I've been looking for a nice SciFi Space Epic to sink my teeth into. After finishing the book, I'm so far pleased with my purchase.
The characters, plot, and ideas infused in this book were genuinely interesting enough to keep my attention, and the book is quite long giving a good amount of entertainment for your money.
I must warn however that it's by no means a fast paced book as you might expect. The story actually meanders along at a comfortable walk. To me all the fleshed out details were worth the slowed pace, but others may be put off by it. Certainly not all stories can pull off such a leisurely pace - but I believe this one does a fair job of it.
There are a lot of characters and side plots populating this story, so it takes some focus and attention to process it all.
The narrator is decent. He's not the best, but he does a fair job on character voices and has a relaxed narrator's voice.
One thing kind of bothered me: this universe is apparently populated by complete morons. Let me explain.
They performed an experiment to ignite a gas giant and turn it into a sun. Then they observed strange spheres leaving the depths of the gas giant and fleeing into space. Soon after processing plants around gas giants all over are attacked and destroyed by spheres rising from the depths of the planets. Then the spheres return to the original gas-giant-now-sun and destroy it's now melting planets that the humans intended to colonize.
A five year old could put the pieces together and tell you that the aliens are upset because one of their worlds was destroyed. But not one single person in this entire book is smart enough to figure it out. The aliens actually had to spell it out for them. You'd think a space faring civilization would have at least a few people who could recognize the extremely obvious.
In any case, I am enjoying looking forward to the second book. If you have the patience for it's more relaxed plot, I recommend this book.
When I downloaded the first book, I got the impression that these were self contained episodes. The first one was over 2 hours in length, and the story seemed to stand on its own.
I foolishly didn't take notice of the length when I downloaded the second. I figured that if these were episodes in the vein of television series' that they would all be of similar length. I was wrong. Not only is this "episode" only 39 minutes long, it doesn't tie in with the first episode in any way at all! There's no context for what's going on here, and it just ends abruptly. It's abundantly clear that this episode DOESN'T stand on its own.
Now, I'm sure that future "episodes" will tie these two incidents together, but that's not how episodes work! These aren't episodes at all, it's all just one continuous book that has been broken down into sections. It's a cheap trick which I imagine is intended to build anticipation but it ends up just being annoying.
Sure, other books often require a continuation of the story, but in those cases they tend to end at some properly dramatic point. They don't just end in the middle of some minor challenge.
There's no way I can give this story high marks - it's incomplete. If I'm a teacher and you hand me an incomplete essay, you'll fail. Same here. The performance was pretty good though, I found no fault with William Dufris.
This may be a riveting story when it's complete, but right now it's not. Cutting up the story into sections like this really ruins the flow. It's complete nonsense.
I want to say upfront that I enjoyed this story overall. The technological concepts were very interesting, the plot was engaging, and the depiction of alternate modes of human existence was very provocative.
That being said, there are some distracting flaws that really lowered my enjoyment of this story.
First of all, while Mr. Williams made a good start on setting up this universe with technologies and alternative modes of human existence, he neglected to flesh it all out and explain it properly. It leaves the audience confused and bewildered at all the terms being thrown around.
For example, how is a gestalt like the Jinc different from a Fort, which is also a group mind? How is it that Fort minds can span the entire galaxy when they can only communicate at the speed of light and there are only a few hundred "frags" altogether to cover that distance? How is Q-looping more desirable than other forms of communication for Forts?
A lot of other details are glossed over as well, leaving only vague references for the imagination to work with. It makes a lot of the characters' motives and actions very hard to understand.
And the character who speaks only in Gary Newman lyrics? That was a terrible idea! In the introduction, Mr. Williams said that he didn't want to reveal which character it was... but it becomes extremely obvious.
Not to mention extremely annoying! Seriously, the guy drones on and on in nothing but reconstituted song lyrics... it adds nothing to the story except for the threat of a headache! If Mr. Williams was trying to be clever and profound, he failed.
Because of these flaws, I took two stars off of my rating. But I still feel that this was a worthwhile buy for the reasons I mentioned earlier. I plan on buying the next book in the series and would recommend others listen to this book for themselves.
"True Enough" provides an interesting analysis of how modern media has made it hard for most people to separate fact from propaganda. The examples are compelling, and the analysis is fairly well reasoned.
The author seems to have some left leaning biases that creep into his general arguments. But as he admits in the book, we all have our biases that colour the way we view the world. You really can't get away from that.
I can't help but think that the author has missed much of the point of the issue he's arguing... or at least has fallen short of it.
He points out, correctly, that there are people and organizations out there who are actively trying to shape the public discussion in their favour. This is often done surreptitiously, using nefarious means.
It is, indeed, true that we should expect people and organizations supplying us with information to disclose who is funding them. The public deserves to know if there's a possible conflict of interest.
