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Michael G Kurilla

ROCKVILLE, MD, United States | Member Since 2017

2339
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 392 reviews
  • 685 ratings
  • 525 titles in library
  • 21 purchased in 2018
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  • Hyperion

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Dan Simmons
    • Narrated By Marc Vietor, Allyson Johnson, Kevin Pariseau, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11578)
    Performance
    (9513)
    Story
    (9562)

    On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all.

    Michael says: "The Shrike Awaits. Enter The Time Tombs..."
    "Canterbury Tales in space with a side of mystery"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Dan Simmons' Hugo award winning Hyperion is a richly elaborate tale of a complex futuristic galactic society long after the destruction of Earth. Hyperion is a world on the edge of space with only a loose attachment to the major societal and governmental organization known as the Hegemony. Its main interest lies in being one of only a dozen labyrinthine worlds, underground tunnels the origin and purpose of which remains a mystery. Hyperion also is home to the "time tombs", structures which create an entropic dysfunction in their proximity and has spawned a religious movement that believes an impending event is to occur. Completing the menagerie is a splinter sect of humans, analogous to barbarians, that confine themselves to space and intend to invade and destroy Hyperion. Against this backdrop, an apparently random collection of individuals has been selected for the last pilgrimage to Hyperion. Along the way, they each tell a long, fascinating tale that relate essential background info on the universe, provide a specific connection with Hyperion, and give them motive to have a grudge against the powers that be.

    Th sci-fi elements are varied and numerous. Settled space interacts through "farscasters" that provide instantaneous interstellar travel between worlds. The "hitch" is that distant worlds require relativistic restrictions to establish a new travel site. As such, worlds not integrated suffer a time debt accrual, which results in quite a few seemingly long lived individuals. The concept of entropic dysfunction where time can go backwards is a fascinating addition. Artificial intelligence is a major player within the Hegemony with various sects with conflicting objectives. Cybrids represent AI entities operating within humanoid like physical bodies. Each of the "tales" is nearly a standalone short story in themselves. While each is informative regarding both the storyteller and the Hyperion universe, each also leaves plenty of unanswered questions.

    The narration is an ensemble cast where each major storytelling character has their own voice with an overall narrator. Each narrator performs quite respectably and the story flows seamlessly which can be an issue for multi-narrator performances.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Gone World

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Tom Sweterlitsch
    • Narrated By Brittany Pressley
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (201)
    Performance
    (180)
    Story
    (180)

    Shannon Moss is part of a clandestine division within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In Western Pennsylvania, 1997, she is assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL's family - and to locate his teenage daughter, who has disappeared. Though she can't share the information with conventional law enforcement, Moss discovers that the missing SEAL was an astronaut aboard the spaceship USS Libra - a ship assumed lost to the darkest currents of Deep Time.

    Veronica says: "What an amazing find!"
    "No escape"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Tom Sweterlitsch's The Gone World offers a unique blend of hard science fiction and horror, along with some gritty detective noir against a backdrop of blood and gore. In an alternate history universe, the US has been using its space program as a cover for a top secret program to investigate potential and alternate futures. Along the way, they discover, the terminus which is a future annihilation slowly working itself ever closer to the present. Against this backdrop comes a gruesome murder of a family, including a former soldier who had been associated with the secret space program, but believed to have gone missing. As the investigator digs into the case, she discovers a covert conspiracy with unknown intentions and finds additional gore. As she traverses time and space to multiple futures, she encounters alternate futures as she attempts to piece together the mystery.

    The major sci-fi elements encompasses the ability to travel to alternate futures and then back again to present time. Each can be subtlety and dramatically different at the same time. The passage of time in getting to and from as well as the time spent there ages the agent biologically, such that she is slowly catching up to her mother in age. The detective work is gritty and confusing, while the violence is graphic and extensive with overtones of a supernatural quality. The world ending terminus is truly a hell on Earth scenario worthy of Dante.

