Customer Reviews | Audible.com
 

You no longer follow Ryan

You will no longer see updates from this user when they write new reviews, or suggestions based on their library or recommendations.

You can re-follow a user if you change your mind.

OK

You now follow Ryan

You will receive updates from this user when they write new reviews, or suggestions based on their library or recommendations.

You can unfollow a user if you change your mind.

OK

Ryan

Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

Somerville, MA, United States | Member Since 2005

1117
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 244 reviews
  • 309 ratings
  • 763 titles in library
  • 16 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
14
FOLLOWERS
354

  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By David Mitchell
    • Narrated By Jonathan Aris, Paula Wilcox
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1368)
    Performance
    (609)
    Story
    (608)

    In 1799, the artificial island of Dejima lies in Nagasaki Harbor as Japan’s outpost for the Dutch East Indies Company. There, Jacob de Zoet has come to make a fortune large enough to return to Holland and marry the woman he loves.

    Darwin8u says: "A NEAR Perfect Novel."
    "Not quite a masterpiece, but strong accomplishment"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I loved Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, for its invention, its haunting imagery, and its wonderfully varied collection of characters and voices. However, it was more a series of thematically-linked vignettes than a true novel. In The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeSoet, Mitchell puts his undeniable imagination and talent to work in a more traditional work of long fiction. All in all, much of what I enjoyed most about Cloud Atlas -- the colorful characters and their unique vocabularies and mannerisms, the historically-based but somewhat fanciful quality of the writing, the posing of deeper questions about human morality and relationships -- is here in this book. Anyone who's a fan of David Mitchell won't be disappointed.

    That said, I think what worked well so well in Cloud Atlas's loose pastiche doesn't expand perfectly into a longer story. For all Mitchell's skill as a writer, the larger plot arc is somewhat pedestrian, and the three parts of the tale join a bit awkwardly. Interesting characters and examinations of issues fill the reader's attention for a while, then disappear for whole chapters, if not the rest of the book. I wondered if the work had started out as a collection of short vignettes and episodes, a la Cloud Atlas, but had been turned into a novel. Also, Mitchell wears his political leanings a bit on his sleeve at times -- there's a strong cynicism to his portrayal of capitalism and its authority figures.

    But, these issues are minor next to the sheer mastery of the writing. There are brilliant, beautiful passages and scenes. The dialogues and interactions between characters are filled with depth, humor, and subtlety. Even if Mitchell uses some obvious 21st century artistic license, his turn-of-the-19th-century sea captains, petty officers, salt-of-the-earth sailors, samurai, doctors, magistrates, and translators are wonderfully rendered. Obviously, much research went into the novel. If the whole felt segmented to me, each segment is engrossing. One is never sure what will happen next, or to whom, and by the time the story nears its climax, only the most jaded reader, I think, will be able to put the book down. The melancholic ending almost had me tearing up.

    Is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeSoet as imaginative and daring a work as Cloud Atlas? No. Is it as exquisitely written? Yes.

    Audio note: the reader does a generally fine job with the personalities and accents of the various European characters. However, I found his choice to give British accents to different Japanese characters (whenever the narrative is from a Japanese viewpoint) a little disconcerting.

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Ilium

    • UNABRIDGED (29 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Dan Simmons
    • Narrated By Kevin Pariseau
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (29)
    Performance
    (26)
    Story
    (27)

    From the towering heights of Olympos Mons on Mars, the mighty Zeus and his immortal family of gods, goddesses, and demigods look down upon a momentous battle, observing - and often influencing - the legendary exploits of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and the clashing armies of Greece and Troy. Thomas Hockenberry, former 21st-century professor and Iliad scholar, watches as well. It is Hockenberry's duty to observe and report on the Trojan War's progress to the so-called deities who saw fit to return him from the dead.

