I would have to strongly disagree with the previous reviewer. I have read all published Al Reynolds that you can hold of easily Stateside, except for Terminal World, which is coming up on my reading list soon. I can say with certainty that the last few Reynolds books have fallen downhill, especially since Century Rain. This definitely cannot compare to his Revelation Space series, and I would highly recommend his best works as House of Suns, Redemption Ark and Chasm City. But unless you're a die-hard fan who has to read EVERYTHING he writes, I would suggest you skip is one.
I honestly am not quite sure why this book was written. There is nothing especially new here, unless you count the fact that the protagonist is African. Unless that's what you've been waiting to read for years, this book is just plain boring. I'm sorry, but I have been reading sci if long enough that descriptions of society on Mars, Phobos and the Moon, no matter how imaginative, just don't keep me riveted in and of themselves. For me, it's all about characters and plot.
Now, certainly the characters feel real to me. Kudos to Reynolds for creating a mostly black African dramatis personae, and seeing as he is both very white and very British, I think he did a great job making them realistic (as far as I can tell, anyway). However, that said, the characters don't really DO much of anything. The main character, as we well know from the description, just wants to keep studying elephants (and map his own brain patterns with that of elephants for some reason). Unfortunately that does NOT make an interesting story! I couldn't care less about imagining what a human looks like through an elephant's eyes. A character needs to DO something in order for us to have a story, and they should not just be reacting to outside forces all the time.
Then you have a society which is essentially utopic, where crime is virtually nonexistent and you cannot even throw a punch at someone without machines in your head intervening and your getting arrested. So needless to say there isn't a lot of action.
Another disappointing and completely unneeded element were the anti-Christian elements in this book. I don't know if Reynolds is atheist, agnostic, or anything else. But I don't read scifi to get bashed over the head with evolutionary theory and depressing philosophical arguments on the ultimate uselessness of all things. When one of the main characters laughs thinking that "she realized she was just a really smart monkey... A smart monkey who was flying to another planet in a spaceship" I just wanted to gag. Not very tactful, Al. He keeps mentioning this "smart monkey" concept too. For me, if that's all we are, then what is the point of exploring space, expanding to the stars, and preserving the human race? Such a future certainly wouldn't seem uplifting or positive at all, if everything is utterly useless and meaningless...
Anyway, the plot is kind of a treasure hunt from place to place, with a lot of description of different societies that live in the different places we visit. Most of this is just filler material. I didn't find it that interesting. I actually listened to this book at 3x speed using the Audible app just to get through it faster.
Also, if you care about such things, let me say that this book could have been rated a comfortable "PG" for all scifi fans, except for the repeated uses of the F-word. There is almost no swearing in this book besides the F-Word, which is used frequently by just about everyone, often in strange places where you would normally expect a different kind of curse word, but you get the F-word instead. Bon appetit.
The ending of the book certainly makes it feel like a standalone, which I hope is the case. It feels pretty anticlimactic when compared to Reynolds' other works.
Finally a note about the narrator. His voice matches the main characters well. He is clearly of African descent and has a pleasant British accent. However, this almost feels like it could be the first book he ever narrated. He doesn't seem able to do any accents other than that one. The books should have had multiple narrators, because the characters end up sounding very similar and hard to differentiate. Because of this I imagined every single character being African. His American accent was painfully off, and he performed one character, who is some kind of a whale, so deep and slowly that it is extremely difficult to understand what he is saying. The narration definitely detracts from the story. I really miss John Lee.
For someone who has been a big Reynolds fan in the past, I am sorely disappointed in this latest offering and if it does turn out to be a trilogy I probably will not be reading the rest of this series, which I guess means I won't be reading any new Reynolds for a long time.
This is one of the most original concepts for a science fiction story I've read in a long time. "The Three Body Problem" definitely has that bit of foreignness that hits you now and again and feels "different", like watching Japanese anime for the first time did many years ago. Part of that is probably due to the translation, which was excellent. Also I found the names distinguishable enough for the most part, so that I was really able to breeze through this book.
