This is my first exposure to a novel by Stephen Baxter. I've read a number of his short stories and love them. While the book wasn't awful, while listening to it, I got the unshakable feeling that Baxter only wrote it to pay the bills.
This book is not science fiction. It is fantasy. Few attempts are made at explaining the "science" behind the storyline. Of those few attempts, most of them are laughably broken. Baxter is no slouch when it comes to scientific knowledge, so I can only assume it wasn't a priority for him.
The book is a flimsy premise for creating anachronistic confrontations. The plot runs on rails. By the one hour mark, you will know exactly where the plot is going. There is some enjoyment to be had from listening to it unfold. However, the ending seems a bit hurried, and relies heavily upon deus ex machina.
What really bugged me about the book was the characters. They are all one-dimensional cliches. Every character is built with cartoonish exaggeration, and an unwavering path through the story. Making this even worse, it becomes clear that each of the characters is a ham-handed attempt at modern social or political commentary. The arrogant, ambitious character from the modern American South is a transparent George W. Bush knock-off. There's an uptight, 19th century Yankee and an even more uptight 19th century Anglo-Indian. Every character who is not an American is even tempered and smarter than the Americans. I appreciate social commentary, and I'm not especially nationalistic myself, but I found the hyperbole with which the characters were drawn to be tantamount to a bunch of straw man arguments. Social commentary in novels is best when subtle. Listening to long winded, heavy handed social commentary for 11 hours is a bit of a drag on the experience.
The reader is pretty good. He mispronounced a few words here and there, but spoke clearly and with reasonably good inflection.
On the whole, it's interesting but forgettable.
This is really a review of the series of three books. The premise is interesting - an earth suddenly reassembled from fragments of deferent epochs - and the writing reasonably good, but the resolution is at best unsatisfying. I'm not convinced that the central premise (the actions of the firstborn) is even that sound.
Two quibbles. First, as many have noted the contrived accents are horrible in the first book, particularly those of the Americans. Second, anti-American prejudice underscores the series. American characters are at best chauvanistic cowboys and at worst mass murderers, while the non-Americans are sensitive and enlightened. The authors matter-of-factly trumpet some questionable philosophy as an easy panacea for all the worlds ills. This sort of thing can usually be shrugged off, or may in fact appeal to many readers.
The idea of an earth reassembled in time has been explored before, notably in the excellant "October the First is Too Late" by Fred Hoyle (1966, no audio that I am aware of).
I found this book to be a meaningless and puerile soap opera, bereft of the original and rich concepts of Clarke's earlier work. The narration is very good overall, but unable to redeem a plotless, pandering cash cow.
It is fun to imagine the interaction of characters from vastly different time periods and societies. How do they react to being pulled from what is familiar? How do they deal with a culture that has different values from their own? One reviewer mentioned they felt the story was disjointed. I didn't feel that but part of the point is how do people react when their world becomes disjointed.
This is probably something a lot of people have wondered about, two great historical figures facing each other in a jumbled world. I really enjoyed the mixture of people from the various time periods but some things were strange.
When a cell phone battery went dead no one used solar cells or tried to make a Baghdad battery. Batteries can be made from various items that were on hand in any century. When they were trying to think of a weapon to make no one thought of the trebuchet, which could also be made in any time period.
Despite these and other things I could not put my audio player down. I went to sleep listening to this. It was very enjoyable.
I have always enjoyed Clarke's thoughtful commentaries on life and perception as told through his fiction, but this book just book just didn't deliver. The characters were flat and the juxtaposition of historical threads just didn't sound believable.
I'd give it a listen if you want to catch the entire series, but this will be the end of the series for me.
I wasn't sure about this book when I saw it, but I needed something to listen to on my desktop so I got it.
I love it!
It is well written, the naration is very good, and its a fun what if book. It requires you to suspend reality abit but go ahead and just enjoy, remember its fiction.
Too much history, too little science fiction.
Boring, kept on listening just to see what happens.
Characters were flat and totally non-engaging.
Story was sort of ok, but could not make up for the rest.
I enjoyed listening to this book. I knew where it was going, but it was still fun listening to how the authors made it happen.