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Looking to add 42 CDs to your collection in one fell swoop? Possessed of 54 hours of free time that desperately need to be filled? Look no further than this audiobook of Pynchon's latest literary behemoth, a product so ridiculously outsized it deserves a Pynchon book of its own to celebrate it. Hill is to be commended for making his way through the 1,100 pages of Pynchon's novel, traipsing all the way from the union-busting American West of the 1880s to the WWI-era Balkans, shifting accents and deliveries with aplomb along the way. While it is hard to imagine anyone mustering the energy to listen to all of Pynchon's admittedly brilliant late career masterpiece, Hill admirably meets the challenge, although he occasionally makes the mistake of emphasizing the book's comedy over its deep moral and intellectual seriousness. At 54.5 hours long, though, a little extra comedy is probably a necessary accoutrement.
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*Starred Review* Nearly a decade after Mason & Dixon (1997), Pynchon delivers a novel that matches his most influential work, Gravity's Rainbow (1973), in complexity, humor, and insight, and surpasses it in emotional valence. Approaching 70 and as famous for his avoidance of the public eye as for his Niagaras of prose, Pynchon remains profoundly fascinated by light, time, and technology. The improbable action begins onboard a hydrogen skyship, the Inconvenience, manned by the Chums of Chance, a fabled do-gooder aeronautics club on its way to Chicago for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Aside from some Jules Verne-like voyages beneath the earth's surface, the bickering Chums provide an aerial view of the carnivalesque proceedings as this many-voiced saga modulates in tone from cliffhanger jocularity to metaphysical speculation, lyricism, and devilish satire. As Pynchon whirls his way through such milestones as the invention of dynamite, harnessing of electricity, evolution of photography and movies, development of diabolical weapons, and the bloody turmoil in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire leading up to World War I, his motley characters circle the globe on quests for enlightenment, profit, revenge, romance, and sanctuary. Cartoonish figures vamp and menace, but Pynchon has also created genuinely dimensional and affecting characters, including marvelously tough and witty women, from saloon girls to a magician's assistant, a mathematician, and an anthropologist. By orchestrating fantastic, dramatic, and all-too-real goings-on in the Wild West, the Bowery, London, Gottingen, Venice, Mexico, Bukhara, Albania, and Tuva, Pynchon illuminates the human endeavor in all its longing, violence, hubris, and grace. A capacious, gritty, and tender epic. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.