The Collectibles: The Collectibles Trilogy, Book 1
Written by: James J. Kaufman
Narration by: Joe Barrett
“Pay it forward” comes to mind in listening to “The Collectibles” by James J. Kaufman. “The Collectibles” is about a lawyer as morally perfect as Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch. Like Atticus, Kaufman’s character polishes the image of human beings. Not motivated by money, power, or prestige, Joe Hart chooses to be unique among his peers; in fact, unique among most human beings. Hart is orphaned as a child and loses his wife to an errant bullet as an adult. As a child Joe is mentored by his uncle, a revered small town fishing and hunting guide. Lessons learned in childhood teach Joe to become a person bereft of greed, hubris, or covetousness.
Hart joins the Navy and becomes a submarine commander. After leaving the Navy, he chooses to return to school to become a lawyer. Joe meets and marries the love of his life. As a lawyer, Joe creates a reputation consistent with lessons learned as a child. He represents clients who make life’s mistakes. However, Joe chooses clients based on his perception of an underlying character that belies their profligate errors.
To heal from the senseless murder of his wife, Joe retreats to the wilderness of his childhood. (This is sometime after America’s 2008 economic crisis.) A multi-state car dealer, Preston Wilson, is in the midst of a pending bankruptcy. Preston is searching for a lawyer that might help him avoid the loss of his businesses and accumulated fortune. After searching for a lawyer to help him restructure his business, he is told the best lawyer to help him is Joe Hart. In a Dickens-like coincidence, Preston had been saved from a camping accident by Joe and his uncle when he was eleven or twelve years old.
Preston tracks Joe down in the wilderness. Joe decides to help him based on three conditions. One, Preston is to tell him the whole truth of how he got into such a mess. Two, that he never lies to him. And three, that he agrees to do something for Joe in the future, when called upon. With fear of the third condition, Preston finally agrees.
The author of “The Collectibles” is a lawyer and former judge. His understanding of the profession is clearly revealed in how Joe attacks the bankruptcy process. Joe rises to the occasion with super-human energy and intelligence by preparing for a settlement out of court, protecting himself from lawsuits from a victimized wife, and injecting himself into the reorganization decisions of Preston’s auto dealerships.
Five more characters are introduced to the story; e.g. a Las Vegas gambler, a Las Vegas dancer, a mentally challenged dishwasher, a wood carpenter with early Alzheimer’s, and a manic-depressive. These five people are Joe Hart’s collectibles; i.e. people who have an underlying goodness that is missed by society. Preston Wilson becomes the sixth collectible. All are Joe’s friends. They are friends that in turns are useful and pleasant, as once described by Aristotle in “The Nicomachean Ethics”.
The end of the story offers truth about living a good life; part of which is to pay it forward. The competence and morality of Joe Hart is supernatural and the story is maudlin. However, to the extent human beings become more competent and moral, the world will be a better place.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales
Written by: Oliver Sacks
Narration by: Jonathan Davis, Oliver Sacks
Neurological dysfunction is Oliver Sacks field of study and training. The irony is that a tumor attacks his brain to end his life. Of course, he was 82. But somehow, a tumor attacking Sacks’ brain seems an unfair marker for his passing. Sacks opens the eyes of many to the wholeness of being human when a neurological dysfunction changes their lives. Sacks is the famous neurologist who wrote one book that becomes a movie and several that become best sellers.
Sacks is famous to some based on the movie “Awakenings” that recounts an experiment with L-dopa to treat catatonia; a symptom believed to be triggered by Parkinson’s. Patients may spend years in a state of catatonia; i.e. a form of withdrawal from the world exhibited by a range of behaviors from mutism to verbal repetition. Sacks wrote the book, “Awakenings” to tell of his experience in the summer of 1969 in a Bronx, New York hospital. The success and failure of the L-dopa experiment became a life-long commitment by Sacks to appreciate the fullness of life for those afflicted by neurological disorders. With the use of L-dopa, Sacks reawakens the minds and rational skills of patients that had been catatonic for years. In their reawakening, Sacks found that catatonic patients have lives frozen in time. Their mind/body interactions became suspended in the eyes of society. They were always human but they lost their humanness in neurological disorder.
