Silver Spring, MD, United States | Member Since 2010
Admittedly, I couldn't finish this book. I had a number of problems with it, content-driven and otherwise:
1. An audiobook adaptation for this film/book is awkward. Much of the text is quotes from various luminaries; much of the rest of it comprises the perspectives of the various authors. The "author" of the quote or perspective is listed at the bottom of the text; however, when that is read to you, you are left wondering when this particular person's quote began and how it relates to the other perspectives in the book. It comes through disjointed as you are unable to assign particular feelings to particular people.
2. I mistook the description of the book. This was a disappointment, but was mostly my fault. To clarify: this is about the spirituality of consciousness, topics unexplained by modern science, and the wonder that quantum physics may begin to hint at. It is not well defined by its title. It is not about epistemology. More accurately: it is about what we don't know, but rather what nifty assumptions we can make based of quantum mechanics.
3. I am a skeptic. This is not a book for skeptics. It may be interesting for people trying to meld science and spirituality. In this respect it wasn't for me. The problem here is that it goes from describing actual quantum theory to quantum spirituality without really describing the point when it went "wheels up." People unfamiliar with quantum mechanics might not recognize when the authors depart accepted theory.
And now, if you will indulge me, here is where I'll get a little petty:
4. Every sentence, mundane or wondrous, seems to end with an unspoken, "or did I just blow your mind?" It is very annoying. Not every thought they have is profound, but I'll be damned if they aren't trying to make it sound that way. They often pose questions that are sometimes insightful and sometimes silly, but always ending with a tone of admiration for their own profundity. I'd ask them this: "When I roll my eyes at you, do my eyes actually move or do they stand still while the rest of the universe turns upside down?"
5. The authors begin the introduction by claiming that they were surprised by the critiques they received from the skeptical scientific community. This is disingenuous in the extreme. It becomes apparent in the first chapter that they are basically decrying science for its failure to explain everything. They present a weak, loaded and invalid argument to portray science as a religion, claiming it is an orthodoxy just like any other. Modern scientists are no different from ancient animists. There is no respect for the scientific method being a process of hypothesis, experimentation, empirical data collection, and replication. Scientists are just priests of the orthodoxy that they have inherited .
No kidding, they were critical? You don't say.
I don't want to be universally down on this book. On the bright side, it has a nice title. The main characters are pretty well developed if a little simple. The story is... easy to follow, at least.
That's it; that's all i got. As to negatives:
This book feels like Simon was trying to write "The Black Company" or "Gardens of the Moon" (Cook and Erikson, respectively), but wanted to leave out innovations like good dialogue, interesting character interactions, humanesque emotion, or creative story lines.
The narrator is giving it his all (bless his heart). He overdoes in every case but a few. His female characters sound like he's a grown man trying to mock a four year old. His accents are all over the map and they migrate over the course of the reading. A brother and sister in the book that were raised together have drastically different accents. His "burly man" voice is cartoonish. He also pauses mid-sentence as if there is a comma every three words. It's very distracting.
There are also some editing flubs. It's as if they thought this book would win through on enthusiasm alone. I would not recommend this to a friend. I would recommend this to someone I am trying to discourage from reading fantasy.
I am a big fan of this genre (read: Dresden Files, Iron Druid Chronicles). Unfortunately, this one didn't move me to the same degree. I certainly don't regret the credit I spent on it and there was no part where the story bogged down and became a slog. I'm just not totally convinced to drop more credits on the rest of the series.
I like the world Briggs has created with elements of the square community (vanilla humans) beginning to confront the arcane community (werewolves, vampires, the fae) openly. The idea of some fae already being revealed to the world but many still maintaining their secret is a good setup.
Mercy herself, with her modest known abilities and the hints about much greater abilities, is similarly well set up to be a source of magical and human conflict.
The supporting cast of characters is well developed without forcing it. This is particularly well done because Briggs is working against a tendency to make all beings of a sort, like werewolves, have similar personalities. While hers have similar traits, they are very distinct.
Also there is plenty of action, preternatural and otherwise.
My major problem with the book is that Mercy lacks agency within the plot. There are some moments in the story when her actions are pivotal to the scene, but you get the feeling that the outcome didn't result because of any of Mercy's major decisions, actions or insights. Sure, she figures out the mystery one half second before everyone else, but it is at the point where it is already moot. Mercy doesn't drive the story; the story pulls her along. That's fine in the beginning of a story, but as it progresses, you want to see your protagonist take control.
King's telling of the story is good. She does a husky man voice passing fair; I liked her take on foreign accents. One issue I would take is that Mercy is supposed to be early 30s and I feel like King has her dialed in at about mid 40s. But generally, a sound reading.
Who can't get behind a novel based around wholesale demon killing? Like its predecessors, this novel carries on the tradition of bumping off monsters at a good clip in new and creative ways. Plenty of action for those who seek it and that carries the book fairly well. As before, the danger level of the demons has increased raising the stakes and the suspense. All good things.
The characters are well-developed and deep. Brett's iterative process of doing a full exploration of the principals' backstories over the course of the series ensures that whether you are rooting for or against them, you still see where they're coming from. The downside of this is that sometimes you have to wait to see how the main story arc progresses, but for the most part the backstory is worth it.
I liked this book. I did. However, I liked it in spite of some serious hangups that may be a turn-off to other readers. It is not as good as its predecessors and the 4 stars are a soft 4.
I am not puritanical; I like sex as much as the next audiobook listener, but this book is a bit much. Sex surrounds every facet of life. Sex for social advancement. Sex for alliance. Sex for love. Sex for procreation. Sex as a duty. Sex for educational purposes. Sex for relaxation. Gay sex. Multiple-partner sex. Sex for mind control (evidently, some women are just that good). Sex brought on by demon power fueled lust. Complete rejection and concurrent acceptance of homosexuality within a culture. Sex is Peter Brett's multitool. He uses it in every situation. Even more problematic is that his characters seem to want to treat sex as if it is something with a desirable mystique about it, but it falls flat because the author uses it with such mundane regularity that it is hard to get interested in it. You want to take Brett aside and say, "Pete, Baby, less is more; sell the sizzle." Unfortunately, he's serving it up graphic and ad nauseam.
While I generally enjoy Bradbury's telling of these novels, with this book his accents appear to have strayed. Arlen has now become full-on hillbilly. Renna pretty much speaks with the same voice as Arlen.
This book was a step down from the previous two. Now, that still rates it pretty high, but a bit disappointing. The characters, well developed through backstory, begin to lose their depth in the main story arc. This wasn't a problem with the first two books. Arlen is starting to become just a country boy. Renna is essentially a feral dog with daddy issues. Jardir is becoming an empty suit that believes he's a god. Leesha is starting to tend toward feckless mediocrity (what's that about? She was awesome when she was slinging fire balls and kicking butt.) It just feels like the characters development has hit its high water mark and has begun to retreat.
One last knock on this book is that because of all the backstory the main arc is not very far removed from the end of the last book. You certainly get action, but you don't get much progress.
What I liked:
Card manages to put together a fairly interesting structure of magic and how that creates the major conflict that drives the story. His exploration of the way magic works and the way that the characters discover it is quite interesting. His take on ancient pantheons as magic-wielding aliens come to earth is also insightful, forcing the reader to completely shift her thinking. The reader encounters plenty of unexpected actions and circumstances and that is all to the good. The book is unpredictable and that is enough to keep you listening.
The main character, Danny, is a retooling of the "super-powered teenager trying to lead a normal life" (as in My Secret Identity, Smallville, etc.) genre. Which goes ok, maybe even a little bit better than average with Danny's well-developed intellect, but complete ignorance of actual teenage interaction making for very appropriate awkwardness. Unfortunately, the high school friends he interacts with feel like they're made of cardboard. They seem developed only just enough that the story can move forward.
Also Wad's story line of protecting his world from incoming mages and looking for a way to get revenge on his former lover is not bad. Not great, but not bad; interesting, but haphazard. It's one notch above only existing to be the reflection of Danny's own magical discovery.
If the following things bother you, steer clear:
Rudniki should not be narrating this book. He has a less than versatile deep bass voice. This isn't particularly ideal for a coming of age novel where many of the characters are youths. Not to say that his voice is not pleasant, he just doesn't have the range to characterize teenagers and women. Rankin has a better range, but doesn't make bold characterizations.
This book bogs down around the various characters' banter. It is not witty, insightful, or entertaining. It will make you want to skip portions.
Some of the book's portrayal of teenagers is dissonant. I am not an expert on teenagers, and maybe some do think and talk the way they do in the book, but there are some things I think are a bit too out there. A teenage girl being loaded up on hormones, emotional and desirous of sex, I get. But one that needs her boyfriend's seed in her uterus and expresses it to him in those terms? The girls in the book are generally focused on procreation. Every time it comes up (often enough) you think, "seriously?"
There were two things about this book that surprised me considering the author and the title. With respect to the author: it is a bit surprising that this book does not have much comedy. There are some funny parts, but for the lion's share, it is a biography. With respect to the title: this is not a book about America or America's effect on the world or on Craig Ferguson. While he does, now and again, mention his fascination for and love of the place, it is not, in the main, a book about his drive for immigration.
This book is mostly about his life growing up in a hardscrabble suburb of Glasgow, his breaking into the entertainment industry, a couple marriages, and a long time battle with alcoholism. While coming to America is a recurring theme and the story ends there, it is not a dominating presence in the narrative.
Don't let that stop you from listening to it though. The story is compelling and relatable. Ferguson tells a very unvarnished story. His story of alcoholic decline and redemption is not an inspiring fluff piece. For much of the book it is simply a context, an overlay, until its weight becomes too much to carry on with the regular story.
The title does correctly portray Ferguson's adventures as improbable. The distance between where he started and where he ended up is vast and the road is twisted and unlikely. It gives him an interesting take on things. He also has a unique perspective of late night TV.
