Another solid, but short, addition to the ongoing series. The tension continues to mount between Earth, the Colonial Union, and the Conclave. This episode introduces us to some of the main alien characters in the Coalition and follows from their perspective. It's hard to pull off a complete episodic story in just 45 minutes to an hour, but Scalzi has been doing a decent job so far for the most part.
I still think this guy should take over writing the Star Wars books. He's got the right amount of wit and humor for it, and his way of writing aliens make them feel, well, more alien. Maybe not completely alien as in incomprehensible to humans, but they definitely don't feel like humans in costumes, which most other authors seem to write like.
This was one of my more anticipated titles of 2014, as the followup to the tour de force first novel Blood Song. I was hoping for a much more expansive, epic and inspiring tale and an answer to many of the mysteries in the first book. However, the result of this was hit or miss.
The expansive scale is definitely there, as well as epic, bloody battles. In fact, there are tons of them. I thought the first book was pretty dark, but I would have to say this one is definitely darker.
There are definitely some problems with this book, and those stem, I believe, from not learning from the mistakes made in the first one. Most of the mystery surrounding the worldbuilding is not really resolved at all. It's unclear whether there are any rules to the magic system, or any truth to any of the belief systems in this world at all. Everything is left ambiguous, and ultimately portrays a bleak, pessimistic worldview that really starts to drag the reader down after a while.
Ryan continues to place a large emphasis on the religions in the world. However, I'm not sure if he has really taken the time to develop these belief systems in his own world. For all their large emphasis, there are huge flaws in the writing. The religions aren't realistic at all. I'm not sure if Ryan just doesn't understand what religions are, or whether he hasn't taken the time to research them, but the ones in this world are shallow and empty. It's like he just read up on popular elements of various religions and decided to write them without any kind of depth. So it's hard to buy that anyone would actually follow any of the religions in this world.
Furthermore the Unified Realm follows a system of belief called the "Faith". However this name is an oxymoron because they don't actually believe in anything at all. This makes no sense. The only "faith" they have is that their souls enter some kind of paradise called the "Beyond" when they die, yet they have absolutely no evidence or reason to support this at all. What I mean by this is that there aren't even any myths or legends to explain how or where these beliefs originated. Such beliefs don't materialize out of thin air. They clearly have deep superstitions about the "Dark" (magic) and such, yet surely any world in which magic power is manifested so powerfully would have to have some cause to make such a thing happen. The magic system is simply unexplained.
This whole flawed system really cripples the book, because it's such a fundamental element that the characters are talking and thinking about all the time. The main character has even come to the conclusion that the "Faith" isn't true, yet there is never any explanation of what the actual truth is in this world, only that there are obviously some kind of evil spirits at work that have returned from the Beyond.
Interestingly this book show some excellent examples of why moral values truly exist and we see illustrated again and again the negative effects of the immoral choices that certain characters make. This is one of the most broken worlds that I have seen depicted in epic fantasy and that gives it a very dark flavor. It's a shame that the world feels so hollow, because it really stops the reader from fully engaging and suspending their disbelief in this world, which is what fantasy actually strives to achieve.
I have highly enjoyed Jack Campbell's "Lost Fleet" series, which I believe by this point is around eleven books in. The space battles are thrilling, and I like the tight storylines and characterization. And when he launched the series in a new direction with "Beyond the Frontier", I was very excited and happy with the new elements that he introduced, including several enigmatic alien races (that truly felt alien, unlike many series).
Unfortunately, with this latest book the series has hit something of a lull, and it makes me wonder - if Campbell isn't wrapping up the series - then he's possibly running out of new ideas to throw at us. More than any other, this book felt like it was written using the "free writing" process. The book follows several disconnected sub-stories and fails to go anywhere very new. In fact, these books are beginning to feel VERY repetitive. The characters keep dealing with and discussing the same old issues over and over, including the population's varied opinions about "Black Jack" Geary, from hero worship to utter distrust. The attitudes of the Syndics continue to fit the same stereotypes, the politicians act the same, and even the characters fail to grow significantly throughout the series, only rehashing the same conversations over and over. And for crying out loud, please stop repeating basic information about the universe and characters! We're eleven books in, and the percentage of readers actually STARTING with this novel must be extremely miniscule. Please stop insulting our memories by repeating character backstories, information about ships, physics of combat, etc etc etc. We readers remember that stuff.
The quality of the book rises near the end, in what feels like a purposeful cliffhanger ending. It's disappointing that Campbell seems to start up a new storyline right at the end of the book and then just leaves it open-ended. Why it took a whole book to get to this point I have no idea, since nothing much happens up to that point. And knowing it may be another year before the next installment comes out makes me want to question whether the series is worth continuing.
I feel generous giving this one three stars, and do so mostly because I like the series as a whole.
