Sunday, June 3, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Last King of Scotland by Giles Folden

Title: The Last King of Scotland
Author: Giles Foden
Narrator: Mirron Willis
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 13 hours, 54 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Shortly after his arrival in Uganda, Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan is called to the scene of a bizarre accident: Idi Amin, careening down a dirt road in his red Maserati, has run over a cow. When Garrigan tends to Amin, the dictator, in his obsession for all things Scottish, appoints him as his personal physician. And so begins a fateful dalliance with the central African leader whose Emperor Jones-style autocracy would transform into a reign of terror.


Overall Rating: 2.5/5


The Last King of Scotland chronicles the rise and fall of Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator through the eyes of a naive Scottish doctor named Nicholas Garrigan. From a historical context, the story is quite interesting. It is obvious that Foden did his research and he provides an interesting view on Amin. Although Foden did have to take some liberties with filling in the blanks on Amin's character, I think he does a good job in providing a different viewpoint and showing differences between Amin the dictator and Amin the person. With that said, I don't think this would be enjoyable for people not very much interested in politics or history. While there is some action and adventure, this is very much a novel that delves into politics and the consequences of rulers' actions.


Much of the first half could have been cut out without any consequence to the story itself. Foden takes a long time to get through setting up the atmosphere and culture of Uganda. While I appreciated being so thoroughly immersed in the setting of the story, after awhile, the overly long descriptions of the landscapes and Garrigan's naive outlook on African life gets a bit boring. There were times I would zone out for thirty to forty-minutes and was able to pick back up again without feeling like I'd missed anything.


The second half, however, is a different story. It quickly picks up and finally some action gets started. Wars erupt between Uganda and neighboring countries, and Garrigan realizes how ruthless and crazy Amin can be. He decides to return home but has to do so without Amin's knowledge. This makes for some great adventure and suspense-filled chapters. While I found it hard to get through half an hour of the beginning of the novel, near the end, I listened to about three hours at once and didn't find it at all difficult. I thought the ending was perfect and it really showed how much Garrigan has grown throughout the course of the novel. But I don't think that the last part of the novel makes up for the tediousness of the first part. This is a book I could have done without.


While I wasn't a fan of the story, the narration is very good. Mirron Willis does a great job with the accents and the different characters' voices. I wasn't a fan of Sarah's voice, but I wasn't a fan of Sarah the character either, so it worked out. There were times when Willis would meld the Ugandan accent and the Scottish accent when switching back and forth from Amin and Garrigan, but it only lasted for a second. I always like listening to first-person novels in audiobook format, because it adds a little more personality to it. If you're going to read this at all, I would say that audio is the way to go as long as the length of it doesn't bother you. Much of the enjoyment I got out of The Last King of Scotland was enhanced by the audiobook. I most definitely would have given up on a print version.