Correctly placing the WOT series into the proper place among the hierarchy of fantasy greats is complex. Setting aside the commercial success of the series, the quality of each book in the series varied widely. Starting off great with The Eye of the World, each subsequent novel got better than the one before it for quite some time. Robert Jordan hit his stride in the fourth and fifth books while the sixth, Lord of Chaos, is probably the finest book he ever wrote—these three books (4,5, and 6) are among the greatest in fantasy literature.
With the 7th book, Jordan began to slowly stumble. The trend for (7,8,9,10) was that each one was at least a bit worse than the one before it. The series began to ramble. Plot threads stalled, more and more characters entered the story line while old plot threads stayed unresolved. The story began to become convoluted where once elegance weaved the beautiful complexity. This culminated with the dreadfully dull, poorly edited tenth book. It may have been his health, or fatigue, or perhaps Jordan had just lost his way for a while, but there is no doubt that much of the early magic was gone. I kept reading--We kept reading—despite this in part because we knew the magic would come back and partly because in our extensive adventures with fantastically deep characters, we had grown to love them, and there was still joy in loving them walk nowhere fast. I am glad that Robert Jordan reversed this decline with his final book, (book 11) which was much better but still not at the pinnacle of his earlier work. We will never know if this redemptive trend would have continued had Robert Jordan not been taken from us so early.
What we do know is that Brandon Sanderson’—already on his way to becoming a legend for his own work—produced three contributions to the series that have all been magnificent. The have been brilliant not only because of Sanderson’s talent but because they were a labor of genuine love. He started reading the series as a teenager and loved the books and characters like we loved them. His work could not have been better. Here I will say what may be regarded as blasphemy among the Jordan die- hards: Brandon Sanderson not only helped save Robert Jordan’s legacy by finishing the series—he augmented it by concluding the series with stunning artistry and passion.
I am sad to see it end. I have lived so long with these characters that I can’t believe I will never see them grow or laugh or change again. It was worth it thought. This book is beautiful. This series is beautiful.
There has been a lot of negativity surrounding Flashback, and most of it centers around Dan Simmons’ right wing politics. There’s so much negativity, in fact, that I hesitated before buying and went on to read a few more reviews. In the end I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but for the author who gave the world the Hyperion/ Endymion story-- among the finest works of science fiction in the last thirty years--I would forgive much. I decided to give it a try.
I am glad I did. Simmons is at his best when he finds his voice in a haunting tale of personal struggle amidst a larger struggle. The dialogue is often brisk, well-read, philosophical, and reflective. The setting is somewhat cyber punk in the sense of high technology and low people, but somehow more mournful and sad than what typically defines cyber punk.
There is no question that Simmons’ far right wing politics set the stage for the story, and critics who have alleged that he’s personally gone off the deep end may well be correct. My answer to this is “so what”? What does it say about us as readers if we are only able to read books that reinforce all of our political positions and lash out at those that push us-- even if they push us with new points of view. It is perhaps reflective of our partisan political era where each side writes books only for their followers, makes news channels only for the loyal, and each side makes sure the battle lines are all clear. This is an absurd standard to judge fiction by. I am not a prince of Denmark, I am not a boy with a run away slave, I am not a pirate, a space marine, or a horse deciding whether to vote for the full manager or the three day week but I have lived these tales. Books are about considering new perspectives and challenging ourselves, not weeding out anything that doesn’t reinforce our ever narrowing vision of the world.
Read Flashback because it is a great work of science fiction. Read it to be challenged, read it to see how the other side thinks, read it to see your own politics in action, read it to learn, but most of all read it because it is the work of a 65 year-old master of the craft who may have too few books left. Read it because it is fantastic.
This is quite easily one of the most disappointing works in the social sciences or education that I have ever read or listened to. It has no redeemable qualities, the title is wholly inaccurate, the author under-qualified for some of the subjects he takes on, and the book bizarrely undershoots its audience. There is no reason to buy this book.
The implication of the title is that this book is written from the perspective of cognitive science. It is not. This book has nothing to do with cognitive science. It is a summary of basic pedagogy. I can only guess that somewhere along the editing process someone noticed the title wasn’t testing well but fared better with the expanded “cognitive science” tag. It’s not inaccurate, the editors must claim, because the title doesn’t say the book entertains the perspectives of cognitive science. It says it is the perspective of a cognitive scientist who happens to talk about basic pedagogy and not consider it from the perspective of cognitive science. This is misleading and dishonest.
