Colorado Springs, Colorado United States | Member Since 2011
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
An insider’s look into the cloistered realm of peer reviewed scientific establishment from one of the icons of the 20th century. Every schoolboy knows of Watson and Crick; what I didn’t know is that there was a scientist out there willing to expose his shortcomings in the very field for which his prestige is derived. Watson reveals his weakness in organic chemistry, X-ray crystallography, and an inability to think is three dimensions, all disciplines critical to the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule, the discovery for which he is most famous. Watson is also not shy of depicting his fellows in all their personality quirks and professional blind spots, and, to be fair, even their times of intuitive brilliance. This account should completely dispel the idea that scientists are infallible.
Roger Clark narrates his own Afterward with a rich deep sonorous voice.
Grover Gardner delivers his usual perfect diction and impassive monotone delivery. If you love him this will be fantastic for you. He, for me, is always an obstacle to be overcome. I find that hearing his nasally voice in my head for several hours causes my soft palate to elevate as I subconsciously attempt to sub-vocalize his high-pitch intonations along with his voice in my ear. To be fair, he is always easy to understand and reads with great pacing. The problem is that Mr. Gardner never becomes “the voice in my head” that some listeners find so desirable. I prefer a more dramatic performance. Many fiction narrators are prized for their dramatic talent. Some may say that drama may be good for fiction but not for non-fiction. I disagree, seeking over-the-top performances in all my audiobooks. A recent non-fiction example comes to mind: Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhirter.
This is a delightful foray into linguistics that made the subject interesting even for a non-linguist like me. This made me consider things I was completely aware of. Knowing that languages construct sentences differently is not news; but knowing precisely what those difference are is revelatory. McWhorter attempts to trace many of the linguistic discrepancies between languages by examining the clues left behind. These clues are found in several places. Predictably, one source of evidence for tracing language usage is the written word, or as it is called in the field, “scripture.” Another is the spoken languages of various people groups whose word usage and grammatical sentence structure can be contrasted and compared to the record of historical migrations and conquests. Any military conquest in the ancient world apparently left behind not only a a trail of blood but also a trail of linguistic mingling that can be traced.. One unexpected source of information is that linguists try to reconstruct various “proto” languages from circumstantial evidence alone. Many dead languages have no written record, no scripture, but can be reconstructed, partially at least, by examining the cultures they were able to influence. I learned a lot from this book. It is an enjoyable introduction to the history of the English language.
His relaxed understanding of the manner in which grammar morphs over time gives me license to write in a style that seems right to me. Rules are made to be broken.
John McWhorter reads his own book. Surprisingly, he is able add inflection to his voice that makes the text seem to be coming out of his memory rather than from the page. His delivery is very enjoyable and often graduates from the merely precise and understandable to the engaging and even entertaining.
Professor Richard Baum delivers a series of 48 lectures on China. He captures the decline of the former dynasties and the rise of the social communist revolution. I suspect that his personal politics lean toward the left in American style politics. Although in these lectures you will learn that the terms “left” and “right,” in political terms, are very dependant on the context in which they are used. In a China where the entire political spectrum is socialist, the conservative right is hard-line communist: exactly the reverse of the American system. At first I found Professor Baum to be sympathetic to everything Chinese, but later realized that this is just because of this style of delivery. He is a self-styled Sinologist, a professional China Watcher. As a Political Scientist he is enthusiastic for everything that happens in China, both good and bad. To him it is a fascinating academic study of China as a phenomenon. Don’t let his perceived enthusiasm in the early lectures concerning the rise of communism lead you to believe that he is siding with Chairman Mao. Later he will be equally enthusiastic recounting Mao’s shortcomings. After listening to Professor Baum lecture on the subject of China for over 24 hours, I now consider his approach to be professionally unbiased in a Political Science framework.
This regional history recounts the fall of the old empire, the revolutionary rise of communism, the fall of communism, and the rise of the socialist market economy that has made China the world power it is today. The recent history China is in no way a simple study; it is less a bungee-cord fall and rise than it is the repeated dips and loops of a roller-coaster.
Against unsustainable economic growth, necessitated by appeasement of the masses now made aware of the potentials of freedom brought on by the infusion of Western technologies and ideas, China may well implode as it tries to gain world dominance by abusing the human rights of its people. As Professor Baum concludes his lessons, it is clear that China is still in a state of flux, barely juggling precarious economic stability, tense foreign policy, and the increasing unrest of its people. Ironically, the very thing that makes China a world economic player threatens to undermine the totalitarian power and influence the Chinese Communist Party has over its subjects.