This was a very entertaining listen from beginning to end. Definitely my favorite Baldacci novel so far. The premise promises a story that is big, tense, and action-packed, and the story definitely delivers. Despite a predictable and disappointing turn at the end, the story is for the most part satisfying. The depictions of life for North Koreans is poignant and moving, especially for those in the labor camps. And seeing the main characters bring the smack down onto a gang of white supremacists if extremely gratifying and left me pumped. Baldacci took a lot of effort to build up an essential new character in the story, and I think it paid off in delivering a believable, thoroughly entertaining story. It takes a lot of creativity to write this kind of super agent thriller novel and make not feel like it's been done many times before, and I think for the most part the book succeeds. If you're a fan of the genre I'd definitely say it's worth checking out.
Another amazing epic fantasy saga all contained in one book, with a climax as epic as that in Memories of Ice and House of Chains.
That he can weave yet another story of this magnitude, set on an entirely different continent with entirely different characters, is astounding. Erikson is the real deal when it comes to writing epic fantasy. And I believe that this may be his most approachable book yet in the series.
In fact, this wouldn't be a bad place to start the series from. It's an excellent standalone story, and although it helps to have 4 more books under your belt, I think most fantasy fans would be able to take this one by itself. It is also not quite as dark as the other books before it, which could help newcomers as well. There is more humor in this book, too, much of it dry, but for the first time I found myself laughing out loud while listening. The banter between characters, especially Tehol and Bugg, is great and deliciously builds upon itself with each new iteration.
In Midnight Tides, Erikson shows he can follow a tighter storyline and (relatively) fewer players, which enables the characters in this book to have more depth as we spend more time with them. And what amazing characters they are. Many of them stand out so uniquely and richly in my mind and I know I will not soon forget them. Trull Sengar, Rhulad, Udinaas, Kettle, Tehol and Bugg, Shurq Ellale, Iron Bars... There are SO MANY great characters and I enjoyed spending time with all of them. And we get introduced to so many fascinating characters as well.
There is almost no drag in this story, especially after the first quarter or so. This is a poignant story of two families and the brothers on both sides have rich personalities and you will find yourself caring for each of them. Yet this story contains so much more... A vast tale of war, but somehow Erikson is able to portray it both on the grand scale and the personal level. And the depth of plotting and foreshadowing is simply incredible... The climax of the story brings together so many threads, while dropping hints of things that are to come and give us glimpses of a MUCH broader landscape. The Malazan series is truly the most broadly epic fantasy series out there. I cannot wait for the next volume to be released on Audible.
A note on the narration: I agree with everyone else, that the change from Ralph Lister was definitely a step in the wrong direction. This despite the fact that Erikson went out of his way to write a note here essentially saying "I approve this choice". The thing is, in this case THE LISTENERS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT. If you don't want to listen to us, then you may not find us buying your books on audio anymore. You need to make good marketing decisions and make your customers happy, rather than sticking dogmatically to your own preferences. After all, we can always read these books in printed form.
There's nothing wrong with Michael Page's pronunciation or diction, for me; it's the fact that he can't differentiate the voices of the characters enough. Because of the dark setting and the plethora of large, hulking, inhuman characters, he tends to use his "growling" voice almost 50% of the time. This not only gets old and makes it hard to distinguish characters,, but cheapens the effect of using the growl in the first place.
Still, despite all this, I don't agree with people giving the book poor ratings because of the narrator. Keep the ratings separate between the two - that's what it's for. You can give the narration 1 star, but give the book the 5 overall stars it deserves.
I'm done. This novel was so bad, I couldn't make it past the halfway mark. I almost quit several times already, and should have listened to my inner voice and wasted less time. It is so BORING I cannot stand it anymore.
Wow, I actually kind of enjoyed Karpyshyn's Darth Bane novels, and was hoping for a fast-paced and action-packed book filled with cool concepts and magic. Instead we get an extremely amateur and unoriginal book that seems to be as dark as possible simply for the sake of being dark. This is exactly what is wrong with modern epic fantasy, and Karpyshyn is just falling right into the well-trod wagon ruts hewn by Martin, Abercrombie, Weeks, and others, albeit with seemingly none of the skill in writing that the other authors have.
I mean, seriously. Don't authors have EDITORS anymore? The whole first part of the book at four bloody and gruesome birth sequences (by the fourth you have compeltely forgotten who was born to whom), ALL of which should have been cut and filled in later on in the story. Then we apparently get snippets of the different kids growing up. I'm not sure because by that point I was so lost and couldn't remember who was who, so stopped caring and listened on max speed. I dare you to try and make sense of this mess.
The novel just gets worse from there. Not to mention the rampant misogyny (another supposed "dark fantasy" trait) - women should be offended at not only how Karpyshyn treats the females in his book, but also in how he writes them. Maybe he should stick with male characters. Right from the start, his descriptions of pregnant women just felt totally misrepresented and sexist to me. Birthing does not have to be the horrible experience that you think it is, Drew. Some women actually are happy when their kids are born! Just about every character that shows up in this book is so stereotyped, I think you could skip a large portion of it and still not feel like you missed anything at the end.
Sheesh, this book is just so bad that it's... No, it's still bad.
Hoping to finish this series before the end of the year, I decided to go with the abridged audiobook. I made the choice also because I didn't enjoy any of the other books in the series and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. And, strangely enough, despite the very short running time, I still don't feel like much happened. The whole story is still confusing and not very interesting to me, and I can't really understand why it is popular amongst certain circles. There is nothing really new here, and the personalities and thought processes of the characters are still just as strange and alien as in the other books. I'm glad to be done with this series.