    George Hill says: "Classic Simmons"
    "Achaeans and robots and post-humans, oh my"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    (3.5 stars) I think there was some Star Trek episode in which characters from a fictional work were brought to life by advanced technology and wrought havoc, until Kirk remembered his classics. This novel is that idea on steroids. We get Shakespeare and Proust-quoting robots from the moons of Jupiter, and classical Greek gods who dwell on Mount Olympus -- on Mars -- and use nanotechnology and quantum doodads to intervene in a parallel universe in which the events of The Iliad are taking place, almost exactly as Homer described them.

    Dan Simmons set a high bar with Hyperion, which remains one of my favorite science fiction novels (I’m less enthusiastic about its followups). That book proved that space opera can play games with literary intertextuality, and it also had a great universe and some page-turning mysteries. So I was half skeptical, half optimistic about this one.

    I’ll give Simmons credit for having the skill to suck me into the story, in spite of my skepticism. The Iliad storyline, in which a 20th century Homeric scholar named Thomas Hockenberry was somehow resurrected by the gods to be an expert observer of the Trojan War (which only Zeus can foresee the outcome of), seemed well-researched and was a lot of fun, though it was helpful that I had recently read a translation of the Iliad. Hockenberry, ever the jaded academic, manages to manipulate the poem’s characters, who stay in character, towards breaking free of their prescribed fates.

    Meanwhile, back on Earth, where about two thousand years have gone by since our time, a small population of “old-style” humans lives lives of leisure and ignorance, cared for by machines that post-humans left behind when they departed centuries ago. A group of these humans has begun to suspect that things have not always been this way, and embark on a hunt for answers on a planet that’s changed quite a bit since our time. With a little help from their new friend, Odysseus. The third thread concerns two moravecs from Jupiter, where their kind has evolved over the centuries, who crash-land on a now-terraformed Mars, and soon discover that knowledge of Shakespeare (not to mention Proust’s thoughts on the strangeness of time) might apply to their situation.

    In terms of writing, I thought this one was only sometimes up the dark brilliance of Hyperion, but still a good ride. Simmons is at his best when he’s immersing the reader in a scene (as he does fantastically in some of the Troy sequences) or doing clever mashups (as with a creepy space station monster who speaks in Shakespeare mode), and less so when he’s going through the workmanlike process of having characters run or teleport around the map in order to connect pieces of his far-flung plot and themes (look for the annoying SF trope of invoking “quantum” to explain the essentially magical). How Simmons will pull everything together in the second, final book remains for me to see, but I find the ideas he seems to be going for interesting. Might old myths and legends, which have stayed in our collective memory so far, still be haunting us in whatever post-human, post-post-modern future is to come? "We're not fighters", says one character. "Oh, yes you are," replies another, "it's still in your genes". I also liked the little in-jokes, such as a scene in which Hockenberry, annoyed with how his PC fellow academics kept reading gay tendencies into certain Iliad characters, discovers that the truth is a little... ambiguous.

    Audiobook narrator Kevin Pariseau is competent enough, but I think he does better at humor than drama. His wry Hockenberry is amusing, but his gods and heroes are a little lacking in gravitas.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

    • UNABRIDGED (28 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Glen Cook, Gardner Dozois (editor), Neil Gaiman, and others
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey, Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (99)
    Performance
    (52)
    Story
    (51)

    The anthology Songs of the Dying Earth has assembled one of the most distinguished casts of authors ever - including Dan Simmons, Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, Paula Volsky, Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Lucius Shepard, Tad Williams, Tanith Lee, Liz Williams, Glen Cook, and eleven other famous writers - to write stories in honor of the genius of Jack Vance, stories using the bizarre and darkly beautiful far future setting of the Dying Earth, near the very end of Earth's lifespan.

    Gary says: "The Snack that left me Ravenous"
    "Quality tribute to the master"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jack Vance’s Dying Earth books (and other works) no longer have the following that they did back in the ‘60s or ‘70s, which seems to be when most of the contributors to this collection were in their own formative years and discovered him for the first time. Judging from the “names” here (Simmons, Martin, Gaiman, Silverberg, Williams) and the praise that each author has to offer, Vance seems to have had a profound impact on a generation of fantasy and speculative fiction writers.

