This story is basically two super agents out in the big wide world of classic sci-fi. They get into trouble and are hunted throughout the book and on into the next. There isn't anything particularly bad about it and there's nothing particularly good either. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be "unremarkable." The characters are pretty flat and cliche. The sci-fi tech is very mundane and uninspired. Most of the time they are getting ambushed and effortlessly defeating mindless flunkies. There's no main villain, just an endless supply of throw-away thugs. There are a few good characters in the turtles but, unfortunately, they are not the protagonists. It's a decent time-passer but I'm probably not interested enough to continue in the series.
The novel is based around travelling to and investigating a mysterious artificial world. While the ring world would seem to be the focus of the book and was, in fact, quite interesting I found that it was the, more or less, related ideas that made the story sing.
There are three intelligent species in the novel. They are quite simplistic in nature in that the Puppeteers are excessively cautious and fearful but very intelligent, the Kzin are (or were) ultra-aggressive and the humans are in between. But there are interesting caveats to these such as the only ambassadors of the Puppeteers are those that are considered by their own race to be insane because only such a one would brave close contact with such unpredictable species. Or the much discussed evolution of the Kzin toward a more reasoned nature.
The most fascinating facet of the novel to me was the discussions regarding the nature of luck that suffuse the story throughout. Earth has a complex system of laws controlling reproduction wherein each human has the right to one child and more can be won through various means such as purchase, arena combat, exceptional genes, etc., but the salient of which is by lottery. The laws in themselves are intriguing but it gets really fascinating when one human crew member is chosen because her ancestors up to 5 generations back have been lottery winners and this woman has led a particularly lucky existence thus far. The Puppeteer believes she has been bred for psychic luck via the lottery while the other human argues it is simply the far end of a probability curve. Someone out of billions of people was bound to have ended up lucky in most things even if their odds were no better than anyone else and they won't have any better odds than anyone else in the future either. Either could be right and what starts as an interesting speculative argument becomes all the more entertaining and complex as the truth is revealed. I won't ruin the magic but it's quite brilliant.
The listener will also be treated to many more mysteries and audacious ideas such as the history of the ring world and its people, conspiracies of the man and Kzin wars, future tech, traveling planets, and exploding galaxies.
The narrator was mediocre. All of the voices sound pretty much the same with the only differentiation being more or less enthusiasm or gruffness but no truly different accents or anything. He did, however, do a good job relaying the character's emotions and only the narration (not the dialogue) was monotonic.
IN SUMMARY, this is a quirky and thought-provoking adventure in the same vein as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Dimension of Miracles that anyone who enjoys scifi should consider worth a listen.
As my title suggests, my first impulse is that this story was the most twisted and perverted tale of women's empowerment imaginable. Basically, most magic users have to expend some of their own life every time they cast a spell but a few mages, called magisters, have discovered (**HEREAFTER CONTAINS A SEMI-SPOILER THAT IS REVEALED ALMOST IMMEDIATELY IN THE BOOK AND IS INTEGRAL TO REVIEW THE BOOK IN A MEANINGFUL WAY**) a way to steal other peoples' lives instead. Up to the book's time, no woman has successfully become a magister because they could not bear the injustice of the arrangement or some such (a strange sort of back-handed compliment implying women are more moral but more limited in a way some might call "weak") but the main character succeeds. Thus, the protagonist breaks this glass ceiling by proving she can be every bit as despicable as a man.
That weirdness aside, this book has a very rich and interesting set of ideas for magic, politics, and morality. I dare not guess how derivative any of it might be since I don't pretend to have read every book in existence so I will judge the ideas on their own merit.
The magister's magical source is an endless fount of fascination to me. It is intriguing how liberally different magisters apply their magic considering it's violent nature. Some spend it without any care at all while others feel the pain they cause with every spell but choose to do it anyway. Perhaps the most interesting facet is that the magister will die if they lose the will to continue drawing power from others, making callousness and cruelty necessary to survival.
