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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-08-17

Top-drawer work from a master of his craft

I've been a fan of Jon Ronson's for a fair while. I've read his books, listened to his audios and so on. To a degree, I suppose The Butterfly Effect is preaching to the converted in that I very much enjoyed it.

It really is a cracking piece of work, however. It's a story about porn that isn't really about that at all. As with all his work, Jon Ronson has an amazing way of taking a story and making it about people. It takes surprising skill and a lack of ego to do this. He tells a story without making it about himself.

The Butterfly Effect heads off in surprising directions that is constantly surprising and interesting. It's funny and engaging, never boring. I can't recommend it highly enough.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-02-16

An audio of (literally) two parts

This is hard to review because of the structure of the audio. Around 80% of it is read by Daniel Bryan himself. It's first person and it's great. It's funny, heartwarming, informative...everything you would want it to be.

Essentially it is the story of a man who overcame a series of potentially insurmountable obstacles in front of him to reach to the top of his profession.

The problem is the other 20%. It's the story of Daniel's Wrestlemania week, written third person as a news article by Craig Tello. Tello is (or was) a writer.

Daniel's own parts are understated, a measure of the man himself. This is rambunctious and riddled with over-the-top superlatives that jar with the other style.

For instance, nobody over 'says' anything. Any line of dialogue is followed by, 'he asserts'; 'he announces', 'he details' - or whatever. Look, we know you own a thesaurus. So what? Less is more and all that.

It also contradicts some of the parts Daniel himself describes. Daniel says his first PPV was the 1996 Royal Rumble, which he bought with his friends. Chapters later and Tello says Daniel's first PPV was Wrestlemania 12.

Who's supposed to be editing this?

Lastly, the narrator of the Tello parts is a complete clown. Anyone, ie a professional, who does even the most basic amount of research could tell you that 'John Cena' is pronounced 'John See-na'. But, no. In the first-person parts, Daniel with pronounce it correctly, moments later, Mr Unprofessional will say: 'John Say-na'.

This split format creates such a jarring experience that it's like two different books. Every time Peter Berkrot is busy mispronouncing something (which is a lot), you're yearning to get back to Daniel telling his own story.

I'd still recommend - but with the caveats above. The most frustrating thing is that this is all so avoidable. Why didn't a copy editor cross-reference the two parts so that one doesn't contradict the other? Why isn't there an audio editor to check how names and wrestling terms are pronounced? Absolute basics.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-12-15

Dragged down by its format

I suppose the most important thing is that I did finish this. There are surprises through to the end - although a couple are contrived to say the least. The one in the final sentence or two especially so.

What really makes this a complete mess is the setup. The story is told over a series of October 31s, which could be fine - except it simply doesn't work. For instance, one character waits an entire year to pass on information to another for no reason other than that's the format of the book.

As for the series of killings, well, there's only one person who it could be. Concealing the person's identity throughout the story does little other than to bump up the word count. As a reader, if you stop halfway through and guess who the killer is, you'll get it right.

There are a few other names offered up but none would seem legitimate to a rational human being and because of chapter one (which is a sort of flash-forward), we can already rule them all out.

Not only that, there are chapters where Claire is in danger. Chapters end on cliffhangers where we're supposed to worry for her. Except, because of that flash-forward, we already know she's safe!

Near the end, a character tries to escape but, instead of heading anywhere that might be safe, they go for a lighthouse - a place with one door in and out. Why would that happen? No reason other than it seemed a good setup, I suppose.

There's a lot of good stuff here - but the main story really hasn't been thought through. Characters frequently don't act in a way that any actual person would.

The narrator does a good job but she, too, is bogged down by those alternate POVs from the killer. It could have been better with some serious re-thinking.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-09-15

Enjoyable and yet the central premise...

I really like Patrick Ness's books and have read or listened to them all.

The concept of The Rest Of Us Just Live Here is unique - in all the supernatural teen books with vampires, wizards and craziness going on, what happens to the rest of the kids who go to those schools and live in those towns?

It's a great one-line pitch and the writer just about pulls the story off, although that central idea soon becomes a burden rather than a blessing. The interesting parts of the story frequently seem to happen off-page and, in an effort to keep the story grounded, there are long periods where it feels like very little of consequence is going on.

Of course, that's life. There are long parts of people's every day lives in which nothing happens - but, as a novel, it's not quite enough to consistently pull the reader/listener back to the novel.

I finished it - and enjoyed it - but there were many times where I was fine with putting the audio down and going off to do other things. I never rushed back to it.

Away from the story itself, the narration is excellent. The sign of a good reader for me is that, as a listener, you forget there's somebody's voice telling the story. It simply fits. James Fouhey does an excellent job.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-05-15

Hard to understand why this exists

I'm not entirely sure why this has to be out there as a story at all, let alone an audio.

I do enjoy Mark Billingham's Thorne series, which is why I thought I'd try this. Except... there's not really a story. None of the characters are appealing, either as a protagonist, or antagonist. It just sort of exists. The type of tale with which some pub bore might annoy the regulars.

