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Publisher's Summary

Writing separately, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are responsible for a number of science fiction classics, such as the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Ringworld, Debt of Honor, and The Integral Trees. Together they have written the critically acclaimed best-sellers Inferno, Footfall, and The Legacy of Heorot, among others.

The Mote In God's Eye is their acknowledged masterpiece, an epic novel of mankind's first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre. No lesser an authority than Robert A. Heinlein called it "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read".

©1991 Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • All-Time Best Science Fiction Novels (Locus Magazine)

What listeners say about The Mote in God's Eye

Average Customer Ratings
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A great read!

The Mote in God's Eye, set far in the future, tells the tale of humanity's first contact with an alien species. Despite being first published in 1974, the science holds up fairly well. There are a few funny oddities that show the story's age, such as the mention of "microwave ovens" and "pocket computers" as if we would be shocked by their ubiquity, but these are rare. However, in this tale, the science isn't the star of the show. Rather, it's the nature of humanity and how that nature compares to the Moties who represent a unqiue threat.

The characters, while not of any great depth, are passable for sci-fi. Some reviewers may complain about this but, as an avid sci-fi reader, I have seen much worse. I never really developed any strong attachment to the characters, but I did get to know them well enough to keep the story engaging.

This is a moderately paced story with some parts moving rather quickly and others trudging along. There are a handful of dull portions, mostly involving Empire politics or background exposition, but just when I started feeling bored, the story picked up. The plot, while sometimes predictable, still leaves enough mystery to keep you reading. The story is long, perhaps a bit longer than it needs to be. For example, I think Horace Bury's character added nothing to the story and could have been cut entirely.

I don't understand why some reviewers disliked the narrator. Personally, I think LJ Ganser does a superb job. Ganser can handle a room full of similar characters while giving each one a unique voice. His narration of Admiral Kutuzov deserves a freakin' medal. His reading never once interfered with my ability to absorb the story.

Overall, I'd say this is a great read. It isn't the best first contact story, and it isn't the best sci-fi novel ever written, but it's fun, engaging, and memorable.

149 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Oldie but goldie

I read this book in paper format more than 30 years ago, but I had forgotten how good it really is. When I saw it available in audible format I jumped at the chance to listen to a previous good read.

Some of the reviews I have read are very hard on the book, but I believe that the are looking in the wrong place. What makes this book so interesting and unique, at least to me, was the idea that humans could encounter aliens so different that all of our assumptions would be wrong. How do two species interact when one is general and adaptive in nature and the other is differiented. That is at the core of this story; at least for me.

The process of meeting, all of the mistaken assumptions and the final realization as to just how different the species are is, I believe, a very interesting story with, for new readers, an unknown conclusion.

But listeners should know that this story is from 1974 and hence some of the story line is 35 years out of date. I believe that to be the cause of some of the bad reviews. Perhaps those listeners did not know the copyright date and might have been more charitable to the male-centered character of the story.

All in all I think this is a nearly great book with more than adequate reading.

115 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Book gets a 4, reader gets a 2

When I first read this book seventeen years ago it was the most realistic and impressive Sci-Fi that I had read to date and Moral of the story seemed all too true. Unfortunately this book now seems a little dated and simplistic compared to Dan Simmons and Peter F. Hamiltions works for example. This is really too bad since this is one of the books that I have been wishing would come to audible for ever since I became a member.This is still an excellent story and the Motie Aliens are as well thought out as the Kzinti or Puppeteers, (two of Nivens other alien creations). The only real complaint about the writing is the pacing of the story, it seems to climax halfway through, get lost for a while and then come to a resolution.
The reader on the other hand, (The gripping hand as the Motie's would say) is a real annoyance usually I don't care that much about the narrator when I'm picking out audiobooks, its the book that's important, not the reader. But this audio book makes me wonder if I've been spoiled by audible's other narrators. The voice is understandable and the speed and emphasis is fine but this man is just no fun to listen too, particularly for twenty hours. I can't come up with any better description, but this is the first time reader has been bad enough to be distracting.

91 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Narrator does matter....

I read the book many years ago and loved it. It is dated, but if you like shows like "Firefly", it won't bother you too much. The science isn't really dated...just the cultural norms. The story is interesting, as are the aliens. As others have mentioned the narrator is annoying. He would have been okay for 1 character, but having him read all the parts just didn't work. It is worth listening to.

