Colorado Springs, Colorado United States | Member Since 2011
This is book two in the main sequence of the Revelation Space series. I found that I was much more engaged with the story and characters in this novel compared to my level of interest in REVELATION SPACE. Many of the story elements that were introduced in the first book are given meaning here. This is grand scale Space Opera, on a level with Olaf Stapledon and Stephen Baxter. Humanity is starting to branch into political factions that resemble different species. In many ways Reynolds reminds me of Larry Niven, especially in the way he throws out big ideas. It is a book full of ideas and that is its strong suit. This was a fun book to listen to, and even though the situations had nothing to do with reality, I found myself reveling along with the author; rooting him on to see what he would come up with next.
I have heard it said that Reynolds was trying to tell a meaningful story without resorting to the usual worn out Science Fiction trappings such as Faster than Light travel, and tractor beams. In this he is not entirely successful. His slower than light ships do require certain plot constraints that FTL stories neatly avoid. The time-scales for the story are necessarily lifetimes long. To do this he must, of course, include longevity and hibernation technology to insure his characters live long enough to see the end. There is a nice use of Time Travel that becomes a critical plot element. Of course steller evolution plays a big part in Revelation Space, as indeed the very idea of evolution of intelligent life. This is so central to the story that if you are not already familiar with the Fermi Paradox you will be by the end of this book. So it seems that Reynolds has traded one SF trope for another. All just tools in the story teller’s kit.
John Lee is again the narrator for Reynolds. To my ear Lee is much more in sync with the text in this book than in the previous novel. I do think that here he had better characters to work with, and his voice is as soothing as ever. His voice is so sonorous that at times I found myself tuning the story out and listening to John Lee almost as I would listen to music. And that is a danger for this book, for, like all the Alastair Reynolds books I have encountered so far, it does require an attentive listener. This book is much better than REVELATION SPACE but does ot reach the level of excellence of CHASM CITY.
Paolo Bacigalupi has a vision for his future that is very detailed and nuanced. It is a dystopian future that is neither fun nor enjoyable to dwell in; as a result, this leads to a less than engaging book. I listened to half this book before I bailed on it. I was not liking it. My mind kept wandering from the fragments of story that I was able to detect and I became more concerned with what I was going to listen to next than the book I was listening to at the moment. I knew it was time to cut the cord. For me, it relates most closely to the Sprawl Trilogy of William Gibson. if you like the world it is fun, and the details will be fascinating, if you do not like the imagined future it is alienating and in the details will seem devilish.
Jonathan Davis is always good and his performance kept me hanging on longer than I might have with a less capable narrator. But in the end not even he could rescue this book for me.
After listening to Larson’s first two Undying Mercenaries books, and liking them, I set out to try Larson’s most popular series: Star Force. I liked the opening section of discovery and wonder, but found the climax to be anti-climatic. The Computer Science Professor protagonist is interesting. I like the way he is able to work around the Artificial Intelligence machines with his mad programming skills. It becomes farcical though when he is the sole person to figure out just the right process for defeating the enemy at each and every step in the conflict. He even becomes the on the ground field commander of combat troops in as the battle escalates. If this was a Philip K. Dick story that would be a clear indication that our guy is hallucinating, but in this book, the hero is supposed to be for real. I am well used to the idea of willing suspension of disbelief—a prerequisite for a Science Fiction reader—but after already buying the idea that intelligent alien machines are in a war and need our help; believing that a nerdy professor can go from teaching at a community college to leading the forces of earth to repel the first wave of alien invaders and single-handedly negotiating a peace that will enslave mankind for a generation, is one suspended disbelief too far. Do I think this series has potential? Yes, I can imagine how this can expand into something far more vast than this first installment, and so I may try the next book in the series at a later date.
Mark Boyett is, as always, excellent. I think the Undying Mercenaries series gives him more opportunity to demonstrate his range, but even here he is pitch perfect.
The continuing saga of trigger happy Specialist James McGill This time Legion Varis, fresh from the disaster on STEEL WORLD, are thrown into another crisis that could mean the end of humanity if the Galactic Empire is not pleased with the outcome. There is some witty banter, but this is not at all comedy. This is a serious attempt at forecasting what a military engagement might be like in the future where humanity is the new kid on the block and can only offer our guts and glory. I like the direction this story is going and will look forward to future installments.
