Dark Desgin is the 3rd book of 5 in Farmer's Riverworld series. Bearing in mind, that the reviewer read the first 2 books over 30 years ago, book 3 was eagerly anticipated. Compared to the first 2, this is definitely the weakest of the three. In brief, Riverworld is a terraformed planet with a single river, along whose banks all of humanity has been resurrected. Exactly why is still unclear and forms the basis for much of the plot. The author has considerable license to draw from any historical figure for the storytelling and does so liberally. While the 1st book set the stage and the basic crew, the 2nd had Mark Twain buildng a riverboat to get to the headwaters. In the 3rd installment, a dirigible is the latest mode of transportation. Also building, appears to be disagreements among the aliens that are supposedly responsible for all of this. In all, this could be a compact story advancing towards some resolution and more detail regardnig the dark tower at the river's headwaters, but Farmer injects too much introspective meanderings with extensive details that either are unrelated to the plot or simply border on flower child / hippie musings.
Another consideration is that the book was originally written in the 70's. As such, in this world alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and even an LSD-like substance play a major role. In addition, feminist views are prominent, but seem out of place as if harrassment today were met with bra burnings. In short, Farmer was a captive of his era in which the writing took place and the story doesn't translate as well today.
Finally, there is a bit of a disconnect in that the environment is lacking in many resources, but an errant meteorite seems to not only provide a source of iron, but also the means to develop lasers and X-ray machines. Most of the characters also appear clueless with many of the inconsistencies that point to a more sinister state of affairs, such as cut-off dates.
Dark Matter is an engaging tale of corrupt corporate interests. The basic premise is that a private launch company has secretly placed a killer satellite in orbit and has been "practicing" on competitor launches to enhance their business position (all this is revealed right at the start, so no spoiler concerns). After a dramatic space survival sequence, the US government learns that the latest malfunction was no accident and a former Navy Seal who happens to have a fiancee aboard the space station is charged with tracking the killers down. At the same time, the Chinese who also have suffered a similar fate with their recent launch undertake an overlapping hunt that finally comes together at the end.
The timeframe is present day with few sci-fi elements (space based particle beam weapons, nifty underwater visualization technology, and powerful dive equipment). Much of the action takes place in or on oceans or in space. The action is almost non-stop with good pacing and many "white-knuckle" sequences. Multiple players (astronauts, engineers, computer guys, etc.) all step up to help save the day. The major detraction is that the "evil CEO" is an almost female version of Dr. Evil hoping to escape for the sequel (when the US and Chinese navies have you surrounded in the middle of the ocean, escape is meaningless).
The narration is suboptimal with a rapid, booming broadcaster's delivery that suggest a sporting event rather than a thriller and is especially unsatisfactory for female voices.
Wormhole completes the Rho Agenda trilogy, while the characters may continue in additional installments, the "rho agenda" has been finished. Book 3 picks up essentially where Book 2 left off. All the main characters are back (including Tolbear and Freddy) with the kids down in South America with Jack. We learn a bit more of Donald Stephenson's master plan which eventually forms the crux of the tale and includes the potential destruction of Earth. Everything goes badly for our intrepid teenagers at first, but with Jack's training and their ever expanding abilities, they come through in the end. The story is fast paced with constant shifting among multiple parallel scenes.
The story remains true to its pre-teen / teen orientation in style and complexity. Portrayals of scientists, politicians, and spies are almost caricature-like with little nuance. At the same time Jack still retains almost mystical powers that defy explanation (I was hoping he would turn out to be a nonscientist Ultrian agent). Inconvenient messes generated along the way never seem to be resolved. The ending while bringing closure to the main plot line, still leaves many questions unanswered (what about: the 2nd ship? Jack's son? the NSA hacker?). In spite of these deficiencies, the tale is simply good, solid storytelling.
The narration is quite good with a great range of voices and a pace that invites one more chapter throughout.
The Office of Mercy presents a dystopic, post-apocalyptic vision of man's attempts to reestablish civilization following catastrophic societal disintegration. The tale picks up about 300 years after the collapse in a tiny oasis of civilization called America 5. This group represents several hundred inhabitants with advanced technology, including organ replacement offering near immortality. Despite, their advanced state, the colony lives within a confined space ringed by sensors on the alert for roaming tribes of other, less civilized humans migrating through their region. Our heroine, Natasha, works in the Office of Mercy, a euphemism for the group that tracks and kills these people ostensibly due to an ethical imperative that is so focused on eliminating suffering, that mercy killing (for all those outside the colony) is consider humane and noble.
