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.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
The last time I read this book was when it was assigned to my English class in eighth grade, and it was a pleasure to come back to as an adult and re-experience the same emotions I did back then. This is science fiction about the wonder and awe of discovery, the bittersweetness of letting go of the primitive past, and the ultimate destiny of the human race. It's not a dystopian or cautionary tale, as so much science fiction, but a book about what it means for our species to reach adulthood -- and a sacrifice that that may one day demand of us.
The story begins, in classic form, with the visitation of beings from the stars. The Overlords arrive on Cold War-era Earth in immense, silver starships, and immediately establish themselves as vastly superior, but benevolent masters. Yet, they refuse to reveal themselves in person (at least not right away) or explain their ultimate purposes. Here, one might guess, as some characters do, at sinister intentions.
But, nothing so crude comes to pass, and Clarke proceeds to a new generation of characters, as the Overlords usher in a new era of peace and worldwide prosperity for the human race. Not to mention a certain amount of ennui and loss of purpose, as mankind finds that most of its traditional problems are solved. Yet, a few people continue to puzzle over the mysteries about the Overlords and chafe against the restrictions they still impose. What are the reasons? Several intrepid explorers begin to find out.
The writing is simple and unadorned, and the characters not particularly complex in their construction (not to mention a bit 1950s), but there's a subtle eloquence to the way the story unfolds, each stage in the human race's progress revealing a little more about the fate that must eventually come. And Clarke's writing is still a pleasure to read for its vision, its thoughtful ideas about the forms that different alien races might take, the capabilities of advanced technology, and how human society might continue to function when the primary need is that of avoiding boredom. Though a few assumptions are showing their age (newspapers, radio), much of this 1953 story still speaks to the 21st century. Clarke continues to remind us of how little we know about what's out there in the universe, or how limited our evolution has been compared to what's possible.
Read it, if you haven't yet. Or read it again. Childhood's End is one of the works that sets the template for great science fiction, and will likely still contain meaning for new readers in fifty years.