Oh, you look at this and think "GOODY! A Heinlein novel I haven't read, and yay! written from material dating back to his Young Adult novel days, when he really turned out some great stuff such as Citizen of the Galaxy, Tunnel in the Sky and many others." But no, that's not what we have here. In this case, the estate of Virginia Heinlein left some material sketched by Heinlein and Spider Robinson was proposed as the author who could take this buried treasure and develop it into a bestselling sci fi novel. And that's what happened. The story revolves around a typical Heinleinian ingenu-- Joel Johnston young hero, who chucks it all including an alluring marriage proposal to a very rich and pretty girl, and takes off on a one-way, decades-sublight voyage to colonize a new planet. The life in the space vessel, the newly formed society of pioneers and the challenges they face as they traverse space are incredibly well developed and quite exciting. There are many turns of fate that will have you gasping. But...it is not Heinlein, it's definitely Spider Robinson, with his devilish plays on words and a much more modern tone. I couldn't put it down. Annd this is true Space Opera, no fantasy, unicorns or wizards need apply. Robinson does an admirable job reading his own work. As long as you realize what this is, you may enjoy it as much as I did. Just don't expect Robert Heinlein writing from beyond the grave, because as you already knew, that's impossible.
I've read almost every bio of Cixi there is since high school, when I studied Chinese history. This bio puts a new and modern spin on how Cixi actually tried to modernize China at the turn of the 20th Century--while maintaining order at home and keeping foreign powers at bay. I knew the players well but the new viewpoint on her reign as empress went contrary to many popular opinions that she was reactionary and a deterrent to modernization. Fascinating! And seeing how Japan, Russia, and the Europeans played their part in disrupting the Ching Dynasty and the entire region is likewise a deep look back into a land of mystery to most Americans.
Cixi is one of history's most fascinating women. But Prince Chun, her brother-in-law (doubly so, half brother of the Emperor and married to Cixi's sister) is equally fascinating in this book, where he mostly plays the bad guy but one who reforms in the end.
Jolene seems to have good Chinese pronunciation--while I can't be sure, she does seem to do a good job.
Dragon and Phoenix: China's entry into the modern world during the reign of Empress Cixi.
This is a great way to read Thomas Mann, who can be long and wordy.
The descent into lust, madness, obsession and degradation is one of literature's most dramatic scenes. The master artist Aschenbach, restrained, honored, and successful debases himself in a pursuit of beauty. That it is forbidden love makes the debasement more horrifying and sickening. There is always a combination of gorgeousness with absolute ugliness and horror.
This is a restrained, refined performance.
The end is one of those passagese in literature that you read and re-read. Though it's inevitable, it still is shocking.
If you like science fiction, especially Silverberg, this doesn't disappoint. The scientific background is impeccable.
It has a flavor of the world of Dune, though it's nothing like it. The blend of an imperial society with a live-giving drug (the vaccine for the organ rot) and the advanced science and enhancement of human capability is reminiscent of the themes in Dune. However, the handling is more inimate and less sweeping--it's all about Shadrach.
The light voicing of different characters is handled masterfully. Nothing overdone. This makes the characters come alive.
The end, where Shadrach returns to Ulan Bator.
I liked this novel quite a bit--it's not one of Silverberg's top novels but it is amazingly written and though some people do not like the end--l did like it, although Genghis Mao seems to break character a bit.
The print version is very long. But some translations are better than others. This one is mediocre.
The meeting of the colonists with the mysterious benefactor in the caverns of Lincoln Island. One of science fiction's great moments with one of science fiction's great characters.
The performance was good, except I disliked the reader's voice for Pencroft the sailor. It was annoying--the gruffness was a good idea, but the voicing was forced and positively irritating.
This was one of my favorite books as a child. For some reason, however, the characters came alive more in the written version, especially Herbert, who seems less important in the spoken version. The end does make you cry a bit--it is bittersweet.
