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David

Indiscriminate Reader

Member Since 2012

1350
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 276 reviews
  • 280 ratings
  • 565 titles in library
  • 24 purchased in 2015
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  • Shibumi

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Trevanian
    • Narrated By Joe Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (763)
    Performance
    (313)
    Story
    (323)

    Nicholai Hel, born in the ravages of World War I China to an aristocratic Russian mother and a mysterious German father, raised in the spiritual gardens of a Japanese Go Master, survives the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world's most artful lover and its most accomplished and highly paid assassin. Genius, mystic, master of language and culture, Hel's secret is his determination to attain a rare kind of personal excellence, a state of effortless perfection: shibumi.

    David says: "Only a Russian could be this shibumi"
    "Only a Russian could be this shibumi"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is for people who like James Bond, Jason Bourne, and all those other super-ninja Gary Stu action heroes fueled by atomic testosterone. Except if you pay attention, Trevanian is laughing at you. Shibumi shamelessly exploits every single cliche in the genre and then sneers at them. Trevanian's mockery of American culture is acidly funny and not particularly affectionate. Sometimes the self-aware satire and the angry derision seem to blend together.

    “It was not their irritating assumption of equality that annoyed Nicholai so much as their cultural confusions. The Americans seemed to confuse standard of living with quality of life, equal opportunity with institutionalized mediocrity, bravery with courage, machismo with manhood, liberty with freedom, wordiness with articulation, fun with pleasure - in short, all of the misconceptions common to those who assume that justice implies equality for all, rather than equality for equals.”

    So what to make of a book where the main character is named Nicholai Hel? His mother was a Russian aristocrat, he was born in Shanghai, he was raised by a Japanese go master, and in the aftermath of World War II, he becomes the most ninjaest ninja ever. He learns Basque while spending three years in solitary confinement and so he moves to Spain to hang out in Basque country with his Afro-Euroasian concubine who is lovingly described as a collection of all the best body parts from the sum total of her ethnicities.

    The plot is your basic revenge thriller: Hel's ties of duty and obligation bring him into conflict with the Mother Company, which is the umbrella organization representing all the world's energy interests and pretty much controls the Western world. In between snappy dialog in which Hel shows off how he is just so refined and Shibumi and shizzle with derision leveled at every Western country (the Brits, the French, the Italians, and the Germans all get it in the neck at some point, but no one more than Americans), there are action scenes where Hel proves he can do everything from cave diving to killing people with playing cards, equally over-the-top sex scenes 'cause of course learning to kill and play go also makes Hel totally awesome at the sexing.

    What elevated this book above the schlock it is pretending to be is the vicious satire and the clever writing. Trevanian could write some sophisticated literary pulp fiction. He was having fun while poking his readers in the eye. He plays it straight all the way through: Shibumi reads like you are supposed to take it seriously, but you can kind of hear his snicker echoing in the main character's dialog. I suspect the racism and sexism was part of the performance. This is a Men's Adventure novel for the cynical hipsters of the 70s, back before appropriating Japanese culture was what all the cool kids did and the idea of structuring a killer thriller around the Oriental game of go (yeah, Shibumi uses words like "Oriental" unironically, and also refers to Arabs as "goat-herds" and portrays all the Arab characters as cowardly gay terrorists) made all the literati who wanted to read something a little more masculine than J.R.R. Tolkien groove on Trevanian's way cool, like, deeep understanding of Oriental culture, man.

    Sorry, I can't mock Trevanian nearly as wittily as he mocks me.

    This was a fun novel, entertaining on multiple levels. It really does have the tone of a literary author slumming in a chanbara cinema.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Japanese Destroyer Captain: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway - The Great Naval Battles Seen Through Japanese Eyes

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Captain Tameichi Hara
    • Narrated By Brian Nishii
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (92)
    Performance
    (84)
    Story
    (85)

    This highly regarded war memoir was a best seller in both Japan and the United States during the 1960s and has long been treasured by historians for its insights into the Japanese side of the surface war in the Pacific. The author was a survivor of more than one hundred sorties against the Allies and was known throughout Japan as the Unsinkable Captain.

    Jean says: "Rousing tale of fear overcome"
    "A thrilling war memoir"
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    This book really made me want to break out one of my World War II wargames. Come to think of it, I don't have a good WWII wargame simulating naval combat in the Pacific...

