Travelers Rest, SC, United States | Member Since 2004
Book 2 in the series is even better than book 1, and you get to the action much quicker; Currie is obviously getting better at his craft as he goes! Despite a few minor things, I enjoyed this book a lot!
I don't know if its the writing, or the Narration (I suspect it's the narrator), but every member of the Bridge Crew on every ship in the story sounds terrified every time they speak to someone with a higher rank... the stuttering and stammering that goes on in response to EVERY question put to them, and in EVERY report they give, is getting old, fast. Seems to me if you had a crew in vital positions that are this terrified of even speaking, you'd replace them with people who could actually get a report out in a timely, coherent, manner, without every sentence having to be dragged out of them.
There are places in the narration where sentence structure is broken up so badly, or paused in such an odd spot, that you have to back up to try to figure out what the author actually meant... But it's not too often, and you can work through it.
Those few things aside, the story moves along much faster than in the first book, the technical details are much improved and believable, and the "Tech-Talk" doesn't bog the story down at all... it's just enough to be interesting, and to enhance the story, without me feeling like the author is trying to tediously teach me how build the thing being described. A Lot of authors get WAY too caught up in trying to show how detailed their knowledge of some piece of physics or 'Tech' is... Currie deftly avoids that common mistake...
I hope there is a Book 3, and I hope it's soon!
Let me say up front, I may be a bit biased when it comes to Ringo's Writing.. the man is a prolific writer, turning out an INCREDIBLE number of books in bursts along the way, each with so much accuracy and detail it's amazing! I've had the pleasure of covering some of the same ground as Ringo being 11Bravo, and have spent much time at Dragon*Con talking with him and his wife out at the pool-side Breezeway (surrounded by many other fans).
I also own a Mountain Top Ranch in the Mountains between Greenville SC, and the North East Georgia Mountains where the majority of the battles take place in this series. I found myself constantly looking at "Nuclear Yields" and "Prevailing Winds" to see if my Ranch survived the actions, and as of the last book in the series, we seem to have come out OK,even though being DEEP in Posleen Territory ;) You can literally pull up a Google Map of the Areas where the Battles take place and track them road by road, Mountain Pass by Mountain Pass, Stream and creek by stream and creek, which is a LOT of fun!
Being Retired Military, and a Semi-Retired Electrical Engineer, I can usually "Pick books apart on bad technical details", things like "Misunderstandings between the differences of "Geiger Counters" and "Survey Meters"", etc.. But in a later book in this series, just as I think "Oh John, how could you screw up THIS detail? No way they could be that badly irradiated by a splash of 'Contaminated water!'" John turns the whole incident into a Funny Set of circumstances caused by one of the characters that mistakenly misused a Radiation Meter, and didn't know that pure water can't be contaminated by Radioactivity (Obviously John knew!)...
The series is FULL of John's typical "Side Stories" that branch off into technical details that get a little boring sometimes, and lots of "Training Details, and "Hoo-Yah", but end up being part of something VERY funny in future books in the series and always tie in somewhere along the line... During the Final book (so far) in the series I laughed so hard in places I woke my wife up repeatedly... then later she woke ME up laughing repeatedly (We use Audible's "iPhone App" to listen to books, which is an AWESOME App, FULL of great features... We also use "Sleep Phones" I modified to "Blue-Tooth" instead of "Wired" to listen to books at night in bed!)
I admit I got a little tired of hearing things like, "Like trying to hold back an avalanche with a fire-hose", and "Wiped the off the face of the earth", and several other sayings that were used a bit too often in the first 4 books, but that's so minor I feel petty mentioning it.
Ringo quotes a LOT of Kipling in all of his books in this series, which is great, and in the last few books he switches to quoting lyrics from the CruxShadows, which I believe he got into during Dragon*Con (I know *I* did), but it works!
Throughout the series there are references to "Star-Wars", "Space Balls", "The Princess Bride", "Monty Python" and several other Cult Classic Movies and TV Shows and Comic Books... But I found them hilarious since I know those cult classics well.
