Another great classic Vonnegut. Not as strong as 'Breakfast' but plenty good. A few of the vignettes are really striking, particularly the lady Hoosier. I'll remember that one always.
The narration is fine, in a classic style that suits the books very well.
At several points in the book, for some reason, the producer chose to include a musical break of bouncy, weird, pseudo-tropical music...it's bizarre beyond description and really inappropriate, and for that reason I think Vonnegut would have approved completely. So roll with it. Recommended.
Basic mistakes ruin 3 classic pulpy golden age stories. Audible...seriously...wtf? These are 4th grade vocabulary words. Rizzo can't pronounce them. Statements are read as questions...I doubt he 'got' the plots.
I'm going to be devastated when The Expanse finally ends. Until then, it's great. This is probably the best popular sci-fi series going right now. These two authors manage to avoid the bloat and weirdness that seems to affect every other big series.
It's not perfect. Amos is stripped down to a cliche in this one, and there's shades of Stephen King in the oft-repeated 'it reaches out' mantra. These are not, however big problems. I love it.
The narration is, well, not so good. Eric Davies has a pleasant voice, but I think the great chorus of criticism heaped on this performance (well deserved criticism) points out a truism - The fans of this series, like the fans of any audiobooks and really a good portion of all entertainment media, are much more invested in this audiobook than the people who produce it.
Imagine if you had to produce an audio performance of a 600 page book you didn't particularly like or understand. Your work would probably turn out a lot like this. You'd fail to take even the most basic notes from previous performances in the series, including the nationality of major characters. You'd fail to check pronunciations of all sorts of words and butcher them. You'd forget your conventions of character name pronunciation between sessions, and not notice. You'd either fail to notice any of this during edit or just decide there wasn't enough time or budget to fix any of it.
This is what audiobooks are like. It's an imperfect world.
So, first off, Oliver Wyman does a fine job with all the characters save two. The teenage boy, Wan, is said in the text to have a high, annoying voice, and when Wyman doe this, he sounds *exactly* like Dean from the Venture Brothers. The 'Oldest One' robot is apparently imagined here as having a deep, sepulchral voice, but the best Oliver can manage is sleepy-sounding. Otherwise, the performance is fine.
The story is utterly disappointing, and more than a little confusing. Where did the sleep guns come from? Why did we spend so much time on the 'squint' character, if she didn't turn out to be the 'Oldest One' after all? Did Peter go into the dream couch as he was dying on purpose? Why? Why did Henrietta happen to spout a critical plot point that no one knew was important at the time when they talked to her? What was the 'Oldest One's' big plan anyway? If the Heechee took some proto-human hominids from Africa a few million years ago and put them on Heechee heaven and subjected them to an intelligence-seeking breeding program, why are they so far behind naturally-evolved humans in the book? Why is it obvious to every reader that the old ones are human ancestors, but no one in the book realizes that for chapters and chapters?
In the end, it's a big mess that ends with an un-dramatic thud as the only villain is killed with one lucky shot and everyone goes back home. Then follows almost an hour of exposition by the most-boring-est character as he drones on explaining everything the author didn't bother to include in the actual plot and setting it up for a sequel in a completely desultory way. No thanks.
This book is told in flashback during psychotherapy of the protagonist. It includes a few hours of banter between the patient and the AI therapist program to flesh out that aspect of the story. I found this to be a unique and unexpected way to move a narrative along, and I enjoyed it. Pohl does a fine job. It's not the best Sci-Fi book ever, but in a world of horrible ones it is a solid, enjoyable entry, with a memorable main character.
I know that not every book can justify a top-level, expensive narrator...but someone should have been listening to these performances and making corrections. Sci-Fi is often about technical terms and spacey-sounding names. When the narrators don't have a clue it's embarrassing and off-putting. If you don't recognize a word, people, ask. If it doesn't appear to be English, it probably isn't. At least strive to pronounce the *title* correctly. Sheesh. Short words in all caps are often acronyms. EVA isn't a woman's name in a space story. Try, really try, to determine which character is saying which line of dialogue before applying one of your oh-so-crafty character voices to them. Please.
Anyway...this is a book of solid, enjoyable sci-fi stories, most of which are narrated well, and a few of which are narrated so horribly that they are all I remember from the experience.
Vonnegut, I think, is required reading to understand the 20th century. These are accessible short stories. For the thoughtful reader, they will engender deep thoughts on morality and the value of patriotism. I don't always agree with Vonnegut, but I always enjoy him.
I think the best plots come from simple questions you can discern from reading the book. Like 'Spin' obviously came from asking 'What if all the stars went out?' A great novel resulted.
This one obviously came from asking 'What if all the useless cultural crap we carry around in our heads was the most important information we could have?' A fantastic novel has resulted.
The performance is almost perfect, except for some cringe-worthy mis-pronunciations. Is it REALLY that hard to have someone outside the booth to listen for that?
An easy 5 stars for me.
A bit monotonous...but that's the point of being marooned on Mars, right? A nice, fresh take on narration too. I liked it a lot. Recommended.
It's so hard to find a really good Space Opera. This is one. A really cracking good one. No, it's not absolutely perfect, but it's close. Good characters with human flaws. Good challenge. Good action.
Also a stellar performance for an American audience.
If, like me, you are looking for Space Operas that aren't boring slogs, try this one.
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