STATE COLLEGE, PA, United States | Member Since 2011
If you, like me, have been listening to the Song of Ice and Fire Series as read by Roy Dotrice, then odds are you've grown accustomed to not only the delivery, but the wide range of character voices that Dotrice handles so well. You've probably come to recognize some of your favorite characters just by the voice he uses to portray them. If so, you will find A Feast for Crows to be a rather jarring listen, at least initially.
First, a bit of history. When the audio release for this book in the series was first recorded in 2005, Roy Dotrice was not available, and the book was instead read by John Lee. Many fans were perturbed by this fact, and requested an edition read by the same actor as the rest of the series. After the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones became popular, and the fifth book in the series had seen release, the books received renewed interest. Hoping to appease this new fanbase, Random House finally relented on giving the fans their long-requested wish. Thus, it was in early 2012, nearly 7 years after the initial release, that Roy Dotrice was brought into rerecord A Feast for Crows.
It would seem, however, that in that time Dotrice has forgotten which voices belong with which characters. For example, the characteristically obsequious tone of Petyr Baelish has been replaced with a rather out-of-place gruffness with a slight brogue. Moreover, pronunciations of names have changed significantly, generally moving from a read-as-written interpretation to treating the names as archaic written forms of modern names. Brienne's name has shifted from Brai-een to Bree-anne, and Petyr's name has shifted from Pit-tire to Pete-ur. While you will quickly grow accustomed to the changes, it nonetheless feels unnecessary; Dotrice should have been professional enough to review his previous performances to stay consistent with the latest edition.
As for the story itself, the spotlight of A Feast for Crows is placed rather differently than its predecessors. Entire story lines, characters, and regions of the world will go nearly untouched throughout this entire book. While this is made up for in the sequel (which is at least partially a parallel narrative), some readers may become bored with their favorite characters being thrown to the wayside. Still, the story lines this book chooses to follow are interesting, well-written, and add to the tapestry of interwoven plots that make the series so interesting to read.
Ultimately, if you've already read the first three books of a Song of Ice and Fire, you're unlikely to be deterred by A Feast for Crows. While Dotrice's performance is inconsistent with previous entries, the quality of that performance is no less admirable. And while the focus of the story differs from its predecessors, you will still likely find yourself involved with the happenings of Westeros.
I'll get this out right now, despite some notable flaws, Annihilation is my favorite book in the War of the Spider Queen series since Dissolution.
First, a little background, for those who have gotten this far into the War of the Spider Queen series without doing much side research on it. War of the Spider Queen was an ambitious project undertaken by Wizards of the Coast, under the advisement of RA Salvatore. The overarching plot line and all of its main events was dictated before ink ever touched the page, and those milestones were handed off to multiple authors to write each entry (with editorial oversight by Salvatore). As a result, each book has some minor departures in style and characterization based on author interpretation. That said, the events that unfold in this entry are key for the series as a whole. Here we see the mission, which really began in book II, come to a close. We also see the inklings of change, as our heroes undertake a new mission (to be explored in the final book).
Book V is brought to us by the author Philip Athans. I have mixed feelings on his work in this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed how Athans included details which reinforced the careless brutality of the drow. We get to see the tragic deaths of humans through their own eyes. The stories of their lives, their dreams, and their aspirations are paraded before us in the fleeting moments before they die as meaningless pawns in the power struggles between drow. Also to his credit, Athans provides an excellent description of the most pivotal event in the series (which occurs in the final few chapters). However, this impressive descriptive skill is not on display throughout the rest of the book. Athans dialogue and prose are often uninspired and mechanical. It feels like every line of dialogue is "said," rather than "barked," "warned," or "whispered." Basically, Athans doesn't take enough care with word choice throughout the novel.
To sum up my opinion on Athans' work here, he does a great job with large scale storytelling but lacks the mechanics of a writer.
Rosalyn Landor is the real star of the show in this audiobook. Her consistent performance throughout the series helps to smooth the transition between authors, which might otherwise be very jarring. Danifae's voice continues to be husky and seductive, Quenthel remains haughty, Jeggred remains feral. Some detractors of the paper copy of this book have argued that the characters feel inconsistent; the continuity of voice helps to maintain the sense that these are the same characters as before, only changing as a result of their mission. Moreover, Landor's performance and emotion successfully covers up any lack of emotive writing on Athans' part. I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed this entry as much if I had read it in paper.
Obviously, if you've gotten this far in the series, Annihilation is easy to recommend. I think it's a satisfying end to the longest arc the series has to offer, and it catapults you into the awaiting conclusion.
Drizzt is, by far, the most iconic drow character in fantasy literature. He's so popular that within the circles of roleplaying gamers, both tabletop and computer, it's a common joke that every drow is a two-sword wielding goodie goodie, despite their race's fierce reputation. Players will name their characters in an homage to Drizzt, just as they might with Legolas or Gandalf. That's some high praise, right there.