    Which I guess isn’t surprising. The Dying Earth is one of the definitive creations of fantasy, a decadent world eons in the future, when the sun is about to go out. Populated by bizarre monsters, sorcerers, other-dimensional beings, and humans who have adopted a certain self-serving, fatalistic outlook, it’s a world somewhere between Hieronymus Bosch, The Wizard of Oz, and fables of old. Then, there’s Vance’s distinct style, which uses overly literate prose and obscure vocabulary in service of humor that’s by turns sly and slapstick.

    While there are a few weak stories, most of the authors here do a fine job of channeling Vance’s playfulness and imagination, and expanding on some of the Dying Earth’s more amusing, grotesque, or fascinating components.

    Highlights
    • “Grolian of Almery” by Matthew Hughes: in which a roguish traveler trapped in a sorcerer’s former house, the sorcerer’s former apprentice, and the disembodied spirit of the sorcerer himself engage in a battle of wits at the nexus point between several universes. This one has all the signature Vance elements: an amoral protagonist (who’s still more likeable than his opponents), sardonic humor, and some creatively weird interdimensional creatures.
    • “The Traditions of Karzh” by Paula Volsky: an indolent young man is given a lethal incentive to acquire some magical abilities, and his quest carries him into the clutches of a pelgrane, one of the Dying Earth’s horrifying monsters. Clever, scary, and entertaining.
    • “The Green Bird” by Kage Baker: Cugel the Clever, Vance’s despicable “hero”, gets into new shenanigans while trying to steal an obnoxious talking bird (who happens to know important spells) from two unpleasant spinsters. However, Cugel may be in for more than he bargained for. Baker’s humor is a hoot.
    • “The Lamentably Comical Tragedy of Lixal Laqavee” by Tad Williams: a fraudulent “wizard” blackmails a real wizard into providing him with some spells. His error becomes clear when one of those spells leaves him magically chained to an ogre-like deodan, leading to a novel cross-species meeting of minds. This one is both funny and dark.
    • “A Night at the Tarn House” by George R.R. Martin: Martin is my favorite author here, and his dark showdown at in an inn in the middle of nowhere, between several characters who are all hiding their true identities, didn’t disappoint.
    • “An Invocation of Incuriosity” by Neil Gaiman: this melancholy story takes us all the way to the final day of the Dying Earth, and back through time.

    All in all, I don’t think it’s necessary to have much experience with Vance to enjoy this collection, though his style, which is lovingly replicated here, won’t be to everyone’s taste. My only complaint is expressed by what one of the collection’s gnarlier characters says about munching on tiny Twk-Men: tasty, but they still leave you hungry. Alas that there wasn’t more common thread between the stories.

    Audiobook narrator, Arthur Morey, who performed several Cugel books, is part of the Dying Earth experience for me. The wry, exaggerated sincerity of his dialogue reading goes very well with Vance-ian wit, and he adds an extra layer of absurdity to demons and monsters who wax philosophical. As always, I enjoy that his Cugel sounds like Richard Nixon.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Shotgun Lovesongs: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Nickolas Butler
    • Narrated By Scott Shepherd, Ari Fliakos, Maggie Hoffman, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (43)
    Performance
    (42)
    Story
    (40)

    It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friends—all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town—it is home. And now they are men, coming into their own, or struggling to do so. One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.

    Janice says: "Thirty-Something angst"
    "Middlin’ “OMG, adulthood” novel"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The setup is a pretty familiar one: a tale of five friends who come from the same American small town, go in different directions in life, and then come together again as 30-something adults, finding that they still have some growing up to do.

    The writing isn't really anything ground-breaking, but it's not bad either, and I thought that there was a basic honesty to Nickolas Butler's sense of people and places. Two of the five main characters resonated with me. First, there’s Lee, the brooding alt-rock superstar who keeps returning to the town in which he had recorded his first hit album during a depressive phase and -- probably relatedly -- been in love (ah, hipster nostalgia). Then, there’s Ronnie, the former rodeo stud, now living with the after-effects of a brain hemorrhage connected to the alcoholism of his younger days, looked after by neighbors. Both of their restless, slightly-unhinged narrative voices are well done, and are brought to life by the audiobook readers.