The book grabbed me at several stages, most of them involving the strange video game for which the book is named. At times it felt a lot like a Neal Stephenson book in its high-concept strangeness. Other parts I felt were not so strongly done, including the latter half in which time jumps forward a lot and instead of narrative we get long pieces of history and sometimes just long reports that reminded me of books such as World War Z and Robopocalypse. I felt that the resolution was just not quite as satisfying and although it sets things up for a sequel, there isn't really a major sense of urgency about it all.
I feel that a lot of the praise around this book falls into hyperbole; it definitely isn't a match for Dune, as one of the summaries says. But still, this is a very solid novel that does have that element of strangeness, and definitely raises my opinion of the author and of Chinese SF in general. I hope this book opens up the door for more books to make their way into the English SF/Fantasy industry.
What a shame. This book is a missed opportunity to be a new starting point for new readers of the series. Instead, this feels more unapproachable than Gardens of the Moon by far. There are vast sections of boringness, with near endless thought monologue involving minor characters that we've never met and frankly don't care about. If you were hoping for character viewpoints of your favorites, such as Anomander Rake, Silchas Ruin, Caladan Brood, and Draconis, you'll be disappointed.
As the name implies, this book is dark. It's full of sex, grotesque sexual references, rape and brutal violence and gore. Nearly every new scene gets around to the topic of sex, in which it is crudely discussed, then either had, implied, or forced. This gets old really fast, for me.
The problems with this book are the same ones in all of this series. There are several things that stand out in this series that are totally unrealistic. First, every soldier is a philosopher. We get pages and pages of philosophical imaginings by small nobodies and line soldiers. Doesn't anyone have a more simplistic view of life in this world? It's a big mistake to make so many characters so similar.
Secondly, I think it's a mistake to make all of the elder gods, and the ascendants and ancient characters from the Malazan series, to all be contemporaries in this book. I feel that it cheapens the history when we're basically told that the Malazan series was just the same characters from this book getting back together to make war upon each other again. There is very little revealed about any of them, making it feel lacking in terms of payoff.
Finally, all the women in this series are voraciously oversexed. The women in the Malazan series have more sexual appetite then the men in most fantasy series, and in fact they actually act more like men instead of real women. Those who do not, who are in the least bit clean and unsullied, are brutally raped and murdered as a general rule. In fact, there is so much atrocity, child slaughter, and rape-fests in this book I wonder if his was some kind if catharsis for Erikson's dark side, where he could envision the most terrible things happening that he dared write down on a page.
Even if you're a fan of the main series, I don't recommend this book. There are certain cases where the image in your kind of what happened long ago will always be better than the book/movie depicting those events. This is one of those cases.
My Review of Part 1 (Wintertide): - 2 Stars
This book at least was not that bad up until near the end, except for the fact that the characters just never act realistically at all. It's a great example of an author forcing characters to meet a predetermined storyline. As a result the reader is frustrated again and again because just like in a bad horror flick, the characters do the most stupid thing and blatantly ignore an obvious solution to their problem. Most annoying was the lady Amelia, as she spends pages and pages of self-depreciating monologue. Every character who has ever played a role in the series has to suddenly make an appearance (usually dying).
It's the tacked-on ending that ruins this book. It is so forced and straight out of a bad Hollywood cliche that I was laughing during it. Its a classic example of forcing something into a mold, and not properly setting up your plot right. By that point I literally just gave up and hoped that everyone would die. They're so incompetent that it feels like a waste of my time to listen. Furthermore, I lost all sense of care and sympathy for Royce. His whole life has been a tragic waste and it seems they help the villains more than the good guys.
My Review of Part 2 (Percepliquis) - 3 Stars
In a stark change, the main characters are suddenly very powerful in this book. It is a big departure from the previous books, and the sudden jump from a single kingdom/empire's politics to a much larger scale, with enemies we basically didn't even know existed before this book, was jarring.
This is pretty much a straight-up adventure quest book. A band of heroes goes out to an ancient ruin to find an artifact that can save the world. Meanwhile the bad guys' armies are bearing down on the last human stronghold ala "Return of the King". Basically it follows the classic fantasy stereotype, but it pulls it off fairly well and that actually makes it better than the previous couple of volumes.
