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.
The Atlantis World is the 3rd (and hopefully last installment) for Riddle's Atlantis series. Most of the action takes place off world as characters hop from portal to portal piecing together the alien backstory. David and Kate attempt to recover Kate's latent memories conveniently dispersed to distant portal locations. Dorian is hot on their trail. What transpires is mostly a series of memory dumps by Kate and Dorian at each portal that provides the alien background info for how they came to be on Earth with divergent agendas. Added to the mix are two other sets of remnants of different alien civilizations (the sentinels and the serpentine armada). Dorian gradually arrives at the realization that Aryes has been using him and simply kills him over and over again with little purpose, while David and Kate unknowingly employ the Independence Day strategy to defeat whatever turns out to their ultimate enemy.
The sci-fi elements are mostly alien civilizations that are never fully detailed or fleshed out. Why an advanced, intelligent race would need to freeze and thaw someone for decision making every couple of hundred years never made sense. The alien uprising / revolution was also poorly presented (after thousands of years, this society could not effectively deal with this issue?). Finally, most unsatisfying is that much of the tale breaks a cardinal rule of story telling in that the multiple memory dumps merely tell the backstory instead of showing the action.
The narration is passable and renders as good a job as possible with a weak storyline.
Coming Home is the latest Jack McDevitt installment in the Alex Benedict series. The main character, Alex is a combination Indiana Jones / Sherlock Holmes with the narrator, Chase, playing his Watson / gal Friday. This story involves two independent tales with Chase heavily involved in the rescue of a large cruise ship caught in space / time warp that Alex figured out in an earlier installment. Added to the mix is that Alex's uncle is on board. At the same time, Alex comes into possession of an "ancient" (25th century) artifact that suggests a connection to a missing cache of early space exploration items. The story jumps back and forth between these two separate plots.
This universe is set in the far future (beyond the 30th century) and a distant settled planet, although there are several Earth visits involved. One particularly unique feature of this series is the almost normal behavior of everyone in the story. People get hungry and go to restaurants; they go out to lunch with friends and discuss relationships; they go sightseeing on vacations, etc. There are no new sci-fi elements relative to earlier installments and the action scenes are muted and limited relative to earlier tales. McDevitt does provide a sense of the vastness of space which appears to slow down life in the future.
The narration is superb with an excellent range of voices with good pacing. This series and narrator have always been an enjoyable listen and this time out is no exception.
The Trafalgar Gambit completes Christopher G Nuttall's Ark Royal trilogy. The story picks up immediately after the conclusion of Book 2 with Earth having been directly attacked by the aliens while Ark Royal was on her mission in enemy territory. In the concluding chapter, Ark Royal is given the mission to make contact and negotiate with any alien faction intent on peaceful resolution. Along the way, the crew must deal with sabotage attempts both external as well as internal. The battle scenes are brief, but intense. Prince Henry is recovered and plays a decisive role in both negotiations and battle.
The sci-fi elements are limited mainly to prior physics with some added alien biology and unique socio-cultural factors of the aliens, although there is little novelty. While the conclusion is satisfying, and likely signals the end of this series, there were some unanswered questions, from the mundane to whatever happened to Molly to how the geopolitical organization of Earth will evolve.
The narration is excellent with good pacing and range of voices. This is both an enjoyable and engaging listen.
Peter Hamilton's latest, The Abyss beyond dreams, initiates another Void adventure that appears to be occurring concurrently with the previous Void trilogy. The action takes place in another part of the Void and involves Nigel attempting to reach the 1st Void world, but ending up on another. This story concerns a prior human colony ship that ended up in the Void. Quantum states are completely screwed and 3000 years have passed resulting into a semi-stable societal organization. Another trapped alien life form plays havoc with the humans. In typical Hamilton fashion, we experience the story through multiple perspectives that only later intersect. Nigel gradually pieces all the various bits together, while inciting revolution along the way.
The sci-fi elements are pure Hamiltonian with Void style space time distortion along with enhanced psychic abilities. There are also novel alien creatures with unusual powers which also provides additional background to the Void in general. While Nigel is eventually able to rescue the colonists from the Void, the tale ends with a setup for further adventures for the rest of the trilogy.
John Lee is nothing short of spectacular in his narration. His mood, pace, and tone are expertly delivered for a truly satisfying and entertaining rendition.
The Nelson Touch is a great sequel that builds on the above average introductory story of the Ark Royal series. Basically Nuttall has created a future universe with faster than light travel, while preserving the current geopolitical structures during an era of expansion akin to 18th and 19th century colonialism. In the opening salvo, mankind encounters an alien race seemingly bent on human annihilation. An old, mothballed British "carrier" is the only spaceship that can put up a fight and takes the lead with a crew of rejects in defending humanity.
In this installment, humanity goes on the offensive and takes the fight to the aliens with several surprising developments. Details about the aliens are slowly revealed. There is the addition of a "mystery" crew member this time out and Nuttall does a great job of alternating big picture developments with a host of personal revelations with the major characters, including career advancements. Nutall also displays an excellent sense of portraying the fog of war throughout. Finally, the author sets up the 3rd installment with Earth hanging in the balance and a potential diplomatic solution. Sci-fi elements are limited largely to alien biology.
