Crossroads of Twilight is a long, tedious, uninteresting entry into what has become a tired and bloated fantasy series. This is a book filled with plot threads stretched well beyond their logical breaking point. Consisting of five plot lines involving the core characters, most of which have been dragged through no fewer than four of the preceding novels, this entry fails to capture any of the excitement and wonder that made the first third of this long, LONG series so incredible. Characters are morphed beyond recognition, put into ridiculous and illogical situations in, I suppose, an effort to up the ante for the promised epic conclusion. After ten books one would think that Rand, Matt, or Perrin would finally come to accept their roles in the slowly unfolding drama but we are yet again subjected to endless exposition detailing their illogical and nonsensical reluctance. This book is boring and tedious and at times, unforgivingly silly. Unless you’ve invested countless hours in this series and, like myself, are determined to see it through to the end, I would in no way suggest this novel as any kind of standalone read. I’m not even sure it would make any kind of sense unless you’ve trudged through the previous nine. If you are a fan of the series, I suggest getting the audiobook – the stellar narration of Michael Kramer and Kate Reading make this bitter pill go down a lot easier and I assure you that the series does get better – particularly when Brandon Sanderson takes over after Jordan’s untimely death.
In the author’s commentary at the end of the audiobook, Orson Scott Card explains why he feels Speaker for the Dead is the book he really wanted to write when he set out to write Ender’s Game. I can’t imagine how one would set out to write the rich, humanistic tapestry of Speaker For the Dead and end up with Ender’s Game, one of the greatest military SF novels of all time yet so very different in so many ways. If you have not read or heard that the second book in the Ender’s Game series is absolutely nothing like the first book, here is your warning. This novel is set several thousand years after the events in Ender’s Game and Ender himself, thanks to the time deficit of traveling near light speed, has aged but only into his 30’s. There are no battle schools and the only battles fought are idealistic in nature. There is a deep, well written mystery to this novel that will keep you reading long after you realize there are no action or battle sequences to be had. I have known so many readers who were disappointed in this sequel to Ender’s Game but if you stick with it, I think Speaker for the Dead is actually a better, more meaningful book that explores the deeper themes introduced in Ender’s Game.
Abaddon’s Gate, the third novel in the Expanse, is on par with the lite, somewhat melodramatic tone of this shallow but fun series. The action and characters play out like a Hollywood film and the novel is weakest when it tries to be deep and meaningful, failed attempts at clever commentary on the human condition. There’s a religious element in this entry that, because of the complete absence of religion in the first two books, feels wildly out of place and never quite works. Its strengths are its action sequences, the interaction of its main characters, and the overall world building. By the novel’s end, we finally discover what “The Expanse” really is and are only marginally closer to solving the bigger mysteries of the overall story. Like the first two books, this one introduces new characters who play pivotal roles in the unfolding drama but will disappear by book four. This is a really fun series that may be a little too contemporary for its own good. If you’re looking for deeper meaning in your Science Fiction, stick with Simmons or Reynolds. If you’re just wanting a good, enjoyable, action laden SciFi story without all the baggage of military SF, then I would highly recommend this series.
I didn't get a print version - audio only!
The epic finish.
I admit I was apprehensive and had this not been written by one of my favorite authors it’s unlikely I would have ever given it a chance. Like vampires and zombies, superhero stories are a dime a dozen these days. But Sanderson delivers another knockout, adding depth and world-building along with signature Sanderson characters and action to a bloated and tired sub-genre. This one is definitely worth your time and I can’t imagine this not finding its way into theaters or onto television soon.
Not Scalzi's Best Book
Of course - Old Man's War is a classic
He added a whimsical element to the narration but little more.
I’m a big fan of John Scalzi but I couldn’t help be a tad bit disappointed in Redshirts. The first part of the novel is really just an extended gimmick on the more recognizable elements of Trek lore. It’s a fun, quick read for any Trek fan and would have worked well as a novella or even a short story, flowing very much like an episode of Star Trek, but ultimately too shallow to carry an entire novel and so Scalzi tacks on two extra “codas” that feel themselves like loosely connected short stories or even supplemental material. Had these additional segments not been tacked on, I suppose it would not have qualified for the Hugo Best Novel category, an award which it won earlier in 2013. Wil Wheaton’s narration of the audiobook is a nice touch though there were times when I felt like a professional narrator might have done a better job with the text. Despite the Hugo, this is not one of John Scalzi’s better novels.
If I have time, certainly. It's very much like one of the better series on TV, one of those things I might enjoy every now and again.
The characterizations were spot on and in perfect synch with the Third Doctor eps.
Tons of nostalgia, remembering my days as a kid, watching Doctor Who on my local PBS station on Saturday nights.