That said, there is WAY too much revelation at the end of this book; in my opinion things should have been more spaced out. From a surprise main bad guy, to bad guys who turn out not to be, to revealed identities, and more secrets let out than one can hope to keep up with, it's just a massive infodump at the end and makes the series feel extremely unbalanced. Still, this book was one of the more enjoyable (although long) installments and brings a satisfying conclusion to the series.
This book definitely came as a pleasant surprise. Being new to the world of Eberron, I was delighted to discover a world setting for which I had been searching for a long time, one that combines fantasy and sci fi in such a way that opens up huge possibilities for storytelling and worldbuilding. And the setting for this particular tale is even more enthralling - a massive vertical city built upon impossibly tall towers, each housing its own kind of culture from the tops to the depths.
But all that aside, I was surprised at the quality of the writing from Keith Baker. He definitely brings the world and the character to life in just the right way. That, and the performance of the narrator, made the dialogue sound witty and natural, and the characters burst with life. Also the nature of the story as kind of a detective-type story and not an epic world-shattering event felt very refreshing.
Another thing that I like about Eberron is the integration of the races. In this world, the traditional evil races such as goblins, orcs, and even medusa are not simply enemies that pop out to try and kill the characters. These races exist in their own pocket of Sharn, with their own societies, and their own rules. Traveling there does not necessarily battle has to occur - although racial tensions still make such an encounter likely. But when battle does occur, it's just as likely to be between a human and dwarf, or some other race. That kind of leveling of the playing field also makes Eberron feel refreshing and interesting.
I enjoyed this one a lot, and hope to check out the other two books in the series and maybe other books by Keith Baker.
This one was a definite step up from the previous volume, both in terms of story complexity and overall value. It continued the storyline from the first book, which I hadn't found that interesting, because I wanted to see new adventures focusing on the main two characters. There's a bit more time spent on the nobility and their retainers, and a plot against the king, and on a young squire-to-be who ends up as one of the book's main characters.
I was a bit confused at times, because there seemed to be some overlap in content from Sullivan's short story, "The Viscount and the Witch". It had been over a year since I read that story though, so it was all pretty fuzzy. If so, this story fleshed out the over a lot, and added in a much-needed third member to the team, the noble who can get Royce and Hadrian more lucrative and interesting heists/jobs. There's a lot of potential for more adventures in this series if the author plays it right.
Wow, definitely a sophomore slump here in this second volume of the Riyria Revelations. Overall the story just drags on; he could have cut probably 40-50% of this book and not really lost anything. It's full of common fantasy tropes that aren't really even pulled off that well. The book itself is a combination of two different "episode" novels that follow a larger plot line, and each novel advances the overall story a little bit. That isn't a bad idea, but each individual novel could have been much shorter.
There seems to be a real lack of understanding of what makes a good fantasy here. At times the book shines with interesting tidbits and comical humor, but unlike the first volume there seems to be too much of the Game of Thrones-style ultra-realistic fantasy here. The heroes fail so often, and virtually all the good side characters die, that there isn't really much of a story at all. I suppose if this was a history book where you knew the result ahead of time, you would expect that. But after waiting for so long to see some mystery revealed, or for the character's plan to finally be carried out, seeing their plans fail utterly and important people be killed so brutality does not make me enjoy a story.
Now my problem is I feel obligated to read the third volume since I already purchased it and have read the whole story so far.
This feels like the world that I've been waiting to read about for years! Finally, a world that combines fantasy and sci-fi in a very Final Fantasy-esque way, one where the magic integrates into the technology while keeping the magic part mysterious. Its sci-fi elements lean a bit towards steampunk, but still this is very much a fantasy world. Eberron is the kind of place I could really get into knowing more. The descriptions make me long to play the game, or better yet, to see if depicted in movies or video games. Incorporating autonomous sentient robots and airships powered by magic - yes, please, and keep it coming!
This was my first exposure to the world, so from the beginning it had me really glued to the story to learn what was happening in the world. It's clearly very different from other D&D such as Forgotten Realms while still paying strong homage to that series. But I like the development of the society and the focus on character development. I enjoyed reading about the main characters, and the plot kept me interested and eager to find out what was coming next. Still, though the story itself is pretty interesting, it's the unveiling of the world that really shines. In the book's second half the plot does lose some of its originality, but overall it was enjoyable right up to the end.
