This is not an overly complex book, and you can kinda guess based on the title and the tone of the story how things are going to turn out, but it's still a fun ride.
It's pretty much your typical story of the people versus The Corporation. The Corporation is the group that started the Mars colony, and the people are the colonists who always get the short end of the stick when the Corporation decides it needs to improve the balance sheets. And first amongst the people is Mary Griffith, proprietor of the only bar on Mars.
The book is also set at some undetermined point in the future where Christianity is on the down and out and Organized paganism is now the popular religion. (Which might seem like a good thing depending on your personal beliefs, but as usual it seems that there's very little good about a religion that getting Organized can't fix.) It seems like there may be some tie-ins to other books she's written, but since this is the first book of hers i've read i can't be certain of that.
It turns out that Organized pagans frown on intoxicants and it seems that beer (and thus bars) are illegal in a lot of places on Earth and aren't looked at too fondly on Mars either.. On top of that as the story progresses Mary and her unusual friends and patrons become more and more of an impediment to the Corporation's goals.
The conflict isn't all light and cheery, there is some drama and tragedy, but one gets the feeling that one way or another Mary is going to come out on top in the end, and the fun is in seeing how exactly that will be accomplished.
As for the performance of the book, it's quite well done. This is one of the few cases where a strong accent for one of the characters seems appropriate, perhaps because the character in question is such an outsider, and yes, because the language difficulties are sometimes used for comic relief.
I'm going to have to disagree with most of the people here. This was not a very good audio performance. Perhaps i am biased because i have listened to the original audiobooks as read by the author himself. However i do not feel this reader did a particularly good job as Corwin. He often seemed too weak and tremulous for someone as noir and hard-bitten as Corwin is supposed to be.
I'm also not found of the "effects" that occasionally get tossed in, particularly sounding winded when Corwin gets into a fight. Worse than that however are the voices for the other characters. I thought the fake "female" voice for Flora was as bad as it could get, but that was only until i heard Random's nasal whiny voice. Then, for a little extra icing on the cake, he pronounces Dierdre's name wrong. (In Zelazny's reading he pronounces it the proper Irish way, sounds like "Deer-druh" or " Deer-dra")
I really wish they'd just done a remastered version of Zelazny's reading, or if they absolutely had to remake it could have found someone with the same tone. He didn't feel the need to spice the story up anymore by doing "special" voices and effects, and i think it was a mistake to add them.
If you can't find a decent copy of the Zelazny version, or if you care more about "high production values" than a good reading, i guess this version is better than nothing, but i'm not sure if i'll continue on with this reader. Perhaps i'll re-listen to the originals for the next four books, old and scratchy as they sound, and then see how well Wil Wheaton did reading for the second half of the series.
The first episode was very much a standard short story, so i was a bit surprised when the second episode turned out to be in the format of a script. This is the first time i've ever listened to an audio transcription of a script, and it's a bit odd. Hearing the name of the person read before each line is a lot weirder than reading it that way, and can get a bit confusing at times. I never really did get used to it. If this turns out to be a regular feature of a lot of the later episodes i may have to consider switching to the ebook versions.
The story itself was decent. It does concern a completely different set of characters than the first episode, but if it had been published in the form of a novel it wouldn't surprise you at all for chapter one to deal with one set of characters and chapter two to deal with another. In a "normal" story we would expect the two (or more) tales to weave together at some point, but i have no idea if that will occur in this case.
So aside from the script format weirdness this was a perfectly decent chapter. Though if it turns out there are a lot of 30-40 minute episodes for almost a dollar each i may start getting concerned. I'm wondering if it would have been better if they'd offered the option to get a full or half season for a credit.
If you enjoy books about "secret histories", competing "spy" agencies, and general chaos, this is a good book to get into.
In the first half of the book the main character discovers some historical oddities that pique her curiosity, and she starts researching the issue. She discovers that over a hundred years ago a group of scientists figured out how to predict the future, and thus how to control it. Of course the descendants of that cabal are none too pleased when they discover her digging into their secrets, and pretty soon she's running for her life.
The second half of the book is where the real fun starts, as gradually everyone who thought they were in complete control of not only their own destiny but that of the world itself gradually discover just how wrong they were.
Pleasantly the book is not _all_ about the conspiracies and the spying and the chasing. The characters also take time to discuss the ethics and implications of being able to predict the future. Different characters have different opinions about what it means in terms of free will and human rights and such, and although the debates can get a bit heated at time there is no real "winner" and no particular opinion is put forth as being the definitive right answer.
The only shortcoming of the book is the end. A gradually escalating web of conflicting conspiracies turns into a a chase scene in the last couple chapters, The survival of the main character is at stake, but the actual not-quite-resolution of the greater issues is handled in the epilogue. I still think the books is well worth reading, just be forewarned that the conclusion might not be quite as satisfying as you might like. (cf. Neal Stephenson.)
Also, the main character is a bit of a Mary Sue. She's a successful realtor and ex-reporter who's also an expert computer programer and a wilderness survival expert on the side. Oh yes, and she can play the piano.
And for those who appreciate such things, the cast is somewhat diverse. The main character is black and the secondary main character, who is not introduced till later in the book, is gay. (He starts off slightly campy, but grows as the story progresses.)
The tale takes place in a universe where the losers in a galactic civil war were exiled across the "Rift" (an area through which very few of the "electric avenues" used for FTL travel pass.) About a thousand years later the refugees have built their own interstellar civilizations, although those in power fear the day when the victors in that old war will decide to cross the Rift and finish their conquest.
The amount of background detail that is gradually revealed is impressive, as is the careful balancing of factors to make a quest for an object of power seem reasonable. But those who desire a clear-cut ending may not be happy with this book. We are constantly being teased by new details, but even the big reveal at the end only leaves us with more questions and a desire for the sequels whose existence is hinted at in the final chapter.
The accent the reader applies to some characters' dialog is rather strong, but the characters in question are from planets that were originally all populated by a polyglot of refugees, many of which decided to adopt an Old Terran culture and accent as an affectation, so the over-emphasis is understandable and amusing.
I think this book will be enjoyed by fans of space opera, those who enjoy examples of extensive world building, and anyone who is intrigued the asking of questions, even if we're not always given all the answers to those questions.
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