Okay, we live in an age where Superhero movies are taken seriously, so it's no surprise that superhero novels-- other than the ones based on the movies, or based on the comics-- can exist now.
But what's really great is that there is a real story here, with, y'know, plot, character, backstory, suspense, and whatnot.... while at the same time there's a lot of great jabs at the clich?s of superhero stories.
I kind of hate Orson Scott Card personally-- at least his public persona. His politics are odious. I mention this just to put context to the following sentence:
This book is one of the finest pieces of science fiction-- or any fiction-- I have ever read.
Top Ten. As much as I enjoyed Ender's Game; the book was pretty much setup for this, and-- compared to this-- fluffy and inconsequential. My favourite parts of Ender's Game were tangled up in the side story with Ender's Siblings, which is what set the stage for Speaker.
Read Ender's Game, then read this. You won't regret it.
Okay, let's start of by admitting that I'm an absolute Savage Fan. The thought process that went into buying this book was "Oh, there's a new book by Dan Savage available? I'd better pre-order it!!!"
And while the notion of exploring the seven deadly sins might seem a little... gratuitous... and might seem to serve only to promote Mr. Savage as a shameless hedonist trying to tear down the walls of decency.... okay, let's not kid ourselves. That's what it is, and that's what he is.
But... the entire point of the book is that our notions of "sin" and "decency" need to be re-evaluated, and there's nothing wrong with a little shameless hedonism. Not only that, but he doesn't go in the directions you'd expect.
For example, for Pride he talks about the Pride Parades... and whether he thinks they're relevant anymore. This is actually one of the two points I disagree with him on-- I think their meaning has changed and they are totally relevant.
I also did not think that "firing a gun" served well as Wrath-- it was more of a platform for him to attack the second amendment. And I'll freely admit I'm one of those people who gets bitchy when you attack the second amendment, and that it's my main complaint with Mr. Savage. This a review, not a rebuttal, so I'll just leave it at "if you're like me on the second amendment, you will have objections." Well, and I'll add that his perspective is still worth reading.... I certainly don't think he's wrong about every point he makes, I just think he doesn't accurately represent the views he's opposing (which is as much the fault of the NRA as his).
As always, the author is inappropriate, but as I believe he has said himself-- just inappropriate enough to get the job done. The books is, at different points, thought provoking, insightful, informative, outrageous... and real.
I'm very glad he read it himself-- it always irritates me when books by talented speakers are read by others.
That being said, there were some production issues; at several points he stops and starts a sentence over-- perfectly understandable, but should have been edited out.
If you haven't read a Dan Savage book, or listened to his podcast, or read his column, this is probably not the place to start.
This is the man who could make a trip to the post office interesting (and has), and could probably make a reading of the tax code entertaining.
And this... isn't a trip to the post office, and it isn't the tax code. Aeronautics history. Corruption. Sex and violence. Baseball. Boxing. Prohibition and gangsters. Murder sprees. All delivered with context, wit, and oooooh so much style.
I'm guessing from the fact that you're reading this review that you like audiobooks. That's all I need to know to know that you should STOP reading this review and buy the book. Then go for "A Short History of Nearly Everything" (the unabridged, even though he didn't read it) and "In a Sunburned Country." That should be enough to get you hooked.
Let's get this out of the way-- I'm a Pagan, and a lot of Pagan culture and development was heavily influenced by this book, including but not limited to, the existence of an actual Church of All Worlds.
That being said, Heinlein wasn't a Rand or a Hubbard. He wasn't trying to start a movement. Oh, sure, he wasn't unaware of the influence of his writing, but this was a book that was written to be sold-- and despite the label, an abridged version at that.
(This the unabridged recording-- of the original, abridged, version of the novel; the unabridged version wasn't published for another 30 years, and most people who loved the novel as it was published, myself included, prefer the abridgment.)
What Heinlein did was poke fun at the established morals-- the sacred cows. Monogamy, Monotheism, Money. His vehicle for this was Valentine Michael Smith-- a man in body, but raised by Martians until he was 25, with no knowledge of human culture. The other vehicle is Jubal Harshaw, lawyer, doctor, and hack writer. Between the two viewpoints of innocence and experience, we get an interesting view of this future-- which is, of course, just an updated version of the 1960's, which was "the present."
It's not the typical Heinlein-- there's a lot of argument over whether it can even be considered science fiction. It's a valid argument-- let's face it, the story only uses the trappings of science fiction to get away with disguising the real world behind fake names. Sure, there are flying cars and spaceships-- but they only serve to set the story up. The same thing could have been accomplished with fantasy creatures instead of "Martians."
Me, I don't think it was a typical Heinlein. And it's certainly not my favourite. When I tell people I like Heinlein, and they say they loved this book-- I tend to cringe. It's like being a Queen fan and someone saying "Oh, yeah, I loved that song they did for Wayne's World." Yes, okay, it's a great song, but it's not even the best on the freaking album AND IT WAS PROBABLY RECORDED BEFORE YOU WERE BO-- wups, forgot to take my medication.
But yeah, it's like that.
Don't get me wrong, it's an absolutely great book. And it's a must read, because for all my comments above about "written to be sold" and "argument about sci-fi", Heinlein is an excellent writer. If Paul McCartney suddenly started recording jingles for Burger King, yeah, it would be slumming, but it would probably change the world of commercial jingles forever and people would be downloading it.
Heinlein couldn't help himself; in his commercialism, he brought up a whole lot of valid points-- points that had never quite been phrased that way, and that found people listening in the counter-culture movements of the 1960's. And the parts that are science fiction are handled marvellously, and work smoothly into the plot.
This book leaves behind three things as a legacy-- the aformentioned Church of All Worlds, the waterbed (invented by the author in Double Star, expounded here, and this book was used as an example of prior art to prevent a patent on the concept), and the word "grok."
