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Alex Levine

Florida, USA | Member Since 2005

46
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 17 reviews
  • 31 ratings
  • 567 titles in library
  • 26 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
2
FOLLOWERS
9

  • Light

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By M. John Harrison
    • Narrated By Julian Elfer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (116)
    Performance
    (100)
    Story
    (103)

    In contemporary London, Michael Kearney is a serial killer on the run from the entity that drives him to kill. He is seeking escape in a future that doesn' t yet exist - a quantum world that he and his physicist partner hope to access through a breach of time and space itself.

    Max says: "Utterly Brilliant"
    "Aimless"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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!

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • William Shakespeare's Star Wars

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Ian Doescher
    • Narrated By Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, Ian Doescher, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (264)
    Performance
    (249)
    Story
    (249)

    Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas's epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare's greatest plays. 'Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.

    Amazon Customer says: "To Thine Ears, Brilliance This Doth Be!"
    "'Tis a fine conceit--but no more"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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?

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Great North Road

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Peter F. Hamilton
    • Narrated By Toby Longworth
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (988)
    Performance
    (894)
    Story
    (901)

    A century from now, thanks to a technology allowing instantaneous travel across light-years, humanity has solved its energy shortages, cleaned up the environment, and created far-flung colony worlds. The keys to this empire belong to the powerful North family - composed of successive generations of clones. Yet these clones are not identical. For one thing, genetic errors have crept in with each generation. For another, the original three clone "brothers" have gone their separate ways, and the branches of the family are now friendly rivals more than allies. Or maybe not so friendly....

    Flapjack says: "Get the Timeline and Cast of Characters"
    "Hamilton at his baroque best"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The City & The City

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By China Mieville
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (868)
    Performance
    (450)
    Story
    (452)

    When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlof the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined. Borl must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own.

    James says: "Interesting Premise"
    "Wow. Look down: those waters are DEEP."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Century Rain

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Alastair Reynolds
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (543)
    Performance
    (420)
    Story
    (417)

    Three hundred years from now, Earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to the technological catastrophe known as the Nanocaust. Archaeologist Verity Auger specializes in the exploration of its surviving landscape. Now, her expertise is required for a far greater purpose. Something astonishing has been discovered at the far end of a wormhole: mid-twentieth-century Earth, preserved like a fly in amber.

    DAVID says: "One of John Lee's best performances"
    "Very successful fusion of noir and hard SF"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Far Time Incident

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Neve Maslakovic
    • Narrated By Mary Robinette Kowal
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (39)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (34)

    Thanks to the time travel lab at St. Sunniva University, history is no longer a mystery. But when the beloved co-inventor of the university’s time machine is inexplicably smeared across time, academic exploration and the future of St. Sunniva is thrown into doubt. As assistant to the dean of science, Julia Olsen is tasked with helping Campus Security Chief Nate Kirkland quietly examine this rare mishap…then, just as quietly, make it go away.

    Alex Levine says: "Academic Mystery with a Time Travel Twist"
    "Academic Mystery with a Time Travel Twist"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Red Planet Blues

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Robert J. Sawyer
    • Narrated By Christian Rummel
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (429)
    Performance
    (381)
    Story
    (387)

    Alex Lomax is the one and only private eye working the mean streets of New Klondike, the Martian frontier town that sprang up 40 years ago after Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly discovered fossils on the Red Planet. Back on Earth, where anything can be synthesized, the remains of alien life are the most valuable of all collectibles, so shiploads of desperate treasure hunters stampeded to Mars in the Great Martian Fossil Rush.

    Craig says: "Gumshoe on Mars"
    "Predictable. Did I say predictable? Predictable."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Off Armageddon Reef: Safehold Series, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By David Weber
    • Narrated By Oliver Wyman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1258)
    Performance
    (717)
    Story
    (724)

    When Earth herself lay under siege by an enemy humankind could not defeat, mankind undertook one last throw of the dice: Operation Ark. Earth's final colonizing expedition was meant to build a new civilization, on a planet so distant even the Gbaba might never find it, and without the high-tech infrastructure whose emissions might betray its location.

