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Ken

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Millbrook, New York, United States | Member Since 2010

172
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 42 reviews
  • 53 ratings
  • 173 titles in library
  • 12 purchased in 2014
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38

  • Robopocalypse: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Daniel H. Wilson
    • Narrated By Mike Chamberlain
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1465)
    Performance
    (1084)
    Story
    (1088)

    In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans - a single mother, a lonely Japanese bachelor, and an isolated U.S. soldier....

    Raxxillion says: "OMG! The hyperbole is the GREATEST EVER!!!!!"
    "Terminator meets Zombieland"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Robopocalypse is an interesting variation on the increasingly common emergent-evil-AI theme. A really smart AI wakes up and hijacks the arms and legs and wheels of all the smart devices we've been building, extending itself into all of our smart machines, which suddenly begin to attack humans like artificial zombies. The story is told from the perspective of both people and machines beginning right before and immediately after the singularity (awakening), and it does a fair job of capturing what might be distinctive about those different points of view. The author has a tin ear when it comes to the portrayal of some of his characters (young girls and women seem especially badly done), but on the whole there are some memorable and compelling players here (the Japanese roboticist who genuinely loves his robots is quite moving). There isn't a lot that's new otherwise, except the suggestion that maybe the evil AI isn't really evil after all but is just trying to teach humanity a lesson for its own good. Those hints in the plot aren't very coherent and becoming annoying by the end. The narration is excellent, the story idea is solid, and it's a perfectly entertaining way to spend several hours, but the execution could have been better.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Nano Flower: The Greg Mandel Trilogy, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Peter F. Hamilton
    • Narrated By Toby Longworth
    Overall
    (509)
    Performance
    (450)
    Story
    (452)

    Julia Evans, billionairess owner of Event Horizon, has for 15 years been the power behind England’s economic renaissance – but now she’s in trouble. With her husband missing, and rival companies suddenly claiming to have acquired a technology impossibly superior to anything on Earth, she has no time to take notice of a single flower delivered anonymously. But this flower possesses genes millions of years in advance of any terrestrial DNA.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Sci-fi mastery in full bloom for the nanoflower"
    "A very unusual first contact story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Peter Hamilton always writes great aliens, in part because he really thinks about how the biology might work. This is an early example with some clever ideas in play. It winds up being a bit predictable (in fact, the story here really deserves a 4.5 rather than a 5.0 for its predictability at key points), but it manages to be quite suspense filled even though one can sometimes see where it must be going. There is a satisfying set of resolutions in the lives of characters who have been the reader's friends and heroes since the first novel in the trilogy (Mindstar Brigade), and there are some excellent combat sequences, as well as some very neat technologies described in sufficient detail that one can imagine living in the world that Hamilton has created. All in all a very satisfying listening experience, enhanced and elevated as always by Toby Longworth's excellent characterizations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A Quantum Murder: The Greg Mandel Trilogy, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Peter F. Hamilton
    • Narrated By Toby Longworth
    Overall
    (547)
    Performance
    (487)
    Story
    (489)

    Dr Edward Kitchener, a brilliant researcher into quantum cosmology, lies dead with his lungs spread out on either side of his open chest. Only a mercenary or professional killer could have breached the premier-grade security system - but why would a professional waste time in ritual slaughter? Greg Mandel, psi-boosted ex-private eye, is enticed out of retirement to launch an investigation into a past which - according to Kitchener’s theories - might never have happened.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Excellent sci-fi murder mystery"
    "Second book in the trilogy is as good as the first"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The intriguing characters from the first novel (hormone-augmented Greg Mandel with his psi abilities, Julia Evans with her machine-augmented links to alternate personality cores) return to solve a very bizarre murder mystery with world-changing implications. Hamilton plays a bit fast and loose with the quantum mechanics hinted at in the title, but the story is so well told that it is easy to suspend disbelief. It's certainly a must read in order to get to the final novel in the trilogy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mindstar Rising: The Greg Mandel Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Peter F. Hamilton
    • Narrated By Toby Longworth
    Overall
    (859)
    Performance
    (771)
    Story
    (767)