    Tameichi Hara was, as the title indicates, the real deal — a Japanese destroyer captain who saw intense combat in the Pacific theater and was present at some of the biggest battles in World War II. (The subtitle is a bit misleading, though; he was not at Pearl Harbor, and he was only peripherally involved in Midway.) He was bombed, torpedoed, and wounded, lost men, he sunk allied ships and submarines, and his own ship got sunk from beneath him and while bobbing in the waves, he watched the Battleship Yamato go down in one of the last battles of the war.

    This war memoir is fascinating and thrilling, as Hara gives an up close and personal account of many of the great battles of the Pacific War. He describes the precise movements of ships and the ranges at which they fired their weapons with the memory of a go player playing back a game, and he really brings to life the fear, tension, uncertainty, and fog of war that plagued both sides, as well as providing a fast education on naval warfare and the different classes of ships. (I will no longer be confused about the differences between a destroyer, a cruiser, a battlecruiser, and a battleship.) This really is a great book for wargamers for whom torpedoes and submarines and air support is usually just an abstraction. Commander Hara describes in great detail how Japan won its share of battles, but lost the war.

    For the latter, he places a great deal of blame on the high command. Of course — when do the front-line warfighters not blame the admirals and generals back home for being out of touch? But Hara's open criticism of Japan's leadership, including the revered Admiral Yamamoto, was almost shocking when he first published this memoir. Yamamoto, the architect of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, who feared that the Empire had "awoken a sleeping giant," was, according to Hara, a great leader of men, but a very poor strategic commander of ships.

    He also criticizes his country's leadership for not negotiating for peace sooner and, like, I suppose, all defeated military officers, claims to have thought the war was a bad idea from the beginning.

    The insight into Hara's state of mind was quite interesting to me, and while he talked candidly at times about how he felt, I could not help suspecting that he was being a bit opaque, if not perhaps glossing over his perspective in hindsight. He describes feeling sorry for American sailors he saw floating in the open ocean, calling for help, and radioed his fleet to send another ship to pick them up as he couldn't stop. (Supposedly, they were later rescued and became POWs.) He also tells his crew to respect the enemy they have killed, he forbids physical discipline on his ship, and he altogether sounds like a great officer, an honorable man, the quintessential good soldier fighting for a bad cause. On the other hand, he dismisses the rape of Nanking as "much exaggerated," and while he seemed to respect the enemy and bear no personal animosity towards them, he never once examines what Japan was actually doing in the territories it conquered, outside his limited domain of naval warfare.

    No doubt he had feelings about that which he kept to himself. If he was inclined to defend his country, he wouldn't have looked too good in the post-war years, and if he were more critical, he might have been seen as disloyal. Supposedly Hara did become a pacifist, and he interviewed other former officers (Japanese and American) while writing his book. He was a national hero for a losing cause; a difficult situation for any man to be in.

    I highly recommend this memoir for anyone with an interest in World War II history.

    The narration by Brian Nishi is top-notch, with flawless intonation on the Japanese names.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Three-Body Problem

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Cixin Liu
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (268)
    Performance
    (241)
    Story
    (241)

    Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.

    Josh says: "They create a computer using a 30 million man Army"
    "The War of the Worlds starts in China"
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    Story

    The Three-Body Problem is a Chinese SF novel, of which there are not many translated into English. The translation was exceptionally smooth, so that I rarely felt like the prose was either stilted by its non-English origins or lacking something in translation.

    The basic plot is nothing new to the genre: humans make contact with an alien civilization, and find out the aliens aren't friendly. What makes it different is that the humans who make contact are not the usual Americans or Europeans. Instead, it is Chinese scientists at a military radio observatory whose secret SETI project discovers the "Trisolaran" civilization. Of course it's not just the Chinese who have discovered the aliens, but all the action in this book takes place in China, and involves mostly Chinese characters. A first contact story told in a Chinese context, beginning during Mao's Cultural Revolution and ending (on a cliffhanger, since this is the first book in a trilogy) in modern-day China is certainly different for most Western readers, and should be pleasing to those who complain about Earth vs aliens stories always being the United States vs. aliens.

    The aliens actually don't appear until the end of the book, and then only in a chapter describing their preparations on their own homeworld. Instead, most of this book focuses on the uncovering of a conspiracy on Earth, hosted in the virtual reality of an online game called "Three Body," which is actually a recruiting tool for human factions who are preparing to welcome our alien overlords. How these factions came to exist, how everyone found out about the alien invasion fleet en route, and why the founders of the conspiracy chose to side with the aliens, becomes a long saga with some social and political commentary inserted like a knife into an outwardly straightforward SF conspiracy thriller.

