What would have made Ender's Shadow better? If it had never existed -- this book trashes the original story in ludicrous and pathetic ways. Card just wanted to make another buck off his main milk cow. This is Star Wars Episode 1 all over again. Pathetic.
I'll spoil it for you because you're better off not suffering it: It turns out we were wrong all these years to place our hopes in Ender, because he is actually an over-hyped cry-baby fraud (as well as an ignoramus, apparently), whereas Bean is a genetically enhanced super-human genius (ala Spy Kids or something) who is performing acts of genius and violence from age 2 (ugh, so inane it hurts to even talk about it). Super-Bean manipulates Ender and everyone else from behind the scenes without anyone ever knowing (including the author and the reader, in the original book).
Utterly grotesque revisionism, as if some hack rewrote MacBeth to demonstrate that aliens descended from space to frame King and Lady MacBeth. Sadly, the hack in this case is the author hosing down his original work with the septic line of a toilet truck.
Recommended only if you are amused by trash done poorly: Since there is absolutely nothing in the original text to substantiate Card's new history, he undergoes innumerable tortuous contortions to infest the original story from the inside out. Darkly comic, but in a way that hurts bad.
This book is a cancer that has metastasized uncontrollably. I wish to god he could unwrite this whole splinter series. It is pure garbage.
Scott Brick is possibly the worst professional narrator working today. He is a ceaseless font of grating melodrama, with zero capacity for restraint, nuance, or subtlety. His voice quavers incessantly as though he is perpetually on the verge of either sobs or hysteria. The aural equivalent of a text written entirely in boldfaced italics with every sentence ending in 3+ exclamation marks, and then all of it highlighted in yellow. The definition of a ham. A disgrace to true voice actors.
It disgusts me to see him as a narrator on any book (even one as horrible as this book).
Fury, disgust, loathing, contempt, despair, aggravation, betrayal. Also loathing and contempt.
Ender's Game was a masterwork of sensitivity and imagination. Ender's Shadow is a stupid "What if??" that never should have been. This book is as insipid, as tedious, and as pointless as a late-night conversation with a stoned teenager about whether reality might just be a dream in the mind of an evil demon -- "And what if the demon wakes up, man???"
In terms of art and quality, Scott Brick is perhaps a kindred spirit for this rubbish, but it still eats at me like a rash to encounter him anywhere. That soap-opera ham should not be allowed in front of a microphone.
In summary, what we have is shallow, vapid, hackneyed, craven, venal -- all words to describe... you name it. This book, this author, this narrator.
For the love of god, avoid this sh*t-show at all costs.
Both the story and this production have all the wit and energy of an awkward, stagey bible drama. (Read: BORING, and plagued with an aura of inauthenticity.)
POOR EDITING CREATES FLAT, LISTLESS AUDIO PRODUCTION:
To begin with, this audio production is "dramatically" ill conceived (pun intended).
The production company clearly spent a pretty penny hiring a large cast, and incorporating a certain amount of music and sound effects. On paper this sounds like a virtue -- yet each of the readers sounds like they're in a hollow, empty room, all alone.
It's both impossible to ignore and weird to hear that each reader recorded his or her narrative separately, in a soundproof studio, at different times, and then an editor stitched it all together.
Thus the smallish amount of dialogue never sounds like real people actually conversing. Instead, strange voices unexpectedly intrude upon the narrator from nowhere, deliver a brief monologue to no one, and then fade back into the ether. The soundtracking and foley effects are the same -- they fade into and out of nothingness, with a flat, muted quality.
The overall impression is that none of these sounds and voices are in one common "space" -- they're all isolated and alone, and just by happenstance, they're occurring in some organized sequence.
By contrast, true radio dramas generally do a much better job of integrating all the voices and sounds into the same "soundstage" or auditory space, specifically to avoid this sort of unnerving and unwanted feeling of disparateness.
The lack of audio integration is heightened by the fact that this production has much less dialogue and fewer foley effects than a standard radio drama -- so just as you start to get used to the solo narrator, your attention is disrupted by some otherworldly intrusion that never feels natural or appropriate.
It's not creepy or evocative -- it's merely perpetually awkward.
STALE, INERT VOICE-ACTING:
To make matters worse, each of these actors is listless and stilted.
The emotions they do evince feel arbitrary, contrived, half-hearted; never for a moment does it sound like the actors believe what they're saying, nor do they have any faith that the listener will believe. Furthermore, there's zero sense of anyone reacting to anyone else.
All of this is likely indicative of an inexperienced audio cast.
