I purchased this because of the recent deaths in my life of loved ones (both human and animal) thinking i needed a light hearted action comedy along the lines of Douglas Adams. The first 3/4's of the book did not disappoint... then, in the the mode of the highest aspirations of Science Fiction, the novel moved to a higher plane, meta on top of meta, and my amusement and escapist fantasy turned into serious self reflection that was as deep as it was unexpected.
Well played Mr. Scalzi.
GM Fraser was a real historian, and a WWII vet, so he was the perfect person to show the real history of some of the most infamous battles of all time through a clever lense. Harry Flashman, the bully of Tom Brown's "School Days" lives a full life as the explemplary war hero in every famous military action of British Empire from the 1840's to 1900. Now in his 80s he writes a secret memoir revealing how he was actually a coward, cheat, rake and general cad. The papers, "discovered" in the 1960's later are raw, wry and very very real in its depiction of (in this the first episode) one of the most infamous, stupid and senseless military disasters, the retreat from Kabul.
This is the first audio book I have bought where I had read the book previously, but this and the 4th book of the series are my favorite books of all time. I would, on my more critical days give it a 4 because it did not incorporate the fascinating footnotes. However, upon reflection, I could not actually see how they would have done it. Still, I wish they had included a reading of the footnotes as an addendum, as Fraser uses them to add clarifications and minor corrections to Flashman's recollections. As many other historians have noted, the Flashman papers, though fiction could be used as history textbooks. American readers will be fascinated by the stories (not taught in our schools) of the various British military disasters, and the other novels dealing with US history will no doubt fascinate the British readers.
The charm of the story is the old man telling the story of the young man with all the remembrances and retrospective insights. The narration captures this well, though the youthful voices and female voices are not as convincing as the old Flashman and other senior characters.
Americans would have done well to have read this book prior to invading Afghanistan.
This really is a precursor to Douglas Adams, but a more cerebral, acid trip version, less out loud guffawing, more satire and wry pokes at themes that apparently have come around again on the wheel.
Part of me wonders if Douglas Adams was being truthful when he said he had not read it. Everything was there, except perhaps the towel. Still, the real effect of this book is to make you appreciate Douglas Adams even more.
For those who loved the Forever War, or Starship Troopers, or even Startide Rising, this is a must book. While the space opera setting is standard, almost to the point of distraction, and the military memes have all been seen before, Scalzi's core twist, of old people fighting a war, freshens them up just enough to keep things going, especially when confronted with child warriors. Good science fiction makes you think and relate to current times without rubbing your nose in it. Scalzi makes it fun and a great read.
Those that enjoy space opera, will both enjoy this book, as well as be bemused with the pretentions of a serious character drama. I was, as in the first book a little put off by the overly evil and stupid enemies. However, sitting now, as the country prepares to go off a fiscal cliff, I have to admit that powerful people really can be that stupid.
Still, I reserve the last star because some improbably plot twists and unlikely coincidences do shine through. Still recommended
As in Red Shirts, Scalzi can swing from farce to serious thought provoking ideas faster than any writer alive. The narration by Wil Wheaton has made me retroactively downrate many previous narrators. This book is highly recommended.
I enjoyed this book as much as any in years, but was prepared to give it 4 stars on the theory that you had to be a certain kind of reader to fully enjoy it. But then i realized, this is my review, so if you are a tech nerd, understand the music industry problems, a science fiction and Douglas Adams fan, then you are in for a custom made treat. (If you are old enough to remember music from the 70's in its first pass, bonus points.) If not, then read this as 4 stars, and weep for your loss.... Reid's humor is not as joke dense as Adams, but is much more wry and meta, which makes the choice of Hodgman as a narrator perfect. He does things with the reading that no other narrator I have heard could have pulled off. He delivers the many gems in this book so perfectly you would swear he wrote the book.
I will be looking at any book Reid writes, and any book Hodgman reads, but any more that they do together will definitely get my credits.
I rank Suarez's "Daemon" as one of the best books to come out in years, and was really looking forward to this book. However, instead of the creative, techno savy writing of Daemon, Kill Decision is a techo-military thriller modeling Clancy far too closely. Instead of Clancey's right wing politics, Saurez's left wing paradoxical techno-phobia is laid over the story like... well, a burdensome pheromone. The plot line contains multiple inconsistencies and blatantly artificial devices that distracted from what is certainly an action filled plot.
The overly humane and competent main characters are clever and well connected... except when they need not to be. Two highly improbable ravens serve as organic drone substitutes clearly designed to smooth over plot needs of the moment. There is even the stiffly written obligatory sex scene. Evil characters are the thinnest and least believable of the book. I also failed to really embrace Suarez's almost palpable fear of drone technology itself. I know too many fighter pilots and bomber pilots who did their jobs honorably, but with the unquestioning machine like precision of autonomous drones to really fear these things any more than the existing technology.
Still, even with all that, Suarez does piece together an action packed, albeit inconsistently plotted page turner that delivers some good scenes. The audio narration is excellently done. Here is hoping that in the future he steps away from trying to imitate Clancy, and lightens up a bit, to get back to the originality of books like Daemon.
This is the classic multi plot, multi character novel that builds to its climax with no lack of action or suspense. Stephenson is able to refract many interesting ideas through this, which is only part of what is wonderful about this novel. However, as with all such novels, some of the twists required to keep the balls juggling or keep key characters alive come to stretch credibility to the point where even some of the characters wonder about it. However, since this is not really a Science Fiction novel, though technology plays a big role, Science Fiction readers will have some willing suspension of disbelief to spend, and will be more than willing to spend it.
I am not sure how much you need to be into the 80's, vintage video games and early computers to enjoy this (i was not much on arcade video games, but did enjoy other games such as Zork, mentioned in the book) The action moves fast enough to distract you from loose ends the multiple realities hold your interest. Recommended.
The narrator is perfect, especially since he gets mentioned in the book!
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