Then there's the way in which, upon the death of the current "consort" another target is chosen for draining automatically and without input from the magister on who it will be. In fact, they don't even know who it is. This anonymity is a brilliant addition giving rise to the idea that a magister should avoid trying to find their consort for fear of putting a face to their indiscriminate murders and sapping their resolve to continue. It also leads one to wonder about many intriguing what-if situations. What if another magister was selected as a consort? What if one of the magisters discovered every other magister's current consort and killed them to have the opportunity to enslave the other magisters in their moment of weakness?
There's also the odd magical system wherein spells can be cast that cure diseases and save years of life at the cost of just a few minutes of the witch or consort's life. Meaning the magisters could spend relatively few lives in order to create a utopia for the rest of humanity if they wished but such does not occur because it is inherent in being a magister that you not place much value on other people's lives. What an incredible dichotomy :D The politics between the magisters were, likewise, interesting to me.
The narrator did a decent job differentiating characters and giving them emotion. Nothing spectacular but also nothing that distracted me from the story.
IN SUMMARY, though there isn't a great deal of action in the story and much of the time is spent on political discussions, I never really felt bored throughout this novel because the world and the magic are so intriguing that every time a new element is introduced it sets me to wondering. There is a very brief and very... odd romance, multiple characters to follow, each of which are entertaining in their own right, some action and adventure, and a promising story arc opened in the later part of the book that clearly will carry through the series. I have not read the other books yet so I can't speak to the efficacy of it but I plan to continue this series in short order. The author clearly thought this one through and the result was a novel about magic and morality that had me thinking as much as any scifi I've ever read.
The start of this book was quite engaging. I liked all of the characters in the book because all but the intentional few came off as very intelligent and had clear reasons for their actions. They were internally consistent. The only problem I had with them was that the main character was a bit too good. She wasn't infallible or anything but she was basically the perfect little girl who never disobeyed her parents or had any human flaws which made it difficult to think of her as anything more than a storybook character.
I think the tree cats as a whole were done quite well. A good bit of thought was given to the societal and interpersonal differences that would arise from telepathic abilities, as opposed to being "mind-blind" (great term!) and the inevitable difficulties in communicating with and understanding creatures of the other sort.
Unfortunately, I feel that the book let off all it's steam after her first meeting with the clan. Up to then things were proceeding at a good clip but the whole book afterward, until one exciting event near the end, was rather dull and uninteresting. It all seemed to be unnecessary daily routine business that didn't do much to build the characters, story, or relationship between the humans and tree cats. In my opinion, the author chose to focus on the wrong events and lost the momentum of the early chapters.
My more specific criticisms share the common theme of intelligent people making oversights that their intelligence should prohibit, presumably, for the sake of presenting artificial crises in the story. The first, and biggest, is that throughout the book Stephanie and her tree cat are clearly desperate to communicate with one-another and yet they never grasp the very obvious solution of teaching the tree cat to read and understand human speech. The tree cats are given as being approximately as intelligent as humans so it should be no harder to teach them this than it is to teach any mute human. That they would spend years together without trying when they want so badly to communicate is unimaginable. The second issue contains a **MILD SPOILER** that when the tree cats are being abducted they continue to fall for the traps without fail as though knowing that swaths of other scouts have been mysteriously disappearing would not lend them to be more cautious. **END MILD SPOILER**
As for the narrator, I have no complaints. She did a wonderful job of differentiating characters and giving them believable and lively voices. Stephanie's even seemed to mature with her age. Job well done.
In SUMMARY, I gave this book a rather generous 3 stars because the world, characters, and premise had great potential but I cannot give it any more because the execution was quite poor. All said it had some interesting ideas but was ultimately a disappointment and I don't expect the rest of the series to be much different so I will likely skip it. For anyone who has read the whole Harrington series it might be worthwhile just for the lore.
This will be a comprehensive review of the series at large including the positives and negatives as I see them.
