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James

Kingston, ON, Canada | Member Since 2007

17
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 13 reviews
  • 90 ratings
  • 524 titles in library
  • 35 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
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  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Robin Sloan
    • Narrated By Ari Fliakos
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2639)
    Performance
    (2370)
    Story
    (2358)

    The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone - and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything....

    Susan says: "Fun, thought-provoking, mysterious.... and FUN !"
    "Ready Player One meets Da Vinci Code"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • The Hydrogen Sonata

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Iain M. Banks
    • Narrated By Peter Kenny
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (284)
    Performance
    (255)
    Story
    (253)

    The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, provably, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization. An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture 10,000 years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they've made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

    Ethan M. says: "Culture meets Hitchhiker's Guide & Da Vinca Code"
    "Another excellent chapter in the Culture series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Ready Player One

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Ernest Cline
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11308)
    Performance
    (10540)
    Story
    (10549)

    At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

    Ryan says: "Wil Wheaton for President"
    "Nerd-tastic"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Seeker: An Alex Benedict Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Jack McDevitt
    • Narrated By Jennifer Van Dyck, Jack McDevitt
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (925)
    Performance
    (410)
    Story
    (412)

    Thousands of years after an entire colony mysteriously disappears, antiquities dealer Alex Benedict comes into possession of a cup that seems to be from the Seeker, one of the colony's ships. Alex and his assistant, Chase Kolpath, follow a deadly trail to the Seeker, strangely adrift in a system barren of habitable worlds. But their discovery raises more questions than it answers, drawing Alex and Chase into the very heart of danger.

    Shannon Peterson says: "Great mix of sci-fi, mystery and adventure."
    "Solid Space Mystery"
    Overall
    Performance
    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Snow Crash

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Neal Stephenson
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    Overall
    (5623)
    Performance
    (2924)
    Story
    (2983)

    Neal Stephenson is a blazing new force on the sci-fi scene. With the groundbreaking cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, he has "vaulted onto the literary stage." It weaves virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility - in short, it is the gigathriller of the information age.

    A. Tuck says: "Classic Stephenson"
    "I guess I'm just weird..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    '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).

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • A Wizard of Earthsea

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Ursula K. Le Guin
    • Narrated By Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin
    Overall
    (623)
    Performance
    (121)
    Story
    (121)

    This first volume of the Earthsea Cycle is an adventure story, a Quest, a tale of a proud, incautious boy who meddles too early with the Dark. It is a pure fantasy telling about a real thing: a boy coming into his power and his manhood...coming of age.

    Wyonia says: "Great Book...Frantic Narrator"
    "Nice fairy tale: Ellison, I hate you!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Paladin of Souls

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Narrated By Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1422)
    Performance
    (585)
    Story
    (592)

    Three years have passed since the widowed Dowager Royina Ista found release from the curse of madness that kept her imprisoned in her family's castle of Valenda. Her newfound freedom is costly, bittersweet with memories, regrets, and guilty secrets, for she knows the truth of what brought her land to the brink of destruction. And now the road, escape, beckons...A simple pilgrimage, perhaps. Quite fitting for the Dowager Royina of Chalion.

    Amazon Customer says: "Excellent Sequel"
    "I couldn't finish it..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    What happened?

    "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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Curse of Chalion

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Narrated By Lloyd James
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2166)
    Performance
    (968)
    Story
    (975)

    Amidst the decaying splendor and poisonous intrigue of Chalion's ancient capital, Cazaril is forced to confront not only powerful enemies but also the malignant curse that clings to the royal household, trapping him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death for as long as he dares walk the five-fold pathway of the gods.

    Terri says: "What makes a hero... LMB knows"
    "Best non-epic fantasy in existence"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rainbows End

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Vernor Vinge
    • Narrated By Eric Conger
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (808)
    Performance
    (293)
    Story
    (300)

    Set a few decades from now, Rainbows End is an epic adventure that encapsulates in a single extended family the challenges of the technological advances of the first quarter of the 21st century. The information revolution of the past 30 years blossoms into a web of conspiracies that could destroy Western civilization. At the center of the action is Robert Gu, a former Alzheimer's victim who has regained his mental and physical health through radical new therapies, and his family.

    Steve says: "Great Discovery"
    "The future of computing + a good spy story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A Study in Emerald

    • UNABRIDGED (49 mins)
    • By Neil Gaiman
    • Narrated By Neil Gaiman
    Overall
    (2337)
    Performance
    (805)
    Story
    (809)

    A Study in Emerald draws listeners in through carefully revealed details as a consulting detective and his narrator friend solve the mystery of a murdered German noble. But with its subtle allusions and surprise ending, this mystery hints that the real fun in solving this case lies in imagining all the details that Gaiman doesn't reveal, and challenges listeners to be detectives themselves.

    M. D. Baines says: "Listen Well"
    "One of the best Freebies on Audible"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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