This book lacked descriptive depth. It didn't paint a picture so much as a rough diagram with labels like "Insert alien space ship here". The giant cast of characters was reminiscent of Greg Bear's books, and similarly bogged the story down way more than it added a sense of a broader universe. I found the aliens to be novel but entirely implausible, I don't see how a clumsy race that's incapable of fine motor control can develop any kind of technology.
And the final space battle that some of the other reviewers seem to be so fond of is mostly conveyed verbally, without any objective description, through the intercom and goes something like this: "Fire cannons. Accelerate. Boom! oh no we're hit. We need more steam!" Very underwhelming.
Oh and I found the pivotal roll that a group science fiction authors play in the story to be incredibly masturbatory.
Overall the book has several interesting ideas that are introduced, but overall, it's not really worth the credit unless you have nothing better to listen to.
This book(s) is an endless series of of characters looking for each other and just missing, often because they had to be polite and British. It made me want to scream. There's some excuse for this nonsense when they time travel under-cover to the 1940's but when major plot points revolve around the same type of garbage in the supposed future where humans are capable of time travel but cellphones, and e-mail don't exist? ARRGH!!! Paraphrasing: "Oh no, I can't find Polly, because I showed up 2 minutes late! I can download entire languages directly into my brain and travel to the distant past, but alas cell phones don't exist, so let me just write her a note that might save her life that will be blown off the table by the wind just before she notices it."
This level of frustration is downright abusive. Aside from that, when Mrs Willis isn't beating you over the head with how "everyday people in London were the real heroes", by having her characters repeat that exact phrase over and over again, and you start to figure out which part of the story is happening to whom and when, as the story jumps around without warning and the characters are really easy to confuse, the story becomes fairly engaging. In the end it all sort of gets wrapped up, and there's a tiny bit of pay-off. But really not worth it.
I'm a big fan of non-fiction books about the way our minds work, the way our logic works, etc... Books like "Thinking: Fast and Slow" are fascinating but at times can be overwhelming in their depth and length. This set of lectures is a concise yet all encompassing overview of the whole subject. It's got enough depth to sink your teeth into, without beating over the head with too many example, and it moves from subject to subject at a pace that keeps things interesting. You'll definitely want breaks to process some of the information, as listening to 5-6 lectures straight might make your eyes glaze over. But overall, this is the best of the great courses, in my opinion.
The main character is great, the performance is great, the challenges that pile on, and the solutions that follow are clever and thought out, but this is mars! There's no sense of the place in the book. Part of it comes form the diary format of the book, there're just descriptions of what happened without any kind of immersion into the events. After the engrossing atmosphere of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy this book just feels like 'fun hi-jinks, wherever, who cares'.
Enjoyable, but almost instantly forgotten.
The large over-arching sci-fi concepts in this book are original, thought provoking, and generally interesting to ponder. Narration was solid.
The characters populating the book are simply not human. They over-react to relatively minor sleights with murder, hold grudges indefinitely, have absolute respect for authority so long as their not one of the 3 characters vying for it, and are completely nonplussed by 13 years of solitary confinement, and other mind blowing events. I spent a good portion of the book just wishing I could choke the stupid out of them. Also, there seemed to be a strange form of reverse sexism, where the power struggles happened exclusively between women, while the men were mostly just complete tools. A few plot holes that I had trouble ignoring.
Great premise. Decently captivating story. Frustrating characters and dialog. Reynolds should team up with a writer that can create compelling people to populate his otherwise very interesting universe.
The book tried to be genre hybrid between noir mystery and space opera, and failed at both genres. The two ideas worked against each other, with the mystery thread never picking up any steam because the sci-fi part stormed in; and the sci-fi section wasn't fleshed out to any satisfying level because too much time had to be spent on gum-shoe cliches. All of the action scenes were so cliche and predictable that they held absolutely zero tension, and the characters were nowhere near established or sympathetic enough to justify the melodrama.
There never seemed to be a clear antagonist. There was a bunch of random unpleasantness that killed of the dispensable characters, but there was never any real build up or show down. I just never got sucked in, or really cared much for the characters. There were a few good broad ideas in the book, like the concept that WWII never happening might have a great retarding effect on technological development, or the possible applications of nano-tech. But the ideas didn't feel fully worked out, the world didn't feel at all believable or alive. And the biggest sci-fi questions and their implications just got brushed under the carpet.
I guess all the french and german ones. Dude can do a solid foreign accent.
The basic founding concepts of the century rain universe are original and interesting. I just wish that they were explored in a better book.
I was completely captivated by this book. I typically listen at 2X naration speed while driving or doing menial tasks, 3X for really boring or light books like "The Lost Fleet" series by Jack Campbell, or "The Inheritance Cycle" by Chris Paolini. And at 2X, this book demanded my attention; I missed several highway exits and would find myself frozen in concentration over the sink with a dirty dish in my hand throughout.
This book is delightfully meaty. The writing has the same kind of witty character driven attitude and linguistic texture that Stephenson did so well with in Snow Crash. The story arcs are huge, and I got a real kick out of watching them intersect. The math description only added to the experience by making me feel more involved. The funny bits made me look like a chortling, head-phoned maniac in the grocery store. And the book just kept being great over the whole 40 plus hours. And then it just sort of ended. Poof. Done. Just as in Snow Crash. A bunch of questions left un-answered, a bundle of loose strings left untied. Basically a chapter's worth of closure and epilogue just went missing. So yeah... could have been better there at the end, but still entirely worth it. I don't regret a minute of it, just wish Stephenson could have pushed his publishing deadline back a bit or something and really wrapped this baby up.
I might give Greg Bear another shot someday, but I would definitely not pay for it. Stephen Bel Davies did a decent enough job.
He could've cut out the tons of superfluous point-of-view characters that were only there to fluff things out, and make the story seem more widespread. They rarely added anything to the story, and their undeserved melodrama just dragged things out and muddled things. "Oh look, here's another person that has no idea about what is going on, and is struggling with their emotions."
The first two acts of the book are a complete waste of time. Incomprehensible aliens mess with humanity's heads for no reason, while the central protagonists heads up a presidential task force that travels all over the world, discovering absolutely nothing.
There are perhaps two interesting ideas in the book, buried under acres of contrived angst. There is no story arc. No character development. Some decent speculation on how one can blow up the earth, and what that might look like. And hours of boredom.
The one where nothing happened, and people were angsty and uncertain about it. Then something semi interesting popped up, and the story suddenly cutaway to another boring character before you could be entertained.
Disappointment. I thought Bear would be better.
Save yourself the trouble and read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia instead. You'll get just as much out of it with out wasting hours of your life.
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