I'm not going to deal with the plot. It's too painful. Let's talk characters instead. Every character in this book suffers a truly massive case of HCSS (Horror Character Stupid Syndrome); the book is a textbook example of Roger Ebert’s "Idiot Plot" (defined as any plot containing problems which would be solved instantly if all of the characters were not idiots).
Case in point: all through the book, characters have watched a number of friends/colleagues get sliced, diced, & devoured by the Giant Primordial Squid. The GPS suckers (ha!) in the victims by using its Dead Friend Decoys, which it creates using tentacles which have the ability to swell up into lookalikes of the people it’s eaten. Near the end, one character had to be left behind for a while, all alone in the dark with the monster, pretty much guaranteed to get eaten. The gang eventually goes back into the cave & they see the stranded woman standing in the dimness, blank-faced, mute, animated as a stuffed moose, looking exactly like a brainless fake. Does the gang say “Oh no, she got eaten, it’s a decoy! Run away!” Do they hell: “Gasp! She’s alive!” And two of them run to her and give her a big hug. Slurp! I don’t consider this a spoiler because my turtle could see this coming and was not surprised.
The characters are so two-dimensional they’re not even good stereotypes. We have:
The Super Soldier who, through no fault of his own, has been transformed into Something Beyond Human, so of course no one could possibly love him and he’ll never get to know love again, like he had with She Who Had to Be Left Behind. Does he find love with the Super Smart Scientist Girl (who can somehow see past his cool exterior to the warm yet damaged, hidden heart within)? No points for guessing correctly.
The Evil, Greedy Yet Banal Scientist: For anyone old enough (or unlucky enough in reruns) to see the original “Lost in Space” TV series, this guy is more obnoxious & fingernails-on-chalkboard irritating than Dr Smith. What’s even harder to believe is the response of the other characters to this guy: he’s sneeringly condescending, insulting, nagging, nit-picking, tantrum-throwing, sexual-pass-oozing, & power-tripping throughout the book. He repeatedly insists upon moving the whole bunch ever-deeper into the cave so that they end up serving themselves as sequential meal courses for the monster, in order to demonstrate his ‘revolutionary’ machine and make mega-bucks for himself. But everyone treats him with incredible patience and forbearance; nobody even snaps at the guy, making then all immediate candidates for sainthood in my book.
The Super Smart Scientist Girl:
…I can’t go on. You can fill in the blanks.
The science in this book is beyond ridiculous. I know it’s fiction so the author gets to make stuff up. I discovered –and have loved-- science fiction since I was 9. But these compressed-air-bullet weapons are real doozies. Not solid projectiles powered by air. These guns fire adjustable-sized….wads…of compressed air that shoot through ambient air (without dissipating) & impact things just like bullets. As if you could call forth your inner mime & pretend to make a snowball, pack it down tight, throw your pretend-air ball at a window & watch the shards fly! Just like that, only at bullet speeds. Sorry, not even my disbelief suspension mechanism is up to that.
(Well, just goes to show how little I know. There is an actual picture of a biological version of this weapon, Shukaku expelling an air bullet, at the Naruto wiki, under Drilling Air Bullet Harbour Blow. The technique is explained quite simply, under Drilling Air Bullet. It's so obvious --the amount of chakra makes them powerful-- I'm surprised I didn't think of it.)
The size of the monster is another issue: it’s variously compared to a blue whale (90-100 ft) and a 747 (184- 250 feet, depending on the model) sized. Apparently not even the author knows out how big the thing is.
Small peeve; (but really, the book is so bad it begs griping at minutiae): the reader pronounces “debris” as “DEB-ree” which would be irritating enough, but evidently it’s the author’s favorite word. It was used more than 14 times in a little over 2 hours. When I start counting things, I KNOW an audiobook is irretrievably awful.
A much, much better biological SF/thriller is “Fragment,” by Warren Fahy it’s got better science AND is more exciting, has better characters, writing, etc. Better read, too. There are times in “Fragment” when the scientific explanations may be somewhat overwhelming to the non-scientist, but even if you zone out in those small spots the book is a decent page-turner and, at times, a lot of fun.
Step away from "Beneath the Dark Ice" and put down your wallet. You will regret the lost money and time.
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.
This is one of those books I'd really like to give 3 1/2 stars. I mostly enjoyed it but while listening, the thought occurred many times that it was a good thing that I'm really "into" the space program, because otherwise I'd probably be bored. The premise is fascinating --guy gets accidentally stranded on Mars, how can he possibly survive until they can come rescue him (IF they can rescue him at all)? But aficionados of Thrillers or Action/Adventure books are likely to be disappointed; there is no "Big Thing" to thrill or provide action. Everything is pretty much within the realm of reality --no aliens, no killer asteroids, no wild action. The thrills & action lie within the realm of the mundane; he puts in an enormous amount of work to survive, have food & oxygen sufficient to last.
