No plot; nothing happens. One-dimensional, unsympathetic characters. Everything that might've been a surprise is telegraphed ahead of time. NO answers are provided, just wild speculations… but that isn't TOO surprising, as that's how the characters do all their own thinking, despite the fact they're supposed to be scientists. What little tension exists is drawn out so long that it wouldn't hold a rolled-up newspaper together. The only aliens that show up onscreen are a rampaging horde of stupid critters that seem added only because someone said there should be action in the book SOMEWHERE.
It's too late for ME to get this time back, but YOU still have time! Shields up! Warp speed! RUN!
She doesn't always get kidnapped by terrorists… but when she does, nearly every male on Planet Stephenson wants to do anything and everything to help her. All other males want to rape and murder her. It doesn't matter how tangentially Zula knows these men: they all want to adopt, kiss, kidnap, aid, romance, go to war, or swim across oceans for her. She's like YT (from Snow Crash) on 20 years of author steroids.
All without her doing much to earn it except be Zula.
And that's about all I took away from this book.
That, and I wish a game like T'Rain existed. Oh, wait… it does. It's called EVE.
Generally, there are the standards we've come to expect from Stephenson: the wry humor; the eloquent and hip dialog, the characters who won't take crap from anybody. But the story is so random that I had a hard time believing it could ever happen.
Paolo had an interesting idea (his personal introduction helps), and ran with it, but the book came across as an exercise in world building or futurism rather than a novel. The plot is difficult to see and weak when glimpsed. The characters are interesting, but so isolated from each other that even when they're interacting, they feel like castaways. Paolo also has some favorite(?) words that keep resurfacing over and over again, to the point of inducing groans. Action is sparse.
Jonathan Davis does his usual great job, but compared to his other performances, this one is kind of flat, but I don't blame him for this: I'm sure he did the best with what he was given.
I expected a lot from this book when the immortal time travelers were described—statted out, if you will—but there was no delivery. The characters spent the whole book hiding in a house instead of doing cool immortal time traveler stuff. The performance was good, except for a few too-quiet and too-loud moments, and the dialog is funny; the performer is really good at expressing emotion. Baker is good at switching between modernized badinage and old-timey thys and thous.
This book is more poem than plot. The performance is flawless, though Audible seems confused about whether it's Simon Vance (who can do no wrong, in my opinion) or Robert Whitfield. If you want someone to paint you pictures with words and aren't too worried about a solid story, go for it.
The climax of the novel is about in the middle: the rest of it reads like a downward spiral of loose ends. The romance between the two semi-protagonists is hackneyed and stilted. The alien secret is boring. Niven forgets, as he so often does, simple but crucial bits of reality that poke holes in his flimsy plot.
Give it a pass.
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