The culture special circumstances warship "Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints". All that it does, but especially replaying a battle to his human companion while grinning like a school boy.
I can't remember the name, but the bird-like hyper-active and hyper-polite aliens helping Veppers was hilarious.
The testimony in front of parliament of someone who had experienced one of the hells moved me.
I've heard The Culture novels can be difficult to get into. I started with Excession which really deals with most themes I've found, "backing up", ship minds, drones, avatars, orbitals, special circumstances, displacement, effectors, engines, hyperspace and the grid, the relation to other galactic societies, etc. For someone new to The Culture I might recommend checking out the wikipidia page to see the technologies involved so they don't stumble on certain concepts while reading or listening.
Joe Abercrombie gives us a gritty fantasy novel with multi-dimensional characters that develop through the book. There is some torture and coarse language in this book and lots of blood. I can't say enough good things about the narrator. Every single character has a voice perfectly matched to their character and is instantly recognizable. The other two books in the trilogy are good as well, but I think I liked the promise of the first book more than I liked the series as a whole. I was disappointed in the directions the third book took especially, but I've listened to the part of the first book when the bloody nine is introduced several times and I get chills every time!
The way I felt about the story reminded me of how I felt listening to Hyperion, if you liked the mystery and non-resolution of that book then you might like this as well. I thought the narrator did a good job, but I found it hard sometimes to remember who was talking. All in all I think I liked it and I'll use a credit to check out the next in the series which is supposed to be quite different.
I should have known from the image that Agent of Change would read more like a romance novel than sci-fi. If I have to hear another time about his haunting green eyes or aching beauty I'll slit my wrists. If that's your thing you may like this book, but if I'd known there was a ship whose drive was an aphrodisiac and there'd be lines like the following, I wouldn't have purchased the book: "His SHIrt caressed CHEst and AAARMS with EVery MOOOVE as he deLIGHTedly slid his PAlms down LEATHered THighs."
I have to agree with others on the narration problems. Looking at some other random samples of Andy Caploe's narration seem to have the same problem. He puts strange pauses in the reading and emphasizes unusual words or syllables making it seem melodramatic, almost like a caricature of Captain Kirk but more annoying. Listen to the free excerpt and sample to see if it annoys you. "The MAN who was NOT Terrence oGRAdy". I hadn't really noticed it in the sample and it didn't bother me much at first, but after hours of listening it annoyed me to no end. I could see using it as a way to distinguish characters through their dialogue, but it doesn't belong in the narration. Most of the characters are okay, but I thought Miri and Watcher's voices were poor fits. I'll not be getting another book read by him if I can help it, but maybe it won't bother you as much.
Finally I'd like to note a similarity to Twilight. I hadn't noticed in Twilight until it was pointed out, but it probably isn't good to have tweens reading romantic fiction glorifying an abusive relationship. Like Twilight, Agent of Change has a female protagonist falling for a dangerous man-child whose nature it is to kill and whose every instinct tells them to kill her, but she is able to change him into a more sensitive, caring person through her love and by sticking by him even though it puts her in danger. I've seen this mentality where it isn't really the abuser's fault and they're sorry but they just can't help themselves and it isn't right and shouldn't be idealized.
As for the story, I'd give the plot a three but the writing a one so I averaged to a two.
I think this book of all the culture novels both has the least to do with the Culture and centers the most on a single protagonist. It's just great science fiction. I wish I could give it 4.5 stars though because I don't know if it deserves a full 5. It did keep me interested throughout and Peter Kenny is one of my favorite narrators, but the lead character was just a little hard to relate to. I guess it might say more about me than the books that I can relate more to the ship Killing Time from Excession than to a human character here :)
As a Crichton fan I was disappointed with this book. The protagonist seemed incompetent much of the time. The enemies seemed hyper-capable at times and then completely incompetent at other times. How some people acted and changed actions later in the book defied explanation. The eventual solution to the enemies and their reactions to it didn't seem well thought out or possible. The book had some interesting ideas, hence the three stars, but I was just more frustrated than entertained.
I'll give one small example that I don't think will spoil anything. The airlock to the facility apparently has individual sensors to detect how many feet are standing in it and will automatically operate when and only when there are two feet touching the floor. Why would anyone design an airlock to operate this way? What if someone had crutches? What if they had only one leg? What if they had a suitcase? What if, as in the book, there was a time when it was required for two people to go through at once? It felt like the limitation was there for an artificial moment of tension, which is precisely how much of the rest of the book felt also.
I'd give it 3.5 stars. The story of the lost fleet continues as the fleet heads to investigate the aliens. Overall the story is pretty interesting, but it has a few flaws. The narrator seems a little whiny to me at times, especially with the female voices. Also some plot elements that come as a surprise to the main characters were obvious if you thought about them at all. It's almost like the author came up with ideas while writing the book that he didn't bother to weave into the story earlier.
***** spoiler *****
For example, anyone that read the lost fleet series knows that the aliens can blow up the hypergates, but the humans have a safe guard that will destroy them safely, avoiding the destruction of an entire star system. The main character doesn't even think about the aliens destroying the gates anyway to make travel more difficult until he is on the far side of human space and someone else points it out to him. As soon as they discovered that the aliens could do it in the previous books I was immediately wondering why the aliens didn't destroy them anyway, yet no one in the fleet had apparently even considered the possibility in the several months before this... There are two other examples I can think of where I was way ahead of the characters in comprehending what was going on, though there are many more of them and they have a lot more time on their hands.
"a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale"
The Richter scale is a logarithmic scale, therefore it can measure vast quantities with small increases in the numbers. A value one higher on the richter scale represents 31.6 times as much energy. The impact that killed the dinosaurs was probably just 12.5 on the Richter scale. If an object the size of the Earth were to crash into the Earth at the speed of Earth's orbit, that would only be 20.4 on the Richter scale. 1000 times as powerful of earthquakes would only be 3 higher on the richter scale so saying that it is too powerful to measure on the Richter scale is a ridiculous statement.
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