    Alison says: "David Weber always good"
    "Not original--but fun and very clever"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'll admit it: David Weber is one of my guilty pleasures. I've read or listened to every one of the Honor Harrington books and associated spin-offs. Some of the action sequences in the Safehold series will strike Honor Harrington fans as very familiar. I'm surely not the only one to notice that space battles 2000 years in the future bear an astonishing resemblance to eighteenth century naval battles. In the Safehold series Weber has brought the naval broadside back to its original vehicle, the cannon-armed sailing vessel.

    Weber has also come up with a very clever device to allow him to get away with countless allusions to and outright absorption of mythological, historical, and literary sources. After all, we are told, the whole religious canon of the world of Safehold was plagiarized from terrestrial originals. This makes the author's occasional lapses of originality (how many times does one need to hear the line, "Here I stand, I can do no other"?) sound arch and meta, rather than hackneyed. It works.

    At the time of this writing the series is up to six rather long books. I won't review the rest of them, except to say that while they sometimes drag, I'm still looking forward to the next.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Amulet of Samarkand: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Jonathan Stroud
    • Narrated By Simon Jones
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2046)
    Performance
    (870)
    Story
    (874)

    Nathaniel is eleven-years-old and a magician's apprentice, learning the traditional art of magic. All is well until he has a life-changing encounter with Simon Lovelace, a magician of unrivaled ruthlessness and ambition. When Lovelace brutally humiliates Nathaniel in public, Nathaniel decides to speed up his education, teaching himself spells far beyond his years. With revenge on his mind, he masters one of the toughest spells of all and summons Bartimaeus, a five-thousand-year-old djinni, to assist him.

    Randy says: "Terrific Trilogy"
    "Not just another kid magician!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The narration by Simon Jones and the incredibly fun prose made this book for me, and the two that followed. I am normally turned off by a surfeit of unsympathetic characters, or by a theme (in this case, that of child magician) that has been done to death. But Jones turns both liabilities into assets, simply by writing much better than almost everyone in the genre. About the characters: nearly all of the humans (and all of the important ones) are unmitigated jerks. This isn't a spoiler; it's pretty clear a few minutes in. The "demons," and especially Bartimaeus, are where the psychological interest lies.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Blue Remembered Earth

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Alastair Reynolds
    • Narrated By Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (287)
    Performance
    (265)
    Story
    (265)

    Critically acclaimed author Alastair Reynolds holds a well-deserved place “among the leaders of the hard-science space opera renaissance." (Publishers Weekly). In Blue Remembered Earth, Geoffrey Akinya wants nothing more than to study the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But when his space-explorer grandmother dies, secrets come to light and Geoffrey is dispatched to the Moon to protect the family name - and prevent an impending catastrophe.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "A surprising and staisfying departure for Reynolds"
    "Kept me going."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was my first Alastair Reynolds, though probably not my last. I actually bought it for the reading by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, whose phenomenal performances made the Ben Aaronovitch "Rivers of London" series worthwhile all by themselves. This is an earlier effort by Holdbrook-Smith, and I don't think he'd quite gotten the hang of it, yet. It's also clearly further removed from the comfort zone of his diction, which I'd describe as "fifty shades of London."

    The story is engaging, and the setting (22nd Century Earth (East Africa), Moon, Mars, and points outward in the Solar System) well-developed. I found none of the main characters especially appealing. In an extreme case that would lead me to stop listening to a book, but I got through this one, and enjoyed it. This isn't a high concept work, but it's solid hard SF.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Midnight Riot: Peter Grant, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Ben Aaronovitch
    • Narrated By Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1244)
    Performance
    (1132)
    Story
    (1130)

    Probationary constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London's Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he'll face is a paper cut. But Peter's prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter's ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale....

    Nancy J says: "I LOVE this Book!"
    "Great story, even better narration"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have now listened to all three of the books in this series published to date. Aaronovitch has wonderfully fresh urban diction, and a fantastic ear for London. The plotting is a bit contrived in this first installment, but it doesn't really matter; the book is driven by character and ambiance. The next two books are more tightly plotted. I would have enjoyed listening to this book with even a mediocre reader, but Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is something special. In some ways I'm reminded of Lenny Henry's reading of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys: once you've listened to either book, you can't imagine it being read by anyone else. Holdbrook-Smith has nailed the character voices superlatively, and the voice of the protagonist, Peter Grant, essentially perfectly. He's got a great sense of irony and its limitations.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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