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Michale

I prefer intelligent, complex stories with deeply developed characters. I'm not a fan of most popular novels; my taste is more eccentric.

Baltimore, MD, United States | Member Since 2009

ratings
87
REVIEWS
17
FOLLOWING
2
FOLLOWERS
5
HELPFUL VOTES
82

  • In the Garden of Iden: A Novel of the Company, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Kage Baker
    • Narrated By Janan Raouf
    Overall
    (113)
    Performance
    (77)
    Story
    (77)

    The first novel of Kage Baker’s critically acclaimed, much-loved series, the Company, introduces us to a world where the future of commerce is the past. In the 24th century, the Company preserves works of art and extinct forms of life (for profit of course). It recruits orphans from the past, renders them all but immortal, and trains them to serve the Company, Dr. Zeus, Inc. One of these is Mendoza, the botanist. She is sent to Elizabethan England to collect samples from the garden of Sir Walter Iden.

    Ethan M. says: "Very different SF, both in performance and tone"
    "I was enveloped by this story!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was worried from reading some of the reviews that this would be a long, boring novel about boring things. It turned out to be thoroughly engaging from the very start. Cyborgs living in medieval England! How intriguing! The narration is witty, casual, and pleasant to the ears. The story revolves around the love affair of a mortal martyr and an immortal "operative", but it never feels like a romance novel. The fantasy aspect never feels far fetched either. I believed this story from beginning to end. I think the best books are the ones that make you forget you are reading/listening because they just smoothly carry you away. I was carried away by this one and I'm so glad I've finally discovered the Company series.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Half Way Home

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Hugh Howey
    • Narrated By Max Miller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (93)
    Performance
    (81)
    Story
    (82)

    Less than 60 kids awaken on a distant planet. The colony ship they arrived on is aflame. The rest of their contingent is dead. They've only received half their training, and they are being asked to conquer an entire planet. Before they can, however, they must first survive each other.

    Think about this says: "A good read, but not great"
    "My Favorite Hugh Howey"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It seems like my preference is the exact opposite of the majority, because once again I love a book that no one else is wild about.

    This is my favorite Hugh Howey novel so far - better than Wool, better than Sand. It reminds me of a sci-fi Lord of the Flies, but with a happy ending. Sometimes I thought I was listening to a Gregory Benford story because the feeling it gave me was reminiscent of the Galactic Center series.

    A ship destined to colonize a distant planet carries a few hundred human children, growing in pods. They are hooked up to the ship's computer, Colony, and being trained for their future jobs through a virtual classroom. Unfortunately the computer suddenly decides to self abort the mission when the children are 15 years old. The children awake before they are fully mature and must fight their way out of the ship that is engulfed in flames. Less than 50 children struggle out of the burning ship, realizing they have not completed their training, and are therefore not fully equipped to survive on the strange planet. Because of the arrangement of the pods, the humans with the highest rank were located closest to the flames and died first. The children that are left have the lowest ranking jobs.

    Hungry, naked and afraid, the children try to take advantage of the training they have received in their short 15 years. But not all the survivors have the best interest of the group at heart, and a pecking order begins to develop. The strong start to overpower the weak and groups want to splinter off. Things get violent. A democracy quickly becomes a dictatorship. In the background looms the creepy presence of Colony, the computer that decided to kill most of the children off, and manipulates the remaining children into building a rocket for an unknown purpose. Why did Colony abort the mission? What is wrong with the alien planet they have landed on? A group of friends escape the group and begin to discover secrets about the strange planet.

    I thought this story was sensitive and intelligent, showing excellent character development. Howey built an alien world that is complex and interesting, and touches on themes such as homosexuality and vegetarianism. I fell more deeply into this world, in a shorter amount of time, than I did with his other novels. I wish there was a second book!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Marisha Pessl
    • Narrated By Emily Janice Card
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (591)
    Performance
    (221)
    Story
    (226)

    This is a darkly hilarious coming-of-age novel and a richly plotted suspense tale told through the distinctive voice of its heroine, Blue van Meer. After a childhood spent moving from one academic outpost to another with her father, Blue is clever and possessed of a vast lexicon of knowledge. But when a drowning and the shocking death of a teacher lead to a confluence of mysteries, Blue is left to make sense of it all with only her gimlet-eyed instincts and cultural references to guide - or misguide - her.