Billingham's own narration is fair enough, much in line with the reading of his latter Thorne novels - but it's nothing like enough to save what is such a poor story.

I definitely would not waste a credit on this.

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0 of 2 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-08-14

Hit and miss

As you'd probably expect from a collection of stories written by different authors, this is a very hit and miss set.

The stand-out section is Neil Gaiman's eleventh doctor story, which hits the mark perfectly; both in capturing the spirit of Matt Smith and in telling a fun tale.

Patrick Ness's fifth doctor story and Charlie Higson's ninth doctor are both interesting, too - and then it's something of a mixed bag. Eoin Colfer and Michael Scott's first and second doctor stories are OK ... though the first doctor tale doesn't really read as something that would befit William Hartnell. Scott's story is, well, a bit long. That's a strange thing to say about a short story but the premise is better than the execution.

Derek Landy's tenth doctor story is perhaps the biggest disappointment. The characterisation of The Doctor and Martha is spot on and, at the beginning, you're hoping for something special. Then it falls apart under the weight of its own literary references.

Some of the narrator choices are strange, too. Sophie Aldred reads two - but not the seventh doctor story, in which Ace is the companion. The sixth doctor's tale is told first-person by Peri, yet it's read by Sophie Aldred - which sounds odd.

Charlie Higson's narrating of his own story is excellent, as is Peter Kenny's reading in the final story.

In all, despite those reservations, if you're a Who fan, it's probably worth it and certainly offers good value.

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2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-07-14

A bit boring

I found it hard to escape the feeling that this story is told from so many viewpoints because, if you take a step back and think about the tale, very little happens.

I enjoyed Alex's first book, The Wicked Girls, and it leant itself very well to the audio format. The same wasn't really true of this. There are interesting characters and the odd instance of suspense - but they're few and far between.

By deciding to write solely about the events in one house, the author has written herself into a corner, and there's simply not enough story here for the length. An editor could cut anything from 30% to 50% of this comfortably and barely affect the story.

For instance, what's the point in holding back the identity of the killer when it's later given away in such an obvious matter-of-fact manner that you're left thinking, 'Oh, I assumed it was him anyway.' No suspense, no big reveal, no ta-da, no twist. It's obvious because you're told it's a man and there are so few males in a house of six. The suspense is dead before it's even begun.

The reveal of how Collette is being found is also obvious because it's the only explanation possible. How could she not figure it out for herself when she's supposedly intelligent and world-smart? It's not as if other explanations or red herrings are offered to the reader.

Although the end was half-decent, I found myself barely caring because I'd become bored with the tale so much earlier. Not in the same league as Alex's first book and quite the disappointment.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-07-14

Pretty good

Minor spoilers ahead:

I enjoyed the audio and the performance was excellent. The story itself was good with a single caveat. Although it all played out perfectly believably, I didn't quite buy that Jade and Belle would have been convicted in the way they were. We're told Belle was a cold, calculating child - but there's little evidence for that and the trial itself is never explored. Their alibi seems quite reasonable and yet there's no explanation for why it is not believed.

That aside, the parts in the present work well. The story moves at a decent pace with rounded, believable characters. Definitely worth a listen.

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2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-06-14

OK set up but not much story & odd Americanisation

This story starts well and the narration is generally good - but, ultimately, this version is just bizarre.

When has a British kid - or, indeed, person - ever said "five-pound bill"? They might say "fiver" or, at worst, "five-pound note". There are teenagers talking about "chips" (crisps), "sneakers" (trainers), butt (ar*e or bum), flashlights (torches), sidewalks (pavements) - and so on.

Before long, the dialogue becomes so jarring that you're thrown out of the story by how weird it all is.

Then there's the issue that there's not really enough story for an actual novel. The stuff with Britney could be removed entirely with no adverse effect. In those chapters, we learn nothing about Jem, Spider, or her powers. Much of the "middle" is irrelevant, neither driving the narrative, nor having any happen that expands the central characters. It's just padding.

After a good set-up, this quickly fumbles its way into something quite dreary. I would not recommend.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-04-14

As you'd expect

There's little that's new here - much of Lance Armstrong's 'antics' have been well documented and what this book does is put everything together into a relatively cohesive structure.

Sometimes the order seems a bit off, jumping back and forth in the other cyclist's chapters, for instance Floyd Landis, but it generally holds together well.

It's not as personal as David Walsh's book, which leaves it up to the reader/listener to decide if that's a good or bad thing. For me, at times, it felt as if Juliet was listing things that happened, as opposed to explaining how she was involved in asking certain questions. David Walsh's version perhaps veers too far the other way but each book has its own merits (though I suspect Walsh himself would be surprised to hear himself called an "English" journalist - he's most definitely Irish).

All in all, if you've decided to buy this, you likely already know what you're getting - a dossier chronicling Lance Armstrong's years of cheating. Everything publicly known is there and, for that, it does what it should do.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful