This novel provided a believable and fascinating origin story for many races from the Halo games, including a great history for humanity that I did not expect. I would not recommend it for those who are looking for an action-oriented title as there is little of that here but it can be surprisingly gripping to learn of the decisions and events leading up to the world of the games. I do believe anyone who enjoys the Halo story will get their money's worth out of this book.
This novel was FAR better than I expected and the synopsis does not do it any sort of justice. The general premise is one that I've never encountered before and it had me hooked from the start. I don't want to spoil anything, as the surprising plot development was the most delightful part of this book for me. If you haven't already read a review that gave everything away I encourage you to get the book without ruining this aspect for yourself! Suffice it to say, Mr. Larson gives the tried old story of alien abduction a twist that might put it into a whole 'nother sub-genre where humans are made to fight for a good cause against their will and under baffling restrictions.
I REALLY want to talk specifics but the gist is that Riggs is put in a situation where he must work around the bizarre limitations of an artificial intelligence and technology beyond his comprehension to achieve a goal of epic proportions. This is complicated by the fact that he is a random person of no authority forced to take on huge responsibility in a very short time and with no instruction. As many other reviewers have already said, he also must do all this directly following the death of his son and daughter.
Some reviewers have expressed disbelief at the progression of Riggs' roles and of his response to the death of his children or the plausibility of the plot as a whole. I disagree with all of these. Don't get me wrong, the premise of the story is WILD but it is plausible (at least within scifi) and the rest is really a pretty reasonable progression of events.
Riggs goes from a nobody to a person of extreme import because he was one of few people given ultimate power by virtue of the premise. What he does with that power and how he responds is quite understandable and reasonable to me. He never makes any leaps in logic or presents with any knowledge or ability that I would consider to be beyond a normal man with a proper education. In fact, I think his character is quite well done. If anything he's just unnaturally calm in crazy situations. His response to his childrens' death is not ludicrous as some reviewers have said. It happens in a situation of high adrenaline and violence so it is completely realistic that he initially turns his despair into rage. In such situations, people usually do not give themselves over to grief until the situation has calmed down.
The plot is pretty well laid out and supported by teasing clues throughout the book and further into the series. The technology is pretty basic and unadorned. All of it has roots in modern day technology and none of it is really explained in enough detail to say that it doesn't make sense. The author seems to have acknowledged a lack of schooling in physics on his part and the characters admit their ignorance to understand the tech.
There are only one or two other characters besides Riggs that are developed in any significant capacity and, unfortunately, his girlfriend was not one of them. When she was presented at the start I had high expectations for her but nothing more was ever added. She is used as a human companion (and concubine) for Riggs and little else. Crowe is an entertaining personality and the author sets up an age-old relationship between them that serves the political drama.
The narrator has a pleasing voice. His character discriminations are mostly very good but the main female is basically just Riggs with a slightly different accent. Nevertheless, I was never distracted by the narrator and the main voices were very satisfactory.
Overall, I was blown away by the fantastic premise of the book and I very much enjoyed Riggs as a character and his puzzle-solving with the computer (think trying to get a murderous Genie to do your will). It is a unique and gripping adventure with bouts of frequent action broken up by intriguing ideas and thought exercises. Highly recommend it for scifi fans!
I'm not a big history buff but the story of Genghis is both epic and exciting. I was not disappointed by this first installment of the series. The author manages to paint a life-like depiction of Temujin's home and the culture in which he was raised. I felt that I was there with him as I listened and it is interesting as an anthropological study, if nothing else.
Temujin's story is played out up to the beginnings of his empire, replete with themes of betrayal, brutality, loyalty, violence, and manipulation. Knowing little of Temujin's life coming into the book, I found the plot to be exhilarating and, frequently, disgusting with many unexpected surprises and turns of fate for the Khan. Temujin is an engaging protagonist with a strong character and a sense of morality that most civilized people will find foreign. His mental maturity is made clearly evident by the trials of his youth detailed in the book.
The narrator was fairly good. He did an acceptable job differentiating voices. There were a great many characters so some sounded the same but it was rarely confusing. He was never painful to listen to, and pronounced the foreign words and names appropriately, as far as I could tell.
If you like action, adventure, anthropology, or history you will likely enjoy this novel. I will be continuing on to the next in the series, despite misgivings about the change in narrator.
Let me begin by saying that, despite the mediocre rating, this book contains vitally important information that everyone should hear. The author presents us with Shin's life in a North Korean work camp, his escape from the camp and from North Korea, and his life following his freedom. He also offers up alarming information regarding North Korea's regime and leaders, the terrible living conditions of its people, and the political issues surrounding the totalitarian terrorist state.
