• The Killer Angels

  • The Classic Novel of the Civil War
  • By: Michael Shaara
  • Narrated by: Stephen Hoye
  • Length: 13 hrs and 44 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (5,934 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

After 30 years and with three million copies in print, Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War classic, The Killer Angels, remains as vivid and powerful as the day it was originally published.

July 1863. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia is invading the North. General Robert E. Lee has made this daring and massive move with 70,000 men in a determined effort to draw out the Union Army of the Potomac and mortally wound it. His right hand is General James Longstreet, a brooding man who is loyal to Lee but stubbornly argues against his plan. Opposing them is an unknown factor: General George Meade, who has taken command of the Army only two days before what will be perhaps the crucial battle of the Civil War.

In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation's history, two armies fight for two conflicting dreams. One dreams of freedom, the other of a way of life. More than rifles and bullets are carried into battle. The soldiers carry memories. Promises. Love. And more than men fall on those Pennsylvania fields. Bright futures, untested innocence, and pristine beauty are also the casualties of war.

The Killer Angels is unique, sweeping, unforgettable, a dramatic re-creation of the battleground for America's destiny.

©1974 Michael Shaara, copyright renewed 2002 Jeffrey M. Shaara & Lila E. Shaara (P)2004 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Pulitzer Prize winner, Fiction 1975

"Shaara carries [the reader] swiftly and dramatically to a climax as exciting as if it were being heard for the first time." (The Seattle Times)
"The best and most realistic historical novel about war I have ever read." (General H. Norman Schwarzkopf)

What listeners say about The Killer Angels

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

The Gearge Hearn version is SOOO much better.

That 4th star is for Shaara not for Steven Hoye. If you are stunned with the brilliance of this novel you MUST go out and purchase the version read by George Herne. His performance, with all the subtilties of the many accents, is up to the entire passion and beauty of the work. It's not that Hoye is bad, but my old cassette tapes made me cry every time while Longstreet struggles with his knowlege of the mistake that Lee is making and his realization that he must go through with it anyway. This version did not. If this were the Hearne reading I'd be giving it at least 10 stars on this scale.

By far the best part of this version is Jeff Shaara's description of his father's efforts to get this masterpiece recognized. Today we have to wonder how ANYONE could not have seen this book for what it was.

His interpretation of character will not please the more rabid fans of Robert E. Lee, but will make unforgetable heroes of Longstreet, and especially Chamberlain. If you ever get a chance, go to Gettysburg and stand up on that line on Little Round Top, where the rebels had to climb up that hill for the fourth or fifth time, and Chamberlain's men were waiting for them--half of them dead and the other half out of ammunition.....

63 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book!!

Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels" won a Pulitzer and hit the top of the best-seller list, and it deserved both honors.

The Killer Angels tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg (a key turning point in the US Civil War) as a *story.* Not exactly history, since Shaara spent a lot of time with internal narration relating the characters' mindset and history and since he admits that he modernized some of the dialogue and omitted a few minor characters. Not exactly a novel, since the story is real, the people are real, and many of their actions, words and thoughts were recorded at the time.

Shaara's writing is excellent and the story is gripping. And, I think that to truly understand the United States of today, you need to start with understanding the US Civil War and how the two sides viewed that fight.

I have fewer superlatives for Hoye's narration. It's pretty good, but I think he over-emoted during some of the battle scenes. He also tried to distinguish the characters by regional accent (Lee with his Virginia drawl versus Chamberlain with his New England twang), and it semi-worked.

The print edition has drawings to show the orientation and position of the two armies which are, of course, missing from the audiobook version. I'm not sure how much of an issue that was, but there are some good maps on Wikipedia's Battle of Gettysburg page for reference.

51 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Almost a Perfect Audiobook

I rarely give five stars, but this impeccably narrated, moving story of the battle of Gettysburg is the exception. The story is so clearly told and pitched in such an emotionally accurate key that the tragedy of the battle illuminates not just this battle, but all battles. Includes a moving foreward by the author's son, also an eminent Civil War novelist. I had previously read the book years ago, but this added immesurably to the experience.

46 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Killer War Novel

One of my favorite historical fiction novels of ALL TIME. I read this with my 13 year-old son and 12 year-old daughter and it was amazing. My kids loved it just as much as I did. It was tight, character-driven, and dramatic. Imagine my surprise when my kids are discussing the virtues of Team Chamberlain (smart, honorable, thoughtful, a natural leader) VS Team Longstreet (brilliant, ahead of his time, brooding, quiet).

