First off, this was a good book, but I think one that I would have appreciated a lot more if I'd read it rather than listened to it. A lot of the latter part of the book contains words that Lem created and being able to see the words spelled out on the page and thus analyse them for the implied (and probably sarcastic) etymology would have added to the fun.
It did take me a little while to get into the mood for this book, the sarcasm is not so much tongue-in-cheek as tongue-through-cheek, it's not subtle. That said, once the introductions were complete and the main plot kicked in I enjoyed the story and the humour.
The story is told first-person, transitioning to a chunked diary-style format for the last third of the book and there were moments where I felt presages of the book Fiasco in the tone and style of the story-telling.
I want to stress that I had no issues with this particular recording, I thought it was well narrated by Mr Marantz and was free of distractions (music, chapter breaks, etc), I just think that the content would be better appreciated with a bit more time to linger on the words and a better idea of how things were spelled.
Another Long X book that I felt duty-bound to read (don't start a series you don't intend to finish). I was disappointed to discover that apparently the trilogy became a pentalogy somewhere along the way so there are another two (primarily Baxter?) books coming after this.
I felt that Long Mars suffered from the same problems that the Long War did: a lack of point and bizarre whitewashing of major plot points in favour of endless minutiae. Some things of interest happen, but really the whole book felt like a bunch of somewhat related short stories that had been pinned together with haphazard cameos from stars of the previous books.
I wouldn't read this again and I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone else.
Myth Conceptions picks up just after where "Another Fine Myth" left off, with Skeev, Aahz and Gleep looking for whatever comes next after dealing with Isstvan. In fairly short order they find themselves embroiled in court drama and military shenanigans.
The story is told with the same style and level of humour as "Another Fine Myth" (the main thing that there is to enjoy about this book) and is pretty similar in plot come to that. I know that these books are meant to be light comic relief (well, I think they are) and I was really enjoying this one until about four-fifths of the way through when apparently Mr Asprin said "Meh, whatever, I'm done with this one", which really soured me on the whole thing. The last chapter is a pretty obvious lead-in for "Myth Directions"...and despite my experience with this book, I'm going to read that one too because there really is a lot of fun to be had with these stories!
Noah Michael Levine once again did a bang up job of voicing this odd collection of characters.
I'm really torn between three and four stars for this one. It continues the story of Arkady Renko and I can't say too much about it without spoiling the ending of Gorky Park (take note that Polar Star begins with a brief review of everything that happened in Gorky Park so you really should read it first if you care about such things).
My initial thought when it came to reviewing was that this is exactly the opposite of the cozy mystery genre. There's nothing cozy about a factory ship in the Bering Sea and the assorted mayhem and murder that surrounds Renko is described in intricately lurid detail. The mystery element is extremely well done. It put me in mind of the way that Agatha Christie writes, there are wee clues spread hither and yon and it keeps you guessing with assorted red herrings and sub-plots right up to the reveal. Even after who killed whom is determined, the thriller side of the plot keeps on kicking through to the bitter end!
Additionally, Mr Cruz has captured well the Russian style and mindset (as best I can tell from my reading of translated works anyway) and occasionally throws some beautifully worded similes out, I think my favourite was "Slava and his sax leaned into 'Dark Eyes', extracting amber from sap."
I'll definitely be following up on Mr Renko in Red Square.
This book was expertly narrated by Frank Muller, and had no issues whatsoever.
This book ponders some of the interesting new solutions and problems that nanotechnology may bring us. There's a kernel of a good escapist (as opposed to hard sci-fi) story here, starting with the get-you-hooked first chapter from the Moon Base perspective and then branching into three different locales (two Earth-based and the moon) with a few different characters that are iterated through for the rest of the story. There are a couple of sub-stories that are wound in with the overall plot that don't really add anything to the story and there's a somewhat bizarre twist to one of the main characters that actively detracts from the story.
The general shape of the plot was good, and the characters are somewhat interesting but every now and then there was a statement that blatantly contradicted information from earlier in the book, on one occasion earlier in the sentence. The characters too suffer from this problem and (relatively infrequently, to be fair) make completely out of character statements or decisions that brought me to a jarring stop while I tried to do the mental gymnastics to assimilate whatever just happened into my understanding of the people and their world. I don't want to give any specific example because they're rather spoilery, which is the annoying thing as these out-of-character moments often involved rather major plot points.
The narration by Jim Meskimen was, frankly, poor. It's read with almost no feeling whatsoever and I found it to be slow and bland (I actually started listening on 1.5 speed about five chapters in because it was driving me crazy) and there are frequent changes in audio quality where pieces have been re-recorded for some reason. Mr Meskimen does manage to individually voice the characters but he frequently runs these individual voices into sentences following speech from a character, even if it's nothing related to that characters internal dialog.
This is an OK escapist thriller movie in book form and ultimately there was too much about this book that annoyed me to let me really enjoy it.
