Kevin J Anderson has returned with an extension to the Saga Of The Seven Suns. This book, which takes place about 20 years after the end of the previous Saga, involves many of the same people, adds new characters and picks up in the worlds left at the end of the previous book sequence. The known worlds have settled back into normalcy. King Peter is head of the confederation, the Hanza is gone and things are pretty much at peace.
As with the previous Saga this book’s main thrust is on character development and things happen slowly. The story introduces both the previous and the new characters with events that seem both familiar (to those who read the Saga Of The Seven Suns) and a bit mundane - a father kidnapping his son to keep him safe from great danger, a hate-filled wife out to destroy her husband, Roamer clans seeking independence in a life “on the edge” and other major and minor characters. The story builds from the mundane to the serious to the critical in an expected fashion with a sudden new and terrible enemy showing up and threatening the existing peace and, of course, ends in a decent cliff-hanger. It is worth mentioning to those who have not read the previous set of books that the story will make good sense even if someone has not read The Saga Of The Seven Suns. Mr Anderson gives enough background so that the reader will not feel at a loss in understanding what is happening and why.
I was a bit reluctant to buy this book since it took Audible three years to make the remaining books of the previous Saga available even though the books had been written and published in print form. I started reading the previous Saga expecting that it would be a trilogy and that the books would be available and was a bit put off finding that only the first 3 books were actually available on Audible. After waiting 3 years for the remaining books to be made available I told myself (after finally finishing the remaining books) that I would not buy into another sequence until and unless all of the books were actually published and available on Audible, but relented because I did enjoy most of Mr Anderson’s previous books and was intrigued by a continuation of the story.
There is much to recommend this book - the familiar characters, the continuing universe of the previous story and the appearance of a great new danger, but there are also some drawbacks for me. I have no wish to wait another 3 or 4 or 5 years after print publication of these books to be able to buy the rest of this series, much of the time in the book is taken up with not much happening and there is always the fear that the resolution, when it comes, will be a bit unbelievable as it was for me in The Sage Of The Seven Suns.
The narration is done quite well although Mark Boyett has a tendency to pronounce some things slightly differently than the previous narrator David Colacci who, in turn, pronounced some things slightly differently than the previous narrator, George Guidall. Still, the book is interestingly done and, if you enjoyed The Sage Of The Seven Suns, you will probably enjoy this book as well.
This book is not a retelling of the Battle of the Bulge and many of the most famous participants are not even mentioned here. As examples (on the German side), Sepp Dietrich and Joachim Peiper and (on the Allied Side) Bernard Montgomery are not even mentioned and others like General Hasso von Manteuffel and Field Marshall Walter Model are only mentioned briefly. Nor is this book about the fight of the 102 Airborne Division in Bastogne and their actions are only covered briefly. Rather this book is very detailed description of the drive of Patton’s 3rd Army from around Saarbrucken and Luxembourg up to Bastogne to break through to those trapped there and to cut off the German forces in the south of the Bulge and, as such, it describes in great detail each battle that the 3rd Army engaged in during their drive through Belgium.
As a book about the battles it succeeds very well. It is clear that soldiers from both sides of the fights in all of the small towns along the way were interviewed by the author and their stories are told very well and I certainly came away more fully understanding both the sacrifices of those involved and the intensity of the fighting during the drive north. While I have read many books that covered the war on the Western Front, all of those covered the Battle of the Bulge by covering the actions taken by the German forces trying to fight their way to Antwerp and the Allied forces trying to stop them and none of those books gave the details of Patton’s attempt to relive those at Bastogne. Here we find the stories of the individual soldiers, both officers and enlisted men, of both armies, their attempts to both follow their orders and to stay alive and the fighting tactics of both sides are examined in detail.
The print version of this book contains maps and the prime disadvantage of the Audible version is that it does not. Much of the fighting takes place in small, out of the way, towns in Belgium and I found it very difficult to follow where the individual fighting groups were and how their positions and the terrain affected their decisions. Most online maps cover the larger thrusts and counter-thrusts of the major efforts north of the actions in this book and more modern maps are likely to contain both misleading information (they are 70 years too new and small towns may now be relatively large cities) and routes that did not exist at the time of the fighting. Some Audible history books do very well because they are overviews of what is happening but this book is very detailed in its descriptions and I found it hard to find many of the roads and towns mentioned on maps of the Battle of the Bulge.
On the other hand the stories of those involved are clear, very interesting and encapsulate the larger struggle, and the relative merits of the individual weapons was a big help. Here we find a description of both the advantages and disadvantages of the Sherman tank, why the Stuart tanks were still in use this late in the war, the various different configurations of the tanks and, perhaps in too much detail, the physical weapon makeup of both the US and German divisions. In addition, although much of the book is about how the various weapons affected the battle, the book never loses sight of the people involved, civilians and soldiers.
