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Tushar

India
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  • reviews
  • 17
  • helpful votes
  • 8
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  • The Day of the Jackal

  • Written by: Frederick Forsyth
  • Narrated by: David Rintoul
  • Length: 13 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 7

One of the most celebrated thrillers ever written, The Day of the Jackal is the electrifying story of an anonymous Englishman who in, the spring of 1963, was hired by Colonel Marc Rodin, Operations Chief of the O. A. S., to assassinate General de Gaulle.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Anatomy of a Hit

  • By Tushar on 22-05-19

Anatomy of a Hit

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-05-19

Frederick Forsyth had served as a military pilot and a journalist before he tried his hand at writing a novel. His story started with an account of the real-world assassination attempt on French president Charles de Gaulle in 1962; and proceeded to narrate a fictional plot to finish the job by giving the contract to a British assassin: the titular Jackal. Forsyth finished writing it in 35 days. Remarkably, this manuscript was rejected by no less than four publishers. After all, what's interesting about reading the story of a hit on de Gaulle when, SPOILER ALERT, the real de Gaulle was still very much alive in 1970.

The answer to that question is Forsyth's unique masterful technique. His background as a soldier (and also possibly a spy) gave him detailed inside knowledge, the kind a regular novelist simply isn't privy to. His background in investigative journalism inspired him to approach the narrative as a research project. All of this infused the story with a level of verisimilitude not seen in a thriller, before or since, at least in my opinion.

The details is what draws you in. The Jackal makes a meticulous, layered plan... along with backup plans. The authorities inevitably learn of the plot and launch a manhunt to intercept him. The Jackal never loses his cool, even when forced to drastically improvise and veer away from his plan. All of this plays out in a tightly-written narrative that keeps you on the edge at all times. The pacing never feels slow, despite Forsyth describing even mundane things like the Jackal packing his suitcase in elaborate detail. It's like watching an enormous and beautiful Rube Goldberg machine with all its cogs and gears and levers falling into place one by one for thirteen glorious hours. It is one of the most fascinating stories I've ever come across.

This book was adapted into a movie of the same name in 1973. It was brilliantly produced and directed for the most part, and is held in high regard by both contemporary and modern critics. However, the screenplay is objectively inferior than the novel, which is the reason I wouldn't recommend it. Not to mention I didn't quite like Edward Fox's performance as the Jackal.

David Rintoul, the narrator of this audiobook, deserves credit for a job that couldn't have been easy. The narrative includes frequent mentions of names, places and phrases that are to be spoken in French and other European languages. Since I don't speak any of these languages, it's not my place to judge, but his confidence and diction gave me the feeling he was pretty accurate. A warning is warranted here for those unfamiliar with French: it is possible to lose track of the French names, especially early on. However, it is less of the problem once the Jackal is introduced and the actual story starts. Although it's definitely a disadvantage, exacerbated by the audio format, I'm refusing to take any stars off my rating because neither the author nor the narrator is to be blamed for this.

  • The Moonstone

  • Written by: Wilkie Collins
  • Narrated by: Peter Jeffrey
  • Length: 18 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 1

Considered the first full-length detective novel in the English language, T.S. Eliot described The Moonstone as 'the first and greatest English detective novel'. The stone of the title is an enormous yellow diamond plundered from an Indian shrine after the Siege of Seringapatam. Given to Miss Verinder on her 18th birthday, it mysteriously disappears that very night. Suspicion falls on three Indian jugglers who have been seen in the neighbourhood. Sergeant Cuff is assigned to the case....

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Your patience will be rewarded.

  • By Tushar on 04-05-19

Your patience will be rewarded.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-05-19

This book is widely celebrated as (one of) the first detective novel(s). And it deserves that distinction. More so than Collin's earlier work: The Woman in White. All of the essential ingredients are there: the locked-room crime, the suspects, the red herrings, and the talented detective.

Collins, however, cannot be rushed. Just like "The Woman in White", people who love the written word, like me, will enjoy his gift for crafting sentences that are unusually elaborate and yet somehow precise. However, it's completely possible that some find this style too meandering.

The story is structured in the form of multiple narratives. The first narrator, the butler, is an absolute treat. The second narrator is such a reprehensible character that it made me give up the book for several weeks before I decided to return and finish it. Let me assure she is intentionally written that way. Intention notwithstanding, that part was hard to get through. She keeps acting like an arse and keeps using misguided religious tracts to defend her own actions. I think she's the earliest example of what we now call "Social Justice Warrior" I've encountered.