If you want more: try another lecture series: Peter Navarro in THE COMING CHINA WARS. Navarro goes into the serious implosion problems China faces based on the economies of scale.
1. The Splendor That Was China 600 to 1700
2. Malthus and Manchu Hubris 1730 to 1800
3. Barbarians at the Gate 1800 to 1860
4. Rural Misery and Rebellion 1840 to 1860
5. The Self-Strengthening Movement 1860 to 1890
6. Hundred Days of Reform and the Boxer Uprising
7. The End of Empire 1900 to 1911
8. The Failed Republic 1912 to 1919
9. The Birth of Chinese Communism 1917 to 1925
10. Jung, Mao and Civil War 1926 to 1934
11. The Republican Experiment 1927 to 1937
12. Resist Japan 1937 to 1945
13. Jung’s Last Stand 1945 to 1949
14. The Chinese People Have Stood Up
15. Korea, Taiwan and the Cold War 1950 to 1954
16. Socialist Transformation 1953 to 1957
17. Cracks in the Monolith 1957 to 1958
18. The Great Leap Forward 1958 to 1960
19. Demise of the Great Leap Forward 1959 to 1962
20. Never Forget Class Struggle 1962 to 1965
21. Long Live Chairman Mao 1964 to 1965
22. Mao’s Last Revolution Begins 1965 to 1966
23. The Children’s Crusade 1966 to 1967
24. The storm Subsides 1968 to 1969
25. The Sino-Soviet War of Words 1964 to 1969
26. Nixon, Kissinger and China 1969 to 1972
27. Mao’s Deterioration and Death 1971 to 1976
28. The Legacy of Mao Tse-tung, an Appraisal
29. The Post-Mao Interregnum 1976 to 1977
30. Hua Guofeng and the Four Modernizations
31. Deng Takes Command 1978 to 1979
32. The Historic Third Plenum 1978
33. The Normalization of US-China Relations
34. Deng Consolidates His Power 1979 to 1980
35. Socialist Democracy and the Rule of Law
36. Burying Mao 1981 to 1983
37. To Get Rich is Glorious 1982 to 1986
38. The Fault-Lines of Reform 1984 to 1987
39. The Road to Tiananmen 1987 to 1989
40. The Empire Strikes Back 1989
41. After the Deluge 1989 to 1992
42. The Roaring 90s 1992 to 1999
43. The Rise of Chinese Nationalism 1993 to 2001
44. China’s Lost Territories: Taiwan, Hong-Kong
45. China in the New Millennium 2000 to 2008
46. China’s Information Revolution
47. One World, One Dream. The 2008 Olympics
48. China’s Rise. The Sleeping Giant Stirs
The story is now hitting its stride. The three main characters from book one are back. Ringil is on a vendetta that he has made personal to take vengeance for his cousin who was taken in slavery in the first book, and Egar the Dragonbane is fending off internal power struggles. It has the feel of a middle novel in that the story is allowed to stretch out its legs. It seems that in this second installment of The Land Fit for Heroes trilogy that the exigencies of plot preclude explicit diversions. They are, at least fewer in number and shorter in length than such scenes were in book one. It is my guess that one of two circumstances conspired to bring this situation about: Either Morgan had finished making his point concerning diversity or the buzz caused by the first book was becoming negative to an uncomfortable degree and concern for the bottom line persuaded both author and publisher to tone down the in-your-face nature of the first volume. We may never know. I, for one, am glad that Morgan seems to have spent more of his efforts on developing the story. It is a better book than the first.
Jack Vance is a fine reader for this book. I appreciate the way his British accent makes the dark underbelly of this story a little easier to hear. As I mentioned in my review for the first book, sometimes, particularly when portraying female voices, I think he is channeling the characters of Monty Python in the Medieval worlds of The Holy Grail or Jabberwocky. He brings some much needed, if unintentional, comic relief to the brutal grimy mercenary world in which the story takes place.
Richard Morgan has a way with words and a great sense of pacing. His depiction of action sequences, especially hand-to-hand combat, is unsurpassed. His characters are well fleshed out; you will get to know them as the story unfolds—get to know them perhaps a little too intimately for your comfort level. You may cringe every time they have a scene, but they will not bore you.