    A good read, with lots of theoretical physics for the SF purists, genuinely alien aliens, and no shortage of action, though most of this comes in the final act, and it looks like the real action will have to wait until the next book. I'm definitely looking forward to the continuation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Siddhartha Mukherjee
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2869)
    Performance
    (1971)
    Story
    (1971)

    Written by cancer physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies is a stunning combination of medical history, cutting-edge science, and narrative journalism that transforms our understanding of cancer and much of the world around us. Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist's precision, a novelist's richness of detail, a historian's range, and a biographer's passion.

    Paul Krasner says: "Spectacular!"
    "Biography of a hydra"
    Overall
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    The Emperor of All Maladies, by research oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, is a biography of cancer — its appearance throughout history, starting with a mention by the Egyptian physician Imhotep, circa 2600 B.C., and Queen Atossa of Persia, who underwent what was probably the first recorded mastectomy in history, our growing understanding and misunderstanding of the nature of this dreaded mutant cellular monster, which is really an entire family of monsters, all uniquely and spitefully different, and the eternal search for a "cure."

    Mukherjee is an engaging writer, mixing history and social commentary, from a fairly detached perspective, with very detailed explanations of the biochemistry and genetics of cancer and its treatments. He does this in an accessible way, but this is definitely a "sciencey" book which will require you to draw on at least your high school-level biology and chemistry. Even if the chapters on researching the origins and cellular makeup of cancer make your eyes glaze over, though, the contemporary history of cancer research, mixed with some of Mukherjee's own cases, will keep you focused on the relevance of the topic.

    I suppose the weakness of the book (and the reason why it only got 4 stars) is that denseness - while Mukherjee is a good writer, at times it was like reading abstracts from a medical journal. But for anyone who's had a brush with cancer, first, second, or third-hand, there's plenty to find interesting.

    Cancer isn't a single disease, and there will probably be no single "cure for cancer." Oncologists seem to be moving towards a model similar to that of AIDS treatment — many forms of cancer are becoming something that, while not yet, "curable," are no longer inevitably terminal either. Something manageable. Not all of them, but some of them are cancers you "die with" rather than "die of."

    Informative, a bit heavy, not a breezy pop-science book but not something only a doctor can understand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ex-Purgatory

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Peter Clines
    • Narrated By Jay Snyder
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1468)
    Performance
    (1367)
    Story
    (1369)

    When he’s awake, George Bailey is just an ordinary man. Five days a week he coaxes his old Hyundai to life, curses the Los Angeles traffic, and clocks in at his job as a handyman at the local college. But when he sleeps, George dreams of something more. George dreams of flying. He dreams of fighting monsters. He dreams of a man made of pure lightning, an armored robot, a giant in an army uniform, a beautiful woman who moves like a ninja.

    Shams says: "Awesome story, but loss of voice actors jarring"
    "Groundhog day for Saint George"
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    The fourth book in Peter Clines's superhero/zombie apocalypse series at first made me think he'd run out of ideas and so was writing a prequel novel. George Bailey, formerly known as the Mighty Dragon and then Saint George, is now a mundane janitor in a pre-zombie apocalypse L.A.?

    Things are not what they seem. It may be a bit spoilery, but we've already seen supervillains in this series who can mess with your head, so just think of movies like the Matrix and Inception. Barry (aka "Zap"), the resident SF geek, is quick to make that comparison explicitly once the heroes get together and start figuring it out. The plot was fairly clever, and so with several red herrings, there are multiple layers to unravel, enough to make the reader as well as the characters begin to doubt what's real.

