I feel downright presumptuous to be writing a review for this novel. It is a classic, a keystone, the start of a series that has inspired and shaped the realm of fantasy literature. It is from an era when quality took precedence over quantity. If you enjoy fantasy literature you should give this a try, and even if you don’t enjoy this work, you will at least be able to talk about it when your fellow fantasy nerds start waxing philosophical. Zelazny has been praised by current giants like Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. He is an author’s author.
Allessandro Juliani gives a solid performance but not outstanding. I’ve heard better but I’ve also heard far worst. Part of the problem may well be that I have lived with these characters in my head for a decade and a half, and so I brought my own view of how their voices sound. I will have no problem continuing the series with Juliani as the narrator, and I have a feeling he will grow on me.
Now, as had been mentioned, not everyone who liked the first books has the same view on the second set of books (6-10). I enjoyed them just as much as the first. They had a different main character, expanded the abilities of the characters and the nature of the setting, and focused a little more on exploring that growth and so focused a little less on the characters at times. I enjoyed the differences, but I understand not everyone did.
I am enjoying my own return to Amber, I hope the same for each of you.
Yes, and now you don’t have to read the rest of my rambling.
So, it’s been a while since we were treated to a tale about our favorite two conmen, and now we get to meet that legendary redhead we’ve watch Locke pine for over the last two books. She, like any good woman, has been worth the wait. She is strong, smart, confident, and capable. She is Locke’s match in wits and I wish their contest was more drawn out because the back and forth we do get to watch is just grand. And as always, the flashback story is awesome. The young Bastards going off to be a theater troupe and their adventures really make the book.
I have only one real complaint. Sadly, it’s directed at our Narrator. Page is still great. I still want him as the narrator for the series. For 95% of the book he is as wonderful as ever. . .sadly, that 5% that went wrong involves two of my favorite characters. Father Chains and the Thiefmaker don’t have their old voices; they both sound more like Don Maranzalla. That was really disappointing since their old voices were just so perfect for their physical descriptions.
Now, the ending, that was just amazing. The epilogue, which is setting up the future plot, is one of those “Did that just happen?” moments. Red Seas under Red Skies left me wanting more because it felt a little incomplete, The Republic of Thieves has left me wanting more from shear excitement.
I’m guessing most people picking up this book have also read the Lost Fleet books, and so now you get to hear Midway’s version of those encounters. That takes up a little less than half of this book and it is fun seeing the other side of that story. I never thought reading about morally ambiguous characters striving to use their talents for good while trying to not admitting to themselves that is what they are doing would be this much fun. Still, maybe more will turn out to be just as selfish as they think they are . . . guess we will have to keep reading.
Oh, and the revelation at the end of this book is just awesome. If you've become emotionally invested in the characters it will put their relationships in a whole new light. It’s a well placed twist.
Campbell does a wonderful job of making his power politics as interesting as his space battles. While this was done to a lesser degree in the Lost Fleet series, it really takes stage in this series. It gives these books something fresh and distinguish them from the adventures of Admiral “Black Jack” Geary.
As a criticism, things are a little repetitive at times. Things we were told not a few moments before get told to us again, and sometimes even a third time. Additionally, we all know by now the mental struggles of our central characters, and like in the Lost Fleet books, the detailed mental deliberations can get a little long winded. Still, we are on book 11 and if this criticism really bothered you, I doubt you’d be reading this review.
Marc Vietor continues to do a great job with this new series. I loved his readings of both The Black Company and The Nightside. Of course it different hearing his portrayal of Geary and other known voices from the Lost Fleet, but it’s not a huge part of the book and he does well enough that it is not distracting.
The short of this review is, that if you are a fan of the Lost Fleet/Lost Stars series, you should not be disappointed.
People are getting pickier about what they call Steampunk, so I’ll just hit the major points and you can pick out what sub-genre you want to file this under. The more fantastical element to the story is the lighter-than-air (anti-gravity?) metal that is used in the main character’s wings. It’s also bullet proof; which is amazing when you think of real world metals used in aircraft, like aluminum. On the more scifi steampunk side are the steam and gear computers that run on punchcards that are used in computations I doubt we could do today. However, if you require a Victorian culture to your Steampunk stories, you’ll not find that here.
The story is alright. It’s formulaic, which isn’t bad in itself, but that is partly the result of the bigger issue I have, which is how forgettable the characters are. They are static and a little flat at times. Changing situation and the exposing of different personality elements to the main character are used as a substitute for character development, and since the characters don’t change, you can easily predict how each new situation will play out.
However, it has romance, it has mystery (even if it was easy to figure out, but hey, who doesn’t like to feel smart), and it even touches a little on class struggle. The caste system dynamic is interesting and plays a central role to the story, but is sadly not explored in any depth.
And that really hits the heart of the matter; most folks who go in for SciFi/Fantasy novels love depth to both setting and character. This book has potential for both, but it just doesn’t explore those possible depths.
Still, if you want some fun steampunkish light reading then you could do a whole lot worse in this emerging genre.
Let me start with the good part. Marc Vietor has been an amazing Narrator for the entire series. If you’ve enjoyed his performance you should give “The Black Company” by Glen Cook or “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons a chance. He has added greatly to my enjoyment of those stories and this one too.