Natasha struggles with the ethics as well as romantic love interests both inside and outside the colony and makes plenty of mistakes along the way, Besides the warped philosophy leading to strained ethical conclusions (since the tribes' people may suffer in the future, it's better to kill them now to relieve that potential suffering), the story suffers from multiple inconsistencies. For examples, with only several hundred people (the zetas, the 6th in line, only number around 80), it's hard to imagine how this installation can maintain their high tech medical facilities, computer systems, sophisticated electronics for peripheral sensors, as well as high tech weaponry that are essentially cruise missiles. There are references to other similar type colonies, but in over 300 years no attempt seems to have been made for contact. It's also hard to imagine individuals remaining complacent about being cooped up for decades in what is essentially a dictatorial regime that they have no say in (what's the point of immortality if someone else will always tell you what to do?). Finally, the main infodump occurred nearly at the end, was unimpressive as far as providing necessary background, and amounted to badgering an impressionable, confused young woman.
The narration is adequate, but unremarkable.
Great North Road is truly a masterpiece of literature, all the better because it's sci-fi. Hamilton crafts a richly complex tale of murder and intrigue that gradually expands to an interstellar affair with multiple alien species. The backstories and flashbacks are deliciously detailed and subtly presented to create an onion peeling effect as the tale evolves. The multiple characters are multifaceted with many foibles and failings that are both endearing and identifiable. Hamilton constructs an eminently believable picture of life in the mid-22nd century, especially police procedures and bureaucracy.
The sci-fi elements are varied and comprehensive, but do not overwhelm the story. Included are physics with wormholes, stellar aberrations, quantum state matter, and nanotechnology; biology with rejuvenation, genetic evolution, and unique alien lifeforms; and cyber with electronic implants, complex digital networks, and powerful AI level software. At the same time, Hamilton pays attention to interpersonal and societal relations: realistic family experiences; romance, parental devotion, law enforcement & crime, government bureaucracy, and military. There is heroism & humiliation, ideological rigidity & flexibility, poignant tenderness & vicious ruthlessness, and struggles with decisions on alien genocide & dating partners.
The narration is equally outstanding; all the more given the enormous number of characters. The tone, mood, and pace of delivery are perfect for the story.
The Scrolls of Xavier is an unremarkable tale in the vein of Avatar. Basically, an alien world has been identified as a source of raw materials for a struggling Earth. This world possesses several primitive tribes of distinct species of life. Evidence emerges that each tribe is protecting a "scroll" that earth military decides is necessary to retrieve. A small special ops group is assembled to recover the scrolls which eventually leads to revelations about the origin of the planet.
While mildly entertaining, the story suffers from sufficient attention to detail; futuristic enough to travel to distant planets, but "orders" are still printed out on paper?. The alien lifeforms are far too anthropomorphic with mostly earth-like animals made semi-intelligent. The premise for the central nature of the scrolls was never developed. The military actions are more cinematic, rather than authentic (when you control the air, why focus on the ground?).
The narration is quite adequate and the rendition is a quick listen. Given that the author is a high school student, this is a respectable rookie attempt.
Ammon's horn is bioterrorism with a twist. Rather than a deadly disease that kills you, infection causes paranoia and the victims kill other people. A news person from a tabloidly media outlet and her police profiler partner, piece the mystery together only to be discredited by the government. When the secret finally gets out, they embark on an adventure cross country for eventual public redemption.
The story is essentially present day with sci-fi elements limited to the unique biological weapon. The story itself is crudely constructed. A massive info dump concerning the origin of the agent doesn't occur until about 2/3 into the tale. The government is much too efficient at covering up the problem since only one scientist is able to figure it out. Also strange is why North Korea becomes the epicenter of both nuclear war and a cure for the disease. The final plot twist at the end serves to resolve much of prior illogical actions.
The narration is well done with a good range of voices. Mood and pacing are appropriate to the plot.
