I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea found this book boring, boring, boring. Not even the excellent narration can save this one. Halfway through the book, nothing at all has happened yet. I am not even going to finish this.
If you want good Space Opera forget about 'Black' Jack Geary - Try Miles Vorkosigan, Honor Harrington or Miles Flint instead.
Have you ever eaten an exotic dish and bitten into a cardamom pod? If you have, you’ll know that it literally explodes with mysteriously complex flavours and sexy, heady perfumes. Reading, or listening, to Brasyl by Ian McDonald induces a much similar sense.
There are three main threads in the book, each with a distinct time- and geographical setting. The three threads each also follow a different protagonist. In the present (2006) we have Marcelina Hoffman, a rather shallow, Brazilian martial arts arse kicking producer of trashy reality programmes for a controversial TV Station in Rio de Janeiro. The second protagonist, Edson Jesus Oliveira de Freitas lives in a near-futuristic (2032) Big Brother-esque Sao Paulo. Edson goes by a few different aliases and his pursuits, monetary and otherwise, are not always strictly legal. Despite this, Edson is a very likeable character. Edson and some of the other characters in his part of the universe are near Anime-like in appearance and conduct – slender boyish boys and girlish girls or girlish boys and boyish girls, you know what I mean. In 1732 the Black half-Irish Jesuit Priest Father Luis Quinn, a learned man of strong character wades through the Amazonian rivers and rain forests, his mission turning out quite differently from that which he first anticipated…
Cyberpunk, biopunk, alternate history, quantum computers, travel between multiple universes, Doppelgängers, wearable computers, mind expanding drugs are all mixed with the wonderful and strange sights, colours, sounds & smells of a bygone, contemporary and an imaginary yet to come Brazil as the three threads starts intersecting. Myth, fact, religion, sexuality - this is modern speculative fiction at its best!
This is the first Audible Book I listened to where the voice actor is British. For us non-British English speakers from South Africa, North America, Australia & New Zealand there is a certain charm to British English. Nigel Pilkington’s narration lends integrity to both the text and characters. I looked up his profile on the web and found that he was born in Lancashire. One can hear the Northern England influence in his accent, but it is not too strong and I had no difficulty following the narration. He does however use different accents for different characters and for the different strands in the book. (It is very quaint the way he – as Edson - drops t’s, elongates vowels and puts k’s after words ending in –ng.) Mr. Pilkington reads Brasyl with flair and fluency, his voice matching the said sights, colours, sounds & smells of the prose word for word.
The only reason why I gave ‘Overall Experience’ 4 instead of 5, is: I gather in the printed form of this book there is additional content which include a glossary with Brazilian Portuguese slang and other unfamiliar words & terms. It also includes a playlist, suggested reading etc. Audible should find a way to make this available to anyone who purchases this recording.
As to the genre… I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea don’t “get” the whole science fiction slash satire or fantasy slash satire thing. Or usually I don’t. I don’t “get” Douglas Adams. I don’t “get” Terry Pratchet. Howevurrr… Redshirts by John Scalzi is different. It is meta. Maybe meta is different from satire. As I started to listen to the Audible version of Redshirts, I thought, “Oh no. Here we go again”. Before long though, I became totally enmeshed in a geek get-off sort of way. It is impossible not to if you have any affinity for Star Trek.
As to the plot… “In this galaxy there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all that, and perhaps more...only one of each of us”. -Dr. McCoy, Star Trek, “Balance of Terror”.
WELL… NOT ACCORDING TO JOHN SCALZI! According to John Scalzi, in some weird alternative time-line there CAN be more than one of us. Just ask Ensign Andy Dahl and his other low ranking, red-shirted compatriots.
The Three Codas… Towards the end, the cadence of the book changes from a fast paced and funny warp 9 to a slower, thoughtful, thrusters only velocity. As I liked things nicely wrapped up, I would not have minded six or even more codas.
The narrative and the narration… Wil Wheaton reads with élan and gusto and excitement. The last coda he reads with emotion and compassion. Many of the Audible reviews comment on the distraction of the overuse of character perspective indication. It’s complicated… How do I explain. In the narration there are conversations between characters where the sentences are short and all of them end in “he said, she said” or “Dahl said, Duval said. This is especially rampant at the start of the book, but grows less. I have not seen the complaint in reviews of people who read the book as opposed to listened to it. Maybe the book is written to read like the script of a TV episode, I don’t know. I just thought it added to the book’s overall quirkiness.