Mark Boyet gives this Space Opera an air of authenticity. He has great diction and can project unique inflections for all the different characters. He helps to make this an entertaining listening experience.
This was my second John Scalzi book and was quite a relief after enduring the annoying character identifiers of ANDROID’S DREAM. Either Scalzi was taken to the woodshed by the audio producers and ordered to eliminate all the “he said,” “she said” repetitions in the dialog scenes; or he was tired of playing practical jokes on his listeners and allowed the characters to be recognized by the context of their words. In any event, the character identifiers in the dialog scenes are completely transparent. Now you can focus on the story.
Here Scalzi writes like a Hollywood insider. He seems to know all the moves that occur behind the scenes. His protagonist is a talent agent thrust into the midst of the historic first contact with an alien species. It is a fun idea and plays like a comedy.
Wil Wheaton is becoming one of my favorite narrators. I will always be amazed that Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher, the most annoying character on Star Trek the Next Generation, could become such an excellent voice actor. Wheaton gets the audiobook medium like few others. He seems to sense the different characters to the degree that even when he doesn’t employ a distinct character voice, he is still able to set off each character apart by distinct pacing and diction. He’s one of the best. Don’t miss him.
This was my first taste of John Scalzi. I heard that he is one of the most popular Science Fiction writers in the realm of Sci-Fi fandom. A quick search revealed that he is a very popular blogger who made good becoming a successful published writer. Listening to this book it is clear that he understands the SF world inside and out. It is nice to get all the insider jokes and well loved SF tropes. His sense of humor is much appreciated. It is clear that tongue-in-cheek is standard operating procedure for Scalzi. I like that.
That said, there is an element of this book that almost caused me to bail. The numerous reviews mentioning the obnoxious repetition of “he said,” “she said” is truly annoying. The repeated use of these dialog identifiers as first seems to be just a beginner’s mistake. Such markers are easy to ignore visually when reading a book in print, but with a narrator charged with speaking every word on the printed page the listener is forced to endure every “he said” until it becomes a dreaded anticipation, like waiting for that pesky mosquito to lite on your leg again after shooing it away for the umpteenth time.
After listening to this book I decided to try another Scalzi book, AGENT TO THE STARS and am pleased to report that no such overuse of “he said,” “she said” is present in that book. This begs the question: Is Scalzi just playing with his audience? From listening to that second book it is clear that Scalzi knows how to write dialog with a minimum of character identifiers, so why all the “he said,” “she said” repetitions here?
Fortunately the wonderfully sarcastic Wil Wheaton is the narrator. When voicing these “he said,” “she said” sections Wheaton lilts his voice to emphasize each one in just the right way as if to say, “I get it. This is really annoying.” Half way into the book I began to look forward to hearing Wheaton speak my frustration. He makes these awkward dialog scenes into an ongoing joke. If the story had been less interesting I would have abandoned the book long before the end, but I realized that I liked Scalzi’s plot construction, and proliferation of SF ideas. If you are new to Scalzi, I don’t recommend listening to this book first. The dialog will likely put you off, and that would be a shame. Try AGENT TO THE STARS for a better example of what he is capable of. But do return to this one if you can handle brushing away those pesky mosquitoes.
It is refreshing to listen to this fantasy where the politicians are trying to do their best for the country and the bad guys are outsiders—not the men in office. In this book the bad guys are supernatural beings bent on pure evil. Luckily the United States has Cade on its side, a vampire with a heart-of-gold. Sure it’s a bit far-fetched, and idealistic but it works as fiction. And because of the talents of Bronson Pinchot, this novel is elevated to first rate entertainment.
This second book in the series continues at the same level as the first. The plot gets more complications including a CIA Shadow Company and an extinction level threat. It is enjoyable tracing the story as it unfolds. Bronson Pinchot is again wonderful pitching his voice perfectly for each separate character. His range of voices is truly amazing—seeming like a multi-voice cast production.
