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.
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.
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 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 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.
Mr. Larson's book reminds me a great deal of John Ringo's earlier works, those written before he began letting his politics into his writing (Read: Let the crazy out), the series has a really nice premise and the action is well thought out. In fact, My only issues with the book are:
1) Mr. Larson likes to repeat himself a great deal:
He'll say something once, then again, then spend two pages pounding it into your cranium until you want to yell "Alright! I understood you the first time now can we please see the damn thing blow up now!" I do not mind long explanations of say 'the social impacts of alien tech', but come the hell on!, it began to feel he was pushing for word count rather then advancing the story line.
2) Tactics, tactics, tactics!:
I understand the main character is a college professor but, many of the secondary characters are supposed to be military professionals and you can't tell me that a Colonel or even a Sargent with years of experience on the guy wouldn't tell the nerdy self appointed 'commander' to pack sand if he ordered them to assault a position, over open ground mind you, where a superior enemy holds the high ground. And there is a word for any officer whom takes 6 companies of Marines into battle and suffers 90% losses in a engagement and that word is 'Fired.' I don't care if your the savior of the world your would not lead men into battle after that no one would trust you to.
(Deleted to brevity) (I'm talking to the author now)
STOP BUILDING CARICATURES AND START CREATING CHARACTERS.
Come on the psychopathic Latin sex bomb? NEWSFLASH! Women like that don't really exist. (No matter how much you want them to)
The dumb enlisted man and the elitist officer? Really?!?
I'm probably going to buy the next book in this series. The story is interesting despite the above drawbacks and the author seems to be getting better at his craft.
I am brutally honest. Popular, love everything they read, reviewers are scared to go neg. and risk their ranking. It's your money!!!
The very beginning of this reminds me of the game Portal. Then it becomes kind of (early) Heinleinist. It ends with the Six Million Dollar Man.
The story concept is really good and will keep you listening, even at the times when the writing falters.
Problems: At the beginning the main characters' kids are killed and in a very gross way. His reaction is very lacking. Parts of the book sound like something Piers Anthony would write. We are given information on his wife's death, which was kind of gross and which adds nothing to the story. He is a college professor who teaches computer science and this seems to give him the ability to lead armies, design weapons, be a diplomat and be a military strategist. I believe those that have trained in the military all there life will be insulted by this.
Good: The story is creative. It kept my attention as the miles I was driving just melted by. I have never heard of the (Hope Monkey) before, but I will always remember it. The length of the book is perfect. The ending makes you want to buy the rest in the series.
The narrator was ok, but after listening to Ray Porter and Dick Hill, he was a little lack luster.
Fan of the Amazon
In my opinion, this is easy listening SciFi. Entertaining if you don't want to invest too much effort.
The main character is a computer science major, but his conversations with the machine is just aggravatingly illogical. Also, he takes charge of the whole army of super soldiers, without any military training or background, continues to lose most of his men because he's being an idiot and then doesn't even seem to feel responsible. I profoundly disliked the main character. Lost his family in the first chapter, but that doesn't really seem to faze him much only a few pages on.
Emergency physician and fantasy nerd in Chicago.
Most of it. It's got some decent sci-fi in it but never really makes you care that much. So much of the action takes place inside a windowless ship. I didn't buy many of the plot twists including the very concept of "Star Force."
More Patrick Rothfuss
He actually did a great job.
***Spoiler alert****Probably would not have the kids murdered. It's just so hard to believe that someone could lose 2 kids in a brutal murder and then go on to think about getting a couch or having a new sexual partner within a few days/weeks.
Comments saying this is the best thing since Star Wars are just ridiculous.
I stopped listening with many hours to go because I just didn't care what happened to any of the characters or the story.
1*=I didn't like it..... 2*=It was OK...... 3*=It was good but I will never read it again.......... 4*=Maybe I will read it again in the future.............. 5*=I will definitely read it again(maybe more than once)
IMHO this is best or maybe second best work (Technomancer) of B.V. Larson
Sci fi Story with strong and interesting characters and many developments at this moment I'm reading book 6 and my attention still fully occupied.
You will find everything you may want: aliens, humans, AI machines
Love happiness and sorrow, Honor, betrayal and sacrifice and you will definitely enjoy it.
For some some strange reason audiobooks of this series are published 3 or 4 months later than ebook version, so I had to get the dust of my Kindle.