I love Jonathan Cowley's narration, but Railsea isn't a very engaging story.
It's got a lot of great concepts: an enormous continent crisscrossed by thousands of rail lines, moletrains that go out to harpoon huge burrowing animals at the risk of the lives of the captain and crew, a small boy trying to learn the moletrain life and failing miserably.
Railsea is a steampunk retelling of Moby Dick which constantly mocks its source material. In the Railsea world, every train captain is missing at least one limb and has a "phliosophy," that one animal they're trying to track down. This distain, in conjunction with a whiny, unlikeable main character, put me off the book early on. It's been awhile since I've read Moby Dick, and it's not my favorite, but at least Queequeg was interesting. There are no interesting characters in Railsea, only steam-powered prostheses and giant moles.
Although you can read this book on Sanderson's website, why do that when there's a great audio version?
Some listeners may prefer Michael Kramer's reading of Sanderson's works, but James Yaegashi does a great job with this one. I found his voice and intonation similar to Wil Wheaton's reading of Ready Player One. A few errors weren't edited out, but they were not frequent enough to ruin my enjoyment. In fact, Yaegashi really got into the reading, and his characters were nice and varied.
This book was similar in feeling to Elantris, with a pretty straight forward (for Sanderson) plot and a young-adult feeling to the story. Its 24 hour length is enough to get to know the world, characters, and new magic system really well. The worst thing about the book is the title.
I am also a Michael Kramer fan and thoroughly enjoyed his readings of the first 3 Felix Castor books, but I have to say, I prefer Damian Lynch's performance. His involvement with books 4 and 5 make them the best so far.
The Felix Castor books take place in London primarily, and Damian Lynch can do all of the various nuanced English accents. While I love Michael Kramer's readings (especially Way of Kings), I always felt he gave Felix a too upper-crust accent. While Felix did go to Oxford, he's from Liverpool and is slumming it in his current position.
Damian Lynch's reading of Felix is just right, and he adds authenticity to all of the minor characters by giving each of them their own appropriate accent.
Change is hard, but the change of narrators here is a good thing.
I really enjoyed the first Bobby Dollar book, but this one took me a long time to get through. I enjoyed Bobby on Earth, but for this book he goes to Hell, and it's not nearly as much fun. It's the middle in the series, so pretty much a treadmill book. Lots of running around and going nowhere.
The reader did a great job. There aren't a lot of different accents, but each of the characters is distinct.
I really liked the first two books in this series. The heroine was strong and made up her own mind. In this book she falls apart. When the alpha male tried to control her previously, she came up with intelligent ways to deal with him. Here they have the same boring argument over and over. The heroine seems to devolve into an insecure toddler who is constantly saying "no" for no reason. She has to do everything herself and cannot take help from anyone. This book has more minutes taken over by sex scenes than the first two, but that is instead of interesting plot or character development. If you liked the first two books, you'll probably listen to this one, Justine Eyre does an excellent reading. Just have low expectations. I was very excited but this book doesn't meet the series' standards.
This book started out well with an interesting premise and characters, but then takes a turn into cartoon land and never recovers.
I liked the first 4 or so chapters of this book (you can read them on the website. Amnesia, special powers, boarding school, I love that stuff, but then the limitations of the book start showing, and soon they've taken over.
The book is divided into present narrative and flashback diary entries. The flashbacks are large infodumps that have little to no bearing on the present events. It's obvious the author put a lot of thought into the backstory of each minor character, but by the time I'd heard the life history of the 4th office colleague, I couldn't remember or care who any of these people were. In spite of the numerous details, the vast majority of characters have negligible roles in the present-day action, so it was hard for them to hold my attention or for me to care any about their childhoods.
With the frequent flashbacks, the novel is series of strung-together vignettes. This works well in some books, but in this one, the main character is mostly watching other people do things, so we don't learn what is interesting about her, and she can't hold the divergent stories together. There is a lot of time spent in worldsetting, but the characters and events in the world are not enough to hold the story.
