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.
Free will vs Determinism is one of those questions that I've always struggled to wrap my head around. How to reconcile what is clearly a universe whose parts are governed by well understood and well described forces and laws with human behavior that, at least for most of us, appears to entail acts of free will?
First off - this series of lectures from the Great Courses series doesn't settle the argument. Not only I, but philosophers in general are still struggling over it. However, what this course does and does well is introduce the various thoughts and concepts, both historical and current, on the nature of free will.
Cases are made from different approaches for both sides - that Free Will is true or that Free Will is false. These lectures cover the first half of the course and give me a lot of what I was expecting to find.
The later lectures that make up the second half of the course build on this and go in directions I didn't expect. Offering more abstract discussions on what free will really means. In addition, there are lectures bringing in the results and observations of neuroscience and speculations about what they mean to the free will consideration. Finally, there's discussion about morality, crime and punishment considered both from the notion that free will is true as well as the implications of determinism being true.
I found the lecturer easily listenable - neither put to sleep monotone, nor excessively dramatic. Overall I found the course interesting and challenging. It's helped me better understand my own beliefs and given me some new things to consider. I rate it a high success. This is my first exposure to one of The Great Courses products since they became available on Audible and I look forward to exploring other titles.
This is not a book I would have normally found on my own. But, a good friend recommended it and I am most grateful that he did. It is a recollection of World War II that everyone should read.
These are the memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck and in it he shares his experiences of his life as an officer in the German army leading up to and through World War II. It also gives his account of the five years he spent after the war in a Soviet POW camp and his eventual return to life as a civilian.
This book is not a glorification or romanticization of war. It is not a defense of Hitler's Germany, nor an apology. It is an explanation of how men who were patriots of their country had that loyalty twisted and abused in Hitler's quest for world domination. It is a view "from the trenches" and gives great insight into both the details of the battles von Luck fought in, and the thoughts and feelings of him and his men through the various stages of the war.
While I did find the narrative bog down from time to time with the details of movements during some of the campaigns, what really makes this book a standout are von Luck's insights into how the German army viewed the war as well as the descriptions of encounters that he had with his enemies both as captor and prisoner. von Luck also brings into this collection additional stories from his companions who got separated from him over the course of the war - of people he befriended in Paris during the time Germany initially occupied it, of subordinates captured by the Americans in North Africa and the time they spent in POW camps in the American Midwest, of the woman who was for a time his fiance before his capture and five year internment.
In war, governments seek to make their citizens see the enemy as something not human. von Luck makes nots of the Nazi propaganda machines efforts to make the German citizens see the Soviets as "sub-humans" at the time that Hitler broke his non-agression pact with Stalin and started the disastrous invasion of the Russian homeland. This book shows that all of these peoples - Russians, Germans, French, Brits, even the Americans - weren't just "others" but were men doing their best to follow the orders of the civilian leaders under difficult circumstances. It is a book anyone who would claim the mandate of leader of a country should read to better understand the human face of war and the young men whose lives are spent engaging in "politics by other means."
For the narration - Bronson Pinchot did an excellent job of bringing this story to life. His inflection, rhythm and accents really made me feel like Colonel von Luck was sitting down in the room with me and telling his story.
Scott Lynch takes us to the Moulin Rouge
After a breakout first book in this series, I found the second one something of a letdown. This time, Lynch returns to the formula that worked well for him in the first book. We again alternate storylines between Locke Lamora’s youth and the present. And, at last, the mysterious Sabetha comes into the story in both the past and present storylines.
Overall, I would put this book as much better than the second, but still not quite up to the high level that the first one brought us. Having three of the “Gentlemen Bastards” in the main story rather than just Jean and Locke certainly helped with the interplay and I enjoyed the interlude storyline with the play – though I did get a large feeling of the movie “Moulin Rouge” with how a lot of it went along.
I am definitely enjoying the series enough again that I’m looking forward to book four. The ending of three leaves us with some interesting possibilities.
Once again, Michael Page's narration remains excellent and consistent. Characters from the first book who make appearances through flashbacks in this book carry the same voices. I appreciate that.
After being sucked in to Scott Lynch's world and characters with the first book, I immediately jumped to this second one.
The Lies of Locke Lamora was a great read, a great story, with a fantastic cast of characters and dialogue that made me curse every time I had to stop and take care of life.