Now, before we get into the story. This is the end, not the beginning. I would strongly recommend you not pick this book up without having gone through the rest of the series.
So let’s get to the story, it’s not good even by the low standards I set for the plot of a Nightside novel. Green’s dive into the super natural film noir has had its ups and downs. The setting has always been the best part of the stories and a reason to give the plot a pass when judging the books, but you can tell we’ve run out of new real estate, faction groups, and near-apocalypses that can reasonably be added in. In addition, the main character has grown to be too powerful to be reasonably challenged by anything that isn’t at near-apocalypse levels. Ending the story for the current timeframe isn’t a bad choice at this point, but this ending is far too happy and lovie-dovie for the grim and cynical stories we’ve come to expect. Not that John couldn’t have had a happy ending, but at little to no cost?
(Spoilers for here on out)
Everyone turning on the main character isn’t particularly original, but I don’t come here for the originality in plot. However, it seems like everyone (both John and his friends who are now after him) are playing with kid-gloves on. That many powers go head to head and everyone comes out just fine? Now Susie’s betrayal turning out to be a trick to protect John is good and in character for her, but we don’t get to see any of it; the title character of the book (who is one of the most awesome characters in the stories) has almost no face time in the story. Even Julian’s death, which really drives the story and adds some of that grim Nightside element to the story, turns out to be a trick.
Even if it didn’t happen in the story, in the end, the sun did come up in the Nightside.
We can be brief in part, because if you are considering this book, you likely already picked up “Nine Princes in Amber” and if you haven’t I strongly recommend that you do. I am not sure the story will be an easy one to pick up at this point. This story is just as fine as the last, and the journey is as wonderful as I remember. Corwin’s plan to reclaim what he views as his right and revenge himself upon Eric while at the same time struggling with the harm he has done and trying to fit all of this within his new (within the life of an immortal anyway) found morality and empathy drives the story and prepares him for what comes next.
As for the performance, it’s still better than many I have heard. However, some of the voices are still troubling me. I’m not sure why Texan and Southern accents are slipping into the voices of nobles from Amber and the Courts, but it might be a bit silly to find that troubling. After all, why not? These are people who can travel to any reality and live there for centuries. Still, I found a few of the voice choices at odds with how the character is presented in the story. However, Corwin’s voice is just fine, and that’s the one we hear for most of the tale.
And remember to be on the lookout for the famous quote that is the title of this review!
It's quite a trip. Both in terms of the story and the moments that make you say, "What was the author on and is there any left?" It is hard to talk about the novel without spoilers, as the story takes twists right from the start. We quickly go from Non-fiction self discovery to Crime Drama to Otherworldly Fantasy. The multiverse created for the story is wonderful, the beings we meet are unique and alien, and the author also includes a good amount of human drama. The dynamics of the twins works well, most of all since the physically weaker twin is in the physical world while the less imaginative twin is forced into the spiritual world. This book even manages to have a love triangle that did make me twitch, which is quite an accomplishment on its own.
However the book is not without issues. The ending is a little Deus ex Machina. You aren't sure that anything the main characters did mattered other than getting from location x to location y, and again, you aren't really sure they played much of a role in that accomplishment. The book ends up being more of a tour than a story. The conclusion is very unsatisfying and while I know the story continues in the next book, that’s not a good excuse for a weak ending. Also, the characters are not always fleshed out well, and so caring about any death in the story is difficult. The traitor in the group is predictable because of how the author tries to hide them. These weakness really do hurt the ability to enjoy the world the author has created.
I'm not sure if I'll continue the series. It will take a back burner while I read some things on my "must" list.
As for the performance, Eric Michael Summerer was good, but not overly so. However, I do think he helped the story along.
I got this book for my children, so they would have something new to listen to, and you wouldn't believe how shocked I was went a string of profanity came gushing out into their bedroom . .. I'm kidding! It's a marvelous parody that I've been sharing with my friends and parents.
Now, if the title didn't give it away, this is not a book for children and there is just a little (read: a lot) of profanity. So, if you're still locked in the past century where profanity not directed at you is somehow offensive, I recommend you not pick this up. Otherwise, grab this and get ready to laugh. Samuel L. Jackson really is the perfect narrator for this.
I'm happy with my purchase, as I picked this one up during one of the sales, but I'm not overly sure I'd have been happy with it at full price, and I know I would have been disappointed to have spent a credit here. The pros are the book is darkly funny, Dexter is an amazingly likable anti-hero, the story is great fun, and there is an amazing amount of character development. The down sides are that the story is very short, both in length and in depth, and the ending is very abrupt and not well detailed. The story is good light listening, and those people who can appreciate dark humor are in for a treat. However, this is one of those times where the TV series is strangely more detailed than the book.
There is a lot to recommend “The Black Company.” The characters, the setting, the situations . . . they are all very interesting. What’s lacking is depth and detail. The story feels very disjointed, almost a listing of events, as we hop from one scene to the next, sometimes jarringly. Also, while the characters are interesting, they aren’t overly dynamic. It’s almost like someone sat down with a D&D group who wanted to play antiheros and recorded their story.
I’m glad I picked it up during one of the ~$5 sales, it’s not bad, but it’s not something I’d have wanted to spend a credit on. That said, I’ll consider picking up the next one to see if the framework laid out in this book grains flesh in the next and if the prose improves.
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