So if the basic realities of the space program arent' interesting enough for you, you'll probably be rather bored. If the problems & difficulties inherent in traveling to & surviving in non-Earth & outer space environments fascinate you, you're golden.
The reader did a decent, workmanlike job; not inspired or amazing, but solidly competent.
Overall, I give the book itself a "Meh" & the reading a raspberry for somebody ruining a good reader's performance.
I haven't read anything by Sigler before. I decided to give him a try while reading through a listing of books narrated by one of my fave readers, Phil Gigante. I first heard him reading Joe R Lansdale's Hap & Leonard books, with which he does an absolutely fantastic job. I figured no matter what the book was like, at least the reading would be excellent. HA! I did not count on it being directed by someone who apparently dreams of being a major Foley artist in Hollywood; this reading is utterly ruined (for me at least) by tons of "special effects" which are totally unnecessary; leave Gigante alone & you'll have a great reading. But no. When the 2 main characters use the "2-way" function of their cell phones, you get these ear-splitting beeps & electric tones. When someone is thinking/talking to himself, Gigante sounds like he's being recorded while reading inside one of those old concrete-and-steel, Interstate highway rest stop bathrooms...most of these inner thoughts were so echo-ey & muddled I couldn't understand them at all. Instead of letting the very talented Gigante do different voices for the monsters, they used electronic idiocy which rendered those voices somewhere from annoying to incomprehensible.
And speaking of annoying, there were many aspects of the book itself which I found worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. Worst of all was the protagonist's sidekick/partner, "Pookie," who has to be one of the most irritating characters in modern fiction (& I don't mean just his idiotic nickname). He always talks like some kind of gangsta-wannabe, just overflowing with moronic jokes, sexist & racist remarks, and tons of juvenile humor.
It was not at all clear to me why the beautiful young pathologist (o course) so fervently loves the main character, Brian (even though they've split up, she's still gaga over him). The guy has all the emotional range of a mollusk...no, actually octopi have more. I guess it's supposed to be sort of a Spock/Data thing, where supposedly the woman has a burning desire to "wake up" the emotional stone. Although, both the Vulcan & the android are (to me) more believable love interests.
The main character does gain some emotional activity as the book progresses, but very little of it is positive. I found him fairly unlikeable as a protagonist. I suppose I should put in a *Spoiler ALERT*, as I'm about to say something which occurs late in the book, his feelings upon learning something about his background. Stop here if you don't want to learn something early. *Spoiler ALERT**Spoiler ALERT* I don't understand Brain's reaction to finding out he was adopted, & liked him even less after). He didn't even wait to get the details; even before he talked to his "father" or knew anything at all about the circumstances, he was completely enraged. Why? I realize that learning you're adopted could be a shock, but he's furious to his Dad for "lying" to him even before he learns that he's genetically one of the bad guys. He went from mourning his beloved mother & living & respecting his dear father to despising them before learning anything. Then his putative father explains things & Brian hates them more & disowns them. He never gives either parent the benefit of a doubt even for an instant, which to me is not a sign of a likable or sympathetic character.
I first read "Riverworld" in the 70s, & I remember enjoying it. I didn't enjoy it enough to get all 3 books, though...& after listening to this dog, I wish I'd kept it that way.
We do get (sort of) the main characters from the first 2 books together, which was nice; I missed Burton & his bunch in #2. But for some reason, Farmer decided to intro a brand new main character & couldn't have come up with a more annoying person if he'd studied for years. Jill is one of the more obnoxious characters to appear in fiction in a long time. She's constantly, aggressively on the defensive, knows everybody is out to get her & deny her genius & incredible capabilities, & --best of all-- she has the amazing ability to take ONE LOOK at anyone, determine their gender, race, & time of origin, & immediately she knows EXACTLY what that person thinks about her, about women, & precisely how badly they're going to treat her. And then she condemns them for their egregious bigotry. Um, hypocrite much? She even periodically tells herself that she should quit this, but does she ever actually improve? Take a guess.
Other than the loathsome Jill, & bouncing back & forth between Sam & Burton's groups, with quite a few LOONNNNNG & incredibly boring side lectures on religion, the plot can be summed up fairly briefly:
1. someone wants to build a great big something to get to the source.
2. They toil mightily, get into intrigues & war with the neighbors for the raw materials,
3. They spend all their time in wild angst over who gets to run the thing when it's done.
4. Then they usually lose it.
Repeat, with different or the same people, different or the same great big something.
Unless I dozed off at the end (possible; I had to keep backing up b/c I'd gotten so tired of building, bickering, & bi*ching) we never really get a satisfactory idea of who or what is behind the Riverworld, or why. And by then, I didn't care.
The reader does an okay job; he's not too good with voices, so it wasn't always easy to figure out who was talking if there weren't adequate cues in the text, and I'm not wild about his voice, but he was...acceptable. At least as good as the book itself, which is sorta damning with faint praise. I gave him 1 more star than the book itself because his performance didn't inspire me to want to commit actual violence, unlike the book.
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