It is difficult for me to adequately rate this book since I am torn between rating the content of the book itself and the failings of the Audible version because it does not contain any maps or photos. Without maps the timeline and sequence was difficult for me to follow. The book was also a bit of a disappointment because it concentrates on the front line soldiers and there is little of what was happening at a higher level. I personally would have liked to have learned more about what was going on at the headquarters of both sides during this part of the battle and also about how the effort to break through to those at Bastogne affected the strategy of others involved in the fighting in the Bulge. It is easy to get the feeling that Patton just turned his 3rd Army to the north and then let them work it all out on their own since nothing in the book says otherwise. Patton, being who he was, certainly was more involved, but any such involvement does not appear in this book.
Tom Weiner’s narration is very well done. If allowed I would give this book 3 1/2 stars because of the limitations of the Audible version but, since I cannot and since 3 stars seems too low a rating, I have given it 4 stars. For what it is, the book is very well done. I just would have liked a larger picture.
I have read three biographies of Winston Churchill, one of them (by William Manchester) was itself three volumes, so I was not sure there was much about his life that was there to be learned and had some hesitation about buying this book. But Boris Johnson, who is himself an interesting politician with an even more interesting background, has written a book which is not a biography but a book about what made Churchill capable of being the one man who saved Western Civilization from the horrors of Nazi Germany. Thus Mr Johnson looks at the things that made Churchill who he was and how those characteristics contributed to the one person who was essential at a truly pivotal moment.
But Mr Johnson has created a canvas of more than just World War II and looked at Churchill’s contributions in The Boer War, World War I, World War II and the period leading up to the start of the European Union and shown how, at each point, Churchill’s contributions were essential to Britain’s victories or were ignored by those in power resulting in decisions that left Britain far worse off than it could have been. Indeed, while Churchill and World War II are at the core of how people remember Churchill Mr Johnson spends a great deal of time covering Churchill’s work on behalf of the working poor in the UK, his efforts to improve the living conditions of the poor throughout the British Empire, his efforts to secure a united and peaceful Europe after the war and much, more more. As part of this we are treated to many stories and anecdotes, both true and false, about Churchill’s life, we look at what helped make him the person he became and how the world we are living in today is largely his legacy. The book is amusing at times, sorrowful at others but always interesting.
The book is not an academic approach but is clearly a work of admiration for a truly great man and Mr Johnson makes the case that there was no one else who could have taken Churchill’s place, at least during World War II, and that had he not been who he was the world we live in today would be very, very different. The book is narrated by Simon Shepherd who does a very good job. Highly recommended for those with an interest in recent British history.
Frankie Machine is a mafia killer and he is called "The Machine" because, when given an order to kill someone, he just does it like a machine. No questions. No excuses. He just does the job. So why am I cheering for this thoroughly bad guy to get out of this mess alive?
Well, I suppose it helps that he has only been asked to kill other mafia types. And I suppose it helps that he has a normal sort of family. And I suppose it helps that he has retired and is trying to live a normal life. But, most of all, I suppose it helps because Don Winslow has written a thoroughly enjoyable edge of your seat sort of book where Frankie, who has become a target for other mafia killers, is trying to stay alive long enough to find out why they are out after him. He is retired. He is out of the business and trying to live a normal life. Frankie, The Bait Guy, is on the run and, with his ex-wife, his daughter, his girl friend and his acquaintance in the FBI he might just have a chance.
Mr Winslow has given us an excellent book that is part mystery (why are they out after him), part thriller and part love story, all in just the right amounts and Dennis Boutsikaris does just as good a job at narrating as Mr Winslow did in writing. I will certainly be looking for more of Mr Winslow's books in the future.
Jo Walton has given us a brilliantly thought out alternative to the existing post World War II world that we know. England has replaced Churchill with an appeasement minded Prime Minister, has struck a deal with Hitler, the war in western Europe has ended and 8 years later Hitler is still fighting in Russia. England, like all independent powers on the periphery of the Third Reich, has slid into a milder form of fascism and is trying to accommodate itself to the new reality. It is both horrifying and easily believable.
This volume, the second in the series, involves the police, under an independently minded, but politically compromised, inspector trying to determine what was behind the explosion of a bomb in a London area residence. This book, like the first, tackles the story through the eyes of two separate individuals whose fate are eventually intertwined. In this case we have the story through Inspector Carmichael’s eyes and those of the lead actress in a new version of Hamlet that is to be staged. How the two tales come together and how the mystery is solved constitutes this book.
