This is the first time that I am reviewing an audiobook on here, so I wanted to point that out at the beginning so people are aware. An audiobook, even when unabridged, provides a different experience to a normal paper-based book. Not only does the content of the book matter, but the person reading also contributes to the experience. A bad narrator can ruin an otherwise excellent book, and conversely a good storyteller can breathe life into an otherwise stagnant story. In this case the narrator, Paul Michael, did a phenomenal job reading. He clearly distinguished the different characters when speaking, his female voices convincing and some of his accents were spot on. Reading a Ludlum book always involves a very international cast of characters, and Michael didn’t disappoint in the delivery.
And in this case the underlying book was simply great. I would listen to it on my way to and from work, and sometimes I would be very reluctant to turn it off when I got to the office. Or home for that matter, and I often found myself listening to it while preparing dinner. The unabridged version, which is the one I listened to, rings in at over 18 hours long. This is quite long compared to many of the other audiobooks I’ve enjoyed, but the story keeps moving and not once did I feel it dragging on.
Like most of Ludlum’s books, this one is a spy thriller. While Ludlum has a few notable series, this is a one off story following Nicholas Bryson, a 15 year veteran of a shadowy governmental agency called the Directorate. Without going into too many details about the book, Bryson is led to believe that his former employer, the Directorate, was in fact a secret Soviet penetration group. Wrestling with his own past, he travels around the world in an attempt to discover the truth and stumbles onto an ultra-secret group attempting to transform the world as we know it.
The book takes many twists throughout the progression of the story that you really don’t know who to trust. And the bad guys are able to plead a case that can almost sound reasonable, depending on where your values lie. The action sequences are vividly described and the spy craft is well explained. The settings are well depicted and you can imagine yourself on the scene. I have always enjoyed Ludlum’s heavy use of Europe and other international spots as locales for his novels, and this one doesn’t disappoint with scenes in Galicia, Geneva, Brussels, France, Moscow, London and China. If you have enjoyed any of Robert Ludlum’s other works, then you will certainly love this one. Even the ending of this book seemed well thought out, and I would even enjoy seeing the main characters return in another book in the future. The story lets out in such a way that more could be written, but it doesn’t need to be. I finished feeling quite satisfied with the whole experience.
I’m giving this one a nine out of ten because it was supremely enjoyable, but I’m hesitant to hand out a full ten this easily. It was a spy novel, and while it did keep me guessing the whole way through, I knew that in the end the protagonist would prevail. It is nice to feel that throughout, but it keeps it out of the realm of mind blowing. If you want to escape for 18+ hours, this is really a great way to do it. Or spread it over two weeks and make your commute more enjoyable.