I'm currently listening to the Dreaming Dark series, which is even better than this. But, I do hope to return to finish this trilogy also in the future.
Mostly a stand-alone fantasy set in the Riyria world, this "how they met" story returns to the great dynamic duo of Royce and Hadrian, detailing how they first met and got set upon their great set of adventures. As usual, this book is full of great banter and semi-humorous moments between the two of them, mixed with good characterization and fast-paced action scenes. Michael Sullivan's writing style really shines whenever he's writing the two of them - it's like they're part of the author, and you can tell that he's spent countless hours with them over the years.
So, why only 2 stars? Well, I didn't really care for the second storyline in this book, and after a couple of chapters I started skipping the whole segments with those characters in it. It was the one about a desperate group of uneducated, abused prostitutes working to build their own brothel and overcoming the obstacles to achieving their dream...
Yeah, you heard right. Does that sound exciting to you? Thought not.
There aren't many things that I would rather NOT read about more than a group of prostitutes struggling to open their own brothel. Seriously, Michael? Seriously?? You're a great writing and you spend all that time writing this?
Honestly, I'm done with tales of prostitutes in fantasy, and I'm done with rape as a driving force in plot. It's been done, and overdone, and done again, and I think we should all be sick of it and urging writers to come up with something different. Now, I know that life in the Middle Ages was not all that pleasant for women. But if I want to learn more about how hard it's been historically, I can watch a documentary or read some historical text. This is FANTASY. If we relegate all our women to the roles of a) concubine, b) whore c) duke's wife d) farmer's wife, how are we going to have strong female characters who inspire women readers, not to mention giving us great female characters who can actually lead and drive a story?
It's not that hard to envision a fantasy society where women have some power and are treated equally with men. Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen is probably the best example I've ever seen in epic fantasy. Others, such as the Wheel of Time, have strong matriarchal societies but still have strong gender role separation. In the Malazan Empire, however, women fight in the ranks just like men and are treated equally in every respect, and there are other societies where women actually control things outright.
Think of it another way. What if Royce was a woman instead of a man? Would that change the story very much? It would certainly change the dynamic between the characters. But would such a storyline be unthinkable to write? I certainly don't think so.
In the end, I didn't feel like I lost any of the story by skipping those chapters with the prostitutes. They only loosely tied into the main storyline right at the end. If this was a way to avoid a deus ex machina ending, I feel that too much time was spent building it up to really justify the payoff.
Personally then, I would not recommend this as the place to start the Riyria stories. This is more for fans of the original trilogy of books who want more of Royce and Hadrian. I was fortunate to have read and enjoyed Theft of Swords first, so I know there are better adventures to come.
This is an attempt at a high fantasy (I wouldn't call it epic) centered around diplomacy and war between kingdoms, but the barriers to entry it erects hamper it from achieving its potential.
I believe that a novel should start strong, especially if you're going to introduce us to a new multi-book fantasy series. Right from the beginning, I got the feel that this was going to be something of a trudge, with no real hook and a viewpoint switch for every chapter. I've heard this described as Game of Thrones lite, and I can see that it seems to want to capitalize on that series' success (even before the TV show was a thought). Jumping around is fine, but the problem was that I couldn't identify or empathize with any of the characters. So in the end I feel pretty blase about the whole ordeal. In audio form, it's hard to distinguish between the different kingdoms and characters because many have similar names, and we have no map to help us out. In the end, none of the separate storylines really captured my attention or imagination the way I'd hoped. Also there is no real magic to speak of, so this is more like medieval fiction than fantasy.
You might like this if you're feeling like reading about court intrigue and the machinations of banking deals, but you'll have to invest quite a bit into following all the different races, kingdoms, and factions. For me, it isn't exciting enough to continue investing.
Three touching and memorable stories comprise this volume of holiday classics, narrated superbly by some of Audible's best narrators. Though short, it was a very entertaining listen, as each story kept me interested and really transcended its historical time frame. Definitely a worthwhile listen.
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