It's been a while since I've penned a review - So much listening, and so little time.
However, I'm ready to begin another series of reviews on Audible scifi/fantasy selections.
So, let's begin with Jack L. Chalker's "Midnight At The Well Of Souls."
Why is this audiobook first? Simple. It's the beginning of a FANTASTIC series that will captivate you with a rich, rewarding listen, and have you wanting the next in the series, Exiles at the Well of Souls, which is also available.
This is the opening book for a VERY powerful series, one that pushes the boundaries of typical science fiction as you know it. Imagine, if you will...
The Well World: A world created by a long-vanished race, covered in vast, country-sized hexes, each housing a different intelligent alien species. Crossing the boundaries of the hexes can change the very air you breathe, the laws of physics, technology and even magic. Each hex represents the birthplace of that species, and some are at war with others. They can take over other hexes, enslave an adjacent hex's species, and can even forcibly swap hexes with another race. Creatures of myth, fantasy and nightmare vie for control of a planet they cannot leave, but can eventually rule. Even mankind occupies a hex on this planet.
One half of the planet houses carbon-based hexes, the other half alarmingly alien hexes, and each hex is the birthplace for these races and their migration into the universe eons ago. This world is countless light years away from our own, unknown, hidden and waiting for an opportunity to rewrite the universe to its own making.
The story begins with a host of human castaways that accidentally travel to the Well World, and are each randomly changed to a new species in different hexes.
It is all part of a very large story that will soar across the surface of the Well World in its telling, as many races and hexes to vie for a rare and valuable treasure that can change the Well World and our universe forever!
Despite all this, I haven't given away any spoilers whatsoever!
Chalker's Midnight At The Well Of Souls was so well received when it was first published, that he went on to write many more novels to expand the stories both upon the Well World, and even light years beyond it. Be careful, Audible listener. Once you travel down this wonderful rabbit hole, you might very well not turn back! It truly is that amazing.
So, step through the portal, human, and be changed forever!
Frank Herbert, I OWE you. I owe you a LOT. This was one of the very first books that truly stirred my love for science fiction. You SPOILED me. You made me demand better writing from the authors I followed, and better development, as well. From this book on, I became harder on myself, to read works that challenged me, that made me ponder well after finishing the novel. I hungered for better writing that combined story, action, flow, cadence and for God's sake, CREATIVITY. Thanks, Frank.
THAT'S what good writing demands of us, and if the author excels at his or her craft, this book is the perfect example of what can happen.
In Dune, you get galaxy-sweeping politics, messianic jihads, genetically-enhanced warriors and spacefarers, pirates hiding ruling classes, clones that psychically destroy their victims, fantastic ecologies and creatures, religions that manipulate families and bloodlines, and countless castes intertwined with ruling houses that all depend upon a drug found only on one desolate planet - A planet with its own secret and massive agenda, hidden within the howling desert plains covering its surface. And wait, it's followed by yet ADDITIONAL novels in the series, some better than others, and then yet ANOTHER series by the author's SON, done decades later, that provides tremendous PREQUELS, based on his father's notes? Finally, throw in excellent male and female narrators that fit the characters they portray, and individualize each character.
Come on. Do you really need another great review to buy this audiobook?
Imagine a hollow living ringworld in our solar system, complete with an ecology, mythical centaurs, arians, biological aircraft, riddled with lesser gods, and with living earth references throughout, and run by an almost immortal and insane queen? Now throw in earth explorers that enter this world in the midst of a planet-wide war, and become pawns in a much bigger plan that...
There, enough. I red this in its first printing. All three books. And they're awesome. VERY different. Extremely unique. And at the same time, epic storytelling.
Between the excellent character development, strong plot lines, deep descriptive writing without being weighty, and zero boredom, this is definitely worth your time to listen.
John Varley has a solid body of work, but I consider this this series to be his crowning achievement.