This book introduces the hero and other characters that will be the focus of a lengthy series which has been quite captivating for me. As the synopsis above says, it's about a man frozen in time for a hundred years who is thrown unceremoniously into a seemingly impossible situation. With all he knew lost, Geary must lead the immense but bloodied alliance fleet out of the deathtrap they find themselves in and somehow return them to safety with the fate of the war hanging in the balance.
What makes this series so worthwhile is all the interesting concepts that are investigated along the way, such as the time-travel aspect, the effect of a long-dead hero reemerging to challenge his own legend, the long disintegration of tactics and ethics over the course of a century-long war, the drama surrounding the reintroduction of these things, the challenges to a commander in leading a military force on a long campaign through enemy territory and overwhelming opposition, duty, honor, and the nuances of politics both within the military and between the military and the civilian government.
While I enjoy all those aspects within the series, what makes it most unique to me is the nature of the space combat explored by the technology taken as given within this scifi. The ships are capable of traveling at faster than light speeds between star systems to make interstellar civilization possible but within star systems they are limited to less than 3/10 the speed of light. Of course, this is still mind-boggling fast but, due to the immense distances within a solar system, this creates combat situations where you cannot see what your opponent is doing in real-time. There are often times when the fleet will initially only be able to see what the enemy was doing many hours ago and have to make their plans based on this time-lagged information. As well, the communications between ships in the fleet are somewhat time-lagged, especially when the fleet splits up, meaning that coordination by the fleet commander is extremely tricky as orders to each ship must take this into account. Furthermore, the high speed engagements between fleets and ships bring relativistic distortion into play as objects at that speed experience length contraction and time dilation though, to my slight disappointment, this factor is not spoken about in any depth and is relegated to something that the ship's computers account for (which would be entirely accurate since the calculations are rather complex, it would just be nice to hear relativistic effects described more in the book).
Many reviewers have discussed the seemingly simplistic nature of the series' characters which I would somewhat agree with. The premise is that the long period of war and quick rate of turnover on officers due to a high rate of combat deaths has degraded the training of the fleet's officers and given rise to a suicidally zealous culture of aggression toward the enemy. As a result, pretty much everyone except for Geary seems to be unbelievably stupid. While I wouldn't disagree that the author may have slightly overstepped the bounds of believability in this regard it is hard to argue what could or could not happen psychologically to a civilization that has been bitterly embroiled in all-out warfare for that length of time. I can say that as the series progresses the other members of the fleet become steadily more reasonable and by the end of the series are, to a close approximation, what might be expected of rational people. Looked at in this light, part of the story is Geary reforming the mindset of those under his command and undoing the psychological damage of a century of war. Certainly it is far easier to accept than the author's other book, Stark's War, which depicted a very similar situation of everyone being utterly brainless aside from the hero but without the excuse of the hero being from another time. Frankly I was shocked to learn that this was that same author because Stark's War was undoubtedly one of the worst books I've ever read while this series is now one of my favorites :D
One other possible detriment to the series is that the author chooses to reiterate many concepts many many times within the series, such as, how the video conferencing software works, the role of the speed of light in combat, the premise of Geary's arrival in the story, etc. I'd like to say it's just for those people crazy enough to start a series partway through but, in some cases, these things are repeated multiple times in the same BOOK. I definitely found it annoying since I was listening to the whole series straight through but it wasn't a major issue.