“The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” is filled with stories of people with brain malfunctions that change theirs’s and other’s lives. The underlying truth of each story is that symptoms of neurological disorder mask the wholeness of being human. Sacks reveals that many people confuse what is seen with the completeness of an afflicted but whole human being. Sacks first story is about an accomplished musician and teacher who appears increasingly forgetful. He appears to forget people’s names. He cannot identify objects that are given to him to examine. He figuratively mistakes his wife for a hat. Aside from these bizarre symptoms, Sacks notes the patient is highly intelligent and is known as a great teacher of music.
In examining “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”, Sacks finds that the teacher’s mind works like a computer in that he sees the details of things without seeing the whole thing. He forgets names until he hears their voice because he cannot recognize faces. He can identify all the parts of a face but is unable to associate the face with a name. When given a glove he examines its parts. It has five pouches. It is made of a soft material. The pouches can hold things. But, it is only discovered as a glove when given clues about its use. Sacks’ first story becomes a metaphor for the wholeness of human beings that have neurological disorders.
The music teacher relies on sound and other cognitive senses to fully interpret and appropriately act in the world. Sacks explains to the teacher’s wife that her husband’s neurological disorder is a part of who he is. Sacks suggests the disorder may be ameliorated with drugs but an unintended consequence may be to destroy her husband’s extraordinary music and teaching ability. In the years of this teacher’s life, he has unconsciously hidden a neurological dysfunction by using music as a method for organizing and routinizing his life. His wife notes that he sings when he dresses himself with clothes carefully laid-out by his wife. He uses the rhythm of the song to properly dress himself.
Sacks writes of several more patients that circle the same theme. He notes that memory is a critical part of being human. When memory is lost, humanness remains but personal understanding of oneself is changed. Memory informs and affects action. When memory disappears, time is disjointed and experience is lost. On the one hand, lost memory makes one young again; on the other, friends are older than they should be and many things we know from experience are gone.
Sacks is saying never give up on patients with neurological disorders. They are whole human beings. The neurologist’s job, as with all who practice medicine, is “first, do no harm”. “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” illustrates how seriously Sacks took his calling.
God’s Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican
Written by: Gerald Posner
Narration by: Tom Parks
“God’s Bankers” delves into the history of Vatican City. The author, Gerald Posner, shows there is little difference between religious institutions and any organization that puts self-preservation above ethics and morality. Leaders of religious institutions are as capable of being corrupt and venal as any who manage organizations. Just as some CEO s of private industry, and leaders of public institutions are moral and ethical Trump-ensteins, some Popes fizzle as moral and ethical leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic Church has had both good and bad leaders. No single organization led by a Pope, bank president, or elected official is totally responsible for immoral and unethical acts but many are complicit. The Catholic diocese and its brethren have committed every sin known to man (gender identity intended). The source of their perfidy is not unique to their religion or any system of belief or non-belief; i.e. the source is human nature’s drive for money, power, and prestige. Popes, CEO s, and public servants are equally seduced by human nature’s drives; i.e. leaders are bound, like breath to life, to act immorally and unethically when self-preservation becomes a first priority.
Posner begins his history of Vatican City with death, by suicide or murder, of Roberto Calvi in 1982. Calvi’s death is related to the financial practices of the Vatican Bank (aka Institute for the Works of Religion or, the sometimes abbreviated, IOR). From Calvi’s Death, Posner takes church history back to the 1900 s when the Vatican Bank is created. The IOR is meant to consolidate the land and money of Vatican City to preserve and expand the wealth of the Church. The Bank is a collection and distribution center for money donated, invested, and exchanged (legally or illegally) for preservation and expansion of the Holy See.
The primary purpose of the Vatican Bank is to preserve and expand the power and influence of Catholicism. The fuel for that purpose is money. Posner’s facts do not deny good works of the Catholic Church. However, his story exposes the sinful nature of some wearing the robes of Papal authority, and many (employees and consultants) hiding behind cloaks of Papal secrecy. Posner’s facts imply “being human” is the root of all evil; with money as its fuel.
The purpose of the IOR is “to provide for the safekeeping and administration of movable and immovable property transferred or entrusted to it by physical or juridical persons…” The IOR’s creation is meant to provide money for maintenance and growth of the Roman Catholic Church. Income is intended to come from charitable activities of the church; paid for by parishioner and lay public contributions, and from legitimate business transactions. However, Posner shows that charitable contributions and legal business transactions are not enough to sustain Vatican City and its global evangelist goals. The drive for money is distorted by an implied license to commit any sin necessary to increase income. Money not only serves evangelist goals of the Church, it pays off those who threaten exposure of illegal activity. No crime seems out-of-bounds for the Church; e.g. its complicity in Nazi occupation of the Balkans; a failure to confront German and Croatian isolation, transport, and murder of Jews; the use of the Vatican Bank to launder money for crime syndicates, the clandestine support of Nazi criminals in return for gold bullion (surmised to have been stolen during the war), espionage participation with American Presidents to subvert communist growth in Eastern Europe, Africa, and South America; and so on. Many Papal and IOR actions and non-actions increase the wealth of the Church at the expense of Vatican leaders’ morality and ethics.
