I have read all of the other culture novels (and wish they were on audible too...). "Surface Detail" is the best one to date. Banks explores many of the same themes and uses many of the same devices as in his other novels. The interwoven plot of the lower-tech Sichulteans and the uber-tech, meddling Culture is seamlessly executed. There are strong echos from "Use of Weapons" both in plot and style; though, "Surface Detail" has a much more linear plot and is as easy to follow as "The Player of Games." This novel is also both extremely funny and disturbing, more so than any of his other Culture novels. The Hell scenes are reminiscent of a Hieronymus Bosch painting: truly horrendous and described in exacting detail. Characters are complex and multilayered as usual. Likewise the settings, language and technology are as rich and engaging as always. The narrator was excellent. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in literary SF or other big-scope, space opera like those by Alastair Reynolds, Peter Hamilton and Charles Stross. If you've read the first three Culture books, this is a MUST read.
I am always thrilled to see the next Culture book drive, and this one did not disappoint.
While somewhat slighter in scope than his previous instalment, "Surface Detail," "The Hydrogen Sonata" hearkens back to "Players of Games" in its relatively straight-forward narrative. There were several side story lines, but one character's story takes centre stage.
Banks has often written his newer culture books to echo events or characters from previous books in the series: "Look to Windward" is the follow up to "Consider Phlebas,"Surface Detail" completed a character arc that started in "Use of Weapons." "The Hydrogen Sonata" does not seem to be particularly closely linked to any of the other books. Perhaps, there are similarities with "Excession" as Minds play a somewhat larger role than usual, but that's a tenuous link at best.
This book has everything you'd expect from Banks: crazy tech battles, smarmy Minds, political intrigue, wacky aliens, up/down-loaded consciousnesses, utopic societies, hilarious ship names (my favourite being: The Washing Instructions Chip in Life's Rich Tapestry) and amazing landscapes (cities that wrap around whole planets, sand "water"-falls).
If you've read the Culture series so far, be prepared to enjoy another excellent novel in this addition to the series.
If you're new to Iain Banks, you might want to go back to the beginning and read them in order, though this is not necessary. Seeing that only four of the Culture novels are available on Audible (at least where I live), "The Hydrogen Sonata" is probably the best one to start with; "Matter" is not the strongest book in the series, and "Use of Weapons" and "Surface Detail" are best read as a pair. Unfortunately for first time readers, "Use of Weapons" is the most dense, difficult but ultimately rewarding of the series. It can be a little off-putting in that the new reader has to get their head around the fragmented narrative and the Culture universe.
The narration was very excellent as always. Bravo Mr Kenny!
This books gets a strong recommendation. Give it a try!
Based on the first hour or two of this book, I thought I had found something akin to the eerie metafiction of Paul Auster's "Oracle Night" with a bit of SF/Fantasy focus.
Instead, this novel proved itself to be a "Ready Player One"/"Da Vinci Code" mash-up filled with techie references and code-breaking, secret societies.
The initial atmosphere is a nice blend of mysterious, youthful, dot com, near-future economic ennui. But as the story unfolds, everything feels trite.
The plot is serviceable, though the characters (as another reviewer noted) seems like poor caricatures of real people: more overly-optimistic archetypes than real, growing people.
I too was annoyed by the take on Google. Basically, Google (and those perky, unstoppable Googlers) can do no wrong, and their campus is some sort of modern day utopia of enlightenment.
What got me most about this book was the ending. I wish that our author had simply finished the book with the completion of the main narrative arc. Instead, we get a cloying, everything-turned-out-perfectly-for-all-the-main-characters-except-the-villian-who-got-his-comeuppance epilogue.
All my complaints aside, this book was, at least, entertaining. If you like books like "Ready Player One" and don't want to be bogged down in anything even vaguely-related to real life concerns or problems, this one is probably for you.
I listened to this book over the course of a two day business trip, driving seven+ hours each day. It was a great book for a boring drive through up-state New York. After a morning of struggling with terrible food poisoning (I know now not to ever eat the free meals at hotels...), this book made my drive home possible or at least, less unpleasant.