I was drawn to this because Bronson Pinchot is the narrator. This book provides plenty of opportunity for Pinchot to display his characterization skills. For me, a Pinchot devotee, this is enough. I was pleased to discover that this is more like a political thriller than it is a horror novel—think Jack Reacher, Jack Ryan, Mitch Rapp. Plenty of action and life-saving heroics in defense of America. Did I mention sarcasm? There is sarcasm in plenty. This is a fun book. The plot is well constructed with a discernable beginning, middle development, and satisfying ending. Oh yea, did I mention that Bronson Pinchot is excellent? Well he is great. If you have come to the conclusion, as I have, that a great narrator can make almost any book a pleasant listening experience. In this case the book is interesting in its own right—adding Pinchot makes this a movie playing in your head.
Science Fiction is whatever SF readers read. Using this definition you may classify this as Science Fiction. But it is really a mainstream novel with extensive flashbacks involving related characters. Heavy doses of math and internet technology protocol lingo may make this seem like SF to those not accustomed to such nerdification, but there are no other SF trappings. In the 1960’s SF readers began reading THE LORD OF THE RINGS and made it into a Science Fiction classic.
I listened to this book immediately after tackling Stephenson’s ANATHEM—a novel that didn’t strike my fancy. If you read my review of that novel you will know that I am a big fan of Stephenson’s SNOWCRASH, and after being disappointed by his THE DIMOND AGE, decided to give some of his other works a chance in case he had more to offer. ANATHEM almost made me give up on that second chance, but I soldiered on trying to discover the reason so many are so enamored with Neal Stephenson. Listening to CRYPTONOMICON was, for me, a return to the fun and sarcasm that is so evident in SNOWCRASH. The tone of this book is so different than that of ANATHEM that I am left a little baffled as to just what that other book was all about.
This is twice as long as a typical long novel and even some trilogies are shorter. This is because it is really two novels—each novel being told in parallel to the other. One is among the cryptographers in World War II, and the other in the present day of techno-geeks, with some related characters between the two time tracks. As might be expected by such a lengthy book there is a cast of thousands and the plot is complex and multifaceted. There are so many diversions and rabbit trails that as a listener you must be in the frame of mind to go along for the ride, else you will become impatient waiting for the plot to advance. You will hear forays into various methods of code making and breaking, and will gain an smattering of internet technology along the way—and this is completely relevant to understanding the story. Wait until you learn what van Eck phreaking eavesdropping is all about! This novel brought out the nerd in me and if you have any inkling in that direction this book will strike a chord within you as well.
Also of note is the fact that both of these two books are narrated by William Dufris. In ANATHEM Dufris adopts, correctly I believe, a far-away sequestered-monk tone of voice with mystical quasi-philosophical Socratic dogmatic smugness. Here in CRYPTONOMICON Dufris has the freedom to fully explore his full range of voice characterization. He is most excellent when portraying various English dialects, clearly differentiating at least a half dozen different dialects—and his Germans immediately put images of crisp SS uniforms and monocles in your mind. I think that because this novel is full of quirky characters that Dufris was given free reign to portray , being allowed to go completely over-the-top in his voicings. His performance here reminds me of another wonderful Dufris-narrated book: WOKEN FURIES. He has delivered a truly wonderful performance that made this a very entertaining listening adventure.
Long ago in a galaxy far, far away lived a race of bipedal humanoids that had survived a slightly different history that that of Earth. Here they engaged in lengthily philosophical discussions on the fine points of logic that exactly mirrors the philosophy of Earth. On this far away planet these people even have historical archetypes that have exact parallels to our Newton, Emerson, Locke and Darwin. So, what this really is amounts to an alternate history of our Earth but with different political forces. For me this is less a Science Fiction novel than it is a Mainstream novel that includes some SF elements. I liken this to the many Romance novels that include SF elements but which are correctly categorized as Futuristic Romance pieces and not really Science Fiction.
After listening to the amazing SNOWCRASH I felt that Neal Stephenson deserved a second listen. SNOWCRASH is fast-paced, energetic, fanciful, farcical and fun. ANATHEM is extremely slow-paced, ponderous, mundane and tedious. I am now going on to tackle Stephenson’s CRYPTONOMICON just because SNOWCRASH is so good that I want to give him every opportunity to display the brilliance that he is capable of achieving.
William Dufris is a fine narrator. He has a limited range of character voices, which he recycles on occasion, but these work well for most any conversations. He is easy to understand and always energetic, making a good effort to make this a rewarding listening experience.
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