If you have ever read (or listened) to Pandora's Star or the Void books you don't need to read this review, you already know what it is like.
Although this is a stand alone book in a separate universe it may as well be a prequel to the Common Wealth books.
Wormholes linking colony worlds with earth? Check. Strange alien menace that most people do not believe exists? Check. Working class colonist family drawn into epic conspiracies? Check. Every character model from his other books is represented here. Police detectives, Ultra rich families, genetically modified women with uncertain morals. Nothing is left out. This author very clearly has a certain set of characters that he likes.
This however, is not a really a bad thing. He writes with clarity and humanity and the plot moved steadily, punctuated with bits of explosive action and violence that can erupt from out of the blue (literally) Again, if you have read his other books you know what I am talking about. If you haven't just keep in mind that if the book every starts getting boring just hold on for another chapter or two, before long there will be a massive alien attack or sun exploding just to mix things up.
It really is a good book, just not an innovative one. If you read a lot of sci-fi don't expect anything that you've never heard before, this is solid adventure but nothing mind bending.
It really is a shame that he didn't just market this as a prequel to his other books. The technology and culture is so similar to the history of the Commonwealth series I found it distracting and it made it hard to accept this universe as a separate than his others.
It also would have been nice to see him branch out a little and try something different but since I really liked his previous books I guess I can't complain when he writes more of the same.
The narration is somewhat hit and miss. The reader speaks with a strong british accent, which is appropriate for most of the characters, but not all of them. It would have been better if he had just stuck to that accent for all characters but unfortunately he attempts to speak with other accents when appropriate for the character. Some readers can pull this off, this one cannot. His American accent is so horrible its almost funny.
All in all the author paints a world that I would love to live in and which I have no trouble getting lost in for a few hours, even if it feels very familiar.
Unfortunately, this book is not really science fiction, or at least not the kind you normally expect from Larry Niven.
Taking place eleven years after the events in The Ringworld Engineers this book oddly is mostly about sex, and no, not romance but a kind of formalized inter-species ritual that all the the cultures on the ringworld seem to be obsessed with. They do it to seal trade negations, celebrate battle, or whenever they meet someone new.
Oh yeah, and vampires. Lots of vampires who emit a pheromone that makes everybody....you guessed it....want to have sex.
Now I don't mind sex and I don't particularly mind vampires but neither subject makes a good focus for what is supposed to be a hard sci-fi novel.
This really is a far cry from the the first book and very disappointing. I don't think I will continue with the series.
For some time I have been looking for a book that could live up to the possibilities presented by the steampunk genre and have largely been disappointed. While books such as Perdido Street station, Terminal World and Boneshaker have all had promise each one has failed to to both convey the technology and culture of a steampunk world while also being a good story in regards to the fundamentals of storytelling such as narrative flow and relatable characters.
The curious case of Spring Heeled Jack however is THE book that steampunks have been looking for and the perfect introduction to those new to the genre. It is both original and historical, filled with fantastic machines and creatures on par with the best alien worlds of fiction. There are characters of surprising depth and exciting action scenes both all set in an alternate "victorian" era. Unlike most alternate history fiction the changes in history here are not merely to suite the authors convenance but are an actual result of the story itself making this not so much an alternative history as it is a time travel epic. It manages to be fanciful without being too bizarre to relate to and unlike many authors of this genre this author remembers that no matter how interesting the world you create may be the characters must be the foundation of the story if we are to care at all about the plot.
The story unfolds first from the perspective of an man hired to investigate some of the stranger happenings in what from our perspective is a radically changed and bizarre world and then later from the point of view of a man from our future trying to deal with his own past and the changes that occurred to the timeline. It is in this second part of the story that this book truly shines when we listen with growing horror and fascination to the sequence of events that have lead to a 19th century england so different from our own.
Any fan of time travel will love this story and the classic paradoxes it copes with as will anyone who has studied the social and scientific changes of the victorian era and wondered, "what if"
At last steampunks have a book they can be proud to recommend as an example of the genre without an excuses or caveats to the fantasy or sci-fi fan.
Stephenson once again proves that he can write anything. Although this book is 180º from Anathem, which I loved, its manages to be just as good while being completely different in every way.
I've read a lot of books that use the premise of a Fantasy RPG somehow gaining real world significance but this book shows how you don't need the Matrix or a killer rogue AI to do this, MMORPGs already have real world significance, namely Gold Farming, the practice of accumulating in game gold and selling it for real world money. There is no magic technology at work in this book, just common everyday tech that kicks off a crazy sequence of events.
Of course, it doesn't end there. By the second download the story has chinese hackers, russian mafia, british spies and muslim terrorists all mixing in some of the most violent and intricately written action scenes I've ever read and reminiscent of Quentin tarrintino movies.
The twists this book take are amazing, you never know when a mundane "character" scene is going to literal explode into a murder, plane crash or gun battle.
Just like everyone else, I can't stand the narrator. He was passible in the first three books once you got used to him, the fourth book was a welcome relief (narrator wise) and now we have gone back and Roy is worse than ever.
Please audible, you surely are making enough money off this title, help out your loyal customers and have this one re-recorded by John Lee and send Roy Dotrice off to the Wall to Join the black. At this point its the only honorable way out for him after what he did to Dany and Cersies voices. This book is all but ruined by the narrator.
The book itself is 'okay' not what any of us hoped it would be but its tolerable, although I don't know if the excitement GRRM built up during the first three books is going to be enough to carry me to the end.
There really does seem to be come kind a disease that writers of epic fantasy get after their first two or three books that convinces them that the best thing for the story is for all the characters to spend two or three books sitting around and talking about how awesome they where in the first books while doing nothing whatsoever about the plot.