    The novel's central dramas, though, weren't very dramatic to me. Henry and Beth are both solid, decent midwesterners, but a bit dull as characters (however capable Maggie Hoffman is at reading Beth’s parts), and I couldn't get excited about Beth's one act of “infidelity”, which never seemed to have much emotional conviction on her side. As for Kip, the high-powered broker, he felt tacked-on to the story, never really graduating from a trope to a convincing character. As another user review noted, cutting a protagonist might have forced Butler to add more layers to the others.

    Still, just as a cup of microwave soup is sometimes comforting, a well-worn story format is sometimes just fine for my listening needs during a Sunday trip to the grocery story. There are a few moments of familiar poignancy in this tale of people realizing that their youth is over and they must deal with their baggage and make choices about the rest of their lives. What a serious time our thirties are! Some readers may find the (literally) painful male bonding in the last chapter silly, but I liked that Butler finally upped the level of chaos and didn’t go for the easy happy ending.

    Shotgun Lovesongs would probably work well as the kind of movie my parents like to stream, if given some charismatic actors, good midwestern panorama shots, and a stirring soundtrack. As a novel, it was a pleasant if not hugely memorable time-passer.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Burning Chrome

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By William Gibson
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis, Dennis Holland, Kevin Pariseau, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (190)
    Performance
    (107)
    Story
    (112)

    William Gibson's dark visions of computer cowboys, bio-enhanced soldiers of fortune, and hi-tech lowlifes have won unprecedented praise. Included here are some of the most famous short fiction and novellas by the author of Count Zero and Neuromancer.

    Darwin8u says: "Anticipates Gibson's later, great Cyberpunk novels"
    "Hypnotic dreams of a gleaming, gritty future"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If science fiction is a reflection of the time in which it was written, William Gibson’s short fiction captures the zeitgeist of the late 70s and early 80s, when the likely future was looking less and less like the clean utopia of Star Trek, and more like something else entirely. In his classic “Johnny Mnemonic”, Gibson extrapolates energy crises, urban decay, corporate wars, radical body alteration, Asian economic domination, punk rock, and the dark, gleaming possibilities of worlds behind the glow of computer screens towards a half-sinister neon-lit horizon. Imagine (if you can, ha) a reality where one’s data trail leaves no safety from enemies whose presence pervades the air, and the only retreat may be into the darkest shadows.

    While the specific ideas of the future represented in this collection aren’t quite as on-target as they were when I first read it in the 90s (when it was already getting dated), the combination of Gibson’s cool, lean, mildly sardonic style and the smoldering intensity of his imagination still feels visionary. He gives us a few tastes of possibilities, and lets those tastes linger on the palate, dark and beautiful. “New Rose Hotel”, which concerns agents in a future biotech trade war, has an almost wistful, poetic quality, aided by Brian Nishi’s Asian-accented audio narration. To me, the only recent writer who is somewhat in the same territory is Paolo Bacigalupi (I recommend his short fiction collection).

    Not every piece is cyberpunk. “The Gernsback Continuum” imagines a photographer whose travels around Los Angeles give him hallucinations of a Raygun Gothic future that never was, and is a little frightening in its cleanness. The Bruce Sterling collaboration “Red Star, Winter Orbit” deals with an entirely different sidestepped future (in retrospect), in which an aging cosmonaut on a space station above an Earth dominated by the Soviet Union realizes that the dream of space has abandoned his country -- but not necessarily humanity. In “The Belonging Kind”, a loner in a bar notices a girl making the nightclub rounds who fits in just a little too easily, which leads to a Twilight-zoney pondering of what a life free of social awkwardness might cost. It’s interesting to see other ways Gibson might have gone, if Neuromancer hadn’t been a hit.