Thankfully, the following sections narrated by a solicitor and a doctor are a much better read. The mystery itself is adequate, and even unpredictable, I suppose. My only complaint is that it's unpredictable because it relies heavily on intimate knowledge of the effects of a particular concoction on the human body, which I don't suppose many readers had, even back then. The author supposedly was familiar with the subject, so I'll set aside questioning the validity of the events. It's just that there was no way anyone could have seen it coming.

The best mysteries make you go "How did I not see that?!" (like "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd") and not "How was I supposed to know that?!" (like this novel). At least for me, the denouement was a letdown. In most cases, that would ruin the whole book for me. In this case, I'll say the book is thoroughly enjoyable despite these shortcomings. I'm willing to cut it a little slack because this genre was taking its baby steps at the time.

A final observation: Peter Jeffrey's narration is top-notch. Performances like these are the reason audiobooks are such a pleasure.

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

  • Written by: Mark Twain
  • Narrated by: Nick Offerman
  • Length: 7 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

A natural storyteller and raconteur in his own right - just listen to Paddle Your Own Canoe and Gumption - actor, comedian, carpenter, and all-around manly man Nick Offerman ( Parks and Recreation) brings his distinctive baritone and a fine-tuned comic versatility to Twain's writing. In a knockout performance, he doesn't so much as read Twain's words as he does rejoice in them, delighting in the hijinks of Tom - whom he lovingly refers to as a "great scam artist" and "true American hero".

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Childhood Favorite Worth Revisiting

  • By Tushar on 27-02-19

A Childhood Favorite Worth Revisiting

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-02-19

I'll be honest... I'm a little biased toward this book. Tom Sawyer was one of the first novels I read, (though I now suspect I had a heavily abridged version), and it has been one of my favorite books ever since.

Like Mark Twain says in the foreword, much of these adventures are based on his own boyhood experiences with his friends. The story itself is deceptively pedestrian. Given it was written in a different century on a different continent, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it must be unrelatable today.

You'd be wrong.

You see, the book focuses on the absolute joy of being a kid. It's a children's book first and foremost, but Twain intended for it to appeal to adults too and remind them of the way they once used to think. You can't help but grin ear to ear as you read him recount the tense negotiation of a live bug for a broken tooth. You'll know what the stakes are for a kid, even if you've never been involved in such a transaction in your life.

I'm not gonna lie, it's not perfect. The adventures are disjointed. There are pacing issues and the humor is definitely uneven. But like I said: it's a childhood favorite and I'm more than willing to overlook these flaws for nostalgia's sake.

Now for my second bias: I'm a huge fan of Nick Offerman. Most people who've seen *Parks and Recreation* are. Casting him for this book was a stroke of genius. His quintessentially American baritone is perfectly suited to narrate a quintessentially American story. (A nice break from the typical British narrators, I must say.)

Offerman, though primarily a comedy actor, has great range. So I was expecting him to show off. Instead, he goes for a restrained, almost deadpan delivery. You need to listen to believe, but this makes the material unexpectedly funnier. (It's also worth mentioning that his scary voice for Injun Joe is genuinely chilling.) It's definitely one of the greatest audiobook performances I've ever listened to.

TL;DR - It's an enduring children's classic, so a discussion about the merits of the story is moot. All you need to know is that it holds up well even today and Nick Offerman, one of the most inspired casting choices I've ever seen, gives a superlative performance.

  • Matilda

  • Written by: Roald Dahl
  • Narrated by: Kate Winslet
  • Length: 4 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 22
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 19

Matilda Wormwood is an extraordinary genius with really stupid parents. Miss Trunchbull is her terrifying headmistress who thinks all her pupils are rotten little stinkers. But Matilda will show these horrible grown-ups that even though she's only small, she's got some very powerful tricks up her sleeve.... 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very fascinating

  • By bhuvan kumar uppalapati on 21-11-18

Sit back and allow the words to wash around you

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-02-19

It’s not easy to pigeonhole a work of Roald Dahl’s into one genre, but if I had to, I’d say this is a dark comedy. It’s about a precocious child named—spoiler alert—Matilda. Matilda loves to read… so much that she can give Belle or Hermione Granger a run for their money. I always adore characters like that

The conflict of the story arises from the fact that her parents and her headmistress at school are astonishingly incapable of seeing how gifted she is. The principal in particular is a caricature that sometimes feels overdone. Still, Matilda has allies as well, most notably her teacher Ms Honey; and the story has quite a few welcome surprises up its sleeve.

I won’t go into actual spoiler territory. But considering this book is one of Dahl’s bestselling works and has been turned into a movie AND a musical, the story is famous enough that you probably know Matilda becomes even more special as the narrative progresses. I’ll just say that it’s a delightful book with a gratifying ending.

