Like another reviewer, I purchased this title on the recommendation of Neil Gaiman, whom I hold in the highest esteem. If I were to guess what he saw in it, it would be the occasional apt phrase or twist of dialogue. But as for the story...I should say that I actually have a very high tolerance for non-linearity, even aimlessness. But half way through I had simply lost patience. It wasn't that I was waiting for the sub-plots to come together; rather, I felt I already had a good sense of how the author would manage this and couldn't bring myself to care, any more than I could muster an affective response to all the bloodless murder and intellectualized sex. The narrator didn't help. Accents should be handled with care. For some reason, the English narrator decided to cast the voices of several alien or far-future characters in what I think was meant to be a North American register. They ended up sounding neither American, nor English, but very distractingly off.
Mr. Gaiman, I still love you--but PLEASE!
The print book has been out for some years, though I somehow missed it. There is some absolutely fabulous world-building here, but the continuity errors and various other inconsistencies keep getting in the way. In fact, they're maddening. Why is it so hard to communicate with the Beings? In the previous chapter, weren't they transmitting in English? The multiple narrators don't help. Some chapters are read by the incomparable Gabrielle DeCuir (who for some reason isn't credited on Audible) and a joy to listen to. She does a convincing accent for the Aussie character. But in other chapters we've got Susan Hanfield, who can't do Aussie to save her life. Continuity errors are compounded by a further layer of confusion.
I did enjoy this book, and the second in the series, but I've decided not to blow a credit on the third. The headline of my review pretty much sums it up. The essential space-operatic premises on which these stories operate were worked out by David Weber and Lois McMaster Bujold years ago, and Nuttall contributes nothing new. The technology and its constraints are exactly the same, and in a few instances the weapons systems, drives, etc, even bear the same names. Of course Bujold and Weber can only write so much, and if you're desperate (as I was) you could do much worse. The pacing is good, the narrator is solid, and the characters, if a bit stereotyped, are still believable.
This endearingly retro take on the castaway motif, with clear intimations of "Lost in Space," "Swiss Family Robinson," and Heinlein's "Rolling Stones" will evoke pleasant nostalgia in those old enough to remember such titles. For the young adult audience for whom the book is intended, I expect it to prove an exciting introduction to the genre. A young scientist couple and their five children (four human girls and one adopted alien boy) are marooned on an uninhabited planet. Fortunately all seven are geniuses, and the non-human among them is a badass apex predator, so they survive and flourish. Very satisfying, if not especially original. Prior knowledge of the "Boundary" series provides some background, but is not necessary.
I admit to have being undecided following the first book in the series, "The Bone Season." Though the alternate-historical world-building had its compelling aspects, I found the Rephaim a bit too gothic. That's still the case, but it doesn't matter, because like all good stories, this is now clearly a human drama, with the Rephaim merely part of the scenery. The alternate history is more vivid and plausible than ever, despite elements both counterfactual and supernatural; this London is eerily familiar.
A word needs to be said about the narrator, Alana Kerr. Hers is clearly the voice of protagonist Paige, Irish accent, weary compassion, and all. She does not have a huge expressive range, and sometimes distinguishing character voices can be tricky in dialogue. However, there is one moment in this narration that makes up for all the defects. Usually narrators simply "punt" when confronted with verse the reader is supposed to imagine as sung; they either just read the verse, or they improvise embarrassing half-melodies. Not so Ms. Kerr. I won't say any more about the scene here, except that it was deeply moving, demonstrating extraordinary musical and affective sensibility.
I downloaded this book on the strength of the very clever idea behind it, together with the brief preview sample. Unfortunately, Ian Doescher can't write quite well enough to see his inspiration through. In a way he's set himself up, by advertising this as a work by the greatest playwright of the English language. Very few could write to that standard. What we have here is a few formal elements of Elizabethan verse, with very little substance. It's a shame. Shakespeare gave us some amazing villains (King Lear's Edmund comes to mind), and a truly vile yet tragic Darth Vader might have been cut from that cloth. Doescher's Vader is pallid. Another part of the problem is that the dialogue hews too close to Lucas's original. And let's face it, George Lucas may be a visionary, but his dialogue is notoriously weak. In the original series, this fact was masked by inspired casting. Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Alec Guiness, and James Earl Jones could coax melody from a lawn mower. But we don't have them in this recording. Lucas's dialogue is not notably improved by the insertion of archaic verb forms, the occasional inverted word order, and an surfeit of asides and short soliloquies. The amusement value of hearing words like "droid" and "blaster" amidst this tortured syntax soon wears thin. If you like Star Wars but don't really know or don't care about Shakespeare, this may be for you. Or not. It's certainly not for me.
