I originally read this book when I was a teenager and remember it fondly. In fact, I was scared that listening to the audio version would destroy my fond memories of this book. This was not the case. While there were some issues with some of the science in the book, those are largely due to it's age. That really had a minimal effect on my enjoyment of this book.
The story revolves around an ancient alien who due to an accident with his space ship is forced to aim the ship at a yeast-growing colony planet while placing himself in stasis. In order to prevent his possessions from being claimed by his rescuer, he aims the ship at an outer planet's moon while launching himself at the yeast world. While in route to this planet, his telepathic master-race is overthrown so instead of being rescued he is left at the bottom of the ocean for over a billion years. Time enough for humans to evolve.
Humans have by this time discovered telepathy and have telepaths that can communicate with dolphins who have given the humans the alien who due to being in stasis looks like some type of shiny statue. As scientists are doing research on stasis fields for colonization efforts, they realize that they can deactivate the stasis field by placing it in another stasis field. Telepath Larry Greenberg is given the job of communicating telepathically with this alien. Unfortunately, because telepaths transfer memory when reading minds, Larry is overwhelmed by the greater power of the telepathic alien and as a result is convinced that he is the alien who's mind has been placed into a slave (a ptavv in the alien's language). The real alien sees a slave planet to conquer. Soon, it becomes a race to retrieve the possessions that hit an outer moon as one of those possessions is a helm that amplifies the telepathic power of the wearer which would allow the telepath to gain control over a world of ptavvs.
As a teenager I really enjoyed the way the book is largely viewed from an alien perspective. This still was interesting, but the entire ARM and Belter sub story was actually very interesting. Still, the best part of the book was the story of how the telepathic race that ruled the galaxy was defeated. Making this even better was simply how it was not told outright but instead pieced together from clues throughout the story.
If you are a Larry Niven fan and have not read/listened to this book it is well worth grabbing despite it's age. While not his best work, it is very entertaining.
As I have been reading all the books in David Weber's Honor Harrington series over the last few months, I was hesitant to pick up this audio book due to Harrington fatigue. Still, when I seen it on sale I had to give it a go. While this book is more aimed at younger readers, it takes a look at the history of Treecats which is something that is interesting.
This book looks at the society that forms when all the members are empaths as their world is being invaded by mind-blind creatures. The parts of the book that are written from the treecat point of view are some of the more thought-provoking parts of the book. I did find their acceptance of the evils of humanity to be a bit of a stretch though. The fact that Climbs Quickly instantly takes a dislike to someone because he can tell the words coming out of his mouth don't match his mental state did match my personal view of how an empath would feel about lying. A society where lying is nearly impossible would be drastically different from our society.
The story is rather on the simple side and is fairly predictable, but it was still fairly entertaining to listen to. The motivation for the villain is simply greed, but the underlying societal causes of that greed are examined. As light reading/listening material, this book is great. There are a lot of though-provoking elements for younger readers and the universe is interesting enough that I will likely listen to the upcoming books in this series when they are released.
While I know there are some Star Trek fans out there who might avoid the audio book version of this due to a dislike of Wil Wheaton, he actually does a fantastic job reading the book. Still, if you are one of those people who simply can't stand the idea of listing to a book read by Wil Wheaton, then I would recommend buying the book or eBook version as the story is quite enjoyable.
The story is told from the point of view of the redshirts. The term redshirt comes from Star Trek as a reference to the extra members of the away team that would often get killed off. The redshirts notice that away missions are exceedingly dangerous so go out of their way not to be on away missions. One hermit of a redshirt has a bizarre theory for the reason for the strangeness which he calls the narrative. Examination of this theory leads to a plan that can save them from a deadly fate.
The book is quite humorous. Dispute the humor, there is a lot of thought-provoking insight in the story. While the story may seem to be about science-fiction extras, it is really a tale about bad writing and finding a meaning to life. It is one of those books that will have you thinking about it long after you have finished reading it.
While the humor and insight is extremely enjoyable, the main crux of the story revolves around a major plot-hole. As one of the underlying themes of this book is the plot devices used in bad science-fiction, it is easy to overlook the hole. Unfortunately, this plot hole breaks even the consistence that the bad writing held and as a result managed to take me out of the story universe at the key point of the story. It is the reason I am only giving the story 4 stars. I will not go into details as I am sure most people will not notice the error and therefore will enjoy the book more.
If you are a fan of science fiction, you will enjoy this book. While it focuses on the poorer aspects of the genre, it does so in an enjoyable way.
I remember reading an interview with Larry Niven where he explained that detective science fiction is hard to write due to how easy deus ex machina via technology is. When you consider this, Peter F. Hamilton does an incredible job. The main character has a gland that gives him a form of ESP, though it is more of an empathy enhancer that gives him insight into the emotional state of a person but also heightens his intuition. Another character can see the future. So the exploits are obvious but Hamilton does an incredible job of keeping these abilities realistic with clear boundaries so the story is not destroyed by technology. For instance, the character who can see into the future does not see future events but future possibilities. She determines likely outcomes by seeing how many versions of the future converge on a particular event.
This detective story focuses on industrial espionage and politics. There are some attempted murders with the most interesting attempt being on a computer that is essentially a downloaded human mind. The mystery, however, is a bit on the obvious side with me figuring out who the mole was long before the hero. Still, the future that is portrayed is very interesting and kind of scary when you look at the modern state of the world. Some people have described it as a dystopian future, but it is more of the beginning of a rebirth of the world after a dystopian age.
If you liked the other Peter F. Hamilton books available then you will probably enjoy this one, but I would recommend listening to Commonwealth series (Pandora's Star, Judas Unchained, and the Void trilogy) first if you have not already listened to them.
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