I became interested in 18th and 19th century ship stories due to the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forrester. The Master and Commander series was recommended to me by friends with similar tastes. The first book was excellent, but I did not care for Mr. Tull's narration style -- I found his lip smacking, water drinking, and tongue clicking to be very annoying. I kept wondering why they don't have a mute button during recording sessions. The noises were not as audible in the car, but when listening directly through my iPhone's speakers, I could hear every click, swish, and gulp.
Everything flip flopped with Post Captain. I find that I like Mr. Vance's narration style much better. He is, perhaps, not as flamboyant as Mr. Tull, but I don't have to listen to his various bodily functions. In light of the plodding and exceedingly dull story in Post Captain, I found Mr. Tull's more rapid reading pace to be a blessing.
As hinted at, I found the story to be EXTREMELY disappointing. If I had wanted to listen to a Harlequin Romance novel, I would have purchased one. After all the balls, fox hunts, and plodding descriptions of dresses, I began asking no one in particular, "given that this is supposed to be a book about a ship's capatain, is there a ship in our future?"
If you are looking for something like the Hornblower series, or even the first book in the Master and Commander series, and don't want to read a romance novel, give this book a pass. If you want to read a Pride and Prejudice type story with nautical metaphors tossed in, give it a listen. Personally, I will be reading the reviews of the rest of the Master and Commander series a little more closely to avoid any future disappointments.
I read this book as a teenager and decided to revisit it when I found it here on Audible. The narration was exceptional and did nothing to detract from the experience. It was, in my view, the high point of this audio book.
Turning to the story itself, I quickly remembered what it was that I both loved and hated about this book when I read it so many years ago. The premise of the story is indeed a science fiction classic. A long lost civilization, the Heechee, leaves its technology behind for humanity to find and use - or misuse. The story takes place in a future in which there are far more people than the available resources can support. Turning to the spacecraft left by the Heechee on an asteroid dubbed "Gateway", "prospectors" take completely random trips risking death in the hopes of earning large bonuses for their discoveries. The story's protagonist is one such prospector.
Had Pohl stuck with his premise and ran with it, it would have indeed been a classic in my view. Unfortunately, exactly half the chapters in the book - every other chapter, to be precise - is taken up with the protagnoist laid out on the couch of a computerized psychologist named Siegfred VonShrink. The protagnoist's therapy revolves around coming to terms with his life both before and during his time on Gateway. These chapters are almost like a separate short story that have precious little to do with science fiction and more to do with a case study in human psychology.
As I was listening, I quickly remembered what I had done as a teen - I skipped the psychology chapters. However, this time I gave it a full go and listed to the entire novel. The Gateway chapters were wonderful science fiction that I truly enjoyed revisiting. The psychology chapters confirmed my earlier decision to skip them. The Gateway chapters are five stars, but the psychology chapters rate only a single star. The book is well worth a listen, but fast-forward through the psycho-babble.
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