As with the first book in this series the characters seem real, the story progresses logically and nothing that takes place seems unreasonable. The chain of evidence from the bomb to the plot that drives the book is forged one link at a time and it is all so real that this could have been a history rather than a novel. All of the participants are inevitably drawn into their actions by small incremental choices and nothing seems like an unreasonable stretch. The reader is left with both the horror of the created world and the feeling that, without someone like Churchill, all of this could have happened. I was drained at the end of the book by the horror of a world that could easily have been and by the fates of those involved in this book and I needed to keep telling myself that this was a novel and not real.
I did not review the first book in this series because I was also left horrified by the world presented by the story and did not know how to properly explain how both wonderful the book was and how horrible the created world felt but, with the second book, I felt I needed to put something down on paper. Both of these books are simply wonderful, splendidly narrated and will leave you disquieted and uneasy. They certainly did leave me that way. I will buy and read the third volume but I must give myself some time first.
I have read many of Mr Forstchen’s books and generally enjoyed them so, when I saw this book, I naturally added it to my wish list and, when I wanted something light to read, I bought it. The book purports to be a novel about the building of a space based platform allowing humans to both inexpensively bring objects into space and to collect unlimited solar power for distribution on earth, both worthy goals, but the story was a considerable disappointment to me.
First of all the book does not feel like a novel, but rather like a sales brochure for a set of ideas. The characters are comic book simple and one dimensional - either completely selfless, generous and kind or selfish, undeserving and evil hearted. It feels as though there are no real people in this book. Second, the situations in the book also do not feel real. While the underlying concept is probably scientifically sound and within reach of people in the next 20 or so years, the idea that a couple of people could produce the core functionality with the funds generated mostly by one individual seems wishful thinking at best and the idea that the hidden “lie” behind the first effort would not raise a legal ruckus and shut down the project just feels unreasonable. But, of course, the investors, all very wealthy people, are all selfless and willing to give and give and give, even when lied to. It is all a very pretty concept, but I would like to know what planet Mr Forstchen thought he was writing about.
There is more. There seems to be very little of the tension that often makes books interesting. There is virtually no question about what is going to happen, when it is going to happen and how it will be resolved. If this book had been included between the covers of a glossy brochure as a sales promotion for the idea of limitless power from solar cells, the elimination of Global Warming and the end of having to boost rockets into orbit I would understand how simplistic it felt. As it is I do not.
Grover Gardner does the narration and I believe it is impossible for him to do anything other than an outstanding job narrating anything, including this book, but I have always felt that his narration is best suited for books involving historic events - The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, The Civil War and so on. Wasting his talent on a book like this felt like having James Earl Jones do the voice-over for a cartoon - just a waste of his time and talent. So, in spite of his wonderful narration I cannot recommend this book.
It is easiest to think of this book as containing two parts. The first part, an overview of the English Civil War, covers the period from just before the start of the First English Civil War through the Restoration of Charles II and, of necessity, mentions some Royalist and some Parliamentarian victories, the capture, incarceration and trial of the King, the seizure of power by the Army, the formation of the Rump Parliament, the Commonwealth and the Restoration of Charles II after the death of Cromwell. All of this is necessary so as to set the stage for the real tale of this book - the fate of those who most involved with the trial and death of Charles I and especially those whose names were on the King’s Death Warrant and those directly involved with his beheading. Thus this book becomes very personal in regards to what happened to the people referred to as the “Regicides”.
All Civil Wars are full of tragedies but in this book we see those tragedies through the fates of those most heavily involved in the events, both Royalist and Parliamentarian as well as by those scrambling to save their lives by betraying their friends, colleagues and acquaintances. As an American I was not familiar with most of the names of those involved and worried that I would lose track of who was who, who did what and who fought for which side but Mr Spencer was always prepared to let the reader know who each person was whenever it was necessary. While the book is wonderfully written and filled in a large blank space in my knowledge of English history, some parts of it were difficult to listen to. Many of those involved were Hung, Drawn and Quartered and Mr Spencer is, at times I believe, a bit too complete in his descriptions.
Some things shine clearly in this book. One was the perfidy of some of the Parliamentarians who backed the war against the King and, when the Commonwealth became unpopular, not only agitated for the Restoration of Charles II, but sat in judgement of those who did their bidding during the war. Another was the willingness of the Army to decide for itself who should and who should not sit in Parliament. And still others were the thirst for revenge by Charles II and the Royalists upon those who they said “murdered” the King, even to the point of tracking them down both in Europe and in the Colonies, the willingness of those in power to violate the law and their promised word concerning amnesty as well as to browbeat those who sat in the Juries judging the defendants and, of course, the shameful tale of Cromwell’s corpse. In the end what sticks in my mind are the small victories of some of the “Regicides” who managed, in the end, to escape the hunters and assassins and those in Switzerland and the American Colonies who ignored the large promised rewards and helped to protect the fugitives, many of whom were, after all, only guilty of following Parliament’s orders. If you are a fan of Oliver Cromwell this book may not be to your liking.
