This isn't the typical Stephenson book. I've found his recent work to be somewhat plodding. This one is a fast-paced thriller with good characters and an enjoyable performance. It has the pacing of his earlier books (Snowcrash, Zodiac) rather than the more recent work.
Warning: mild spoilers.
The characters in this story just weren't believable -- they were unidimensional and seemed incapable of internal conflict or questioning (the lead character is nothing like a former liberal arts grad from a top academic school, the sort of place that trains critical thinking). It's just not plausible that the best minds and most talented people at such a company wouldn't have any independent thoughts or, really, do any questioning at all.
I expected much more conflict to emerge in the story, perhaps hidden inner turmoil or corporate intrigue boiling under the surface, hidden from view of the company itself. Nope. The only surprising thing in the book was just how predictable the entire plotline was. There were no real twists or surprises, and the few elements that were supposed to be surprising were pretty transparent from the start. Basically, the entire book is little more than a way of saying it's bad to give up privacy in favor of convenience. Not nearly as much depth as I would have expected.
The narration was good, but given that the major characters were female, it was a bit odd to have a man with a deep voice reading it. It would have worked better with a female reader.
The performer's voice takes a little getting used to, but I came to like it after a while. This isn't a particularly deep book, but it's engaging and kept my interest.
Not from Hamilton. Yes from Lee
The narration helps. Good voicing. The production quality wasn't good, though. The volume fluctuated, and there were no pauses between changes in story line. At times, it took a few minutes to figure out when it had switched lines and what was happening. This book might have been better in print because it would have been possible to skip much of the needless detail in descriptions (see below).
Frustration. I'm a big fan of idea-based hard sci-fi. The ideas in this book are terrific. The execution was awful. The book could have been half the length had Hamilton spent less time on scene setting and more time on the ideas, characters, and plot. If you enjoyed Moby Dick and 20 pages of text describing a whale's teeth, you might like this one. But, if you don't really care about the model number of every piece of equipment or the landscaping around every single building, or the life history of every minor character, you'll find it frustrating. Hamilton clearly had a rich, detailed world in his head and he tried to convey every single detail of it in the book without filtering to the important ones. As a result, 2/3 of the writing was about scene setting rather than fleshing out the implications of the really creative ideas. It got to the point that every time the book introduced a new world, character, or scene, I'd cringe as I had to slog through unnecessarily detailed and irrelevant description.I've only given up on an audiobook once, but I was sorely tempted to do so multiple times in this one. But, I stuck with it to see how the story line ended. Unfortunately, I didn't eve get that satisfaction. There was no attempt to make it a self-contained novel -- it just ended in the middle of a scene. It wasn't even a cliff-hanger. It was as if Hamilton decided that it was long enough and just stopped mid-thought. As much as I'd like to know how it the story ends, there's no chance I'll spend another credit and 15-20 hours to find out. The writing just isn't good enough to carry it.As I mentioned, I am a fan of hard sci fi, which is why I thought I'd like this one. The ideas are really compelling. The opening scene is fantastic, and I can see why a publisher bought it with that premise. There are some compelling plot lines in the book, and Hamilton does flesh out the implications of his ideas. But, in doing so, the book does not maintain the necessary plotting. It was disappointing because, as I noted, the ideas, characters, and plot are all compelling. Had it been a complete story and edited to about half its length by cutting all the irrelevant description, it would have conveyed all three more compellingly.If you're going to read this one, I'd recommend the print version instead -- that way, you can skim through the irrelevant details to get to the interesting stuff. Lee's effective narration wasn't enough to overcome the disadvantage of having to listen through long passages of tedious prose.
All Clear is the second book in a 2-book series. It's really one book broken into two largish volumes (the first is Blackout). The main problem is that the two books really are just one and they should have been just one. The combo would have benefited from some vigorous editing to cut the total length by 30-40%. At times, the plotting seemed plodding, with characters going from one incident to the next.
As always, Willis does a great job giving readers a feel for what it must have been like to live in that time period. And, the extent of her "blitz" research was impressive. If you're looking for a way to get the "feel" for living in the blitz, this is an entertaining way to do it.
I found the performance a bit flat, but okay. The female characters were a bit too whiney for my tastes, and the children were annoying. But, they were distinct enough to tell apart.
Overall, I didn't think this was Willis's best work. Doomsday Book was a better read. I thought it was better than some of her others (e.g., Say Nothing of the Dog). Had it been 30% shorter, it would have been a classic. I'm not sure it was worth paying for two volume to get one book, though.
Wil Weaton does a terrific job of reading this book. The story is fast-paced and engaging. I found it to be a great book to run to, and often extended my run to keep listening. At times, the lists of '80s references were a bit much, but still fun for anyone born in the late '60s or early '70s. Excellent story telling and fun characters. If you like sci-fi, the 80s, or adventure stories in the young-adult-style genre, you'll like this one. If you grew up playing atari or visiting arcades, you'll really like it.
Overall, this book was interesting, albeit repetitive. The author's belief that open platforms lead to more innovation was clear throughout, at times to the neglect of alternatives. The arguments could have used more evidence and fewer platitudes. It was strongest when it focused on biological innovation as a metaphor for ideas.
The reading was less than ideal, at least for my taste. I tend to like dramatic readings, but this one was over the top even for me. His voice and pronunciation were pleasant enough, but he felt it necessary to fake accents for every quote. I wouldn't say that it disrupted my ability to enjoy the book, but it didn't help, and I did find myself groaning with each "impression."
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