Followers of the Liaden Universe series will be thrilled to have a new installment, but the performance is a real disappointment. Readers may decide they would rather read the print version.
When you listen to hours of recitation of scanty evidence and find out the answer is: "Nobody knows why Bronze age civilization collapsed" but there are lots of theories. And new evidence is being discovered, or re-discovered, or translated, or pieced together or... Basically the book is a laundry list of evidence with anecdotes about discredited or reinterpreted evidence.
The evidence is interesting but not conclusive. The question that is being addressed is whether it is all the fault of the 'sea peoples' and who were they? The answer is not here. It does posit the theory that a series of calamities caused the system to fail, where it could have survived single events. There is the hint that a combination of climate change (drought), earthquakes, and social upheaval could have destabilized the trading inter-dependencies of the bronze age kingdoms but the author doesn't think the story is complete yet.
Ultimately the listener has to be familiar with lots of place names and the names of the players to follow what is being discussed. Without an annotated map, we are literally at sea.
Oh, and do skip the first two chapters. They are marketing material not relevant to the topic. The third chapter is an introduction so the book doesn't start til the 4th chapter.
As for the reader, sorry, I'm not a fan of Andy Caploe when he reads fiction. For non-fiction he is a really bad choice. For instance, he is very snide when reading that a pharaoh was married to his sister. Since it was the common practice of the time and culture, it is Not appropriate for him to color his reading that way. Then there is the way he pronounces 'elite' with a long a, and then... Well, if your annoyance threshold is low this is a book to avoid.
Formulaic, down home, folksy humor. Terrifying monsters. Many, many cliches. Readable but not entertaining. The plot is there but the writing cannot sustain it.
Sorry, can't work up the enthusiasm to write complete sentences to describe why I dislike this book. Sort of like the date where you have to say "Sorry, it's not you. I'm just not interested." Gave up after setting to 1.25 speed and skipping half of each chapter.
This book is about the trials and tribulations of space travel to Mars, with aliens thrown in to motivate and mystify. The evidence of alien presence, a fossil, is 65 million years old so none are alive at the time of the book. There is a mystery about how/why the aliens happened to be on Earth at exactly the time of the K-T boundary (when the asteroid impact killed the dinosaurs).
So, sorry, the book does not send the reader back to directly witness an alien/dinosaur battle, even though the cover implies it. No time travel here.
The book does follow the uncovering of the alien fossil. Coincidentally, an unmanned probe sent to a moon of Mars discovers the remains of an alien base. So an expedition is put together to see what can be learned about them.
The plot evolves from the circumstances and challenges of space travel. The book is rather similar to "The Martian" by Andy Weir, where science provides the method and natural forces provide the drama, with less time pressure. People are motivated by mundane needs and desires; there are no monstrous villains or super heroes, no nefarious foreign governments. However, everybody is superlative at their professions. The science used for travel and remote sensing is current, with a minimum of stretching to make it sound futuristic. I take it back, the remote sensing guy is a bit too geniusy.
The main characters are more than cardboard cutouts but only about as fleshed out as you expect from a tv mini-series where everybody is above average. Couples are paired off. Birth control isn't mentioned but maybe it should be considered.
I compared it to "The Martian" to give you an idea of the genre this book falls into. "Boundary" is not as well written but it does survive the comparison. The dialog in "The Martian" sounds more authentic then The "Boundary" dialog. "Boundary" has a subplot provided by the security officer (a la "Hunt for Red October") that is contrived. If you have worked with security people you will be squirming.
About the recording, it seems slowed down. I listened at 1.5 speed because it just plods at regular speed. The reader does a serviceable job.
I read some of the Medservice stories when I was a kid and remembered them fondly. It pays to go back and reread fiction as an adult. There are surprises. As a child, I read the story; now I read the subtext. It is fascinating to see some points made are just as appropriate now as when the story was written and others not. (This is probably be the only SF short story that you will ever read that includes a cattle stampede.)
The main thrust of this story is prejudice. Leinster writes a story about two worlds and the tension that was created when a plague made one world fear the other. The visible reminder of the plague, patches of blue pigmented skin on survivors and their children, serves to keep the fear alive in the world that escaped the plague. Generations later politicians are using fear mongering to prove that they are each tougher than the other guy in keeping the world free of plague even though the plague is past tense. Sound familiar?
The problem is that the blue-skin planet is facing starvation and is desperate. The plague free planet has excess food but is so rabidly anti-contact that they refuse to consider any kind of trade, ignoring any possible way to help the other planet, even though there is profit to be had. Instead politicians advocate destroying the blue-skin planet (which is plague free now).
Calhoun sets out to solve this conflict, and you know that his medical skills will be brought to bear, and his trademark monkey-like companion will contribute a cure of some kind.
But there is another subtext here that is painful for me as a woman and an illustration of the toxic role models of the 50's. The one woman in the story (setup as potential love interest) is a cipher appropriate to the kind of woman considered desirable in media then. "Look pretty and give the hero a chance to explain things."
She was sent as a spy since she is one of the lucky ones that doesn't have blue patches; she "passes" as non-tainted. Her boyfriend back on the blue-skin planet is actively trying to avert starvation by engineering food from weeds. He sent her off planet to spy, expecting her to desert and find a better life. Instead she returns to be with her true love.
Calhoun trains a group of pilots to ferry food back to the blue-skin planet. She asks why he didn't train her.
Commence eye-rolls: He explains that he saved her from being one of the heroes! That her boyfriend wouldn't love her if she outshone him! Instead Calhoun instructs her on what medical breakthroughs she should "steer" her boyfriend toward in the future!
This is 50's think, folks. The little woman standing behind her man and pushing him forward without his knowledge. Oh, the subterfuge.