But the book seems to suggest that this is the crux of the problem that needs to be addressed. But in reality, it's only a symptom of the problem.
The author correctly points out that the increased availability of information overwhelms people, and pushes them towards choosing only sources of information that agree with their pre-conceived notions.
But the bigger problem is why people feel overwhelmed by all the choices of information out there. The fact is that most people are just ill equipped deal with it. And the reason is that they're not trained in formal logic and critical thinking.
Some discussion of this aspect would have addressed the issue more fully. I would also have welcomed some discussion of how we can resolve this lack, and perhaps some suggestions for those wishing to become better critical consumers of information.
But disappointingly, the book stopped short of that. Still, I recommend the book for it's interesting analysis and case studies.
I enjoy complex and intricate young reader's books, and these have so far lived up to my expectations.
Character development is handled brilliantly. The plot is fresh. I came away wanting to hear more about the characters and their lives.
There are some interesting points to mention. I'll limit myself to minor plot points, no major spoilers.
It's interesting that the underland word for "human" is "killer". They seemed uncomfortable with that, but it makes sense.
Not because I think humans are especially violent compared to other species. In most aspects, we're just an unremarkable species. We're not very strong, fast, or massive. We don't have any interesting body parts like wings or claws. We can't fly or burrow or spin webs. Basically all we have to distinguish ourselves are our tools. And the most distinctive and interesting tools we have are our weapons of war.
Even if the underland humans kill as much or less as the other animals, it would be a stretch to expect them to be named after their screwdrivers or shovels. I wonder now if this was the type of reasoning that the author went through. Could be... or maybe she just wanted to portray humans as being an especially violent species.
I also found it very interesting that much of this latest book seemed to be inspired by history and the second world war.
The Bane seems to be the rat version of Hitler, uniting the rats in an attempt to perform genocide on the mice - a transient species of intellectuals with no fixed home who are blamed for the current conditions that the rats find themselves under.
And his plan for killing them is to trick them into entering a volcanic "gas chamber".
And there's the classic question "If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby, would you?". It's very interesting that these books touch on the underland version of that question.
It's an excellent read, I recommend it.
Bonk is one of those rare books that is wonderfully new and different from anything else I've read in it's field.
The author does not shy away from any related subject matter in her search for knowledge, even those that may make many people uncomfortable. As a result, this book is a treasure trove of information that few other people are comfortable even bringing up!
And the frankness with which she does bring them up is tremendously refreshing. Who else have you ever heard talk about experiments in manipulating the genitals of chimpanzees to gauge their orgasms? What other sex documentary has ever gone into detail on the methods for arousing female pigs? (They're the only animal other than humans who enjoy having their nipples being manipulated, BTW.)
I've never before heard such in-depth descriptions of the surgeries available for penis implants and the science behind them. She observes an actual surgery and apologizes for descriptions that will cause many men to cross their legs in discomfort. But to me the descriptions only enhanced the story.
If you're at all uncomfortable reading anything I just wrote, this may not be the book for you. This book, instead, is for those of us who are curious enough about these amazing and fascinating aspects of science and biology that concerns of "ickiness" take a back seat to a thirst for knowledge.
This book is a wonderful narrative of a journey through the world of sex research, including explorations of related side industries and events as part of a search for knowledge encompassing a wide variety of aspects of human sexuality.
The people are portrayed as vividly as though you'd met them yourself, and every situation is narrated with frankness and wit. I very highly recommend this book to anybody looking for knowledge about sex that only a few are brave enough to tell you.
Kluge is an interesting overview of the makeup of the human mind and how it may not always operate as we would hope.
I listened to Kluge shortly after also listening to Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck institute. I highly recommend reading them both in quick succession because they each advance arguments that conflict with the other and help put some perspective on both of them.
In Kluge, Marcus does a good job of illustrating many of the ways that our human brain, as well as the way we think falls short of perfection. Understanding our shortcomings is important, not to mention highly interesting.
But I can't help feeling that he's showing some of his own mental shortcomings in his arguments. He laments, for example, that we have an inefficient memory system, and argues that we would be better off with a "postal code" type system that would enable total recall.
However, he fails to consider the cases of people with exceptional memory and how they fit into the equation. The oversight seems to be his own case of confirmation bias, one of the examples of "kluginess" he details.
Gigerenzer's book does examine cases of such exceptional memory and illustrates that there appear to be some significant downsides - a fact that deserves to be explored in greater detail.
Kluge also lists some arguments counter to his, which are summarily dismissed. But the book doesn't address any of Gigerenzer's studies that show significant benefits to mental heuristics that rely on ignorance rather than solid data.
