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Indiscriminate Reader

Member Since 2010

  • 234 reviews
  • 238 ratings
  • 534 titles in library
  • 48 purchased in 2014

  • Long After Midnight

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Ray Bradbury
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard

    Fantastic or conventional, chillingly suspenseful, or hauntingly nostalgic, each of these stories has that aura of the unexpected combined with the special ring of absolute rightness that is brilliantly, uniquely Bradbury.

    Iola says: "Another Bradbury Worth Listening To"
    "Spooky, thoughtful, but sometimes just schmaltzy"

    Ray Bradbury is what I would call a literary author who's always labeled as writing genre stories (never mind the debate about what "literary" means in this context); he's a storyteller but his writing is also suffused with poetic flourishes and evocative, moody imagery and dialog that many genre authors skimp on. That said, none of the short stories I've read by him are among my favorite or most memorable. But some of his horror stories are very effectively creepy without any explicit violence.

    Long After Midnight is a collection of twenty-two of his older stories. They range from mediocre to pretty good, but the mediocres outweighed the pretty goods, since after finishing the audiobook, I couldn't remember many details about specific stories. There is a lot of sentimentality, bordering on schmaltziness, such as in The Pumpernickel, basically about a middle-aged man remembering his childhood friends and how they drifted apart:

    "In the hard, shiny crust of the bread, the boys at Druce's Lake had cut their names: Tom, Nick, Bill, Alec, Paul, Jack. The finest picnic in history! Their faces tanned as they rattled down the dusty roads. Those were the days when roads were really dusty; a fine brown talcum floured up after your car. And the lake was always twice as good to reach as it would be later in life when you arrived immaculate, clean, and un-rumpled."

    A lot of the sci-fi stories in this collection are also heavily allegorical, with a tone ranging from Catholic to mystical, as in "G.B.S. - Mark V":

    "What are we? Why, we are the miracle of force and matter making itself over into imagination and will. Incredible. The Life Force experimenting with forms. You for one. Me for another. The Universe has shouted itself alive. We are one of the shouts. Creation turns in its abyss. We have bothered it, dreaming ourselves to shapes. The void is filled with slumbers; ten billion on a billion on a billion bombardments of light and material that know not themselves, that sleep moving and move but finally to make an eye and waken on themselves. Among so much that is flight and ignorance, we are the blind force that gropes like Lazarus from a billion-light-year tomb. We summon ourselves. We say, O Lazarus Life Force, truly come ye forth. So the Universe, a motion of deaths, fumbles to reach across Time to feel its own flesh and know it to be ours. We touch both ways and find each other miraculous because we are One."

    Many of the more dated ones also seemed to be semi-autobiographical, perhaps slightly elaborated tales of Bradbury himself as a boy.

    Here is a list of the stories in the collection. Some of them have been turned into short films or Twilight Zone episodes.

    "The Blue Bottle" — heavily metaphorical story about two men searching for an artifact on Mars.
    "One Timeless Spring" — a twelve-year-old boy believes his parents are trying to poison him.
    "The Parrot Who Met Papa" — almost felt like a bit of magical realism, about a parrot that has memorized Hemingway's last, unwritten novel.
    "The Burning Man" — odd story mixing any number of "why you shouldn't pick up hitchhikers" tales with a pseudo-philosophical meditation on the nature of evil.
    "A Piece of Wood" — one those speculative fiction stories that tries to make an important statement by starting with a silly premise, that a soldier has invented a device that can destroy all weapons.
    "The Messiah" — a Martian manifests as Christ to a Catholic priest, with tragicomic results.
    "G.B.S. - Mark V" — meditations of a robot.
    "The Utterly Perfect Murder" — an old man resolves to visit his childhood friend and enemy and kill him for all the misery he suffered.
    "Punishment Without Crime" — a man is sentenced to death for killing an android duplicate of his wife.
    "Getting Through Sunday Somehow" — an old Irishman rambles about the past.
    "Drink Entire: Against the Madness of Crowds" — a man meets a witch.
    "Interval in Sunlight" — this was one of the more memorable, though devoid of any fantastical elements, about a woman who wants to leave her joyless, verbally and emotionally abusive husband.
    "A Story of Love" — interesting, surprisingly thoughtful story about a thirteen-year-old with a crush on his teacher, who reciprocates his feelings on some level. Manages to examine age differences and societal taboos without being icky.
    "The Wish" — schmaltzy tale about a man who wants one last conversation with his dead father.
    "Forever and the Earth" — a SF writer brings Thomas Wolfe to the future to write about Mars and space travel.
    "The Better Part of Wisdom" — an old Irishman discovers his grandson is gay.
    "Darling Adolf" — an actor hired to play Hitler in a historical film wants to literally revive the Fuhrer's role.
    "The Miracles of Jamie" — dark-themed but not very original story of a boy who believes himself omnipotent, as a way of coping with his dying mother.
    "The October Game" — this is the creepiest story in the collection, and the most obviously horrific, about a man who conceives a horrible vengeance against his wife.
    "The Pumpernickel" — sentimental and kind of banal slice-of-life story.
    "Long After Midnight" — another gay-themed story, but frankly the plot slips my mind.
    "Have I Got a Chocolate Bar for You!" — a chocolate addict confesses to a priest, in another allegorical tale about redemption and pleasure and freedom.