The narration is excellent with a great range of voices, tone, and mood.
Event by David Lynn Golemon creates a supersecret United States agency started by Abraham Lincoln to investigate archaeological sites. The proffered rationale was to "learn" stuff, but why the US would feel the need to run covert military ops for national security reasons in recovering buried treasure was never made clear. So with such an organization in place, Roswell, NM takes on a a different flavor. Furthermore, the alien artifacts from 1947 were stolen by someone believing that they could protect the nation better than the US government. 60 years later, some of the original players are still around ready for round 2 with the alien return.
The sci-fi elements are limited to alien "stuff" mainly little green men and a rabid, killer, engineered alien lion like creature designed to eat humanity. At the same time, there is a freelance former French legioneer with a penchant for old things who simply gets in everyone's way. All the action occurs against a backdrop of military and espionage lite action.
The narration is quite good with a solid range of voices and excellent pacing.
Z2136 hopefully, completes what will only be a trilogy. Written in the style of a made for TV mini-series with each book containing a series of episodes to comprise a single season, this is basically Hunger Games with Zombies. Book 3 doesn't so much bring resolution and closure as it simply runs out of things to say and do. The unlucky Lovecraft family, now only brother and sister spend most of their time trying to to connect with one another with disconnected battles against zombies, psychotic maniacs, and barren baddies. Jonah was successful in the last installment in damaging city 1 and his old boss is forced to take over all the cities.
The story breaks down on several levels. Everyone in a position of power is either corrupt, demented, or megaomanical with almost everyone else either a loyal follower or a freelance sociopath. The backstory for the zombies makes no sense whatsoever with the intention in the 1970's to turn the world into zombies while a small cadre of selected people ride out the storm underground. The tale ends with the supposedly upbeat tempo of the one individual who has done the most to persecute the Lovecraft lineage finally seeing the light and dedicating his life to... not persecuting Lovecrafts anymore.
The narration is well done with a good range of voices and nice pacing.
Nuttall's Ark Royal begins a story arc set in the 23rd century after development of faster than light drives that allow Earth to populate near space. Quite unexpectedly a previously unknown alien race begins attacking outer settlements. With no means of dialogue, Earth learns that their technology is deficient, but an older warship (Ark Royal) is the only vessel that can put up a fight. While Earth attempts to retool, Ark Royal and her cadre of misfits and forgotten, go above and beyond to take the battle to superior forces.
The geopolitical organization of Earth is preserved with each major nation having established their own planetary colonies. England still has a king as well as a well bred aristocracy. Ark Royal is a starship carrier that has been mothballed and maintained barely functioning with a skeleton ragtag crew including a former alcoholic for a captain. Everyone rises to the occasion through a thrilling series of battles that takes place on both the grand scale and the personal. The sci-fi elements are routine with faster than light drive accomplished by "tram" lines in space that a special engine can access. Space weapons are straightforward and unimaginative.
The narration is well done with an excellent range of voices along with a smooth delivery, regardless of action. This is a very enjoyable listen with a classic theme rendered in a futuristic timeframe.
Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake is a grim, depressing tale of well laid plans and good intentions going horribly awry. Snowman / Jimmy narrates an account of multiple, unrelated genetic engineering attempts to improve man combined with unchecked global warming leading to unsustainability for the human race. Jimmy, who may be the last remaining human lives with "meta-humans" that represent various attempts to overcome increasingly hostile conditions, relates the history in a series of flashbacks. Jimmy chronicles all the missteps along the way that caused the eventual plague that brought mankind low. While Jimmy was not directly involved, he peripherally participated.
The sci-fi elements mostly relate to genetic engineering that forms the bulk of intentional human transformation. The broader theme of the tale is one of powerful technology colliding with more traditional human response to change. The Luddites and anti-Luddites combine in a toxic soup that spells disaster for mankind resulting a world populated with semi-intelligent, but physically adapted proto-humans and Jimmy. There is nothing upbeat about the tale; man's hubris is simply on display.
The narration is quite well done given that the whole story is itself written in the narration mode.
Z2135 picks up several months after Z2134 left off. This installment is presented as season 2 with a made for TV feel of "episodes" (some ending with a bit of a cliffhanger). Most of the story revolves around the Lovecraft family with Jonah getting picked up and suborned into a ragtag band of insurrectionists. His daughter is mostly wandering the barrens with Liam trying to reconnect with her dad and his son is slowly inculcated into the police force by the creepy police chief. This "season" ends again with everyone in mortal danger again.
The sci-fi elements are in line with the first installment. More information and background is provided on the zombie origin as well as history surrounding the evolution of the current political and socioeconomic structure. The corruption and perverse natures of all the power players is on display. Jonah and his family serve the roles of willing, but unwitting pawns for players on both sides of the warring factions.
The narration is well done with a good range of voices along with excellent pacing, tone and mood.
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.