Here is a book that is not only a stellar Doctor Who novel in its own right, but does a superb job of capturing the atmosphere of the classic BBC series, from the cheesy cheeky characters to the weird alien stuff (like alien possessed attack cows!) to even the bad special effects. I’ve read several Who novels and this is the only one that I feel truly captures the essence of what makes the old series so unique and special, stories that weren’t built on special effects but used stellar writing and a talented cast to rise above the cheap sets, the goofy costumes, and sometime silly “Britishness” of the series (and I mean that in the fondest possible context, I truly do). You can literally picture the knock-off effects and bad costumes in the writing. This is every bit a Third Doctor story, from the Doctor’s exile on earth and his time with UNIT. There are several Third Doctor series on Netflix, I strongly encourage any reader who hasn’t seen the Third Doctor in action to watch a Third Doctor series or two before reading this book. Being able to put faces and personalities with the characters really brings this story to life.
All of Terry Brook’s novels, at least the Shannara novels, follow the same basic template. You have a character who finds himself (or herself), typically through circumstances beyond his control, suddenly thrust into a quest with an assortment of companions of varying races to travel to ____ in order to find the mythical _____ so that he or she can usually do something to save the world. As a result, most of Brook’s novels tend to feel similar and are of a similar tone with characters that stray very little from the norm. That said, once you lower your expectations and accept the fact that these stories aren’t likely to stray very far from the template, this extended series can be quite enjoyable, particularly if you enjoy good, escapist, low risk fantasy (the diametric opposite of George RR Martin). As a prequel to Terry Brook’s original Shannara series, this book feels quite at home and does round out the story, the world, and the events of those first three novels. There’s some novelty here, revisiting familiar territory and a few familiar characters, and a decent adventure. As an audiobook, expertly narrated, this presentation is great, escapist fun, well worth a month's credit.
The Blade Itself is dark, melodramatic, and a great deal of fun. This is not your typical epic, go on a quest and save the world kind of fantasy. Instead we are thrust into a world of morally ambiguous anti-heroes – a disfigured torturer, an arrogant nobleman, and an infamous warrior with a checkered past who all cross paths and eventually find their fates align in the shadow of an impending war. There is intrigue, drama, a great deal of action, lots of twisted humor, and plenty to enjoy in this first entry of Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy. Steven Pacey is one of the top two or three fantasy narrators working today. This is an audiobook series that no true fantasy fan should be without. Even if you've read the series (as I have), get the audiobook and read it again.
Hyperion stands as one of the greatest SF novels of the second half of the 20th century. Part allegory, part mystery, drawing inspiration from every spectrum of fiction from The Canterbury Tales to the poetry of John Keats, this novel elevates Science Fiction to a literary form. Like the aforementioned Canterbury Tales the novel follows a quasi-religious quest to the fabled and mysterious planet of Hyperion where mankind’s first true encounter with an alien race takes place. Each member of the pilgrimage has a story to tell, each a piece to a larger, far more intricate puzzle whose final solution may hold the key to the survival of mankind. Simmon’s future is wholly familiar yet startlingly alien in many ways. His characters are developed through their tales and the mysteries they unfold make this an undeniable page turner. If you enjoy Science Fiction that goes beyond robots and ray guns and endeavors to explore the big and essential questions of life and death and what it means to be human this novel is not be missed. The various narrators really bring this story to live in audio form.
The narrative follows two slowly developing events – a chase to recover the kidnapped child of a Belter botanist and the political posturing of a potty mouthed, grandmotherly UN ambassador who feels her own brand of old-lady wisdom is the only thing holding civilization together. She joins with revenge-seeking marine and eventually finds her way to Holden and his crew, who have teamed up with the botanist on a mission of mercy, where all discover they have a common enemy and a common purpose. Great action sequences follow with happy endings all around. Unlike Leviathan Wakes, which followed similar narratives but felt at every moment of the story, like those narratives paled against larger and far more significant (and alien) problems in the universe, Abaddon’s Gate seems to put those larger, more significant problems in a holding pattern while mankind embarks upon a series of illogical and nonsensical actions that tosses all three factions: Earthers, Martians, and Belters into a pointless war that none can truly win and in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter anyway. As a result, the novel felt a lot like filler, where nothing of any real importance in the context of the larger story seemed to happen. Despite my problems with the overall story, Abaddon’s Gate is superbly executed with tight, well written action sequences, a level of characterization you don’t often see in space opera, and enough action to move the novel along at a brisk pace. As a stand-alone volume this novel is rather good and certainly enjoyable. In the context of the larger series, this feels like it will be one of the weaker entries.
Watership Down is a monumental piece of young adult fiction and one of those books you can enjoy again and again. Written for children but never condescending or silly, this novel follows the adventures of a group of rabbits as they struggle to overcome catastrophe. The novel begins with a group of male (buck) rabbits escaping their home and venturing into the wild with hopes of finding a new home in a place far from the natural enemies of rabbits (mainly men). Along the way they overcome numerous obstacles and trials and each of them grow and develop through these various trials. At times allegorical and at other times a high adventure story, there are deep themes at play all through this novel from the dangers of communism to the role of religion and myth. Taking his cues from the ancient beast fable, Richard Adams creates a rich and vibrant world for his characters complete with history and language and occupied by characters so well developed you’ll feel a personal connection to each one of them by the novels conclusion. Highly recommended and an excellent audiobook.
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