As I alluded to above, this book fits nicely into the category of Modern Fantasy. Gone are the world-saving quests of Middle Earth. There is no Elven magic ™ here; no grand struggle between good and evil. What you will find here is a story set in an un-kinder un-gentler world; a world where the heroes are unlikely and oft times unlikable, but, for that reason, all the more believable. Richard Morgan has a real sense of the inherent depravity of man which he employs in character creation that makes everything he writes essential listening—this is proved by his mastery of first Science Fiction, in his earlier books, and now Fantasy.
And now for something completely different: a bit of awkward philosophical introspection. I first read this novel in print after reading the amazing Takeshi Kovacs series. Fantasy is not my usual thing but Morgan is so good that I thought it was necessary to read. On that first pass, I was revolted by the explicit depiction of the deviant sexuality of the main character, Ringil. I examined my outrage and discovered that it was founded on my sense of morality, a sense that should have elicited the same level of disgust when reading depictions of fornication and adultery, which is prominent in much modern fiction. Take for example two very popular fictional characters: Ian Fleming’s womanizing spy, James Bond or Donald Westlake’s murdering thief, Parker. If morality is the basis for outrage then these need to be considered offensive as well. So my self-righteous outrage was misplaced. It was based on my personal proclivities on such matters. Now that I have dabbled in other modern fantasy novels I find this level of sex to be a common feature in the genre. Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series comes to mind as another example. The thing is, these novels are not about sex, the author uses it as a device to provoke a gut response in the reader — once you realize that, you can see it for what it is and try to enjoy the story. Morgan has chosen to populate this book with characters that are rude and crude and worldly. If they did not engage in despicable acts they would lose their credibility as ruffians and blackguards. Without crossing the line of decorum let me try to give another observation. A tabulation of the hetero acts that are explicitly depicted in this novel will reveal only those “positions” that can be performed by homo practitioners as well. This indicates to me that Morgan is tweaking the audience. Yes he has an agenda of promoting tolerance based on his anti-Christian worldview. No it not done gratuitously. Morgan is systematic in his agenda, deliberately forcing us to examine our own hypocrisy in having selective outrage. I am still not comfortable with the scenes in question, but my second pass through this novel has made me realize that they are effective in evoking an emotional response from the listener; no mean feat for a seemingly simple Sword and Sorcery tale. .
Simon Vance has the air of a proper English gentleman. His vocalizations help smooth out the rough patches and make them less irritating. When a particularly harrowing, or particularly explicit, scene is being read by Mr. Vance (or is it Sir Vance?) I cannot help but think of Monty Python who could make the ridiculous seem sublime.
The third novel in this trilogy continues its move towards a more aggressive story. This seems like more of a Spy Thriller than the Young Adult Science Fiction that the first novel so obviously stereotyped. Here Phillips even throws in a few F bombs just to avoid that PG-13 rating. This book works best on the story level. Phillips clearly had a good idea of the entire story arc, because the ending works so well with the previous two books. Richard Phillips is an author with promise. It is unclear if he will become a Robert Heinlein or a Michael Crichton — The latter, I think. His strengths in plotting will be better served in the Techno-Thriller genre. If you like this series you may like the DAEMON set by Daniel Suarez.
After listening to MacLeod Andrews through these three books I can say that he is a good fit for this series. He is so earnest and sincere that even when some of his female characters come off as a little too butch he does not detract from the enjoyment.
Phillips takes the story in unexpected directions with this second book. While the first installment hits on all the Young Adult clichés, with the teens being smarter than everyone else, this book forces the protagonists to face the consequences of their secretive actions. They lie and people die. At about the halfway mark this becomes a spy thriller complete with corrupt politicians, manhunts, Colombian drug lords, and dread assassins with hearts of gold. I found the plot to be steady and exciting with a heavy does of Science Fiction technology extrapolation.
If there is fault to be found it is in the character motivation. It is typical of all novels that the heroes are in the center of all the action and this is no different. I understand how the kids would be excited and protective of their discovery that they consider to be their own private playground. At some point I expect them to grow a conscience and realize their selfishness and utter inadequacy to administer the other-worldly technology they now wield. One character, Jennifer, does undergo a major personality change, turning against the others, and I thought that this would be the impetus for some soul-searching revelation. But no. The trio of friends reunite with not so much as a hint of introspection. So this loose end just unravels, forgotten and ignored, at the end.
