The book itself is a masterpiece in the exercise of power. It is short, available cheaply (for example from Dover Classics) and many of its ideas are still applicable today if appropriately transcribed. With this audiobook, Naxos have played a blinder. Unfortunately some of their audiobooks suffer from less than engaging readings, not this one though, the late Ian Richardson of House of Cards fame is exactly the right voice for this piece, putting the modern 'Machiavelli' right into the text.
One of the first books I read for fun (as opposed to academically) was The Prince. At the time it came across as crisp & pithy, but more like a manual for politics than a living, breathing text (similar to Sun Tzu's The Art of War).
The fantastic thing about this Audio book is that it brings the cadences of The Prince to life. Whereas the book is pretty much dredged for advice & the anecdotes are disgarded, Ian Richardson's presence forces you to engage with his story & with the fascinatingly varied life of Machiavelli. As the other reviewer has said "the late Ian Richardson of House of Cards fame is exactly the right voice for this piece". I would add that his qualities as an actor bring clarity & vivid detail to what is otherwise a political textbook.
And what did Machiavelli live through? Some of the most Interesting times (in all senses!) in Medieval Italian politics, when the Pope, Venetia, France & Spain all vied for dominance of Italy (& all eventually failed in some regard). It is in this backdrop provides fruitful material for Machiavelli to dissect. At each stage Machiavelli states how the states work, what things they did right & what failures lead to their downfall.
As a memorable example, there was the French, who had recently freed themselves of the English & were one of two dominant powers on the Continent. In the early 1500's they invaded Italy (at the invitation of the Pope) & humbled the Venetians. Crucially, they also proved initially popular & were well set to subjudgate 2/3's of Italy. Then they made their major mistake of inviting Spain to split the Kingdom of Naples. Couple this with their building of Forts, rather than winning over the populus & you can quickly see (through Machiavelli's incisive analysis) why France lost its immense gains as quickly as it had gained them.
And the best part was the ending, where he appeals for a united Italy. In the book this comes over rather plainly, but with Ian Richardson's compelling reading, you really feel the depth of feeling that Machiavelli wished to convey.
My one criticism is that the intense analysis is not ideal if you're listening in the car. To understand the analysis fully it needs your full attention (which may not be possible if you're doing something else at the time). However, this is relatively trivial since you can get the jist of it & read the book itself if you want more detail. There is also nothing to stop you purely listening to it for pleasure - it is only 3 CD's after all...
So, definitely a worthwhile purchase & a valuable insight into the passion & intensity of one of history's greatest political commentators. If you like this particular one, then I thoroughly recommend Dawkins' reading of On The Origin of Species. It is always good to hear dry non-fiction brought to life by a narrator. Why? Only a true Machiavellian would understand...
If you want to understand politics or the use of power this is a must. You will never listen to a politician in the same way again; after listening to this book. It truly is a seminal work. Ian Richardson is excellent his presentation is easy to understand and interesting.