Colorado Springs, Colorado United States | Member Since 2013
This is a review of the four volume THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN (TBNS) by Gene Wolfe; which traces the coming of age of Severian, once a member of The Order of the Seekers for Truth and Penitence.
In printed form the earlier works of Gene Wolfe can be quite challenging and this is the quintessential Wolfe novel. The esoteric language employed forces your eyes to slow down and read with great care. So many of the words, while supposedly all authentic English words, are unfamiliar that looking up at least a handful of them is necessary to understand the text. As a result, the reader’s mind has time to explore Severian’s world as the protagonist himself is doing. The printed books are heavy in the hand and the weight of the pages fore and aft serve as constant reminders of what has come before, and what is yet to be.
The most telling observation I can give about the audio book is that it transforms a massive tome into a much more personal narrative. As an audio book TBNS takes on a less intimidating, much more intimate and even more friendly character. The inexorable pacing of the narrator, Jonathan Davis, does not permit pauses for reflection, or speculation, the story plows on, without pausing to try to pronounce a word, without going back to regain the flow of the plot after a difficult flashback. And it is just fine.
Jonathan Davis is a most excellent narrator for TBNS. His voice has a deep calming quality that is well suited to recounting Severian’s story. He gives each character their own individual voice. He gives a fine performance ranking this among my favorite audio books. I can recommend all four of the volumes of TBNS here on Audible without reservation.
Note: The short afterwards that are part of each of the four volumes are not included in the audio versions. They should be read to get the full effect intended by the author Gene Wolfe.
Things are looking increasingly bleak for mankind and Andrew Grayson in this sequel to TERMS OF ENLISTMENT. Marcos Kloos is attempting to give us a space opera with a sense of authenticity—no mean feat for a work of Science Fiction set largely in outer space. As a result this book series has a lot of military attention to detail. It also has a lot of military personnel. Their gung-ho lingo and gruff matter-of-fact banter are the highlights of this series. This book is every bit as good as the first, and is a fine example of a tightly plotted story. I will leave you to discover the story for yourselves.
Luke Daniels gives a top level performance. He places a tremendous amount of emotion into his performance. I greatly enjoyed his effort in bringing every dialog scene to life. This is a kind of one man show where the actor plays all the parts. The amazing thing is that oftentimes it seems like a cast of voice actors are on stage—but no—Luke Daniels does them all himself. His portrayal of the female characters is particularly good to my ear. Somehow he manages to mimic the female vocal cords with a superb sense of pacing and inflection and manages to avoid the all too common sense I get from some other narrators of a two-hundred pound man in drag imitating a woman’s voice in falsetto. When this book came out I went back and listened to the first book again not only to refresh my memory of the story but to relive Luke Daniels’ performance. If all narrators were as competent as Daniels we would have a an explosion of new audiobook listeners who, after listening to just their first audiobook, would be instantly convinced of the beauty of the medium.
Another fun installment in the continuing misadventures of James McGill and Legion Varis. This time they start the mission thinking they were on a milk run; of course things turn out to be not so simple. McGill is again faced with a situation that could get him killed permanently (permed in the jargon of the book). And again McGill responds with insubordination compelled with some sense of baseless morality to do the right thing. Larson has created an enduring character in James McGill that keeps getting more and more interesting with every new book. I like the dynamics of the Legion Varis chain of command. I like the space opera scenario of the series, with the technologically vastly superior Galactics making the rules. I like the way Mankind always finds a way to live within the system, but untamed enough that they are not afraid to bend the rules. You just can’t keep those spunky humans on a short leash. Most of all I like straight-shooter McGill always leading with his heart and too compulsive to reign in his tongue. This continues to be an interesting and entertaining series.
Mark Boyett is excellent in his portrayal of the different characters in the book. He handles both male and female voices with deft adroitness. He has a great sense of the sarcastic, a quality I much appreciate in a narrator.
What begins as a geek hacker-gamer mystery quickly escalates into a full blown spy thriller with Russian Mobsters, rich (though far from helpless) damsels in distress, and British-born Jihadists. The book is full of great characters and exciting situations. I have enjoyed several other Neal Stephenson novels very much including the farcical and fun Snowcrash the massive Cryptonomicon and his multi-volume exploration of the dawn of the scientific age: The Baroque Cycle. This here is a whole different type of story. REAMDE is akin to a patriotic thriller novel but twice as long and three times more convoluted. The similarity between them all is in the quality of the writing—all are engaging and nicely done. I continue to be impressed, paradoxically, with the variety and consistency of the work of Neal Stephenson.
After a brief period I quickly became accustomed to Malcolm Hillgartner as the voice of REAMDE. He provides great pacing and emotes his various characterization with style and aplomb. Occasionally his characterizations are worthy of a rewind just to hear him turn a phrase in a marvelous accent. Sometimes he fades into the background and the story seems to be emanating directly from your brain. Always he delivers the text better that I could have read it silently to myself.
Filled with flashbacks to the time of their apprenticeship under Master Chain the Thief Maker, this novel follows Locke and John first in the present time and then in the past in a series of comic misadventures. Always they practice their religion, reliving people of their money in the name of the Crooked Warden. This novel lacks the exciting story of the second book—tending to get side-tracked with the long flashback scenes of the play production company—but still manages to be entertaining.
Michael Page again delivers an energetic dramatic performance that, at times, reaches brilliance.