What I really love about Ringo's writing is that he's so accurate in his technical details, when he teaches you something new, you can take it as a given, he's done his research!
I really hope there is a continuation of the series since it's left WIDE OPEN for a whole NEW long series of books! I've also written and asked Audible to see about bringing in the Series of books "The Council Wars", which I read in paperback years ago, and would LOVE to have in Audio-Book form. Audible is usually VERY good about quickly getting books you may ask for by popular writers, so I'm hoping they can pick that series up also!
Marc Vietor does a FANTASTIC Job of Narrating, as usual! Much like "John Lee", I think I could listen to Marc Read a Dictionary and find it interesting ;)
If you love Hard Military Sci-Fi, Ringo is one of the Greats! His books are right up there with Richard K Morgan, Charles Sheffield, Alastair Reynolds, and the other "Deep thinkers of Realistic Far-Future Sci-Fi", yet with a style uniquely his own!
I listened to this book in a non-stop Listen-Fest, something like 37 hours! I spent the first part of the book being confused, then I was sure I knew where it was going, but it didn't go there, it also didn't go to the next place I was sure it would go, or the next... I literally couldn't sleep until I'd finished it!
This is one of those stories that are FULL of FANTASTIC twists and turns! It's also NOT one of the types of books that has a slow beginning and eventually builds up into a good book; Jeff Carlson tosses you directly into the action of a good book right from the start! I dislike books that I have to suffer through a very slow first half to get to a great second half (I always feel like I'm buying "half a book" when I see a review that says, "Slow start, but hang with it and it get's better"), so this book was especially REFRESHING!
The skill that was put into the story is evident in many ways, very early on... despite the very fast start in the action, I never once felt confused about "Who was who". Also, being an Engineer, I always seem to notice technical flaws in a book when they pop up from time to time... but Carlson did his research so well, and seems to be so knowledgeable about the subject matter, that I never once got yanked out of "Book Trance" by a bad technical detail!
Knowing that this was a "First contact book" early into the story, I (as everyone does) started thinking of all the tiny bone-headed things *I* might do wrong during contact with a new civilization that thinks TOTALLY differently from how we think (while hoping the new hypothetical civilization has "patience" for my mistakes)... Carlson takes that whole idea MUCH further!!! What if WE have to make first contact, and we do it on a world that is so TOTALLY different from ours, that our most natural gestures are WRONG in their view? And what THEY naturally do seems to be WRONG in OUR view? And of course, while worrying about the above, throw in that you're doing it "while contacting a species that has almost NO patience with mistakes, and who have no way of understanding US, or that we may even be from another world"... Forget the old common routine of: "don't smile because showing your teeth might be taken as aggression"... And while going far beyond something simple like that, be sure to write the book from the point of view of a sex opposite from your own, and get the details of how THEY think correct also!
I love books that make you THINK along with the author, learn new things, and give you even more mental tools to help you think "out of the proverbial box" (Tools we usually promptly put INTO our mental tool-BOX ;)
The only down-side to this book was the audio quality... I usually download the "Enhanced" Audio Quality of each book and let it auto-download into my iPhone. The Audio quality of this selection was scratchy and slightly distorted at times, HOWEVER the Story and Narration were AWESOME! I don't know if the Audio quality was from the recording, or if I just noticed it so badly because the Enhanced Format allows you to hear every flaw... Kinda like listening to a song of a favorite older music group that has been transferred onto digital media from the original (old) Studio Tapes (even though this is a newer book)... Or maybe I just somehow got a bad download (I guess it could happen)...
Whatever the reason for the bad sound quality, it's gets a bit better, and "The STORY" is what's important! I got so wrapped up in the story that I didn't notice the sound quality any more.
As is always the case when finishing a great book, "I wish there was a second book"!
Clear your schedule before you start this book. Give yourself plenty of time to listen, think, and then listen some more. When reading anything Morgan writes I always feel as if I'm dull-wittedly missing about half of the story, while the other half goes over my head high enough to give me nose-bleeds if I try to think at a height needed to reach it. There's always meaning within meaning, stories within stories, and morals to the stories beyond what you at-first come away with.