    It's the 21st century, and global warming is here to stay, so forget the way your country used to look. And get used to the free market, too – the companies possess all the best hardware, and they're calling the shots now. In a world like this, a man open to any offers can make out just fine. A man like Greg Mandel for instance, who's psi-boosted, wired into the latest sensory equipment, carrying state-of-the-art weaponry – and late of the English Army's Mindstar Battalion.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Portrait of a SciFi master as a novice"
    "Excellent first book in top-notch trilogy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Peter Hamilton's first trilogy already displays the vivid descriptive writing and complex character development that are hallmarks of his later, more ambitious work. You won't find a better example of the mystery-meets-science-fiction hybrid, and every major character is post-human yet remains profoundly human at his or her core. Fascinating read, great suspense, satisfying resolution.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Human Division

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By John Scalzi
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (817)
    Performance
    (732)
    Story
    (742)

    The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU’s secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance - an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they’ve invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy.

    linda says: "A Middling Position"
    "Not quite a novel, more than a set of stories"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Human Division is organized as a set of Episodes, each of them involving the B-team, a group of low level diplomats with their side-kick and Colonial Defense Forces (CDF) technical expert Harry Wilson, well known to readers of Scalzi's "Old Man's War" series. The B-team is really an A-team that has been recruited to solve unsolvable problems, but they do not know how well they are regarded by the powers that be. This makes for some fun moments and interesting twists as our diplomatic heroes attempt to keep the Colonial Union out of fights it can't possibly win against a conclave of hundreds of other races determined to keep humanity from spreading through the galaxy as quickly as it would like.

    You don't have to have read the previous Harry Wilson books to enjoy this one because the episodes are very self-contained and self-explanatory. Indeed, the one flaw in this collection is the redundancy that comes from assembling stories each of which was written so that it could stand alone. That means that the same background material often gets repeated. You will, however, want to read whatever Scalzi writes next in this universe because the episodes end just as new threats and mysteries are revealed. I can't wait to find out where he takes us.

    Reader William Dufris interprets Scalzi's sarcastic and amusing characters exactly as I would have imagined them, so kudos on the performance as well.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Cyteen

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By C. J. Cherryh
    • Narrated By Gabra Zackman, Jonathan Davis
    Overall
    (433)
    Performance
    (384)
    Story
    (392)

    The saga of two young friends trapped in an endless nightmare of suspicion and surveillance, of cyber-programmed servants and a ruling class with century-long lives – and the enigmatic woman who dominates them all.

    troy says: "This is a Heavy Book (lovely too)"
    "Strong science underpins a compelling story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    On the surface this is no more than a satisfying coming of age story, full of strong characters struggling to make a life in a hostile universe. But underneath this is a very sophisticated piece of science fiction, emphasis on the science. A lot of genetics-based science fiction garbles the science pretty badly, but Cherryh nailed the complexity of the relationship between genes and the environments in which they are expressed at a time when this was still confusing to many professionals. Most amazing is that she made these ideas the heart of the story, so the unfolding lives of her characters actually embody the idea that genes and environment evolve together, neither of them possible without the other. Who we are may be explainable at some abstract level, but that doesn't make us predictable, even to ourselves. This is a very gratifying read both as fiction and as science. The unresolved nature of some key issues at the end was a bit disappointing, but only because I wanted more. That's the only reason I didn't give the story five stars.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By The Great Courses, Seth Lerer
    • Narrated By Professor Seth Lerer
    Overall
    (37)
    Performance
    (30)
    Story
    (32)

    This course offers an overview of the English language that is literary, historical, cultural, political, and scientific in its scope and designed to give you greater insight into the written and spoken word.The lectures provide a thorough understanding of the history of the English language - from its origins as a dialect of the Germanic-speaking peoples through the literary and cultural documents of its 1,500-year span to the state of American speech today.

    Ken says: "Fascinating and informative"
    "Fascinating and informative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I listened to the first version of this course on cassette tapes way back in the day and found it truly fascinating. The second version contains much of the original material, and it was fun to be reminded of the things I had forgotten. It is a testament to the original course that I also remembered quite a lot! The new material at the end brings the history of English up to date by covering the ways in which new technologies are transforming the language. Professor Lerer presents the lectures at a perfect pace, uses great examples to illustrate abstract concepts, and clearly loves this material. His enthusiasm is infectious. Highly recommended as a way to learn not only the history of English but also some widely applicable principles of philology and linguistics.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Lexicon

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Max Barry
    • Narrated By Heather Corrigan, Zach Appelman
    Overall
    (633)
    Performance
    (570)
    Story
    (576)

    At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren't taught history, geography, or mathematics - at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as "poets": adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.