With that setup, it was probably too much to expect a repeat of that success with this second one. The writing remains strong in itself, but I found the story and setting less engaging this time around. I think some of that comes from the way the first book ended. As we start book two, what had been five Gentleman Bastards has been cut down to just Locke and Jean. While their banter remains as barbed and quick as ever, there's something missing with it just being the two of them to play off each other. While the new characters that come in to play with this story have their moments, they are still ultimately outsiders.
Still, I don't want to be all negative - there is still much to enjoy with this story. Locke and Jean have fled to a new land working a new grand con that gets itself interrupted when Locke and Jean find themselves being caught up in a battle of wills between powerful men. The Bastards seem to be in much less control than in the first book. While their sharp wits and luck keep them going, this adventure is much more reactive than proactive.
At least, until then end. In the last 20% of the story, when I was sure the story was going to finish with some kind of cliff hanger that would need resolution in the next book, Lynch pulls a Brandon Sanderson with everything coming to a quick resolution and our heroes put aside the defeatism they had been suffering and conjure a solution to at least several of their difficulties.
Overall, I would still recommend it to those who enjoyed the first book. As I write this review, I'm downloading the third one so I can get going on it. I can't really offer a stronger endorsement than that.
Wow! Alright, now this guy and tell a tale! After spending some time with a few fairly mediocre books of late, it was a true refresher to read a book like this. A solid, tight narrative with interesting characters in a world fleshed out enough to form a good canvas, but not bogged down with excessive detail.
Lock Lamora is a sharp witted and sharp tongued rouge who, along with his band of "Gentleman Bastards" make their way scamming the local nobility and staying one step ahead of the city's crime lord.
It is set in a world not terribly unlike our own renaissance age with just enough magic and alternate technology to bring this into the realm of fantasy.
The language, I'll grant, is rough in the sense that it makes GRR Martin's prose that of a choir boy. Still, it fits well within the world Locke Lamora inhabits.
A most engaging tale and I look forward to the rest of the series.
The audiobook is narrated by Michael Page who does an excellent job giving different voices to the characters and provides a suitable weight to the story with his narration.
This one had been sitting in my "need to read it someday" queue for a long time and I finally gave it a listen this week.
While the concept and characters were interesting, ultimately this story is deeply handicapped by Bram Stoker's narration technique. When the admonition to authors is "Show, don't tell", Dracula should be a textbook example of why. The whole story is "told" via a series of journals, diaries, telegrams,and newspaper articles - written to a supernatural degree of clarity and detail. The recorders of the various journals record dialog of the other characters to an exacting level - a contrivance that Stoker must engage in for the story to make any sense at all. The recorders have also generated a copious amount of notes and find all kinds of times to write things down. In the end, I had a much harder time suspending disbelief about the ability of everyone to write it all down than I did with the supernatural aspects of the story.
I can only hope that any author who reads this comes away with the clear understanding that it is a very poor way to tell a story.
This version was a multi reader cast put together by Audible. While I think that was probably the right choice, given all the points of view that are collected, it makes for an awkward presentation. For example, one narrator reads Van Helsing's journals in a voice that he created for that character. However, other characters journals who record Van Helsing's speeach in their own recordings use a voice for Van Helsing generated by the recording narrator - and none of them sound remotely alike. Now, it can be argued that each narrator recorded what they heard, but the disparity between then is jarring. Still, I don't think I would have made it through the book at all if it weren't narrated as an audiobook.
This one had been on my "need to read someday" list for a long time and I finally took the opportunity to see what all the hype was about. The book takes on something of an interesting structure - most of it is a first person narrative of Kvothe essentially sharing his autobiography. This first book covers his story from early youth part way through him time studying at the "Arcanum" - a university like school where Kvothe has made his way to study both practical and arcane arts.
This book is a little different from the typical first person narrative in that it starts and frequently returns to being a third person story - set in the "present" from when Kvothe is recounting his history to a man who collects such stories and has sought him out. This first book, particularly towards the end, suggests that this series may eventually move beyond a focus on telling Kvothe's history and moving forward again in the present. Hopefully, this change comes soon.