The audio quality is pretty low, since it seems to have been recorded a long time ago. I think Audible realized though that it's not worth the expense to have this re-recorded. This series is probably only going to appeal to avid fans of Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon.
This is fantasy at the most absolutely epic end of the genre.
This book brings together so many threads that have been building over the course of the first 4 books, and once you see how intricately structured the tale is that Erikson is telling, the scope is astounding. It is hard to imagine the work that went into planning this story. This was the first book where I really felt like I knew what was going on throughout the vast majority of the book, and so I think I enjoyed it a lot more, even more than Memories of Ice, perhaps.
The first 270 pages or so are a masterpiece of epic fantasy writing, showing that in fact Erikson CAN write one single storyline without diverging into dozens of sub-characters and plots. The writing is tight, and it's hard to imagine anything being cut. When it is over it's actually a bit disappointing that we have to get on with the main storyline, which is of course, the war that's been brewing between the rebellion of Seven Cities and the Malazan Empire. As the tale progresses, I really felt that I had a grasp on most of the key players, and I think this is in part to Erikson finally revealing tons and tons of backstory and explanations of the various plots that are going on. Although unexpected things are constantly occurring, it seems that an overall picture of the storyline is now becoming clearer. After this we reach a kind of pause for breath, as the fifth book starts a new tale on a new continent that will eventually tie into the whole storyline.
The interesting thing is that while there are definitely some good characters and some evil characters, and thankfully the good guys (generally) make it out all right in the end and the evil guys get their comeuppance, there are a host of characters that fall between categories, as it seems in real life, who are "gray" and you do eventually come to understand their motivations and positions, even if you may have hated them at first. I think this tempers the fact that we cannot get quite as much character development at an individual scale when dealing with such a large dramatis personae. The main characters feel like they have some deep backstories that are simply not yet revealed, driven by excellent dialogue and POV moments, plus insights from other characters watching from the sidelines.
I was disappointed at first that the series switched narrators, but within the first hour I was hooked by Michael Page's amazing performance, and now I don't regret it. He especially brought Karsa Orlong to life for me, a character that (as a perfect example of what I mentioned before) I disliked at first, labeling as a villain, and now find one of the most interesting characters in the entire series, whom I find myself cheering on more and more. His growth and development in particular, changing from evil to (mostly) good, is quite a masterful piece of storytelling.
This is a Hunger Games clone without the games - no, scratch that. It's an angsty teen romance novel set in a dystopic world that has no explanation at all. The main character is the weakest, sissiest and clueless girl ever, with the author using all the common tropes of information withholding etc. to try and build tension. I'm not sure if there is a single idea or event here you haven't already encountered before.
Do yourself a favor and avoid this one like the plague. Even the Divergent series looks good next to this one.
This is a military fantasy that tries to be a mix between the grittiness of Glen Cook/Steven Erikson and the modern trend of moving into flintlock fantasy. Unfortunately little new ground is tread here, however.
For starters, the book starts out on the wrong foot - with a meeting. Wow, how exciting is that? Followed by conversation and exposition, which immediately have you sighing with boredom. Oh, there's the obligatory mysterious foreshadowing magic scene at the beginning, which is of course meaningless because you have no context for it at all.
What follows is mostly a military campaign of battles involving characters you don't know, who don't get much development. There is eventually some, but unfortunately by then your opinion of the book is already pretty low. It's a shame, because the author could have made this a lot more exciting, but he relies far too much on familiar tropes, most of which have already been done in novels of the last couple of years. Seriously, another fantasy series where nobody believes in gods/magic anymore, only to suddenly find out that it's all in fact true? This is old, old, well-trod ground, folks.
Probably most shocking of all: this book has some of the filthiest, ugliest language I have ever seen in a fantasy book. Seriously, I feel like I need a brain cleansing after this listen, and Wexler needs some scrubbing bubbles for his potty mouth, or maybe some sanitary wipes for the diarrhea all over his keyboard. This is fantasy, folks! You don't use the dirtiest modern-day slang you heard of in the latest R-rated movies. This author has a serious vocabulary deficiency.
Needless to say, I don't intend to read the rest of this series, and you probably won't, either.
Much like "The Death of Sleep", this book has a very interesting premise that is absolutely terrible in its execution. I chalk this up to two things. First is the writing style, which is just not good. Secondly, I think McCaffrey and Moon are science fiction fans, not scientists. This is space opera, not hard SF. Don't expect things to make much sense if you're thinking analytically about this world.
Note about the writing style: There is scant detail given about what is going on, virtually no internal character thoughts or development, and really almost no narrative. The story reads like a series of news reports with much of the emotion and details left out. The narrator only made things worse, with little emotion and no real voices for the characters.
Ultimately a disappointment, written by two science fictions fans who are also very liberal women pushing a totally unrealistic view of the future. In the 21st century, we look back at such ideas and we snicker at how childish it seems now.
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