Specimen Days : In each section of Michael Cunningham's bold novel, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, a man, and a woman. "In the Machine" is a ghost story that takes place at the height of the industrial revolution, as human beings confront the alienating realities of the new machine age. "The Children's Crusade," set in the early twenty-first century, plays with the conventions of the noir thriller as it tracks the pursuit of a terrorist band that is detonating bombs around the city. The third part, "Like Beauty," evokes a New York 150 years into the future, when the city is all but overwhelmed by refugees from the first inhabited planet to be contacted by the people of Earth. Presiding over each episode of this inter-related whole is the prophetic figure of the poet Walt Whitman. Specimen Days is a genre-bending, haunting, and transformative ode to life in our greatest city, and a meditation on the direction and meaning of America's destiny. Abridged on 4 compact discs. Read by Alan Cumming.