This series came to life with this second book. Now that we know the characters of Locke and John their exploits take sail. Their love for pilferage gets them into some very dicey situations that are festooned with danger, (mis)adventure and comedy. This is a great big fun book that will keep you entertained from the first chapter to the last. Unexpectedly tightly plotted, the action takes Locke and John from one peril to another, first operating within their comfort zone—thieving and running confidence games—to being cast adrift in a nautical word of freebooters where their only assets are their wits. This novel has a strong plot that elevates is far above the first.
Michael Page tailors his performance to the over-the-top nature of the action in the story. His voicing is expertly energetic and melodramatic as the story requires. As a result this fun book is made even more fun by listening to his dramatic portrayal. Sit back and let Michael Page tell you a rousing story.
This is a very likable start to the series. Scott Lynch gives his main characters a detailed back-story so that we feel that we know and understand the life of crime that Locke and John are thrown into. A variety of misadventures ensues to let us know that crime does not pay, at least not forever. As is typical of caper stories humor is a steady companion to these exploits of the Gentlemen Bastards. This book is entertaining and the next is even more fun.
Michael Page gives an enthusiastic performance, attaining emotional heights that lend to the already considerable fun.
Richard Morgan’s third entry into the fantasy genre again downplays the explicit scenes that were so prominent in the first book. I am trying to be discrete here. It is evident that there has been a conscious decision to be a little less in-your-face on such gratuitous scenes at the end of this series. Here the events of the trilogy are allowed to unfold without too much of the rainbow desensitization techniques he employed so copiously in the first installment—and for this I am grateful. What we are left with is a quite mundane sword-and-sorcery novel. The three main characters are back again and live up to their nicknames in every sense. It is fun to see them in action. And nobody does action better than Morgan.
At the end of the day I think that I failed to fully engage with this series because of the aforementioned salacious elements and so have not really much cared what happens to the characters. There is a dearth of redeeming social value here. As a result I just let the audio play out and tried to follow the plot, which at times was difficult because the action seems focused more on the grubby details of mercenary life than it does on the grander story arc with the fate of the world at stake. This is not, therefore, an epic fantasy by any means. The unfolding Duenda war feels like little more than a manufactured crisis to allow the characters to misbehave. Alfred Hitchcock would call this the MacGuffin—the thing the characters in the story care about who facilitate the action that the audience cares about. The characters want to save the world and we in the audience want to witness them hacking and slashing their way to victory. So, while this series may have broken ground in introducing the genre to a sympathetic portrayal of an openly gay main character, it is pretty standard Sword and Sorcery fare otherwise. Knowing the dizzying heights that Richard Morgan is capable of hitting in his Science Fiction novels, this is a bit of a letdown.
Simon Vance is a little too subdued for my tastes in his reading of this book. With such flamboyant characters the story would have been better served with a more emotional rendering in the dialog scenes. Vance is excellent in translating the words on the page into sounds in your ear. For the most part he is unobtrusive and this makes it possible for him to become the sub-vocal voice-in-your-head that every reader experiences when reading a book on your own.
Now twenty years after WARBOUND we learn, in passing, what Francis and Fae are up to. The son of Jake and Origami joins forces with the Imperium to defeat a foe that could threaten the world if not stopped on the Island. Knowing that Larry Correia is still playing in the Grimnoir world leaves hope for a follow-up novel in the future. This little teaser makes me want more.
Bronson Pinchot is top-notch as usual.
This is a fine short story set four years after the events in WARBOUND. It was great to keep up with Jake Sullivan and the Alienist. The real joy was hearing Bronson Pinchot exercise his talents again.
Back in the day I read the original DUNE and then followed with DUNE MESSIAH and CHILDREN OF DUNE, but then I stopped because I didn't like the direction the series was going. Over the intervening years I kept hearing high praise for the rest of the series. I just wasn't motivated enough to undertake reading all six books. But now that they are available on Audio I thought I would give it a try. After all I had been richly rewarded in a similar situation involving the works of Neal Stephenson. (I had avoided The Baroque Cycle after loving Snowcrash but disliking The Diamond Age) So, in the case of the Dune novels I felt compelled to check off this nagging omission from my bucket list. I was hopefully expecting a buried treasure. Sadly, my original estimation was confirmed. The original DUNE is wonderful and inventive, fresh and new. The balance of the Dune novels are slow plodding—focused too much on fanciful, imagined philosophy. The second book, DUNE MESSIAH, reads like an outline—just advancing the plot so the third, CHILDREN OF DUNE can be told. This third book has some mildly interesting characters and promises a Space Opera scale expansion of the story for the remaining novels. The fourth, GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE, documents the tyrannical reign of human-turned-worm Leto II but does not make good use of the vast scale of a multiple-planet empire. The creepy giant larvae-like emperor, and his entire dialog, seems less then majestic or oppressive, as later recollections will portray his reign. The idea is there but the execution is lacking. The next, HERETICS OF DUNE, advances the plot but leaves much to be desired when it comes to holding my interest; which it could have done with more interesting people or with witty dialog (Again the reader is referred to The Baroque Cycle). And this last novel is no improvement. Mercifully, Frank Herbert ended his series with CHAPTERHOUSE DUNE. This last novel has the same feel as the previous two books. I did not like it. And unless someone can convince me that the other Dune books, written by Frank Herbert’s son are of a completely different quality, my exploration of Dune is at an end.
As a public service I can say that if you enjoy exploring the outlining of a future society based on treachery and long range planning—but without fleshing out the characters or establishing an engaging storyline, then the last five Dune novels may be for you. My chief complaint is that the new characters which necessarily populate the later novels are just not very interesting. I was never made to care about them and so had a hard time following their concerns.
I sympathize with the plight of the narrators. The dissertation-like nature of the text as a sociological treatise demands a slow monotone reading, and the narrators faithfully comply.
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