Sweden | Member Since 2013
There are many books that work well on audio - this is not one of them. The whole point of the narrative is to surprise, complicate, and challenge the reader and I prefer my audiobooks (although not my printed books) to keep it fairly simple. It might be a great novel in print, but the audio version lost me on so many occasions I could not follow its many threads to the end.
There are some fascinating fantasy/sci-fi ideas woven into the story and the first story did conclude in somewhat of a surprise. I should also add that as English is my second language, it might be the the novel's linguistic intricacies that made it difficult for me to follow in audio. Perhaps those intricacies might even appeal to a native English speaker.
I guess I'm too young to have read Brin when his Uplift books were first published. I discovered him through his much more recent Existence and wanted to check out his earlier work. I was not disappointed.
While the premise of the story revolves around humans "lifting" animal species to sentience, this is a minor subplot of the book. The novel belongs to the hard sci-fi gene, with numerous alien spaces, new technologies, societies and ideas. The reader is early introduced to the concept that most species in the universe was "lifted" and that feudal-like hierarchies exist around the facts about who lifted whom.The ambiguous and controversial position of humanity in this hierarchy is the real kernel of the book and is the theme around which the intrigue revolves.
The book will appeal to anyone who is into hard sci-fi, like me. While his recent Existence did remind me a bit of writer like Asimov, Sundiver is even closer to Asimov's style of writing and story development. Still, I would say Brin's characters are slightly more developed than the generic male superheroes in Asimov. Most of Brin's personae are actually quite interesting and believable, I particularly enjoy his depictions of alien individuals and their difficulties with human behavior.
1980 is 34 years ago and while the novel's ideas and premises do not feel dated, some of the gendered interaction does. It strikes me how far contemporary sci-fi has come in depicting gender-equal societies, when a writer like Brin still struggled with this aspect in 1980. Helene deSilva is captain of a starship, but goes irrational and submissive when she falls for the protagonist, a male ubermensch who "couldn't be broken by anything". And when some aliens seem to lack gender, they are simply called "he", even though human authorities prefer to have women as space explorers. Oh, well...
If you can ignore these gendered tell-tale signs of its age and if you like space opera/hard sci-fi, you will like Sundiver. I am looking forward to reading the other books in the Uplift saga and hope that they will approach the excellence I found in Existence. I would not say Sundiver reaches those heights, but it is an early work by the author and the book is still pretty darn good.
This is a book I really wanted to enjoy. It has a really interesting sci-fi/fantasy premise and tries to be philosophically and politically informed - that should chime with me, and initially it does. Renee is recruited into an ancient society of people with the ability to change people's minds, an ability they have decided to use to only incrementally change the world for the better. Debates about good or bad ensues, promising the kind of cerebral adventure I admit to being fond of. But this promising beginning is evaporated as the authors suddenly tries to make this a book about facing change, as they create a villain who instead - horror! - want stability. This quickly devolves into a strange storyline where the protagonists have to defend the possibility of change (changing other people?) against the threat of neurotic stagnation (although I never get what should change and what threatens to stagnate) ... But wasn't the story about the difficulties establishing what is good and bad, and the curse of having the power to change people around you? Then the authors just keeps introducing unrelated ideas. There is something about virtual worlds, and then about the power of thought, also something about justice and then power to the people! ... and I am sorry, but this doesn't hold together, not on any level. The story is not exactly empty, just overloaded with unrelated ideas, none of which is explored to any depth. And nothing grips me, sadly. Though I had loved if it had...
I like the performance, Porter and Kowal do a splendid job with a difficult material. They kept me listening even after the point at which I had realized the narrative would not get any more exciting.
The characters, I am sorry to say, are vividly described, but not believable. Let's see... We have an almost two thousand years old person who after all that time writes a letter which turns out to be the first in which he risks making a fool of himself before a woman? And a several hundred years old guy who mind travels to other bodies, has his own inner mind garden, changes other people's minds at will ... and who is a Marxist materialist?