At times Kluge also seems a little overly critical, such as when it puts forth the notion that the species could benefit from a pill to cure procrastination.
But in general, Kluge outlines many interesting flaws in general human reasoning. I particularly enjoyed many of the tips for better decision making in the final chapter.
Overall, Kluge is a good read. I recommend it to anyone interested in human thought.
The Canon is a wonderful listen. The science was fascinating, the tone lighthearted, and the narrator was pleasant to listen to.
Reading other reviews here and elsewhere, though, it seems clear that there are many aspects that you'll either love or hate, depending on your preferences. There doesn't seem to be any in-between. Many of the aspects of this book that other people complain about are things that I found very enjoyable.
Some people, for example, are put off by the author's use of puns. I personally felt that the puns were a delightful addition. Few of them were laugh-out-loud funny, but most of them at least made me smile. I felt that they were included tastefully and didn't get the impression that they were excessive in any way.
I personally would not say that the use of puns detracted from the contents.
Some people were put off by the narrator's voice. I personally found her voice to be very pleasant. I don't think there's any way to really quantify this disagreement, so I'll refrain from listing the qualities they found distasteful and my response of qualities I found pleasant.
I guess you either like her voice or you don't. I recommend listening to the sample provided above and deciding for yourself.
Most of the things other people complained about in this book are aspects that I thoroughly enjoyed. Many people seem to agree with me, judging by the reviews. If you find yourself nodding along to the complaints, then this may not be the right book for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend checking the book out for yourself.
To move on to other, less divided, aspects of the book - I really enjoyed how she put in a section on probability theory and understanding randomness. It's an important subject that often gets ignored.
Some areas, such as quantum physics, get a little detailed. But it's not a subject that can be easily simplified.
Overall, though, I finished the book with a smile on my face. I highly recommend it.
I wouldn't say this is one of Moore's best books. It didn't grab my funny bone and leave me smiling in the same way that "Dirty Job" or "Lamb" did.
Christopher Moore is really good at creating interesting, memorable characters. I wish he'd put his usual amount of effort into that aspect for this book.
Kona, the fake Hawaiian/Jamaican Surfer Dude is up to standards for sure. But most of the rest of the characters have nary an interesting personality quirk between them.
The "Old Broad" is also an interesting character, but she's hardly even in the story. A few other ancillary characters show some promise as well. But as far as the main characters go, they're not much to speak of.
The general ideas expressed in the book are amusing. For example, the notion that all Killer Whales are named Kevin, and biological technology that involves a lot of sphincter usage.
In general, though, I felt that this book just didn't live up to Christopher Moore's other works. It just didn't have the same humour and soul that I've enjoyed from his other books.
But the plot was interesting enough, as were the ideas and settings. So I can't say that I regret buying this book.
The narrator did a passable job. He's okay at voices and his rhythm is good. He'd be better if he could narrate in less of a monotone.
I understand there's a version of this story narrated by Fisher Stevens. I really like some of Stevens' voices - but his rhythm is terrible, and he often assigns the exact same voice to different characters making it hard to differentiate between them when they're having a conversation.
I personally appreciated having a different narrator for this book. I'll admit though, it's hard to find the perfect narrator. It's a very difficult skill.
All in all, I'd recommend buying this book. Even though I'm more lukewarm about it than Moore's other books, I still believe that it's a worthwhile read.
The Marriage Spell is a nice little fantasy romance that never gets too deep. It makes for a nice, light read to pass the time. The downside to that is the book has very little substance to it.
The story takes place in England in the 1800's. It's a bit of an alternative history, because in this England there is magic and magicians. Magicians are not accepted by everybody in society, and are sometimes derogatively called "wordlings"
Our male lead, Jack Langdon, has wizardly powers which have been suppressed from a young age. He is raised to hate magic and magicians, until one day he has an almost fatal hunting accident and is healed by the Abigail, a skilled magician healer. Romance ensues.
Almost without exception the adversity and challenges that the characters face are handled a little too easily and conveniently. It gets a little more interesting with the climax near the end, but only a little.
Almost all of the magic haters mentioned in this book are halfhearted bigots at best. With the exception of the headmaster, who we only see at the very beginning, they're all ridiculously easy to convince to either rethink their prejudices or to be more civil towards magicians.
Every challenging situation is handled in a remarkably straightforward manner. They figure out what's really going on (sometimes with extremely little information), they figure out how to deal with it, they do it, and it works.
Rarely does a wrench get thrown in, and even when things do go wrong they're handled with just a little too much ease. This means that theres no real adversity, and it results in only a token attempt at character development.
By the way, the lovebirds copulate like bunnies.
The narrator is very good with voices. I felt a little uncomfortable listening to an older British gentleman reading the sex scenes, but that may be just me.
Overall, this book is good for a light way to pass the time.
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