Overall, I think Cline did a very nice job with this one. I'd give the story a 3.5. By no means is this high art. Rather, it's a geeky, nostalgia-ridden, hacker, adventure novel that is cleared geared towards folks born in the 70s or early 80s. If 80s movies and pop culture are not your thing or if you don't revel in your own nerd-dom, this one might not be for you. However, if these things do tickle your fancy, you'll probably enjoy it. Personally, I'd say that I was familiar with about 80% of the references. The whole Tomb of Horrors bit was great fun; I remember reading through this one in the mid-80s: quintessential D&D.
The gusto with which Cline approaches his subject matter is both this novel's greatest strength and greatest weakness. As I say, if you're willing to be silly and not worry about how ridiculous the whole set up is, you'll be easily carried through this exciting action-ridden tale; it's very fast-paced and engaging throughout. If you can't get down to the references and shameless 80's cheese-worship, stay away.
Will Wheaton did a most excellent job with the narration. The fact that he is a well-known and revered nerd makes him a particularly good fit as narrator. Further, unlike some other 'celebrity' voice actors, I could actually forget that it was Wheaton reading and could hear the voice of the characters rather than just hearing Will Wheaton reading a story.
This was my first McDevitt.
Most of the galactic civilization books I've read have been rather epic in scale. This one is a nice change of pace: simply a mystery story set within the bounds of an established galactic civilization. There isn't much in the way of crazy aliens or far out tech; it's sort of like Star Trek without the humanoid aliens. Social commentary is also limited.
Van Dyck does a pretty good job reading with one.
Overall, "Seeker" is entertaining but not enlightening.
'cause I couldn't get into this one.
I feel like I've read and enjoyed other books that are somewhat similar (Neuromancer and Ready Player One). I guess I felt the VR via glasses and tactile gloves (or whatever it was) was a little old and not very interesting. Also, the name of the main character and the whole VR world was a little much. The nail in the coffin though was the story; I just didn't get hooked. And I tried, listening to this book for maybe 5 or 6 hours.
Jonathan Davis was solid as always.
Give it a try, and I hope you enjoy it more than I (I know that 'me' would be correct grammar in this case but I like the rhyme).
This is a nice little story...just make sure you don't buy the audio book.
I don't know what exactly Mr Ellison was on, but he makes this book almost unlistenable. He's like Shatner on speed, all of a sudden slowing down and then racing ahead. I was unimpressed. What's worse is that Ellison can do normal voices as in some of Orson Scott Card's books.
Not too much more to say about it, just stay away from this one on audio.
"Curse of Chalion" was so good, but somehow things went off the rails with this one.
Bujold got the characters, setting and world spot on. The only thing missing was a good story. I guess too that Ista just aint Cazaril.
Maybe my hopes were just too high after "Curse"; I gave up on this after about 3/4s of the way through. Someday, I'll give it another goal.
Give it a try but don't expect too, too much.
Cazaril is my homeboy!
Seriously, this book is awesome. I first listened to it about 5 years ago and I still find myself coming back to it every few months for a re-listen.
I've read plenty of epic fantasy and sword and sorcery type stuff. This is neither, but, whatever it is, you should read it.
Everything about this one is a winner. Cool, cool story, super characters, nicely built world and wicked finish. There's something about the maimed, self-effacing hero that Bujold got so right in this book.
This is one to recommend to anyone from 13-93.
Vernor Vinge's "Fire upon the Deep" was one of the first 'real' sf books I read when I was a young teen. Once I read it, I looked for everything VInge and devoured it. Unfortunately, Vinge doesn't publish too frequently, but when he does...ka-blam-oh!
"Rainbows End" is great sf. It's got good science, developed characters and an engaging story arc, plus there's a nicely veiled, implied reference to some of the AI stuff in "Neuromancer."
If you're into spy thrillers, espionage and plausible future tech, this will be a book for you.
My only beef is that I'm not a Pratchett reader, and there was a whole section that I feel would have been much more interesting had I been. Oh well, still a good read.
Eric Conger is a fine narrator, not fantastic, but he does his job well.
Cthulu + Holmes = 45 minutes of superlative listening.
If you like Lovecraft and Conan-Doyle, you must read this. Gaiman has done an admirable job of honouring both of these author's styles in this short story. If you've not read Call of Cthulu, I suggest that you do. It's eminently creepy and worthwhile, plus it will make this story even better.
Excellent, excellent twist at the end. I think it's Gaiman's very best.
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