And I am sorry, but I don't get the antagonist. At one point it just turns out she is evil - because...? Oh, right, she is not EVIL evil, but merely wrong, as the protagonists say. But why does she have to be killed, suppressed... ? A lot of other characters are obviously wrong and harm to others, but they are described as nice guys...
And evidently, the protagonists are deeply engaged in exchanging and debating ideas, but suddenly prefer sex and romantic love before putting them into practice? (I really couldn't see them as protagonists after that.)
So the novel uses complicated words and refers to big thinkers? Well, a lot of people can do that trick, but precious few are great novelists. The Incrementalists is not a good novel, rather a novel that incrementally forgets the interesting plot at its centre and just goes bananas with random themes, till nothing remains.
I have just come away from some disappointing audio books and thought I might need a break from audio books generally. Wool made me change my mind. It is a real "side turner", which slowly lets the reader in on the mind-blowing secrets of its world. I love the job Howey has done with his characters; they are multifaceted, often engaging in both likable and less likable behavior. Several of the characters also go through some very believable changes. I even found myself feeling some sympathy or understanding for the less delectable characters. Furthermore, Howey is not afraid to kill off several of the main characters, which for me increases the tension and expense in the book. Beautifully written and perfect for audio, this book kept my attention throughout! Very happy I found it!
There are several moments of revelation throughout the book, and it would be difficult to summarize it without spoilers. I particularly enjoyed the character of Lukas, who really struggles with his loyalties and with what he should believe. Through him, we get to understand that none of the sides in the stories got the monopoly on moral goodness.
I am not a fan of love stories, as they are usually clichéd and shallow but intended to give stories emotional depth, something that alienates me and many other readers. There is something of those tendencies in Wool, but I salute the author for keeping them to a minimum and for also describing some of love's negative emotions, especially envy.
Great performance by Scott Brick! Interesting characters, nicely carved out and multifaceted. Believable social developments in the small group of explorers as they come face to face with danger. Really liked the plot, which sucked me in from the outset.
There are several rather cheasy moments towards the end of the book that could have been left out. Overall, the ending is a bit of a let-down. And I really don't get why the main protagonist, an independant and serious reseacher, suddently use her sexuality to reach her goals at the beginning of the book? But overall a nicely entertaining and believable book, despite the unbelievable story.
This is a beautifully crafted and performed narrative about survival and hope in an extremely hopeless situation. I read some reviewers saying that the book was too pessimistic and devoid of hope for their taste, but I thought that would not apply to me - a cynical European who has read many a dystopian novel. But the utter hopelessness of this book is a bitter pill to swallow even for me. Yet, the skillfully crafted and likeable characters, as well as the interesting plot, make you go on listening. My main complaint is with the length. You get the feeling that the author has fallen in love with his characters and want them to live on in the text as long as possible. I did notice several events that lacked any real connection to the main plot and could have been cut out. There are places where the narrative drags out beyond the point where the reader feels that "yes, yes, you've made that clear, can we please go on!?" But otherwise good listen that ranks among the better-than-avarage.
Very good performance that left little to be desired.
This was my first book by Graham. The book has a somewhat interesting intrigue and started out okay. It then devolved into a hardly held together mix of ghosts, murder mystery, romance, celebrities and satanist cults from Victorian England. I would guess themes selected by careful marketing study of some book-buying subgroup of the market. It would take a master writer to make something sensible out of that list of preselected selling points, and Graham is not it. Banal dialogue, blatant holes in the plot and unbelievable characters that change when it suits the writer, rather than when it would fit their psychology. Lessons learned: marketing should not decide the contents of books. I really hope the selected audience for this book sees through this thin soup of a book. AND I will avoid Heather Graham in the future.
The characters start out okay, but change in ways that just don't fit. I mean; the cop who doesn't believe in ghosts accepts to work with a state-financed group of mediums - because "everything that might help the case is good"?! He is also a workoholic that never sleeps, but somehow manages to have bulging muscles to attract the female protagonist? And she majored in film studies a few years back, but now works as a full time medium for the FBI? Okay, it might be I expect too much of a book that is crafted merely to give a few cheap, entertaining chills to selected audiences. But be warned - if you expect more of books than that, keep far away from this one!