This all would be ok if the writing style held my interest. While the beginning is intelligently written and very polished, the further into the book, the more cartoon situations and juvenile bathroom humor appear. The increasing inappropriateness turned me off completely.I can see why this book would be classed as young adult. The juvenile humor and inappropriate and cartoonish ways the characters act, along with gratuitous violence and gore, seems very young.
I really wanted to like this book and gave it chance after chance to impress me, but it failed on all accounts.
Note on narration: The narrator has a strange speaking style where her intonation rises at the end of every phrase making it sound like a question. This was very strange and took a while to get used to, but by the end she either gets better or I got used to it.
I liked the first book in the series. It was a PI-noir set in ancient Rome. But the next few books are not in audio and instead are abridged radio dramas. I tried one, but it was difficult to listen to, so I went on to try this book because its back to the audio form. Big mistake!
The book tries to cover the events of the earlier books, but doesn't do a good job of it. I know all the characters, but they are still impossible to keep straight. Like the first book, this is primarily a mystery with some Roman infodumps here and there. While this worked when the main character was a penniless PI, it doesn't work now that his fortunes have risen and he's supposed to be respectable. The noir elements, which were the best part of book one, have been removed and replaced with nothing. The Roman gloss is particularly glaring in this book that takes place in Briton but without any of the knowledge or sympathy found in the Ruth Downie books.
Skip this series. The Roman Medicus series and medieval Mistress of the Art of Death series are much better.
The first third of this book is a fun parody of Star Trek, but when it comes to the point when a plot is needed to continue, it falls apart. The "plot" is boring, the characters intentionally flat, and the many inconsistencies in the world building brushed off with "it's not supposed to make sense." What would have made a good short story is needlessly stretched, and the codas are strangely tacked-on moralizing platitudes. This book is the only thing I've read from John Scalzi, and I don't plan to read any more. As always, Wil Wheaton does a good job with the material even though most of his voices sound the same, but it doesn't compensate for the drudge of this book. Two stars for the fun parts in the beginning. If you do get it, stop listening there.
I love the ideas in Foundation, and I love Scott Brick's performance, but the concepts Asimov brings out need to be mulled over. That's hard to do when the audio keeps on going, plowing through revelations and on to the next section. I need to read Asimov instead of listening to him so I can stop when I need to and think about the ideas he presents. With the audiobook, it all ends up being background, so it's harder for me to get my mind around.
That said, Scott Brick brings another great performance. Can't go wrong with him.
Other books I have preferred the visual to the audio version include John Carter from Mars because of the great language used, Flatland because of the pictures, and some YA fluff books because it takes less time to read than to listen to them and they don't sustain interest over 8 hours.
I liked the initial set-up of the story. Toby is a private eye with some magic, kind of like a female Harry Dresden. She even has his car. But then there's a reboot before the first chapter and all the interesting bits are taken out.
Throughout the reading, I couldn't stop comparing this book to Dresden Files, and this book kept coming up short. While the Files have their share of bad writing, I keep going back to them because Harry is so much fun. Here are some ways Toby rubbed me wrong:
-Toby has no initiative. Everything happens to her instead of her taking charge. Then she complains.
-Toby isn't grounded. The set up is she's half fay and half human and not home with either. This means she stays in her apartment with her cats. Not fun to read about.
-Toby has no friends. Some names are mentioned, but she doesn't seem to like them very much. In fact, she avoids them as much as possible.
-Toby whines about her life but doesn't do anything to improve it - for example, she complains about how expensive everything is in San Francisco, but doesn't try to get a better job, find a roommate, or move somewhere cheaper. She just likes to complain.
-Toby has no interests. Her defining feature is she's depressed.
-Girl has magic but can't have fun with it. What's the point of that?
Fairies are my least favorite supernatural, and San Francisco has become my least favorite book-setting city because the book ends up being a description of SF instead of about characters or story. This one falls into that, too.
I love the title, the cover, the name October Daye, and there are some new interpretations of the Fairie myth in here, but a girl with magic that can't figure out any way to have fun with it is not worth knowing. This is one to skip.
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