    Jeanie says: "Over 21 Hours of Bliss..."
    "Blue and Gareth - Best Father/Daughter Duo Ever!!!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you were or knew an extremely gifted teenager during your highschool years, you will connect with this story. If you enjoy Nabokov or Donna Tartt, you will see familiar themes in this book.

    Blue van Meer is the kind of girl that recites Keates in her head in order to remain calm and appear self-possessed. Her equally gifted and enigmatic father, Gareth, a college professor of political science, drags her across the country in his crusade to enlighten the students of small town colleges with his arresting and illuminating lectures. Consequently she is always beginning at a new school, and always enduring long road trips with her father in which they discuss obscure literature to pass the time. Blue describes the people and places she sees during this 10 year period with razor sharp wit and hammers it home with myriad references to books, plays, films and famous quotes, just in case you didn’t get her point. These references add a weight and hilarity to the story that is supremely entertaining.

    Gareth and Blue make their final stop in North Carolina, so that Blue can finish out her senior year at the Galloway school and subsequently apply to Harvard. Enter the mysterious and beautiful teacher Hannah Schneider, an Ava Gardner look-alike, who makes a deep impression upon Blue when she sees her at a grocery store. Hannah enters into Blue’s life and everything changes. A complex mystery unfolds that causes the reader to question whether Blue is ignoring the obvious, or making connections where there are none. Back and forth you will go between believing that all is harmless and normal, to believing that there is a sinister conspiracy beneath everything that Blue has known and that all events of the story are tied. The tension that Marisha Pessl has created is delicious!

    I will leave you with my favorite quote from the book, when Blue describes the Latin gardener for whom she harbors a feverish crush. She sees him from behind at Walmart but recognizes him, of course, because of his sense of "Tahiti".

    "Instantly I recognized the showy sigh, the slouch, that slow underwater movement, his overall sense of Tahiti. No matter what time of day or amount of work to be done, someone with Tahiti could close his eyes and the reality of moody lawn mowers, scruffy lawns, threats of termination of employment, would recede and in seconds he'd simply be in.. Tahiti. Stark naked and drinking from a coconut."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Great Sky River: Galactic Center, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Gregory Benford
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey, John Rubinstein, Tom Schiff, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (38)
    Performance
    (32)
    Story
    (32)

    Nearly 100,000 years after first contact with the machines that dominate the universe, only a few hundred humans survive. Trapped on Snowglade, a barren world near the center of the galaxy, Killeen and his child, Toby, of the Bishop Tribe, are primitive scavengers, homeless and hunted by the ruling “mechs”. Then suddenly, a strange cosmic entity – neither organic nor cybernetic or living matter – reaches out from a black hole to speak with Killeen.

    Michale says: "No More Nigel!"
    "No More Nigel!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is the third novel in Gregory Benford's Galactic Center series. In book two, we left Nigel as he was rushing towards Galactic Center. We left Warren in an underwater haven built by the Skimmers, as the Swarmers continued with their dirty work of destroying life on earth. We were given a glimpse of the mechs and an understanding of their agenda. Now in Great Sky River, we see what has become of mankind in a far distant future. This is the world that was described in Benford's novella, A Hunger for the Infinite, the reason I started listening to this series in the first place.

    Humans live in tribal families and lead nomadic lives on the planet Snowglade. We understand that the humans once lived in beautiful citadels and were somewhat tolerated by the mech population, until something changed and citadels were destroyed and the humans viciously hunted. The planet's climate has been changed by the mechs, from the lush and green world implied by the name Snowglade, to a dry and harsh environment suited to mechs and dangerous to humans. The Bishop family is constantly on the run, looting mech factories for food and parts. All humans have robotic enhancements and implants to help them survive. "Aspects" are the memories and personalities of fallen comrades, which can be stored in chip form and inserted into the back of the neck. Family Bishop values their Aspects and relies on the knowledge and experiences of their ancestors to stay alive.

    Killeen Bishop is the new hero and faces off against the Mantis, the extremely creepy mech that harvests humans and creates artistic monstrosities for enjoyment. We see a small glimpse of Nigel, knowing that he must have passed this way on his journey to Galactic Center. Killeen finds the initials N.W. on a beautiful structure built by humans.

