I picked up this scifi classic as a way to begin filling in my knowledge of works from the past that inform the genre's current status and to see what things have dropped out. Pohl's work, like Bester's, is tough to read/listen to because the central character is not the usual hero figure. That said, Pohl's vision of the future from the fifties appears to be more accurate than Asimov's, and so maybe we are a lot more like his characters than Asimov's.
The performance of the story is quite good, making the story quite followable and giving nuance where it's called for.
I continue to enjoy working backwards from the most recent Philip Mercer novel through the Audible collection. I bought the first novel, Vulcan's Forge, as a paperback and just couldn't get through the cardboard cutout villain and plot, but de Bruhl definitely has definitely come into his own as the series lives and breathes. "Pandora's Curse" is a nice return to the arctic for those who remember Alistair MacLean's "Ice Station Zebra."
More than anything, de Bruhl's novels enjoy marvelous performances by J. Charles. Charles is so good with some voices, like Harry's, that I actually enjoy some novels more than others because I get to hear more of that character! Charles' performance here is marred somewhat by some really clumsy editing by Audible: there are occasionally shifts in tonal quality that made me wonder if I was listening to the same narrator! And so the missing star here is not for Mr. Charles, but for the Audible staff responsible for quality control.
Two changes here:
First, the story itself is a little less grand than recent Cussler and Cussler collaborations, but to my mind that makes this story all the better. To say much more would be to spoil the story potentially, and so I will only note that the novel follows the formula: ancient historical artifact has potential to change the world in the present; Juan and company chance upon the scene and set about making sure the world is safe from mad man. (Sigh, yes, it's always a mad man, isn't it? Sometime it feels there is no end to men in futuristic suits stroking white persian cats.)
The tempering here really makes for a great change to the story, and I liked too how long it takes for Juan to figure out what's actually at stake. Added bonus is the addition of a new crew member, who is quite the character -- though du Brul and Cussler need to learn a bit more about New Orleans and south Louisiana to get all of McD's character right.)
As for the change in narrator, I am of two minds. On the one hand, I was so used to Scott Brick and his voice is so intertwined with the Oregon stories, that the change in narrator was jarring. On the other hand, Culp brought some dimensions to some of the characters that I hadn't thought about before. His performance of the new character, McD, is quite compelling.
I came to Jack du Brul from his collaboration with Clive Cussler. His first Mercer novel is a bit too much like Cussler at his worst: some history-changing artifact is in play, but the world never really changes. I jumped ahead to the most recent book in the Mercer series and was delighted by the more human scale of the story. (Is Mercer perhaps a bit too much at times to be believed? Why, yes, but that goes with the genre -- there is no permanent hearing damage from so many explosions: I wish the world was as kind.)
The narrator here, and some of the audio effects done in production are quite fine. His performance of Mercer's sidekick Harry makes me laugh out loud quite a bit, helping to highlight the comical relief that I think du Brul intends for the character. I have no idea if author's get any say in their narrators, but my advice to duBrul is do what you can to hold onto Charles.
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