I loved the way it challenges each and every one of your notions about how a society "should" be. That's the best part. How Diamond stops you of taking anything for granted and shows the wide variety of lifestyles people have made over centuries. It's a really refreshing view, and it tickles my inner ideas that there is no one "correct" way to live your life.
Storywise, the book is a bit scattered. It works more like a list of different aspects of society like child rearing, justice, food supplies and so on and then explains all the different ways small-scale societies have dealt with them in sharp contrast to how modern western societies have dealt with them. It took me a while to finish the book given how I could basically pick any point in it and start reading, so continuity is not a big deal within it. Nonetheless, the content of each chapter is really good.
It made me awe most of all when I heard about some custom or specific view by a small society about an aspect of life that I had never thought about. The emotions that goes through you are mostly fascination, curiosity and interest. Specially for a city-rat as myself who knows little of the way humans have figured out how to make a living.
One important adverse reaction is flinching when Diamond describes some of the ugliest and most horrifying practices by some societies, which not only destroy any possible romanticism you may have for low-technology living, but also makes you feel grateful people have a bigger chance to choose how to live now than in the present.
The narrator is great. He's completely fearless in his reading, which is surprising considering how many topics in the book are hard to listen to given their shock and cruelty in some cases, so I can only imagine what it was for him to read them out loud. Kudos for his bravery in pronunciation of New Guinea words and places.
I would like to think I've read my share of coming of out stories, but this one was a real home run. Holland's story, and most especially the chapter when her mother learns her about her orientation were tear-jerking intense. This book was a true eye opener, it has changed my whole perception and approach about this topic overnight. I'm really, really glad I found it. To start listening to a story with a set of expectations and ideas, and six hours later end up with a completely different set of ideas, that's what writing is all about. Bravo.
I put a four stars performance for the sole reason that Levin's interpretation of Holland's mother was a bit underpowered. Especially during that scene at the house which left me in tears (you know which one). Should have Levin practiced or perhaps intoned differently that character it would have made a world of difference. Nonetheless, its a minor complain which doesn't undermines the experience.
Excellent book, great listening, couldn't recommend it more.
This is one of the few stories available out there which touches the topic of Embryo Colonization to other stars, and it does a remarkable job in exploring the possible social consequences of this approach and the unique way in which the new colonizers would be free and clean of any Earthling influence or any of their emotional baggage. This idea has always intrigued me, and Hogan's book was a delightful discovery. His writing is unique, precise and catching. I don't know how, but he has a way of perfectly explaining the small gestures and moods of people as they talk and interact. His writing style is so good, that I found myself wondering why did this man wrote science fiction at all. It's almost too good to be true.
Hogan has also a thing for prediction. I had to remind myself many times throughout the book that this was written in 1982. The author must have had some kind of crystal ball to peer into the future, because he just knew what kind of technologies would be important and which ones would be not in the days to come. People in his book talk greatly and ominously about fusion reactors, interstellar spaceships and artificial intelligence, as we do today, and yet they regard as mundane things like touch screens, the internet, hacking and video surveillance, as we also do today.
Much can be said about his "predictions" of what would happen if you raised a society free from historical baggage and submerged it in material abundance. I will agree with many that his ideas ring many times as naive or short-sighted. The Chironian society in the book seems to rely heavily on keeping a mono-culture and a post-scarcity economy, both of which are possible human achievement yes, but perhaps they just sound "too good" to be true to be able to be swallowed so easily by the reader, or without skepticism.
Nonetheless, the "eeriness" feeling from Hogan's technological predictions repeats itself as he describes how the Chironian meritocracy works. I couldn't help but thinking about Kickstarter and the digital economy as he related how money and politics became obsolete in Chiron's unique situation. The thought that Hogan may really be into something lurks on you as you go along, and while I doubt he will convince anyone that this is the way the world will be, I'm also sure he didn't convinced anyone that in the future people would have handheld computers and not think too much about em.
Special mention should be made about Ed's French narration, which was mind-blowing perfect for most of the characters in the book. His ominous accent and low pitch makes this story to feel just right. Bravo Mr. French! You raised this book to new levels with such great narration!
I found out about this book via the trailer for the upcoming movie of "Almost Home". And now I'm glad the movie hasn't gotten out yet, because I find it hard to believe Pixar would be as daring in their plot as this book.
What I found most striking was the combination of humor and tragedy that surrounds Tip's recollection of the post-invasion Earth. Her commentaries about the abandoned country she and J-Lo transverse are pure writing genius. I found myself wondering if the author has done zombie apocalypse books before.
The story revolves and thrives thanks to Tip and her unique personality. This really is an amazing character that will enchant you after just two pages of dialogue.
