Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fearless: Book Review

Fearless or daredevil? The biography of Navy SEAL Adam Brown, Fearless is the story of a man without fear, who never stops, never hesitates. His story nearly gets derailed along the way, which becomes a major emphasis in this book.

Unfortunately, my biggest reaction to this book would be a minor rant about marketing. Fearless includes the rather lengthy subtitle “The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown.” This, with the cover of the book and the general emphasis on Adam Brown as a Navy SEAL, suggests that the book is a military story. 

Author Eric Blehm, however, starts off his prologue by attempting to set this story apart as something different in its genre. Blehm suggests that this is not about a story about “Tom Clancy fiction”—the battle-scenes and behind-the-scenes thriller usually associated with military stories. Fearless is a good story, reasonably told, with plenty of military flavor, but don’t expect much inside info on Navy SEALs or their operations.

Rather, expect a different sort of behind-the-scenes story—one which tells Adam Brown’s journey through love, addictions, restoration, failing, struggling, and determination.

Fearless is actually the story of an Arkansas boy, who grew up in a great family, messed up big, found redemption, found an awesome girl, became an incredible husband and father, and incidentally was driven by his determination to join the Navy SEALs, and then to become an elite operator even within that elite group. To accomplish this, Adam Brown moves past injuries and weaknesses that most people would consider career-changers.

I do have to add a small caveat—parts of the story include strong language and crudities, but nothing an adult or mature teen couldn’t handle. Much of the rest carries a tone of hero-worship even when Blehm tackles a less-than-heroic story. I also found some frustration in the fact that the stories are all third-hand accounts from family and friends, but you can probably get a better sense of the book from the prologue and first chapter available here.

You can also find out more about Fearless online here. It might not be the best told story of the year, and I doubt it would have been written given a different ending to the story. But it is a story of incredible courage, determination, and redemption.

[My thanks to Waterbook Multnomah Publishing Group for providing me with a digital review copy of Fearless in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Les Misérables, Radio Theatre style

Three CDs, nearly three hours of recording—yet it’s only the cliff notes version of Les Misérables.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to the audio recording of Victor Hugo's novel produced by Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre, available from Tyndale House Publishers here.

In this adaptation of Les Misérables, the story starts with a smoldering, resentful Jean Valjean, ex-convict, released from prison after 19 years of hard labor, caged in by the fear and prejudice of everyone he meets. His last, hopeless attempt to find shelter brings him to the Bishop of Digne. And, when the Bishop challenges Valjean to change, the ex-convict starts on a new journey, helped along his way by the Bishop's silverware and candlesticks. In this recording, the Radio Theatre cast does a fantastic job of voicing the characters—from Inspector Javert’s rigid determination to pursue the ex-convict, to innkeeper and ruffian Monsieur Thenardier’s bullying whine, to Valjean’s anger, pain, and gentleness.

 As usual, this cliff notes version has sparked my interest in reading the original. Sadly, I’ve read Les Misérables only once. I also haven't watched the musical or any of the movies, while the book has had to wait for a reread since high school, so I can’t say much about how well the recording has interpreted the story.

Over all, though, I suspect that this version of Les Misérables can’t really compare with the original. It also falls short of another Radio Theatre production that I am more familiar with—Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (also available from Tyndale here). That seems only natural, of course, since Hugo’s novel is so much more immense and complex than a three-hour adaptation can convey.

For someone who isn’t familiar with Les Misérables, this version does seem a good introduction. And, for someone who just wants an idea of the novel, listening to this recording is certainly less intimidating than reading the massive story it follows. As for the story itself, it might be time to reread Les Misérables.

[My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest opinion of this recording.]