A brilliant book, and a real treat to have Pollan himself narrate it. It's about gardening, yes, but also about Nature and our place in her. Laugh out loud funny in spots (who knew that an in-depth discussion of seed catalogues could be so hilarious?) Second Nature is a book that has the ability to challenge assumptions and cause us to look at our environment(s) in new ways. Definitely not just for gardeners!
Over the years since I read KSR's Mars Trilogy, when I have told others about it, my descriptions of that masterpiece have tended to include the phrases "science fiction, but in a class by itself" and also, "akin to reading history, but written 300 years in the future."
While I have enjoyed other books by KSR, none have been able to measure up to the Mars Trilogy - until now. Shaman, too, is a masterpiece. It is nothing at all like Robinson's other novels, which is a good thing - and testament to the author's abilities.
What makes it so great? First of all, the characters. In Robinson's other works, character development has tended to be something he seems to work at, but perhaps doesn't come naturally to him. With Shaman, his ship has come in. Creating characters who would have lived 30,000 years ago and making them believable is quite an accomplishment. In Robinson's depictions, they are at once Unknowable, mysterious and profoundly ordinary. His use of everyday speech for their dialogue, rather than some wholly imagined, affected "tribespeople" speak (whatever language was spoken 30,000 years ago will likely remain forever completely unknown) is a stroke of brilliance. It's easy for the reader to grasp that the characters are speaking in their own tongue, but with colloquialisms that are synonymic in our language. For example, they might have had an equivalent for "oh, fuck;" or even the quirky meaning behind our present day "mama mia" makes the (single) use that phrase not seem odd, or out of place.
The second bit of greatness, is that these characters, their actions, and the world they inhabit - both Natural and Spirit - come truly alive. Never again will I look at an ancient cave painting or other ancient art in quite the same way. In Shaman, by books end, Robinson has created an emotionally charged, believable bridge between those artistic creations, their makers and the present moment. This achievement by Robinson is no less than High Art itself. He's created Magic, in which the past is brought to life; for this reader, I am forever changed for the experience.
I would place it in the category of "will mean more if you've been following the series."
It is a bit slow to get going - actually quite slow - however there is a mood to be set and such things take time. The basic story was good, but the thing that made the book truly great for me is how Penny has continued to develop her characters (in this book, Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir). At the point at which things come to a peak near the end, I was actually shaking with emotion - I'd become that involved!
Great book. Decent science fiction novels are so few and far between; it was a treat to encounter this one.
It is hard to believe that this novel was written in the present era. At one point, the lead character, in a space suit out on the Moon's surface, asks one of his assistants to go inside and get him a camera. Right. Like in a century from now (or whenever the near-ish future date is) that there's not going to be a camera in his suit - or retina, or...There are several similar instances which reveal a poorly conceived future setting (a pad of paper, conveniently found in a desk drawer, on a limited-supply Moon outpost? Riiiight. Even today, the average N American only picks up a pen every few weeks) etc etc. Then there is the dialogue. It's not just cliché-ridden and cringeworthy, it's also frighteningly dated with regard to the sayings people use and rife with cultural references that are already decades past. MAYBE the author intended to use phrases so old that many of today's 20-somethings wouldn't even know what they meant - just so the book would come off as authentic classic sci-fi from another era. Sort of like what SM Stirling did with his Mars & Venus 'Sky People' alternative reality books a few years back. I sure hope so. The alternative - that Bova meant this to be a modern, credible science fiction novel - is scary to contemplate.
...you may enjoy this book. But if you're not, it may not be very interesting. As a fan myself, I personally was riveted. In the last third or so of the book, I felt sad at what I heard. There are good reasons as to why the comics of the 1960s-80s were often quite good and the 90s so dreadful, and they are delineated in gory detail in the book.
In some ways I regret taking in this book, because any illusions I had about Marvel were shattered. I will never again be able to watch a Marvel movie - or read the comics for that matter - without being aware of the stunning, greedy injustices that were perpetrated upon longtime creators who worked at Marvel, most notably Jack Kirby.
Quite recently, a judge ruled that Disney/Marvel owns the characters that Kirby created. In another ruling, the creator of Ghost Rider, Gary Friedrich, was actually ordered to pay Disney 17K! Even though Friedrich created it - it says so very plainly on the splash page of the inaugural issue - it belongs to Disney/Marvel.
If you move over to another medium, say, if Stephen King writes a novel, does the company that publishes the book own the rights to the book?
Many of the ideas that have become substrate to the sci-fi and super hero movies seen today were created by chain smoking guys in tiny apartments in New York City decades ago, for very little money. They did not retain rights to the characters they invented.
The Avengers Movie of 2012, which mostly features characters created by Jack Kirby, had the biggest opening weekend of any movie ever in North America. It was also the fastest film in history to hit the $1 billion mark, and ultimately grossed $1.51 billion worldwide.