Now for the best part about this version: I don’t know how they got a star of Kate Winslet’s caliber to narrate this audiobook, but I’m glad they did. She elevates the material quite a bit. Her voices are superb, and she does a lot of fun accents. It’s uncanny how she can make herself sound like a kid. I especially liked the slightly Scottish inflections she gave to Miss Honey—it was adorable.

TL;DR - It’s a short listen with an uncomplicated and entertaining plot. Kate's voice is music to the ears. It’s a tad pricey, sure, but I believe it was worth my time and money.

  • The Woman in White

  • Written by: Wilkie Collins
  • Narrated by: Ian Holm
  • Length: 24 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 1

Late one moonlit night, Walter Hartright encounters a solitary and terrified woman dressed all in white. He saves her from capture by her pursuers and determines to solve the mystery of her distress and terror. Inspired by an actual criminal case, this gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness and mistaken identity has never been out of print since its publication and brought Collins great fame and success.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Strictly for those who love the written word.

  • By Tushar on 23-01-19

Strictly for those who love the written word.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-01-19

Contemporary critics label this novel as one of the first mystery novels and one of the first "sensation novels". The latter description is more accurate.

Fans of classic mystery value the plot above all else. We love the puzzle. How the pieces fit. What the solution is and how our protagonist worked it out. Give us that and we'll look past clunky dialogue and unreal character choices.

The plot, I'm sorry to say, is the weakest part of this story. (More on that in a moment.) Despite that glaring disappointment, I heartily recommend this audiobook. The primary reason for that is the narration of Ian Holm.

When I say this book is strictly for those who love the written word, I don't mean it in a bad way. You see, it's an epistolary novel structured as multiple narratives. The substance of this account could be written using half as many words without loss of content. The beauty of Collins' writing is that he takes great pains to ensure his readers understand what's going on in the minds of his characters. He structures their thoughts methodically—which I think is very close to the way real people think—whether being overly analytical and repetitive when they're formulating a plan, or excessively romantic and descriptive when they're describing a thing of beauty. The way he crafts his sentences... the words he chooses for his expression... it's all but a lost art in our times. Many modern readers would conceivably find these narratives too prolix. I personally liked them.

I do grant, however, that reading these detailed reminiscences could prove to be tedious work; which is why it's so much better to have this told instead. The honeyed voice of Ian Holm marvellously matches the pace of the book. His narration is calm and measured, and yet imbued with emotion in all the right places.

Now, lamentably, we must talk about the plot.
SPOILERS AHEAD:
Keep in mind that this novels predates Christie and Doyle by decades. The bar of mystery plots wasn't all that high. Without spoiling much, I can say that the story is about two villains who trick the heroine out of her fortune and her identity; and the hero's mission to bring them to justice. The mystery itself is serviceable, even though it doesn't even begin till you're past the halfway mark! My problem is with the third act. One of the villains is taken out before the hero even has a chance to confront him. The other, the smart one, is defeated with what I can only call "friend ex machina." I was willing to forgive it for being an average mystery. But it's an average story overall, which I certainly didn't expect (given its iconic status), and will not condone.

Fortunately, the story have been adapted and re-imagined several times since. If you want to experience the best "mystery" version of this story, I direct you to the 2016 South Korean movie "The Handmaiden" by Park Chan-wook (of "Oldboy" fame).

  • Inglorious Empire

  • What the British Did to India
  • Written by: Shashi Tharoor
  • Narrated by: Shashi Tharoor
  • Length: 10 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 63
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 54

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Inglorious Empire written and read by Shashi Tharoor. In the 18th century, India's share of the world economy was as large as Europe's. By 1947, after two centuries of British rule, it had decreased six-fold. The Empire blew rebels from cannon, massacred unarmed protesters, entrenched institutionalised racism and caused millions to die from starvation.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • The Lion Who Wrote...

  • By Tushar on 26-12-18

The Lion Who Wrote...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-12-18

There's an African proverb that goes: "Until lions tell their own stories, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter."

It took a while, but India finally has her lion in Dr. Tharoor. With fangs of unassailable logic and claws of incontrovertible proof, he eviscerates the British claim that colonialism was a good thing for India.

Tharoor's masterstroke is relying primary on the written testimonies of Britain's own citizens—whether that of officers callously describing their own atrocities, or that of the few conscience-stricken Britishers horrified at incredible tyranny and racism they were witnessing. The accounts of Indian and American observers are there too, whenever needed.