Immune continues and "sorta" completes the story arc established by the first installment (The Second Ship). All the main characters are back with several additional new players, including a washed up newspaper reporter and a Colombian drug cartel. Raul gone missing in the first, shows up and plays a major role. As expected, in the end the teenagers with help from various adults manage to save the day while having one adventure after another along the way.
This installment is much darker than the first, with graphic and in some cases unnecessary violence. There are many more "evil doers" this time around in addition to Stephenson, including one with almost magical powers. Jack also remains an enigma, especially how capable he is even around the rho-enhanced opponents. Finally, the denouement is rather quick with a simple hack followed by public revelation. There are also a number of times when suspension of disbelief is quite strained (how exactly and why did the drug cartel get involved in the first place?).
In spite of these deficiencies and the fact that the pre-teen style of Scooby Do meets Power Rangers remains, the story is compelling and engrossing, leading to a fast and enjoyable listen as many chapters are short producing a staccato jumping from scene to scene. Once caught up, it's tough to shut down. Finally, while the immediate threat of Stephenson / VP world domination (their ulterior motives and end goals are never clearly articulated) is aborted, the story again ends abruptly with many unanswered questions.
The narration is superb with an excellent range of voices that perfectly compliments each of the characters.
Larson's 5th installment in the Starforce series has Riggs way out in the hinterlands. The increasing tension between Crow and Riggs is present, but largely below the surface in this volume. Riggs also can't shake the pull of exploration. Although several rings away from Earth, Riggs is hellbent on clearing the Macros out of the Eden system where the Centaurs live. At the same time, another ring away, intelligent lobsters abide. Most interesting is that the mysterious Blues are made a bit less mysterious, although not less annoying. All in all, Riggs comes through as the master juggler, balancing various sentient races, his robotic nemesis, as well as the unique AI directed crafts that were so engaging in the 1st book.
The sci-fi elements are a bit more varied this time around. Macro technology is qualitatively different from what Riggs is normally used to. The alien Blues living in the mass of a gas giant also makes for some fascinating scenes. Besting the Macros, saving an alien race, and hooking up with lifeforms responsible starting it all is all in a day's work. Have nanite, will travel!
The narration is adequate, but unremarkable.
Berenson's 7th John Wells installment is another solid effort that delivers. This time around Wells is contacted by his estranged son to assist in the rescue of kidnapped Americans in Africa. While the world believes a terrorist plot, Wells pieces together a more complex and sinister evolving series of motivations. As is typical, Wells struggles with his own unique brand of morality and ethical conduct. In the end Wells functions as a microcosm of the confusing mix of US intent and policy all while out-thinking everyone else.
The pacing is excellent with a gradual buildup, leading to an almost non-stop, but unclear where this is headed ending. This time out Wells is not officially CIA, but has their crucial support. At the same time, Berenson throws in numerous plot twists as well as doing an excellent job of interjecting contradictory governmental aims. In addition, the geographical translocation to Africa is refreshing to see Wells out of his element, but still quite capable. Berenson appears ready to move Wells in new directions, both personally as well as operationally.
George Guidall's narration is simply outstanding as would be expected. His range of voices is breathtaking. His flow and tone perfectly match the mood of the story.
Purkey has crafted a semi-classic missing person / private detective tale that slowly unfolds into a massive conspiracy with potential global domination as the endgame. Our hero is Jack Dugan, a private eye with all the usual street-wise cop sense. In keeping with the genre, Jack finds his latest case when he finds a beautiful women waiting in his office. As Jack dives deeper into his search he encounters multiple other players, all engaged in either perpetuating or ending a dirty little secret that has enveloped the entire planet, all the while attempting to decipher what his missing person's involvement means.
The story is set in the mid 22nd century. The sci-fi elements are light, "limnitrons" as a source of cheap energy for example. Mostly however, the people and society in general are very familiar with typical daily routines, bars & taverns, biking, even Boeing is still around. In fact, cheap energy and advanced electronic technology has largely brought about reliable (and free) public transportation, artificial intelligence (people have AIs instead of personal computers), a fancy weapon, and not much else.
The narration is adequate, but unremarkable. Most of the voices are reasonable, but several are portrayed in a manner that results in visceral reactions even before the characters do enough to justify the response.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.