Red Country has more of a Wild West feel than Abercrombie’s prior works but he pulls it off nicely. The Far Country is a rough and mostly unsettled land where people looking for a second chance at life take their dreams to die. The main story follows Shy South who seeks to find her brother and sister after they are abducted from her family farm and she will stop at nothing to recover them. She follows their trail deep into the Far Country and along the way encounters a number of familiar faces from past books. Things go from bad to worse and after a while it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad. Revenge motivates many of the characters and that never works out well for anyone when Joe Abercrombie is wielding the pen.
If you have not read the First Law trilogy then I suggest you do so prior to picking up Red Country. Unlike Abercrombie’s other standalone books, there is just too much here that you will miss out on if you don’t know the background of some of the returning characters. However, if you enjoyed the trilogy then you should gladly spend your credit on Red Country. You will once again find yourself rooting in vain for your favorite characters to receive a happy ending that you know is never going to happen.
Steven Pacey, narrator of the First Law trilogy, returns to replace Michael Page who narrated Abercrombie’s last 2 books. Pacey does his usual excellent job, but it does take some time to get used to new voices for Shivers and Nicomo Cosca.
Quaeryt is promoted to Commander and he is once again leading his Imager/Troopers into battle. You know the drill: High Holders, iron darts, defensive shields, Antiagon fire, and concealment shields. Sound familiar? If you are thinking about reading book 7 then you know it is. In the end this was a little bit disappointing because the book started out well.
At the outset Quaeryt and Vaelora were sent as envoys to the nation to Khel to convince the Pharsi High Council to accept Bhayar's rule. I found Khel and the Pharsi people to be interesting and the High Council presented a different and unique challenge. The Pharsi added another dimension to the tale and the whole "Lost One" story line was getting fleshed out a bit more. Unfortunately, it didn't last.
The Pharsi story line was eventually put on hold in an unsatisfying way and the latter half of the book was back to the same pattern of battles with only one difference - the enemy now has some imagers of their own. This did make things slightly more interesting but when those Imagers started imaging iron darts and using the same shields I found myself a bit bored. In prior books we experienced Quaeryt "discovering" and creating these battle techniques for his Imagers and I would have expected foreign Imagers with many more years of battle experience to have slightly different abilities in their portfolio. Alas, not so.
So in the end this book is more of the same, for better or worse. The series continues to string me along and once again I find myself hoping for something better in the next book. Since it looks like the Pharsi story line will be picked back up in the book 8, perhaps my patience will pay off.
When you start with a world full of super heroes and zombies and then you add super soldiers and demons to the mix what comes next? Instead of adding a new class of character this time around Peter Clines decided he would throw us a curve ball and change the entire world instead. The narration was also changed to use just a single narrator - Jay Snyder.
This book brings back all of the main characters but they are not super heroes/super soldiers and there are no zombies. This abrupt change is disorienting at first and it takes a while to sort out where this one is headed. I found it interesting to experience the main characters in a more mundane setting and once the story picked up steam it was as engaging as the first three books in a different way. There are many Pop Culture Sci-Fi references to be found in this one and that just endeared the book to me even more. Peter Clines and Jay Snyder have delivered another solid, entertaining story and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off and provides more insight into the factions and the dystopian society in which they exist. This time around Amity and Erudite are revealed in more detail and I found that to be the better part of the book. Each faction has a unique flavor and viewpoint of the overall society and the relationship between them all keeps things interesting.
I can't say the same for the relationship between Tris and Four. Their back and forth relationship is just not that interesting and Tris herself is a far weaker character this time around. Her constant self-doubt becomes tiring and Roth could have cut out a good 30+ minutes of repetition and it wouldn't really have changed the fundamental story at all.
This book sets up and delivers a big reveal at the end that points to a finale that will likely be very different from where the series started. That could either be a good thing or cause the series to "jump the shark." Based on the reviews I see for book 3, and from what I have heard from my friends, the latter seems to be the case.
So pick this one up at your own risk; it is a solid story but not quite as good as book one. The biggest downside to book two is that it leaves you facing a tough call when it comes to book three. For myself, I will listen to Allegiant at some point but I'm not enthusiastic enough about it to do so right now.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. offers up another volume in the Imager Portfolio that differs little from its predecessor. As Bhayar’s forces invade Bovaria Quaeryt is now a subcommander but little else has changed. Quaeryt still reads about Rholan and gives sermons to the troops, he still figures out new ways for imagers to safely use and grow their abilities, and he still exchanges letters with Vaelora.
