I bought this on the strength of the first book, METAtropolis, which I found very good in conception and narration, although there was some unevenness in the actual stories.
I wasn't wowed by M:Cascadia as much as by its predecessor. Although the concentration on Cascadia in this sequel might be considered a weakness, the stories had enough variety to keep my interest in spite of the quality of the narration, which was not up to the standard of the first METAtropolis. Jonathan Frakes attempt at a Slavic accent was at best uneven, and his pronunciation of several key names in the story made me wonder at the quality of the production and the change of narrator from Stefan Rudnicki for this part of the sequel.
LeVar Burton was OK, but I kept thinking that Scott Brick could have brought more depth to the presentation. Wil Wheaton's work just didn't make an impression on me. Not every actor makes a good narrator, no matter what TV series they performed in.
I found the basic premise of the book intriguing: that humans could extend their lives and influence, as well as indulging their desire to explore the galaxy, through a combination of cloning, stasis, cryogenics, and near light-speed travel.
The two main characters, Campion and Purslane, are described as lovers in the novel, but Reynolds gives very little space for the reader to imagine a relationship strong enough to have broken through the supposed taboo against such pair-bonding in their culture.
The story, on the other hand, manages to convey almost unfathomably broad passages of time in a believable way, and the extended chase that is the novel's growing climax takes over 60 thousand light years.
I pressed on with listening to the entire book because of the author's ability to combine a number of futuristic concepts, a compelling "who-dunnit" that drives the middle third of the novel, flashbacks to the genesis of the main characters, and the extended chase.
And these strengths fortunately outweighed the narration, which I found a bit mannered and confusing. John Lee did nothing with his voice to signal the alternating narration chapter by chapter of Campion (male) and Purslane (female) in the story, even though he did differentiate the voices of the Machine People from the humans effectively, albeit in a manner of speaking that belied their supposed sophistication. As a North American, I found the various Scottish accents he used for secondary characters jarring because I didn't expect it, although I must admit it added an bit of realistic menace to the author's depiction of two characters, a traitor and an inquisitor.
The variety and the voice quality of the five narrators suited each of the five novellas perfectly. I absolutely love Stefan Rudnicki's and Scott Brick's work, which I know from Orson Scott Card's books. The raspy voice of Michael Hogan (Col. Tigh, Battlestar Galactica) gave just the right tone of cynicism to the opening story, and provided a perfect audible contrast to its myth-making quality.
While I don't have any particular "memorable moments" from the collection, I found the story arc in each of the novellas satisfying. The settings of Cascadia, Detroit, New St Louis, and cyberspace were realised in just enough detail, and the characters well drawn.
I enjoyed the whole thing enough that I went back to it almost immediately and listened to the whole thing again--something I have only done with one other audiobook: War and Peace!
Again, I can't put a finger on one particular character as a favourite. After the first listening I thought I liked the immature 20-year old in the fourth novella least, but after the second time through I understood better John Scalzi's (the author) depiction of someone who grows up because of the environment in which he is placed.
I suspect that this collection of five novellas wouldn't easily lend itself to movie treatment.
On the strength of this audiobook, I'm going to listen to the sequel, METAtropolis: Cascadia.
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