    But the real gems here, worth the price of admission to me, are “Dogfight” and “Burning Chrome”, prototypes for Gibson’s Sprawl novels. The former turns as tightly as WWI flying aces in combat, sending three characters -- a ratty young drifter who sells boosted merchandise, a privileged college student whose parents have taken drastic measures to keep their daughter from losing her shot at staying in the economic elite, and a used-up combat veteran, whose permanently-rewired brain leaves him but a single talent -- into a tragic duel of skill. This, more than any other piece, feels uncomfortably close to our current world, and the personality in Oliver Wyman’s reading only enhances the prose. And “Burning”’s hallucinatory vision of a dangerous hacker incursion into a forbidden fortress in cyberspace, while bearing almost no connection to anything in cyber-reality, is still stunning in its vividness.

    Bottom line: even if he got things wrong about the future (who got it *right*, though?), William Gibson remains one of the finer visionaries of its allure and angst, and crackled in short form.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Tao of Pooh

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Benjamin Hoff
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    Overall
    (468)
    Performance
    (421)
    Story
    (417)

    Author Benjamin Hoff shows that the philosophy of Winnie-the-Pooh is amazingly consistent with the principles of Taoism and demonstrates how you can use these principles in your daily life. Is there such thing as a Western Taoist? Benjamin Hoff says there is, and this Taoist's favorite food is honey.

    Gavin says: "Simply Pooh"
    "Wisdom in a bear of very little brain"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In this short book, Pooh, The Uncarved Block, illustrates the wisdom of Taoist teachings. While other characters in the Hundred Acre Wood cling to faulty knowledge or pursue goals of little value, the simple, humble Pooh goes with the flow and finds contentment. Rather than pompously search his mind for answers, like Owl, or try to seize control of the situation, like Rabbit, or fail to account for his limitations, like Tigger, Pooh just exists in the moment he’s in and lets the answers come to him. Thus, he exemplifies the concept of pu, living life open to experience, while not being burdened by unnecessary abstractions or desires.

    Benjamin Hoff writes in whimsical way, imagining himself having conversations with Pooh, Piglet, and others as he works on his manuscript, Pooh characteristically preferring to talk about things that are of direct interest to Pooh, such as honey. Hoff seems to assume that the reader remembers more of the plot points and humor of A.A. Milne’s classic children’s stories than I actually did, but I was able to get by well enough.

    All in all, it’s a short but instructive introduction to Taoist thinking. Hoff quotes philosopher Laozi, who might sum it up best himself: “to attain knowledge, add something every day. To attain wisdom, subtract something every day.” Does all the clutter we fill our minds with help us? Or get in the way of experiencing what’s real? Always a worthwhile question.

    Audiobook narrator Simon Vance does a decent job, but I wish he’d given a little more character to the voices.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Tigana

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Guy Gavriel Kay
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    Overall
    (804)
    Performance
    (485)
    Story
    (489)

    Tigana is the magical story of a beleaguered land struggling to be free. It is the tale of a people so cursed by the black sorcery of a cruel, despotic king that even the name of their once-beautiful homeland cannot be spoken or remembered.

    But after years of devastation, a handful of courageous men and women embark upon a dangerous crusade to overthrow their conquerors and bring back to the dark world the brilliance of a long-lost name: Tigana.

    Hope says: "Tigana"
    "Intelligent but somewhat melodramatic fantasy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This 1990 novel by GGK, which still seems to have a big following, is melancholy, emotional, shades-of-gray fantasy. The story takes place on a peninsula vaguely reminiscent of medieval Italy, which was invaded by forces from two different large empires about 20 years before. Both of these armies, each led by a powerful sorcerer, took the peninsula by conquering one fractious province at a time.

    However, one province, named Tigana, put up a ferocious resistance and managed to kill the son of one of the sorcerers. To punish its inhabitants, the grief-stricken Brandin laid waste to the region, and cast a spell to make its very name impossible to remember. Except to anyone who happened to be born there before the invasion. Those people must endure the pain of watching their homeland's identity fade from the world's memory. As Kay mentions in the afterward, events in the real world inspired him in this theme.

