Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
I almost always read many audible reviews before I pick up a new audio book, but in the case of the Revelation Space series, I really wish I had read the reviews on each of the books before I started any of them. If I had I would have realized that although Audible has Chasm City listed as book 2 in the Revelation Space series, it is actually a prequel to Revelation Space and can stand alone. I would have also seen Michael's and Robert Eric Koch's reviews suggesting that you start Alastair Reynolds with this book. Although my first Reynolds was House of Suns and I think that's a great one to start with, I certainly agree with those reviewers that Chasm City would be a good place to start and I would strongly recommend that you get your first introduction to the world of Revelation Space via Chasm City rather than with Revelation Space. Although Revelation Space was published only a year earlier than Chasm City, there is an enormous improvement in Reynold's writing between the two books. Chasm City is not only much more tightly plotted and easier to follow, there is very adept use of symbolism and foreshadowing in Chasm City that adds suspense and thrills that just weren't there in Revelation Space. (Makes me want to listen again just to find all those little gems that were cluing my subconscious.)
This is a really dark, kind of creepy story and Reynolds uses such evocative language through much of the book that I was surprised a couple of times while listening to look up and realize it was a nice sunny day out - in my head I was tip-toeing through ghost spaceships, diving into the mists of Chasm City, and evading hunters on the mean streets at night. There are two story lines interwoven into the novel and both are told first person. Reynolds has done a wonderful job in pulling the listener into both stories and the plot is well organized so it is easy to follow although it is rather intricate. The first person perspective in this novel can give you the willies at times - I didn't like the decisions that one of the POV characters was making as he becomes rather megalomaniacal, but I had already so identified with him that I couldn't quite stop rooting for him even while hating him. Now, THAT is creepy-good writing!
This is a much more methodical layout of Revelation Space than you get in the debut novel and I think reading Chasm City first would make it easier to follow Revelation Space. John Lee brought his A-game to this book so the narration is great also.
Great future science, good characters, super-twisty plot, terrific writing, wonderful narration - this is a killer good audio book!
The Diamond Age is both amazing and frustrating. The first half of the book is truly brilliant; both science fiction and fantasy woven together with beautiful Victorian-toned prose. The second half of the book is rather irritating with dangling plot points, gratuitous sex (not needed and worse yet, not erotic) and torture scenes, and ultimately a rushed ending.
There are so many interesting sociological themes woven into this book that an English teacher could have a real field day with it. Characters are likable, settings are wonderfully vivid, but the plot gets far more convoluted than necessary. In spite of some flaws, overall, I found the book immensely entertaining, terribly imaginative, and far more literary than many sci-fi novels.
The narrator is superb - lovely voice with excellent character voices. One of the few narrators I have heard that could do a child's voice without making me gag. I wish Audible provided a separate rating category for "audio production" because I have to rate down the performance because the audio has flaws that just shouldn't be there. Jennifer Wiltsie is most definitely a FIVE STAR narrator, but there are several places in the recordings where the sound blurs and the cut at the end of part 1 is terrible. Hence my 4 stars on the performance.
I would recommend The Diamond Age with some caveats - this is definitely an adult novel and you have to be a reader willing to push on through some confusion to enjoy this.
In The Land Across, our hero, a travel writer named Grafton, is determined to become the first to publish a travel guide for an unnamed Eastern European country he refers to as "the land across the mountains". He takes a train across the border and is immediately arrested. His passport is confiscated and he is delivered to and becomes the prisoner of a suburban homeowner. We then follow Grafton as he first attempts to regain his passport and secondarily tries to understand the mores and culture of the country for his book, but Grafton quickly becomes embroiled in mysteries and dramas far beyond his expectations. The American travel writer stumbles across a lost treasure mystery, becomes dangerously entangled in a black cult and the JAKA (the country's secret police) efforts to stop them, as well as becoming the recipient of an animated dead hand all the while dealing with the amorous attentions of virtually every woman he meets including a ghost girl!
The book begins in a quasi-travelogue style, but moves into more of a first person mystery tale fairly early in the narrative. There's a little bit of a lot of paranormal thrown in - allusions to Vlad the Impaler, voodoo, ghosts, angels, demons, second sight, etc. - although the paranormal side of the story never quite finds a real focus. There is a fairly good use of foreshadowing, some great settings that enhance the creepy feeling of foreboding, several clever plot twists, and some very fun characters that keep this story fast-moving and very entertaining. This is one of those books where you can see some big plots holes in the rear view mirror, that aren't too troublesome during the story. (I had the same feeling about Lexicon and 14 - too much fun during the story to worry about plot holes until AFTER I finished the book.)
I wouldn't normally really like this protagonist because EVERY woman he encounters is so enamored of him which I usually find tiresome, but Grafton has some good qualities and Gene Wolfe's characterization of this "every-man" controlled by powers he doesn't understand and Jeff Woodman's great narration combine to make Grafton rather likable in spite of himself. Some of Wolfe's female characters are a little thin, but he does have a pretty great female JAKA agent that I really liked and Woodman does a terrific job with voices including the women.
More of a mystery with paranormal facets than a true fantasy, The Land Across is fun and entertaining. Most of the book can be followed easily without using all of your attention, but the last two hours require more focus as all the loose ends are tied together.