If you are a fan of Isaac Asimov's deep thinking, or Larry Niven and his habit of making the reader do math, then this book is a welcome mental relief. Another reviewer referred to it as "sci-fi easy listening" and I think he hit the nail right on the head. Much like a Michael Bay film, if you start thinking too hard, you just ruin it for yourself. But that's not to say it can't be entertaining. To understand what I mean, simply read the following (spoiler free) synopsis:
Computer Science professor Kyle Riggs is abducted by an artificially intelligent alien spacecraft. With occasional interjections from his stunningly beautiful consensually captive co-ed companion he must make clever use of programming, hacking, strategy, logic, and knowledge of powers of two to save Earth from merciless robotic aliens.
At several points throughout the novel I considered how it might have made a good story line for a real-time strategy computer game (a la Starcraft). I must say, the book is massively entertaining. Listening to it is akin to having testosterone injected through your ears. Mark Boyett captures the different characters exactly as you would expect with all the seriousness that is required. The book skates a fine line between easy to take in and outright melodrama. It does a pretty good job at staying this side of melodrama (most of the time).
I feel I must give a disclaimer that, as a computer science graduate myself, I think there is a certain draw to a book featuring a computer science professor as a protagonist. Especially one that gets the girl and saves the world. It's not really the kind of thing one would expect out of someone in my field.
To sum things up: The characters aren't deep and neither is the plot, the action is enjoyable and constant, the hacking is surprisingly realistic (5 points for executing a privilege escalation exploit on an alien ship), and I think I'm going to pick up the next one.
Larson has crafted a novel twist on alien contact as well as solving the dilemma of advanced technology within a society temporally close to our own. In Swarm, alien vessels with alien advanced technology, but no aliens arrive on Earth and begin selecting, rather brutally, human candidates to pilot the ships in anticipation of future conflict with another alien enemy.
Our hero is a college computer scientist who is the most successful at deciphering a functional interaction with the alien artificial intelligence powering the spacecraft. The bulk of the tale revolves around bootstrapping a military response to a malevolent alien invasion by what appears to be a machine intelligence, intent on wiping out humanity in order to use Earth as a source of raw materials.
While some of the approaches to dealing with the alien invaders are contrived (and not well thought out), it's clear that Larson is setting up the opening salvo in what appears to a larger and longer story arch that will eventually introduce humanity to a more enlightened view of galactic politics (and lots of interstellar warfare as well).
The writing is tight and the reading is well done making for an overall easy listening experience.
I got this book on a whim, and I am very glad i did. I found the story to be very original and let you really use your imagination to decide what some things should look like. It wasnt filled with a bunch of technical fluff that i have found in other books. Its a very entertaining story that keeps you listening. Every time you start to wonder about a certain topic, or why is this happening, or why would they do that, the author fills you in. Its as if he knows just when you want an answer but makes you wait just a bit longer for it to keep the story going.
I am a voracious reader (average about 4-5 Audible books a week, in addition to those I "eyeball".) I have been hooked on recorded books since the time of cassettes/CDs and was thrilled when I became an Audible member in 2007. I find reader reviews good guides to spending my credits, so have finally decided to write a few (although, I would rather be reading!)
I read A LOT of mil scifi (Heinlein, Scalzi, Card, Campbell, Resnick, Ringo, etc) and am always looking for new books in the genre. Given the number of 4-5 star reviews for this book, I was expecting a great read. The opening was great, but it just started going downhill from there.
This really read like a YA book, or perhaps even a book based on a video game (but, I have read better entries in that genre.)
The characters were utterly 2-dimensional, dialogue subpar, and plot plodding. I was hoping that this volume would be redeemed by some good space battles, but I found those wanting.
The development of the protagonist is preposterous. He goes from "work-from-home" college professor to dynamic military strategist in just a few chapters. His early stages of grief went from denial to anger to lust within minutes of his children's grisly deaths. And the half-naked female sidekick's "oh, this ship has good taste" within days of that same ship killing her had me thinking this book was written by a teenager.