I still think this is one of Verne's best novels. In a way, it's a sequel to "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" which is perhaps a greater novel than this.
The audio version may be better than the print version because who doesn't love listening to Scott Brick? The man could read a phone book and I'd be riveted.
The second section of the book, taking place in a different universe with the triad of Odeen, Dua and Tritt is amazing. Alien marriage, sex, reproduction and maturation is handled deftly and creatively. The characters really shine, especially Dua.
The scene where Dua attempts to communicate with humans to warn them. Her message is touching and thrilling.
When the message from the alternate beings is translated--it's thrilling.
This may be my favorite Asimov novel. No robots--but very different and very creative. As usual, Asimov's female characters are better-drawn than his male characters and again, he has a female character play the heroine.
The entire novel is changed by this one sentence or two being missing at the end. Was that an authorized change by Silverberg? Other than that, a good performance of an excellent novella of a very strange dystopia.
Good narration, interesting dystopia
This is a diary form of a tale, told in first person by Morwenna, who survived a car accident that cost her her twin sister. But the accident is no ordinary accident; magic is involved--and witches, and...Morwenna's mother, who is apparently trying black magic to become the Dark Queen and be empress of the world--or so we are led to believe. We follow Morwenna as she's reunited with her absent father, goes to a posh but dull boarding school mandated by her three rich (witch?) aunts and she matures as a teen, gets a boyfriend, and battles magic. All through the book there is a running thread of the books Morwenna reads and loves, most of them science fiction. It's fun to hear her (abbreviated) opinion of the classics of sci fi but ultimately, there is less here in this novel than meets the eye and and the ultimate showdown is a bit of a let-down. The rest of the novel maunders on in diary form--interesting enough but not really gripping. Katy Kellgren's Welsh accent gets a bit on my nerves after the first section, but it's well-done and she's a good narrator, though she sounds a bit mature for the role of teenager. I've read worse, but didn't think it deserved a Nebula in the least.
Le Carre is the master of espionage novels, but his writing is unusual in "Tinker, Tailor"--the story is told mainly in past tense via interrogations by Smiley, though there are occasional scenes of action. But what you are reading is basically a very complex spy-vs-spy double agent scheme, laid out with exquisite logic. The revelation, however, is not a surprise, though I think it's not meant to be a surprise. We are supposed to get inside Smiley's head and literally BE him as he unravels the intrigue. What's left UNSAID is marvelous--the author trusts the reader always to be one step ahead or at least along side and leaves out the obvious.
The narration is excellent; Smiley's voice is a sort of Alec Guinness-like suavity, and other accents and voices are subtly but definitely dramatized by the narrator. One other reviewer remarks that this is not suitable for a commute and I rather agree--I found that the noise of the road plus the dense text made this easier to listen to at home. I wish that Jayston would narrate the rest of the Smiley books rather than have them dramatized as his reading is spot-on. Can't recommend it enough.
Isaac Asimov revisited his Foundation series with a prequel decades after he wrote, first the Foundation Trilogy in the 50s, then went on to write sequential novels in the 80s and 90s. Though this is the first of the Foundation books set in the Galactic Empire period, it appeared more or less in the middle of the publication timeline. So if you have read the Foundation books, you will enjoy the back story of psychohistorian Hari Selden. While this story in some ways lacks the youthful enthusiasm and drama of the earliest Foundation novels from the 50s, it's still a good story and there is lots of action (that is, Asimov action, which consists of pursuit scenes, mainly and not a lot of shoot-em-up or sex. Well, almost none, in fact.) The reading by Scott Brick is as always, absolutely the best there is. Subtle character voice changes, no weird pretending to yell in a half-loud voice, or other irritating quirks, and that resonant voice we've come to love, nay, be addicted to. I'm only annoyed that due to Brick going out on his own as a voice star, the last Foundation Novel is not read by him, doubtless a contract problem and a shame that the end of the series doesn't have the same reader.
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