And why do we have a "chorus?" Jeez, is this supposed to be Shakespeare, or Sophocles?
This is a wonderful, great sprawling sci-fi mystery book, and a great way to remember what you liked about Hamilton if you've been suffering from series-fatigue after some of his recent efforts. The classical elements (setting, plot, character) all come together in a delightful tangle.
Setting and characters are greatly enhanced by the skillful narration of Toby Longworth, who gets to show off his range to superb effect. The array of UK accents is exactly what the author ordered, all internally consistent and consistent with the text. Even the American accents are at least credible--unusual in a British reader. Female characters sound female, male characters sound male. It's all precisely as it should be.
No one could reasonably describe China Mieville as a risk-averse author. He never sticks with a safe formula, preferring to take his chances on a Big Idea. Inevitably, such efforts sometimes fail. Personally, I would classify Perdido Street Station and Railsea as such failures, and The Kraken as at best a marginal success. But when Mieville succeeds, as he does in this book, he succeeds spectacularly. With great risk comes great reward.
Perhaps I should mention that I grew up in Cold War Berlin, the divided city. The Wall came down nearly a quarter-century ago, but the recollection of an ordinary residential street interrupted by grey concrete, a sight so familiar that it goes unseen despite its profound wrongness, continues to haunt me. This book tapped into that haunting, reminding readers along the way of the manifold ways in which human perception yields to human will, human history, and human politics.
For the first few hours, I was wondering: how did this setting come about? And why? But these questions subsided, because the way the characters dealt negotiated this setting was so compelling and so plausible, despite the fundamental implausibility of the setting itself. In other words, Mieville has used the conventions of genre fiction to reveal aspects of the human condition that ordinarily go unremarked. Does any of us truly understand all the historical and cultural baggage with which we must contend in ordinary life?
Big Idea books can get pedantic, but this is not one of them, because Mieville is a master storyteller. Even listeners who like their entertainment light will enjoy this book as a straight detective story.
I go hot and cold on John Lee's narrations. He sometimes has trouble with dialogue. But I have no complaints about this performance.
This is my favorite Reynolds novel so far--though I still have quite a few more to read. The plotting is very tight, including a satisfying joint resolution, toward the end, of several seemingly unrelated subplots. The characters are distinctive, and mesh nicely. As for the high concept, I don't want to risk spoilers by saying too much about it here. I found it very appealing. As a student of 20th Century history, I was particularly fascinated by the very subtly-crafted wrongness of Reynolds's 1959 Paris.
I can't decide whether the occasional references to "Casablanca" are fun or just a little too cute. I'm also not hugely enthusiastic about Mr. Lee's narration, especially the character voice for the main American character, with accent and phrasing just far enough off to be occasionally irritating. On the other hand, a supporting character with a Danish surname sounds pretty credible to my admittedly non-Danish ear. The defects are all minor, though. I'd give this one a strong recommendation.
This book is a genre-bender, albeit in a very conservative way. The basic plot is that of an academic murder mystery ("The Professor did it!" No, "The secretary did it!" No, "The Dean did it!," etc.). The twist is that the University in question operates the world's first time travel lab. Otherwise, it's set in the eigenpresent, at a fictitious Minnesota university, even if much of the action takes place about two millennia ago.
I read Maslakovic's first book, "Regarding Ducks and Universes," and enjoyed it. This book offers similarly well-mannered prose, with equally well-mannered characters. For the most part, it all works. As a career academic (20+ years on the tenure track), I am doubtless more sensitive to lapses in verisimilitude (there aren't that many) than most readers or listeners.
Ms. Kowal's narrative range is limited, and this book unfortunately does not especially suit her limitations. There are probably more female narrators who can manage male voices credibly than there are males who can manage female voices; unfortunately, based on this one sample, Ms. Kowal does not appear to be one of them.
In general, I like Robert Sawyer. But I have to say that his Ontario is a lot more credible than his Mars. Wonder why? The central premise of this work is easy to grasp, and since it's obvious enough from the blurb, I can't call this a spoiler: this is a Raymond Chandler style Philip Marlowe mystery, transported to Mars. Cute, clever idea, right? Wrong. It's been done before, many times, and much better. The Marlowe character, an off-the-shelf, hard-bitten, morally ambiguous noir-detective, is pure cardboard. Every twist and turn of the plot, even those meant to be surprising or genre-stretching, can be predicted from the first half hour, leaving the listener resigned rather than intrigued.
Christian Rummel's narration is excellent as always, but he deserves better material. This is the first Sawyer I've heard since his enjoyable WWW trilogy, and I have to say I'm disappointed.
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