While Kvothe is a somewhat interesting character so far, the story suffers as all first person narratives do. It feels more like following a character walking through a very linear video game. Kvothe recounts a string of episodes that he goes through. Because he is the only character we follow directly, the author is burdened with having him carry all the action. This leads to a string of extraordinarily good luck as, while Kvothe has the occasional setback, he mostly goes along outwitting one hapless adversary after another. Combined with the fact that Kvothe is never in any real danger - since he's the one telling of the events many years after the narrative takes place - Kvothe is ultimately a diminished character and it is hard to really care about him as much as I'd like to.
I'll probably check out the next book at some point, but this experience didn't really leave me with a strong desire to immediately seek out the next book.
As an audiobook, I do have to admit the narrator did make the story much more bearable. I don't think I would have finished the book if I were reading a hard copy. Nick Podehl does an excellent job with the material he's given and brings more life to Kvothe and the other characters than the written text itself manages on its own.
After many years now (though, certainly not GRR Martin long) we finally get the next volume of the Stormlight Archive. The Way of Kings was a captivating book and showed me that Sanderson was the right man to carry on with Robert Jordan's style of epic fantasy - building on his lessons and taking them to new levels.
So, how does this second volume stand up? Overall, it was most enjoyable, though I don't think it quite measures up to the first book. Some of that is just perspective - TWOK introduced a whole new world with its set of characters, magic, and history. WOR builds on that and takes us deeper into the lives of the central players and expands upon what we know about this corner of Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere.
The first four parts and the interludes that connect them are all quite solid and enjoyable. This book focuses more on Shallan as a character and we live through flashbacks of her history much as we did through Kaladin's in TWOK. She proves to be every bit as interesting a character with this book to help us get to know her better.
Where the book falls short, IMHO, is in the final section. It's hard to describe exactly what doesn't quite click with it. There is much going on and the juggling between viewpoints doesn't seem to be handled as well this time. Also, while I appreciate Mr. Sanderson's writing style and humor, some of the dialog and metaphors in the last section become a little to hokey and they threw me out of the story a few times. Perhaps once more through editing was needed for this last part.
Still, the book overall succeeds in taking us deeper into Sanderson's newest world and revealing both the potential of the epic danger and heroism that we can look forward to. From getting to hear him talk about the series at a recent book signing, I'm convinced for now that he knows where this series is going and I'm ready to continue on the journey. I still solidly recommend the series.
Audiowise - Kate and Michael once again given excellent performances. Having these two on board as the narrators together is always a treat.
At the end of Episode III, Obi-Wan Kenobi is forced into hiding after believing that he killed Anakin in their confrontation. He took with him the infant Luke Skywalker and pledged to watch over him until the time was right. Episode VI (or, to us Gen-xer's, Star Wars) sees "Crazy Old Ben" Kenobi pulled out of hiding to finally lead the teen age Luke back out into space to fulfill his destiny.
In between, we have been left to wonder how Obi-Wan became Ben and what life was like for him. This book gives us, at last, the first part of the answer. Set in the months following the end of Episode III, John Jackson Miller takes us on a journey to see how Kenobi struggles to transform himself from the galactic hero to hidden away hermit. The change is not a smooth one for a man used to throwing himself into the action and coming to the rescue of those in need.
The book has been, I think fairly, been called more of a Western rather than a true "Star Wars" novel. But, in truth, it must be what it is in order to successfully deliver Kenobi's story. Tatooine is a remote world where the events of the Republic/Empire are largely third hand tales and life is governed by the efforts to "farm" moisture from the dry desert air while the real threats come from the Hutt's who run the planet and the native Sand People who fight the settlers over it.
The story is largely successful and mostly convincing. Where the story does fall short is in the final acts. The action becomes excessively complicated and feels like something Lucas would throw together as a bunch of unnecessary "wiz-bang". The final disposition of Kenobi, while it ends as it does because continuity requires it, doesn't really get him there in a way I could quite buy into. To say more would spoil things. Overall, it is worth checking out, so I don't want to give too much away.
As is my custom, I consumed this as an audiobook. As has been the case of late, the audio production is superb, and Johnathan Davis, as I've come to expect, does an excellent job bringing these characters to life. He is especially convincing as Kenobi - an iconic voice well known thanks to Ewan MacGregor and James Arnold Taylor's portrayals in the movies and Clone Wars TV series. Davis picks up Kenobi's voice and mannerisms seemlessly and probably makes me give this story it's fourth star when I might have been inclined to just give it three.
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.
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