One last note-- I read (or listen to) this book every couple of years, and have since I was about 14. It's NEVER the same book twice. So... yeah... check it out.
Okay, I was really happy with Monster Hunter International.
There is nothing that I said about that book that doesn't apply to this, with the exception of the stuff about how MHI was an excellent "First book". Actually, I could even expound on that, because one didn't realise how much of the stage for this book was being set.
I expect that the author had this book in mind while he was writing the first; we learn more details about things that we thought were fully explained, or some things we just accepted as they were. It's handled expertly. A few of the threads from the first book are resolved, a few left open, more threads are introduced. Relationships develop and change.
I was very relieved that the return of Grant Jeffries did not re-open the romantic competition-- that's a settled thing, nobody's gonna mess with that.
Again, the reader is spectacular. Again, exposition is handled deftly, and with an excellent plot device. Again, there is a broad reliance on archetypes and the Lovecraft influence is even more defined (they don't call the Necronomicon by name. But they don't give it another one, either). Another fantasy icon is plagiarised, but I won't spoil which one... and it's done well.
Again, there's a single storyline that's followed to completion. There's a lot more left open for the series to pursue, but it's not so much that it takes any satisfaction away from the storyline, and there's no "Your princess is in another castle" hooey.
And Again, you'll buy the next book because you want more of the same. I know I will.
For starters, Oliver Wyman NAILS this. With a big honkin' hammer. At no point does it sounds like he's reading from a page. There are no failures of direction or editing. Owen Pitt is talking to you, telling you about what happened, and Pitt is good with voices. Okay, some of the women are a little weak, but... it doesn't distract because it's Owen doing the voices. On the rare occasions that he shifts narrative characters, it's that other character talking. It's flawless.
As for the story-- the author does an amazing job at creating the universe without bogging you down with exposition. You're sucked in along with Owen, and it happens with amazing speed and craftsmanship without feeling forced. The plot itself, of course, lends well to to exposition, but Correia doesn't lean on it too heavily. Characters, concepts, and relationships are established firmly, but the plot advances even when he occasionally stops for Backstory.
The dings it gets are for unoriginality. Part of the reason that it is able to accomplish so much exposition in so short a time is that the Monster Control Bureau is one part Men In Black and one part Bureau 13, with standard government paranoia sprinkled in for cohesion and flavour. And the big bad is unapologetically borrowed from Lovecraft, falling juuuuuuust short of calling the thousand foot squid god Cthulu.
But don't get me wrong, that's almost part of the charm. A few brief references and you've got a wider universe in place. Not all the gaps are filled in, but there's enough that you fully understand that there's a lot different from this world and the one we live in. But the story itself is excellent. The romance is a little forced, but not overly so, and the author resists the urge to establish a will-they-or-won't-they dynamic. Some might be bothered by the right-wing rhetoric, but it is not only in character for the people, but it's appropriate for the world they inhabit.
Interestingly, the most overused tropes-- vampires, zombies, and the undead in general-- are handled INCREDIBLY well, as well as the characters' interactions with them. The temptation is to compare it to a summer blockbuster film or a pulp fantasy is strong-- it has the fun of the first and the archetypes of the second (and a few other pulp genres), but it's way more than you would expect from such comparisons.
Also, it does an excellent job of balancing between being a book in its own right and the first book in a series. It serves as an excellent introduction to the universe while telling a story of its own. Yes, it's the story of how Owen joins MHI, and his journey from newbie to full fledged Monster Hunter, but it resists the urge to leave the overarching story unresolved. There are plenty of open threads, and of course the epilogue is a set-up for the next book, but you buy the next book because you want more of what this book gave you, not because you are hanging on the edge of your seat for the cliffhanger.
Yes. While the little photographs are missing, almost any book is superior when read by the author. And this particular author is a talented performer.
It was a performance, rather than just a straight reading. And again, he's good at this.
Yes, but it was the ending to a story, so I'm not going to spoil it.
This is a book of VERY short stories-- brief glimpses of a universe, or a person's life. Brilliant ideas, sketched out quickly and in remarkable detail. Some are fascinating. Some are amusing. Some are CREEPY. And many are a combination of both. But all are very well done.
Yes, wholeheartedly. Why? Because Dan Savage is doing what he does best-- talking candidly-- often hilariously-- about issues. Not just LGBT issues, but religion, politics, and culture as a whole. Yes, he talks about LGBT issues, but he makes the argument very well that LGBT issues are "straight" issues.
If nothing else, his offer to the "choicers" is CLASSIC.
Dan Freaking Savage.
He played Dan Savage REALLY convincingly.
Seriously, though, he does this well-- he's clear-spoken, entertaining, and he doesn't sound like he's reading from the book. He's just talking to you.
Rather a lot, actually. Him talking about his parents as he was growing up, and about his mother's death in particular.
It's impossible to explain what makes this book awesome without spoiling it for you, but I can be general.
1) Felix Castor is an entertaining fellow.
2) The universe he lives is interesting and well-developed.
3) There is something very, very, wrong with Mike Carey that causes him to think up stuff like this. I'm just saying. This is a knife-twister.
(Disclaimer: If you saw the movie, then you still know practically nothing about this book. They do not share the same plot, or really even the characters. "Griffin's Story" is actually set in the MOVIE universe, not this one.)
What would you do if you could teleport?
This wasn't high-sci-fi or high-fantasy. The world is more or less our world, except for this one kid who can teleport. He's got real problems with his abusive dad, his girlfriend, the cop downstairs who beats his wife.... oh, yeah, and the NSA.
Definitely worth reading. Will inspire a lot of fantasies and daydreams.
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