I only paid $4.95 for this book, but I still feel I overspent -- and I wish had those hours of listening time back for a more worthy listen. Downloading "Earth Strike: Star Carrier" by Ian Douglas now and hoping it will help clean my mental palate.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
It is absolutely nothing like what I expected. I thought it was a military sci-fi where they battle space aliens. Oh... well... technically, it is a military sci-fi where they battle space aliens. But it feels more like a college boy's fantasy than anything that might come close to what would really happen in such a situation.
I'm all for new and novel ideas. I like the concept of the aliens, and how the ships arrived, and what the humans had to do, and how they fought the aliens at the end of the novel but... and it's a big but... the characterizations were absolutely ridiculous. A college professor ends up saving the world because he is smarter than everyone else... sure, okay, I can deal with that. But... a guy watches his kids die, tries to save them and is all agitated about if they will survive and then, voila! problem solved by the entrance of a nude woman. Yep... naked woman solves all problems just by appearing in the story - and then no more whining and hair-tearing over the little issue of his dead children.
Sure, a couple times while his is stealing furniture and complaining about his lack of decorating options, and fantasizing about having a cold beer, he thinks of his dead children, but only in passing... after all, nearly 2 whole days have passed.
And I won't even get into the other space ship captain and the earth responses to the situation - after all we know that a college professor knows more and is smarter than the entire forces of every country on earth - it's not like any nation would have experienced trained military leaders and/or technical geniuses that these brand new captains could rely on.
But... to be honest... the single biggest issue - which has probably tainted my entire review - is that women in this book have about the same value and intelligence as a beer. And if there was a blow up doll on board, I'm pretty sure the cold beer would be worth more.
I found this to be an enjoyable little listen. Not 5 star worthy but I got hooked nonetheless.
The premise is a bit like the 'The Last Starfighter'. A small fleet of advanced alien ships arrive on modern-day Earth. Each one chooses a human pilot - one per ship. The ship and the pilot are interfaced with nano-technology and human pilots find they're equipped with devices of incredible power.
Just as they begin to contemplate who sent these ships and why, the reason is thrust at them....another armada arrives, and it is hostile. Earth quickly realizes that the arrival of the first fleet was a gift to help combat the second adversarial fleet - which is fortunate because the level of technology they're facing means they'll need all the help they can get.
The first person story telling allows you to keep a constantly attached to the story without forcing you to jump around the world. It is like you are just following only one person in the story rather than many, keeping a straight story line and thus losing pace.
I could compare it with mogworld and Jam. This due due to the fact they are all told in a first person by the protagonist. It keeps you in the story without jumping you around the world.
This is my first one, although I am already going through the others of the star force series.
Space adventure with the smallest allies and the biggest enemies
I think people that like poorly written Sci Fi will like this book. The premise was implausible and had very little to offer.
The story was just bad.
It was okay.
I don't normally give bad reviews to books, but ever since I listened to this book Audible has been suggesting I listen to all of the rest even though I gave the book one star. I'm not sure what Audible is thinking, but every month 3 out of the 9 suggestions for me are from this author and this series. So, while the book was bad, the experience since listening to the book has been worse.
Creation of believable characters, removal of plot holes
He was pretty good at the accents, voices, and keeping them straight. He also brought energy and life to the story.
Exasperation, pain, offense
I wanted to like this book enough to finish it. I really really did. For so many reasons. But I was suffering. I was suffering too badly to continue to suffer, after getting at least 65% through the book. I love sci-fi, and I love speculative stuff and I can suspend disbelief for weird or new or even scientifically inaccurate stuff, so long as it's believable within its world. But so much of the human interactions here were completely unrealistic. The most prominent female character was inconsistent AND embarrassing. Forget the Bechdel test - the two female characters never spoke to one another and the main one never seemed to worry about anything other than a man no matter who she was talking to. Here's a great quote I remember from shortly before I quit the book "I could tell she wasn't going to give me any more sugar just then, so I decided not to beg for it. Women don't respect that." I won't even try to go into the plot holes that were so numerous my brain was feeling like the proverbial swiss cheese, just trying to keep track. I wasn't expecting high literature from this book, but this book was just too bad for me to continue.
I got this book for my husband to listen to in the car on long trips and started out wondering how long I'd be able to stand listening to it. Now I'm totally engrossed in the series, probably more than he is. Great story, with just enough human interest to keep it real without going overboard on either the relationship stuff or the techical jargon. Great book!