Pope Pius XI is consumed by the desire to return Vatican City to its historic status as a Nation-state. He is willing to condone and support Mussolini to attain that goal. Pope Pius XI endorses tacit support for the Nazis when Hitler agrees to tax German citizens to benefit Vatican City at the rate of an estimated 100 million dollars per year. Though late in Pius XI’s papacy, Hitler and Mussolini’s mistreatment of the Jews is denounced in a Decree. That Decree never sees the light of day because of Pius XI’s death. His successor Pope, Pope Pius XII, fails to register Pius XI’s Decree and refuses to condemn Hitler for the final solution during WWII.
Posner brings us back to 1982 and the death of Roberto Calvi. Calvi is a consultant for IOR. He is exposed as a lynch pin in the relationship between the mob and the Church. He launders money for the mafia through association with the Vatican Bank. Calvi creates bogus charities to hide illegal financial transactions. He recommends Vatican Bank investment in risky ventures that frequently fail. Posner implies the Vatican condones Calvi’s activities until they become public. Presumably, the Vatican fails to break with Calvi because ill-gotten gains are greater than losses; i.e. at least until the threat of exposure tarnishes the image of the Church.
Pope John Paul II does not come away from Posner’s characterization of Vatican City without some stains. Though Pope Paul II is highly revered for his charismatic character and willingness to confront communism in Poland, he fails to unwind IOR and its nefarious operations, or aggressively attack pedophilia cases in the Holy See. Further, Posner notes Paul II’s questionable support of an American Bishop, Paul Marcinkus. (Marcinkus is John Paul II’s trusted adviser in regard to the IOR, and his English translator.) When Marcinkus’s judgment is questioned in regard to the Vatican Bank, John Paul supports Marcinkus against any criticism of the bank’s operation.
Pope Benedict, Pope Paul’s successor, is equally tarnished for failing to forcefully confront IOR corruption and its lack of oversight and regulation. By nature, Posner suggests Benedict is non-confrontational. An additional note by Posner is that Benedict fails to expose a homosexual faction of the Roman Catholic Church that coerces the Papacy into promoting Bishops based on fear of exposure; i.e. rather than promotion based on ecclesiastic and administrative ability.
In the end, Posner acknowledges IOR is becoming a more conventional bank with the support of the current Pope, Pope Francis. The beginning of the end of IOR corruption appears with Ettore Gotti Tedeschi who became President of IOR in 2009. Tedeschi, an Italian economist and banker, begins the clean-up of IOR. He is discharged in 2012 but not before he blows the whistle on IOR’s unregulated and corrupt practices.
Steps have been taken to regulate the Vatican Bank and stop its use as a money-laundering center for criminal enterprise. Francis has ordered the firing and replacement of IOR board members to improve the transparency of Vatican Bank transactions.
As the ancient saying goes, “Fish Rots from the Head”. Today’s Pope may be better than yesterdays but tomorrow is another day. One doubts human nature will change. Humans are unlikely to escape moral and ethical weaknesses. An ethical bank, like an ethical church, is an oxymoron. They both require money to operate and they are managed by human beings.
There is a whiff of guilt in spending 35 hours listening to Ted Williams’ life story. It is the same guilt one feels when watching a sport’s event, going to a movie, seeing a theater production, or visiting a museum. But, when good stories are well written, actors fully engaged and human interest stimulated, a viewer/listener’s time is pleasurably (if not) well spent. Ben Bradlee, Jr’s writing, Dave Mallow’s narration, and Ted Williams’ life story are near perfectly executed, thoughtfully engaging, and revelatory.
Ben Bradlee’s experience, as writer and editor of the Boston Globe, perfects the story of “The Kid”, the biography of baseball’s last full season “.400 plus” batting average player. Some say Williams is the best hitter ever to play. Dave Mallows narration sounds like a sports caster’s reflection on the mercurial personality of a baseball legend. The complexity of human nature is amplified in revelatory facts about a talented kid growing to manhood.
