Monday, November 24, 2008

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Source: LibriVox
Length: 17 hr, 18 min
Reader: Gary Sherwin

The book: The Last of the Mohicans is set in upstate New York during the French and Indian War. Natty Bumppo, known to the British-allied Indians as Hawkeye and to the French and their Indian allies as "Le Longue Carabine," is a scout in the hotly-contested portage between the Hudson River and the Great Lakes. He and his friends Chingachgook and Uncas, the last two members of the dwindling Mohican tribe, pledge to help two young ladies and their escort through the forest to Fort William Henry where their father is in command of the British forces. But the forest is filled with the French-allied Huron Indians, so it will take all of Hawkeye and the Mohicans' skill to get them through alive.

I was expecting this book to be a plodding period drama with long-winded descriptions of the American frontier and boring philosophical speeches on the noble savage. Cooper did throw in a few of these, but I found the descriptions moving and the speeches short and to-the-point. For the most part, this book was much more fun than I expected. Cooper designs some exciting action sequences with interesting devices for the heroes' escape. His villains and heroes alike are well-formed characters, despite borrowing heavily from American Indian stereotypes. The main asset of the book, however, was the setting. The French and Indian War is a short chapter in most American textbooks and little more than a footnote in European history, but Cooper's story is a great example of literature making history come alive.

Rating: 8/10

The reader: Sherwin's reading is that of an amateur, but a talented amateur. He stumbles over a word from time to time, and noises like page turns and edits are clearly audible. His tone and pacing, however are near-perfect. Sherwin does voices with varying success. His voicing of the villain is scarily menacing, while the comic choirmaster's voice is hilariously funny. On the other hand, the female characters' voices made me cringe at times. His natural voice is fairly deep, which is liability for the women characters, but for his narration and male voices it's a great asset. Fortunately, most of this book plays to his strengths, so I can highly recommend this reading.

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