Most of the book is taken up by Shin's life. The conditions he describes in Camp 14 are hideous and appalling. It is reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps except that these have been around for half a century, long enough for the guards to raise new generations of prisoners that have never known freedom. The mentality of these children is something close to psychopathy, knowing nothing of compassion, empathy, love, or anything else beyond the selfish needs of survival. It has been ingrained in them to watch their fellow prisoners and snitch to the guards about any infractions. They feel no loyalty to anyone. Shin betrays his own family to the authorities with no remorse (at the time). The picture he paints resembles a Milgram psychology experiment with moral abandon for the goal of producing the perfect prisoners. This part of the book was both fascinating and horrifying.
The rest is his journey from the camp to ultimate safety in the west, detailing his mental and physical transition from captive to free man. A good deal of it is devoted to the interplay between North Korea, China, and South Korea, mainly in how they treat North Korean refugees. At the same time, Shin's consciousness begins a remarkable transformation as he begins to learn of normal human relations and emotions, experiencing his first pangs of guilt and remorse while learning to live with personal responsibility. His efforts in the U.S. to educate others about his story is also told.
The reason for the low performance rating is that the audio has been mangled. It is painfully obvious that different parts have been spliced together, as the volume and pitch of the speaker frequently change abruptly. Furthermore, the general layout for the book is haphazard. The timeline is scrambled and the insertions by the author with interesting facts are, seemingly, placed at random. A disappointing book for such a vitally important subject.
All told, the information in this book needs to be disseminated as widely as possible. It sheds light not only on the deplorable and internationally illegal human rights crimes that North Korea and China are involved in but also on the political barriers of all involved countries that are preventing improvement. Even knowing beforehand that North Korea was a brainwashing hell-hole of a country that presents a psychopathic terrorist face to the rest of the world, I was shocked by what I learned in this book and I am also now more informed on how it might be helped.
I highly recommend that everyone listen to this book to learn more about what is possibly the blackest stain on humanity's reputation that is currently in existence. It will be especially fascinating to those interested in politics, psychology, and human rights.
Only rarely does one come across a novel with such simultaneous scope and imagination to realize the true potential of a science fiction universe. Hamilton has done just that in the Void Trilogy. Since beginning this series I have come to understand that it is a continuation of another series, the commonwealth saga. Having begun the Void Trilogy unaware, I can safely say that one can start at either point and still understand. This trilogy follows many characters that are, at first, almost entirely separate from one another so there will be initial confusion due to the style but it abates partway through the first book.
The Void Trilogy strikes me as an incredible compendium of transhumanist possibilities. Hamilton imagines so many different ways for people to transcend their natural station. There are the usual trademarks; bodies populated by nanomachines that lend near magic abilities for strength, utility, medical assistance, etc.; bodies that have been guided by artificial genetic evolution to exemplify the human ideal; minds spliced with computers. But Hamilton has taken some of these to fascinating extremes while coming up with very original ideas in other ways (which is to say, I haven't encountered them anywhere else yet).
The people who have chosen to invest their minds in computers have varying stages of integration from linking up with a vast internet within their own bodies to shedding their physical form and living in a virtual reality with others of their kind where their intellect is vastly inflated by some immense quantum supercomputer that is described as existing in a field around a planet (if I was paying attention). And Hamilton even throws in other species that have completely transcended physical existence altogether for good measure. My personal favorite imagining of his is that of the "multiples", which are many bodies invested with the same personality! While cloning and mind-swapping are scifi hallmarks I have never seen someone put them together in quite this manner before. It certainly had some interesting social implications.
All that alone would make this book well worth the read/listen but Hamilton's true genius is in his ability to take all of those disparate evolutionary pathways and fit them into a single, cohesive universe. I wouldn't have thought it possible that such a wide range of human archetypes with their wildly differing abilities and natures could coexist but Hamilton really does fit them together in a way that feels genuinely believable. It is a truly remarkable achievement.
In fact, Hamilton does such a wonderful job of setting up this diversity of transhumanist factions that I found myself wondering at all the paths he noticeably left out. There is an almost shocking lack of wholly artificial bodies. There are also no people living in non-human bodies, which one would expect to be an inevitable faction with the sort of biomedical technology available. And that is what this book does, it makes you wonder about the future of technology and the impact it will have on people's lives both practically and philosophically the way all great scifi does.