41 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Beautifully Clever

This is a beautifully clever book. It is a worthwile spend of your time, but to avoid disappointment do not be too impatient at the outset.

I find Larry Niven slow going at first. I even get irritated by the care with which he sets the foundations of his proes, but then it hots up and you are transported to his world. A well thought out, clever, insightful and exciting place that is just around the corner. The world could be, or would be as he describes if we were only able to develop the technology to travel from star to star.

This is an excellent book. I recommend it strongly but prescribe you give the start a chance, you will be richly rewarded.

His book Ringworld is similar. It starts out slow and thereafter the only disappointment is that it ends.

Rgds

Paul Levy

35 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Why, oh why won't someone make this into a movie?

For fans of hard science fiction, this book will not disappoint. Unfortunately, it's unlikely to ever be made into a movie because the story is quite long and complex, and to present it visually would probably be very difficult and require a lot of CG. Therefore, this audio book version is as close as we're likely to get. This is a very good production, and I much enjoyed the reader's performance. If you liked this, I recommend Niven & Pournelle's "Footfall."

34 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Oldie but goldie

I read this book in paper format more than 30 years ago, but I had forgotten how good it really is. When I saw it available in audible format I jumped at the chance to listen to a previous good read.

Some of the reviews I have read are very hard on the book, but I believe that the are looking in the wrong place. What makes this book so interesting and unique, at least to me, was the idea that humans could encounter aliens so different that all of our assumptions would be wrong. How do two species interact when one is general and adaptive in nature and the other is differiented. That is at the core of this story; at least for me.

The process of meeting, all of the mistaken assumptions and the final realization as to just how different the species are is, I believe, a very interesting story with, for new readers, an unknown conclusion.

But listeners should know that this story is from 1974 and hence some of the story line is 35 years out of date. I believe that to be the cause of some of the bad reviews. Perhaps those listeners did not know the copyright date and might have been more charitable to the male-centered character of the story.

All in all I think this is a nearly great book with more than adequate reading.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Good book, slightly empty

I got this book by suggestion of the TWIT podcasts.

My basic conclusion is that the book has some interesting things to talk about, but in audio form it's somehow hard to follow things that are said.

Many of the non-essential characters are too similar, such as the crewmen who are always contributing to conversations. I still have absolutely no idea who's who. It doesn't ultimately matter, but it's frustrating to know in the back of your mind you have no idea who half of the cast are.

After finishing the book, I had to listen to the first segment all over again because of the above problem. Had I read the words on a page, I might have remembered that the opening quote is by a man later introduced in the story. I might have understood better the early hints and discussions concerning Rod's royal family. Somehow I didn't properly digest that fact until the third part of the book.

Going into this book, you should keep in mind that the story is not meant to dazzle you at thrilling pace with a home run ending fit for pop culture. The book is very much the story of first contact with an alien race. Note that that's very different than being a story about a life-and-death war with an alien race which the humans almost lose their homeworld. If you understand the kind of story being told, the story is excellent.

My only wish is that the writing style would be more explicit about certain things. After the book takes you through in-depth description of a major event, 2 minutes after the event supposedly ends a character suddenly reveals that the event actually extended hours longer with bits it never even suggested had happened. I sometimes found myself actually tilting my head in my car and saying "..wha?" aloud. I had to rewind a minute or so and listen again to make sure I wasn't going crazy, that I really didn't fall asleep during my commute.

Good book though. I give it my rating with the glass half full, not half empty.

29 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

You can't go home

My memory of this book from years ago was that it was a classic. One thing about memory is that we often omit the bad or average. I still think the book is good and an enjoyable read, just not a classic.

The aliens in this are the best. I don't want to tell you too much about them as that is part of the fun of reading the book. I will mention that they don't waste anything and everything and I mean everything is custom made. We get to hear not only about our misconceptions about them, but there misconceptions about us. I love a book that puts the reader in the mind of the alien. This book is very creative, but believable.

What did kind of bother me, was the belief that a space faring nation will have queens, kings, princes and an aristocratic society. Course I have trouble believing that that still exists in modern society. I could not believe that the prince loses a battleship and then is treated like a hero. We are also given examples of competent men who can not advance because of there bloodline, but they are happy with that. The attempt at a love story here is pathetic and should have been omitted.

My favorite Niven books are Ringworld, Protector, The Integral Trees, and Limits.

