Bill Bryson wrote a lovely book. Then some inbred yank moron was given the task of reading it and decided to unleash every moronic parochial ignorant condescending notion he could muster up on the reading.
THIS SHOULD BE WITHDRAWN for the travesty that it is.
The smearing delivery is a disgrace to the book
I find the story entertaining and engaging and I wish there was a third one out. There's always something going on or about to go on and yet the plot doesn't take you where you expect, it's always something slightly different, or radically different, from what you thought. The characters are believable and engaging. The side issue of Earth society is dealt with in a credible manner without becoming preachy or boring.
The reader is pretty good, but sometimes hard to tell men from women and too many people have the craggy "I shout for a living" voice even when talking to normal people. I worked with UK military for a long time and have US military friends (senior master sergeant, nuclear engineers, SEAL team commander, Ranger) and none of them had that ruined voice. Mostly I liked the performance though, 97%.
As science fiction if he wants a mega gun that can do what a tank gun does today but can be carried by a normal soldier I have no issue with that. Unlikely, or according to NASA this week, quite possible FTL drive... perfectly fine by me. And there's plenty of that. SciFi does not need to explain its physics and should not try.
Slight spoilers and complaints of poor research and physics from here...
Where it broke the suspension of disbelief for me was in the mundane physics. You don't need to be specific, you can say it's a micronuke and leave it at that.
If you are bothering to tell me the weight and speed of something please bother to work out your numbers credibly when you are putting them in the mouth of a physicist. 43,000 metric tons is 43x10^6 Kg, 5km/s is 5x10^6m/s. Energy is 1/2 mv^2 so .5x43E6x(5E6)^2 = 5.375E20J. As it happens there is a well known conversion factor for TNT equivalence so 1billion tons of TNT is 4.184E18J so the number you want is 128.5GT equivalent. Not vaguely hundreds. If the blast took place in one second then it is 5.4E20 Watts, the sun is 4E26 Watts, Just about 1,000,000 times the power, all the time. So at about 8.3 light minutes it would still just be a little flash. Not a second sun for some time. Not enough to bother sensors.
If a thing happens 150 million Km away and you are using optical sensors it will take 8.3 minutes for the light to get to you, not a few seconds.
If you blow up a ship its engines can no longer propel it, so it is not still accelerating at 0.25g.
A 50 microton warhead would be equivalent to 1.6oz of TNT. Why not just use 1oz of HMX and save the technical complexity. Of course that won't do what you said, but it's SciFi, feel free to make the warhead a more believable and credible size.
There were more, but those were the ones I found particularly offensively careless.
The story is set in London and is close enough considering Steam Punk is supposed to be slightly out of our current universe. The representation of the young ladies is OK but a bit hackneyed. It is very much an outsider's view of society girls and a typically idealized view of 'polite' girls.
The story does not go the way that it looks like it will, and it isn't surprising that a bright woman sometimes does stupid things. People are far too simplistically offended, we are occasionally treated to adults taking permanent dislike to children based on a single sentence. A bit too pat.
On the one hand the story is fantastic, as in unbelievable. But on the other it isn't quite supposed to be real Victorian society, so the differences are forgivable.
In the end the story is enjoyable but too short, half a book.
Within a few minutes of the start we hit the first Americanism and they come in every few minutes from then on. "she fit in"? The poor reader must have choked on this. She fits or she fitted. In Victorian England they may have used steam power but they knew their language. England does not have Sidewalks. Nor shingle roofs, even cheap homes had slate or stone roofs. Pocket book? Really> I have never heard that term in English English, but I am not certain. Britain did not grow maize, what Americans call corn. Corn in Britain meant wheat, cornfields were yellow dry grass. Every few minutes another Americanism. There are various "brit fic" communities, or the Little Details community on Livejournal that would be able to provide direction. The Americanisms really spoiled the effect and pushed my assessment to Fan Fic rather than serious and professional writing.
The thing that's missing from this is a feeling for the time it takes to get from sighting a sailing ship to arriving at gun range. This tends to gloss over that in a few paragraphs, so it lacks tension. There's not a great deal of atmosphere or scene description either.
There was one point where I said "and here comes the love interest" and without spoilers she arrived exactly in the expected mode and at exactly the expected time. This was never going to be a book about the Royal Navy getting thrashed, so that part is forgivable.
My remaining impression is that this lacked breadth.
This is an immediately engaging story and it gets more interesting as it goes along. Some of the tech is already dated, but that almost seems to have been a choice instead of an accident and it did not reduce my pleasure in the story. He avoids the major mistake of attempting to explain technologies, which is very easy for SF authors to fall in to. The characters are engaging and distinct, as usual. There's a lot of imagination shown in various aspects of the story. I don't want to spoil it so I will leave it at that.
My other half and her friends are writers, we listened to this as we drove around Scotland together. If there had been significant mistakes it would have been torn to pieces, but the writers kept quiet and enjoyed the story.
In some ways the story line is a common one, but this is a good example of the type.
I was reticent about trying anything involving Terry Pratchett because so many people told me how wonderful they were. Now I wish I had started sooner.
I am not going to tell any spoilers. The book is as described. It also lives up to expectations. It is smart and amusing and entertaining. It shares elements of Stephen King (observation) and Douglas Adams (weird humor). That's about all I have to say about the story.
The reading is excellent. I have had a few bad experiences recently with over emotional and over colored readings. Martin Jarvis does an excellent job of reading the book and not applying his own tilt on the book. Now we will be listening to more Pratchett and more Martin Jarvis.
I enjoyed this, the reading was done well, much better than most.
The story was 98% setup then SHAZAM and it's all over. Bringing in a super powerful magic character to sort everything out is like using the get out of jail free card in Monopoly or having Scotty beam you up.
At the end the pressing questions were not answered. There was no ending.
Unfortunately Iain Banks died of cancer and took the answers with him. A very sad day for all of us. FWIW I love most of his books, but this one not quite so much.
When I was a teenager this would probably have been exciting. Not up to the standard of Larry Niven, but not bad. But I'm not 14 any more.
The story was hackneyed and the characters and the science were both laughable. Technology has moved on and left this book behind in many areas, in other ways the science is what it should be in SciFi... inexplicable.
In science fiction it is a mistake to try to explain how your science works, because your, most likely dumb, explanations don't bear any scrutiny and that breaks the scientifically inclined reader out of the story. The animal sex and the teenage boy like preoccupation with the sexual organs of anything female were really amusing in a pathetic sort of way. By the way, the bit on the outside is the vulva, the vagina is inside, and it's not a cavity, that's just a bad word for it. Did the author have no experience of anything female?
Anyway, there's a huge and nasty case of deus ex machina at the end, the sort of 'rocks fall, everybody dies' ending that authors despise.
The delivery was pretty wooden, like the reader couldn't believe he was reading this, any more than I could believe I paid money for it.
CERN is pronounced sern, not kern. There are other examples and they break you out of what is otherwise a very compelling and informative book. From the few areas of this where I have specialist expert knowledge I could say that it isn't 100% accurate, but it is close enough for most people and the differences are more of academic interest. Some of it is also slightly outdated due to discoveries since it was written, but most is historic and won't change.
I find Kevin Collins performance overly dramatic. I got annoyed with him in the first two books because the book says when the rimmer accent is broad and he interpreted that as Texas and used it all the time, even in internal voice. Do you think in accent? I don't, and it is irritating when the narration is delivered in the style of the person currently speaking.
Other than that I was happy enough with the book, I enjoyed the story though I don't think it is the best introduction to the Liaden universe.
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