Bradlee notes that Ted Williams is associated with the greatest players in baseball history, e.g. Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Willey McCovey. Williams is a gangly 6 foot 3 inch teenager when drafted by the San Diego Padre’s farm team. At 19, he reaches the “bigs” when acquired from the Padres’ by the Boston Red Sox in 1939.
In one of the greatest years of baseball and worst years for America, Williams bats .406 in a season; Joe DiMaggio achieves a 56 game hitting streak, and America declares war on Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor. World War II begins. Both Williams and DiMaggio join the military in 1943. Williams becomes a Marine fighter pilot. Both remain stateside during the war but upon return to baseball, they cement their legends as two of the greatest players of the game.
During WWII, Williams serves as a pilot instructor. Quite an accomplishment for a high school graduate, but it takes three and a half years out of his peak baseball-playing’ career. Williams, and no other baseball player in the modern era, achieves a season batting average of .400 or better. DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak is never equaled, either by him or any player since.
DiMaggio plays for the Yankees and has the good fortune of being a multiple World Series’ winner and ring holder. The Red Sox, during William’s playing years, arrive at the big game only once (1947) but fail to win the ring. Williams plays as an All-Star for seventeen seasons. He is the most valuable player for the American League twice and a batting champion for the AL for six seasons. Williams life-time batting average is .344 with 521 home runs. His on-base percentage is the highest of all time at .482.
Bradlee compares the two great players. Williams comes off as the more colorful and interesting of the pair. DiMaggio is described as a miserly dandy that insists on being recognized as the best all-around player of the two. Though that argument can be supported by DiMaggio’s statistics and team accomplishments, Bradlee suggests Williams, in spite of wars with the press, phenomenal batting accomplishments, loss of peak-performance’ years, and diva-like actions on the playing field, is a better human being; and possibly the greatest hitter in baseball’ history.
Bradlee obviously admires Williams’ accomplishments but clearly reveals a number of his human failings. Williams is “The Kid”, an admired sobriquet but also a label that reflects immaturity, an immaturity that is only partially overcome by Williams’ military experience. Many episodes of what might be called diva tantrums are shown by Bradlee.
Williams’ fielding errors were often related to a lackadaisical attention span in his left and right field play. Fielding is shown to be a distant second to Williams’ obsessive study of pitching psychology and batting technique. Bradlee recounts episodes of Williams’ hi-jinks when using his glove to practice batter’s stance and swing while playing in the outfield. Episodes of Williams’ spitting toward the fans or failing to acknowledge adoration with a tip of his cap, because of fan-based booing, are sprinkled through Bradlee’s pages.
Many surprises are found in Bradlee’s fine biography of Ted Williams. Williams’ mother is Mexican; Williams parents are divorced but he continues to financially support his mother until her death and is deeply saddened by the passing of his alcoholic father; he meets George H. Bush when training to be a military pilot in WWII; he serves as a wing-man in Korea for John Glenn; his first position in farm-team baseball is pitcher; he bats left-handed but is a natural right-hander. Despite a career playing for the Red Sox, owned by the bigoted owner, Tom Yawkey, Williams professes a deep respect for Black ball players and their right to play professional baseball.
In the end, Bradlee’s adoration of Williams is uncloaked. Bradlee shows the generous nature of a complicated superstar, a human being that at once makes cold calculations about insults from the press while hiding personal contributions of time and money to childhood charities. Bradlee tells the story of a baseball player that rarely questions an umpire’s call; makes friends with working people rather than the rich and famous, and risks his life for his country in two wars when safer alternatives are available. “The Kid” is a pleasure to lovers of the game and to audio book listeners.
“The Burning Room” is an entertaining cops and criminals’ story set in Los Angeles by its author, Michael Connelly. Not having read any of Connelly’s books, Hieronymus Bosch is a recurring figure in many of Connelly’s novels. Without background in the series, Connelly writes a self-contained story of a police detective nearing the age of retirement. Harry Bosch is handling cold cases with a rookie police woman.
In general, the dialogue of the story makes a listener feel the tedium and thrill of being a cop in a big city. With few exceptions (one being the hackneyed comment, “copy that”), Connelly’s dialogue is crisp, informative, and absorbing. The story has particular appeal to those nearing the end of a career because it involves mentoring a younger person committed to the same profession.