    Captain Freedom, Saint George, Stealth, Corpse Girl, Zap, and Cerberus all feature prominently in this latest book in a series that doesn't look like it's ending any time soon. I've enjoyed all the Ex-Heroes books as the rather silly entertainment they are; Clines's writing is still not spectacular (the battles are getting really repetitive, I'm sick of Stealth always "crossing her arms," and I'm actually just sick of Stealth and her grimdark Batman-with-boobs schtick in general) but so far he has not exhausted the story potential of his world. I do hope, however, that he actually takes the series somewhere with a resolution, rather than just continuing it as long as the well can be pumped.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Tokyo Raider: A Tale of the Grimnoir Chronicles

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 8 mins)
    • By Larry Correia
    • Narrated By Bronson Pinchot
    Overall
    (913)
    Performance
    (832)
    Story
    (832)

    With the Japanese Imperium at war with the Soviet Union, and the United States watching cautiously on the sidelines, Second Lieutenant Joe Sullivan of the U.S. Marines is sent on a dangerous mission to Tokyo. The Russians have Summoned a demon of epic proportions to attack the city, and all that stands in its deadly path is an untested Japanese super-robot. Now, Joe is at the controls, his gravity-spiking Power at the ready. But that is one huge, mean Demon....

    D says: "A Few More Hours"
    "A Russian Godzilla vs. a Yank-pilot/Japanese mecha"
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    This is clearly a bit of filler between trilogies, and a contrived excuse for Larry Correia to write a battle between a giant robot and Godzilla into his Grimnoire trilogy, but like the rest of his magical-superhero alternate universe stories, it's fun and action packed pulp adventure that just doesn't bear too much thinking about.

    Taking place about twenty years after the end of Warbound, Tokyo Raider stars Joe Sullivan Jr., a chip off the old block. Having joined the Marines, just like that he is whisked off to Japan at the direct request of the President (who is not a historical figure but instead a familiar face from the previous books). Even though the US and the Imperium are clearly headed for war, at the moment the Imperium is at war with their mutual enemy, the USSR. Stalin's sorcerers have summoned a giant monster that's devastating Japan, and Imperium scientists and mages have built a giant robot that, conveniently, none of their own magically-gifted warriors can operate. Somehow our old friend Toru, now in charge of the Imperium, figures his old frenemy Jake's son is the man they need.

    This doesn't really make sense, but like I said, it's just an excuse for a battle between a giant robot blazoned with a rising sun pumping the Star Spangled Banner from its speakers, and a Godzilla-sized demon with the Soviet hammer & sickle burned into its chest. Fix that image in your head and have fun. It does make me look forward to the next Grimnoire series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Woods

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Harlan Coben
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2896)
    Performance
    (1937)
    Story
    (1934)

    Twenty years ago, four teenagers at summer camp walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. Four families had their lives changed forever. Now, two decades later, they are about to change again.

    Daniel Mcafee says: "Pleasant Surprise"
    "Entertaining, twisty, slightly improbable thriller"
    Overall
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    Story

    This was an unexpectedly entertaining page-turner, though towards the end, so many plot twists are woven together in an improbable climax and epilogue that my suspension of disbelief was tested a bit. However, getting there was fun in this combination courtroom drama and suspense thriller.

    Paul Copeland survived a summer camp massacre as a teenager. He and his girlfriend snuck off into the woods for a little nookie, only to hear the screams of three other kids — including Paul's sister — being murdered. Years later, they are sure that they know who the killer is, as a creepy teenager who was also at the camp turned out to be a serial killer who was convicted for similar crimes elsewhere. The fact that Paul's sister's body was never found means he has never really had closure, but as an adult, he's now a New Jersey county prosecutor, buddies with the Governor, and he has political ambitions.

    Things start unraveling when he begins prosecuting a Law & Order-style "ripped from the headlines" case: Chamique Johnson, a poor black underage stripper/prostitute, has accused a couple of rich white frat boys of raping her in their frat house. Their families start going after everyone involved in the prosecution, including Paul, to pressure him to drop the case. For Paul, this means digging into his past and uncovering some of the questions left unanswered when his sister disappeared into the woods twenty years ago.

    There are a lot of characters, a lot of twists, and a lot of revelations. From Paul reconnecting with his old girlfriend, to his ex-KGB uncle, to his interview with his old camp buddy-turned-serial killer, to the super-hottie private detectives sent out to dig up dirt, there's lots of plot and it never slows down.

    I had a little trouble believing the ending, and Paul was just little bit too much a combination of Perry Mason and Jack McCoy, but it was refreshing to have an imperfect but not crooked protagonist who prevails largely by not being intimidated, seduced, or corrupted. I liked it enough to try Harlan Coben again.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • When the Rivers Run Dry: Water - The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Fred Pearce
    • Narrated By Tony Craine
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (67)
    Performance
    (36)
    Story
    (37)

    Throughout history, rivers have been our foremost source of fresh water both for agriculture and for individual consumption, but now economists say that by 2025 water scarcity will cut global food production by more than the current U.S. grain harvest. In this groundbreaking book, veteran science correspondent Fred Pearce focuses on the dire state of the world's rivers to provide our most complete portrait yet of the growing world water crisis and its ramifications for us all.

