I've read and/or listened to this novel 3 times and I like it more each time. It's a thoughtful, engrossing first contact story with theological, moral and science fiction themes. The Sparrow tells the tale of a Jesuit mission to an alien world and, more specifically, the story of Father Emilio Sandoz, the lone survivor of that mission. His experience is life-changing, to say the least.
Russell writes interesting, highly plausible characters and she not only explores the theological implications of the book's events, she also creates a memorable alien culture.
David Colacci's reading is quite good. He starts a little uncertainly but quickly gains his footing, giving voice to the various characters without ever taking accents and dialects to distracting extremes.
I can't recommend The Sparrow highly enough but be warned: if you're the type of science fiction fan who wants action-packed space opera, this isn't the book for you. It's a book about people and ideas, not an action/ adventure story.
WARNING: Contains a few SPOILERS.
There might be a very good 250-300 page novel somewhere in American Elsewhere but author Robert Jackson Bennett buries it in a book that's over twice that length. At 22 hours, this audiobook ended up being a slog for me. Jackson s-l-o-w-l-y introduces readers to the unusual town of Wink, then tediously reveals the truth behind it's mysteries, truths that any seasoned reader of weird fiction will grasp long before the book comes close to revealing them. When they were finally revealed, I found it hard not to smirk a bit at the combination of Lovecraftian extra-dimenional beings and mommy issues. The whole thing plays out pretty predictably, all things considered, and similar concepts have been handled more efficiently and effectively. There ARE some good moments in American Elsewhere. There was a section in the middle of the book where things really picked up, became original and interesting and got me enthused about listening further. Unfortunately, in the end, I didn't feel that enthusiasm was rewarded.
I give reader Graham Winton an A for effort. His quality performance actually helped me finish the book.
Annihilation is the first volume in a planned trilogy but the novel easily stands on it's own. It reminded me of the work of J.G. Ballard in that it's at least as concerned with the psychological state of it's primary character as it is with the strange, mysterious area she and her companions are exploring. There's a dose of Machen and Lovecraft in the book too, which isn't surprising since Jeff Vandermeer is a champion of weird fiction. However, in the end, the novel is unique and original, a beautifully written, sometimes harrowing, exploration of humanity's encounter with something new. There are passages that border on the hallicinogenic and Vandermeer wisely leaves some questions unanswered. Perhaps they will be answered in subsequent books but honestly, I hope not. Some things are best left to the imagination.
I highly recommend Annihilation. I found Carolyn McCormick's reading of the book a little monochromatic but it's certainly not bad and there are moments where the placid tone she uses really works in the novel's favor.
This novel won the Hugo award and was nominated for the Nebula award as well so I went into it with relatively high expectations. Unfortunately, it turned out to be somewhat of a bore. A Fire Upon the Deep contains some original and fascinating ideas but the characterization is stiff and the novel really drags in the middle. Vinge seems more interested in exploring the medieval world on which he's stranded some of his characters than the complex and interesting galactic structure he's created, populated with numerous intelligent races and super intelligences so powerful they are impossible for lesser being like humans to comprehend.
Peter Larkin's reading contributed to my disappointment with the book as well. He used cartoony voices for a number of the alien characters that made it increasingly difficult to take the book seriously.
Dick Hill's expert reading of this dud wasn't enough to save it and after nearly 8 hours of dull listening, I finally bailed. Perhaps there's an unexpected twist and a great payoff at the end of this mystery but the ride was so dull and predictable, even with a great reading, that I lost interest in reaching the destination. This novel is riddled with clichés, the main character isn't particularly likable OR interesting and the pacing didn't work for me. By the middle of the book I was just too bored to care what happened next.
Felix J. Palma's first novel, The Map of Time, was a clever, charming story full of surprises, well-written characters and a wonderful mix of history and fiction. It used H.G. Wells classic novel, The Time Machine as a launching point and Wells himself as a character.
Wells is back in this sequel, which draws upon another of his most famous novels, The War of the Worlds, for inspiration. Unfortunately, while the first book was clever and inspired, this novel was more like a bad Hollywood sequel. It tries too hard to replicate the experience of the first book and consequently feels forced and labored from start to finish. It was a 22+ hour slog. In his effort to deliver the kind of unexpected surprises he gave readers in The Map of Time, the author pushes too far, repeatedly forcing the issue. The surprises feel labored and at one point, he thoroughly betrays the reader's trust in way he probably thought was clever and playful but was, in reality, so disappointing that I almost bailed on the book immediately after finishing that chapter. In the end, maybe that would have been a good idea.
Palma is a talented writer and I'm hoping he'll put that talent to better use on his next book and leave the themes and characters of his first two behind.
I have no desire to give anything about this excellent novel away to interested listeners so suffice to say that it's read perfectly by Grover Gardner and that author William Landay has written an excellent tale that explores the responsibilities of parenting, the consequences of accusation, the impact a family member's choices can have on the rest of the family and much, much more. The characters are well developed, the legal scenes fascinating and the book keeps the listener guessing until the end, which is memorable, to say the least.
I like Stephen King's writing, particularly his flair for character, but I've always preferred his shorter work. Some of his novels are so massive and ambitious that for me, they suffer a bit. This lean, tightly written tale doesn't have that problem. It's a coming of age story, a mystery and a ghost story all rolled into one and King's ability to write believable, interesting characters is definitely on display. It's less "hard" than many of the other entries in the Hard Case Crime library but it's the most enjoyable thing I've read or listened to by King in quite some time. I recommend it but not for King fans expecting a horror novel.
Michael Kelly's reading of the book was superb.
I bought Deliverance on a whim, because Audible had it on sale, and I didn't listen to it for quite some time. That was a mistake. I should have listened to this superb novel immediately, it's one of the better audiobooks i've experienced, perfectly read by Will Patton and vividly imagined by author James Dickey. Dickey was a poet and it's apparent in his insightful writing. His story of a journey into the wilderness gone wrong was incredible. Listen to it. Read it. Just make sure you don't miss it! It's a great book.
Dark Places is a tightly plotted, skillfully written novel that goes exactly where the title suggests it will go. It's dark indeed, so much so that you may feel you need a shower when it's over. That said, it's also a very satisfying listen, well read and gripping. Flynn resolves the mystery she sets up well and she keeps the reader guessing along the way. She also understands her characters (particularly Libby) and the darker side of human nature and that understanding makes the book that much more disturbing. It is the characters as much as the events in Dark Places that unsettle the reader/listener. I can only imagine that writing a book like this, delving into such characters enough to understand them, must be an unsettling experience as well. Highly recommended.
Into the Wild was a good listen, well worth the credit. Krakauer meanders off his central subject a bit but always stays in interesting territory, detailing some of his personal experiences braving the wild as well as those of others. He paints an interesting portrait of Christopher McCandless, helping the reader grasp what may have have motivated the adventurous youth and what may have ultimately befallen him in the Alaskan wilderness.
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