So there really isn’t much new to review here. If you have been enjoying the Imager Portfolio since the switch to Quaeryt as the main character then you should dive right in because this is more of the same. If like me, you preferred Rhennthyl as the main character, then this book is another step in a storyline that remains just a little too bland. It continues to keep me interested but I never get excited about it.
The Ghost Brigades is the second book in the Old Man’s War series and although it is a relatively stand-alone story the first book provides some necessary background context and I recommend you read it first. In book 1 the main character is CDF soldier John Perry and the Special Forces play a secondary role, but in this book the Special Forces take over the main storyline and there are just a few occasional references to John Perry.
Jane Sagan returns from the first book and provides some continuity for a host of new characters, including Special Forces solider Jared Dirac. The story starts off in a disjointed way as events occur without much explanation as to why they matter, but then it all comes together in the end to set the stage for Jared to make some interesting moral choices. Scalzi reveals a lot more about the various non-human races and gives a glimpse into the galactic politics faced by humanity. As the actions of the CDF on this grand stage are slowly revealed to him, Jared has to sort out the truth from the half-truth and decide if the CDF that created him is good or bad for human-kind. Does he have an obligation to protect humanity as he was bred to do or is he just a disposable slave being used to move forward a hidden CDF agenda?
Although the book can be predictable at times it is still enjoyable science fiction and reveals just enough about the bigger picture to encourage you to move on to the next book in the series which I plan to do. William Dufris does a decent job as narrator even if though he is forced to utter “he said” “she said” a few too many times. If you enjoyed the first book then you can confidently spend a credit to give this one a listen.
In the first two books of The Expanse series James S A Corey shows us how human civilization has spread throughout the solar system and we also see how our self-destructive nature manifests itself on a planetary scale. In the middle of the bickering between Earth, Mars and the OPA an ancient alien threat is awakened but that is not enough to bind us together. Instead we try to turn it into a weapon to use on other humans and only the actions of a few are able to prevent our total annihilation.
In Abaddon's Gate we see that the Protomolecule has now left Venus and built a giant gate near Uranus that leads to a starless void on the other side. Of course the various factions of mankind race toward the gate to make sure that their rivals do not gain an advantage and this sets up a powder keg of a scenario. Holden and the crew of the Rocinante find themselves in the thick of it as usual and the stakes are higher than ever.
Much like in Caliban’s War many new Point of View characters are introduced to go along with Jim Holden. I must admit I grew to really like Bobbie and Avasarala from book two but they are not to be found in here in book three. Fear not though because the new characters are equally interesting and Abaddon's Gate is a great listen. It has a little less humor than the prior books but the story moves along at a rapid pace. You never know if humanity is going to find a way to move beyond the solar system or just kill itself off in the attempt.
Jefferson Mays is excellent as usual and the series can really go in any direction from here. Abaddon’s Gate progresses the story nicely and I can’t wait to find out what book four has to offer.
I am a big fan of the Runelord series and the first three books were riveting. I loved the world created by David Farland and the moral choices that were faced by those trying to defend their lands from other Runelords. With book four the story started to slide a little bit and unfortunately that trend has continued. Book 5, Sons of the Oak, passed the reins of the story over to Gaborn’s sons, Fallion and Jaz, and I just didn’t find them as interesting as Gaborn himself. Worldbinder continues with those same main characters; however, it changes just about everything else.
Farland hits the reset button on his story by having Fallion combine 2 completely different worlds together. The new world created is a hybrid of both old worlds and some characters who were dead on Fallion’s world are now back alive in new incarnations of themselves. Those who were alive on both worlds were combined into someone new with the memories of both. Anyone who did not have a counterpart on the other world remains the same but feels like half a person. I must admit this is a very interesting concept but the manner in which it is implemented just didn't sit well with me. Farland oversimplifies what happens during the binding into something that wasn’t very believable for me.
The transition from Gaborn to Fallion in book 5 lessened the franchise for me. When book 6 completely changed the world around Fallion I found my interest beginning to wane but I was going along hoping for the best. Then the book just ended. The story is incomplete and there is no resolution at all in Worldbinder. Do not pick up this book unless you are willing to be in it for the long haul as this felt more like half a story to me. Even Ray Porter's narration was not up to snuff and felt quite rushed at times. I will give book 7 a listen to see if it pays off but right now I feel like I should have called it a day after book 4.
