Red Mars (and The Mars Trilogy in general) asks big questions: How can we start over and recreate society, taking out the bad stuff and saving the good stuff? Can we escape history and remake ourselves into something that overcomes oppression of women, slavery, racism, greed, militarism, environmental destructiveness? Can we turn our society into a means for giving every member of that society a chance to achieve his or her own potential? These are big questions; they can't be answered with bumper sticker slogans. It takes a lot of detail and careful, thoughtful discussion to address them. So while a lot happens in this series, it isn't Star Trek. Problems aren't easily resolved. Situations are never black and white. The characters change, grow, and even forget how they got to the present.
For readers who like a lot of meat to chew over, these books are probably among the greatest written in the 20th century - obsessively researched, thickly layered with meaning and analysis; the whole series is something that you can listen to time and again, and hear something different every time. The characters are archetypes; even their names express who they are - but they are also real people, with real emotions, amazingly and skillfully brought to life. The issues discussed are both a comment on the present (and history) and, in the best tradition of science fiction, an analysis of future possibilities. I can't recommend the entire series more highly for the reader who enjoys this sort of thing. But be forewarned - there are bad reviews here, and I'm guessing they are from people who were looking for something different - lots of plot and action, perhaps a little less analysis. I enjoy those books too, so I'm not saying that as a criticism of those who didn't find this to their liking. I'm just saying that there are plenty of other books that fill this role. The Mars Trilogy is something else entirely.
First of all the plot contains absolutely no surprises, and if you've ever read a Jodi Picoult novel, you know in advance how it's going to turn out. That's OK! In fact, it's what makes the book so remarkable; the writer takes what looks like a formulaic plot about romance between teenagers with cancer, and turns it into brilliant commentary about the struggle we all face with the knowledge of our eventual oblivion and a universe that is utterly indifferent to our concerns about what's going to happen after we are gone.
There is an interview with the writer at the end, and I don't think I am giving anything away when I mention that it took him years to write this novel. The time, care and attention really show. I applaud writers like this who respect their teenage audience enough to give them quality work. Well done.
The performance is worthy of this book. The narrator brings every character to life, and she gives just the right voice to the narrator, the teenage girl who is always struggling to breathe. Hearing her talk, you can almost forget that you are listening to a story but can believe that you are in the same room with her, hanging on her every word.
This book would be your typical suspense beach read, except that two things make it stand out from the crowd. One is that the writer really knows his airplanes and piloting and brings an uncommon air of authenticity to what could otherwise be an ordinary story. The other thing is that he has paid attention to current Washington politics and underlying the entire plot is good biting political commentary that rings as true as his knowledge about the world of aviation. His characters are a bit flat but I could forgive him that since suspense novels are often so plot-driven.
What I really question is the choice of narrator. I had to go back and check to confirm that it wasn't Rip Torn who was reading this - well, not Rip Torn exactly but the character he played on The Larry Sanders Show. Imagine him after a bottle or two of Scotch and you've got the idea of how the narrator sounds. He has two voices that he does for character speech. One is a drunken Rip Torn after three bottles of Scotch and maybe a couple of packs of smokes. The other is Lenny from the Simpsons, and he doesn't sound drunk at all when he is doing those characters.
The story was interesting enough that I stuck with it to the end, slurred narration and all, and I gave the performance two stars because I do like Rip Torn, after all.
Simon Prebble is the perfect narrator for Quicksilver, and he does his usual admirable job of bringing all the characters to life. If, like me, you were a bit hesitant to embark on this series because of its sheer size, I can say that editing this into the five books as they have done here is a vast improvement over the original published three book version. As good as they were, and as entertaining as Neal Stephenson is, this edition is simply easier to follow because the reader isn't being constantly pulled back and forth between the stories of Jack and Daniel, which aren't related to each other in this part of the story. If you are a Neal Stephenson fan - or a Simon Prebble fan - this is one not to miss!
This is a fun, light story of romance between geeks, with plot complications caused by bureaucratic stumbling blocks.