The story is about two cold cases. One is the death of a musician that dies at the hands of a hired killer. The second is the death of several children in the basement of a mid-rise building. The title, “…Burning Room”, has two meanings. One is literal; i.e. a fire that kills several children in the room of an apartment building. The second is figurative; i.e. the guilt in one’s mind when responsible or implicated in harm done to others. In some respects, the second issue is more universal because it applies to cops, criminals, and all people who experience physical or psychological trauma.
Harry Bosch, in “The Burning Room”, is everything the public hopes a police detective is or becomes with experience. He insists on partner honesty. He believes in justice for all. He admires integrity and commitment of fellow officers. He ignores or subverts bureaucracy that interferes with justice. He confronts suspects with appropriate and considered physical force. He mentors inexperienced subordinates to grow into equal or better detectives.
Connelly does not show Bosch to be perfect. He is a single parent that is committed to a job that interferes with family responsibility. Bosch is unsure of where to draw a line with his daughter that allows her to become her own person. Bosch manipulates human relationship by withholding information and emotional attachment. In sum, Connelly successfully perpetuates a believable human character.
As in real life, solving Bosch’s and his acolyte’s two cold cases is a mixture of satisfying resolution and frustrating irresolution. Some justice prevails but injustice reasserts itself. The arbitrariness of society and the nature of human beings continue to allow some criminals to go free and some institutions to punish the wrong people.
By Chet Yarbrough
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz By: L. Frank Baum
Narrated by: Anne Hathaway
It is nearing that time of year when Judy Garland and Toto will, once again, follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. Listening to the original book, written by L. Frank Baum, Anne Hathaway’s narration reminds one of a loving parent telling a story to an excited child. Excitement begins with a tornado bearing down on a one room farm-house and a little girl running for her dog when the storm strikes. The house is ripped from its foundations, spiraling upward in the wind, but Dorothy feels calm like she is in the eye of a hurricane, waiting for what happens next. With a thud, the house settles; Dorothy and Toto arrive in Oz.
A wizened lady carefully approaches the fallen house. She is the good witch of the north. Dorothy finds that the house has fallen on the wicked witch of the east and that the Land of Oz is peopled by Munchkins, merry little people who never grow big but do grow old, just like Dorothy’s Aunt y Em and Uncle Henry. Dorothy is thought by the Munchkins to be a good witch that has come to Oz to kill the wicked witch. However, Dorothy tells of the Tornado and what really happened. As the Munchkins realize Dorothy’s wish to return to Kansas, they say they cannot help; however, they explain that the Great and Powerful Wizard who lives in Emerald City may know what to do. Dorothy asks for directions to Emerald City and is told that all she needs to do is follow the yellow brick road. Dorothy’s shoes are not very good for walking, so she is given silver slippers that were worn by the dead witch. She thanks the Munchkins who welcomed her to Oz and then provided food for her journey to the Emerald City. She begins her adventure on the yellow brick road.
A listener who has seen the film hears that the wizened lady is the good witch of the north; not fairy tale beautiful, and that the Wicked Witch’s slippers are silver; not ruby-red. And now, Dorothy and Toto leave the Munchkins to walk on the yellow brick road. Dorothy meets the scarecrow near the road and finds he is stuck in a corn field. To Dorothy’s surprise, the scarecrow talks. Three things the scarecrow explains conclude with a decision for the scarecrow to join Dorothy in her trip to the Emerald City; i.e. one is that the scarecrow cannot feel pain; two, that he is deathly afraid of fire, and three, that he wishes he had a brain.
Off they go. The meeting with the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion are exactly like the film but the Tin Man’s story of how he became a Tin Man is different. A spell had been cast, by a wicked witch on a woodman, a person who chops down trees. The spell results in the arms of the woodman being chopped off. However, an expert tin smith replaces the lost limbs with tin arms. Then the woodman’s legs and finally his head are lopped off, but the tin smith replaces the legs and head; also with tin. Finally, the woodman is cleaved in two, right through the middle. The tin smith makes a body for the woodsman and the Tin Man is whole. However, the wicked witch’s spell is not finished. The Tin Man falls in love with a village girl but the spell destroys the Tin Man’s heart. Unfortunately, the tin smith cannot make a heart. All three of Dorothy’s new friends, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion join her on the trip to the Emerald City to see if the Great and Powerful Wizard can give Scarecrow a brain, Tin Man a heart, and the Cowardly Lion courage.
