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Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

July 2009

by Jonathan Lowe

Paul Newman, A Life by Shawn Levy Was there ever an actor more iconic than Paul Newman? Since the star's death in the Fall of 2008, author Shawn Levy has been compiling anecdotes and opinions for his new book PAUL NEWMAN: A LIFE. What he reveals is a man of contrasts. A rebel yet devoted husband, Newman was also a Hustler and philanthropist—an average student who took acting seriously and became Nobody's Fool. Like his colleagues Steve McQueen and James Dean, Paul also loved fast cars, but not Hollywood glamour. So he became one of those rarest of stars who cared little for stardom, and therefore surprised everyone by actually being kind and giving to everyone on the set. (As opposed to the egocentric Madonna, as revealed in her brother's recent biography.) Levy is in obvious awe of the man, and since there is little here on the negative side of the ledger, this biography sounds like a love poem to one's favorite actor. Of course there's not much negative to say about this blue-eyed charmer, either. (As opposed to, say, Sinatra). On audio, the book is narrated by Marc Cashman, a voice-acting coach who has dubbed foreign films and created voices for video game characters. From his tone on this generous production, it's a sure bet that both author and narrator consume plenty of Newman's Own spaghetti sauce and popcorn. (Random House Audio; 6 hours abridged)
Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen Next, if you remember when you were fifteen, you can probably relate to feelings of angst. Few teens have a sense of perspective, and so problems seem magnified at a time when peers can seem cruel and vindictive, and self esteem at an all time low. For Colie Sparks in KEEPING THE MOON by Sarah Dessen, summer in a seaside town in North Carolina—while her mother tours Europe—naturally portends disaster. Saddled with a bad self image to begin with, Colie expects the worst. But this is a summer that will change her life forever, with the help of new friends at the waitressing job she takes. Dessen also drafts a cool eccentric to help Colie, in the form of a non-judgmental aunt. The young adult novel boasts believable characters enhanced by a spirited performance by Stina Nielsen. Nothing too dramatic or evil happens here, except that, in the eyes of a teen, everything that happens—particularly romance—has infinite repercussions. (Penguin Audio; 6 1/2 hours unabridged)
Triple Cross by Mark T. Sullivan Imagine that a gathering of billionaire corporate big wigs, meeting for a private party at a ski resort in Montana, gets invaded by an armed militia seeking to put them on trial for greed and environmental pollution. The trials are broadcast live on the internet, and everyone gets to vote on the executions. That's the premise of TRIPLE CROSS by Mark T. Sullivan, author of Labyrinth and Serpent's Kiss. As the markets crash on the news, an FBI financial crimes specialist, (along with the exclusive Jefferson Club's director and his three children), seek to undermine the plot and uncover a twisting secret. Narrator Lloyd James interprets the character voices, adding color to the text, although not without a few glitches (including a couple repeated lines not caught by the editor). Nothing stunning here, either, just an original plot that could have been more deftly written, knowing how hostage stories always seem to rely on the usual cliches of language, surprise ("no, no, noooo!"), and pedestrian romance ("wasn't I good?"). (Tantor Audio; 12 hours unabridged)
Calculating God by Robert Sawyer SF author Robert Sawyer's 2000 novel CALCULATING GOD has won a recent Audie award for its production at Audible. The plot features a curator for the Royal Ontario Museum who encounters a spiderlike alien paleontologist named Hollus, and begins an in depth conversation about science and religion. Hollus is only one of three species of alien, and proves to be a surprise in several ways. One, he turns out to be a she—and a mother—despite assumptions to the contrary. Second, Hollus believes in God, and argues proof linked to astronomical events common to both of their worlds. So it's intelligent design vs. natural selection, but not in the context of limiting God to a short history or having to dupe man by creating light waves en route to Earth from distant galaxies. Curator Jericho is dying of cancer, which adds tension and urgency to an understanding of these deep mysteries, but although one of the races has a near light speed spaceship, none of them can cure Jericho. What they do is even more astonishing, though, and explains why they can't cure him. Great books have big themes, and push the envelope, and this one certainly does. Is it great? Well, it's better than most, and with the narration of Jonathan Davis, whose talents encompassed both Star Wars on audio and Snow Crash—a true masterpiece—you can hardly do better. (Audible; 10 hours unabridged)
Stone's Fall by Iain Pears Finally, a London financier named John Stone either fell to his death or was murdered, and it's up to the journalist hired to write his biography to find out in STONE'S FALL by Iain Pears. Given the scope of this epic multi-generational historical mystery, however, finding out the truth will take time. Lots of it. Moving backward from London in 1909 to Paris in 1890 to Venice in 1867, the full telling of the tale requires three separate narrators: John Lee, Roy Dotrice, and Simon Vance. What is revealed is more ambitious than any mere whodunit, too, for the real story here is the evolution of international finance and the eventual arms race. Money and politics figure high as the theme of this triptych, unfolding amid an age that saw the birth of espionage. The narrators are all first rate, equipped with the requisite vocal and pacing skills to keep the tale engrossing. You need narrators like these, too, considering that a full day is needed to listen, nonstop. Pears is author of An Instance of the Fingerpost, and The Dream of Scipio, as well as much non fiction in the fields of finance and history. (Random House Audio; 24 hours unabridged)

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