Perhaps my only complain are some inconsistencies regarding the technology that the aliens use, especially the teleporting technology and the "feedback loop" which J-Lo exploits so frequently. I know, I know, this is not hard sci-fi. Call me stiff all you want, I still think conservation of matter is important to take into consideration regardless of your sci-fi hardness.
And that really is my only possible argument against this book. In all other aspects, this was quite an unforgettable ride.
Special kudos should be added to the outstanding performance by Turpin. I was afraid at first that I wouldn't get used to the sheepish tone of voice of the aliens, but my concerns dissipated very soon and in fact, the awkward way in which they talk added an extra layer of humor to the story. Well done!
Around half-way into the book it started to dawn on me that this wasn't really my thing. I could see how "Tribes" would be a very useful book for someone in management, or someone who wants to lead a group of people, or organize any sort of activity which
requires the collaboration between a number of individuals.
But then again, that's not me, and I dread the idea of having people under my responsibility, so I pretty much dragged on with the book hoping to find some insights into different topics, or perhaps I just wanted to learn more about the people who are above me in the chain of command.
Either way, the experience of listening to this book felt... unnecessary. To me that is. I want to emphasize that. I felt inside a leadership-seminar I attended by accident; a conversation with a highly energetic friend who is telling me all his tips to get "shit done"; listening to a course by an expert in a topic I barely think about (or care about I must admit). You get my drift.
So perhaps the best recommendation I could do about this audiobook is for you to read some reviews and try to decide whether or not you're invested in the topic of people-management. If you are, then I can recommend this to you. If you're not, then I would recommend other titles in the audible library.
I found this book to be really a matter of discovery. Discovery of a world of the deaf which lays hidden for most people. Sacks does a great job describing their culture, their language, their friction with a hearing society and the sometimes superhuman skills they acquire without sound.
A great experience on what is like to be human and experience the world in a way most of us never will. Davis' performance is excellent, and the foreword and afterword by Sacks himself is greatly welcomed.
I highly recommend it to anyone as a juicy first-taste into a much bigger topic.
One word: Hitchen-licious
A mere minute into the audiobook, you can already tell what you're getting in with this. Because of that, I found the book to be neither a great failure nor a great success. Rather, I felt it as just Hitchens being Hitchens, in all his witty-commentaries, thought-provoking ideas, and his sometimes repetitive arguments. James Adams does a great job narrating this book, he even injects the same cockiness of Hitchens' peculiar way of expressing himself into the narration, a welcomed feature that quickly makes you forget it is not Hitchens himself who is speaking to you.
However, what I realize is that I've grown to think of Hitchens as a sort of chocolate flavor. Great, enjoyable, smooth on the tongue, but highly predictable. Make no mistake, he doesn't wastes one's time, as chocolate also doesn't wastes one's time. But I found the book to be more of a reminder than a discovery, more of a visit to the familiar contrarian lands of my early teens than an exciting adventure to unknown lands. More chocolate than strawberry/pistachio, more spaghetti than focaccia. You get my drift.
So in conclusion, I do recommend it, but perhaps I would recommend it more to those who haven't read or heard a thing about Hitchens before. I have the feeling this would be a good introduction to this fascinating character of contrarian history.
I found Redshirts to be two books in one, divided roughly in the middle. The first part being about the cliché-packed adventures of the Intrepid and the horrible (yet many times hilarious) ways in which their redshirt crew is mauled constantly by increasingly ridiculous aliens and bad luck. This first segment, which follows Andy Dahl and his group of friends, is fun, engaging, and it really makes you feel nerve-wrecking tension for finding out whether or not Andy and pals will survive their next Away Mission. I found the sub-culture that forms around the Redshirts and their ingrained superstitions to help them survive for another day to be really compelling, a topic which I think can be successfully applied as well to the henchmen of a James Bond supervillain or similar groups of extras that are routinely killed on-screen just to raise the stakes for the audience. It is interesting to imagine what kind of superstitions and methods of survival these hoards of "bad guys" would develop over time. Perhaps an idea for a future novel Mr. Scalzi?
Also in this segment, a most special mention should be made for Wheaton's narration, and also most especially, his hilarious performance when he reads the drunk dialogue of a wasted Kerensky who sort of "oozes" all over a highly uncomfortable Andy Dahl on a bar's couch. ANY previous complains I had on Wil Wheaton's narration skills dissipated after that scene. Bravo!