Having had the privilege of corresponding with Richard in depth a few years back, I can tell you that he doesn't need the usual "cheap writer's tricks" to make you feel out of your intellectual depth; he's simply a highly intelligent man, with a gift for conveying that intelligence.
As is always said, Morgan's books aren't for the kiddies.. Graphic Language and explicit sex that shatters whatever taboos you can imagine. Richard doesn't write in sex scenes to excite, he writes them in to get your mood where he wants it to be to enhance the emotion he wants you to feel as you read/listen onward... If that sort of thing bothers you, he's probably done what he set out to do. A couple of taps on the "15 second advance" Icon will get you past them without taking away from your understanding of the overall story-line.
Being a hardcore Sci-Fi enthusiast, I fell in love with Morgan's writing during "Altered Carbon", but I followed his books into the Fantasy Realm simply because "Morgan Wrote Them". I haven't been disappointed yet.
What a great start to a great ride through this series! Ringo is one of the leading names in Sci-Fi, especially when it comes to "Military Sci-Fi". Sorry for the length of the review, but I'm kinda writing for all three books currently out in the series.
In Book 1 the people of Earth breath a sigh of deep relief when the first star-faring civilization that comes through our new "Gate" is friendly... Another alien culture has dropped an interstellar-capable "Gate" in our system, without caring whether we want it or not, or caring whether we can defend ourselves from whomever/whatever may pop through at any time, or not... The Gate is a portal to our system that can be used by every hostile space-faring race out there, and we can't shut it down, or block it off! The relief is short lived though, and pretty soon Earth starts taking a beating (Though I have to say that one of the "Alien Plagues" is quite nice if you're a guy ;)! The main character, Tyler Vernon, is like a lot of people who are just trying to survive by searching for something, ANYTHING, that one of the Hyper-Advanced Alien races may want badly enough to trade some of their very old "Junk technology" for.. technology that they basically shovel out of their scrap heaps... Still, that "broken, obsolete, junk" Technology is WAY ahead of Earth's best technology, and many Earth-Based companies will pay a fortune for the scrap-tech in hopes of reverse engineering it.
Tyler Vernon offers up a lot of common items from Earth for potential trade, and hits on one substance that one alien culture LOVES... He keeps the secret of what the substance actually is long enough to get just slightly ahead of the trading curve, and from that shaky and tenuous start, he keeps "Trading Up" by selling the Alien's scrap-tech to Earth Companies, and then using the money to always have a near monopoly on the next thing the Aliens want badly. When the Aliens find that the near-addictive item is very common, they try to get all of the product in the area, only to find out that Tyler has bought all of the local stocks of it. When the Aliens try to get the USA's supply of the stuff, they again find that Tyler owns it... When they go to the Root-Source of the substance... You guessed it, Tyler and a few of his neighbors have bought every scrap of land that produces it. But then Tyler has to fend off not only Aliens, but also fight the governments of Earth who try to move in and take the product from him by force... the Aliens and the Army both find out that what seems like it should be simple to produce, isn't as easy to produce as it seems, especially not while simultaneously fighting a guerrilla war with Tyler and his neighbors!
But Tyler has MUCH bigger plans in his head... he just needs to stay ahead of the curve long enough to learn to acquire and use Alien technology, His own growing fortune, and his own smarts and bold thinking, to steadily build up forces and equipment that can make Earth's enemies wish they'd never seen our Gate!
The cool thing about Ringo's many many books is that you can almost always tell when and where he's recently gone on vacation, and you get a glimpse of his latest "real-life" interests and hobbies, because he works the knowledge he's gained, and places to which he's traveled, into the storylines of his books... And John Ringo churns out some books! He seems to always be working on 4-5 (or more) books at the same time! A few years ago at Dragon*Con in Atlanta I was joking around with John and his wife out by the pool at one of the several High-End Hotels that hosts Dragon*Con, and I jokingly asked him if he was finally falling out of his habit of releasing "only" 4-5 books every year.. his wife said, "Cut him some slack, he's released ELEVEN books in the last year alone!" You can often find John out at the pool in the evenings during the convention, surrounded by a crowd of Sci-Fi Fans and Military Vets (Many disabled vets), talking "Military" and "Sci-Fi"... He's not out there "just talking to fans with feigned 'Patience' ", he talks with people for hours with obvious "ENTHUSIASM"! The man has an INCREDIBLE knowledge of even the most obscure bits of details and trivia about nearly everything Military related. On top of everything else he has going for him, he's also your basic "nice guy"!
