I have read & listened to hard science fiction for decades; this goes down (way down) as one of the worst of the worst. I found it incredibly difficult to keep track of who/where/when.
Part of the problem is the reader's fault; he does not pause, even slightly, at scene or chapter changes. The book will jump character, time (decades, even), & setting all at once but there is no cue at all to let the listener know of the transitions. I am not sure I could keep track of this mess even in print.
Cheesy, cartoonlike accents do not help, which could be blamed on the reader but nevertheless add to the annoyance factor.
It's easy to believe that this is his first work; it has the neophyte habit of tossing out cool, futuristic-sounding terms just to make the reader feel "primitive." At first, I went back & checked to make sure this wasn't a sequel to another book, thinking a lot of this garbage must have been explained previously. I've read &/or heard & enjoyed 2 other Alistair Reynolds books --Pushing Ice & Century Rain. I will approach any others with caution.
This is such a classic book, and martin Jarvis is such an incredibly good reader, that I almost don't know what to say other than, this is great! I only wish it was longer.
The three fellows & the dog floated down the river back when men really did wear straw boaters & women corsets & big hats, and for a woman to show her ankle was an utter scandal. Jerome's humor is delightful, and the situations the group get into are hilarious. It's the kind of book one can read or listen to repeatedly. A good book to read after this is Connie Willis's "To Say Nothing of the Dog," wherein people visit that time, and happen to run into Jerome & his fellow travelers.
It doesn't seem to happen often, but sometimes the Powers That Be manage to make the perfect choice for narrator --another one that I just got was Stephen King's "The Stand" + Grover Gardner. When it does happen, it's wonderful.
As an introductory note, I'm almost impossible to offend, whether by gore, sex, or obscene language. That said, I am put off by garbage written by people who use the gore, sex, or language in a juvenile way, merely to try to be 'shocking' or because they're too stupid or lazy to come up with true creativity.
This is not really a horror novel: it is a masturbatory exercise which sounds as if it was written by a very seriously disturbed adolescent --one who has zero experience with the opposite sex, btw. This supposedly is a new take on horror with Bigfoot in the starring role. For the most part, Bigfoot is one of the more sympathetic characters, to my mind; he at least has the excuse of being not sentient enough to be blamed for his atrocious behavior. However, the "writer" has made of Bigfoot a slavering rapist, with both him & his victims obsessing constantly on him sticking 'his big thing' into their warm holes. So amongst the tearing up of people, he fantasizes on raping them.
Then we have James, the college student who's supposedly a nerd but is in reality far scarier than the creature...he's a sociopathic rapist killer who calmly plans to slice his girlfriend's throat so he can 'get some' of his dead best friend's girlfriend. And he doesn't particularly care if the holes belong to live or dead females, either. Actually, there's not a lot, character & morality-wise, to distinguish Bigfoot from James; I can't help but wonder if one were to dump him in a vat of Nair, shove him into jeans & a tee, and send him off to James's prospective employer, would they notice? Give him a card that says "sorry, I've got laryngitis" & probably not.
Aside from the puerile pornographic tone, the writing is just bad. There's a large chunk early in the book where we follow a character getting home from work, and I mean we follow every second of her movements, including the tearing off & subsequent usage of toilet paper...another type of voyeurism I really could do without (there's quite of bit of literal potty activity in the whole book). Schwamberger uses phrases such as "[such and such] moved this way and that way" over & over & over, apparently incapable of thinking of unique ways of describing things. He goes into ludicrous, inane details like "he pressed the gas pedal down with his right foot and accelerated up the ramp" that made me feel like he was paid by the word & wanted to pad it (how else do most people press the gas pedal, & what else usually happens when you do it?).
To add insult to injury, the reader is dreadful. He reads in a drab monotone, and there are more instances of repeated sentences in this than in any of the hundreds of audiobooks I've listened to. I'm not sure I blame the guy, really, having to read this dreck, but if he is a professional --which I tend to doubt-- he should at least try to do a decent job.
I have jotted a note to myself to never again waste a second on this author or this narrator. He doesn't even manage to shock me, just irritate me & cause me to think how pathetic this product is.