His reading of his own story is a fun listen. His voice is solid and because it is his own story he is able to do it justice with proper emphasis and inflection.
From the outset, this book seems like a good introduction to a very involved fantasy series. Try this book if you are very open to continuing on with the series. There is a lot that is left unexplained and much that is left incomplete, so if you want perfect understanding and all the characters rounded-out by the end of the first book, you'll be left wanting. However, if what you are wanting is an extended, multi-part fantasy epic, you could do a lot worse.
The very appealing thing about this book is the interaction of the various characters who, at first, seem very distant from each other, but then eventually collide in, often improbable, but quite entertaining ways. Even with the heavy use of prophecy as a foreshadowing tool, there is little predictability in these interactions. When you combine this fact with the lack of contextual development (i.e. history, mechanics of magic, pantheon etc.), you feel as if you are being swept along in a fast-moving narrative stream.
On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of character development on the side of the protagonists. There were quite a lot of them and their endeavors were given very egalitarian coverage by the narrator. So maybe the author spread himself a little thin. Where this really needled me was when I was trying to discover a particular character's motivation for their actions. This was lightly explained at best. Often a protagonist was acting as the tool of another through possession or some other kind of influence, but even in those cases, the motivations of the possessors was similarly left unclear.
I recognize that as the first of a larger series, much of this will likely be explained, but just taking the first book on its own merits, the characters need a little depth and the world they inhabit needs texture.
The narrator was very competent in developing distinct vocal characteristics for the various dramatis personæ. I would call a few of his characterizations a little odd relative to the way they were described physically. This did not detract from the story at all and most of his work was quite enjoyable.
NOTE: As of this writing the subsequent novels are not available from Audible.
Gamer? Yes. Child of the 80s? Yes. First game system: ColecoVision. First home PC: Apple ][ GS (yeah, I said it. "GS." So my family was late to the party, what of it?).
I feel like I am this book's target audience. You can take or leave my comments knowing that.
This book is an extremely fun read. The adventure part of the story is an interesting action sci-fi mystery. There is a lot there for general audiences. The characters are interesting and well well developed. They seem very relatable despite their post-apocalyptic world and their obsession with a game world. The antagonist is a bit banal. I mean it is an evil corporation trying to corrupt a fantasy world and ruin its innocence for profit. Heard that before.
The bottom line on this book though it is that it is just plain fun. You root for the good guys to win and win in style. You sympathize with them in their contention with the bad guys and with each other. The writing draws you in to the suspense. You listen to the individual words hoping that the evil corporation doesn't catch up with the heroes, but deep inside knowing it could happen at any time. It is well written.
One problem with it is that it does heavily reference a particular era and certain particular hobbies. If you are not a fan of that era or haven't taken up with those hobbies, you might not get all the references or enjoy the book as much. Even if you do know them well, I doubt you'll catch everything. This might be unappealing to some, but you can tell in the way it is written it is definitely a feature not a bug.
This book is indeed what it says it is. A concise history. It doesn't dwell on any one period or or issue in the Middle East overlong. It weights two particular historical issues a bit more strongly than some others, the life of the prophet Mohammed and the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is appropriate as those two items are manifestly crucial.
The history is laid out in fairly plain, mostly chronological, format. The authors provide very little commentary and are mostly uncontroversial. Though, with some of the subject matter, controversy is inherent in the history.
I don't know that I would recommend this as an audio book, however. Weiner does a fine job reciting the text. He speaks clearly, manages most pronunciations. But every situation where he says "Reference map one." I am forced to conclude that it is probably better to get this book in text form. Also, actually seeing the different names referenced would probably be better for recall. In addition, if you wanted to casually flip back a few pages and reference a particular figure's role on a different era, or subject, you could do that better with pages than with digital scrolling.
When I began reading this book I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I had the mistaken impression that this was a history of music of the 20th century across all musical genres. It is not that. This book focuses on the history of classical music of the 20th century. It covers jazz, but only how jazz affected and was affected by classical music.
I had half a mind to forego reading the rest of it. Boy am I glad I didn't. I'll be frank, I don't have a particular driving interest in the classical music of the 20th century and even after reading the book, while I am better informed, I have not suddenly become a fan of the genre. It was worth it to read this book just to hear Ross string words together. This guy can write. I kept reading just to find out what chain of words he was going to use next. He's that good.
This is the kind of guy you would quote without attribution at a dinner party to set yourself apart as the most erudite person in the room. I'd give anything to be able to write like this. Ross has a 10th degree black belt in the English language; that's the bottom line.
One note I'd like to add as a point of critique about the format. This audio book would be so much better served if excerpts from the pieces of music being described could be inserted at the proper points. I get that this probably isn't possible with the licencing of some of the music, but it would certainly bring the audio book full circle. It would be the entire package. For all that Ross is a master of using English to describe music, when he tells me that Charlie Parker "scribbled lightning in the air," I like the sound of the words. But what does that sound like in music? This book is great, set it to music and it would be a masterpiece.
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