The story is similar to the film, but not quite the same. There are two witches in the film; four in the story. The Great and Powerful Wizard, just as shown in the movie, is found to be a humbug, but a kindhearted one. Like the film, the wicked witch of the west is killed with water. The Scarecrow gets a bulging head, stuffed with rice for brains (no college degree as in the movie); the Tin Man is given a hacky-sack like heart that pushes out the tin on his chest (no tick-tock clock as in the movie), and the Lion is shown how courageous he is by the deeds he has done and all that he needs is self-confidence (no medals as shown in the movie). The journey on the yellow brick road in Baum’s book shows Scarecrow always had a brain; the Tin Man always had a heart, and the Lion always had courage. The Good Witch of the South, who is beautiful, explains to Dorothy that she has always been able to return to Kansas. All she has to do is click her silver heals twice.
In the end, a listener concludes the original story is good but the movie is better.
By Chet Yarbrough
The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archrive By: Brandon Sanderson
Narration by: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
The Way of Kings is a guilty pleasure: i.e. guilty for listening to 45 hours of an audio book; pleasure from a writer’s imagination that vivifies human strength and weakness. Brandon Sanderson teaches creative writing at BYU. Judging from Wikipedia’s bio of Sanderson, he uses three laws when teaching or writing creative fiction. Each of these laws helps explain why The Way of Kings is a pleasure worth its 45 hour length.
Sanderson’s first law is—“An author’s ability to solve conflict satisfactorily with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.” The Way of Kings is filled with magic. Sanderson skillfully develops characters while traveling back and forth in place, time, and dimension to explain the origin and meaning of magic; magic which is something like science or something like God. Magic’s meaning and the quest for a Supreme Being are explored with each character’s perspective and each leap in place, time, and dimension.
Sanderson’s second law is that characters of a story must have limitations greater than their powers. Power wielded, by Sanderson’s characters, are limited by nature because nature contains and is conflicted by innate good and evil. Sanderson focuses on limitations of great power to contrast good and evil, viewed as the elementary force of magic or a Supreme Being.
Sanderson’s third law is—“Expand what you already have before you add something new.” Sanderson is a god of creation. Like Hemingway, he creates life on a blank page. Sanderson creates characters that make reader/listeners proud, happy, sad, and genuinely empathetic. He amplifies and explains the strengths and weaknesses of nature in an imagined world of sentient beings.
Books become popularly and/ or literarily accepted to the extent that writer-ly’ skills comport with or enlighten a listener/reader’s life. Sanderson’s popular success and literary commendation give literary weight, meaning, and value to his three laws of creative writing.
This is a story about flawed heroes and heroines; with a bias toward heroic men and subordinate women. (The “subordinate women” comment is not to denigrate Sanderson’s writing but to suggest Sanderson communicates, as all human’s do, with his own learned and inherited memes.) Men are Sanderson’s rulers and warriors. Women are helpmates, lovers, scribes, and caregivers–sustaining humanity but never in front; always in background (another reminder of Hemingway).
The hero of this adventure is Kaladin, the son of a surgeon that becomes a soldier. Kaladin reverences life, like his surgeon father, but becomes a skilled warrior and leader in battles that take many lives. For reasons that only become clear near the end of the story, Kaladin is a gifted healer and “magical” leader.
A heroine of The Way of Kings is Shallan Davar, a daughter of an unscrupulous merchant and sister of three brothers. Shallan is a “Supreme Being” believer that plots the theft of a magical instrument to save her families’ reputation and fortune. Shallan is also an artist with a photographic memory that allows her to precisely draw what she consciously and subconsciously sees.
Other important characters that offer reinforcement of the theme of The Way of Kings are the Kholin family and an assassin called Szeth. The Kholins are a royal family of great reputation for leadership, valor, moral rectitude, and scholarship. Szeth is a slave to whoever owns his Oathstone, a talisman that controls his actions. Szeth has a conscience but cannot disobey the Oathstone barer.
Sentient beings are not perfect; i.e. they are good and evil. The Way of Kings shows that some beings believe there is no God but God; others believe there is no God but science. The Way of Kings suggests there is a middle way. One might conclude from The Way of Kings that sentient beings live life by their own rules and suffer their own consequences.
The Way of Kings audio book will have different meanings to its listeners but the skill of Brandon Sanderson and the expert narration of Reading and Kramer will entertain all who listen to its 45 hour adventure.