    Tango says: "Fasten your seat belt..."
    "Persuade me to like this book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is Max Barry's take on the theme of how language affects thought with a special focus on language as a code for hacking the brains of other people in order to control them. There are many interesting ideas here, although the fiction does tend to outweigh the science most of the time and the book slips into the fantasy zone on occasion. Nevertheless, the story is strong enough to counter the hand waving going on, and you can't help caring about Barry's very complicated and compelling characters. I would recommend Neal Stephenson's "Snowcrash," and Samuel R. Delaney's "Babel 17" as earlier novels on this same theme. If you read them first, you will actually catch some of the subtle nods to these stories in Barry's book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • No Return

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Zachary Jernigan
    • Narrated By John FitzGibbon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (31)
    Performance
    (28)
    Story
    (30)

    On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists - only what his intentions are. Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon - a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle - warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Danoor, on the far side of Jeroun's only inhabitable continent.

    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn says: "A stunning and original debut fantasy"
    "Flawed but ultimately redeems itself"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a peculiar kind of fantasy, with elements of science fiction thrown in just to keep the reader guessing. It's a universe in which believers battle non-believers and the god they love or hate is a powerful being transformed by technology he does not understand. Indeed, all of the magic is technological in some respect. The battles over whether god or man should rule are the action core of the story, but it is also a story about journeys, both literal and figurative. All of the characters are struggling to reconcile who they are with who they think they should be, and much of the story is told as retrospective personal histories about how they got to where they are. The structure of the story is flawed, with odd discontinuities and long periods of time when unnecessary bouts of raw description overtake the scene and threaten to induce sleep, but the core ideas are interesting enough. As others have noted, you have to be willing to endure some pretty graphic gore, often combined with some pretty graphic sex, at several points. On balance, though, enough happens that is interesting and unexpected to make it worth the journey as a reader. I'd give it 3.5 stars if that were an option. What really kept me listening, though, was John FitzGibbon's narration, which is just amazing. He turned the book into audible theater. If I had been reading instead of listening, I'm not sure that I would have stayed with it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Use of Weapons

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Iain M. Banks
    • Narrated By Peter Kenny
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (189)
    Performance
    (179)
    Story
    (178)

    The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks, and military action. The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him toward his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought. The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause.

    Ken says: "Tips on how to listen to this novel - NO SPOILERS"
    "Tips on how to listen to this novel - NO SPOILERS"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is one of the Culture Series books, best introduced by "Player of Games" if the series is not familiar. Use of Weapons has a complex, non-linear structure that can be difficult to follow in audio format. The prolog establishes an event at a particular point in time, call it time t-zero. The story then begins at time t plus 13 and is told in alternating chapters, half of them moving backward toward t-zero, and the other half moving forward from time t plus 13. You arrive at the end of the book when the backward narrative reaches t-zero just as the forward narrative reaches a climax that reveals the real meaning of the events in the prolog. It is cleverly done, but you really do have to pay attention. This one is not for casual listening while you multitask. I would also suggest re-listening to the beginning of the book after you have finished it. Knowing the whole story really changes the meaning of the events at the book's opening. Brilliantly done, and exquisitely handled by Peter Kenny, who does not just read the book, he performs the story.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Caliban's War: The Expanse, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By James S. A. Corey
    • Narrated By Jefferson Mays
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1081)
    Performance
    (996)
    Story
    (1000)

    James S.A. Corey’s best-selling hit Leviathan Wakes earned Hugo and Locus Award nominations. In Caliban’s War, the second chapter of Corey’s Expanse series, a desperate Earth politician works tirelessly to prevent war from reigniting. Meanwhile, upheaval takes root on Venus and Ganymede. And amidst this tumult, James Holden and his crew on the Rocinante are charged with the impossible task of saving humanity from a terrifying fate.

    Ethan M. says: "No sophmore slump as both plot and writing improve"
    "Even Better Than First Book (Leviathan Wakes)"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's becoming increasingly rare to find science fiction that makes the science a real character in the story. It's even more rare when writers put the time and effort into getting the science right. Add to that some of the creepiest and most intriguing aliens to come along in many years and you have the makings of really good science fiction. What makes it not just good but great is the writing, which is smart and funny with an excellent sense of pacing and expert story telling. This second volume in "The Expanse" series is even better than the first, and I can't wait for book 3.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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