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.
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 start of this book was really slow. So slow, I almost gave up on it. But I'm really glad I didn't as it was ultimately a can't-put-it-down listen. I had to laugh at some of the more outrageous plot elements, but it was kind of like a James Bond film in that it's a good idea to just suspect your disbelief at the ridiculous. It wasn't a question of whether the good guys would win or not, but who would get the last shot (and which "red shirts" would bite the dust). It was exciting and fun and features the trademark strong female characters that are prominent in Stephenson's writing. Recommended.
Pandora's Star introduces us to a collection of amazing characters --- giving us background and stories about their (many) lives. We get to know them all very well. In this book, they join forces in the battle for the future of our civilization. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. It was nice to see all the strings of his amazing story come together in the end.
It was only 99.5% perfect, though. There was at least one starflyer agent that was frustratingly obvious to me for nearly the entire book (mostly due to lack of back story) but wasn't uncovered until the bitter end. And we never really learned much more about the High Angel.
But a really exciting listen nonetheless. Highly recommended.
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