Entertaining characters and situations interspersed with interesting details about fads in history. - just the thing if you are feel like a happier-ever-after story that doesn't insult your intelligence.
Sometimes classic science fiction is fun just for what it reveals about the time it was written in. You have to put up with the sexism/racism and the total lack of perception that society would ever evolve no matter how many new gadgets were invented or how many new worlds discovered, but it can still be entertaining enough as a trip back through time.
Not this. There is nothing that makes up for the predictability of the story and the idiocy of the main character. I recommend that instead of wasting your time with this, you go straight for Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon, which is what this story was more or less lifted from.
The narrator did his best with the material he had to work with, and gave the self-absorbed dunderhead of a protagonist a nice metrosexual little twist.
This is an interesting topic read by a skilled lecturer. No bad stuff happens in it - you won't cry, although you might laugh - and you can forget about politics and global warming and warfare for awhile - and just learn about something that evolves naturally - language. Each lecture is 15 minutes long, so there are no great demands on your time if you can only listen in bits and pieces. Well worth the credit.
Quite often we encounter in reviews the opinion that writers are not skilled enough to narrate their own work. If that is true, here is the exception that proves the rule! If Steven King had not been a best selling author, he surely could have done this for a living. What a treat to hear him give voices to the various characters he reads for in the writing lesson portion of this work. It surely would have been acceptable for him to read them in his own voice, but he goes the extra mile.
Witty, self-effacing, not afraid to reveal even the most embarrassing episodes from his youth, he has created a book on writing that is also the story of his own journey to becoming a writer, as interesting as any autobiography out there. He also offers a lot of good advice to would-be writers, useful stuff whether you are actually an aspiring novelist or just have to do routine writing for work.
I think it's one of his best books, and I will listen to it multiple times.
Each one of these little stories has some theme or reverberation from one of KSR's longer works, and like those longer works, contain a lot of food for thought and a depth that means you can listen again and again and find something different each time.
I bought this just for the "Escape from Kathmandu" portion, and it is wonderful to hear it read by such a skillful narrator. The full book of four stories is KSR's funniest work, and ought to be an Audible book all on its own. However, all the stories are such little gems, and read with such feeling for the work that now I can't decide which one I like the best.
This narrator is my favorite of those KSR books I have listened to so far. I wish that Audible would get him to re-do the Climate in the Capital series, which is such a timely work, and would be well worth doing with a narrator who does justice to the emotional feel and depth of the work.
I believe I downloaded this book and its companion, The Winds of War, from a Audible list called "Magnum Opus" or something of that sort. It was no lie. These two books are among the best Audible has to offer.
Herman Wouk must have decided to write his own, American, version of War and Peace, and while not many writers could compete with Tolstoy, he had the chops to pull it off. The novels, simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring, have everything a reader (or listener) could wish for: historical research, character development, plotting, great themes.
Audible chose wisely in getting Kevin Pariseau to narrate these two books. He not only had to be able to pronounce bits of language and place names from locations around the globe, but also to sing songs representing a variety of cultures. Who can do that? Kevin Pariseau can! There are too many examples of his brilliance to list, so I'll limit myself to just one: I'm thinking of a section in which he had to sing an old song from the twenties as one of the characters reflected on the happier days of her marriage - and somehow he managed to give it the scratchy shaky feel of an old 20s record.
By any measure, these two books and the Audible productions of them are outstanding.
This is a book that has the word "soul" in the title and might seem to have an underlying religious theme. It's not really a book just for religious people, and I say that even though the final chapter discusses god. Actually the book is more of a discussion on the nature of consciousness, and how if you understand a little bit about how consciousness works (even though none of us really know what it is), you can allow yourself the freedom to live mindfully and step back from the things in life that trouble you. The book contains very good advice, and the instructions are explained simply so that they are relatively easy to follow. Nevertheless, being mindful is a difficult thing to do and requires practice. This is one of those books in which you get more value from it being short and direct; you can listen to it again and again, and at the very least maintain the goal of working towards living mindfully.
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