Buckle up, friends, because the way this book shifts gears around 2/3 of the way through puts the likes of Million Dollar Baby to shame.
I've enjoyed Scalzi books before and since, and I'm always glad to hear Wil Wheaton narrate, particularly when you get the uncanny sense that he's poking gentle fun at the author's awkward-to-read bits. You could turn his delivery of "Dahl said--Duvall said--Dahl said--" into a nice hip-hop remix.
Just as he has in his other books, Scalzi treats a farcical and absurd premise with a surprisingly naturalistic tone and serious philosophical meditation. Still quite funny in places, though not as raucously as the likes of Galaxy Quest, which I suppose it still most closely resembles.
I've been, and will likely continue to be, a great fan of James S.A. Corey's Expanse novels. Abaddon's Gate is no longer to be the final chapter of the series as originally planned (there will be at least six full novels altogether, along with various novellas and short stories), but it does serve to wrap up a number of major plot lines introduced in Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War.
Unfortunately, though I enjoyed it a great deal, I have to say it is probably the weakest entry thus far. As a science fiction story, it ventures further into outlandish territory than its predecessors did. This isn't necessarily a complaint, but the first two books really excelled at creating a believable, gritty atmosphere. Abaddon has a stronger focus on philosophy and ethics, which while often thoughtful and fascinating, doesn't propel the action as forcefully.
Like Caliban, the story switches between four primary characters, only one of whom--Holden--has been featured before. The authors made the interesting choice of making one of the new POV characters more of an antagonist, at least initially. This factor lends the book most of its edge, in my opinion. I would have liked to see a little more humor, which is one thing the second book in the series excelled at.
Though Abaddon is satisfying enough as the end chapter of a self-contained trilogy, it leaves the door wide open (no pun intended) for some very interesting future adventures. Fans of the previous Expanse entries should not hesitate to pick this one up, even if it doesn't quite match the sense of place and atmosphere of Leviathan or the brisk pace and humor of Caliban.
This is a thoroughly entertaining, funny survival adventure sure to please NASA geeks & space nerds (like myself). The author certainly seems to have done his homework, presenting the science in a compelling and authentic way. The protagonist's irrepressible sense of humor keeps things light and upbeat (though be warned, as should be obvious from the description, there are F-bombs aplenty).
If you enjoyed the genius problem solving on display in Apollo 13, you'll get lots more of it here (this time it's fictional, but still plausible and often fiendishly clever). As you go along, you'll start wondering what will go wrong next, and how our unflappable hero will get out alive.
The narrator, R.C. Bray, does a terrific job of capturing the irreverent tone of Mark Watney's log entries, though frankly not quite as well with the scenes and characters on Earth. Some of his accents feel wrong (or even a bit caricature-ish) in places, and every time he pronounced ASCII as "A-S-C-two" I flinched a little. But these are minor complaints. The Kindle version is super cheap, so I was able to read large chunks in "print" form, which enhanced the experience (Huzzah, Whispersync for Voice!).
Jeff Ryan's style is rather akin to the kind of writing one finds in the A.V. Club or Wired magazine--smart, brisk, and lightly sarcastic. And this is the kind of story you'll read in places like those, too--just expanded into epic full-length book form.
This is the first Ray Porter narration I've listened to. His voice and rhythm reminds me a lot of James Spader for some reason. This is certainly no complaint.
After letting it languish in my wish list for months, I heard Alton Brown recommend this book and decided that was all the push I needed to dive in. I'm glad I did.
Listening to the Minotaur, I was reminded of the work of another of my favorite authors, Charles Portis (best known for True Grit, but all five of his novels are winners). Sherrill's meandering narrative, steady rhythm and low-key Southern brand of humor share a lot with Portis.
In some ways, I see the Minotaur as a meditation on masculinity--both its lighter and darker sides. The author certainly doesn't bombard you with sweeping generalizations, but when he does make the occasional broad observation on the male psyche, I found little to argue with.
My criticisms are few, and mostly inconsequential to my enjoyment of the book. More curiosities than complaints. The Minotaur's workplace, Grub's Rib, is initially sketched out as a greasy roadside BBQ joint, but in later chapters seems to feel more like a trendy haute cuisine establishment. The time setting feels a little inconsistent as well--early on, I felt like there were clear indications that the book takes place in the early 90's, but later details seem to contradict this. I suppose, given the Minotaur's foggy recollection of his own five millenia on the Earth, this kind of thing can be forgiven--perhaps is even intentional.
These are minor issues, though--in fact, they're the kinds of things I only notice when a book draws me in. Holter Graham's narration is excellent, accentuating the Minotaur's taciturn grunts, the varied drawls of his co-workers, and the epicurean appeal of the fare they serve up.
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