Everything good that modern British revisionists claim that India owes to the Raj—railways, banking, press and even democracy—is shown to be introduced exclusively to serve British interests. Indians were denied even the smallest modicum of gain through these ostensibly progressive measures (the only arguable exception being the press, though that too wasn't as rosy as revisionists would have you believe). On the contrary, these measures were used as tools to compound their exploitation.

Not to mention the bad stuff India owes to the Raj—plunder of resources, systematic dismantling of Indian industries, cultural destruction and the introduction of communal divide, to mention a few.

Many western reviewers have hailed Tharoor's exposure of the colonial project's "long and shameless record of rapacity" as being a much-needed reality-check in a time where more than half of Britain (according to a 2014 poll) is living under the delusion that the British Empire was a good thing and are yearning for it: a phenomenon termed "post-colonial melancholia". Various publications highlighted the need to teach "unromanticized colonial history" in British schools.

What baffles me is the response of some Indian reviewers, who have somehow found the failings of the modern Indian government worthy of being compared to the avaricious exploits of the Raj. For instance, yes, India still has famines. But unlike the colonial government, Indian government is not creating famines by actively taking away food produced by farmers and selling it abroad. Neither have they outlawed philanthropic attempts to donate funds to the needy, again unlike the colonial government. Anybody who, after reading the book, still believes the two are comparable, is either being willingly dense or trying to push a political agenda. It's bad enough that the history taught in Indian schools severely undermines the magnitude of racism, hate, intolerance and cruelty meted out to the average Indian during the Raj. We don't need historians who set the record straight being attacked by petty Anglophiles or pseudo-intellectual contrarians.

One last thing. The reason I took away one star from the overall rating is not that anything is wrong with this audiobook. After all, Tharoor's boundless vocabulary and perfect diction could give the Queen of England a run for her money. It's because I believe this book should be re-read and memorized by every nationalist worth his salt; and while the audiobook is a worthy companion piece for this purpose, the hardback would be the better way to consume it.

Speaking of consumption, Bacon once wrote that "some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." Well, you need to masticate the chapters of this book and chymify them until these facts are assimilated in the very blood of your veins. Jai Hind.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • The War of the Worlds (Dramatized)

  • Written by: Orson Welles
  • Narrated by: Orson Welles
  • Length: 56 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

On the evening of October 30th, 1938, Earth went to war with Mars. Martians invaded New Jersey! Here is the famous panic-inducing broadcast that shook the world, starring Orson Welles.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Wells-meets-Welles: Best War of Both Worlds

  • By Tushar on 24-12-18

Wells-meets-Welles: Best War of Both Worlds

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 24-12-18

Before ensuring his cinematic immortality through the 1941 drama Citizen Kane—which he co-wrote, directed and starred in—Orson Welles was responsible for creating one of the most famous radio plays of all time.

The play was a loose adaptation of the 1898 novel of the same name—written by HG Wells aka "the father of science fiction"—who also gave us "The Time Machine" and "The Invisible Man".

Don't confuse this audible exclusive for an audiobook, even a dramatized one. This is that very radio play from 1938, part of the Mercury Theatre anthology series. The play is presented as a regular radio program that starts getting interrupted by news bulletins reporting increasingly alarming incidents of an alien invasion. It was Welles who conceived of the idea; and he plays the part of astronomy professor Richard Pierson, as well as that of the narrator. Legend has it that some people who tuned in late and missed the introduction of the play actually believed that Martians were indeed taking over and starting fleeing outside in panic, though contemporary journalists claim this story to be exaggerated.

It's a very well-acted and well-produced play. So well, in fact, that it hardly feels dated. At 58 minutes, it doesn't take a toll on your time. At 65 rupees, it doesn't take a toll on your wallet. And it's not like you can replicate this particular experience either in the original book, or Stephen Spielberg's 2005 adaptation starring Tom Cruise, or any other of the many adaptations, for that matter. I highly recommend this to any fan of science fiction.

  • The Martian

  • Written by: Andy Weir
  • Narrated by: R. C. Bray
  • Length: 10 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 81
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 72
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 72

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive - and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plainold "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Perfect

  • By Tushar on 10-12-18

Perfect

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-12-18

There's just nothing to complain here. The story has pleanty of science and adventure with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. Due to the near-epistolary nature of the narrative, it lends itself extremely well to the audiobook format; and RC Bray does a stellar job. He captures the mood of the protagonist perfectly. And his renditions of the supporting cast, though lacking accent perfection, are recognizable as distinct characters. There are no lazy line-reads here. Bray consistently imbues the voices with the appropriate emotions. Keeping up with the math could get a little tedious at times, but you'll be fine as long as you don't plan to multi-task while listening to this.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful