A decade ago Bioware's RPG "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" brought me back to the genre after a long absence of gaming. Set 4000 years before the classic Star Wars universe that we grew up with, the game, with it's compelling story, rich characters, and one of the great all time twists stands as a remarkable achievement in gaming.
It was with great enthusiasm that I approached this book, though I had initially expected it to be a novelization of the time line of the game.
Instead, we're given a story of what happens to the hero after he's ridden off into the sunset and the future challenges he deals with. Overall, I quite frankly wish I hadn't read the story and I don't think it does much for the characters that I cared about from that original game time. I understand this book is intended more to setup the new MMO of The Old Republic and it's unfortunate to see these great characters wasted for a promotional stunt. These characters deserved better than this tale, particularly the endings they were given.
However, as has been the case lately, the story is well produced and the narrator Marc Thompson does an excellent job, aside from a few mispronunciations of some of the names of characters and ships.
I remember first reading this book, probably near the time that it came out. Trying to figure out how I even stumbled upon it - I finally concluded that it was probably a recommendation from the SciFi/Fantasy book club that I was a member of back then. Seeing that is had been recorded as an audiobook from the Audible Frontiers program, I decided to pay it another visit as I had vague, but favorable memories of the series.
So, enough history - what's it all about? Well, it is a bit of a different twist on the hero's journey. Paksenarrion starts off as a young woman who runs away from home to escape an arranged marriage that she has no interest in. Thanks to stories from her cousin, she races off to learn to be a fighter in a mercenary company. This first book focuses on her adventures of learning the ropes of being a soldier and the engagements her company get tangled up in. Along the way, Elizabeth Moon starts introducing the readers to the world she's created. While it's not the grand epic of Tolkein or Martin, I actually appreciate the rather lighter and more accessible nature of this by comparison.
The cast of characters is relatively small as well, with the story really focusing on Paks. That too, for me, is also a pleasant break compared to the heavyweights of fantasy and the hundreds of characters that you have to keep track of as any one of them may be important five books after we meet them. No, this is Paks' story and the other characters the come along serve their purpose in advancing her story.
I had not known until finding the audiobook version that Elizabeth Moon was a Marine before writing this first novel. It certainly shows as her writing provides a lot more detail into the efforts of training and the maneuvers of fighting than I typically see in a fantasy setting.
Overall, it's a solid book, especially for her first one. Probably the biggest weakness is the narrator. She speaks in a very clipped fashion. I can usually listen to audible at 1.25x speed without it having an impact on the reading quality. However, with this narrator, I had to slow it down to 1x speed to make sense of her. Audible has some very strong women narrator's, unfortunately, this book didn't draw one of them. Still, it wasn't bad enough for me to write off the series. In truth, the story remains interesting enough that I plan to go through the other two books again and most likely pick up the later novels set in this world.
Louis Upkins is a Christian man and has written his book with this target audience in mind. Others can benefit from the general principles that he offers. However, that is his background and it is the history that he draws from in expressing his message.
And his message is simple and largely sensible. We claim that our families are the most important things in our lives, certainly more so than anything that goes on at our jobs. Yet, for many, actions speak louder than words and those actions are that when push comes to shove, the job comes first.
Mr. Upkins message is to bring the customer driven focus that leads to success in business back to the home life - to think in terms of customer service in our dealings with our families. On the surface, it sounds insulting. Surely we should think of our families better than customers. But, digging deeper, the focus of the books is more about using the techniques of customer service to make for more effective relations at home.
Overall, I think the advice is good. In listening to the author, I found myself already doing a lot of what he suggests - much of it seems obvious. Because of that, I find myself sympathetic to the message.
Structurally, I do think the book could actually be a good deal shorter, though it's not a long book to begin with. The introductory section in the beginning tends toward the repetitve. The last section also feels somewhat like filler - notes that the author wants to communicate, but that don't really fit in anywhere else.
The audiobook I listened to features the author doing his own narration. He doesn't have a future as a professional narrator, but reading his own material does give it an honest tone - this advice comes across as something that he really believes in and wants to share.
Overall, a decent read. While I don't think it's entirely original in its ideas, I do think it is original in its approach to presenting them.
By this far into the series, you're either going to like David Weber's style, or your not. The Honor Harrington series tend to be on the dialogue heavy side, which I'd probably enjoy less if I were reading the books directly. However, with the audiobook narrations that I favor, Allyson Johnson's excellent reading of this series makes it far easier to accept.
Weber lured us in with the first tale of a woman starship captain on her first command in a far future time where mankind had moved out into the galaxy and settled into several star nations. Those early books centered around a major military engagement and were presented in an engaging fashion.
The later books have shifted to be more political thrillers as the protagonist has not remained stagnant, but has risen (and fallen) in power and prominence over the course of the series. It's been an interesting ride which I have, on balance, enjoyed.
Yet, I do think this book has lost that balance. It's by far the longest book up to now. While I certainly appreciate an epic yarn that's heavy enough to act as a doorstop, in this case, the story is just not substantial enough to warrant this many pages. The back and forth exchanges between the political combatants become tiresome, and the adversaries come across as comically one dimensional and mind numbingly incompetent.
In the later half the book, there is a build up to a major engagement. While Harrington's victories have always relied on a bit of well placed coincidences, the resolution this time was the hardest to buy into. Ships are on the move and actions are taking place over many months, and it all turns on the actions that happen in the last few hours. The timing is just too convenient this time.
Probably the best thing about this book is the resolution is brings to several antagonists who we hopefully won't be bothered with again. I'm going to give the next book a chance, but if this book indicates how the series is going to continue, the next book may well be my last.
Brandon brings this new story in about 350 years after then end of the original trilogy. I wasn't so sure how I was going to take to what is essentially a Western with the Mistborn magic system on top of it. Yet, it works. As usual, Sanderson quickly creates a compelling new set of characters and proceeds to put them through the ringer.
The end brings an interesting twist and I presume we'll be seeing more of this story line in the future.
Definitely a strong recommend. While it will certainly add to your experience if you've already read the first trilogy, this new book is far enough removed from it and a strong enough stand alone story that you can comfortably start with this one.
The second story in the world of John Carter. Having enjoyed the first and appreciating it for what it was and the time it was dreamed up by Edgar Rice Burroughs, I looked forward to seeing where the story continued, especially since the chances of seeing it continue in movie form looks pretty much impossible now.
Even more so than the first, this one is almost wall to wall action with few pauses along the way for our hero to catch his breath. John finds his way back to Mars after being stuck back on Earth for ten years, not knowing what the state of his adopted home had become. He immediately lands himself in trouble, but conveniently runs into and old friend to help him out.
This books introduces two new races of Barsoomians and we learn much about how they have been manipulating the other races and each other. Epic battles and fanstastic fights ensue as John introduces his Earth enhanced strength and skill to take on new enemies.
While, in many ways, if this book were written today, it would come across feeling derivative. Yet, that is because much of the sci-fi that came in the hundred years since finds itself inspired by these early books. While they do feel somewhat dated in ways, I don't feel like I'm reading something that predates most all other science fiction and fantasy. That is a strong credit to Mr. Burroughs great imagination.
Once again, Scott Brick's narration brings a gravitas to the story and does a great work of making the story more appealing. I hope Scott will be commissioned to finish the rest of the series. I've enjoyed his work on the Dune novels and his reading gives the John Carter stories the same epic weight.
Twenty years ago, Zahn jump starting of the expanded, post ROTJ Star Wars with an epic trilogy that remains a standard by which all later Star Wars books were judged. Seeing this special edition unabridged recording inspired me to revisit this title to see how well it held up. For the most part, it has aged well. Zahn offering a compelling and swift moving narrative giving us a look at life in that galaxy far far away after the Rebellion's victory.
Most important of all, though, is the unabridged redition of the complete story. To many Star Wars novels suffer from their abridgement into audiobook form. This gives the full experience and I hope that we will get to have the other two books of this trilogy in unabridged form soon as well.
Many reviews have been written for this book. I picked it up based on the recommendation of a friend I trust in these matters. The books is a solid start to what I hope will be a strong series. I do think that the reader did a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life and giving them different, distinct voices. There's a fairly large cast of characters to keep track of, but Mr. Dotrice made it possible for me to keep everyone straight.
One thing that I had to take a full star off for - the terrible editing job. I lost count of how many times sections would get repeated. Sometimes a single sentence, sometimes several. Whenever one of these hit, it would be very distracting and knock me out of the story for a bit. If there were just one or two, I could let it go, but there were probably closer to two dozen incidents of this sloppy editing. Particularly for a two credit audibook, it's simply inexcusable. I know that Audible had the latest Wheel of Time book fixed and reposted when a sizeable section turned up missing. They really need to put an editor on this one to go and fix all the repetitions. Hopefully the future books don't suffer this same fate.
I really wanted to like this book. Friends I trust have enjoyed it, the premise of a Wizard making his living as a private investigator was interesting, and the short lived series that was based on it had me hooked. Alas, I just couldn't. The problem, for me, is that the limitations and irritations of reading a first person perspective story couldn't be overcome. I've never found a first person story that I've enjoyed. The story is bottled by only allowing Harry's point of view and the plot comes to a shuddering halt in several places as massive exposition scenes are needed to expand things and fill in the missing parts of the plot. Some of it turns out to be just too convenient for me to believe. So, to each their own, but this was just isn't for me.
Audio wise, I do think Mr. Marsters does an adequate job of capturing Dresden's manner, but he just doesn't have enough to work with in this book.
I've been a fan (though, not a fanatic) of this series for some fifteen years now, getting into the series sometime after the first three books were in print. It's been an interesting ride, to say the least. I had vowed to myself that I wasn't going to go through the investment of time to reread any of the series until it was complete. This latest book has forced me to reconsider that position. Sanderson does an admirable job of bringing Jordan's world back to life. He suffers from many of the foibles in Jordan's style that tend to make his novels into fluffy monsters of novels (excessive descriptions, almost every character, no matter how minor or briefly on stage, gets a name and likely some kind of history, etc). But, for the first time in a while, this book really puts the series back in motion and it finally feels like it is drawing to a conclusion. The action around the main characters is intense and there are majors changes that happen over the course of this book. I've been with these characters for a long time now and I'd missed hearing from them for so long. I think the finale is in good hands and, while it will be hard to say goodbye, I look forward to seeing how this grand tale will end.
Now, this is the first time I've "read" a WoT novel as an audiobook. I do think that Jordan/Sanderson's excessive descriptions and details work better in a spoken presentation like this. I think the two readers did an excellent job bringing the characters alive and giving the presentation the weight it deserves. I do think Mr. Kramer needs a better recording setup, however. It often sounds like I'm listening to him through a tube, with some odd background echo. It wasn't enough to compromise my understanding, and I probably wouldn't have picked up on it so much if it were for Ms. Reading's audio quality being so much better. Still, this is an excellent story and presentation and deserves the full five stars.
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