Among the dazzling breadth of ideas and inspiration floating around in this intellectual playground there is also an epic tale unraveling within the even more epic universe. There are something like 8 different characters that the reader will follow. Each of these have their own story and their own environment. At the start, there seems very little tying them together but as events unfold it becomes more and more clear that they are all entangled in the same web of conspiracy and politics that will ultimately determine the fate of the universe. In fact, Hamilton's universe is so vast that it actually has another universe inside it that is consuming the larger universe... Yeah, it gets pretty nuts but in a good way ;)
All of that said, I haven't even given away any real spoilers. This is an epic in the truest sense. The characters are unique and heavily developed. The story is gripping, mysterious, and masterfully woven together. The backdrop is the likes of which I've never seen before. If you haven't picked this one up, I can't recommend it enough. Enjoy! :D
Oh, and the narrator does not get in the way except when he simulates yelling while trying not to actually yell. In those instances the character voices become very warped, especially the female voices. He distinguishes well enough under normal conditions though and his voice is easy to listen to.
I enjoyed the first book enough to try this one, hoping to get hooked on the series but, while the premise is intriguing and I like that Harry is a wizard who only uses magic sparingly, there were far too many character-based irritants in this book for me to carry on.
The plot of the book is good enough. The narration is horrid as there is practically no differentiation between character voices whatsoever to the point that I can't keep track of who's speaking until the words and context give me a clue. It is literally Mr. Buffy speaking in his own monotone through the whole book.
I can get past poor narration and frequently do but what really drove me off was Harry and Murphy's relationship dynamic. Basically it's this. Harry learns about vital information to their investigations, decides he doesn't want to endanger Murphy and, thus, withholds it from her even though it just as often ends up putting her in further danger. For her part, Murphy overreacts severely to being left in the dark, even when it's just that Harry hasn't had time to tell her something, such as in this book when Harry shows up at the murder scene of someone he knew and Murphy proceeds to beat him senseless without giving him a chance to speak. Thus, Murphy is angry that he does not tell her things and yet she does not allow him tell her anything either because she's so mad... Furthermore, Murphy blames EVERYTHING on Harry regardless of circumstance, evidence, past experience, willingness to cooperate, etc. She doesn't even flinch in her malice on the occasions that he risks his own life to save hers.
At this point I could maybe due with just hating Murphy's idiotic nature but what seals the deal is that Harry takes all the punishment and AGREES with her. He takes all the blame on himself when she acts like a petulant child and begs her for forgiveness while he's still bleeding from her unwarranted beatings. For all intents and purposes, Harry suffers from battered wife syndrome and I can't stand to listen to it any longer. It's simply infuriating.
I could have continued this rant but it's been a few months since I listened to it and I really don't want to waste any more time on this than I already have, besides. I just hope this saves someone else the time and money I spent on the author's sick idea of friendship.
I'll start by saying, I chose to listen to this novel despite other reviews because I didn't want to miss any plot points leading into the 4th book, which looks interesting. This was a mistake. There are no plot developments in this book. Nothing of lasting import happens. I suggest skipping ahead.
Where the first book was about Davey resolving emotional trauma, and the second was about his imprisonment, this one is almost entirely about their daughter and her trials as a teenager. The only problem with this character-centric story is that the character is uninteresting. She is the perfect child in every way. She's good at sports, a genius, beautiful, loved by all, has super powers that she uses frequently in front of people without anyone noticing, and doesn't fail at a single thing through the whole book. In short, she's not a realistic human being.
As other reviewers have said, this is very much a high school drama (heavy on the drama) and has almost nothing to do with Davey and Millie. Not my cup of tea to start with but I have enjoyed such things from time to time. However, the character issues make this a bad book even for that genre. To be fair, there is a good bit of action. Cent does her share of butt kicking but she always wins without effort. There is no suspense. The only bit that piqued my interest was when the NSA came into it but it was over within 15 minutes and nothing came of it. All the more disappointing after I spent the whole book HOPING the NSA would capture Cent to put a stop to her nonsense.
There are other problems as well. Cent has a nemesis that is pure evil to the extent that she has the same problem as Cent's character. No shades of gray. She also has a posse who are all, likewise, one-dimensional. Gould tried to remedy this with an explanation for their behavior at the end but it was unconvincing to me, not to mention disturbing...
Cent discovers that she can use her teleportation ability to manipulate her speed. For one, I have trouble believing that Davey never thought of this, considering it was he who realized decades earlier that teleporting effects frames of relative motion. That aside, Cent uses this ability at literally every opportunity with little regard for observers. Issues with its use are also overlooked. For example, she uses it to gain inhuman bursts of speed running, ignoring the fact that the sudden acceleration would cause her to trip. Moreover, all the effects to her body of high speed impact and sudden acceleration are ignored. This might not be so jarring if the author had not, up to this point, given significant consideration to the physics of "jumping" previously. I had very much enjoyed the attempts to make the physics consistent and this oversight was a disappointment.
Then there's the old problem of the characters having seemingly read and memorized every book in existence and teenagers speaking in very unnatural manners for their age. Presumably, these teenagers converse as the author himself would if he could go back in time. Not only does Cent manifest this but also her boyfriend and, to some extent, her friends.