I'm waiting for Book 4 in the series now... John said he kinda wrote himself into a corner with Book 3 of this series, but he has no doubts a solution will come to him... I hope it comes SOON!!! It's an Awesome Series and storyline! The plots and twists just keep hitting you, rapid-fire!
I am really only rating this book as '3 Stars' out of honor for the other books in the series, which were VERY good in my opinion... If I'd listened to this book as a "Stand Alone" I probably wouldn't have even bothered to rate it, but since I enjoyed the other books in the series, I guess I have to give it at least a 'three' for filling in a little background on one of the main characters... Having said that, it's not a book I'd listen to again just for the enjoyment, and to be honest, I struggled to finish it.
As I said in my review of the first book in the series ("Old Man's War"), "The Sagan Diary" seems to be some sort of "Side-Step" to the main series, and in my opinion didn't really add anything important to the "actual" series. It was written as a "prize" for the highest bidder when one of the other books in the series was auctioned to benefit a library... I'm sure it's a masterpiece of prose, but I like "Sci-Fi" and action, not a deep treatise that I now remember only as "how do I feel about feeling when not born to feel?" (Those aren't exact words, but it's the "feeling" *I* got from reading it ;)
The narration by Stephanie Wolfe was very well done, and I truly think her performance was just about the only thing that actually kept me paying attention to the story overall.
If you're like me, you may typically listen to "Harder" Sci-Fi, but while the harder Sci-Fi is my fave, once I started listening to the Vorkosigan series on the suggestion of some close friends, I couldn't stop until I had listened to ALL of the available books in the series!
The underlying message in the entire series is one that many Sci-Fi Fans are familiar with, and that many may have experienced in real life in some form at some time... "The weaker, smaller, person having to struggle harder to accomplish their goals, and make up for a lack of 'brawn' with the application of brains and an indomitable will to succeed".
An assassination attempt on his family before he was born leaves Miles Vorkosigan stunted, deformed, and suffering with extremely fragile bones. On a planet that regressed after colonization and only recently reconnected with other colonized worlds, Miles would have been killed at birth even one generation earlier for being too weak to be "Vor". Miles not only has to learn to hold his own, he must learn to excel, in an intensely militaristic society that has no sympathy for 'weakness'.
I have several friends that have named their sons "Miles" because of this series; with that kind of praise, in my circle of friends, I decided that at least the first book was "Required Reading"... After the first book in the series, I was hooked!
Be sure to look at the suggestions in the "Series Section" to find the best order in which to listen to the books, since the order in which they were written/published isn't chronological with Miles' life throughout the series as a whole.
You'll recognize the British style of story telling pretty early on, it's got a feel of it's own that's hard to describe.. not "bad", just "different". The storyline itself is a bit on the "eye-rolling" side from time to time, and if you've had the pleasure to spend any time with a local (or AS a local) in a British Pub, you'll see all the stereotypical personalities mentioned here. It was a bit of a strange mix of styles for a Sci-Fi story, but I ended up enjoying it overall during a "Book Slump" when I couldn't seem to find one of the "Epic Great Sci-Fi Tales" we all love to find.
If you're in a book slump, you might want to spend a credit on this one.
This is an offshoot of the Takeshi Kovacs Series, using the same universe, with a different main character; a "13". A man genetically engineered from the ground up to enhance dominant, Alpha-Male, Traits, with no dilution. Pure "used future" awesomeness!!!
This is Morgan at his absolute BEST! This is hands down my favorite series, EVER! The books in this series are what I have judged all other books by for more than 6 years now!
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