Corey creates a marvelously rich societal structure that spans the entire solar system with multiple competing discreet entities that allow for a complex and unpredictable evolution when an unanticipated development take everyone by surprise. Earth and Mars lumber about as the two superpowers with a delicate detente in place. The rest of the system consists of Mars and Earth aligned outposts as well as autonomous "belters" some of which display a don't tread on me attitude. When attacks begin, eventually leading to a station involvement, a freighter captain and a contract cop step in to connect the dots while system wide conflagration is in the offing. The feel is a Cold War era tension where each side is posturing for position and worried about pressing the button.
The science elements are low keyed with mostly a blue collar type rendition of standard extrapolated capabilities except for the twist mid way into the tale. The appeal of the story are the two points of view that overlap throughout as the story unfolds. Holden is a freighter captain thrust into command by the destruction of his parent vessel that starts all the events, while Miler is a contract cop on a belter station that stumbles into a missing person case he's not supposed to solve. While they eventually collide with each other, their distinct styles and skill sets offer an engaging unraveling of a confusing mystery.
The narration is excellent with a solid rendition of the various characters. The pace and tone are perfect for the tale.
Currie's 2nd installment, The Heart of Matter, is a solid follow-on to Into the Black. With Earth having developed a faster than light drive, Captain Eric Weston has taken his Odyssey crew out for cruise of their neighborhood only to learn that not only are there intelligent alien life forms, but that they appear to be human and have other unknown enemies as well. The sequel begins back on Earth with the Odyssey preparing to return to Rankeel with diplomatic and training teams.
This time out, we get a glimpse of the AI-like intelligence the Priminae refer to as "Central" that has some general oversight properties. There are more space battles (and planet-side) with the Drasin along with the discovery of a Dyson swarm that appears to be a giant Drasin shipbuilding operation around another star. Finally there are some mysterious and sinister clues revealed that hint at the Drasin origin. The original cast is back along with a few new characters. Currie has crafted a delicious space opera that is very "Star Trek-like" in its general theme, although uniquely original.
The narration is superb with an excellent range of voices along with good pacing and tone that makes for non-stop listening.
Jessica Meigs' The Becoming is a less than valiant effort for a fresh zombie thriller. A virus has escaped from the CDC and makes people violent cannibals which appears to be distinct from an actual zombie, but later in the tale, we learn they really are zombies. An eclectic band of people slowly coalesce and try to stay safe. By the end, they literally drive off into the sunset to another safehouse.
The timeframe is present day without any true sci-fi elements save for the virus, whose origin is never explained, nor is there any attempt to do something about the infection, nor do we ever learn what is happening in the rest of the world. Most of the plot is dealing with short tempers flaring and people have a tough time dealing with loss. The menagerie that is accumulated along the way has little to recommend themselves and arrive with little in the way of intriguing backstories or histories. There's also little in the way of action except for escape scenes, since there's always too many "zombies" around to do anything else.
The narration is quite good with a solid range of voices for both genders and adolescents.
Cyberstorm is an end of world type tale taking place today due to a combination of international saber rattling, complete loss of the internet, and horrible weather. The story is told through the eyes of a young hi-tech executive dealing with personal issues and trying to survive with his family intact. The unique angle for the story is that the listener is as much in the dark as to the true nature of the situation as the main protagonist; it's unclear whether everything is following some dark, sinister master plan.
Most of the story takes place in Manhattan with an ever increasing severity of events: loss of power and water, lack of communications, massive blizzard conditions. Rumors abound and from the limited perspective the character have, it's easy to understand conspiracy theories unfolding. Creative solutions abound with a solid ensemble supporting cast. Overall, the story presents a realistic portrayal of the consequences of societal collapse.
The narration is excellent with a solid range of voices and god pacing and tone.
Inside Out is the 2nd installment in the Ben Treven series, although Eisler has overlapped the main character, Ben Treven, within the larger Rain series. In this story, "enhanced" interrogation tapes have gone missing and become blackmail. Ben is called in to track them down. In addition to Ben, CIA and FBI as well as mercenaries are involved and the field gets rather crowded. Ben displays his physical and mental skills to crack the case wide open.
The pacing is excellent with a good admixture of action and detective work. Ben encounters comparable rivals for the first time and must also deal with some troubling revelations about his work and how the world operates. There are sufficient plot twists to hold interest to the end.
The narration is superb; all the more remarkable because the author himself is doing the reading. The tone and mood of each character and situation are accurately portrayed which adds to the listening enjoyment.
Brackett's Streets of Payne is a gritty and futuristic police / detective story. Detective Payne works for a contract law enforcement company along with her partner who is an ace hacker and investigates first some missing files and then a kidnapping in connection with company making computerized prosthetics. The overall mood is a cyberpunk / Bladerunner style.
The sci-fi element are mainly artificial body parts, monster AIs, and computer hacking. The pacing is excellent with a good flow of back and forth between real world action (high tech weaponry and armor) and cyberspace battles. Payne is continually being put back together and with a sequel could end up becoming a female robocop.