    The plot, of course, revolves around a conspiracy to remove the two tyrants, but the reader sees both sides of the struggle. The sorcerer Brandin, though guilty of terrible crimes, is a sympathetic character that we come to know through the point of view of his concubine, who entered his court years before to assassinate him, but now loves him. This complexity comes to play a pivotal role in the story’s outcome. On the rebel side, the various characters struggle with their own inner torments, and must do things that go against their hearts, such as engineering outbreaks of violence or enslaving a wandering wizard against his will.

    The strength and weakness of Kay as a writer lies in his desire to make every moment beautiful and meaningful. At times, this works, but at other times, the story feels overly melodramatic, laboring over its “we’re all human and feel pain” themes long after the point comes across. Yes, we need to shed tears, love, laugh, and talk about our feelings -- I get it, Mr. Kay. His prose can get a bit purple as well; look for lots of “he felt a quivering in his heart” and “the coldness in her eyes was like the deep blue of a mountain stream”.

    Not that I didn’t enjoy the novel. The fine world-building and the interesting characters of the first quarter drew me in. It felt like Kay was striving for a balance between fantasy traditions and a more mature take on them. The ending came together beautifully, as well.

    However, I didn’t find this book as sophisticated as many of its fans seem to. The middle section was unnecessarily drawn-out, filled with tangential subplots, and heavier on uninspired fantasy cliches than the rest. Oddly, Kay doesn’t really address the issue that the rebel leader is yet another monarch himself, a guy who talks about freedom, but presumably intends to preserve his hereditary throne once he gets it back.

    All in all, I’d still happily recommend Tigana to anyone interested in fantasy that aspires to parallels with the real world, but I must call attention to its flaws. Simon Vance, the audiobook reader, gives his usual classy performance.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Annihilation: Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs)
    • By Jeff VanderMeer
    • Narrated By Carolyn McCormick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (74)
    Performance
    (69)
    Story
    (69)

    Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

    Jim N says: "A Strange, Surreal Delight"
    "Don't sample the communicating fungus"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'd never read anything by Jeff VanderMeer before, but I found this tight, haunting science fiction novel to be an enjoyable mix of Lovecraftian horror and Roadside Picnic-like paranoia, revolving around an alien environment that calls into question reality-as-we-understand-it. The initial setup is intriguingly sparse and mysterious; all we know at first is that some vaguely-described government body named the Southern Reach has been sending research teams into a abandoned region called Area X, in which things turned weird years ago. Most of these expeditions, as one would expect, have come to bad ends, but a 12th, composed entirely of women, is on its way in.

    Why things are as they are -- or even what time, place, and world we're in -- isn't explained at first. Instead, VanderMeer provides us with a pinhole view into an enigma, metering out information (and tension) in the form of journal entries written by the 12th expedition's biologist. She, as we learn, hasn't been told everything known to the Southern Reach, and may not be a wholly reliable narrator herself. As the team explores a strange, unmapped structure that communicates portentous, Biblical-sounding messages through fungal writing, its members -- known only by titles such as the Psychologist, the Linguist, or the Surveyor -- begin to vanish, die, or turn on each other. And things are out there in the dark. Things alien, but not altogether so.

    As the situation unravels, the biologist's detached, protocol-driven observations give way to more personal reflections and memories. We find out that her semi-estranged husband was a member of the 11th expedition and wasn't quite himself when he returned, and that the biologist had her own reasons for volunteering.

    VanderMeer's tight, crafted writing contributes much to the book's cinematic, shifting, just-out-of-focus feel, as does audiobook narrator Carolyn McCormick’s well-controlled reading (I’d thought she’d overacted a little in The Hunger Games, but she’s great here). The biologist, who seems more comfortable viewing the world through a magnifying glass than a wide-angle lens, tries to hold back from impossible conclusions, yet appears to circle around them. Her oddly clinical response to events only heightens the disquieting atmosphere of the story, as her mental viewscreen jumps between familiar, intimate observations of the natural world, weird, incongruous imagery, and her own doubts about why she's there and what's real. As in the best science fiction, the answers seem to be there in a fragmentary way, but elusively. I think this is an effect Lovecraft aspired to, but lacked the prose gifts to really pull off.