All that being said, I gave this four stars and I believe it a must read for all Science Fiction Fans.

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • S
  • 12-28-09

ALIUMS!

A good book about alien contact and it goes into the depth to which we would likely misunderstand anything that would be alien. Well written with a fair amount of societal and structural understanding. Not as much of a War In Space book as I was concerned about, good mix of military and social sci-fi. Recommended with only slight reservations.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Curates egg
  • 05-04-10

Listen before you buy!

This might be a good book.........I wouldn?t know.

My own fault, I should have listened to an excerpt.

The narrator reads it as if every fourth word comes as a complete surprise to him. The intonation of his sentences gives the distinct impression that he hasn?t prepared in any way for the job of telling this story. Reading the book quietly to himself in advance might be a good start!
His attempts at differentiating between the voices of different characters takes the form of speaking more loudly or attempting an impersonation of a Scotsman (I recommend him not to try it in Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night).

I was bitterly disappointed that I had wasted my money on this pathetic attempt and would ask Audible to consider instituting a satisfaction guarantee. I am afraid I was unprepared for such a bad attempt at reading a book after the excellent narration I have experienced in the 20 or so other books I have bought. Quite frankly I have heard better narration in the free public access books produced by amateur volunteers for organisations like LibraVox.

89 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Simon
  • 11-25-14

A classic showing its age

This is a very decent book but for me it shows its age in some respects. It tackles one of the classic Sci Fi themes of humanity's first contact with intelligent alien life forms. I think the authors deserve enormous credit for how they attempted to deal with both sides of the story representing the points of view of the human and Mote races as the plot unfolds. Possibly the real strength in the story is that most of us would sympathise with both sides as they try to navigate their way through the intricacies of contact. This is no simple humans versus nasty aliens tale!

That said, I found some of the characters a bit shallow, more caricature than character. Compared to more recent fiction I felt the human characters lacked an edge and were a bit one-dimensional and predictable in their reactions to the situations they faced.

The book isn't fast moving as you'd expect given the dual approach it has to what is a very complex subject. It is though a satisfying book despite its length and I felt well narrated. There is a certain quaintness about how the English traditions of aristocracy and naval terminology survived into an Inter-stellar Empire and its armed forces. Even so, it adds to the charm of what has been a much-loved book for four decades.

55 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Karen
  • 02-04-16

Narrator killing this great book

Any additional comments?

I read this book many years ago and loved it. I was really looking forward to hearing it but the narrator is just killing it. I suffered it thinking I would get used to his strange cadence but about 30 minutes in he started on a Scottish accent which was like nails on a chalkboard. I just canny take it captain! I'm going to have to hunt down the paperback.

49 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Guy Chapman
  • 06-26-16

Classic story, appaling narration

What would have made The Mote in God's Eye better?

The reader attempts a Scottish accent which is slightly less accurate (and vastly more annoying) than Dick Van Dyck's notorious faux-cockney.

Would you be willing to try another one of L J Ganser’s performances?

Nope.

37 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Samuel Halliday
  • 02-19-16

Worst Scottish accent, ever.

apparently writing a review is optional, but the app won't let me submit my headline without 40 words, so that's what this is. Really, it's a terrible accent.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Dennis
  • 01-19-10

Very glad I went back to this

This book is well known in SF circles as a classic. A must read for any SF fan. Well I did try to read it as a teenager and failed to get into it. I have now read it as an audiobook because I listen to Leo Laporte's TWiT podcasts and he had Jerry Pournelle on one of his shows. They mentioned the book and I felt I should revisit it.

Very glad I did. It is a masterpiece. The success of the book hinges on the nature of the aliens (Moties), their biology, history, the way they consist of a collection of specialised sub-species, their planetary circumstances, the consequences of all those taken together and the dilemma it creates for the humans.

The specialised castes are particularly frightening. Sub sentient engineers who can't talk but could get hold of your car, fiddle around with it for 5 minutes and hand back to you something that would win the next Monaco GP. Then there are the mediators who can observe humans, quickly learn their language and mimic and understand them so well they appear to read minds.

Humans are presented as clumsy jacks of all trades. Put them up against any of the specialised Moties in in their specialist area and the humans are in trouble. Fancy trying to negotiate the future relationship between humans and Moties against a Motie mediator who knows you better than you know yourself?