    In general, not a bad collection of stories, especially if you are a Ray Bradbury fan, but they didn't really excel in my opinion, although there is enough horror and creepiness in a few of them to make this good Halloween reading. 3.5 stars.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Darkship Thieves

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Sarah A. Hoyt
    • Narrated By Kymberly Dakin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go to space. Never wanted see the eerie glow of the Powerpods. Never wanted to visit Circum Terra. Never had any interest in finding out the truth about the DarkShips. You always get what you dont ask for. Which must have been why she woke up in the dark of shipnight, within the greater night of space in her father's space cruiser, knowing that there was a stranger in her room.

    Richard says: "Fun original sci-fi"
    "A Heinleinian woman"

    You have to love a heroine named Athena Hera Sinistra. By the end of the first chapter, we've learned that our 19-year-old protagonist is the terror of everyone she's ever crossed paths with, capable of beating up professional mercenaries singlehandedly, and has a rack that makes men stop to stare in the middle of a crisis. A little Mary Sue-ish? Well, some of her preternatural abilities are explained later in the book, but yes, we've got some serious Heinleinian wish fulfillment going on here.

    "Heinleinian" is not necessarily a bad thing. Darkship Thieves reads a lot like an homage to Heinlein's classic space operas, with hyper-competent, rather ruthless but ultimately moral protagonists sharing pithy words of wisdom and vaguely libertarian sentiments while kicking bad guys in the crotch.

    Athena Hera Sinistra is the daughter of a Patrician, one of the "Goodmen" who rule Earth as an oligarchy. Spoiled, tempestuous, brilliant, beautiful, and dangerous, and with some series Daddy Issues, she finds herself seemingly being kidnapped aboard her own father's space yacht by his mercenary goons. She escapes, doing plenty of damage in the process, and runs into the "Energy Tree" that someone centuries ago created to float beyond Earth orbit and grow "power pods" which are harvested for Earth's energy needs.

    Okay, the science is a little dodgy.

    Athena gets picked up by one of the legendary "Darkship Thieves," who steal power pods and flee back to their secret base in the outer solar system. Carried off by the superhuman genetically-enhanced cat-man, Athena begins what is of course an inevitable kiss-kiss-slap romance with our futuristic space highwayman. She learns about their advanced asteroid, "Eden," run along vaguely anarcho-libertarian principles, and begins to become integrated into their society. Then her boy gets captured while making another power pod run, and she has to go back to Earth for a confrontation with Daddy Dearest, in which we learn all kinds of deep dark secrets about Earth's real history and Daddy's sinister plans for his little girl, and an entire gang of space biker allies is introduced in the final act.

    Darkship Thieves was a fun romp. The writing is just okay and the story was, as I said, largely rehashed Heinlein, with a stronger romantic element, but if you like classic SF, this is a fairly well-executed tribute.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Troop

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Nick Cutter
    • Narrated By Corey Brill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip - a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfre. The boys are a tight-knit crew. There’s Kent, one of the most popular kids in school; Ephraim and Max, also well-liked and easygoing; then there’s Newt the nerd and Shelley the odd duck. For the most part, they all get along and are happy to be there - which makes Scoutmaster Tim’s job a little easier.

    Charles says: "Engrossing"
    ""Ah! It's inside me!""

    The Troop is good. Stephen King good. It's no surprise it got blurbed by King — it's just the sort of creepy, gross, and disturbing tale he wrote in his glory days, where the real horror is not the supernatural or science gone mad, but how human beings treat each other.

    Five boys in a Boy Scout troop, led by small-town doctor Scoutmaster Tim, embark on a weekend of camping and merit badge-collecting on a tiny island off the coast of Canada. Unfortunately, someone else joins them on the island, a visitor who is gaunt and almost insane with hunger.

    Once the bad stuff starts happening, the boys notice that there are boats, military boats, surrounding the island. And no one is coming to rescue them.

    This is not a book for those with weak stomachs or who can't handle stories in which children die. You will grow attached to these five boys - Kent, the big, brash son of the town's police chief; Max, sensible and easy-going; Ephraim, fearless, wired, coiled and angry; Shelly, the odd, "slow" boy who makes everyone uneasy; and Newt, the chubby, nerdy butt of everyone's jokes.

    This boys' adventure is a pretty horrific survival tale. It's got blood and guts and solid characterization, and smooth, pleasing writing that will still creep you the hell out. As a long-time Stephen King fan, and a former Boy Scout, The Troop gets high marks from me - I will definitely be checking out Nick Cutter's next.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The War of the Worlds

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By H. G. Wells
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    First published by H. G. Wells in 1898, The War of the Worlds is the granddaddy of all alien invasion stories. The novel begins ominously, as the lone voice of a narrator intones, "No one would have believed in the last years of the 19th century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's."