    Altogether, a strong entry in mind-bending speculative fiction, echoing past works of note (Christopher Priest's The Islanders and Peter Watts' Blindsight also come to mind), but showcasing VanderMeer as a fresh and capable voice unto himself. The spores, it seems, have infected me, and I'm looking forward to the next entry in this trilogy.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Nerd's Guide to Being Confident

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 54 mins)
    • By Mark Manson
    • Narrated By Fleet Cooper
    Overall
    (359)
    Performance
    (317)
    Story
    (314)

    Everyone knows confidence when they see it; but seemingly no one can actually describe what goes into it or how to get it. The Nerd's Guide to Being Confident is an unconventional way of looking at one of the most basic and obvious human traits and what one can do to gain a little more of it without feeling like a phony. Laughter included.

    Harvey says: "do not wast your time"
    "Crass delivery but contains useful insights"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm not normally a reader of self-help books, but this one was a freebie from audible. I wouldn't say that it's particularly geared towards "nerds". Really, the author's main audience seems to be young men who want more romance and/or sex in their lives, but have self-esteem issues that confound them when it comes to relationships.

    Which, quite frankly, was me in my 20s. Viewed in that light, the advice here is a little crassly written, but wrapped around a solid core of time-tested self-help principles.

    Basically:
    Stop making excuses
    Don't be afraid to open up to others about your weaknesses
    Stop judging yourself by other people's values; yours are what matter
    Accept responsibility for your actions and admit your mistakes
    Be a diverse person; don’t put all your emotional eggs in one basket

    The 24-year-old me had growing to do in all these departments, so I can't disagree with the value of such insights, though people who really need to improve their self-confidence might do better with a meatier book on the topic (or, for that matter, with professional therapy). For everyone else, if you don't mind the dudebro presentation, this one's a quick read and might provide a helpful booster shot of tough love.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Replay

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Ken Grimwood
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (834)
    Performance
    (499)
    Story
    (505)

    In 1988, 43-year-old Jeff Winston died of a heart attack. But then he awoke, and it was 1963; Jeff was 18 all over again, his memory of the next two decades intact. This time around, Jeff would gain all the power and wealth he never had before. This time around he'd know how to do it right. Until next time.

    Jonathon says: "Entertaining and more than worth the price!!"
    "Groundhog Life"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    What if you could go back in time and relive the prime years of your life, with all your memories and knowledge about the world to come intact? For Jeff Winston, a reporter stuck in a lifeless marriage, this classic fantasy comes true when he dies of a heart attack at age 43 in 1988 and awakens in 1963, a college freshman again. Once he gets his bearings, he does what many might do in the same situation: he gets filthy rich making sure bets and lives an entirely different life. Then, at age 43, he dies again, and the cycle restarts. Over the next several quarter-century sequences, Jeff tries different paths, such as marrying his college sweetheart, the sex and drug craze of the late 60’s, and living alone on a farm. Yet, each time through, it gets harder for him to know what choices are meaningful in a world that will just reset itself.

    It probably wouldn't have occurred to me to read this novel if it hadn't been on sale at audible, given how dated it sounded. But, I'm glad I did. I found Replay to be an intelligent but accessible read, and the datedness wasn't an issue. If you're an American over age 25, the cultural and historical references are long-lived enough that you'll get most of them. Grimwood uses his premise cleverly. In some lives, Jeff tries to get to the bottom of his predicament, only to have things go awry because of some issue he hadn't considered. Other times, he simply tries to live, exploring different versions of relationships with people he had known before. I won't spoil the major twist that happens around the midway point of the novel, but it adds another dimension to his experiences, creating new hope, but also new pain.

