In a period of ever accelerating technological and cultural change, Ray Kurzweil provides a schematic structure that articulates the ideas that so many have intuitively sensed about the epochal impact of technology on the development of human knowledge and humanity itself. With almost mystical fervor, Kurzweil sets forth a vision of the future in which technology and humanity merge and the bounds of human knowledge explode as humanity is unbound from the limits of very slow biological information processing. The result will be a rise of intelligent machines which retain elements of humanity, and of humans who have enhanced and extended their abilities by taking advantage of technological augmentation of their minds.
The scope of Kurzweil's vision is breathtaking - be sure to go to Tantor's publisher site to download and view the figures and illustrations mentioned in the text.
The content of the book is breathtaking, and looks into an infinite future.
The narration is the polar opposite of the content. George K. Wilson's stilted style is almost ironically ill-suited to such a forward looking book. Imagine the work of a futurist as it might have been heard on a World War II-era radio. Wilson seems to be trying for the authoritative pronouncment of a Cronkite or a Murrow. Wilson's style of narration is wholly unsuited to the audiobook format generally and does particular violence to this book. Tantor Audio, what were you thinking?
The book content gets five stars, but the narration is so bad that this audiobook is almost unendurable.
Neil Gaiman's whimsical plot, rich narrative, and exquisite character development make what would otherwise be a pedestrian tale into a keeper. Gaiman says that readers tend to like the book or hate it, and I can see why. I really disliked the premise and the story to be quite honest, but I really liked Gaiman's writing style.
Philosophically the story is interesting - American culture contains a wonderful, bewildering patois of colliding cultural traditions, and at the same time the leading creator of culture in the world. Gaiman's story elucidates this cultural dialectic through a metaphor of a supernatural struggle between the many old gods brought to America in the consciousness of its immigrants and the new gods who had their beginning here.
I'm not sure I would want to change this story. Gaiman says in his author's foreword that the genre of the story is hard to place, and I agree. I'd say it belongs somewhere between fantasy and horror, neither of which genres are my ordinary cup of tea, but I enjoyed the richness and rhythm of his prose and the development of the characters.
The narrators are cast beautifully - their voice characterizations help to flesh out the already well developed characters.
This book stands on its own - a follow up isn't needed, nor do I think it would be even possible. That said, I could easily envision a podcasted panel discussion of the philosophical and cultural metaphors in American Gods and how they relate to actual cultural dynamics.
Both McDevitt and Resnick are capable of really good writing, and this book contains some good examples of their craft. The characters are well developed and convincing. The plot however is contrived and gimmicky and makes mistakes that some would overlook and others would call fatal as they weave some genuine historical events in with the fictional events of the story. The narrative was interesting enough to keep one going, but the climax of the story ends up being a disappointing, timeworn cliche. They could have ended with a bang, but instead ended with a fizzle.
Both authors are capable of better work. Perhaps their next collaboration will be more successful.
Brian Holsopple's narration was quite good, better than the book he was reading.
I wouldn't go see this as a movie, but I might watch it on television if nothing else were on.
Pushing Ice was a long and, in the end, disappointing slog. Reynolds must have had something like Clarke's Rama series in mind when he wrote this book, but in the end his book felt more like a soap opera in space than a story that left you wanting more at the end, and experiencing the sense of wonder that characterizes speculative fiction that has its feet based firmly in hard science.
Reynolds does a good job with his science, and in this book he gives a good deal of ink to the problems and timescales of interstellar travel where C remains an absolute limit.
His characters are well developed, his prose is at times exquisite, but the story left me cold and unsatisfied. Instead of wanting more at the end, I felt more like saying "Glad that's over," and "What was the point of all that?"
I would not recommend this book to friends as it does too little in too many words to be worthwhile.
John Lee has a magnificent voice, but I"m not sure it's well suited to audiobook narration. His voice characterizations are limited to accents (which he does rather well) but he seems more like an announcer than a storyteller. His voicing, enunciation and elocution are all above reproach, but comes off stilted and stiff.
I finished listening to the book because it was interesting enough to want to finish, but when it was done I knew that those hours could have been better spent elsewhere. This will not be a book I'll listen to again.
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