I think I'm going to have to go back and read this one with my eyeballs rather than my ears. It's a lot easier to stop and mull things over when you're reading, as opposed to listening, and there were quite a few times that I felt I was rushed through the moment by the audio. Also, the first "flashback" (for want of a better term) was rather jarring and I spent a few minutes trying to work out if there had been some malfunction with the audio player/file.
Medium aside, this was a very interesting book on several levels. It's the story of a man (Shevek) from the anarchist planet of Anarres and follows his early and middle years (in an interleaved fashion) describing life on both Anarres and, to some extent, the nearby Urras - both planets of the star Tau Ceti. There's a relatively objective view of both the vast anarchistic commune that is Anarres as well as the major capitalist/socialist countries (in what appears to be a rather blatant mirroring of Earth). The story includes plenty of the nitty-gritty details of running Anarres by the generally pacifist-anarchists, and how humans are generally likely to mess up a "perfect" political situation with their inevitable desire for personal power. Overlaid is Shevek's tale, usually told from his perspective and, since he's a physicist, he often brings a very clinical logic to bear on his everyday life that leads to a number of thought-provoking insights.
Story aside, the writing was extremely enjoyable, if not beautiful. It felt a little wordy at times, like it needed one more round of culling to make it perfect.
The version I listened to was beautifully read by Don Leslie and had no annoying audio additions to get in the way of the book.
I don't know about this one. It was in my "To Read" pile and I didn't even glance at what it was about before I started it. I was expecting science-fiction and was somewhat surprised when extrasensory perception appeared very early on in the story, followed closely by a bunch of machine-augmented telekinesis. There wasn't a great deal of explanation about how this all worked (although it started out in a promising vein with the description of the "Goose Egg" device used to detect "talent", as these powers are called, and mark out the owners for further training) but not much more is said of the technology beyond the occasional nod in its direction when talking about the requirement for The Towers in order to allow the Prime talents to do their thing.
I felt that this book could be split into two-pieces, the good piece, and the bad piece. The good piece is the first part. From a general reading perspective the authors abilities to craft an interesting story with solid, believable and interesting characters in an interesting and well described environment are on show but about half-way through the book (where the bad piece starts) things get a little crazy, almost like the author had had enough of writing this book and just wanted everything to come together and end. Specifically I felt that it suffered from at least three major flaws (four if you count the issues I had with the audio since I listened to this one):
Caution: Potential Minor Spoilers Below
1) The Rowan starts out as a pretty strong character until, about half-way through the book, she just suddenly turns into a doormat for the main male protagonist when the "love at first sight" meeting occurs. I found myself trying to rationalise this as being due to the fact that it was a completely open, mind-to-mind meeting of the two, subsequent to which both parties were intimately aware of the smallest nuance of the other. That said, the literally instant shift into calling each other "darling" and "my love" and acting like long-lost-lovers was jarring in the extreme. This just seemed like a massive break from the character established up to that point in the book.
2) The rape scene. OK, that's an exaggeration but the scene where Raven forcibly "helps" The Rowan to discover what's behind the mental block about her childhood trauma put me greatly in mind of the rape scene from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. It was quite a jolt to read.
3) The end. Wow, what a disappointment. There was minimal buildup and then the whole thing was done with in a paragraph or two. I'm not sure if the titular Hive is what is being battled at the end or if this is just a setup for the other books in the trilogy where the rest of the Hive is fleshed out and explained/dealt with but the ending felt incredibly rushed and like a cop-out on the rest of the story.
4) I listened to the audio version of the book from Brilliance Audio read by Jean Reed Bahle and had two major issues with it. The first was that Ms Bahle has the incredible ability to sound exactly like a synthesised voice, it was truly astonishing the number of times I did a double-take when she managed to get an uncannily similar intonation to a Speak 'n Spell. The other problem was the special effects that the production team laid on for the mental conversations. Looking at the Kindle preview of the book it would appear that communication that happened via telepathy rather than speech is italicised and this emphasis is translated into a rather annoying echo effect on the audio version. To be fair, I'm not sure what else they could have done to provide contrast but from my perspective if was easy enough to determine what was speech and what was telepathy merely from context.
Overall, meh, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone and I'm not going to read the rest of the trilogy.
I made it to the "end" of the Lost Fleet series!
This book covers the conclusion of the Syndic/Alliance war and, of course, the beginning of the Enigmatic War. The story here, particularly the first half, shows the flashes of brilliance that kept me coming back over the course of six books. There are some great moments as the fleet returns to grapple with the Syndics and a plot twist that I genuinely didn't see coming, but once that little story arc comes to a close it kind of feels like the rest of the book was dedicated to wrapping everything up in a neat parcel despite that fact that it lays the groundwork for Dreadnaught and the rest of the Beyond the Frontier series.
I think that Mr Campbell's best work with regard to this series' characters is in this book. The Rione/Desjani adolescent sniping goes away and both characters manage to do some reasonably interesting evolving (although the love story really takes a hard turn into some rather trite dialogue - at least we don't have to deal with any more explanations regarding the impossibility of Geary and Desjani talk lest their respective honours be forever tarnished).
