I read a lot of books and buy a lot of Audible credits. It is not often that I'll plonk down a precious credit for a book I have already read but The Course of Empire was an excellent read when it came out many years ago, a book I remember thoroughly enjoying, and I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the series before picking up its sequel Crucible of Empire.
Course of Empire is not groundbreaking, but it is a well told story, well narrated, with an interesting take on an alien culture. Like many books in the military Sci-Fi genre there is a fair degree of predictability in the flow of the story, you can see the arc of the book from early pages. But its still a very entertaining Arc. Fans of David Weber or David Drake would do well to pick this one up.
This audio-book started off so strong, the first few hours were great zombie fiction. A bit formulaic but a story well told and well narrated. Then it crashes into a badly written harlequin romance. We're talking about two women, both widowed and 72 hours into the zombie apocalypse who start competing for the favor of a guy. The level of "shark jumping here" is epic. I can envision the author with the novel 1/2 way done showing it to a friend and saying:
"What do you think?"
"But I don't know how to write romance, and it would make no sense in context..."
"JUST DO IT!"
In the Afterward for his book Earth, David Brin laments how hard it is to write a Science Fiction story set 50 years in the future, and how historically nobody has ever gotten it right. Here brin takes another pass at a near now. A future world neither Utopian or Dystopian. Just "Topian"....
Existence jumps around between its various characters in a scattered way, many are never fully fleshed out, and some simply fall off camera when they cease being interesting to Brin. Existence is a novel that either needed to be longer or shorter, cutting out the minor characters or giving them better resolution.
Still that issue aside the story is interesting and well narrated, the aliens and the threat/opportunity they represent are refreshingly original. This is however very much a book about ideas not people. The book is intended to be thought provoking, not to lead you down the familiar path of interpersonal drama.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Brin writes what I consider to be a solid ending to the story, Brin's biggest failing as an author has always been his Deus Ex Machanica endings, While there is a tiny touch of that here, it is a much better ending than seen in his other novels.
A long delayed follow-up to Course of Empire. Crucible of Empire is enthralling because of the interesting alien culture represented by the Jao, now the series authors add an additional culture to the mix. This is done extraordinarily well.I am writing this review without having yet finished the audio-book, I have another few hours to go. The reason I am writing this now is that unlike so many other stories in the military-scf fi genre I do not know for certain how this story will end. There is a genuine opportunity for tragedy, and in a genre where the good guys inevitably win in the end my uncertainty is a rare and special gift. I hope the Authors won't take another decade to continue with this excellent series.
David Weber delivers more of the same which is fantastic ... if you like David Weber. Following his decade old formula for the Honor Harrington series, all the events that were planned two books ago come to pass while various people hatch new plots which will come to fruition two or three books from now. It would all be rather irritating if it weren't so darn compelling.
New listeners should realize that this is not a series it is easy to jump into. Many volumes have created a dense series mythology which will leave new listeners lost, althouhg pleasantly suprised by events of the book not having been warned about every event in the book two volumes ago, so I imagine that would be a bit of a trade off.
After reading many volumes of this series Allyson Johnson has demonstrated that she may be learning to properly pronounce the word Manticoran, an important issue as most of the book takes place on the planet of Manticore. I'm sure she'll have it down in just a few more volumes. Beyond that she does a remarkable job with the exception that she uses a young and tenetaive voice for the central character of Honor Harrington, which after many many volumes is perhaps no longer appropriate for the now Admiral.
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