Kirby's family won't be seeing any of that money; nor would Jack himself, were he alive today.
There are points in this book in which Cernan describes being on the moon and a VIBE comes across that is truly amazing. I have read/listened to many different accounts of the Apollo missions, but there is something about this one by Cernan that really stuck with me. Much of what he writes I already knew about, but the bits that I hadn't heard of - and especially, the "vibe" - made this book a real treat to listen to.
Sometimes it's better to let someone else narrate an author's work, however this isn't one of those times. Cernan's own voice adds a lot to the experience.
Pillars of the Earth and World Without End were, to me, "10s," whereas Fall of Giants & Winter of the World are more like "6's".
Winter is mostly compelling, but drags in places. It also has a number of coincidences which scream "novelist at work," which come deep into the book, when the reader should hopefully be fully absorbed into the story. I found myself wishing that the spell were not so easily broken.
Make no mistake: Follett is awesome; I've read everything he's ever published and jump on each new book immediately, however his new stuff is, for me, "good" rather than "transcendently amazing."
I am amazed that all of the reviews for this audiobook are so positive. Personally, I found this latest installment of Destroyermen insufferable, and that’s an understatement.
The first few Destroyermen books had their flaws, for sure, but those flaws were far outweighed by a number of positive factors, like the discovery of an interesting new world: who were the Grik, and how about the other humans, from a different time period? Slowly discovering the answers to these questions, as the author gradually unravelled the mysteries, kept things interesting. Now, the sense of mystery is gone. Also, the character development in the earlier books, while not amazing, was sufficient enough that I cared about a number of the people in the story. Now that too is gone. The characters are more like caricatures. The Lemurians, whose heads we actually got inside before, have now been reduced to belittled half wits, always eager to please; I could not tell one from another. It comes off as kinda racist, actually, the way they are portrayed now. The exception is the elder Lemurians who, as before, speak as if they have been not only speaking English for many years, but also doing some seriously erudite studying of vocabulary, idioms and hard core literature, but it seems more extreme now.
Princess Rebecca’s little pet: profoundly irritating. I’m sure it’ll save her life soon. The exchanges between Matt and Sandra are rife with cringe-inducing, hackneyed lines and are painful to listen to. The Dom: why do so many of these books have an evil religious cult thrown into the mix? (the also-in-a-state-of-downward-spiral SM Stirling Emberverse series also suffers from this, as do a few other recent/comparatively recent fiction outings). And why, oh why, Grik Zeppelins? Zeppelins?
The originality of the earlier novels has been lost.
Iron Gray Sea was the last Destroyermen book that I will read or listen to. This is a situation where it may have been better for the author to wrap things up before they got stale - and then started something fresh. I am happy that the majority of the people who listened to the book loved it and are clamouring for more - at least those who have taken time to rate & review. I am not, alas, in that majority.
I found this book almost disturbingly slow and downright boring in the beginning, and indeed at certain points further along. It was way too long-winded, and talk about belabouring the obvious! However, some very very cool insights and pieces of information eventually popped out, which made the listen worthwhile. An oft very enjoyable writing style, plus excellent narration - both of which got better and better as the book progressed, also made a big difference. I am very happy that I stuck with it, as by the end, I actually loved the book. At some point I may acquire the hard copy to savour the good bits again.
In the past year and a half, I have listened to Armstrong's biography, "First Man", Aldrin's autobiography, "Magnificent Desolation", and Craig Nelson's "Rocket Men". All three were excellent; chock full of facts I didn't know previously. Therefore, I hesitating before downloading "Moonshot" - hadn't I heard enough about Apollo? The answer is an emphatic "NO." Dan Parry's opus is simply fantastic. Upon hearing his narrative, I am convinced that an Apollo 11 movie would be every bit as exciting as “Apollo 13” was. (Quick! - somebody make it while the three astronauts are still alive!)
Parry's book is extremely well structured. He keeps the story of the flight of Eleven going, with alternating sections of equal length to fill in the necessary background information. The editing is crisp, and all of the important facts - including some I had either no previous knowledge of, or had failed to understand clearly before - are concisely covered with no fluff. Parry did his homework very thoroughly; his source material was probably tomes, yet he manages to brings the sheer complexity of the mission into clear focus, in less than 11 hours of audiobook time.
The use of actual quotes by the astronauts and mission control guys is a real treat. The quotes are integrated seamlessly, and add much to the feeling of immediacy of the book. I loved how well the author conveyed the dramatic moments - and there were some nail biters! John Chancer's narration is also spot on.
I notice that "Rocket Men" has several positive reviews. It's a great book, I recommend it, but it did not keep me on the edge of my seat like “Moon Shot”. Five well-deserved stars.
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