening in the evening and eight hours later, I finally got to be at least a little bit as brave as its heroine, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen - hunter, gatherer and main bread-winner for her family, and pushed a stiff, bloody, muddy finger to my iPhone’s Pause button regardless of the fact that only three hours of the book remained. A couple of hours later as I came back to consciousness, I immediately checked to see the state of my burns and cuts and surprisingly found out they were OK. Wait a minute; those things hadn't happened to me but the characters in the audiobook.

After all the hype about the The Hunger Games film-release buzz I was curious enough to decide to read the thing before watching it on the big screen. Until that point the remarks I had heard about it were only about a action packed story in a cruel future which wasn't enough to interest me but then a few early reviews of the flick suggested that there might actually be a deep and important message beneath. Indeed there is.

We all know the classic way of showing what a dystopian oppressive regime does to the people and there are plenty of works that convey this message by magnifying and hyperbolizing different issues. This is a new and fresh approach towards this theme. Collins very successfully manages to humanize the state's cruel reality game show revealing the characters motivation, fears and feelings with a not-so-distant-future version of North America.
The Hunger Games are held annually as painful reminder for a failed rebellion against the government decades before. The government wants the 12 peripheral districts, each also kept isolated from the others, not to forget their subservient place and that there's no point in rebelling. Twenty-four tributes between the ages of 12 and 18, one male and one female from each districts are chosen by a lottery called “the reaping” and are transported via luxury express train to the glorious and wealthy “Capitol” to compete in a fight-to-the-death last man standing type of reality TV game that is mandatory to watch for the entire nation. Maybe a little bit like our Olympics.

I loved the message of this audiobook - that just the act of looking for opportunities to “cheat” the authority allows players to be their own person and keep their humanity — even if in the end they might not get out alive at least it was by their choice. Still, the potential for that rebellious spark that seeks a way out of such hopeless situations is exactly the thing that the Game Makers and their bosses - even with all their technology and backstabbing can not prevent or take away from the characters. That is a tremendously important message for anybody at any age or time.
The takeaway for me from this book is to question authority, to question why things are happening the way they are and change them where possible. Just a friendly tip though - don’t start listening or reading The Hunger Games at night if you have to wake up early the next morning.