Reynolds again demonstrates why he is among the top of contemporary sci-fi writers. Readers familiar with the Revelation Space series will recall Chasm City which was centered on the Yellowstone system. In that tale, surrounding the planet was a mass of space detritus known as the Rust Belt. Its state was the result of an undefined prior event known as the melding plague that destroyed nearly all nanotech. In Prefect, Reynolds sets the story prior to Chasm City when the Rust Belt was at its pinnacle and known as the Glitter Band. Encompassing 10,000 discreet and sovereign habitats, Reynolds explores the diversity and evolution of human societal organization (from voluntary tyranny to demoncratic anarchy). The conjoiners as well as Silveste remnants and the shrouders also play a small role.
Holding the hodge-podge together is our hero, Tom Dreyfus, a prefect who enforces the minimal rules for orderly interaction among the habitats. From what begins as a routine investigation, Dreyfus gradually peels back the onion of an ever expanding conspiracy that threatens the entire Glitter Band. Along the way, he must face, the corrupt, the gullible, the naive, and the idiotic, but he always manages to remain focused on his ultimate objective: seeing that justice is served.
As is typical of Reynolds, the sci-fi is first rate. He also has a knack for instinctively recognizing that unique interaction of science and society and the likely results. At the heart, the tale is an exploration of the human struggle to evolve beyond mere biology with all the potential pitfalls clearly displayed. Finally, as usual John Lee performs outstandlingly; his range of voices are superb and he sets the right tenor to allow the tension to develop.
Relative to Hamilton's more recent work (the Commonwealth Saga), Mindstar Rising is clearly not in the same league. That said, this 1st book of the Greg Mandel trilogy demonstrates the talent that has emerged as one of preeminent contemporary scifi authors. Mindstar is simply not as ambitious, nor as sweeping in scope as his later work, but the story is masterfully done and a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
We are presented with the limits of a near future tale (still near future due to the identifiability with the characters' daily routines), set late in the 21st century. Both environmental (in the form of global warming) and political (in the form of economic upheaval leading to vicious UK socialism) changes have occurred. Greg Mandel is a former UK soldier, discharged by the new, anti-military government. The Mindstar unit was a special ops group that received early experimental bioimplants. Mandel has an "esp" sense to detect mental states in others close by. He does not "read" minds, but can sense emotional reactions.
Greg is hired by a wealthy, elderly businessman and his granddaughter to track down what is thought to be sabotage within their manufacturing facilities (some of which are space based). What appears as straightforward corporate espionage and hardball takeover tactics gradually evolves into a life or death struggle with national political ramifications. For the major scifi elements, biology and cyber dominate along the lines of a William Gibson / Richard K Morgan love child.
The characters are wonderfully developed with vile villains and endearing supporting characters. The narrator performs an admirable rendition for the range of characters.
Wool presents an intriguing slant on the post-apocalyptic theme. The story opens with humanity confined to an underground silo consisting of about 150 levels, but without any sort of elevator or escalator, just stairs. Outside the silo is a barren, poisonous landscape. Technologically, society is late 20th century with modern medicine (although nothing special) and limited computer capabilities. The silo is completely self-sufficient with religious beliefs consistent with the silo as a heavenly creation. Banishment from the silo with eventual death by toxic gases is their form of capital punishment. We follow several characters that slowly unravel inconsistencies in this setup with the realization that there are things beyond the silo and history left unspoken.
The author provides some interesting organizational parallels to the society that add to the believability of this world. For example, the levels of the silo are divided into three sections (upper, middle, and lower) that parallel socioeconomic and political status: the upper is political and administrative with IT dominating; the middle section is largely a middle class of professionals, while the bottom sections are relegated to manual and grunt labor. Much effort, subterfuge, and ruthlessness goes into maintaining order until one lone woman manages to undermine the delicate balance.
The major detraction is the slow pace of the entire story with important revelations reserved for late in the tale. At the same, the author slowly kills off early characters that appeared as major players and only gradually introduces the participants around for the denouement. Finally, the narration is suboptimal with a poor rendition of voices and an extreme slow pace of delivery that only adds to the snail's pace.
So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.
Just spent the week with Joe Ledger, all 4 in a row, and WOWeee......did I have a good time! Not since I rode the roller coaster 11 times in a row back in high school, (and subsequently lost my corn dog and sno-cone) have I had this much of a wild rollicking ride. When I read the first Ledger book, I thought it was a very enjoyable diversion; I had no intention of continuing on with the books--but 4 books later...I can't think of a funner way to spend the summer than with Joe, Ghost, Bunny, Church, and the rest of Echo Team, on 4 completely different spine-tingling adventures.
Because Assassin's Code is the 4th in a series about Ledger, rather than a continuation of a plot, this book is as strong as the first Ledger installment, and could easily stand on its own. There's no following a strung out plot and dragging to the finish line. (I actually liked the first and this fourth the most.) Instead, Maberry's creativity seems to be picking up speed, and hints at more fun to come. Fast paced, spooky, and crazy fun--but there's just enough reality and science to put a little chill in those thrills; and writting that goes effortlessly from technical, to sarcastic and funny, to down right scary. You'll love the good guys, hate the villains, cheer for the dog, and be intrigued by the mysterious Mr. Church...what more could you want in an action-adventure-thriller?! Ledger may be this era's answer to James Bond. Ray Porter is, once again, outrageously good as narrator/Joe Ledger (is it my imagination, or is he sounding more and more like Ron White?) and gets better with each book.
Assassin's Code is wildly entertaining on its own; don't be surprised if you end up wanting to go again, and again on the Ledger/Porter/Maberry ride.