Homeland is the first book of the Dark Elf Trilogy and the (truly massive) Legend of Drizzt Saga. While it's not the first appearance of Drizzt, it's the place for new readers to start, because here you'll learn of both his origins and his background. Homeland describes the City of Menzoberranzan, home of the drow, and the struggles for power that take place there.
If you've never read a book about the drow, you'll quickly find that there's a lot to learn here. Salvatore assumes that the reader is unfamiliar with his setting, and he exposes the reader to the atrocities committed in the name of drow culture through the eyes of the naive and innocent Drizzt. By the end of the book, you will have a good feel for what the drow are all about, and likely be hungry for more of their plots and intrigue.
The story features many interesting characters: the insidious matron Malice, the vengeful Alton Devir, the noble Zaknafein. Drizzt is the primary hero, but to be perfectly honest, I found his character arc the weakest in the book. His naïveté and indomitable innocence are meant to be his best qualities, but I felt robbed of the potential for a redemption story that could have made him much more interesting. Surrounded by characters who are falling into ruin through their own actions or finding spiritual redemption for their crimes, Drizzt's transition from naive to slightly-less-naive doesn't feel very spectacular. This is, however, a matter of taste. The tone of this novel really sets up the heroic tone the larger series is known for.
As for the delivery, Bevine does an admirable job. I have quibbles on pronunciation, here and there, but since all of these words were born on paper, there probably is no solid agreement on any of them. Bevine does a good job of transitioning between the harsh calculating characters like Matron Malice and the more idealistic Drizzt, which is rather impressive.
Ultimately, if you are interested in learning more about the drow or getting into the Drizzt series of novels, this is a great place to start. The intrigue and plots are interesting, but there's enough action to keep you interested if that's more your speed.
If you are even thinking about reading Ready Player One, then you're a geek. No use denying it; your secret is out. But it's okay, because you're in good company. Wil Wheaton is also a geek, and he's here to read the book with you.
Being a geek is all about loving something. It's about having interests which might seem arcane or obtuse to the average person, but that really speak to you. And because most people don't quite "get" the things you like, most geeks feel a bit like their on the outside, at least until they find a group of likeminded geeks to share their love with. Ready Player One is like that group of likeminded friends encapsulated in book form.
Anyone who knows nerds know they LOVE references. Cline will happily throw so many references at you that even the most erudite nerd will be baffled by a few, but each one that you do catch makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Anime, video games, comic books, movies, music, books, tabletop gaming...every piece of popular or geeky media is on the table. I know I got a smile on my face when the first mention Ultraman showed up, and I'd suspect that everyone will have a moment like that somewhere in this book.
Wil Wheaton is the best reader I can imagine for this book. His snarky confidence fits the main character Wade Watts perfectly. He's the consummate empowered nerd, and the performance is spot-on.
I only have two complaints about this book. First, it so shamelessly appeals to the geek demographic that it become a bit of a guilty pleasure. Second, the book's ending gives something of a mixed message. That does little to take away from the novel, though, because it really is meant to just be a fun adventure, rather than a weighty thought exercise.
Basically, if you consider yourself at all a geek, read this book. You won't regret it.
The impact of Neuromancer is hard to overstate. Few other modern works can claim to have altered the public lexicon, let alone society's expectations of what a future with technology should look like. Neuromancer has done both. But despite this level of impact, many will find this book a difficult read, and one with some very clear flaws.
Perhaps the most difficult (yet rewarding) part of Neuromancer is its writing style. Gibson's prose is jagged but poetic, confusing but evocative. On paper, without the assistance of tone, it is often hard to tell where the metaphor ends and reality begins. Luckily, the narrator (Dean), helps to untie the tangle of words with his delivery. Moreover, the adoption of many words used in Neuromancer by the general public in the last 25 years has made this book much more accessible to the modern audience. Thus, with the hard work done for you, you can really appreciate how Gibson's style helps to characterize the protagonist (Case). We learn that Case is curt, even in his own thoughts, and how he interfaces with the world experientially rather than intellectually. It helps to explain some of Case's flaws, like his fixation on drugs and sex, without having to beat the reader over the head with it.
That brings me to the single biggest problem in this book: sex. Gibson's use of sex often feels cheap. He throws in sexual encounters with too little pretense and goes into too much detail too often. I don't consider myself a prude, and I recognize that sex often has a literary purpose, but the portrayal of sex in Neuromancer is something of a distraction throughout the book. That said, the distraction is not great enough to ruin the experience, but it does seem like a stain on what would otherwise be a flawless novel.
Dean's performance in Neuromancer is impressive. He flies through Gibson's difficult prose, and really brings the character of Case alive. He makes occasional use of character voices, which is a very welcome addition to the reading. However, his female voices feel out place, too breathy and sometimes coming across as dreamy air-heads. While this fits for a few characters, it's unfortunate that a character like Molly, who should come across as a no-nonsense action girl, feels more like an aloof ninja.
Ultimately, in spite of its flaws, it's hard not to recommend Neuromancer. The role this book has played in both modern culture and sci-fi literature is just too great to pass up. To top it off, the book is fairly short and the audio format untangles Gibson's difficult prose, making this a surprisingly breezy read.
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