There is not particular reason you should pay any attention to my review of this book as I only listened to the first 45 minutes of it before I returned it to audible. I am sure there are those who loved this book, (after all it says it is a No.1 bestseller), but I can only assume they are heavily medicated. An absolute monotone delivery of an absolutely monotone book.
That's the big question in any story as far as I am concerned; what happened? It can be answered after figuring out how, in every circumstance, did the protagonist get out of all that trouble the author put him/her/them in and how did they grow through the story.
In this case, in Engines of God, the answer to that main question is; nothing. Nothing happened. The tension built (sort of) again and again and...nothing. At least nothing happened that anyone would care about. Throw an asteroid in the ocean and possibly kill everyone...sorry, shouldn't have done it. Thank God no one died. Throw a really giant snowball at the space station...just getting even. Thank God no one died. And on and on and on and...
I have never listened to a science fiction story where the intrepid explorers were so freaked out by the idea that someone might die and careers were ended when someone did. I could go on but I won't. It was easily the most boring book I have ever listened to.
This series has been interesting enough that I have, with thoughtful intent, purchased and listened to it. The story concept is interesting and the military aspect is pretty well thought out. When combat is engaged, both space and personal, it's fun, it's creative and based on the realities of this story universe it's conceivable.
The problems, like in so much other sf writing, exist in the story telling not in the genre. Two separate issues stand out that dampen my enjoyment of the writing. All too often the amount of detail supplied to set the stage or build a character feels more like it is there just to fill the page. The flavor of the food at dinner or the ice-cream for dessert or the art on the walls or the plants in the garden when given so much focus and detail become important beyond their simple colorful existence. It feels, at the very least, like foreshadowing and yet is never mentioned again. To paraphrase a quote all writers know 'don't talk about the shotgun over the mantel unless someone is going to use it'.
My biggest issue with the writing drives me to distraction. Everyone knows that tension/conflict drives the story forward. Put the drive characters in trouble then get them out of it. Accelerating and increasing the tension as the story progress builds to the grand solution and defines the plot. In this series, (and too many others), much of the conflict is created because the otherwise often brilliant characters become amazingly stupid. Simple things any reader realizes at the time that the character would say, or remember, or do, or think; they just...don't. I find myself screaming at the characters, 'Did you forget what you just said to the other guy? What, you don't remember you have a gun in your pocket? You don't think the police might want to know that you saw the killer?"
Many of these things are more frustrating when listening to an audio book of course. When I am reading a book and the writer starts getting bogged down in detail I just scan forward picking up the important stuff and ignore the fluff. Does this pull me out of the story? Yes. But ii is so much more frustrating when listening to a book because you can't scan. You can fast forward but then you miss all the detail.
Then why do I keep listening to writing that frustrates me? Because I like the story concept and I keep hoping the writing gets better. But most of all; recognizing poor writing in detail makes me a better writer.
Why is it that so many narrators seem to believe it is their job to translate, for me, the meaning and emotion of the writing that I would have to depend on the author to provide if I were reading the book? Please, somebody, just read the book to me. If I wanted 'a movie in my mind' or 'pictures in my head' there are other companies that not only provide that with multiple narrators as characters, they are reading works designed to be read that way. If the author can’t create those elements in the story I don’t believe the story would be worth reading; or listening to. But that’s just me. Having said that I believe Ms. Holloway does a credible job of reading the book. She is not my favorite but she is a long way from being so bad I won't listen.
I really like the story line in this series. A young daughter of privilege, in a respected trading family, is kicked out of military school with just one month to go, having already proven to be an excellent student, and is 'gotten out of town' by being sent out with her own ship on a trading mission. By means of a series of mishaps and happenstance the author creates the conflict that allows the protagonist to develop her character and move forward into more conflict that allows her to...I mean that is how it is done, right?
In books I like the most the author takes the story in the direction that makes sense and stems from conflict that was created in believable scenarios based on the fictional universe they have created. When I say 'in the direction that makes sense' I really mean in the direction I think it should go. If the author surprises me and goes in a different direction that ends up, (in my opinion), in an even better direction I fall in love with that author and become a fan. Even though I like Ms. Moon's story's I am not a fan. I often disagree with how she creates conflict and how the character makes their forward-moving decisions, though I usually agree with the decisions they make.
In "Trading In Danger" the author uses exposition in such a way that it kills the momentum of the plot and bogs down the story. There are too many decisions based on the inner thoughts of so many of the characters that I dread those long, critical inner dialogs they have with themselves. The silliest example is that the protagonist 'discovers' that she likes killing even though she is a very nice, moral person. She then goes on to bemoan the issue, in her mind mostly but also with a few others 'like' her throughout the rest of the story.
But then again; I still want to know what happens next.
What did I like best about this book? Chapter 1. What did I like least? Chapters 2 thru 5. That's when I quit listening. I did skip systematically forward searching for the continuation of the sf aspect but finally gave up . I have no desire to try to be scholarly or word clever, most others who wrote reviews have that covered. I just want to be clear. This is not a science fiction story. It is a slice-of-life character study based in a somewhat alternate history earth foundation similar to Elizabethan England with pig-powered electrical generation and storm-trooper like police forces. The writing is clever, quirky, fun and as boring as it gets. The narrator does a fine job with characterizations and reads in a very consistent monotone which is fine since it seems to be written the same way. For those who love this book; more power to you. If you are looking for a novel that actually bases the story on SCIENCE fiction don't bother with it.
If that ever happens to me I will quit listening to books.
For God's sake why? The protagonist's character arc is a sine wave and the conflict is driven mostly by his total lack of identity.
Probably not though I am enjoying it okay. I know the three main characters are just 16 or 17 but their relationship with their parents are amazing sweet and sticky. Also, the kids are just so.... sweet. Also, I think Mr Phillips could have done a little more research on the psychopathology of the really nasty antagonist being both a sadist and a masochist and on the reality of this character actually being all he was supposed to have been in the Army.
Having said all that I think it is a great idea and the story is written more than well enough for me to want to keep listening because I want to know what happens next.
Maybe it's just me but are more and more narrators interpreting and performing the emotional aspects of the story for the reader now? The best part of reading, rather than listening to, a book is interpreting and reacting to the emotional aspect of the story the way I feel it. I hate it when the narrator does it for me and I think they are wrong. Without exception I like the narrators who read the book, with perhaps some characterization and some minor emotion, but don't try to ACT the book. If I wanted a 'movie in my mind' or 'a story in my head' I would listen to the serializations that are written and acted to be just that; but I don't. I am now starting to pay as much attention to the narrator as I do to the author. In this case the narrator is right on the edge. I hope he doesn't crossover that line or I won't listen to any more books he narrates.
Not particularly. When I read a book on writing I am really looking for information on story form, character development, building tension-something like that. This book is a great look into a writer's life (a particular writer) and in that regard probably valuable for people who want to know about Anne Lamott.
Sure, she read herself just like she probably is.
Not for me. I have very little interest into the inner workings of Anne Lamott.
I felt much of what she was saying was being presented as sage advice or the truth about, well anything, but I don't think that was what it was. I believe it was just one more person's opinion about how to live. Totally valid is that is what you are looking for. It just wasn't what I was looking for.
Almost every conflict that pushes the plot is based on every race involved being so stupid when it comes to psychology that nothing makes sense. Every race involved is an advanced race used to dealing with other alien races yet they cannot accept that every other race might act and react different than them or each other. Not only do they act this way with new races but even with the race they have been dealing with for decades. It gets very tiring watching every character's inability to realize the other races act differently and never being able to either predict how they will act or understand why anything is done the way it is done.
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