This was my first exposure to the writings of Avram Davidson, and I think I might have to look into his writings more. A very entertaining and interesting story.
It's a story set int the backdrop of humanity, far in the future, spread out in the galaxy but in decline, caught in the rut of routine, and almost dogmatic innovation-stiffling resistance to change. It's a story of predudice, and overcoming it, and of maybe seeing some redeeming light at the end of the tunnel. It was ultimately an uplifting story.
The performace of the narrator was very good, though some of the voices he used made tough to decipher what the character was saying - this was for minor characters though, and for short lines, so it isn't a major complaint.
It's a very good story concept, and an interesting book. The narration is ok, and inoffensive to the ear, nothing outstanding though. The writing is decent, lacking somewhat in character development, and the book relies more on the strength of the story concept than any literary brilliance.
However, there's a big, obvious, glaring question that is completely ignored in the story, that nagged me throughout, ever since the big discovery, and reveal as to it's specific nature, early on.
It's hard to describe the problem without spoilers, but here goes: given what we know, and can prove of human origins, and it's intimate ties to terrestrial biology, there aren't many possible paths to the state of the universe the story imagines. I'll be seriously miffed if this question of origins of the situation in question will not get addressed at any point, in the future books either. I would be more annoyed though, if the author does illuminate this question, but does it by giving an implausible answer, that is not informed by what we already know, pretty much for certain, with our current science.
In any case, it is implausible that any scientist worth their salt would not have had the curiosity to ask the relevant question already, in this first book of the series, and I'm left annoyed that it's been left unaddressed
So I'm kinda waiting to see whether the author is sufficiently scientifically literate, and this is a very good, true SciFi story, that does not wantonly go against our scientific understanding that we already have, OR whether it is a good story, but with a bad science part to the fiction.
I'm hoping for the former, and look forward to finding out... if we get to find out, and are not just left to head-cannon it ourselves.
Good, but predictable. That evaluation seems to me to be applicable to Larson's military sci-fi in general. I enjoy the stories, but I can't remember a single time of being surprised by a plot twist, in anything I've read from Larson.
The same is true here - the central protagonist of the book is, like Larson's protagonists tend to be, tough, independent minded, physically brave, and resourceful.... while at the same time being quite.... slow-witted, when it comes to encountering new things, and figuring out what's happening.
In essence, the reader figures out what is happening way, way before the central protagonist does. I don't know whether this is due to the predictability of the story, or whether Larson is trying to make the reader feel really smart. To me it just felt a bit implausible that characters in the story would take so long to figure out things that were obvious to the reader very quickly.
What makes the story predictable and "safe" reading is that the author seems very reluctant to let anything really bad happen to the central characters. Central characters very, very rarely die permanently. The conflicts and suspense created tend to be quickly resolved - too quickly, I think.
Still, the series is enjoyable reading, that keeps you engaged with the fast paced action, and I will be buying the next installment in the series. I guess that's the final test of whether an author has been successful.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it was clearly written from a political point of view that I found a little unrealistic.
***Minor spoiler warning***
The moon society described in the story was essentially liberalistic to the extreme, to the point of being anarchistic - for example, the populace policed itself.
The story had this system working - if a person tried to take over, or acted in an outrageous manner, he'd quickly be disposed of, with nobody objecting. That's not really realistic. In any real life sizeable human community, the absense of a police force and a justice system would lead to long lasting vendetas between groups of people and families. Someone who acts outrageously, and 99% of the population would agree has to be gotten rid of, would still be likely to have family, which would not rest before they exacted punishment on the killers of their family member.
This killing then would cause the new victim's family to want justice against the killers of their family member, and a vendetta would be born. Thus the need for a police force, and a common justice system is born, in any society of any respectable size.
That's a rather minor quibble though; I was quite able to suspend my disbelief and pretend that such a society could work, for the purposes of the story, which was well written, engaging and enjoyable.
