The summary had sold me on an Victorian steam-punk world with zombie plagues, air ships, mechanical automatons and an artificially-life-extended queen. This book technically delivers all of those things and somehow still manages to be slow, uninteresting and poorly delivered.
The main character is ultimately the least interesting man in the world leading the most interesting life. Although attempts are made to add depth, the only three-dimensional character is the female lead, Veronica Hobbes, who manages to kick ass despite living in a heavily chauvinistic and chivalrous post-Victorian society. She's probably the only thing redeeming the book, and and she doesn't do enough.
The story itself fails to live up to its promise, with rushed action scenes mingling between unbearably slow, forced deduction scenes with seemingly no connection between them and even less sense tying in the overall story, despite the numerous cases of deus ex machina struggling to pull the plot together.
Perhaps most of these flaws could be overlooked were the narrator not dull and irritating. Although his accent was acceptably British, his voices varied only in degree of gravel being gargled while growling, and all shared the same insufferable breathiness that meant the whole book felt like it was wheezed out by a terminally bored lung cancer patient.
All in all I suffered through the whole book just because I was curious how they'd try to pull a conclusion out of this soggy, cardboard mess, and because I had no more credits to buy better books.
Let me experience be a warning - this is not worth the download.
It was an interesting short science fiction story, and appropriately priced for such a snippet of an audiobook. The story was interesting and fairly hard sci-fi, but lacked any sort of real conflict or hook - no drama, no action, just a sort of bored resignation with some side comments mentioning that other people were upset at the loss of the moon.
What really disappointed me about this audiobook was the narration - I had to keep checking the publishing date to make sure I wasn't getting a story from the 50s. It just didn't match up, the hard modern science fiction and near-future technology with the hokey, small-town, old-fashioned narration.
Still, all in all it was an interesting story, and worth at least the three dollars and half an hour of your time.
I love this book. The audiobook is even better.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle paint an incredibly detailed, wildly imaginative and thought-provoking take on Dante's Inferno as seen through the eyes of a recently deceased science fiction writer. His theories on the whys and hows of Hell from the point of view of an agnostic are very clever and even gave me doubts at times as to whether they were really dead, and trying to make rational sense of the extraordinary experiences of Hell echoes what a normal person would feel like if dropped into Dante's imaginative take on hell.
I genuinely like Carpenter and Benito, and it was a pleasure watching their friendship grow. The assorted cast of other damned make for a colorful background as well, and it was great seeing the changes brought from this book take shape in the sequel, Escape from Hell.
As impressive as the writing is the performance - Tom Weiner does a wonderful job of narrating the story and the characters, adding an extra dimension of tone and depth to an already thoughtful book. I'd want this man to narrate my life.
All in all, a fantastic book and an even better audiobook. I'd also highly recommend the sequel, Escape from Hell.
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