I've got all the Kaminski/Toby Peters books on audio, & they're all a fun listen. This one gets screwy stars because for some bizarre reason, the editors failed to catch on to the fact that Tom Parker (aka Grover Gardner) sounds like he's on heavy doses of horse tranquilizers. I've listened to dozens if not hundreds of this reader's performances under all his pseudonyms, & know that it ain't his fault; he is consistently excellent even when the material is dreck. There must've been some technical problems that ruined it. There's a good book & great performance under here....too bad we don't get to hear it.
Campbell clearly is proud of the fact that he realizes that with light-distances, you can’t know what’s going on in a battle because what you see is what happened minutes or hours away, and it could really be over & you wouldn’t know it until the info had time to get to you. We know this because he said so in the intro and re-said so approximately every 8-10 pages throughout the entire book, it seemed. I’ve seldom felt so beaten over the head by anything in a work of fiction; usually that type of repetition is reserved for super-extremist propaganda written by wacko fanatical types.
The main breaks between reminders of how brilliant the author was to think of this time thing occur by having Geary & the Co-President compete to see who can come up with the most paranoid theories of the other’s vile, devious plots ‘n’ machinations as their relationship progresses. These two are suspicious enough of each other to need tinfoil underwear to go with their lined hats.
Plot-wise, this second book advanced things very, very, very little from where things were at the end of Book 1. Nearly the entire book was taken up with the light-time wowees & Captain/Co-Pres bickerfests. Campbell did introduce a significant inter-ship conflict, but does almost nothing with it. All he did was set it up early on, wedge a brief mention now & then between "me so brilliant" & Suspicionpalooza episodes, then dash off a quickie few sentences about it toward the end.
What fun. I thought the first LF book was okay, decent enough that I tried #2. Big oops, big waste of a credit, big waste of time. The only thing approaching entertainment was listening to the various ways the reader mangled Geary’s name; my favorite was the numerous times it sounded like “Gooey.” Good Cap’n Gooey, hero of the space ways. Henceforth, Gooey will have to try to save the Alliance without me. If this book's degree of plot advancement is any indication, there'll be a few dozen more before they get anywhere or accomplish much of anything against the Syndics.
Far from the worst medical thriller I've read/heard, this also is far from the best. I will say that it's the first time that having migraines for 35 years helped me figure out the culprit in a mystery thriller...not a real bonus, but what the hey. It had fairly good science, the characters were ok.
I wish I could give the reader 2 1/2 stars; he did an okay job on most things, if not inspired, but he made the mistake of trying to give the South African character a South African accent...he fails. The woman sounds like an Aussie with a badly sprained tongue. I worked & socialized with several South Africans for 4 years, so I'm familiar with the accent & know it's one of the more difficult ones to try and imitate, but Ochlan would've been much better off to just not have tried.
Sort of an underwhelming book, i didn't cringe too much listening to it (except when the SA woman was speaking), but it was rather forgettable. I doubt I'll listen to it again, unless I get desperate.
This is my first time with both Alexiades & Holland, so I tried to keep an open mind. My first reaction to the reader was that he was somewhat amateurish, either over- or under-doing emphasis & characterization, but I got used to him within the first hour or so & after that he didn't really improve or detract from the story.
As for the book itself....it's got some good points; some of the characters are fairly 3-D, with enough complexity & backstory to seem realistic. Luckily, the main character is one of those. I found the evil bad guy to be a bit flat....I never did really 'get into' him or grow to hate or like him. Why he did the horrible things he did (not going to go into it in detail lest I spoil things) wasn't terribly believable for me. I'm extremely flexible as far as suspending disbelief goes, and will ride along with all sorts of wild, supernatural/unnatural/extrasensory/alien stuff if the author provides any sort of quasi-realistic framework for it. This didn't really fly for me, though I'm not certain whether that was a fault in the book or because I had trouble keeping my attention focused...which could indicate a different type of problem with the book. I never did get a sense of how/where he lived, & again I'm not sure whether it was a lack in writing or just failure to keep my attention.
The way the book is structured --jumping between different characters-- occasionally was confusing until I managed to keep them all straight.