So I would call this story as one hit, one strike, and two balls (food and payment exchange is overly complex, and genetically engineered plants fail to have calories). Sorry if my baseball analogy is off-base.
I started out enjoying the book for low key humor and avoidance of casual violence. A strong point was good integration of drone technology. But I ended up annoyed with it for the inward facing hero, non-nonsensical plot twists, and the author's cursory use of women.
Our hero is tortured by memories of trauma in the previous book and continued interference of a serial killer. He takes refuge in a dog and a girlfriend. Of the two, the dog gets more character development. The woman exists to comfort our hero and give him dialog opportunities. Nostalgia abounds. References to movies, songs, and literature are liberally inserted. Some sightseeing of LA is to be had.
The plot is interesting enough to hold the reader's attention. Some plot threads come together in interesting ways. However, after all the careful unraveling of clues and dramatic tension, the confrontation that the reader looks forward to, between hero, villain, and henchman is abruptly prevented by a plot twist. Villain and henchman are killed off-screen in separate events, leaving more questions then answers. The plot is wrestled into a new channel that is unsatisfying.
The opening mystery and 3, count them, 3 hints that there is going to be a fantasy element in this plot, are all, ALL, red herrings. The solution of the central question of angel murder is suggested but never resolved; the hints at clairvoyance are dead ends.
The only other woman character that gets more than a couple of pages turns out to be .... fill in the blank "film noir" stereotype. (There are other interesting woman briefly mentioned for short supporting roles.)
I had to listen twice to come to appreciate the book. First time through the wackiness threw me. It all seemed nonsensical. The captain's behavior is bizarre.
Then, desperate for something non-dystopian, I listened again, and picked up on details. There really is no padding to allow the reader tune out. The plot bashes so many scifi tropes that it is hard to keep up, but the effort is rewarded. (Don't miss the chicken in exo-skeleton!) You will recognize some particular Star Trek episodes, as well as other scifi movies under attack.
Hopefully there is enough material left for sequels. I can think of some I would like to see parodied, such as Spock's mating rituals.
MacLeod Andrews' performance is nearly flawless. Excellent rendition of Dr. Printlips voice is worth the price of admission.
It is worth the effort. So reserve this book for when you want to concentrate on having fun; it deserves the attention. I expect to listen again.
I am declaring war on dystopian futures by not reading them anymore. This is one of the few books that give me hope there are other things to read, that can be enjoyed.
This installment of Rivers of London is like riding a roller coaster in the dark! Every time you think the story is predictable it takes off in an unexpected direction. And you want to stay alert because every word counts.
First, ignore the blurb that Audible has above. It was written by someone that did not read the book. They took a simple fact, the case is about missing children, and made up conflicts that are not in the book; uncooperative local police and shops close at 4pm? Someone is winging it.
But back to the book (where local police Are cooperative), to avoid spoilers just say we get to spend more time with Peter Grant and the river spirits. We make new friends, see some new examples of non-humans. Peter faces mysteries and dangerous confrontations and plays with new magic spells. We get a new clue about Molly.
Book 4, Broken Homes, was a bit of downer. In this book, Peter gets on with life. Leslie's voice is still with him, goading him on to solve problems, even though she's out of the picture (mostly). We get more hints about the ultimate story arc but it is not solved here.
That suits me because it is so nice to read books written by someone you can trust to entertain you. The author is a master of writing enjoyable prose. I'll be rereading it with pleasure.
First off, don't avoid this book because you haven't read "John Carter of Mars". This book stands quite well on it's own. I only tried to read that book after enjoying "Jane" so much, but in comparison "John" is rather boring. (personal opinion, ymmv).
This author has taken the blue-print provided by "John Carter of Mars" and sculpted a very entertaining read. It is rather like comparing black & white movies with technicolor. The original will always be referred to as "classic" but reinterpretations can add detail, flavor and nuance to improve the trope.
"Jane" has brought humor as well as a well fleshed out (in both senses) female character to the table. Read it, it's just plain fun.
This book is one of two that I consider the best of audiobook entertainment. It is one of a few that I return to over and over to reread when I can't find something new. The narration is perfect.
Even though Mosca Mye is a orphan child, she becomes embroiled in an adult conspiracy that dates back to her father's past. She travels with two companions, a goose (Saracen) and a con-man (Eponymous Clent). The goose is her protector; the con-man is her albatross. The plot unfolds into a real world conspiracy of national importance without hint of contrivance.
It is an adventure comparable with Huckleberry Finn. The plot is engaging and satisfying. We are treated to a spunky preteen girl who is a complete person. She doesn't whine, she doesn't procrastinate, she just gets on with things. She makes mistakes; she is getting by with incomplete information, but she doesn't stop to worry. Life hasn't been kind to her so she deals with it. How refreshing. She could be compared to Pipi Longstocking, but she is more grounded.
The world building is superb. History, fable, and religion are fleshed out to provide a complete and satisfying back story. Names of people and places are entertaining in their own right, providing the perfect atmosphere of mythic importance.
Don't miss the crocodile that protects the evil princess.
I do like the series, the setup and characters. But was disappointed in this installment. There is little plot, and missed opportunities. For instance there is a ball for Sophronia's older brother's engagement but the older brother and his intended don't get any story time. Instead we read about hours of dressing and gossiping. Then the engagement party is reduced to an opportunity for mischief and our cast of characters are off on balloon and train chases. The book substitutes chase scenes for plot development.
Ultimately 3 characters face life altering decisions because they couldn't stay home and let adults take care of the problem of what will become of the Scotland werewolf pack. The book ends before they come near the pack. The plot really is that thin. They do discover a couple of clues but the plot is only advanced slightly.
The best part is the fight with steel fans.
If you want plot, wait for the next book. If you enjoy long expositions about a girls' school and who to love or not, with occasional daring do, read on.
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