OK -- I'm a science nerd, and I was expecting a science nerd book: Another book about cosmology, quantum mechanics, string theory and whatnot to bring me to a closer understanding of things that you can't really understand without the math. (Which I don't have. Not a math nerd. Sigh.)
Instead, I got a very engaging story about scientists poking at the edges of reality, with actual plot, intrigue, politics, and drama. This was the life I had envisioned for myself in high school. After hearing this book, how I wish I hadn't switched gears! I coulda been in this story. I coulda been a contenda ...
Yeah -- this book actually makes scientists seem like rock stars. OK -- really peculiar rock stars. More peculiar than usual -- but still...
I think some layman's background in the topics (astronomy and particle physics) would be helpful, but you don't need to be a scientist to enjoy this book. And despite the fact that this is not really a science book, you will come away a pretty good understanding of what it's all about. Although I knew much of the science here, this book put things into perspective and gave me a deeper understanding of it all. A view from 30,000 feet is sometime what you need to have it all make sense.
I didn't give it five stars because this is not Stephen King, after all. But it's a really good listen.
The narrator deserves a lot of credit for making this a really good listen. He has a lively and energetic style, and I could hardly believe he had not lived the story.
This series (you won't be stopping with this book if you start the series) is very good, but flawed. Nevertheless, you will sit in your car after you have arrived at you destination with the motor running to hear a little more before you have to stop.
Fair warning: Terry Goodkind is an Ayn Rand objectivist. Like Ayn Rand, he gets a bit preachy at times, and the breathless fervor of the narrator can put it a little over the top. As you picture our hero Richard, it helps to envision him as Howard Roark with a sword. There will even be a John Galt speech in Naked Empire which you may want to fast-forward through. I sort of agree with the philosophy, so I didn't really mind mostly.
One thing about this book and the series in general is how really, really awful things get before they get better, and how long the bad patches drag on. And just when you think things are looking up, they crash down again. The Mord Sith episode is particularly hard to get through. You want the hero to win now and then -- and he does, but getting there is tough.
Still -- you're gonna be hooked. I read most of the series some years ago, and flaws or not I read into the wee hours back then too.
The narrator is hard to describe. Sometimes, as I noted, he brings a breathless fervor to the tale. He has an older voice which doesn't always work, especially for the female characters.
I've read this book twice and listened to it once. Someday, I may listen to it again. That's how good it is.
This is one of the best imaginings of what it would be like to really meet aliens, with a keen insight into just how "alien" aliens can be. When I first read this book, I got hooked by its "authenticity", with carefully thought out details that give the encounter a sense of realism, consequence, and danger that is very rare. The "science" (OK -- pseudoscience) is a big part of the story, but only a part. It has a fast-paced plot, plenty of action, complex villains, and memorable if sometimes stilted characters.
The narration is good but I gave it four stars only because I have heard other narrators who really rate five stars. I can say of this narrator that he could make you forget him and hear only the story -- which is quite a feat in itself.
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