Brin uses people to showcase his technology ideas when it should be the other way around.
I give this one a solid "meh".
Admittedly, I've never been a big fan of David Brin. I think he takes a basically interesting idea and stretches it too long with a lot filler. He's got some good characters - in fact he has so many of them that I don't end up caring much about any of them. He's got some clever science fiction ideas -- and that's what saves the book. What he doesn't seem to get, is that like all good fiction, science fiction is still ultimately about the people in the story, not the technology in the story.
There were four of five very interesting characters, but none were really the focus of the story. I didn't really get to know them terribly well, and in the end I didn't care much about them. There were other characters -- some of them with real potential -- that just sort of disappeared as their sub plots didn't merge into the developing story. I spent the last 1/3 of the book wondering what ever happened to a couple of them.
Meanwhile, the long shaggy dog story took several very clever turns, but only hours of reading after they were fairly obvious. Since the only reason the characters by this point seemed to exist was to expose the developing technology and the overall tech story, I wanted to slap them across the face and scream at them to get on with it instead of just blaring out more stilted expository dialog.
On the other hand, if you've a fan of David Brin's former work I guess you'll probably like this one too. He's such a respected writer, that I was looking forward to this one. I thought since it wasn't in his famous "uplift" series, it would give me a chance to get to know the author from a neutral position. I guess it did that, but I was disappointed by what I found.
Like many of the books in this series, the plot - while plausible and well constructed -- isn't really all that important. The story is in the journey and the characters. Once again, Craig Johnson has found a way to insert a believable but strong mysticism into the story line without ever once stepping beyond the realm of events that are possible without any supernatural help. The reader is left convinced, but without needing to leave behind their sensibility. The adventure is wonderfully told.
The author treats serious topics with as much respect as he treats his characters.
In addition to a solid story, the writing is beautiful. I particularly enjoy Johnson's treatment of native American mysticism in this series. It is neither overstated nor treated as a trite superstition. Nothing that happens in the story could be called magic, or could not have happened with only common, non-mystic, explanations -- yet the beliefs and experiences of the characters are compelling and their view of the world makes us the richer for having been part of them.
I have a friend who went through a similar set of injuries with his daughter and the treatment in this story rings true (if thankfully less detailed).
I do wish that Guidall's cadence was a better match for the slow drawl of a Wyoming cowboy or even more so a high plains indian. He tries, but he's just too east coast. Still, he's a gifted narrator and the word doesn't suffer from his treatment.
This a prequel and a good place to start for the series -- but understand that the series is all about the dark hero looking out for the powerless. The writing is technically good and the story moves along, but don't look for feasibility in the plot line, or plausibility in almost any aspect of the series. This book attempts to tell the early story of hour Repairman Jack (a sort of poor man's Jack Reacher) got started helping people, and maybe some of where his skills come from -- but really, it doesn't set up a plausible background for what the character is later in the series. The Reacher character from that series looks well researched and plausible compared to Repairman Jack. If you're looking for solid logic and well thought out long term series story arcs, go somewhere else. If you want to see a tough and mysterious hero beat up bad people this is for you.
While I agree with the others here, and this is a great listen that you shouldn't miss, I'm going to have one less than complimentary thing to add.
In my personal opinion, the narrator does a fantastic job and is a very talented man -- but I'm not convinced he was the best pick for the series. The mismatch was most keen for me while he was reading what I consider to be one of the most beautifully written scenes I've come across in this sort of book. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that it was near the end and involved a long trudge in the snow. You'll know it when you get there. There was something about the cadence and tone of speech that I don't think quite did that scene justice. The Cheyenne people play a central role in this series, not just as individuals but as a cultural backdrop. I think Guidall has a hard time voicing that.
Guidall has a speech quality that is just a little faster and has just a little bit of an edge to it that I associate with a kind of east coast cynicism. His voice was perfect for Mitch Rapp, and while he tones it back and slows it down enough to get away with it for Longmire, I didn't feel he did Henry as well as maybe someone else might have.
Still, I really enjoyed this, having found the story to be well written and the characters interesting. I knew old cowboy from Wyoming when I was younger and learned to work with horses from him. Much of the feel of the story just rings true. I also really enjoyed the respectful and at the same time honest treatment of the native american people in the story. Again, the characters rang true for me -- at least from those I've known (though not as well).
If Andy Weir has gotten any of the technical details wrong in any major way, you'd almost need to be a rocket engineer to spot them. I say almost, because I spotted a couple of minor ones that don't really impact the story any.
This is an adventure story about survival in some of the most inhospitable conditions imaginable, with the focus of an engineer and the pacing of an experienced author.
You would think that given the technical detail and accuracy that has gone into this story that it would be slow and tedious to read, but Mr. Weir has done a brilliant job of weaving the explanations into the story without bogging down in them.
R.C. Bray does a very good job with narration, acting just enough and using enough variation in the voices and accents to keep things easy to understand and identify. Mr. Bray does make one or two little annoying mistakes when reading words that those of us in the computer industry use (e.g. for "ASCII" he pronounces "A" "S" "C" "2" instead of saying ass-key) but these small errors are entirely forgivable given the skill with which the rest of his work is delivered.
I know some of the fans of this series may find this one quite a bit more tame than others have been in the past. I found it more mature, more potentially believable (though still a stretch in bits), and overall very enjoyable. There was till plenty of Jack being Jack -- but it wasn't as over the top as some of the others. I approve.
Reminded me a great deal of the old move from the 70's "Damnation Alley" (which I liked, in a cheezy kind of way)
The reader first -- He's VERY talented and he voiced the characters with great skill and with enough differences between them that you could really tell who was speaking. Unfortunately, I thought he chose to over play some of their personality traits and it made them into almost comical archetypes when they didn't need to be.
The story --- So much potential, and so interesting, that it's a shame what the author did to the plot about half way through. I don't want to give it away, but he took a book that was based on a lot of thought and research and then dove off the comic book deep end to make an antagonist when it really wasn't necessary at all.
The whole book is a pretty good tour through an atopic future LA, but the main character is useless and never really gets any better. The plot makes little sense and tries to come together at the end but mostly fails. The book wanders from one violent event to another with little to hold it together. Kadrey tries to be William Gibson and doesn't get there.
This series has been good but not great all along, and I think the ending felt forced. In particular I don't like last minute reveals that suddenly provide new background where none was hinted at earlier in the series. It feels very much like deux ex machina and I'm not a big fan that. I also don't think it was needed in this case.
I don't want to give any more detail on that in a review.
Overall it wasn't bad - about like the rest of the series.
The book starts a bit slow and it's a very unusual kind of story, but you get into it fairly quickly. The bulk of the book is a great character study, with very real young people in it, but the end fell apart. Even without changing the plot, the end could have been written better.
Much of the subject matter is too adult for the rest of the book. That's not to say it didn't belong there. I think it was well treated and necessary for the story. The problem is that in every other respect it would be a great bit of young adult science fiction -- the adolescent exploration of a new environment, the rebellion against the enforced status quo, etc. are all staples of good YASF; but there's just too much content that I'd say most parents would want to wait for late teens (at least) before being comfortable with the kids getting to deep into.
The story was well read, and the subject matter well treated for all that.
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