The Civil War is one of those historical periods that is a bit anachronistic to me. It has elements of romance, chivalry, honor, gentility mixed in with the horrible stench of a modern, brutal war. There are characters like Lee, Chamberlain, Pickett, Stuart, etc., who seem to belong in some Arthurian myth/melodrama next to Longstreet and Hancock who could easily have been cast in some post-apocalyptic Battle Royale. Add to this, the fact that these were real men, with real failings, fighting real friends and the book almost seems to narrate itself.

Anyway, this is a top-shelf war novel -- it educates, it entertains (as much as a war novel can be called entertainment) and it is beautiful. There were some paragraphs I wanted Terence Malick to film.

35 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

One of my all time favorites

This book (enhanced by the reader) is one of the best books I have ever read. The characters feel like I really know them and the story is absolutely gripping. The full panoply of human greatness and folly is on display here. The reader is especially integral to the enjoyment of the story as he seamlessly moves from character to character. Some reviewers have complained he reads slowly, etc. For me, he extracts the fullness of every word, as one would each bite of the most succulent meal.

27 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A book felt in the gut


“I used to command those boys,” Longstreet said. “Difficult thing to fight men you used to command.” Lee said nothing.

I just finished reading this great book and realized that it was 150 years ago this year, this month, that the Civil War ended after 4 years of fighting. This watershed event had me thinking a little more deeply about what I'd read, and why this book felt significant.

While sticking to researched history, author Shaara stays true to the facts as we know them, but has the characters tell their own part of the story. This unique format creates an intimacy
between the narrators and the listener. Whether they are commanding their men in the role of a leader, or alone in reflection, pouring out heart-sick confessions and doubts, you feel connected to them, a part of the events. It was spellbinding, hearing General James Longstreet's quiet doubts about Robert E. Lee's insistence to attack, and his turmoil as he ordered his men up the hill to what he felt would be certain death...the many conflicts are felt in your gut, and tear at your heart.

We learn the names of the battles and commanders, as well as the numbers in school. Some of the information we retained and regurgitated for tests: Antietam - 26,134 casualties, Chickamauga - 34,624 casualties, Gettysburg - 51,112 casualties, a total of 620,000 died. This is the first book on this subject that has made me understand the immensity of those numbers and facts by emphasizing that these were men willing to give up their own lives for the freedom of other men.

I can't give you comparisons to many books on the subject, so far I've read fewer than I intend to. This book was an experience the author allowed me to share with the past, and for that reason it stands out.

The epistolary history of the Civil War shows us that the speech of the time was flowery, emotional and dramatic; therefore, the dialogue reflects that well and not overly so. My opinion is that Stephen Hoye did a very good job interpreting the dialogue in the context of the times. I don't know if all versions of this book have this fantastic introduction (?) but I would certainly make sure! I thought the introduction, read by the author, was exceptionally interesting and set the tone of importance to the content to follow. Very highly recommend.

* I recall my grandfather watching the series Johnny Yuma on TV -- I can still remember, "Johnny Yuma was a rebel, he rode through the West"...a catchy little song. I was memorizing The Gettysburg Address for some elementary school grade; he told me Johnny Yuma was about The Gettysburg Address (at least that's how my young brain understood his comments). I can still recite The Gettysburg Address after all these years (but I can't remember my kids birthdays). I now understand a little more clearly the weight of those words, the many sacrifices that were made.



24 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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GOOD-BYE, GOOD LUCK AND SEE YOU IN HELL

DYING IS EASY
Another perfect book to take on vacation. I wish high school history could have been this exciting and entertaining. I had read it before, but my wife had not. I liked it so much I wanted her to hear it. She loved it too. This puts you in the battle and helps you understand the reasoning behind it all. Be entertained and learn at the same time.

23 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Best I ever read

This is one of the best novels I have ever read. It takes you into a time where the destiny of a nation was formed. The description of the battle and the charecters fighting in it, is a masterpiece like no other I have ever encountered. This book is truly one of the finest civil war novels I have encountered. Unlike many a boring textbook from my high school days, this goes back the figures and into the battle itself. People comes to life like no other book and paint the reality of the battle. I can not urge you enough to read the book, but I can promise you an experince like non other.

23 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

I wish there were more books like this.

This was an amazing audiobook. It is such a great book - a re-creation of the people and a battle during the Civil War told in a really fascinating way that you are completely taken in. It is well read (which to me means clear and easy to understand). This is definitely one of my favorite audiobooks.
My one criticism would be - since I was unfamiliar with who all the soldiers were during the Civil War, I had to concentrate to keep some of them straight.
If you are at all interesting in the history of America or just military history, you will really like this one.