    John says: "Well Researched!"
    "Water woes worldwide"
    Overall
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    This is another one of those depressing books that catalogs in grim detail just how badly humans are destroying the environment, on a cataclysmic scale, how greed, desperation, and short-sightedness have destroyed entire ecosystems, devastated nations, and displaced millions, and how even though we have the scientific and technological know-how to do better, we're not going to, because short-term thinking always wins.

    Oh, the author ends with an optimistic chapter, as all these books do, detailing bold and forward-thinking news plans from economists and water engineers and politicians and scientists around the world — all the ways in which we could save the water tables, grow crops more efficiently with more "crop per drop," irrigate more cheaply, supply urban populations more sustainably, etc.

    But that's after chapter after chapter detailing such disasters as the Aral Sea, which the Soviets basically destroyed and which the current government is continuing to destroy, and the Salton Sea in California, created by a mistake and now allowed to become a festering, drying blister in the Sonora desert, and the Dead Sea, which is receding visibly every year. Worse, though, are the water tables. These are the underground reservoirs of water which, unlike rivers, are non-renewable. Much like oil, once you tap them dry, they're gone (and they also destabilize the surrounding earth, leading to erosion and possibly even earthquakes), and farmers and cities around the world, from the American west to India, are tapping them at an alarming rate. Everyone knows that wells used to hit water at 200 feet and now have to go 1500 feet or more, but this doesn't stop everyone from trying to get the last drop.

    It is the Tragedy of the Commons on a regional scale. As many of the farmers Fred Pierce interviews point out: "If everyone stopped using the water, that would be great, but if only we do, it won't make a difference, except that our family will starve."

    When the Rivers Run Dry is a bit of travel journalism that covers nearly every continent. India and China and their respective mistreatment of the Ganges, the Indus, the Yellow and the Yangtze rivers are all covered, as is the madness that is Los Angeles and Las Vegas, currently draining the Colorado River dry and casting thirsty eyes thousands of miles north to the Great Lakes.

    While America's water woes are certainly serious (at least in the west), the most tragic regions of the world are, predictably, the places where government policy is completely disconnected from local resource management, or where politics and war mix violently with water rights. China and the former Soviet Union have literally killed millions in man-made floods. The author's visit to the region around the Aral Sea was particularly depressing, as he describes a stunted, poisoned land where the people have no jobs, no hope, and no future. Then there is the Middle East, where Palestinians go thirsty in sight of Israeli swimming pools.

    While there are some compelling stories in here, and enough facts and history to make you think, When the Rivers Run Dry was... well, a bit dry. Fred Pierce has been to many places and talked to many people, and what he's produced is a global atlas of water mismanagement, wrapped up in the end with a few cheery programs that might solve a few of them, and some suggestions that no one is really going to heed. He questions the wisdom of dam-building, says that cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas need to be more conservation-minded, and that farmers worldwide need to use more water-efficient irrigation methods.

    Yup, good luck with that.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Gods of Risk: An Expanse Novella

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By James S. A. Corey
    • Narrated By Erik Davies
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (92)
    Performance
    (85)
    Story
    (85)

    As tension between Mars and Earth mounts, and terrorism plagues the Martian city of Londres Nova, 16-year-old David Draper is fighting his own lonely war. A gifted chemist vying for a place at the university, David leads a secret life as a manufacturer for a ruthless drug dealer. When his friend Leelee goes missing, leaving signs of the dealer's involvement, David takes it upon himself to save her. But first he must shake his aunt Bobbie Draper, an ex-marine who has been set adrift in her own life after a mysterious series of events nobody is talking about.

    Michael A. Alderete says: "Good background read for the series"
    "Breaking Bad on Mars"
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    Another one of the Corey writing duo's "filler" novellas set in between their Expanse novels, this one takes place on Mars shortly after Caliban's War. David Draper is the nephew of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Bobby Draper, one of the main characters in the aforementioned novel. She plays only a small (but significant) part in this novella.

    David is a promising and gifted young chemistry student on Mars, with demanding parents who have high expectations for him. In a scheme that is half rebelliousness and half path-of-least-resistance spinelessness, David has become a "cook" for a local drug dealer. I wouldn't be the first reviewer to call Gods of Risk "Breaking Bad on Mars."