I found some of the analysis so stunningly bad that I had to look up the author’s credentials and find out if he was a real Ph.D, or, as I suspected, maybe he ordered it in the mail or something. Turns out it is real. A quick click on a link takes me to his CV. At first glance, it looks impressive. There sure are a lot of titles here, but a few clicks reveal almost all of them are self-published blog style papers written for the AFT website rather than real research publications. The rest were published by American Educator, a publication that is pseudo-academic at best. Under submission guidelines you will-- I am not kidding-- find the phrase “We do not publish research papers”. They publish only essays, refuse all research, and claim to be peer reviewed. But it gets better. American Educator, it turns out, is operated by the same AFT website that published the authors blog papers. So in short, we have a “cognitive scientist” who seems incapable of publishing research in true peer reviewed journals, so instead he wrote a book. The author is a failed academic writing a sub-basic book in a field he is unqualified in with a completely misleading title.
And I can’t even figure out who this hack-job attempt at research is aimed at. The book contains no citations, not even in-text references. For example, we are bombarded with generalizations like “One research experiment found that....” You can’t complete the sentence with the names of the authors of the research, or the university, or the year, decade, or century? It’s not like that is any harder to write. That makes the book less academic than an introductory education 101 textbook. Now I suppose the author and editor would say they want to improve readability. But at the expense of all credibility and usefulness to the reader? The audience here is primarily educators, who all have at least a college degree, and anyone picking up a book with the words “cognitive science” in the title is prepared to hear a reference or two dropped. Authors in the social sciences like Steven Pinker, Daniel Kahneman, and Charles Mann all managed to make the best sellers list writing to intelligent people and providing reasonable documentation which made the books more compelling not less so.
In one particularly comical analysis the author takes on nature vs nurture and takes an anti-biology stance so naive that we are left to wonder if he even reviewed a high-school biology textbook before writing it. He “supports” the tabula rasa argument with straw man arguments of complete biological determinism so absurd no one could possibly believe them, and he even fails to understand that when evolutionary psychology uses the phrase “a gene for X” they mean the effect is probabilistic not literal causation. No one in the world believes you have a single physical gene for liking tomato soup, a gene for basketball skill, and a gene or enjoying purple more than blue. The author is in way over his head, is unread, unqualified, and has an insufficient understanding of probability theory to take on the subject. And this is one among many. They are all equally bad.
Do not buy this book. Do not give this book to anyone you care about. Do not bother reading this book if it is given to you for free. Please, do not support the scamming of the public by financially rewarding pseudo-academic dribble.
The first thing you should know is that this is a zombie story in the tradition of movies like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. That is to say, a zombie comedy (zombedy?).
I am going to make this review easy. I imagine you are not going to buy two zombie comedies this month which means you may be considering this or The Zombies of Lake Woebegotton (also available from Audible). The difference between the titles is easily articulated: Zombie Fallout generates its humor primarily from one-liners, bad smells, slapstick, and bodily functions. The Zombies of Lake Woebegotton's humor is primarily situational, satire, and irony. I think the The Zombies of Lake Woebegotton is the much better of the two books, but you should assess by your own sense of humor.
Taken on its own, Zombie Fallout isn't bad. It is amusing, and I love a good zombie story. I think I'll even buy the sequel. However, if I were looking to buy a zombie-comedy this month, this would be my second choice.
I picked this up when it got a Hugo nomination, and went into it pretty excited. The results are fairly mediocre.
This is a book where nothing much happens in the sense that the plot ark is more of a modest bump. This isn't automatically a bad thing in a book because a great character driven story can still provide a fantastic read, but that doesn't happen here, The characters are mildly interesting but never really compelling. What's worse is that some of the more interesting plot threads are simply abandoned by the end without ever being resolved in an ending that is both predictable and rushed.
So why the Hugo nomination? That's easy: nostalgia. Mori, our protagonist, finds direction and solace in science fiction and reads incessantly offering a whose-who of pre-80s name and title dropping and an accompanying analysis of SF writers and stories of the era. I think many critics are willing to overlook a mediocre story because of the nostalgia and fondness they feel at listening to Mori discuss her relentless reading list. While these certainly provide the most interesting parts of the novel for a big SF fan like myself, it's not enough to carry the entire story. This was a great premise suffering from mediocre execution, and in the end fondness for listening to other people talk about classical science fiction shouldn't be enough to make us ignore the mundane story in which that discussion is embedded in.