The narrator was wonderful and deserves none of the blame. She did a great job with making Cent's voice sound like that of a teenager and was pleasant to listen to. The male voices were a bit off but only to the usual degree when mimicking the opposite sex.
I will probably still go on to the 4th book because the synopsis sounds much more exciting but I can't say this one was encouraging.
This novel is a fantastic example of a scifi that is well-researched and thought-out to make you think about the fascinating potentials of future technology all while providing an engaging and action-packed storyline. Admittedly, this first book is rather limited in it's scope as it mostly boils down to a single prolonged engagement but considering the battle will decide the ultimate fate of a planet of billions of people it retains its intensity.
For me, the battle tech imagined in this book was the most interesting part. I won't speak to too many details since they are linked to some of the story's suspense but suffice it to say that there is some pretty cool armor going on that stems from currently emerging camo/invisibility tech and it sees some fun multi-purpose use in this series, as well as a truly bizarre FTL drive. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a physics major so I am probably more intrigued by some of this than others would be and certainly accounts for my love of the way that the ship's captain and crew are able to discuss matters of rather complex physics off-hand throughout the book. That being said, don't be driven off if your knowledge in physics is basic. The story never gets bogged down in theoretical speculations so quixotic that it would be gobbledygook to the layperson. It is always directly connected to frying the bad guys and gives indirect explanation of the technology involved while maintaining the "cool" factor that draws people to scifi.
The only really issue I had with this book was (VERY SLIGHT SPOILER) the idea that the aliens could have a good enough grasp of the nature of light and the practical applications of it to make extremely powerful and precise lasers, defensive force fields, and FTL engines/communications but not understand multi-frequency lasers. That doesn't seem like something that could have not occurred to them. Granted, it seems like they gave up on innovation ever since the overmind started taking care of them. Perhaps that tech just wasn't carried over to the computer for some reason? Maybe there will be an explanation for it later.
I have listened to the other two books of the series so far and they have not disappointed me. Each of them stand as gripping space-warfare scifi with more mysteries and players being introduced as the plot unfolds. The end of book 3 is a particularly huge cliffhanger that I really hope I'll be able to resolve soon. The narrator is the same for all three books and I found him to be quite skilled. He's not quite the best I've heard but he is capable of differentiating characters and flavoring with multiple accents that were not unpleasant to listen to for me. He never got in my way of enjoying the story with jarring tones or volumes and he often enriched it.
I highly recommend both this book and series to SciFi lovers.
This sequel has a bit of a different flavor from the previous book. The first book was mostly about Davey dealing with his emotional traumas and his burgeoning relationship with Millie, with his ability being a bit of spice that kept things interesting. This book focuses much more on his ability, both on the mechanics of how it works, and on the dangers in using it. Davey is held captive for almost all of this book. The main thrust is on how Davey is contained, how he tries to escape and resist, and what he discovers about his power in the process. I found this quite interesting, as much is revealed via a series of tests that Davey is made to participate in with a scientist. The physics perspective and potential uses for his ability (both those proposed and those imagined by the reader) are fascinating. Once again, Davey's ability to keep up with a physics grad as though he had all the same education, just from his "reading", strikes as unrealistic but I suppose we all like our heroes to be geniuses. I was also fascinated by the many insights Davey developed that could be useful in escaping and how he either used them or his captives foiled his plans.
The other, parallel, storyline follows Millie in her attempts to rescue Davey. I wasn't particularly intrigued by that part at any point but it was a compelling drama at times.
There is a good deal of torture in this one but it's not your traditional cutting/electrocuting/burning/etc. business. It's more... sophisticated. There are two last things that should be mentioned. One is that Davey gains a new and fun manipulation of his powers in this installment. The other is a spoiler. I choose to include this because I found it to be quite jarring to my immersion in the story and because when it comes up in the story it is just as random and unsupported as throwing it out now in a review. Nevertheless, IF YOU DON'T WANT THE SPOILER TURN BACK NOW...
Millie gains the ability to jump in this book. There is no reason given as to why other than it makes it easy for her to rescue Davey. It felt very much like an artificial plot development that the author used as a tool to make things work out. Moreover, it really ruined the feeling that had built up in the first book that jumping is a very special and unique ability. There are very few mutant stories that have only one person with the mutation and I kind of liked that from the first book. It seemed as though Millie got it at random just because the author didn't want her to feel left out being married to Davey, which is very disappointing to me and almost made me drop the story rating to 3 stars.
That said, despite the one very jarring development, this novel has a lot of interesting ideas and situations going for it and is a good addition to the jumper universe and brings a new perspective from the first book. I recommend it, with one reservation.
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.
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