Maybe it is time to bring Brandon Sanderson in and save this series, or better yet, just let him get on with his other series which are far better than anything GRRM has ever put out.
There is one glimmer of hope, this is in truth the second half of book 4 and we all know that that one was screwed up by the publishers. If you have a kind heart you can choose to believe that this books is hampered by that massive mistake and that maybe things will get back to normal in book 6, if any of us live that long.
If you look at the print edition GRRM says at the end that this book was "a bitch" to write. A better author would have realized that if the book was that hard to write then something is wrong with it. Most authors will tell you that books should be as much fun to write as they are to read.
For a book based on a video game about an apocalyptic war this is on the most boring books I have ever listened too.
Three quarters of the book is about is about a raid on a science lab two years before the locust emerged. Its not a particularly exciting or important event but the book spends hours and hours preparing for it, carrying it out and then talking about it after its over.
The pre-Locust Collation is shown to be basically a big bully at invades innocent countries at will and lives in a state of constant war with its neighbors. Its basically Dicky Cheney's vision of how a country should be run and to tell you the truth it makes it hard to sympathize with the main characters during the Aspho Point section of the book. You end up feeling sorry for the enemy and hating the gears.
This book has neither the action and detailed descriptions that you would expect from a military sci-fi novel or the quality of writing and emotion you would expect from any other.
It spends a lot of time trying to build up the relationship between Marcus and the other gears but it never really clicks no matter how many times they call each other "brother"
The few chapters of the book that actually deal with the battle against the Locust are okay but really lack very much detail or description. The world never seemed to come alive for me. Unlike most Military sci-fi the author ignores the technology of the world. Nothing is described, not the guns, the vehicles or the armor, If you didn't play the game you would have no idea what anything looked like. The author neither paints us a picture or tells a story.
And the narration, some of the worst that audible has to offer. The reader sounds as bored as I felt, no inflection at all, no emotion, you can tell that he is just going through to motions to collect his paycheck, not that this book deserves anything better.
A real disappointment, I guess I'll just stick to the games from now on.
I've been a fan of sci-fi for thirty years now, I've read hundreds of books and listened to hundreds more here on audible. The vast majority of these books I find entertaining and enjoyable but from time to time I come across a book that feels like more than entertainment, its a book with a message, a work of real literature. In this short list are books such as The Hyperion Cantos, Armor, The Ender series, and a handful of others.
Anathem is now added to that list. I will admit, I usually like more action in my books than Anathem provides but it creates a world so rich in detail that I was three quarters through the book before I realized that no one had died...yet. Just because this book takes its time getting to the violence doesn't mean it doesn't have any.
"So you like it, I get that, but what kind of book is this?"
This is a hard question to answer and I don't want to spoil anything because much of this books strength lies in mystery and discovery. I can't really compare it to any other books because its not really like any other books, not even other books by this author except in his use of humor.
The best I can do is this: Imagine a world with nearly seven thousand years of technological history but one that has remained as at more or less current levels due to a series of wars, natural disasters and politics. In this world are a society of scientest-philospher-monks living inside sealed monastery like compounds. They have virtually no contact with the outside world and have been denied the tools of modern science by a larger world that is afraid of what they could create given their dedication to knowledge. Anathem is written from the point of view of one of these people, an eighteen year old apprentice working under the tutelage of an astronomer/theoretical physicist.
As a last note I will say that this is one of the best read audiobooks I have ever listened to and the brief musical clips at the begining of each chapter fit the story perfectly.
Someone once said that in sci-fi or fantasy your audience can accept one or two completely unbelievable things in any scene as long as everything else is done as realistically as possible.
Peridod's problem is that ever scene has about sixteen unbelievable things it. If they where the same things from chapter to chapter you could eventually get used to them but nearly every chapter introduces a brand new bizarre concept that you have to learn and remember.
All are well done and interesting on there own but they are never on their own, they are always just one piece of a wild picture.
After a while I just got overloaded with strangeness and mostly disengaged from the characters and plot. I think perhaps if 3/4 of the characters hadn't been animal human hybrids or even if they had just been the same kind of hybrid I would have been okay but their are literally thirteen different races in this story all with major parts.
I am a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy and have no problem with outlandish worlds filled with alien races and magical machines but in most books they stop through new things at you at some point and let you settle down and enjoy the story. Peridido never does that, right up until the end you are being introduced to new races and technologies at a pace that I found to be always just a little to far ahead of what I could relate to.
Not a bad book by any means but I was never able to fully connect with it and by the end I was forcing myself to go on listening.
Its not a bad book, it really isn't.
The problem is that if your like me and have been reading fantasy for most of your life you will find yourself with a feeling of deja vu while listening to this story.
It doesn't resemble any single work but rather feels like a compilation of all the better fantasy books written in the past fifteen years.
Granted, its the better books but still there is no 'edge' to this blade, no characters, world details or concepts that are unique or gripping.
Its well written, and well read but It just couldn't hold my interest since every character and every event has been played out in dozens of other books.
If your new to fantasy then this is a great book for you but if you're a fantasy veteran there is nothing here that hasn't been done over and over again by other authors.
Ian M banks is another one of those authors that I have been hoping to see on Audible for years.
The basic premise of this book is as follows: All civilizations start out with a belief in some kind of Heaven and Hell.
All civilizations that survive long enough advance to the point where they can recreate their myths in virtual afterlife's for the souls of their dead, aka the Matrix but for disembodied minds.
Some civilizations feel the need to create Hells to torture some members of their societies after they die.
The over arching plot of the book concerns a battle between factions of the galactic community who want to abolish hells and the ones that want to keep them. The war is fought both virtually and physically on many fronts.
Of course, being an Ian M. Banks book their is much more going on.
Please audible, bring us the rest of his books!
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