The worst part of the book was how many of the women & sexual relationships were presented. I'm the last person to be called a feminist & am tough to offend, but most of the females were portrayed as if written by a hormonally hopped-up 14-year-old boy. Must be something in the water in that hospital; the women are nearly all nymphomaniacs. It got tedious & ludicrous, like the author was practicing his submissions to Penthouse Forum.
Other than that ridiculousness, the book was an okay thriller/scary book. Sort of. I'd be happier if it'd been one of those 4.95 books, though.
I suppose it could be said that I'm biased....I've been a Stephen King fan for decades, and as for Grover Gardner, I have a hard time listening to audiobooks by other readers, because his combination of terrific voice, excellent pacing, and outstanding characterization make him hard to equal. I didn't know, before this outing, that GG had a truly goosebump-inducing evil chuckle tucked behind his larynx, but he sho' does! When Flagg gave an evil chuckle, the sun seemed to dim.
So I'm inclined to say it doesn't get much better than this; one of King's finest books read by one of the world's best readers. Audiobook producers so often screw up good books by having them performed by incredibly lousy readers; I'm SO glad they got this one 100% right!!
i seem to be in the minority here, but I thought this book was so stupid I couldn't stand to finish it, despite the fact that Grover Gardner is one of my all-time fave readers (& he did his usual outstanding job).
Perhaps some of the problem is from translation; I cannot 'stay in' a book set in the 1600s where a character uses "Whatever" in the sense that modern-day teens use it --as in, indicating indifference to anther's statement, for example. There were a few other examples of modern idiom, and a lot of just really hideous dialogue.
Another problem, not translational: the enormous contrast between the anachronistically enlightened/aware hangman & the other superstitious/ignorant villagers was just ridiculous; the hangman not only recognizes that need for cleaning wounds several centuries before anyone else, he realizes all this witch (& much other) stuff is mere ignorant superstition, & to round it out he beats Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock by centuries in his sleuthing. He's way too over the top brilliant & aware.
btw, for those who have trouble reconciling how the kindly healer can also be hangman & torturer, we see in the very first paragraph that the protagonist is himself 'tortured' by what he has to do; we see him getting drunk & generally having a nervous breakdown when it comes time for him to do his thing, especially when he thinks the torturee/executionee is undeserving...he also slips the innocent really groovy drugs before going to work on 'em, so they hardly feel a thing. (that's another thing; I could only wish my current medications were 1/10th as effective as some of his herbal remedies...they just ain't that good).
In contrast to the uber-genius hangman, other characters do such incredibly moronic things that I found myself hoping they'd get killed off before they got a chance to breed (or annoy me further). Things like (this is not a spoiler, it's not something that actually happens, but exactly parallel things do). Stuff like:
--characters X & Y are being chased by others, down a box canyon at night. X & Y are sneaking along, then stop in bushes to listen for sounds of pursuit. Suddenly X stands up & yells "HELLOOO!" Y grabs X & hisses "What are you doing?!" X answers, "I wanted to see if the echo works at night."
--X & Y are being pursued another time (still night). X comes up behind Y, puts hand over Y's mouth so Y doesn't scream, whispers in Y's ear "Shh, it's me, don't scream." Y nods. X lets go. Y shouts "Don't put your hand over my mouth, I hate that!!
Like that. Too dumb to live. I got so annoyed by things that that, & by how over-the-top stupid many characters were all around that I managed to stick with the book about 3/4 of the way through, at which time I decided I'd only bother finishing if I thought every character was going to die a horrible death. But since there are further books in the series, clearly some live on. Needless to say, the hangman, his daughter, & the rest of the gang are going to have to do it without me.
I've read a bunch of DP's books, both solo & with L Childs, but this is definitely not one of the winners. I agree with a number of reviewers who said it seems like a YA novel, at least in many parts. None of the characters (including Dorothy, and her little dog [?!] too) seemed particularly believable, & the kiss request was just idiotic & creepy. I found the kid so incredibly obnoxious that I kept fervently hoping he'd get killed off; yes, I know teenagers can be a trial, and he did have tough things to deal with (like the foot thing*), but it is possible to write a problematic character without having him be so loathsome that the reader prays for his death. Of course, the fact that his parents were also utterly intolerable caused me to cut him a teeny bit of slack, but they were another problem. I must say, Preston has a knack for creating characters which I absolutely cannot stand; some of the jerks in this book make me think that he's responsible for certain characters in the books he wrote with Childs...the reporter Smithback in many of the Pendergast books springs to mind...the kid in this one could be his clone in obnoxiousness.
