Of course. This is the only Pohl novel I read or listened to in audiobook form that I did not find extremely interesting. This novel is interesing, but it's not quite up to par with the others Heechee Saga novels.
This novel continues Pohl's narrative style of interspersing first person and sometimes third person narratives within the same structure. I have been on two minds on this style since I first read one of his novels. When he does it, it simply "works". I give him much credit for making a difficult narrative structure work, repeatedly. However, each time I wonder if this novel would only be that much better had he stuck with third person limited.
The other novels all featured a single main plot line, with a few interesting story arcs gravitating around that main plot line. This novel breaks that by putting together seemingly unrelated sections. This too could result in something interesting with a surprise ending that unifies what before seemed completely unrelated plots. But I don't think that can work here due to the length of the novel, and the only point where it became possible to start merging these plot lines.
Oliver Wyman is an excellent narrator. I have purchased books because the publisher contracted his voice talent.
It's a good novel. Not bad. But not great either. It's not on the order of Gateway, or any of the subsequent novels in that fictional world.
I often find the mischaracterization of religious folk a bit grating that occurs relatively frequently these days in the SF world. It bugs me when an author creates a character who is nothing more thana caricature cobbled together from slurs, epithets, and base accusations by people who don't like folk of one religious denomination or another. It cheapens the rest of the novel when the author puts so much more work into bring to life his other characters. Here he has a main character who is well-rounded and believable. Then we have a minister who is more or less a caricature. There was nothing real or believable about him.
The novel is a frame story; structured sort of like Canterbury Tales. The main characters proceed on a pilgrimage towards a deadly encounter with a kind of mythical creature which is alleged to come from the future to judge humanity. They each tell their tale in order to determine why it is that they were all chosen for the pilgrimage and to piece together the plot from their separate viewpoints. Each individual tale is quite compelling. Some emotionally moving, others exciting. The author allows the reader to almost survey various subgenres of SF within a single novel and a large, sophisticated fictional world. I found that aspect of the novel most enjoyable and original.
Each tale is narrated by a narrator assigned to that character. During the scenes of the frame story, the narrators play their roles in dialog. When the character proceeds to tell his tale, the narration completely becomes the domain of that character's narrator. All of these narrators are extremely talented. I felt they greatly added to this audiobook. They took what really is an amazing novel and elevated it a great deal more.
The novel has a most excellent balance between plot and character. While it is largely character driven, and the true drama is almost certainly existential and philosophical, the author provides plenty of action to drive the story forward, especially in the more action-oriented characters.
The tale of the priest is theological SF. The tale of the military colonel is told in military SF. The tale of the poet is horror SF. The tale of the detective is pure cyberpunk. The tales of the scholar and consul are forms of time travel SF, but in the case of the consul, includes aspects of spy and mystery novels. All of these tales are seamlessly woven together in a frame plot that I found equally as compelling as the tales it frames. I rarely have encountered a novel structured in this way where the frame was anything more than thin bookends for the individual tale.
The themes of all these tales are intensely existential and speak to the human condition. They deal in human pain and grief in several contexts and aspects of life. Each of these griefs do in the end weave together to make a kind of sense.
I highly recommend this to hard SF readers who enjoy complex, intellectual plots and deep characters.
I liked the conspiracy aspect of the story. What I liked most about the original short story, however, was the reason why the conspiracy persisted. The reason for it in the novel has slightly changed, and I think the epiphany of that reason diminishes the impact of the message which was suppressed. I also didn't much care for a lot of the additional plot items they added. They didn't seem to add to or take from the original.
I already read the short story, so I had a good idea of the ending. The ending of the short story is much more satisfying, I think. The ending to the novel is similar, but it doesn't accentuate the message quite as well.
He was very talented. I will look for other audiobooks he narrates.
Neutral. If one has already read the orinal short story, then I am not so sure it's worth the time. If not, then it might be worth a person's time. It's not a bad novel anyway.
I bought this for myself rather than a child. I wanted to pick up a little bit of Italian and purchased these Slangman audiobooks along with a regular Italian audiobook course. I honestly learned vocabulary and a little bit of syntax a great deal faster with these children's books than with the more expensive audiobook course. If they produced more of these titles, I would definitely purchase them.
The main advantage here is that you already know the story, and he mixes the Italian vocabulary and usage in with English. As you advance in levels, the stories gradually become more Italian than English. The tracks are pretty short so you can listen through them repeatedly as needed.
One drawback I find is that the audiobooks do not come with at least text copies of the physical books. You have to look up the words in a dictionary or translator to learn how to read and write them. Each of these books ought to come with some kind of written document which at the very least lists the vocabulary used.
I really don't see what other people do in this novel. The premise itself I found excellent. The author really started well, but the novel really turned into a vehicle to cram the author's social ideas onto the reader. That wouldn't necessarily be so bad if it were not for the fact that the guy posits caricatures of people to criticize them. For instance, he uses an allegedly Catholic character to contrast with his atheist neanderthals, and yet NOTHING that comes out of that character's thoughts and words reflects any reasonable representation of what a lifelong Catholic would think or believe. It was almost like the characters were taken as cartoon characters from one of the vapid New Atheist books. Yes, I realize bitter atheists will thumb down my review because they only vote for their dogma over any criticism, but this book truly was a poor attempt at positing a valid alternate society. For instance, if you read one of Orson Scott Card's novels, even the characters with whose beliefs he would never agree are given a fair place. In short, this is NOT a 21st century Stranger in a Strange Land. To do so it would need accurate human beings with which to contrast the alternate ideas. Instead you get a lot of straw characters that have little to nothing in common with the beliefs of actual people. If it were not for that, I think the novel would have so much more merit.
The most interesting aspect of the story is the depth with which the author developed this alternate society. He developed a basic naming language to make it more realistic. He built a solid culture and everything. The least interesting aspect is that he failed to accurate represent homo sapiens.
Mars, princess, and violence.
It seems to me as if the Barsoom novels were written for Scott Brick to narrate as John Carter. This guy is well worth the money for an audiobook.
The Foundation novels are among the very best novels in science fiction. The audiobook versions read by Scott Brick are fantastic. But this narrator is no Scott Brick. Not even remotely. He is terribly suited for narrating a work of fiction. He has no voices, accents, intonations, style, rhythm, or anything that qualifies him to narrate a novel. He is better suited for narrating nonfiction.
It's just not worth it. I bought all the Foundation audiobooks because I wanted to listen to these books I love so much, read by a wonderfully talented narrator. But two of these audiobooks are completely useless to me. I find it difficult to believe that anybody actually listened to this to its completion. This is a great book, however.
I think people deserve a refund for this. We see the that the cover art is identical, and the publisher is the same, so we assume this is the same quality as the other novels. But this edition, as well as Foundation and Earth, are read by the same narrator who is wholly unsuitable to the role.
The perspective of a federal agent.
I think the true value in something like this comes into play when you listen to or read it along with other sources. I read at the same time another book, written by people with a psychology background. It provides a completely different perspective on the same thing. This book actually has me interested in finding similar books written by case officers and counterintel people. For instance, when Navarro spent great length on his opinion of the merits of observing leg and foot behavior, I was reminded of something an old Stasi agent remarked. The Stasi trained to surveil their targets based upon their gait, not their appearance. A person can easily change their appearance, but it is difficult to change one's gait. Now I am interested in learning what those guys too might have to say about body language.
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