This is a perfectly acceptable story but not a remarkable one, and it certainly did not deserve a Hugo nomination. It will be most interesting to those who have read a lot of classic pre-1980 science fiction, and far less interesting to anyone without such a reading background.
I didn't realize when I got this that it was aimed at young adults (aka early teens). There's really nothing in the description to tip you off, so it's an easy mistake to make. YA books aren't really my thing, but if they are yours there's enough here to satisfy and you'll find it better than my two star review. I was looking for something with a bit more sophistication, but for a post-apocalypse novel this is far, far more Hunger Games as opposed to, say, Lucifer's Hammer. I'd give it a recommendation for teenagers looking for a light listen on the light fright side, and a pass for a more mature audience.
The narrator, Julia Whelan, is very good, so if you are looking for something geared for a younger audience, it has that to recommend it as well.
I can understand a dark post-apocalyptic novel full of characters who, say, kill over a bowl of soup because starvation is an understandable, human motivation. Other human motivations might include vengeance, depression, lust, greed, ect. As readers we intuitively understand these kinds of motivations even if we are repulsed by them.
The protagonists in this novel have no such motivations. They are one dimensional cartoon characters motivated by their pure goodness or badness. In their wanderings they meet one dimensional cartoon villains every one of which is an uber violent sadistic psychopath intent on inflicting violence and suffering for no other reason than they are evil. Good guys do good things and bad guys do bad things for no particular reason. Repeat. It's childish dribble that fails to capture even the barest sliver of humanity or human motivation. You might be able to get away with it in a video game but not in a novel or audiobook.
The writing is also best described as immature bordering on childish. For example, it's hard not to giggle when we are constantly bombarded with messages of the empty desolate landscape, and yet every house or shelter the characters walk into is already occupied. I'm not sure if they ever enter an empty house even if we later learn that every other house in the entire city is supposedly empty. Over and over so often you have to laugh. Childish.
Sometimes the writing quality hits like a bucket of cold water that snaps whatever illusion had been created. For example, in one action scene a 300+ pound man, described over and over as a giant, is in a fist fight. After he dodges a punch he-- get this-- ducks down, crawls between his opponents legs, gets up, and hits his opponent (who incidentally is of course a sadist) when he turns around. Trying to suddenly picture this inane action sequence jarred me completely out of the scene, and so on.
For the purposes of context, I am an avid audiobook listener who draws from all genres but am especially attracted to science fiction, some fantasy, and horror, so it's not like this was out of my realm. It's just poorly executed and simply childish. I am writing this review because I wish someone else had written it first so I wouldn't have wasted my time and money on it.
I am a big Brandon Sanderson fan, and you'll generally find me buying his latest on the day of release. I think he is maturing as a writer and getting even better, and last year's The Way of Kings was amazing. This, however, isn't his best work. It feels rushed and underdeveloped, and the plot devices are repetitious of some of his other work. Not nearly enough time was spent, for example, giving the reader a clear sense of the steam punk world itself though it is central to the story.
Perhaps this is understandable. The Alloy of Law was originally penned as a novella to transition us into the a new Mistborn series, and it had to be written in the off time/ publicity tour for the last WOT book since he is under contract to complete A Memory of Light before returning to his own work (The Way of Kings was written before he took on the Wheel of Time). It was only with the kindness of the Jordan estate-- and the fact it was written so quickly-- that he was able to publish this at all before Memory of Light. All of this shows in the work.
The narration is masterful as always, and Sanderson's fans and fantasy buffs will find the book impossible to miss, and even with its weaknesses it's still a lot of fun. A less committed, more general audience might look at this purchase as less of an immediate need and wait until a slow month and a spare credit.
I am only half way through part 1. I am enjoying the story so far, but may alter my rating after I finish the whole story.
The narrator is fine with male characters and absolutely awful with female characters. He has one female voice-- shriveled old crone. This works fine when the character happens to be a shriveled old crone, but for Daenerys? The narrator didn't do his homework and is showing his lack of range.
While there are a few interesting ideas, a great narrator, and the occasional entertaining action scene, this book is simply very poorly written. Don't be deceived by the high average rating: this is off the supermarket shelf fiction.
The last couple of hours or so of the book are by far the most interesting and actually have some thought provoking moments, but in order to get there you need to get through hours of dull, mediocre writing, poor pacing, and thin characters. It's not worth the time or the credit.
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