The storyline is not bad, but the publishers summary led me to expect a sci-fi story, not a sci-fi-fantasy, heavily weighed towards fantasy. I prefer my sci-fi to have at least a semblance of plausibility, and to my annoyance, new age concepts like channeling dead spirits, clairvoyance, and psychics are central to the world the author has created.
It's fine for a story to have those, but a story like that is just not my cup of tea, and I wish I'd known prior to buying the book.
Apart from that, the writing is good, and it's not a bad story at all. Just not for me. I'm in a strange situation now - I'm by nature a completionist, and hate to drop a story mid way through, so I'm considering whether I have to get book 2 as well, even though I felt kinda conned into a story I would not have bought had I known beforehand about it revolving around supernatural elements, and the SCIENCE part of this fiction being quite peripheral.
This is a book with an interesting concept, but ultimately I think that this collaboration was less successful than either author's individual works.
The reason this left me wanting something more is difficult to pin down, but I'll try. Pratchett shines in not only comedy but his depiction of rich, and very human characters. In this story, the most interesting character that showed Pratchett's handiwork was sister Agnes, and she only made an appearance in the recollections and thoughts, and occasional conversation, of the main character. For a Pratchett book, there was a paucity of characters, I felt.
Baxter brings in his works some far-reaching concepts, and the "long earth" certainly qualifies. Yet I find his forays into biology and evolution, while interesting, often stretching plausibility beyond a breaking point - here too it seems to be the case that some of the biological entities, especially the singular one revealed near the end, don't really have a plausible evolutionary path to get to where they are. As somewhat of a biology-geek, this tends to nag me.
There is little in the way of Pratchett's usual humor - which is not automatically a negative, since this story is not in the same genre as Pratchett's other works. Yet what confuses the reader is that there clearly are hints that the story might go in a humorous direction, especially early on, and then that expectation is let down by nothing very funny happening.
With all these negatives, you might think I didn't like the book, which isn't quite true. I think it is a flawed book, but it did maintain my interest enough for me to have just bought the sequel - I do want to learn how the story ends. Ultimately, that's why the four stars.
This book is pretty difficult to classify - as a popular science book, it touches on subjects ranging from cosmology to evolution, with history of science and the history of societies that allowed science to blossom weaved in.
Most of the science was already familiar to me, though it was a pleasure to listen to so well presented. The insight into how the society has to be ready for a development, to provide fertile ground for new things to "take off", was one that I hadn't given much thought to before.
The book is perhaps 80% science, 20% ficition - with the story of the Wizards trying to make things right on roundworld being told in separate, shorter chapters, in between longer chapters on science and history. I quite liked this approach.
The narrator was very good, with the exception of quite annoyingly misspronouncing a couple of words. The narrator clearly didn't pay attention in biology class, because one would think that most people would know how to pronounce "allele". And "meme" in the word "meme-plex" rhymes with "gene". The "me-me-plex" pronounciation really grated on my nerves. A tip for any narrators: if a word is new to you, and you haven't heard it spoken out loud before, look up the pronounciation, don't just guess.
That's a rather minor complaint though, in a generally good reading of a very good book.
Stephen King can write. BOY can he write!
I am neither a fan of the horror genre, nor do I really like stories which depend on supernatural elements, so I haven't read that much by King. I may have to remedy that after reading (or listening rather) to this one.
"11-22-63: A Novel" was engaging, captivating, and memorable - the kind of book that you don't want to put down. More than once, I had to fight back tears (of sorrow or joy) and I really came to care about these fictional characters.
The narrator Craig Wasson was truly outstanding. I've only listened to a handful of audiobooks thus far, and only two fiction books, but Wasson set the bar really high. He managed to make all the characters unique, and instantly recognizable, never over-the-top. At appropriate times, I could hear the emotion in his voice, and truly appreciated his skill. I hope to hear more of his work in the future.
Stop hesitating, and spend that credit on this one - you'll be glad you did.
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