Finally, I must say that the narrator does a fantastic job in this series! Not once did I find myself gritting my teeth over any of the voice acting. He proficiently portrays both male and female voices and gives a good deal of variance to between different voices of the same sex such that all the characters sound fairly unique. His tempo, volume control, and everything else about the reading made it a pleasure to listen to. Well done! :D
I highly recommend the Lost Fleet series in its entirety as well as the followup series Beyond the Frontier. They are quite linear so you should definitely start with this book :)
I was very happy when I noticed this continuation series and the first book did not disappoint. As Geary gets his new mission to explore alien space he begins to uncover conspiracies of both alien and human origin which only lead to more questions. The alliance government has their own plans for Geary's mission that will probably be rather obvious to most listeners, as it was to me. Impactful, nevertheless. As more is discovered about the Enigma race the theories explaining their mysterious behavior become more robust and more baffling. They certainly aren't making Geary's job easy. There's a good bit of action in this one and one operation in particular that was quite the exciting race against time to carry out a carefully planned deceit for a daring rescue. The book leaves off with a massive cliffhanger. Fortunately for us, the next book's already out now :D
This book details what many never saw coming, an end to the retreat from syndic territory! As Geary and his fleet make their way to the very cusp of alliance space they are seemingly assaulted by every impediment imaginable as they are confronted by overwhelming enemy forces, internal sabotage, alien treachery, and, worst of all, dwindling resources! It all comes together in a climactic battle where the most mundane of threats could snatch victory from the fleet on the threshold of safety. A well-designed, riveting end to the chase!
I have to say that I've been quite impressed with the series and this last book does a good job of wrapping up all loose ends aside from the arc that's left open for the new series (was VERY pleased to find that after I finished this book :D). This is essentially the final battle at the syndic homeworld and turns out to be a pretty dicey situation that requires very delicate maneuvering by our resident hero. The actual final fleet battle was underwhelming, in my opinion, and seemed to be possibly the shortest and simplest encounter in the series among fleet battles. Nevertheless, the events surrounding that battle were the main focus. Afterward, the way is laid for another series as a meeting is forced between the fleet and their new rivals, as well as a return home where Geary and Desjani bring a resolution to their personal troubles. If you've liked the series so far (and why else would you be looking at the last book) you will enjoy this one and rocket right into the continuation series as I am doing now :D
The most important thing I can say about this book is that you need to like stories with a many-branching focus that follows many different characters and locations. This book follows maybe 5 different stories all in the same universe but, as far as this book went, largely unrelated. There is a war that traverses most of these storylines but that's about as much connection as you'll get in the first book. I'm sure in later books it will all come together.
The style is very classic fantasy. There are multiple worlds connected by portals with humans, demons, elves, and all the other cliche races. There is a lot of magic involved but no stated magic system as of yet so don't expect an explanation of how any of it works. In that sense it really is magic but this also means it has no real depth for the listener because you have no idea what is or isn't possible or why anyone chooses to use magic as they do.
The main reason that my experience with this book was poor is that it jumped around so much that I never felt involved with any of the characters and what time was spent on each of them was mostly idle chatter. Basically, I never got drawn in and often found that I had stopped listening for minutes at a time and had to rewind, though there was little gain for doing so. I'm not by any means going to say this proves it's a bad book. I admit that I prefer stories that have just one or two main foci and that is simply a preference but I do feel this book did little to invest the listener in any of the characters. It probably gets more gripping in the later books but I'll be stopping here.
I was thoroughly enthralled by this zombie epic for three main reasons.
1) The main character is well fleshed out and likeable; extremely capable but not beyond belief. He feels remorse for some of the terrible things he is forced to do but it doesn't prevent him from getting them done. He's a man of purpose and conviction and I like that.
2) The science behind the zombie plague seems well researched and is believable and well-delivered, at least for someone of my non-existent background in biology. The author gives compelling reasons driving the outbreak and the plot as a whole was satisfying.
3) There are a few scenes of extended hand-to-hand combat between the main character and zombies as well as human combatants and each of these fights are highly engaging. The descriptions give a good impression of how the fight would look and the protagonist is brutally effective and economic in all his movements. Despite his considerable skill there is at least one battle that could go either way. All of the fights were viscerally entertaining to me and our hero generally comes out of it all looking like a true badass.
I'd recommend the book to anyone who enjoys zombies, martial combat, or conspiracies. Generally, the book accomplishes everything it set out to and is a great stand-alone. It didn't really set up a series in any sense but I look forward to checking out the other books.
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