Thursday, May 10, 2012
Audioreview: The Failure
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of funny bank-heists-gone-wrong / Not as an intro to audiobooks
Audio download (approx 3.5 hrs)
Publisher: Iambik Audio / Akashic Books
First, I feel I should apologize for allowing nearly a month to pass without posting my review of James Greer's The Failure. I've been trying to decide if it was the book or the narrator that left me feeling sort of 'meh' about the whole thing, and didn't want to review it until I was sure which way I was leaning.
You see, the narrator of the audio file, Tadhg Hydes, has one of the oddest reading voices I've ever heard. His thick accent and rushed, breathy way of speaking made it very difficult for me to follow the story. Nearly every sentence began with a big push of air and ended on a soft whisper.
If you can't imagine what I am describing, you need to listen to the sample of the audio. Go on, I'll wait. It's only 4 minutes long, so you'll be back in no time....
See what I mean?
I also struggled with his strange phrasing - his Irish blood has him dropping the h's from words (so 'thanks' becomes 'tanks' and 'thoughts' becomes 'toughts') and the breathy-ness I mentioned makes his r's sound like wannabe w's (so 'rolling around' sounds an awful lot like 'wolling awvound'). The r's aren't affected all of the time. Just some of the time. And I would often catch myself listening more for those lazy r's than to the words he was actually speaking. It was a mess. Trust me.
One thing I did like about Tadgh was the fact that he didn't change his voice to differentiate between male and female characters, like other narrators I've listened to. He read everyone pretty straight, which was refreshing, even if I didn't care much for his natural voice. And his less-than-animated reading made some of the humor more humorous, if you can believe that. It was almost as though his rushed, deadpan delivery kicked my funny bone into high gear.
Now on to the story. The Failure is about two best friends - Guy Forget (what a name!) and Billy - and their absolutely insane idea to rob a check cashing building in order for Guy to get the backing money he needs for a breakthrough internet advertising website called Pandemonium that some stranger named Sven is trying to sell him. He and Billy know next to nothing about robbing a building, but they have a guy on the inside and feel pretty confident they can pull it off. And of course, it wouldn't be worth reading if everything goes as planned.
The book begins with Guy in a coma, so you know right from the start that this robbery thing was a bust, but that won't deter you from reading on. As a matter of the fact, the book is told completely out of order, and spans a five month period of time, so the entire novel you're sitting there trying to decipher and reorder the events to determine what exactly went down and who the hell foiled who.
James Greer seemed to have a good time playing around with the writing. It definitely shows through, even if I didn't appreciate Tadhg's interpretation of the text. A good chunk of the book is just out and out conversation taking place between characters. It's witty and wacky and a little all over the place. Greer understands human awkwardness - awkwardness between strangers, awkwardness between friends - and infuses Guy and Billy with the best and worst of it. If I had read this, rather than listened to it, I think I would have had a lot more fun with this one!
I mean, who the heck hasn't sat around and imagined robbing a bank or a jewelry store? Who hasn't wanted to make a cool 100k in the blink of an eye, by slipping on a ski mask and running into a store screaming "this is a stick-up, everyone down! Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt!" Ok, ok, so I admit, I've never fantasied about robbing a bank. But I have been driving behind an armored truck before and wished really hard that it would crash and explode, shooting hundreds of thousands of dollars into the sky so I could snatch them out of the air and run!!!
Listen, if you like books that mess with the sequence of events and share the end at the beginning, then you should check this one out. And if you like books that you know don't stand a chance of turning out well, and get a kick out of watching it all go wrong, check this one out. But I'm going to recommend sticking with the print version on this one, guys, and ask that you just trust me on this....