The book is incredibly fluid, with smooth action and lovable settings. As a book of detectives, or an extrapolation of corporative greed to the future, it definetely shines.The title's science-fiction part is very light, with no bold reframings of world, plot and characters to a distanct future. This alone would normally make me rate a book as 3 instead of four, but in this case the main idea is served just fine.
The characters are certainly o.k., with distinctive features, vices and virtues. My favorites were the inmediate boss of the protagonist and the judge, they were both lively, empathetic and distinct, even as secondary-almost-terciary characters; sadly neither the protagonist or the other main characters were so bright.
I definetely enjoyed the introduction by the author himself; seeing his motiviations and knowing beforhand that the story was an actualization and creative remake of an older one. Most than anything, I felt relief by having the 50's version "deprecated" in favor of a newer one.
The book is certainly engaging and you might want to listen to it in just one listen. But it was not thought-provoking, something that I absolutely require to deem a Sci-Fi work as "outstanding".
In the first twenty chapters or so we follow the protagonist while he grows up. In the rest we follow him through military life, where he serves in several armies. I started jumping chapters by chapter forty-something.Chapter sixty: somewhere in some squad. Chapter 80: somewhere different, in a different squad. Chapter 100... you get it. Every chapter is the same: some place in some squad with some squad leader and some captain, the weather which is by turns cold, windy, wet. They are going somewhere, taking roads, trails, tracks, and so. The horses that the main character rides also changes name. Other than that, nothing happens in the book.
I can't help but think in the author when you read this book. Has his infancy been so troubled? Does he believe in the goodness of humanity? How so, "in a general and vague sense" or "not at all"?
In this title, a group of humans is confronted with very hard choices regarding the survival of the group, after making a chain of mistakes that sets them in a disgrace course. That's the first part of the book, one which is not only long and winding but also very predictable. In fact, the rule of dumb for reading Reynolds works very well here: among all the possible turns available to the story in each moment, it will take the darkest one. Or a completely more ominous one that you were not expecting.
But don't misunderstand me, this book is a master-piece. The only common grounds that the story shares with others in the genre are the typical hallmarks of Reynolds, for example corporative and personal greed. Out of that, you will find a very rich and unique world as the scenario for a twisting succession of events
The inter-personal relations are carefully crafted, as much as the characters themselves. And Reynolds give them space to go from good to evil or the other way around, in a time of hours or by the span of decades. That's not to say that sometimes they are stubborn beyond ordinary human standards, which sort of feels unnatural.
Here is how I would assess the book by separate aspects, in a scale of 1 for worst and 5 for best:
- Story unity: 4.5
( it is hard to unify a drama that extends for several decades, but the author does a
remarkable good job).
- Characters: 4.5
(Excellent characterization of the principal ones)
- Scenario where the story develops: 5.0
- Story deepness: 3
(The author keeps the readers in the dark for as much as possible,
and that gives the impression that at a deeper story-level there is not much
- Degree of exasperation imprinted in the reader, or how brain-deprived the author thinks the reader is (higher number = less brain) : 3.5
- Narrator: does a good job on keeping the character's voices separated and distinguishable. All in all, considering how dark this book it is, the narrator simply needs to convey the gravity of things, and John Lee does just that.
All in all, a book worth to read!
I'm a very sexist being, and while I reckon that women can write excellent romances, complex plots and even space operas (e.g., Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga), till this day I have always dreaded the lack of "technical enthusiasm" that goes with the girls, and specially, the girls which are capable writers. Without the what-if of a scientific or technological issue, a sci-fi book is a table lacking three legs. So I was very apprehensive when I got this book, and my apprehension went all the way to dismay when I perceived that the reader was also a girl with a voice tone better suited for a reading of "Romeo and Juliet".
I was wrong. Luci Christian Bell, the reading voice, is extremely capable, and in this book she matched the multiple species and personalities covered by the story and the protagonist very well, sounding at times polite and refined, wild and hoarse, smart, dumb, or outright cow-ish, depending in the story's moment.
The story itself is nicely deep and contained, with enough of what I was looking for. For example, the author explores the interesting sci-fi question of "what would happen if I could remember things as being you". Furthermore, she mixes-in core humanistic issues, like sentience, xeno-engagement, and how do we assess things or people to feel us part of them or to reject them. All of that complemented with a diverse but sharp assortment of characters, that thanks to the skills of the author and the voice we can frequently enjoy as first-person, each time with a unique species-perspective.
The book has some minor flaws, but then I think that a solution for those would have been worse than the flaws themselves. For example, a deeper story would have required a longer and less fun book, thus reducing the amount of joy per page. So, all in all, I have truly enjoyed this book and think is on pair or better than many I have read from very good male sci-fi authors. I dearly recommend it!
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