However, all the fun, terror and nerve-wrecking action in this first half of the book quickly morphs into a philosophical meta-commentary of the storytelling industry and the difficult relationship between author and character once Dahl and Co. break the fourth wall and discover that the hazards they face on the Intrepid are anything but accidental. I felt that after this point, the tone of the book changes completely, and while the humor remains and the story stays equally engaging and thought-provoking (even tear-dropping I must say, at the end especially), I couldn't help but feel as if I had been unexpectedly betrayed and someone had swapped my book for someone else's. The new book I was reading was good, no doubt about that, but it left me wondering what had happened with the events and characters I had been following for whole first half. And even when we eventually returned to them, the Intrepid felt alien and fake by then after having spend a good section completely isolated from that narrative.
Still, I must admit Scalzi does a good job transitioning between these parts, and I should also admit that I found enough clues on the beginning of the book to be able to guess this is where the story was taking me.
However, I remember speculating constantly as I enjoyed the first part of the book on what was the ultimate cause for the unfair death toll on redshirts that Dahl and Co. were also trying to discover along me. I even imagined a long list of things that could be the cause, like some sort of conspiracy between the captain and the higher officers where they had agreed on having "fun" in their adventures on the expense of the crew, a sort of "Hostal" concept. Or perhaps, this was caused by a Larry-Niven-kind of genetic factor which had caused the captain and officers to be unusually lucky, allowing them to survive any adventures the rest of the crew couldn't. I even remember getting excited about this possibility. Imagine that! I thought. Perhaps you could even understand star trek or similar space adventures with the explanation that the cast of main characters was a statistical fluke, a group of humans that had the luck of being in the right place at the right time and had the universe on their side for a limited amount of time, like a chamber full of gas where every now and then, out of simple probability, every single particle in the chamber converges on a corner, only to disperse later.
But then again, my hopes to receive some ingenious (albeit highly speculative) explanation were not to be heard. And while the plot revelation I received was both good, satisfying and self-consistent, I couldn't help but feel as if it wasn't... how can I say it...? It wasn't sci-fi enough.
Perhaps I'm asking too much with that, perhaps I shouldn't impose on Scalzi, or any author, to stick to their chosen genre and follow its rules to the letter. But meh, I still felt slightly betrayed, and for that, and ONLY for that, I give it a 4 stars.
Because in everything else, all other details, characters, emotions and events displayed on the book, it's a top-winner :)
I found this book to be highly creative. Not only is its basic premise really awesome, but the author really put some spice inside the details of the story. His description of the alien race who visits Earth was strong and consistent without being preachy or dwelling for entire chapters into obscure specifics. This is definitely not the hardest of sci-fi, but the book seems almost keen aware of this fact and thus enjoys itself rather than trying to impress.
The only minor issue I had with the book was Wil Wheaton's narration. His voice is okay and his interpretation of some of the characters is amazing (especially for the voices of the aliens). However, I could almost sense while hearing him that this was either his first, or one of his first, books narrating. There were some recurrent annoyances from his technique and his representation of female voices was a little too blurry. In dialogues with two females characters it turned a bit difficult to distinguish between them solely from Wheaton's voice.
Nonetheless, such problems are small and mostly noticeable after you finish. Overall, this was a great audiobook experience. I do recommend it.
I didn't know what to expect from this book. I first heard about it via an article from the Verge which talked about how the author used orbit calculation software to develop his plot, which I thought was interesting and thus bookmarked this book in case I "ever" saw it again. Later, I saw it listed among a 2x1 sale on audible and thought: "Ehm, why not?" and bought it.
Now, after having finished the best book I've read this year, all I can say is that destiny made me find this book. The plot is superb, the humor is great, the narration by RC Bray is the next level above excellent, and the science fiction below the plot is so hard that you can walk on top of it. Critics are right in saying that The Martian is not so much sci-fi as it is fiction. My jaw is still on the floor for the level of thoroughness and research that went into developing the plot.
Amazeballs is the word that comes to mind when thinking on this book. And I've never been this excited about the prospect of a movie been made out of it. Looking forward to any adaptation which represents in the slightest this book's story :)
Having heard tons of good reviews about this book, I was afraid that my expectations would be a little too high to enjoy it fully. I was of course wrong. The book exceeded my expectations by a wide margin. More than any kind of "manual" on how to write (a concept which King swiftly tears apart), this is a great book about the love of writing, about the lengths and shortcomings we go into when trying it, and above all, about King being utterly honest about his profession.
I think I really liked it because of that. Rather than talking to us from some golden throne about "Writing" (queue thunder noises); King explains his trade in the most informal and open of ambiances, without pretending nor trying to embellish it, a feeling which is exponentially enhanced by his narration, which by the way is brilliant.
I have the feeling that anyone reading this book is already captivated by either books, writing, or both of them, and thus needs little convincing that writing is the most awesome thing in the world. With that in mind, I would recommend this book as a way to praise or share something that both you and King really love, with the added bonus of learning some great tips about this art. The full banana.
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