The 10th book in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series brings it all to a close (for the 3rd time.) I started the original series in 1979 and the first two Chronicles remain some of my favorite books to this day. Donaldson instantly trapped me between sympathy for Covenant the leper and hatred for Covenant the rapist. The Land and the people in it were amazing and I was forced to root for Covenant the antihero to succeed because the Land was so special: Bannor, Saltheart Foamfollower, Mhoram, the Forestals, the Raynyhyn, Revelstone, Andelain, Soaring Woodhelven – I loved it all. That is, except for Covenant himself, although I was willing to let him slide if he would step up and save everyone else.
Then the second series started and my heart was broken when I saw the devastation that had been wrought upon Land. The pain I felt for the inhabitants of the Land was palpable. All of a sudden I was a fan of Covenant because this travesty had to be addressed and he was the guy to do it. Now I resented Linden because she wasn’t Covenant and had no right to be more important than him. Again Donaldson convinced me to change my mind and root for her to succeed so that she could repair the damage that had been done to the Land. I even enjoyed his wordy writing because I was able to spend more time in the Land that way. Those two series turned me into a lover of Fantasy books.
When the third series started I was ecstatic and pre-ordered the hard cover version of the first book. It didn’t take long for the series to feel like a money grab that was exploiting my love for the Land. The books were full of uber-beings, time travel, and forgettable new companions for Linden. The Giants, which were so memorable in the first two series, had become expendable and boring. The same could be said for the Haruchai and when Linden once again summoned Covenant from beyond the grave I felt like a fool for continuing to read. The third book was by far the worst of the bunch and thus my expectations were pretty low heading into this finale.
But if you are reading this review then you have probably read/listened to the prior books in the series and there is little reason to stop now. Donaldson returns to his old self (too much at times) and once again I found myself rooting for the defenders of the Land. I started to care about the Giants and the Haruchai again and it felt a lot more like the first two series. Donaldson couldn’t resist mixing in more uber-beings, time travel, and “Deus ex machina” but he doesn’t go too far. This book felt more like the original books than any other in the final series and I don’t feel exploited for having listened to it.
As any Giant will tell you, “Joy is in the ears that hear” so if you are a long-time fan know that it is worth being summoned to the Land for one final time. This finale has stirred within me a desire to re-experience the first two series again and I plan to do just that. I still have my beaten up original paperbacks but this time I plan to listen instead of read and have picked up the First Chronicles on Audiobook. (It’s not available on Audible but if you search you will find it.)
Be true Unbelievers!
The Scott Lynch/Michael Page combination is outstanding and the first two books of the Gentleman Bastard series are amongst my favorites. I love the dark humor spread throughout the stories and by now both Locke and Jean seem like old friends of mine. I was excited to see this book on Audible and relished the opportunity to catch up with the Gentlemen Bastards and find out what they had gotten themselves into now. Now that I am done, I found that Michael Page was his usual brilliant self but unfortunately, this time around, Scott Lynch's story was not quite up the level of the first two books.
Things start off with Locke in bad shape and Jean doing everything he can to save Locke's life. Locke runs out of options and in the end must strike a deal he is sure to regret in order to save himself. Locke is tasked with influencing the outcome of an election that wasn't very interesting to me. Luckily a lot of the book is also spent on excellent flashback sequences to the early days of the Gentlemen Bastards. These were entertaining peeks into Locke and Jean's younger days and also introduce Sabetha, Locke's childhood sweetheart. We learn a lot about Sabetha and she plays a pivotal role throughout the book, both past and present. The one constant in both the past and present sequences was Sabetha's relationship with Locke, but it just wasn't enough to carry the day for me.
If you love the first two books in the series and you keep your expectations in check then you will find that The Republic of Thieves is a solid, but not spectacular, offering. This is a story stuck between the past and the present and based on the ending is most likely more of a setup for book 4 than anything else.
There is a lot to like about Redshirts and Scalzi creates an interesting meta-universe that gives a backstory to the disposable extras the filled many an episode of Star Trek. The book pokes fun at a storied television franchise and goes from silly to absurd as the junior crew members do what they can to avoid going on away missions. One inside joke after another keeps things entertaining and the tale goes from simple to complex as it unfolds.
Be warned that there is also a lot to dislike about Redshirts. The characters aren’t very deep and the story is more about the running joke than it is about the characters. You will also quickly grow tired of hearing “he said/she said” in the dialogue.
As a self-proclaimed geek and former actor on a Star Trek series, Wil Wheaton is a natural fit as the narrator here. I have enjoyed other books read by Wil but I didn’t feel like this was one of his better readings. He doesn’t do a lot of voices so it can be hard at the beginning to keep track of all of the various characters; however, Wil is still adequate and it is the story itself that will either keep you entertained or drive you away. If you are a SciFi fan capable of having fun at the expense of a beloved television series then this book is for you.
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