PRODUCTION FORMAT CLASHES WITH NARRATIVE STRUCTURE:
What truly makes this audio production painful and ill conceived is that it's just about the worst possible format for this particular story. It enervates this story, transforming it from "merely boring" to "suffocating drudgery."
Generally, radio dramas, like staged dramas, contain a great deal of dialogue, as well as a moderate amount of activity -- otherwise, there's no purpose in hiring multiple actors. By contrast, Clarke's story is constructed in a the form of a parable or fable, almost entirely related by a remote, disinterested narrator.
It's possibly the worst narrative format for a multi-cast production -- both the story and the production underscore the worst in each other, rather than highlighting their strengths.
This suggests that the production choice was perhaps a pet project of a longtime fan; it's not a script that would normally get greenlighted for this type of production.
LIFELESS, PLODDING NARRATIVE IN THE FORM OF A PARABLE:
The narrative format that Clarke has chosen (the parable or fable) is rare in modern fiction for a reason -- readers find it abjectly tedious.
In fairness, the parable or fable format was somewhat more common among sci-fi writers of the early to mid century. Usually related as a sort of "misty, half-recalled legend in soft focus," which is precisely the model Clarke has adopted here, this was part of the institutional learning curve as early sci-fi writers worked out how to incorporate their ideas into a viable narrative format.
Yet even in the era when such a format was still tolerated, it was generally the hallmark of clever concepts that lack a fully realized narrative arc or protagonist. The end result is less a dynamic "story" that goes somewhere, and more a guided tour of a thought-museum, filled with fetching notions, but ultimately static and dead.
In the best cases from mid-century, such nascent proto-stories were later re-imagined into whole stories. These days, editors immediately send such drafts back to the drawing board because they have virtually no audience.
NARRATIVE ESCHEWS CONFLICT AND TENSION AT EVERY TURN:
To be specific about Clarke's book in terms of fictional craft, the story is almost entirely composed in summary, with very little direct scene or action. The narrative distance is extremely remote, disinterestedly omniscient, giving the audience very little direct experience of any character's thoughts, feelings, or perspective.
In short, we are "told" about Alvin's thoughts / opinions / actions, but we never "inhabit" his view or his world -- the story never rises beyond an anecdote related by someone who doesn't care very much.
Thus there is essentially no tension, extremely little conflict, and what conflict we do get is utterly flat, devoid of urgency or immediateness.
In fact, Clarke seems to go out of his way to dispel conflict and tension before it can get going -- he regularly calls out interactions or events that might create tension and explains with stultifying precision why all is, in fact, still harmonious and inert.
Such vigilance in preserving a harmonious status quo is lauded in an exterminator killing pests, but in an author, it simply kills the story.
Put another way: Conflict is the engine that drives fiction, and tension is its fuel. A vivid experience of a character's personality, portrayed through actions in scene, is the road that story travels, arriving at a destination very different from where it began.
These are, roughly, the key traits that distinguish modern fiction from older, prosaic formats such as fables, folktales, anecdotes at the bar. And this is true whether you're talking about cheap pulp stories or the very best of literature such as Faulkner, Hemingway, or Heinlein.
WHO IT'S FOR -- AND WHO IT'S NOT:
The upshot is that most listeners will find this story crushingly boring. The utterly ill-suited production quality only makes this worse.
Possible exceptions will be devoted, "completionist" fans of Arthur C. Clarke, and those who nurse nostalgia for this particular story from a youthful encounter of it.
However, if you're new to this book, take heed -- sometimes "classic" simply means old and overhyped. This story and this audiobook are full of interesting, inert ideas squandered in a dreadful series of non-events.
Definitely not; I know sci-fi forwards and backwards, from the dawn of the genre to the latest, the trashy, the literary, the obscure (and even the non-existent such as Kilgore Trout's "Venus on the Half-Shell").
And I like Arthur C. Clarke, too -- he's one of the great masters. This story is simply double-plus un-good.
One reader would have been vastly preferable to eliminate the eery flatness, cuts, gaps, and pauses. Barring that, somebody should have given these people some coffee, and allowed them to record their scenes together in the same studio.
Disgust, frustration, how the hell am I going to get through all 8.5 hours, WHY WHY WHYY, terry GROSS, what a waste of a credit, god, no, stop, why.
A writer as brilliant and deservedly famous as Arthur C. Clarke will always have devoted followers who can enjoy all of their works, from the meager to the masterful.
There's nothing wrong with that -- I have my own favorites who can do no wrong. But this is NOT Clarke's best and it would be a ghastly place to start.
If you don't already know for sure that you love this book, save your credit.
You've been warned.
Report Inappropriate Content