    The narration is superb with an excellent character distinction of both genders including the same character at different ages. While not for the squeamish, this blending of sci-fi and horror in what is basically a detective murder mystery is an ambitious undertaking, the success of which will be in the ear of the listener.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Aurora

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Kim Stanley Robinson
    • Narrated By Ali Ahn
    Overall
    (2214)
    Performance
    (2051)
    Story
    (2049)

    A major new novel from one of science fiction's most powerful voices, Aurora tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system. Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, it is the work of a writer at the height of his powers.

    ewreirct says: "Beautiful"
    "Interstellar colonization: learning as you go"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora is a grand tale of humanity's initial attempt at interstellar colonization. As would expected, the are many unforeseen obstacles and complications requiring ingenuous solutions and a continual reassessment of goals and objectives. Finally, a portion of the contingent decides to give up and runs into more problems as well as some degree of animosity from Earth itself. The story is related from the perspective a single person who is a mere child in the late stages of the transit and grows into an integral player holding this small island of humans together.

    KSR's overall command and virtuosity with all the myriad technical aspects of interstellar travel and new world colonization in terms of both the physics and engineering issues as well as the biological implications are truly awe inspiring in terms of breadth, depth, and scope of all the various sci-fi elements. Fundamentally, the overall premise is that interstellar colonization may be an overly ambitious aspiration that will ultimately flounder under an avalanche of problems. In addition, the overall tenor of the action gradually becomes more and more depressing as the story progresses. The final third of tale is a bit tired and drawn out, along with some dues ex machina moments that give the impression of confusion for providing closure resulting in lots of loose ends and an unsatisfying conclusion. Lastly, with the bulk of the tale related as an AI narrative, the sense of telling, rather than showing detracts from the experience.

    The narration is exceptional with good character distinction, especially given the large ensemble cast beyond the central daughter and father.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ancillary Justice

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Ann Leckie
    • Narrated By Celeste Ciulla
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2427)
    Performance
    (2238)
    Story
    (2225)

    On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body.

    Granite State says: "Good Story Spoiled by Narrator"
    "AI revenge as a pawn"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is a complicated story with a complicated plot that's part of even more complicated evil empire machinations. A former AI that controlled a warship as well as numerous "ancillaries" which are humanoid bodies has been reduced to a single humanoid, bent on revenge for the treachery that precipitated its situation. After a methodical hunt for a super weapon, the ancillary eventually learns that it has been a mere pawn in a larger power struggle.

    The major sci-fi elements consists of a roman empire like race that seems to exist for nothing more than conquest. This is handled by an emperor/empress like entity that has split itself into multiple clones that ends up at war with itself as a result of contact with another formidable alien race. Added into the mix is a sexual ambiguity that is presented as default female, although Leckie occasionally alternates pronouns. The race is more appropriately described a unisexual as there only seems to be one type and there is usually confusion with other bisexual races. The overall plot while complex is richly detailed and engaging, but there is a clear deficit in terms of the sociocultural elements of a society that is largely a single sex military, other that a classical class system.

    The narration is adequate, although the sexual ambiguity allows for most characters to be portrayed as female with minimal character distinction which requires close attention to follow all the action and conversations.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Consider Phlebas

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Iain M. Banks
    • Narrated By Peter Kenny
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2133)
    Performance
    (1910)
    Story
    (1922)

    The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender. Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it....

    Hyacinth says: "The Culture is a magnificent and enticing vision."
    "War and the question of why?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Iain M Banks' Consider Phlebas is the first installment in the long running Culture series. The story takes place during the Culture - Irdian war for galactic dominance. To retrieve a Culture AI crash landed on an unaligned and forbidden planet, the Irdians employ a "changer" who has prior history with the planet. Most of the tale follows a protracted series of interruptions as the changer makes his way to the planet. Along the way, he is shanghai'd by pirates and captured by cannibals. Finally on the target planet, he deals with friendly fire.

    Banks' sci-fi elements involve standard advanced spaceflight and weaponry, but the real draw is the backseat humanity takes to other galactic intelligences. Both the Culture and the Irdians exhibit an air of superiority for their societal constructions which are in conflict and irreconcilable and exhibit extremes of current mores. But the underlying theme is motivations, beliefs, and actions of the little guy within the larger conflict. The changer is ideologically aligned with the Irdians, but only as the lesser of two evils. In the end, his actions are largely irrelevant to the outcome of the war as opposed to the more typical, singular individual who changes the course of the conflict.

