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.
What the heck?
The ending blew me away.
Top notch narration. She does an excellent job fleshing out the different players.
Elanor with her cup of stars.
Horror novels, particular those written in the 20th century or beyond, are not my cup of tea. Despite my undying (see what I did there?) devotion to Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft and a smattering respect for Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker, I’ve never enjoyed anything that could be considered modern horror. So, I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to spend a few bucks on The Haunting of Hill House except perhaps that I’m a sucker for haunted houses (just not novels about haunted houses). This novel blew me away. This is how real horror should be done. True terror, after all, is about what you can’t see and the anticipation of what is just beyond the scope of your perception. The Haunting of Hill House is not only a frightening read, it delves deep into character, into history, and into numerous literary and psychological themes (such as the fine line between reality and imagination). Shirley Jackson is a master at building suspense and delivering the payoff without resolving the underlying and overarching mysteries. By novel’s end you too might find yourself lost somewhere between reality and fantasy. The audiobook presentation is top notch. Great book. Sad Shirley Jackson didn’t write more.
I never write reviews of audiobooks before I finish listening to the entire book, even if I’ve read the book many times before. I will make an exception here since a) it’s free; b) it’s just plain awesome; and c) it’s free. R.A. Salvatore is what I would call average fantasy, a tick or two below Terry Brooks but nothing, in essence, like or at the level of, say, George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombe, or Robert Jordan. His books are basically novelizations of Dungeons and Dragon game scenarios complete with towns, villages, monsters, and character classes. All that’s missing are the die rolls when his characters get into combat. His books are lite and fun, sometime a little on the corny side, especially his earlier stuff. And yet, I’ve happily read everything the man has written and call myself a fan. That said, I rarely recommend Salvatore to readers who are not at least casually familiar with D&D or Forgotten Realms. Here is an exception. The narrators thus far have turned this average fantasy world into a real gem. For the price you can’t go wrong and I have no qualms about calling this the greatest deal in Audible history. I would have happily paid a credit for 10 hours of pure, fantasy joy. Get this today!
Forget all the reviews focusing solely on the decision to change narrators after the third book. The initial series was planned as a trilogy, to end after Abaddon’s Gate. But, due to the success of the series and likely the decision by SyFy to turn it into a television series, The Expanse was expanded. I can only guess that Jefferson Mays was contracted for three books and unavailable for this and future entries. So what! Yes it’s different and his choice of inflection and accent don’t match perfectly with Mays but it takes all of 15 minutes to get beyond this and the narration is otherwise fine. Don’t let bad reviews or inconsistent narration keep you from another excellent entry into the now expanded Expanse series. While Cibola Burn is, in my opinion, the weakest novel of the series thus far, it remains a fun, well written, book with great characters, a lot of humor, and, as always, a few things to say about the human condition.
Cibola Burn is basically a disaster story set on an alien planet millions of light years from Earth. Thanks to the newly opened gates mankind is now starting to expand beyond the physical limits of the solar system. The first world mankind encounters, Ilus or New Terra, is rich in resources and breathable air but lacking a compatible biosphere and covered by abandoned alien technology. Soon, Ilus becomes the frontier and the site of humanity’s first war beyond our own stars as things quickly go wrong in all kinds of ways. It reminded me a great deal of disaster films like The Poseidon Adventure or, more recently, Gravity, where one thing after another goes wrong and suddenly things that once mattered, like alliances and contracts and settler’s rights, are forgotten as life becomes about overcoming one problem after another to survive for one more hour, one more day. As a result, this book is full of clichés, from the single minded bad guy whose lack of basic human decency is only eclipsed by his lack of basic human logic, to the guilt-laden terrorist whose biggest flaw is his lack of control to the way the crew and characters come up with solutions to the myriad problems that seem to constantly pop up. This is also the first book to set most of the action planet-side, which is an interesting twist.
I did not enjoy Cibola Burn as much as I did the previous three books. I felt like the greater mystery of the protomolecule should have been resolved in the last book and that now, the author is simply tacking on my story, more mystery. It certainly has that “tacked on” quality and the series feels as if it’s being over-stretched. Even the explanation behind why Holden and his crew are still involved in galactic politics feels out of place. As much as I love Holden, Naomi, Alex, and Amos, it would have more sense, I think, to start with new characters and build a new trilogy.
Despite its flaws, this is still a great book and a fun, edge of your seat read (or listen) and fully recommended.
Is it even possible to say enough good things about this novel? Or, to say anything that hasn’t already been said? Sanderson is a marvel. This is a massive novel that reads like a book half its page length. The story rarely dragged, even the interlude chapters that irritated me in the first book, in Words of Radiance were fun, interesting, and whimsical. More than that, they actually started to make sense in the overall, emerging, story. The story is also tight and focused, almost exclusively following the central characters through the primary storyline. Unlike most fantasy novels of this length, there are no lingering subplots, no secondary characters to drag to the central story off in different directions in order to drag out the plot and lengthen the drama. On top of all this praise, hard as it is to be believe, but I feel like Brandon Sanderson is growing as a writer. His novels are not only becoming more complex but his writing is growing more intricate and sophisticated, no longer relying on typical descriptors or dramatic queues that so often make high fantasy stories predictable. More than this, Sanderson does not rely on graphic violence, graphic sex, or out-of-place profanity the way other working fantasy writers do. While it doesn’t bother me in other books, it is often used as a crutch to prop up weak writing. As for narration, Michael Kramer and Kate Reading are simply put, the best American fantasy narrators in the audiobook industry. This series is a must-read for any fan of high fantasy.
Absolutely. The choice of narrators was perfect.
Terminal World - great characters, interesting world, contrived, predictable story.
Blue Remembered Earth starts out slow and takes its time developing the central storyline but what it lacks in typical, Alastair Reynolds, space opera, action it makes up for with outstanding world and character building. The plot is essentially a scavenger hunt in space and is as contrived as it sounds. The characters are given clues and are led along, much like the reader, pretty much in the dark, motivated only by curiosity and yet often overcome with reluctance to leave their comfortable lives. As a result, I found the overall story dissatisfying and one of the rare Alastair Reynold books I did not fully enjoy. That said, I found the central and supporting characters some of the most compelling of any Reynold’s story and the near future world that the author creates one of his best, easily matching the complexity and whimsy of Revelation Space. While this first entry of the Poseidon’s Children trilogy was somewhat disappointing, this novel is still excellent hard science fiction and I am quite looking forward to diving into the sequel. The narration was excellent – outstanding decision to change narrators for this series. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith was a perfect choice for the numerous African accents and adds depth to the story and the characters.
I find myself in concurrence with almost every review posted, both positive and negative. The Magicians is everything readers claim, from an adult Harry Potter to a wicked spin on Narnia with a dose of Once and Future King tossed in for good measure all bound up with a host of odd pop culture references. Its characters too often remind me of the droopy, semi-depressed, semi-conscious teenagers of the Twilight films and are juxtaposed with a handful of only slightly interesting professors at Brakebills School of Magic and later one or two characters from the magical land of Fillory. It ambles quite easily through four years of Quentin Coldfield’s life and his transformation from a depressed, introverted, but brilliant teenager in Brooklyn to an angry, bitter, drug abusing, 20 something magician by book’s end. As a result, I find this a difficult book to recommend. The promise of its premise never lives up to its conclusion and it left me with absolutely no desire to find out what happens in the next novel. And yet I did not hate this book and found some of it enjoyable. If Audible puts this one on sale I might suggest it. Otherwise, steer to books that don’t sacrifice substance for style.
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.
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