I was a bit put off by Stephenson after Cryptonomicon, but he more than makes up for it in REAMDE. The characters are cerebral and distinct, each with their own quirks that come out brilliantly in the dialog.
The plot is continuously shifting, and each turn is punctuated by the resilience of the book's primary protagonist. No slow muddled storyline (which was my biggest gripe with Crypto) in REAMDE. Also, Stephenson show off his real 'nerd cred', which is as always technically accurate and non-embellished.
The narration is second to none. Hillgartner pulls off Russian, English, and CHinese accents with authenticity, and he often does it in the same breath.
No one could ever accuse Stephen King of failing to create completely mesmerizing characters. He does it here just as well as in any of his other books.
Hardcore sci-fi fans take note: this book doesnt get into the hows and whys of time travel, nor does it explore such thought experiments as the Grandfather Paradox, but it does exquisitely illustrate the 'realities' a person may face if they suddenly found themselves travelling 50 years into the past...and the ramifications of altering that past.
The villians in King's novels always show a little bit of humanity, which blurs the line between good and evil. This too is done here, using a little bit of that Derry, Maine mystique to add a little crazy to the party.
The narration is top-notch. Wasson's characters are distinct and memorable.
All in all, definitely worth the credit.
I started listening to this on recommendation (of the printed book) from Steve Gibson at GRC, who raved about it. The material seemed pretty good, but I just could not get over how unbelievably bad the narration is. The speaker has a very limited range, and when she tries to emulate male characters, she comes off sounding like Millhouse from The Simpsons. It is very distracting.
This story is very character driven, and you can tell that the scifi sugar was definitely secondary. That doesnt really matter, though, because the narrative moves along just fine without it. The characters' eccentricities are shown in punctuated spurts, and every time they do you end up forming a new opinion about them.
I definitely wish the author spent more time in One-Ungo-Wen's (sp?) world, but all in all the story was compelling.
The story was pretty much straight-up scifi. I kind of wish the details of the alien species was fleshed out a little more, but you learn enough about them to create a good mental image.
I think they should have taken another strategy when trying to emulate the alien voices. There's a multitude of digital voice changers that the narrator could of used, but instead he opted to slur his speech as if he just had all of his wisdom teeth pulled out. You got used to it, but it was still distracting.
Also, the ending was definitely sequel bait. It's been almost 26 years and no sequel.
This book was very difficult to sit through. From the absolute lack of understanding of physics, to the completely lackluster encounters with alien beings (especially a particularly drawn-out yawn inducer with a giant 'crab-pus'), I have to advise that anyone expecting a solid sci-fi experience look elsewhere.
There's a little joke in the software development community:
Q: How many 37Signals' developers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: F!#k You.
I always thought that joke was a product of the snobbery that comes out of the RoR community. Now I realize that it's more about a philosophy of keeping things as simple as they need to be.
This book will get your mind churning, and will make you want to start to de-clutter your work.
This book probably appeals to fans of Michael Bay and Uwe Boll films. There's not much in terms of content or character development. Nor is there much exploration of the world that the author is trying to describe. The depiction of alien species is handled with the scientific understanding of an eighth-grader, and the story complexity follows along the same lines. If you want a world to capture your imagination, you wont find it in Looking Glass.
If you went to the bookstore and bought a bunch of books with motivational phrases, took those books home, cut out each phrase and put them in a pillowcase, and then shook that pillowcase, and then pieced each phrase back together at random, you would have something more coherent than this book.
It's like when you are awake at 3AM and there's nothing on TV except infomercials.
The idea of being a linchpin is a worthy idea and well worth pursuing. The problem is that this book doesnt even try to understand what exactly a linchpin is. At best, everything is anecdotal, strung together with feel-good hollow statements like 'resist the demon'. I think that was from Rocky III.
I was expecting something a bit more scientific, maybe a personality exploration of the linchpin in his or her native habitat. Nope. How about a story detailing how a regular Joe goes from regular to linchpin? Nada.
This book will underwhelm you.
If you can make your way through the initial implausibility of the main character's ability to adapt to his new environs, and how he matter-of-factly handles his situation, then you are in for a compelling sci-fi/social commentary.
It's definitely not the greatest audiobook I've listened to in this category, but it's not bad, either. If you're familiar with the works of Robert J. Sawyer, you would feel right at home here. Dani and Eytan Kollin bring out that same kind of sci-fi folksiness as Sawyer does, which is good if you're not in the mood to have your mind totally blown but still want a compelling story.
When I read or listen to books about the future, I pay special attention to the uses and abuses of technology, and how probable the author's vision is in comparison with current technologies and trends. I would say that this book does a good job describing a nonotech-dominant future in great detail.
The human side of the story is unfortunately lacking in originality, but that shouldn't dissuade you from giving it a listen. Most sci-fi stories are inept at character development anyway ;)
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