    The narration is quite good with a respectable range of character with adequate gender distinction. Pacing and mood are reasonable for the plot development.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Boneshaker

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Cherie Priest
    • Narrated By Wil Wheaton, Kate Reading
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1622)
    Performance
    (1247)
    Story
    (1251)

    In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

    Tracey says: "Doesn't live up to potential"
    "Steampunk zombies in the Pacific Northwest"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Cherie Priest's Boneshaker offers an interesting fusion of steampunk and zombies. Set in the Pacific Northwest during an alternate civil war historical era, gold rush fever creates a unique situation where a Russian inspired drilling machine, the Boneshaker, results in a poison gas no man's land where zombie like creatures roam. A teenage boy anxious to clear his father's name heads into the area with his mother in hot pursuit. The two of them experience unique adventures as they discover a nascent economy struggling to survive as the tale shifts back and forth between their perspectives.

    The tale is classic steampunk with a super-duper steam powered drilling machine creating all the mayhem that is still unsettled over a decade later. The poison gas released by the machine creates zombie-like crazed humans, while the gas itself can be distilled to a powerful drug that drives normal human involvement with the region. Air ships are evolved as expensive, but routine modes of transportation as well as implements of warfare. Along the way, there are other mechanical devices such as prosthetic limbs, gas masks, and sound incapacitating devices. Ultimately, this is a mother-son tale with a mother hiding a dark secret and her son searching for the truth.

    The choice of dual narrators was wise as the story alternates between the mother and son's viewpoints. Both narrators are quiet good with good character distinction. Pacing and tone are well aligned with the overall plot development.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Borne

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Jeff VanderMeer
    • Narrated By Bahni Turpin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (532)
    Performance
    (495)
    Story
    (494)

    In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company - a biotech firm now derelict - and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

    Guitarist of the Midwest says: "Rough Narrator"
    "Everyone needs a pet"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jeff VanderMeer's Borne is a weirdly, post-apocalyptic tale about a dangerous, powerful biotech that is initially raised as a pet. The setting is confined to a single place where an advanced technological society that developed multi-functional biotech has collapsed. Few humans remain except for remnants of the corporation that made the biotech and a few scavengers that eke out a living by harvesting leftover biotech. One scavenger, Rachel, finds Borne as a plant-like entity that grows into an intelligent, versatile creature with considerable capabilities.Still child-like in many respects, Borne eventually threatens the delicate power structure of the region.

    Sci-fi elements are consistent with environmental degradation through too much technology, particularly of the bio variety. Many odd and strange creatures are running amok with various players exerting limited control. Much bio has been crafted for medicinal as well as recreational activities. Although not explicitly outlined, Borne harbors elements of artificial intelligence with human desires for love and companionship.

    The narration is respectable with good character distinction including both genders. Pacing and tone are well aligned with the range of action.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Becky Chambers
    • Narrated By Rachel Dulude
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2405)
    Performance
    (2231)
    Story
    (2231)

    Rosemary Harper doesn't expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and, most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman, she's never met anyone remotely like the ship's diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot; chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks, who keep the ship running; and Ashby, their noble captain.

    Nick Eubank says: "Wonderful characters; no real plot"
    "In space, everyone has issues"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a universe where humanity has almost extincted itself and the remaining humans must fit in with a hodgepodge of aliens with alien shapes, behaviors, and cultures. The bulk of the tale involves a single spaceship consisting of a tunneling operation that makes wormholes for interstellar travel. The eclectic crew consists of a captain, pilot, navigator, medic, cook, technicians, an AI, and a certified clerk to handle the galaxy's bureaucracy. Along the way to a job that is deep in contested space that is still not part of the league of planets, each crew members' backstory is explored.

    While tunneling for wormholes is hardcore physics, the bulk of the sci-fi elements are focused on alien biology and especially cultural practices. One alien race is infected by a neurovirus that controls their mind through a quasi-religious quality. Another birdlike alien species has a unique sequential family structure with multiple partners. Humans are minor players in this universe, but somewhat collected in the tale with a bit of backstory of how Earth screwed itself over.

    Th narration is quite good with a decent range of voices of both genders. Pacing is reasonable as there are few true action scenes, consisting mostly of melodrama.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Dispossessed: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Ursula K. Le Guin
    • Narrated By Don Leslie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1318)
    Performance
    (1164)
    Story
    (1171)

    Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

    Isaac says: "One of my favorite novels of all time"
    "Anarchists versus a world"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Ursula K Le Guin's The Dispossessed is another story in her Hainish cycle. In this universe, Earth and other worlds have been previously seeded by the Hain. In this tale, a world of roughly mid 21st century Earth technology exists in isolation, although becoming aware of other civilizations. This particular planet has colonized its moon, which is habitable and rich in certain minerals, with unruly anarchists. The story begins about 170 years into the tenuous arrangement. One individual on the moon, a young physicist travels from the moon to the planet to continue his work on a theory for faster than light travel, while also hoping for improving relations.