The narration is first rate with an excellent range of voices
Into the Black, Currie's first installment in the Odyssy one series is a gem of listen. While the story is placed far in the future and involves the testing of the first faster than light drive. the crew of the Odyssey begin their journey as mere test pilots / guinea pigs. After their "jump" they find themselves encountering what appears to be human beings who refer to the Earth people as potentially the mythical "others" that are the stuff of their legends. At the same time, the Earth crew bump into another alien species intent on human destruction, without regard to home world origin.
The sci-fi elements are pretty standard at about the level of a typical Star Trek movie. The compelling storyline is a combination of excellent space warfare that is skillfully executed by the Earth crew with an exceptional ensemble crew (no one character does it all). Currie also does two other things right: 1) the aliens are uniquely different, intelligent, and inscrutable, and 2) the "alien" human counterparts are not so much advanced relative to Earth, but rather they have progressed in some, but not all areas of science. While this first salvo in a longer story arc bodes well for a good run, this first installment is also pure listening pleasure with good pacing and plenty of surprises.
The narration is first rate and does a respectable job of capturing the mood of the various characters (of which there are many).
Keith Goodnight's The Child is an intriguing sci-fi thriller that unfortunately ends with the unanswered questions of exactly what actually happened and what was merely imagined. The story is set several centuries in the future after some stellar cataclysm that destroyed the sun. The survivors have barely managed to eek out an existence until the discovery of "hyperfields". A hyperfield experiment on a remote outpost appears to have created havoc by activating latent psychic powers and in particular amplifying a child's abilities that is driving everyone slowly insane. The physicist studying the hyperfields must solve this riddle in order to save everyone.
The sci-fi elements are fairly basic with space flight and these hyperfields which appear to access some strange dimensions that permit energy extraction. Problems arise (as in Ghostbusters) when the field cross. Detracting from the tale is the late entry of an alien along with a supposed dark force out for total destruction. At the end, it's less clear if this has been a sci-fi story or merely a psychiatrically challenged suspense tale. One could imagine in the movie adaptation, the main character waking up at the end to the announcement of the discovery of hyperfields and the whole thing having been a dream or a nightmare.
The narration is outstanding with an excellent range of voices, good pacing, and a tone that matches the intensity of the action.
Garrett's premise for Manipulate: Alien Cadets is straightforward - Earth is being judged for entrance to the galactic organization of sentient species. If they make it, they will be treated as equals; if they don't, then Earth is fair game for any other sentient race to use as they see fit. Earth is on probation and their "sponsor," an alien race has forcibly removed Earth children for "cadet" training. The story begins with the cadets coming home and preparing for the hearing that will determine their fate. At this point, mysterious happenings occur to the cadets that threatens Earth's future.
Overall, the story is engaging with good pacing throughout. The sci-fi elements are standard fare with alien capable space travel and the use of neural tissue for space navigation. The characters are respectable; however, the aliens are not very imaginative. Weak elements include rather unsophisticated aliens who can't recognize subterfuge as well as lack of motivation on the part of specific characters for their actions. All the secrecy that was maintained was essentially pointless.
The narration is well done with a great range that includes multiple alien races.
With the 8th installment of Star Force, Riggs finally makes the decision to save Earth from Crowe. This time out, the design of ever more esoteric nanotized military hardware takes a backseat to political musings and truly alien inventions. Needless to say, nothing goes as planned for Riggs, but he remains ever the opportunist and creates creative solutions for both his new worst enemies, the blues, as well as the Earth defenses.
This time out gravity manipulators are exploited. At the same time Earth has been busy on its own with nightmarish creations of cyborgs as well as as redefined biology. The conclusion is satisfying on many levels and has Riggs entering a new phase of his career, but one that is likely not to be interesting to recount in the future. Alternatively, perhaps Riggs may eventually develop that wanderlust and return to the stars one day for more adventures.
The narration is adequate and complements the pace and style of the story.
Spindown concerns a mining operation on Ganymede operated by clone slaves and overseen by an artificial intelligence (AI). The tale commences with a "Greenpeace-like" activist group who attempt to intervene to liberate the clones only to be killed by the AI's defense mechanism. What follows is the ordeal of one clone to avoid "reduction" or destruction due to his contact with these outside individuals. This clone treks to safety with a slowly dawning, but incomplete recognition that his worldview is so limited as to be essentially infantile in nature.
The setting is obviously futuristic with both cloned human beings that can survive by transdermal skin packs as well as some settlement and exploitation of the solar system. There's also the AI that is sophisticated enough to eliminate the need for intelligent humans to oversee. Most of the story is tedious and slow moving with the listener understanding far more than the protagonists most of the time. Problematic however is the vague references to a system running on automatic pilot, but without any explanation as to why this has evolved. If the original rationale for this endeavor was the presence of a rare mineral (only found of Ganymede), why has operations been abandoned and largely forgotten? Someone should have bought up the rights even if the company no longer exists.
The narration mirrors the slow pace and tedious nature of the tale. Voices are rendered more than adequately, but the lack of actual progress by the characters does not engender empathy for any of them. Perhaps a sequel might answer some questions and offer a more compelling tale.
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