    This story is thrilling and intense, and completely different from the two previous books. We learn what has become of humanity after mechs take over the universe. This is what I was waiting for when I started the series and I'm so glad I hung in there!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Across the Sea of Suns: Galactic Center, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Gregory Benford
    • Narrated By Maxwell Caulfield, Stefan Rudnicki
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (59)
    Performance
    (53)
    Story
    (53)

    It is 2076: Lancer, Earth’s first starship, is on a mission to find interstellar civilizations. Although astronaut Nigel Walmsley’s experiences with alien encounters make him the expert, no one believes Nigel’s theory that machines are the dominant intelligent beings left in the galaxy and that their purpose is to annihilate all organic life. Then the explorers discover once-living planets where only machines remain – and ruined worlds where fugitive survivors must evade omnipresent and lethally advanced A.I. warships.

    Michale says: "The Story Picks Up Speed!"
    "The Story Picks Up Speed!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I wasn't wild about the first novel in this series but I had a feeling it was setting the stage for very exciting things. I'm so glad I hung in there! Nigel is in his element aboard Lancer, a ship modeled after the Mare Marginis wreck. Peopled with a crew of experts in every field, the ship is exploring the universe. I finally begin to admire Nigel and understand why he is the hero of this story. Nigel is a frontiersman. He is looking for the truth and nothing will stand in his way of discovering it. Lancer is tracing a radio transmission far into space, and we see Nigel grow older as it takes years to reach their destination. He tenaciously holds onto his desire to make contact with other life forms and to prove his theory that machine life is up to no good out there in the universe.

    Meanwhile back on earth, strange creatures have been deposited (by guess who?) into the world's oceans. The story alternates between Nigel on Lancer, and a new hero on earth, Warren. In a chilly turn of events, we are introduced to the "swarmers", alien sea creatures that bombard ships and devour the humans inside, making sea travel impossible. Warren is a shipwreck survivor, clinging to a make shift raft and beating starvation and dehydration by killing and eating the lone swarmers that attack him.

    On Lancer, earth's transmissions take years to reach the crew, so they are not yet aware of the swarmers. Instead they are focused on a planet called Isis, where organic life forms have evolved to communicate through radio waves in order to outsmart the machine life that has suppressed them.

    There is so much action in this novel. Everything starts to fit together and I understand why Benford spent so much time on the themes presented in "In the Ocean of Night." Nigel is rushing toward the Galactic Center and the story is picking up speed! I can't wait to listen to the next book!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • In the Ocean of Night: Galactic Center, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Gregory Benford
    • Narrated By Maxwell Caulfield
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (161)
    Performance
    (141)
    Story
    (143)

    It is 2019. NASA astronaut Nigel Walmsley is sent on a mission to intercept a rogue asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Ordered to destroy it, he instead discovers that it is actually the shell of a derelict space probe - a wreck with just enough power to emit a single electronic signal….

    Michale says: "Very Different from "Hunger for the Infinite""
    "Very Different from "Hunger for the Infinite""
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    After listening to the novella by Gregory Benford, "Hunger for the Infinite," I was intrigued and ready for more of the same universe. This novel is very different. It is very slow moving and for much of the first half focuses strictly on main character Nigel and his "triad" relationship with Alexandria and Shirley. I was hoping for a little more science fiction, but patiently listened through Nigel's ups and downs with his lady loves. The lingering back story seems to be Nigel's struggle to over come politics within NASA and finally discover something real and true about the universe.

    I was waiting for the "science fiction" part to dominate the "dramatic" part, and it doesn't really happen until the end of the first half. The creepy robots of Benford's novella have not shown up yet in Nigel's world, but he begins to get a sense of their presence. The entire novel is a build up to the idea that robotic life dominates the universe and that organic life is rare. My favorite character in the novel is actually the "snark", an automated craft that has been sent by these as of yet unseen robotic forces, to sniff out organic life. The snark does not know why it exists but only behaves as it has been programmed to behave. In its discussions with Nigel, there are some of the most interesting passages of the book. The snark drifts eternally through the "ocean of night" and finds its only fulfillment through learning about organic life forms.

    I was disappointed that this novel was so different from "Hunger for the Infinite," but I enjoyed it anyway. Its slow and thoughtful, with no real gripping action or suspense, but contains some captivating musings about mankind and our relationship to the universe. I will continue with the series to see where it leads.

