I think this is my favorite Vernor Vinge book to date (though I should listen to Rainbow's End again). The beginning was slow, but the second half of the book made it all worthwhile. A great cast of likable characters, two parallel worlds that eventually come together, lots of cool SF gadgets and surprises, interesting back stories, and more. I hope there is another book that takes place between this one and a "Fire Upon the Deep".
Sometimes when a book is fun, you're happy to suspend disbelief for a while because you're enjoying the ride. This is my rule for the older class of James Bond movies. Sure, he's jumped from a plane, skied down a mountain, and then flipped onto a motorcycle and speeds away. Why not? A few reviews have complained about bits and pieces being hard to believe, but they have apparently missed the fun romp of this book.
We have a very smart female lead (Myfanwy Thomas) saving England from evil foreign agents. Myfanwy is extremely smart and a talented bureaucrat, inside an organization that exists to stop fantastical threats. She also posses amazing powers, even surprising herself.
This is an entertaining mystery as Myfanwy figures out who she is! Great way to introduce us to this new world as Myfanwy discovers it herself.
This is a great set-up for a follow-on series of books, but it will be hard for the author to top this!
A few minor complaints... Now and then Myfanwy seems a little less like an adult woman and a bit more like an overgrown teenager. The "past" Myfanwy seems to break character towards the end of the book. As with any fantasy book, the "rules" of the fantasy world are a bit sketchy.
I will definitely read more book from this author. Also, the narration hooked me immediately. Loved it.
This doesn't compare to the Peter Grant books. Boring story line. Highly predictable. Lacking suspense.
There are pros and cons about this book.
The writing is quite nice, evoking strong imagery throughout. My main complaint is that was tough to listen to the mid-part of the book, which essentially focused on the *abuse* of a child. I almost gave up on the book, but things turned around just in time.
Mostly I'm left feeling that I just don't get it. There's not much of a story here. If it's taken as straight fantasy, then it's not the least interesting in terms of developing an interesting world. It it's an allegory, it's too complicated for my simple mind. Truly, many a master's thesis will be written about this book. If I could just fully understand the cats, I'd be happy.
The book is read by the author himself. The reading was well done except that the author sounds exactly like Liam Neeson. That drove me a little nuts!
When the story first started, I was really enjoying it. But it kept adding on layers and new characters without resolving anything. It felt to me like a long story that ultimately went nowhere. Many reviewers have said this is not the author's best work, and I must concur.
I finally went ahead and read this book because a 40-something man recommended it. Overall, I really enjoyed it and sped through the last half. My only complaint as an adult is the love scenes were annoying, but I can see that they might appeal to teenage girls. Without any spoilers, I'll just say that the very end was a little bit of a let down. It's almost as if the author was rushed to pull everything together, but there was a bit too much self sacrifice and not enough cool powers put to work. Oh well. Otherwise, the book was great, and I've add the sequel to my wish list.
Like many reviews have already stated, the narrator does an excellent job.
I was excited when I started listening to the book. It was a fun story. Some reviewers have complained about the jumping around, but I thought that it was easy to follow. Alas, the individual stories never completely come together. In part, the plot is far too ambitious. In the last third of the book, a large number of new unnecessary concepts (humanoid AIs, multiple virtual copies of humans, etc.) start being hurtled at the reader but are never fully explored. On the other hand, many of the characters in the first part of the book are more or less totally abandoned. An entire plot line (Hacker Sander) dissolves into nothing just as it gets interesting. We see a lot of "character development" that never really goes anywhere at all. It's really a shame. With some tightening up, this could have been fantastic!
The narration was just okay - many of the characters had identical voices and strange accents.
Like many reviewers have said. this book takes a left turn about 2/3's in. Not long before that point, most readers will have realized that there is absolutely no way this plot will ever come together neatly. Even venturing into an alternate universe is insufficient to bring it all together. Probably the biggest loose end for me was why this magical building is not being carefully studied by scientists 24/7. Especially because someone has seen fit to develop spare parts!!
The narrator (Ray Porter) is really amazing and the only thing that made me stay with the book to the end.
Some of my favorite science fiction is pretty dated, but I think the problem with this book is the stereotypes --- male (the bread winner) versus female (only interested in marriage and family), military (totally distrusting) versus scientist (totally distrusting), nobility (so worthy and responsible) versus not (jealous of/intimidated by the nobility), even engineers being Scottish (I kid you not!), etc. And some of the character motivations were really hard to understand (more below, but contains spoilers).
It would be fun to explore the alien culture described in this book. I don't feel that it was well explained, and I think the story focused too much on one aspect which was not as well justified as I would have liked.
The narration sometimes used accents and voices, but I still had a lot of trouble telling the characters apart. Part was the story itself, but I think some narrators do a better job of giving the characters more distinction.
I considered stopping time and time again. I listened until the bitter end, but it really wasn't worth it.
--- Spoilers Follow ---
(Mild Spoiler) Early in the book, the single female character is rescued from a prison camp. She initially quite withdrawn but eventually recovers (we're not entirely sure why) and it's never referred to again that I can recall. It's not cited as motivation for later actions.
(Big Spoiler) And don't even get me started on the way that everyone seems to implicitly trust the aliens. Argh. Why???
(Small Spoiler) And how can non-intelligent aliens do more than the smartest humans? Makes no sense to me!
(Ironic Spoiler) It's funny that the book was so sexist and yet simultaneously paid homage to birth control (though proper ladies don't resort to that, of course).
I really like Alastair Reynolds, but this is definitely not my favorite book of his. Mostly, the situation of the characters goes from bad to worse to worse again and to yet worse still. And the ending is, well... It's hard to say. Perhaps not completely depressing, but definitely not happy. In any case, this was a slog for me because I was depressed by listening to the book. At the same time, I didn't want to stop because there was so much to like about the setting and the mystery of the story. I think this would be good to listen to if you wanted to be in a sour mood!
The first Greg Mandel book was enjoyable. This second isn't nearly as interesting. As a mystery, it falls seriously short. It was obvious "who done it" early on, and then is was just a matter of plodding on through the book until the end. And the characters weren't nearly as interesting as in the first book. We didn't learn anything new about them at all. That's why for me it's only 3 stars.
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