My critique is not that the characters do not develop. By the end of this book itc is clear that the three protagonists, Heather, Jennifer and Mark, are clearly changing; and not for the better. My critique is that the characters seem blind to their personality transformations and behave in a manner inconsistent with the way they have been portrayed. Perhaps this will all be resolved in the third volume. I think it far more likely that the story will again be carried away in the hurricane force of the strong plot and that the characters will be left flapping in the wind as an afterthought.
MacLeod Andrews is a good choice for this book. He seems to get the personality of each character as needed and keeps up with the story with an energetic delivery.
Tired of authors writing Young Adult stories vying to become the next Heinlein heir apparent? Me too! This was my mindset going in, and that thought carried me about three-quarters of the way into it; then something changed. The realization swept over me that I was engaged with the story. I began to care about the characters, to relate with them, even though I long ago left the “young” phase of my adulthood behind. Some of the elements put me off at first as too much in the superhero vein for my tastes, but Phillips was careful to give them a scientific explanation which dispelled my initial reservations, and kept the story firmly in the Science Fiction camp. This is the main appeal of this novel: it is classic Science Fiction. You get space ships from outer space, advanced technology bordering on magic, and a decent mystery to keep things interesting.
I can imagine Phillips taking on this book as a writing challenge; to craft a story that will engage the most jaded reader of modern fiction and prove that there is value in a tale told well. Forget gratuitous sex, Phillips doesn’t need it — although there is copious blood and violence. So, while I agree that this has all the characteristics of a Young Adult novel, it also has the features expected from more mature fiction. It does accomplish what novels targeted for any age group strive to do: keeps the listener interested. Young Adult? Yes. Worthy of your attention? Also yes.
MacLeod Andrews delivers a solid performance. His voice has a youthful timbre fitting for the protagonists. Some of his portrayals of women are a bit too masculine. In the main he does not intrude into the story, allowing the listener to fully interact with the story.
Listening to this book is like having a virtual reality action movie playing in your head. I don’t know if the authors and the narrator worked in conjunction while planning this book, but the result is the same — Correia and Kupari write and Pinchot reads and the bullets fly right in front of your eyes.
If you desire a straight reading without an invasive narrator placing his own character impressions on the story then listening to this book is not going to go well for you. But if you are seeking for a completely over-the-top dramatic performance, with wild, even melodramatic, character accents; clearly distinct character voicings so distinct that every speaker is immediately identified; and a word tempo that varies with the intensity of the action, then your search is over.
Pinchot is one of the very best of the performing narrators. In less capable hands, (say that of a strict book “reader”) this might have become an interminable recitation of descriptions of the arcing of tracer bullets over fields of snow, but with Pinchot’s vocal cords included in the mix this becomes more than a thriller novel.
I believe that such dramatically performed audiobook productions classify as a entirely different genre, a different art-form, if you will. You can read a book and imagine all these scenes in your head while your eyes are focused on the words on the page. You can watch a movie and see the cinematographer’s interpretation of the story while your eyes are affixed to the silver screen. But with a dramatic audiobook rendition of a great story, you can visualize the story playing out in your mind while your eyes continue to see the world around you. This book encourages your mind to engage in feats of mental multitasking that is unique to audiobooks. What to call this new genre; this new form of art? How about “Second Sight?” For that encompasses what such a work does to the aficionado: allows you to walk around, or drive, of cook, while the story is playing out before you only in your mind’s eye.
Exciting tactical mercenary thriller with great characters. As in THE GRIMNOIR CHRONICLES Larry Correia, and his co-writer in this series Mike Kupari, deliver plenty of high-caliber action, desperate battle situations, political intrigue, and a crew of quirky interesting characters with snappy dialog. All these factors combine to make this a perfect vehicle for an audiobook.
Bronson Pinchot is well-suited for this. His work on the novel MATTERHORN proved his expertise in portraying dramatic action scenes. He is the best at making dialog scenes seem natural. His range is staggering. He is so good that it makes me wonder if I would enjoy some of the books he has narrated if I were reading them with only my own voice playing in my head. At any rate, I did enjoy this, thanks in large part to Pinchot. I will continue to seek out books just to hear his narration.
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.