What I’ve been listening to

A couple of months ago, I started listening to audio books in the car.  Strange that I never did that before, when you think of it, but I figured that this would be a good way to “read” some fun pulpy fiction, saving my book time for more serious stuff.

So far I’ve enjoyed it a lot.  But I do have one reservation: drive-time used to be think-time, and now it’s listen-time.

Over time, I may back away from the audio-book thing in favor of spending that time in thought.  But until then, I’ll supplement my “What I’ve been reading” with the occasional “What I’ve been listening to” posts.

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton.  Crichton’s last book – I don’t think he actually finished it before he died.  A full-out swashbuckler, one of those books where the hero puts together a stalwart band of adventurers each with a unique talent and personality and proceeds to launch an attack against impossible odds running up against dramatic obstacle after dramatic obstacle.  Evil Spaniards!  Cannibals!  Betrayal!  Corrupt Officials!  Exclamation points!  Fun and preposterous!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  Somehow I’ve made it to this point in life without ever actually reading A Christmas Carol.  Now I have, or have listened to it anyway.  You know the story and round up all the movie versions you’ve seen and you get a good idea of what’s in the book.  A classic, not much else to say.

Under the Dome by Stephen King.  King tortures another small town in Maine, this time by having an impenetrable invisible barrier appear between it and the outside world.  But the biggest threat isn’t the dome: it’s the corrupt small town Hitler-wannabe who seizes power and the various sociopaths he puts in power.  A big sprawling book with a huge cast, compulsively readable (or listenable, as in this case) with a strong narrative drive and excellent characters where the biggest downside is that the bad guys are a bit too bad (Big Jim Rennie really should have had a handlebar mustache to twirl).  And two special bonuses that make it stand out beyond other King books: first, there is no book author anywhere in sight (King has a habit of making his protagonists be authors, something that annoys me).  And second, the ending wasn’t bad, which makes it way better than most King endings.  (I’m not a fan of King endings, in case you hadn’t guessed.)  It’s not a perfect ending, mind you, but it’s nowhere near as bad and arbitrary as, say, that of The Stand. (And a special shout-out for Raul Esparza, the guy who read the audio book.  It’s an excellent performance, and his character voices helped make their personalities stand out.)

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