I have noticed that reviewers are very divided on this book. I am one of those that found it amazingly entertaining. But might it be for you?
I had not read anything by Brin before, but will now. "Existence" tells me he is one of the authors that puts more emphasis on ideas rather than characters, sometimes even creating characters only to illustrate a philosophical notion.
To me then, he is an expert in making the philosophy I love come to life. He shows how abstract thinking might matter and he makes thinking the central activity around which the novel revolves. I would place him in the tradition of Asimov's Foundation series, although the philosophy Brin represents, is less invested in modernist and chauvinist notions of man's control over nature and the future. Brin's characters cannot control society or plan the future, but they try to matter in a universe driven by chance and that is partial to diversity.
So, if you are a lover of philosophy and other fields of ideas, you will love this book. On the other hand, if you find philosophical thinking boring, you will probably find the novel boring. Thirdly, if you are a person that have difficulty following abstract lines of reasoning, it is possible you will find the book difficult to follow and its plot full of lacunae. Many reviewers have this third kind of comments on the book, which actually made me a bit hesitant before I bought it. Although my comprehension of English is quite good, I do have difficulties following novels where timelines and plots are experimentally rearranged for some lyrical purpose. To my relief, I found "Existence" is not one of those novels. My conjecture is therefore that Brin's book is difficult to follow if you have difficulties following the ideas that are the actual core of the book. The plot does make some jumps in time here and there, and those can be irritating if you are invested in a certain character or series of events. The jumps are much more tolerable if you follow the ideas Brin develops.
There are however two slight shortcomings. Brin overuses the cliff-hanger trope. When every chapter ends with something akin to "He turned around and could not believe his eyes", it does become a nuisance. Secondly, although Brin mostly explores ideas, he sometimes starts to advocate them and does it too openly. The whole point of the plot, I would argue, is that humankind have choices and needs to embrace diversity. As that is a viewpoint I endorse, I am always hesitant when sci-fi authors advocate a certain way of doing things, rather than explore hypothetical scenarios. Brin should have excluded his postscript in particular, where he openly "explains" the thinking behind the novel and comes with some frustrating admonishments for humanity. I believe the novel is much more effective when that kind of advocacy is left out. With those two shortcomings, this otherwise brilliant novel only gets four "story stars" from me.
The author make use of several different styles of writing to convey a complex history of a global catastrophe. I found the global angle particularly compelling; the zombie threat not only shows how societies hang together, but also how they differ and consequently respond to the situation in different ways. The author compellingly uses the zombie theme to implicitly ask some disquieting questions about class, justice and the economy. For me, it was this political and philosophical dimension that made the novel stand out from other more action-oriented zombie-themed narratives. That is not to say that World War Z does not have its share of action and suspense - two important reasons why I choose this kind of book to begin with.
There are several interesting and thought-provoking subplots. Admittedly, some are a bit cheesy, such as one involving traditional Japanese martial arts. I did nevertheless find most of them nicely sculptured. I was particularly intrigued by the story about the Russian army using guilt to whip a generation of soldiers into obedience. Such episodes, which situates the narrative in a long-standign discussion over human nature, strangely lends credence to the surreal narrative and almost make it feel anchored in history.
This if not another book discussing Scientological teachings or the biography of Hubbard. Rather, Miscavige Hill tells her own subjective story about growing up inside the organization. It turns out to be a harrowing read of maltreatment, psychological terror and strategic use of social isolation. Perhaps it is only from the lived first-person perspective that the absurdities and destructiveness of the church doctrines become so starkly apparent. I had the sense sometimes of hearing of events paying out in a very different, illiberal and even alien culture, where people behave contrary to common expectations. Miscavige Hill's attempts to explain these events from the perspective of church members and her admissions about their absurdities, make her our everyday life cicerone through something approaching alien dystopia. Perhaps then it was my love of sci-fi that made this book one I would have gladly listen to in one sitting.
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