21 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wow!!

That's my reaction after listening to this book. It is one of the finest audio books of all time, and one of my top 3 books in general. If there was a rating better than 5 stars, this book deserves it. As an audio book I feel its also important to give the reader credit as well. Stephen Hoye's skilled narration, use of accent and sense of pace brought the novel to life. A more passionate, compelling book you'll not find.

19 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Alan
  • 04-07-13

What if......

I often wondered what was in the minds of those at Gettysburg, what ever it was it came from the heart. I am a Scot ,caught up in another countries history,but courage spans generations and nations. They went forward even though they were afraid, Shaara takes you along with them. You are with Gen.Buford on day one trying to stop the grey tide, cavalry fighting as infantry and making it work. You see in the book the mistakes that were made and the things left undone like not seizing 'Little Round Top' by the Confederates early on. You are on the flank of the Union Army with Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine. It is a book about ordinary men having history thrust upon them.

Having walked Pickets Charge and seeing the gaping cannon mouths,Shaara's description has you in tears for the sacrifice of life. The dawning on Lee that his army could not do miracles and Longstreet's realization that they should be out of there to better ground. Shaara has the passage of the advance and death of General Armistead so moving. These were heroes in one way and ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances....that government of the people,by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.

With a talking book I normally do something else while listening,with this all I could do was listen, the word pictures forming in the mind from what was being read were vivid enough to keep you riveted.A superb book







1 person found this helpful

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  • kenneth smith
  • 02-11-22

mighty battle.

absolutely brilliant ì have not read a book like what a great and powerful part of American history.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • mr
  • 01-31-22

Fine War Factionalisation

Brilliantly researched and executed. The characters take life, and you learn a lot about the battle and the uniqueness of the civil in civil wars. Well performed and does not distract with the temptation to "and then..."

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rui Ribeiro
  • 12-20-21

Outstanding

This is a gripping, vivid book, enhanced by a magnificent narration. Clearly one of the best I have listened to. It's a work of fiction, but it could not be. Whatever went through in that battle and the moments that preceded it must have been very much like the book. You're dragged into the battle, into the carnage, you are privy to the doubts of Lee and Longstreet and can feel the sorrow for the loss of common soldiers and generals, all told in such a vivid manner, with amazing characters expertly brough to life by an outstanding narration. There are several parts of the book that rank among the best and best narrated I have seen or heard, like the final moments of General Armistead or the pain in the voice of Picket, at the end of the battle.

A truly amazing book, a very compelling listen. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the US civil war.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • T.KNAPTON.
  • 11-17-21

exceptional read

Good narration very good way it is put together. description of the battle accurate.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • G. Holmes
  • 10-30-21

Classic Novel of the Civil War.

An awesome ride with the men who made the decision of battle. The writing is breath taking, Michael Shaara does a wonderful job of mind reading the men and generals. The audio narration from Stephen is spell binding. A novel to enjoy again and again.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Russell Copeland
  • 07-29-18

Excellent

The best read of an epic battle.
I totally recommend this book, you'll be glad you did!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • sarah
  • 09-16-16

A fantastic, inspiring audio book.

This is an outstanding audio book. It's not surprising this book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Recommended before a visit to Gettysburg. Outstanding narrator.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Umashin
  • 06-16-16

really enjoyed the book and performance

Great novel but hard to follow who is on whose side at times. The performance and story is very interesting and well told.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 05-03-15

A legend of American Civil War

If you have any interest in the American Civil War do not miss this book. Michael Shaara & Stephen Hoye make you almost feel as if you where there.

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  • Aussiejed
  • 02-01-21

Magnificent.

A fantastic novel excellently read, produced and performed. Highly recommended to anyone. Excellent historical fiction.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • John Simpson
  • 04-30-18

Step onto the Battlefield of Gettysberg, July 1863

This book was highly recommended by American Four Star equivalents across the three Services. I also relished every minute of it.
The author's rich prose takes you to Gettysberg, and the narrator's flair, especially during the battles, made it hard to stop listening.

I'm not an American, but treasure this novel and the rich history of that era. I hope to visit the site one day and stand on the very ground where this story is told.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mike
  • 11-17-16

A great story but better to read

One of the few books that would have been better to read so you could see the maps and movements of the troupes.

Still a great story

.