Overall, Victorious was OK. Not a glowing endorsement exactly but there you go. I'll not be carrying on with the next two series because, honestly, I just don't care about the characters at all. The Lost Fleet story was just "OK", it wasn't compelling. I think it could have been in two or three books rather than the six it ended up in.
With regard to the audio quality: Mr Rummel finishes up nicely, no-one's voice changes over the course of the series and he does an admirable job of differentiating the various characters (although Lieutenant Iger still grates). The only weirdness was the beginning of Chapter 7 when there's a musical interlude and the "Audible Frontiers" intro plays.
I admit, I was anticipating some "relentless" puns as part of this review but over the course of Valiant and Relentless the story has taken a dramatic turn for the better. I still have my quibbles but at least we're not recycling the same story over and over again like the first three books.
I'm still feeling that this series would have been a lot better off as maybe a duology/trilogy because a lot of time and effort goes into recaps and a lot of scenes feel forced as explanations are replayed for the umpteenth time (when chapter two kicked off yet another marveling rendition of the conference room technology I think I may have audibly sighed). Same deal with things that should just be extra descriptive detail on the characters, in chapter four there's a scene where "Geary never expected to be able to joke about his past being so long ago" which is fine, except he also felt that late in book four too.
I'm still not thrilled about the technology and effort that's gone into explaining it, the path toward technobabble that was tentatively blazed by Valiant's "self-sustaining probability modulation on a quantum scale" has not been followed thankfully but I'd still like to know more about the shielding and inertial dampening, the Hypernet gates too actually although that's obviously less likely to be possible!
I don't think a lot more is going on with characters here either, right up front in chapter one there's an abruptly personal argument between Geary and Desjani that I guess was borne of events from Valiant...somehow, it really didn't gel with the closing chapters of Valiant and the conclusions that those two came to. Rione and Desjani are still refusing to talk to each other, which really is quite annoying.
All in all, it's a story with a set of familiar characters that (perhaps a little too neatly) ties up all the previous sub-plots bar one, which I assume will be the focus of Victorious. I'm looking forward to finishing that book, at which point I'm going to declare myself done - regardless of how it ends. If you enjoyed all the previous books, you'll definitely enjoy this one, and the inverse also applies.
The story continues...actually, this could almost literally be the same book as Dauntless, it's the same basic plot, leading up to a similar set piece "finale" closing out with a teaser for the subsequent book. The minimal differences come from a new physical location and a slightly stronger threat to Geary from inside the fleet. The major characters reveal slightly more detail with regard to their history but don't develop beyond the boundaries reached in Dauntless. The baddies remain nearly irredeemably bad (to be fair, there are efforts to explain the motivations of the main antagonist) and the goodies continue to lead the charge for universal truth, justice and liberty.
Unfortunately this book continued to strain credulity. There's some really tenuous connect-the-dots going on in the lurking sub-plot. The 100-year war that has managed to pound all traces of intelligence out of the Fleet through raw attrition seemed a harsh juxtaposition against the (SPOILER ALERT: SLIGHT SPOILER IN THIS SENTENCE) sudden discovery of a literal physics genius commanding one of the fleet ships (YOU'RE GOOD TO KEEP READING FROM HERE) and the changes wrought on the fleet by Captain Geary continues to strike me as things that would obvious to even the dullest of people that were still trusted enough to be given charge of what would have to be a very, very expensive piece of equipment (not to mention the numerous lives entrusted to their care).
I'm still reading because the naval theory seems sound (to my civilian mind anyway) and I enjoy that kind of thing. After completing book two I have quite a strong feeling that I know how book three is going to play out and I can't help but feel that this six volume series could probably have been edited down into a more palatable trilogy. But, I've started and I really hate not finishing things so I'm going to push on!
This is the first of the four books that I actively enjoyed (bits of) so far! The template that books one through three followed almost slavishly has been at least partly done away with and the sub-plots are doing interesting things at last!
The good things from the previous books carry through like the actions between opposing fleets, although the final battle of the book left even me wondering if the maneuvering descriptions could have been slightly more, well, descriptive and slightly less a list of exactly what commands Geary gave (especially since one of the earlier books goes to great pains to point out that the commands could never be issued verbally to the other ship captains for execution due to requirements for speed of transmission and execution). Additionally, some of the major characters start acting far more like humans and have ranges of emotion.
On the down side: Rione's relationship with Geary goes into an unbelievable super-bipolar mode almost immediately (around chapter 3) and I found the characterisation of both Rione and Desjani throughout the book quite disappointing (I simply can not believe that the character Rione was depicted as through the previous three books would buy into the petty sniping and bickering that is attributed to her) and actively detracted from the overall plot.
I was interested to discover the introduction to Lost Fleet: Relentless where Campbell/Hemry talks about REQUIREMENTS from his publishers with regard to word count. I'm beginning to wonder if my reviews of the previous books misplace the blame on the author for stretching out the story and instead I should be getting upset with the publishers for enforcing arbitrary word limits. I stand by my earlier assessment that books one through three (and probably four) could easily have been combined into one volume.
Report Inappropriate Content