Mr Spencer has written a very good book which will stick with me for a long time and my view of the entire English Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration has changed due to the excellent writing and splendid narration of Tim Bruce. If you are interested in British history this book is a welcome addition to that subject.
I don’t know precisely what I expected when I bought this book - perhaps the story of an investigation involving different approaches with the British and American methods at odds creating some tension, perhaps conflict between the supervisory government branches of the FBI and Scotland Yard, perhaps something else. What I did not expect is what I got. One dimensional characters who belong in comic books, not in written novels.
We are asked to believe a lot in this book. We have a Scotland Yard investigator who ignores the orders of his superiors with impunity, who has logical and investigative leaps that would make Sherlock Holmes look like a beginner and who apparently can read minds, an FBI agent who can look at a room after a crime has been committed and know what happened and how the crime took place and various other assorted investigators who can break into secure computer facilities without any trouble, sophisticated criminals who don’t bother to secure their computer information and miraculous escapes from bullets, explosions and the like. It is a wonder that, with all of the talents of the investigators in this book, the crime was not solved by the third paragraph.
This story might make a good comic book or, as I believe they are now called, a decent graphic novel, but I cannot recommend it as a serious or even light criminal novel.
I picked this book up as a Daily Deal and found, much to my surprise, that there was an interesting plot with good writing and very well done narration. Ex-FBI agent must find the history of a mysterious book by following clues hidden in a mysterious poem. It might sound familiar, but what make this plot different are what the mysterious book is, when it was written, what information it contains and how that information could possibly have been known when the book was written. That is what makes the plot both intriguing and worth following.
The writing is quite good and the plot (or at least the object for the search) is unique and about a quarter of the way through I was interested enough to look up other books by this author thinking that they might also be entertaining light reading. My first disappointment was finding that this is actually the second book in a series (the first, on Audible, is Secret Of The Seventh Son), although it is not marked as such on Audible, and the entire plot of the previous book is described as the characters in this book go through the process of finding the information they are seeking. Once you have read this book you will almost certainly have no interest in the previous book since all of the mystery will be gone. And, because finding the secret is the core of interest my feeling is that the previous book would have been more interesting than this one.
The second disappointment is that the main character, a seasoned, although retired, FBI agent, suddenly starts doing stupid things. While I do not wish to give any of the plot away it seems clear that an ex-FBI agent should know better than to talk on open phones when he believes that he is being followed by government agents who will do anything to stop him. It could not have been more odd if he had hung signs in the windows saying what he just found and what he was going to do next. The concept was so strange that I really lost interest from the second or third (of tenth) time he acted like a naive civilian.
Still, the plot is unique (or, at least, unique-ish) because of the contents of the book, the writing is good and the narration is first class. Still, had I the chance to do it over again, I would have read the first book in the series first since the telling of the events of the first book in the second lets some of the air out of the suspense.
So, a decent read with those two caveats.
When I reviewed the first book in this series I said that I wondered why I enjoyed it so much and decided that it was because of the wonderful character development along with an interesting and believable storyline. The second book in the series introduced new characters but the essential “whole-ness” of the story and of the characters remained with the new characters integrating seamlessly into the narrative and with one of them becoming a new main character. As with the first two books most of the story was character development and storyline, not battles.
The last book in the series picks up at the cliff-hanger of the end of the second book and is fully the equal of the other two books in the series in all of those particulars that made the first two books such a great pleasure to listen to. The characters are three dimensional and real, the story introduces us to the aliens and to their society as well as to some of the seamier side of humanity, all of the events that occur are reasonable and I found the story so enjoyable that I was reluctant to listen to too much at a time because I did not want to reach the end.
I have listened to quite a few first and second books in a series in this genre but few have been as interesting and none has enticed me into the story as much as this one. Somewhere after the finishing the second book in the series I started to look for other books by the same author feeling that if he could do this well with this series perhaps another series by him would be well worth listening to. I loved this trilogy and I ended up caring about the people, glad for their triumphs and sorry for their failures. The characters and society of the book are British with all of the traditions of the Royal Navy and, for me, that just added to the overall flavor and taste of the book.
All three books were narrated by Ralph Lister who did a consistently good job. Names and pronunciations were constant throughout all three books which added to the pleasure of listening. Highly recommended for anyone interested in stories of first contact, human and alien understanding and misunderstanding and of the unfortunate results of mistaken actions.
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