The book does show its age. There is a rationale for the human political system, the pre-eminence of the aristocracy, religion, military service values (the human spaceship navy runs exactly like the US Navy) but you'd still expect things to be further removed from today given the setting 1,000 years into our future.

And the narrator is utterly clueless about Scottish accents to the point of cringe-making embarrassment. That is no exaggeration. And his portrayal of the only female character is painfully stereotyped.

13 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • I Asimov
  • 12-02-15

Terrible narration

What would have made The Mote in God's Eye better?

A better narrator

Has The Mote in God's Eye put you off other books in this genre?

No, I absolutely love sci fi.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of L J Ganser?

Peter Kenny absolutely, he would have been fantastic.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Mote in God's Eye?

A lot of it. I listened to this as it is on a lot of the 'greatest sci fi' lists but I found the story uncompelling, dated, and disappointing.

Any additional comments?

I would suggest that if anyone wants to do this book that they read it, the narrator is aweful.

12 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • DrewN
  • 01-03-20

Ow, my ears.

What a quandary. Do I stick with a piece of classic sci-fi or let the narration beat me? I've never read the book so this was my first encounter with the text, but when we got to New Caledonia and I realised there would be a bunch of "Scottish" flavoured characters I caved. I looked at how far I had to go and gave up. I'll keep an eye out for a different audio version or punt for a hard copy.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-26-18

Challenging Scottish accent

I persevered. Not easy as the reader's attempt at a Scottish accent was painful to listen to. Interesting premise but fur once I think I'd have preferred to read the book rather than listen.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • S
  • 04-13-13

The best 'First Contact' novel ever

I first read this book 20 years ago and was totally engrossed. It mixes a great mix of characters in a struggling future Empire of Man with the effects of the sudden discovery - at last - of a totally alien race.

It combines great entertainment with thought provoking situations. The background to it is a really logical and believable science.

I think it's the best thing that Niven has written or co-written and that's a big claim.

The reading is OK - a strong American accent but then that represents the racial background of the lead character Roderick Blaine. The pace is good and him pronunciation is right too.



This is a long, engrossing listen that will draw you into the sequels.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert
  • 06-13-16

great storyline

took awhile to build up but once it had it got amazing. had some great concepts!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    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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  • Tayler
  • 12-06-15

Slightly sexist

Slightly sexist but given the time it was written it was probably quite progressive at the time. Very well written, and spoken

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Kerry G. Bolton
  • 12-02-19

Long winded let down quite frankly

Definitely not one I’d recommend. Story has promise but just not paced well and felt rather padded out. Disappointing ending.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    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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  • Nat
  • 04-21-19

Really worthwhile

It starts a bit slow but once it gets going it’s captivating. Performances are really solid. Plot is interesting all the way to the end and not predictable. If you like sci-fi this is a must.

1 person found this helpful

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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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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-28-21

slow start

Very slow start but worth persisting through. Well thought out story with lots of detail. Highly recommended.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-10-21

No direction or hook

Yeah, it’s kinda cool talking about furry little aliens but this is all the book appears to be. I gave up because it ended very boring with no hook or direction. If you like tech with no story, you might like it.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 10-10-21

Disappointing performance

Terrible performance. Mispronunciation of words and shonky accents.

Also terrible acting, the narrator consistently seemed to miss the vibe of scenes.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark M
  • 03-16-21

Painful, I had to stop listening

I got about 1/4 through it, I think I might have appreciated it more if I'd read the text instead of listened to the audio book. It still would've come across as very sexist but the narrators performance adds the bizarre feeling of an earnest reading of a Gilbert and Sullivan play. It gets in the way of the story and makes it harder to absorb.
The characters are mainly two dimensional and poorly developed, and it's entirely plot driven without character depth.
As for the plot, I found it hard to avoid seeing it's flaws of logic in light of the texts other failings, and the alien beings were contrived and implausible.
A let down as it came highly recommended by a friend.
Give it a try if you think you'd find entertainment in a story written from the perspective and exaggerated values of an imperial navy officer.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ric
  • 03-08-21

The worst accents on audiobooks anywhere.

Reasonable story that is told much too slowly. The worst accents I've ever heard in an audiobook. Will avoid this narrator from now on, he really detracted from the experience.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Alison
  • 10-13-19

Terribly dated

I tried and tried to listen to this book but the gungho American dialogue and abhorrently sexist sentiments just became too much.