    As the novel progresses, Grimwood turns up the dramatic tension by having each new reincarnation go back less far into the past than the previous one did. What will happen when Jeff’s "rebirth" date catches up with his death date? What can he accomplish with the briefer and briefer time windows he has? I wouldn't call the writing complex, but the questions behind the story are poignant ones. What gives this kind of life meaning? Or any life? Can we ever achieve our full potential in any one branch? Is there some true core to each of us amid all the possibilities of what might have been? Could we love the same people again, if we met them as strangers? Or as lovers who had disappointed us? Or both?

    I won't give away the bittersweet conclusion, in which Jeff's cycle finally reaches its end, but it’s a thoughtful meditation on the necessary balance between control and acceptance. Ironically, there's an epilogue in which another character makes the jump from the mid-2010s to 1988. How abstractly in the future our time must have seemed to Mr. Grimwood when he wrote the novel!

    In sum, this is a book I could easily recommend to most adult readers. It’s not difficult, and the basic human themes still hold up well. Audio narrator William Dufris doesn’t have a wide range, but I found his voice pleasant.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Planesrunner: Everness, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Ian McDonald
    • Narrated By Tom Lawrence
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    There is not one you. There are many yous. There is not one world. There are many worlds. Ours is one among billions of parallel earths. When Everett Singh’s scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves young Everett a mysterious app on his computer. Suddenly, this teenager has become the owner of the most valuable object in the multiverse-the Infundibulum-the map of all the parallel earths, and there are dark forces in the Ten Known Worlds who will stop at nothing to get it.

    Ryan says: "Solid young adult sci-fi adventure"
    "Solid young adult sci-fi adventure"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I enjoyed Ian McDonald's Turkish-flavored sci-fi novel, The Dervish House, and was pleased to see this foray into Young Adult sci-fi come out in audio form. After 14-year-old Everett Singh's Punjabi-British quantum physicist dad is kidnapped, Everett receives a file containing what his father had discovered: a map of parallel universes dubbed the Infundibulum (I wish more authors would come up with such fun-to-say words). Currently, there are only ten that can be reached (or can reach each other), since connection requires the same technology on the other side, but the elder Singh's discovery may change that, and someone sinister wants the map. So, Everett must use his own capable intellect to escape into another plane, where a coal-driven world called E3 and a steampunky version of London await him.

    The format here is good-old-fashioned juvenile adventure (compared to McDonald's more sophisticated adult books), but if you or a young family member enjoy those, there's plenty to recommend Planesrunner. It features female and non-white primary characters without making a big deal of it. There's a healthy sense of humor (I had a laugh at the website where kids share the pathetic behaviors of recently-divorced parents) and an awareness of things young people are interested in, from Facebook to Doctor Who. While none of McDonald's ideas are particularly original (steampunk and airships have been done to death by now), he combines them in an intelligent, creative way, and young readers won't notice the borrowings. The supporting characters, such the feisty, alterna-Cockney girl, Sen, and her strong-willed airship captain guardian, Anastasia Sixsmyth, who join Everett on his adventure in E3, are a lot of fun, though this book really only introduces them for the future.

    The storytelling isn’t without a few stumbles, though. My main issue is that Everett's abilities stretch the limits of believability. A 14-year-old prodigy who does normal preteen stuff, but can also think in more than three dimensions and solve quantum field equations? That might have been pushing the "it's okay to be a nerd" message into implausibility. There’s a bit of filler as well, such as an airship battle in the second half that seems unnecessary to the main plot (and is the sort of thing handled more excitingly in Scott Westerfeld's steampunk adventure, Leviathan)

    But, not huge flaws. The many-worlds concept is interesting, and there are intriguing hints at where the series might go in the future. I’m sure I would have thoroughly enjoyed Planesrunner at age 14. Speaking of, there wasn't anything that I'd consider inappropriate for young people, just some cheeky humor, some non-lethal fighting, and one or two minor swear words. However, the science references might go over the heads of pre-adolescent kids.

    Audible narrator Tom Lawrence does a solid job, switching over to a credible American (and other) accents as the dialogue calls for. A good B/B+ YA novel.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

CANCEL

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.