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • A Hunger for the Infinite: A Galactic Center Story

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 46 mins)
    • By Gregory Benford
    • Narrated By Robin Sachs
    Overall
    (474)
    Performance
    (412)
    Story
    (412)

    A Hunger for the Infinite, which first appeared in Robert Silverberg's Far Horizons anthology, is a novella that takes place in the universe of "The Galactic Center Saga", detailing a galactic war between mechanical and biological life. Here, the pilots had made it to True Center in order to destroy something, anything, important to the Mechs, but Paris had something else on his mind. A story of the Mantis, and the decline of humans beginning in 3600 AD.

    Michale says: "Haunting"
    "Haunting"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I never thought I could be so creeped out by robots. The antagonists of this futuristic sci-fi novella are called "Mechs." They see humans as vermin, and the author luridly describes some of the tortures they inflict upon the human race. Even more disturbing than the grotesque and perverse artworks created by the Mantis, a mech that is trying to understand humanity (literally from the inside out), is the voice that the narrator gives to the character. It is calm and polite, almost soothing, as it talks of "harvesting" humans. Eeek!

    I thought this novella was great. The language is definitely poetic and sometimes slightly vague, alluding to things that are left unsaid. The mood is cold and dark, but also witty and elegant. There were moments of extreme beauty and elation, but also chilly fear.

    This novella is not warm, and its not really friendly. It explores some frightening and complex themes. If you need obvious story telling with copious amounts of dialogue, you will probably not enjoy this story. I loved it. The narrator is excellent. I will be purchasing all available books from this author.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • The Empress of Mars

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Kage Baker
    • Narrated By Nicola Barber
    Overall
    (199)
    Performance
    (183)
    Story
    (183)

    When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits, and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the grueling task of terraforming the cold red planet - only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn't turn a profit on Mars. Mary Griffith and her struggles and triumphs are at the center of it all, in her bar, the Empress of Mars.

    Dave says: "I love this book."
    "Kage Baker's Storytelling is Flawless!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This story is about a rag-tag group of pioneers on Mars, with a tough, salt of the earth, matriarch at their center. Mary Griffith runs the Empress of Mars, providing beer to the few residents that have been able to stick it out on a desert planet with no oxygen, freezing temperatures, and dangerous sand storms. I love all the characters that Kage Baker has placed in this story of life in a bio-dome on Mars. Mary Griffith, of course, is the heroine. She is feisty, strong, and fiercely protective of all her fellow pioneers. Her brew house is a haven to many interesting people, the ex goddess-worshiping heretic, the enthusiastic journalist from Nepal, the gentle South American artist that carves beautiful statues in the Martian desert.... Kage weaves many themes into this tale - religion, politics, and feminism, but she always keeps it humorous. This is the second Kage Baker novel I have listened to and I will now proceed to gobble up her complete list of works!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Max Brooks
    • Narrated By Marc Cashman
    Overall
    (1046)
    Performance
    (540)
    Story
    (548)

    The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain.

    Bev says: "I am now Zombie Proof"
    "Interesting but not Captivating...."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book does read like a non-fiction survival guide with lists of information that sometimes droned on for me. It tended to be a little dry. I enjoyed it, but zoned out for portions of the book. Parts that I found the most interesting involved descriptions of the safest buildings to hole up in during a zombie siege. I do find myself looking at buildings and comparing their safety value now. I also liked the descriptions of "real" zombie attacks throughout history. I am glad I listened and I know that every time I watch a zombie movie now, I will be thinking things like, "That chainsaw is not a very practical weapon, considering its weight...."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack: Burton & Swinburne, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Mark Hodder
    • Narrated By Gerard Doyle
    Overall
    (1136)
    Performance
    (1011)
    Story
    (1014)

    Sir Richard Francis Burton and Algernon Charles Swinburne are sucked into the perilous depths of a moral and ethical vacuum when Lord Palmerston commissions Burton to investigate assaults on young women committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack - and to find out why werewolves are terrorizing London's East End.

    Robert says: "Fun Steampunk but on the outlandish side"
    "Not My Favorite Steampunk Story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There wasn't a lot of depth to this story. The characters were not developed enough to draw me in and the descriptions of the technology were not believable. I almost stopped listening but found that I did want to know the answer to the mystery of Spring Heeled Jack, so I continued. I also found the story to be slightly chauvinistic, with no real admirable female characters. I think the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld is more my cup of tea when it comes to Steampunk - its YA but I found the story telling to be more rich and rewarding than the Burton and Swinburne tale.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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