For my money, it doesn't get any better than Alastair Reynolds. He has become the master of hard Science Fiction, particularly his Revelation Space series. This book serves as a prequel to the events of both Chasm City and The Revelation Space Trilogy. The Prefect is, at its heart, a police procedural yet it functions as a vital piece of the overall story that plays out through the four other Revelation Space novels. The book is written as well as any mystery out there and it's easily one of the best Science Fiction novels of 2007. As for the narration - I admit that I strongly disliked John Noble as the narrator at first, particularly his plethora of regional English, Welsh, and Scottish accents but having now listened to a half dozen of his narrations of Reynold's works he's grown on me and I've come to enjoy his narration.
I can drone on about plot holes and characters who ask none of the important questions an actual person in the real world would ask (think Neo's concerns about being in the Matrix...only not being all that concerned) but instead just having a good time doing wizardy stuff but this is one of those books you just gotta let all that go and enjoy it for what it is. Not written terribly well nor deeply developed, I have to say it held my interest, made me laugh out loud a number of times, and got me hooked to follow the further adventures of these quirky characters. You really can't ask for more out of a fantasy book.
Before They Are Hanged is top notch fantasy by one of today’s best and most under-appreciated writers. Here are characters that reek of substance and are grounded in real, believable world. And here, at last, is a story impossible to predict with its many twists and turns. I read a great many fantasy books, many (too many) in the form of trilogies or series. I can typically figure out where a series is going by the middle of the second book so that I’m rarely surprised by the time I get to book three and beyond. Here is one of the few exceptions, a story that does not follow Tolkien conventions or modern fantasy tropes. And here is a series written for grown-ups. While I wouldn’t put Abercrombie on the same level of sex and gratuitous violence that one would put George RR Martin, his books are certainly not for the YA crowd. Unlike the aforementioned Martin, who uses sex and violence to shock his readers, Abercrombie uses violence to do little more than advance his story and develop his characters. How else to describe scenes of torture that aren’t memorable for their shock value but for how mundane they seem in the context of the greater tale? Even the rare sex scenes, which are explicit despite lacking any eroticism, are written in advance of the story and nothing more. While this may put some readers off, I find it quite refreshing in an adult fantasy novel that is adult because it assumes its readers are mature enough to enjoy a story without the shock. Great series, well worth the credit.
Drizzt, do you need to ask?
A couple of bad guy deaths that were particularly satisfying.
Don't want to spoil it but we have our first major death of one of the core characters and it's a moving, fitting moment in the greater story that will resonate with you long after you finish the book.
Despite the three intervening Icewind Dale novels (if you go by timeline and not publication date), this novel is as much a direct sequel to the Dark Elf Trilogy as it is to the Icewind Dale Trilogy. While it picks up exactly where Streams of Silver, the final book of Icewind Dale, left off, it also picks up where Soujourn, the final book of Dark Elf, left off. Odd as this may sound, it not only works but works quite well and lends itself to reading the series in order of publication date (Icewind Dale Trilogy, Dark Elf Trilogy, Legacy of the Drow Trilogy) and not in order of timeline (Dark Elf First, Icewind Dale Second). The Legacy marks a clear transition in RA Salvatore’s writing as he begins to explore darker themes and not every story has the kind of happy endings we saw in his first few Forgotten Realms books. This is a tightly written action-heavy entry that doesn’t let up once it gets started. While I don’t hold Salvatore on par with some of today’s top fantasy authors, his Dark Elf stories are great fun, even when they take a turn for the dark and sinister.
I’m not sure what some of my fellow reviewers were expecting from an hour long short story but for my money this short, transitional tale packed a ton of foreshadowing and did a great deal to setup to the upcoming second novel, Firefight. It was also great fun to immerse myself once again in the world of Calamity, Epics, and Reckoners. What do we learn? For one, the war with the Epics is not even close to being over. Even the war for Newcago will continue to rage. As for our hero, his days of reckless, impulsiveness are likely coming to an end. He will definitely bear the mental and physical scars of his brief battle with Mitosis for a long, long time. This a great story with great characters set in a completely unique future world. Brandon Sanderson is the master world builder in the world of fantasy, and now Science Fiction. Can’t wait for Firefight!
I read a ton of fantasy and it’s rare that I come across a debut novel as impressive as Blood Song. Anthony Ryan’s epic, coming of age fantasy is as deep, as dark, and nearly as complex as George RR Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, or Brandon Sanderson. I honestly think Blood Song is better than Game of Thrones or Name of the Wind (two of the best beginnings to epic fantasy series’ you will read). This novel was self-published before being picked up by a publisher, which in my mind makes it all the more impressive. The world Ryan creates is rich and textured, full of history and dark magic and inhabited by characters that leap off the page and are so well developed you will feel like you’ve been reading them your whole life by novel’s end. The layered plot works so well in this book. I love the way that Ryan slowly pulls back the complex layers through the eyes of Valin as he grows to become the greatest warrior in the realm. It would have been both easy and tempting to make this into another Harry Potter, off to magic/battle school story and it partially is but it is also much, much more. The pacing, the action, the way the story is framed, all are spot on perfect. I can’t recall the last time I picked up a novel on a whim and enjoyed it so much. On top of all this, the audiobook narration is first rate. This is just a great, great book and Anthony Ryan needs to get the accolades he deserves. With so much cut-rate fantasy being put on the shelves these days, this formerly self-published epic fantasy is a welcomed surprise.
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.
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