As to quality, yes it is worth to use your monthly free credit. As to length, it was a bit short. I usually try to get more minutes for my money. (Remember, my monthly Audible subscription costs 130 South African Rands)
On the topic of fiction novels where a large part of a book is set within a computer game, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Reamde by Neal Stephenson come to mind readily. As opposed to the (near) futuristic dystopia in which Ready Player One is set, the backdrop to Reamde is a very realistic present. The lion’s share of Ready Player One takes place within the virtual reality of a computer quest-like game. In Reamde, the percentage of the story that takes place within the World-of-Warcraft-like game called T’Rain is significantly smaller. From here the differences between the two books just grows wider. In the end, it is greatly unfair to even try to compare the two books.
It is difficult for me to pen down just how much I enjoyed the Audible audiobook version of Reamde. It may just be the most entertaining and gratifying Techno-Thriller I have ever read/listened to. As this is the first book by Mr. Stephenson I have had the pleasure to consume, I can only really comment on this book as it is, having no reference in terms of his other books.
Despite being classified as a Techno-Thriller, the narration is unbelievably funny at times. There is one scene involving the Fantasy writers of the background to T’Rain referred to the ‘Apostropocalypse’ which had me crying with laughter.
The book is also about girl-power. Zula Forthrast is one of the most quick-witted protagonists one can hope to encounter in a book. The supporting characters of Olivia Halifax-Lin and Xian Yuxia positively delights.
The male characters, more specifically the “good guys” (sometimes the lines between good guys & bad guys gets a bit blurry, especially in the case of Solokov) are easy to relate to, with all their heroism and all of their fallibilities.
The book is long, VERY detailed and yet very fast-paced. I listened to it on the plane, in the car, in bed before I go to sleep, first thing when I woke up, whilst I washed dishes etc.
The matter of fact tone of the narration by Malcolm Hillgartner suits the story fantastically. His accents runs from good (British) to bad (Scottish) but it is much better than I can do and still gets 100% for effort.
His portrayal of Donald "D-Sqared" Donaldson
“Prologue. The Hegemony Consul sat on the balcony of his ebony spaceship and played Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp Minor on an ancient but well-maintained Steinway while great, green, saurian things surged and bellowed in the swamps below."
In print the opening sentence of Dan Simmons’ novel Hyperion packs a potent punch. Listening to the same sentence in the audiobook version by Audible, the same strong oomph is lent by the prose, yet now new dimensions are added. Instantly there is a haunting quality to the very first words which is downright exhilarating.
I listened to the first few evocative paragraphs of the book five times in awe before I was able to wrench my thumb away from the rewind button. It is not merely narrators that read this book, it is truly voice artists. The bass/baritone voices of the male narrators and the contralto of the female narrator is like fine quality paint brushes. They use inflection, pitch, pause, falsetto, strength, whisper and timbre to paint and colour the picture of the story so masterfully written by Dan Simmons. I travel a lot and usually listen to my books using the text-to-speech function on my Amazon Kindle. I have grown quite accustomed to the monotone computer generated voice on the Kindle and perhaps that is the reason why I was blown away by the quality of this audio book…
As to actual the story… I have read all four books of the Hyperion Cantos before. I have always wanted to re-read it.
Dan Simmons tells a Chaucer-esque story of seven pilgrims making their way to the strange planet Hyperion. Unexplained forces surround their final destination, the time tombs, which makes it impossible for space- and aircraft to land close by. So begins the long trek of the seven pilgrims to the mysterious time tombs.
By not quite mutual agreement the pilgrims decide to tell their stories as they travel. I was disappointed at the end of each story, wanting to know more, but soon became engrossed in the next tale. As each pilgrim tells their story, the background of the Hyperion universe unfolds and one learns the chronicle of how Old Earth was destroyed and how humans fleeing in seed ships colonized the galaxy.
I am not going to pen down any plot spoilers here, but if you are into Sci-Fi (with a little fantasy mixed in) get the book, it is mind blowing to say the least.
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