Preston showed a serious lack of imagination with having two different characters bring somebody out of hiding with the exact same trick-- pretending to abuse something the target cared about. I kept waiting for Ford to mention that he'd learned the trick from the first instance, but it was presented like "what a great idea!" --twice.
Overall, the plot was beyond my ability to suspend disbelief. Could a computer program really hide the way Dorothy did at the end? Perhaps I just don't understand the physics of computing well enough, but I didn't buy it, along with quite a few other things. The dialogue was rather doubtful at times, also.
Sowers did a decent job with what he had to work with. At least he didn't do what the guy who read the Dresden Files did on the first book, which was give vent to these humongous sighs at intervals, like reading the book was the worst thing he'd ever had to trudge through (he either got more interested as the books went along, or learned to suffer in silence).
*granted, I know nothing about surfing, but I had real problems with him never being able to surf again because one leg was shorter than the other. What a weenie! People surf without arms, with 1 1/2 legs, with no legs... there's a picture of a guy without arms OR legs riding a board with a girl with one arm, fa cryin' out loud! Okay, they're not shooting the pipe (or whatever it's called) on a monster 40 foot wave, but sheesh!
I've been re-listening to this series of DP & LC's every now & then for several years; they're great brain candy, take my mind off of the trials of life while I'm driving, gardening, whatever. I'd give this 3.5 stars for the story itself, if I could. It's not, IMO, the best of the series. The reasons I downgrade this particular book (all the judgement on this book --& the series-- is based on them being the aforementioned literary equivalent of cerebral gummy bears, not deathless literature):
1. The perfection of both Pendergast & his bro in all their endeavors stretches even my ability & willingness to suspend disbelief past the breaking point. These guys can do anything, be anything, & they know everything. They're masters of everything from hand-to-hand fighting to great literature (papyrus through Romantic poets to modern day), to gourmet food & wine, every science, computer programming, neurosurgery without a scalpel, morse & all other codes....these guys are incredibly proficient at absolutely everything. They can masquerade as someone else so successfully that people who've had close & extended contact with both characters remain totally clueless (despite the fact that another character notices that one of the brothers has an extremely unique 'personal scent', which goes unnoticed by other people who work with him for years & years).
The Superman-like abilities they have with absolutely everything just goes beyond absurd & reaches annoying this time out..
2. Some of the 2nd tier characters are simply loathsome, when (I think) they're supposed to be sympathetic characters. I'm thinking particularly of Bill Smithback here; he's arrogant, egotistical, devious, obnoxious, ethics-free, and a dreadful snob. Every time he appears in the books, since about 1/3 of the way through "Relic," I've been hoping somebody would kill him off & put him out of my misery. Several of the lesser characters, especially the cops/FBI guys, are so revolting & just so utterly, purely, total jerks that it even goes beyond my ability to believe (Capt Waxey [sp?] in the other book, Agt Coffey in this one).
3 This isn't the writers' fault, but this production has these really annoying, random moments of "mood music" that pops up at idiotic times. In several places they'll run up the music & stop the reader for a few moments, then let him continue, with the music playing under the narration. These gaps come right smack in the middle of scenes, not at natural break points. Far from enhancing the scary or thrilling mood, they totally kill it & aggravate the heck out of the listener. The director should quit audiobooks & go work in radio or movies, if what they really want to do is play with music. When they're working with audiobooks they should stick to audiobooks.
Scott Brick does an excellent job with this one. I wasn't wild about him the first time I heard him, but either he's gotten better or I've learned to appreciate him more. I just listened to his reading of "The Passage" (Justin Cronin), & thought he did an outstanding job, even better than any of his renditions of Preston & Child's books.
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