    The plot pinch comes when David finds out his "friend" LeeLee is in trouble, and he decides he wants to save her. The annoying part comes when we realize that David is every stereotypical nerdy "Nice Guy" chump ever, fantasizing about how a grateful Leelee will reward him for his white knight heroism with kisses and maybe even letting him touch her ... Since Leelee is in fact a pro in debt to a drug dealer, this is obviously not going to have the happy ending David is hoping for, but for a smart kid, he sure is dumb.

    Despite the main character's painful lack of self-awareness or worldliness, this is a good story that really doesn't have much to do with the central events of the Expanse series; although they are mentioned, this is just a bit of filler material.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Churn: An Expanse Novella

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By James S. A. Corey
    • Narrated By Erik Davies
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (157)
    Performance
    (137)
    Story
    (135)

    Before his trip to the stars, before the Rocinante, Amos Burton was confined to a Baltimore where crime paid you or killed you. Unless the authorities got to you first.

    Set in the hard-scrabble solar system of Leviathan Wakes, Caliban's War, Abaddon's Gate, and the upcoming Cibola Burn, The Churn deepens James S. A. Corey's acclaimed Expanse series.

    Michael says: "Gotta love Amos"
    "Amos comin', yo!"
    Overall
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    Story

    This prequel to James S.A. Corey's Expanse series, starting with Leviathan Wakes, tells the story of Amos Burton, whom we first met aboard the Rocinante as the cheerful, casually violent engineer. As a novella providing "filler" material for the series, it's only interesting if you already like the series and want to know more about the characters.

    Amos, when we are first introduced to him, turns out to be an evil and amoral crime lord in future Baltimore. While the reader might be thrown by this man who seems to bear little resemblance to the character we know, the "twist" ending is soon telegraphed as we're introduced to two characters under Amos's employ, Timmy and Eric, who are both caught up in the "churn" of one of the city's intermittent crack-downs on organized crime.

    Since The Churn takes place entirely on the ground, it's really more of a crime thriller than a space opera, with the technology of space exploration rarely intruding into the lives of the people trying to survive the mean streets of Charm City. (I was disappointed that the audiobook narrator did not even attempt a "Bawl-mer" accent.) It's a decent story with action and violence, but only barely science fiction. Recommended for those who like The Wire and the Expanse series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Afterparty

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Daryl Gregory
    • Narrated By Tavia Gilbert
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (259)
    Performance
    (236)
    Story
    (236)

    It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide. Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: She was one of the original scientists who developed the drug.

    Ryan says: "Smart, witty altered-consciousness thriller"
    "God is a drug in this near-future thriller"
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    This is the second book I've read by Daryl Gregory. He seems to like writing speculative fiction set in a near future, rather than settling into a series or a theme. "Raising Stony Mayhall" was one of the best zombie novels I've ever read. Afterparty, his latest, is also set a couple of decades from now, in a world where 3D printers have advanced to manufacturing pharmaceuticals, so anyone can "print" their own custom controlled substances.

    Lyda Rose, the protagonist, was a neuroscientist who helped create Numinous. It was supposed to be a treatment for schizophrenia; instead, it helps its users find God. Or gods. Or some god.

    The effect is spiritual if not supernatural: Numinous rewires the brain and provides you with your very own guardian angel (in Lyda's case, a judgmental winged psychologist named "Dr. Gloria"). The subjects are absolutely convinced they are receiving messages from the Divine, even if they know intellectually about Numinous. Lyda's conversations with her guardian angel, who she knows is a product of her drug-induced imagination, are believable because deep down, Lyda believes in her.

    How Lyda came to be hooked on her own creation, and why she has to escape from a prison-hospital and track down the other former members of her little start-up company that was going to get rich, is a mystery that unfolds in a well-paced thriller with plenty of reveals and twists. There is an Afghan grandmother who is the most powerful drug lord in Seattle, a psychopathic hit man who calls himself "The Vincent" and raises bonsai buffalo herds in his apartment, a millionaire whose adopted daughter is a little prodigy assisted by her "deck" of "IFs" (Imaginary Friends), and of course, Dr. Gloria.

    This wasn't quite a grand-slam of a book, but it was interesting and well-paced and original, with believable characters. Definitely recommended.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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