    The sci-fi elements are relatively minor compared to the larger focus on various political structures of the planet that appear to mimic dominant themes around the time the tale was released. While the planet is mired in nationalistic squabbles that span the spectrum from communism to democratic capitalism, through the eyes of an anarchist, all these systems appear flawed. At the same time, the anarchist's dream has devolved into a bureaucratic morass with all of the hassle inherent in any governmental system. but with even less accountability. Throughout, the young physicist struggles with the fear that his quantum leap in an understanding of the physical universe which involves ethics as well as science will be co-opted for nationalistic advantage, rather than for mankind's benefit. Set against the backdrop of the US / Soviet Union vying for global hegemony, the tale was likely more compelling compared to today.

    The narration is decent, with good character distinction and pacing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Elysium Fire

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Alastair Reynolds
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (301)
    Performance
    (281)
    Story
    (280)

    Ten thousand city-state habitats orbit the planet Yellowstone, forming a near-perfect democratic human paradise. But even utopia needs a police force. For the citizens of the Glitter Band that organization is Panoply, and the prefects are its operatives. Prefect Tom Dreyfus has a new emergency on his hands. Across the habitats and their hundred million citizens, people are dying suddenly and randomly, victims of a bizarre and unprecedented malfunction of their neural implants.

    Zach says: "Reynolds fan left cold"
    "Prefect Dreyfus is perfect"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Elysium's Fire, Alastair Reynolds latest offering from his Revelation Space universe occurs temporally as a follow-on from the Prefect with the Glitter Band surrounding Yellowstone still in its glory. This time, a series of unexplained brain implant meltdowns has Panoply in a panic as the circuits seem corrupted or hackable. At the same time, there is a serious threat for total anarchy as a movement to withdraw from Panoply is gaining steam. Dreyfus, along with assistance from junior prefects, including a hyperpig plunge into an investigation that opens past history and requires collaboration with Aurora who is still battling the watchmaker from the last installment.

    Reynolds' sci-fi elements are in line with earlier Revelation Space episodes. History on the development of the fool-proof polling software is offered along with human cloning. The versatility of the whiphounds is on full display (and would make a great Xmas gift). Of particular note is the employment of a virtual landscape as a holding pen for the beta versions of the murder victims for frequent questioning. At its heart, this is a gritty gumshoe detective story, dredging up ancient history and covered up crimes with plenty of twists and turns, along with a good mix of action scenes, and cerebral investigative work.

    John Lee's narration is a sheer joy to experience. His command of the range of characters, of both genders as well as children is beyond amazing. His pacing and tone enhance the prose and bring the action to life, along with the literary excellence giving a cinematic feel to the performance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Old Man's War

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By John Scalzi
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (14610)
    Performance
    (12838)
    Story
    (12856)

    John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First, he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce - and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So, we fight, to defend Earth and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

    Jim "The Impatient" says: "I DIDN'T MIND GETTING OLD, WHEN I WAS YOUNG EITHER"
    "No war for young men"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    John Scalzi's Old Man's War is an intriguing variation of the universe as a dangerous place full of hostile aliens. While the aliens are certainly hostile, military action is undertaken by senior citizens who have received new, enhanced bodies. Once voluntarily making the decision to enlist, there is no turning back and no option for return to Earth. The story follows one such fellow as he experiences the joys of renewed youthful vigor followed by battles against a never ending cascade of ever changing aliens.

    Scalzi creates some unique sci-fi elements including cloned and enhanced bodies that consciousness can be transferred into. The weaponry is mostly upgraded common armaments. The bulk of the battles are conducted dirtside. The aliens are creatively portrayed with as much attention to rituals and culture as biology. The underlying theme is that something as serious as war is best conducted by mature, wise people, rather than the innocence of youth.

    The narration is quite good with a reasonable range of voices of both genders. pacing and tone are appropriate and make for the quick listen.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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