A collection of short stories raking place in the early years of Pern, including the initial survey of the planet, First Fall is a good listen overall. Unfortunately, the reader, Meredith MacRae, is bland and lifeless. All of the stories feature multiple characters and MacRae's reading and lack of inflection or characterization makes it difficult to follow who's who. Likewise, it's very difficult to differentiate between male and female characters as MacRae fails to alter her vocal pitch at all.
The stories themselves are well written, but the actual reading makes for a difficult and distracting listen.
Metatropolis has some interesting ideas. It has some good stories and it has some not so good. The basic premise, create a future world in which cities have been forced to take new forms, is solid sf material. The way the stories that evolve from those cities is sometimes too preachy. Jay Lake's "In the Forests of the Night" is in this category. Yes, we get that the world ran out of resources. Yes, we get that Man is evil. Say it once, maybe twice, but don't keep beating us over the head with the rhetoric.
The other stories are somewhat better, with Elizabeth Bear's "The Red in the Sky is Our Blood" is being probably the best overall story. Bear manages to make the listener care about not only her main character but the secondary characters that she deals with as she moves through the plot.
The overall feel of the anthology is definitely cyberpunk. Or maybe eco-punk is the correct term. Not anything new, really, but each author has his or her own take and gives the world a slightly different feel.
Several other reviews have mentioned the slowness of the readers. This is true, especially in the first couple of stories. I had the feeling as I continued through the stories that this was at least somewhat intentional. The world of Metatropolis has slowed down and the the readers use the slower reading pace to reenforce the feeling of a slower, less frenetic feel.
Overall it's a good collection and worth a listen.
I went in to The Hunger Games set to be disappointed. I usually am when something gets as much hype as this has. The hype is well deserved. The story is very solid and well-told and the characters are engaging if occasionally a little wooden. There are certain cliches used to flesh out some characters but these work because Suzanne Collins uses cliches the right way. As a short hand way of showing who and what a character is. The actual Games, when they finally happen, are suspenseful and engaging and listeners will find themselves pulling for certain characters, loathing others and wanting to know more about others who show up all too briefly before their deaths.
Make no mistake, characters die in this book. Most of them in gruesome ways, though Collins is careful to keep the graphic nature of some deaths hidden, which allows the listener to imagine something even worse.
Still, the story progresses well and the climax is almost, but not quite, what the listener expects.
If there is any one thing that brings my rating down on this it is an annoying choice by the sound editors. To the author's credit, she avoids the use of "he says" and "I say" as much as possible in her first-person story. In print this is probably a joy to read. However, It feels as though the director had Carolyn McCormick say "I say", "he says" and "she says" one time each and then edited those in where necessary. Perhaps it's McCormick's reading but it honestly sounds like an edit every time I hear it and it's so jarring it pulls me out of the story.
Beyond that, McCormick does a good job with a fairly large cast of characters, both male and female. She does her best to make sure the listener can tell the difference between all of them in a scene. This is helped by Collins' decision to keep speaking roles in a scene down to no more than six at any given time, and usually less.
In all, The Hunger Games is good story for its intended audience and a solid read for anyone interested in a dystopian action-adventure story with strong young characters.
I read American Gods when it first came out and was amazed by what Neil Gaiman had done. I've been a Gaiman fan since his work on Sandman and understood that the core of his stories is almost always myth and storytelling. American Gods has these in spades.
This new recording, featuring a full cast, is actually very good. Some say that there is no life in the characters, but there is. It's set against the bleak backdrop of a war between gods old and new. It's set against the seeming non-involvement of the main character, Shaodow, who often seems to be along for the ride but ultimately acts as the one character the listener can relate to in a world filled with fantastical creatures called gods.
The first several times the cast interacts with the narrator can be jarring, but once the listener is used to the voices and the rhythm that builds over the first chapter or so, it becomes natural and the listener can get in to the story proper.
American Gods is dense. This edition has some 12,000 more words than previous editions. It is not a book to be taken lightly. It requires thought and it requires patience. Those willing to give it those things will find a solid, entertaining and thought provoking listen.
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