    Janice says: "Ants"
    "The first, the greatest alien invasion story"

    It's pretty much impossible not to know the plot of this hundred-year-old sci-fi classic, the granddaddy of all alien invasion stories, the inspiration for all Mars fiction ever since, even stories without Martians. The ravaging of London, the iconic tripods, the inhuman, ululating Martians, probably everyone is familiar with Wells' story even if only a fraction have actually read the book.

    I'm guilty of not reading the original until now, though I've read and watched countless adaptations and tributes.

    Wells's story moves along with the first person narrator experiencing the coming of the Martians, falling in cylinders shot from a great cannon on Mars. At first they seem weak and helpless, being just gelatinous bodies without the strength to move about in Earth's gravity, and even after they display their heat ray, no one really considers them an existential threat - the army will show up soon enough to sort them out.

    Once they rise up on their hundred-foot-tall tripods, however, they prove to be an unstoppable force. The British army gives them a bit of a fight at first - the Martian war machines are not impervious to artillery shells - but between poison gas and heat rays, they're soon killing everything in their path, laying London to waste, and driving six million people into panicked flight.

    The narrator makes his way across a ruined London, finds himself trapped in a house beneath a Martian war party, and experiences the horror of their dining habits and the madness of his fellow survivors.

    As a straightforward sci-fi story, of course, this was a frightening tale of alien invasion. But it's also frightening in its description of what almost becomes a post-apocalyptic landscape. The great metaphor of The War of the Worlds, of course, is the domination of less technologically advanced civilizations by stronger ones who feel entitled to take what they need and prey on their inferiors. In other words, Wells describes the British being treated as they have treated others, and the coming of the Martians is no less devastating to England than the coming of the English must have seemed to the natives of Africa, India, and North America. Wells makes this point very effectively without ever harping on, hence one could choose to totally miss it and see the novel as just a SF war story. But then you'd be missing the true dimensions of the horror Wells is describing.

    As a novel, The War of the Worlds is more of a travelogue, in the style of Wells's 19th century contemporaries, than an adventure story. The narrator never actually does much, just bears witness to what the Martians do. The strength of the story is in the gruesome details about the Martians, and the havoc they visit upon hapless Earthmen.

    It may appear to be faded with age, but it must have been quite the hair-raiser back in the day, as evidenced by the famous Orson Welles broadcast that terrified America.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Blackbirds

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Chuck Wendig
    • Narrated By Emily Beresford
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Miriam Black knows when you will die. Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days he will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name. Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. No matter what she does, she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

    Michael says: "A Story of Fate and the F-word"
    "A sympathetic but not likable psychic"

    Miriam Black has the power (or curse) of knowing exactly when and how someone will die. The moment she touches someone, she sees a vision of their death and knows to the hour when it will happen. And she can't change it - she's tried. As with any story about time travel or precognition, the story comes around to the inevitable question of causality. Miriam knows, from past experience, that trying to interfere with someone's death just means she ends up playing a role in it. Then she meets someone whose death she really wants to prevent, and the question becomes, is fate actually immutable, and will she cheat it?

    The most compelling aspect of Wendig's writing, and probably the most annoying, is Miriam's voice. She is a cynical, chain-smoking harlot with a deathwish and a mouth that can make a sailor blush. We get dribs and drabs of her background - an uptight, puritanical mother who naturally turned her daughter into the sinful, rebellious manifestation of everything she was trying to prevent, and the crushing burden of seeing people die over and over, peacefully in bed or violently squished between vehicles, young and old, whether she knows them or not, and finally, the death that she thinks earned her her "gift."

    None of this really makes Miriam likable. She doesn't want to be likable. She revels in being unlikable. She's taken up a vagrant lifestyle, following people around when she knows they're going to die soon, and stealing their stuff, a psychic vulture. She runs into a nice guy named Louis, a truck driver, and a not so nice guy named Ashley, a con artist. Ashley figures out what Miriam can do, and Ashley also turns Miriam on. Unlike sweet, gentlemanly Louis.

    At this point, all I could say was, "Run, Louis!" but obviously that's not the way the story is supposed to go.

    Miriam is brought to the attention of a creepy bald drug dealer and a murderous pair of assistants, thanks to Ashley, and so Louis is dragged into the situation, and so Miriam has to figure a way out of the visions she's already seen.

    Props to Chuck Wending for an ending that did not feel like a cheat, and for a witty, funny, profane voice. But Miriam's awfully hard to like, and while I'm somewhat interested in where her story will go next, I can only take her in small doses.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Haunting of Hill House

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Shirley Jackson
    • Narrated By Bernadette Dunne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House.

    Mark says: "Superb Reading of Horror Classic"
    "Watch out for the quiet ones"

    Shirley Jackson did not invent the "Let's spend the night in a haunted house" trope, but she owned it with this book. Arguably, her disciples Richard Matheson and Stephen King even improved on it, but The Haunting of Hill House is a study in how to generate understated shivers without gore or violence. (Okay, there is a bit of gore, but it's phantasmal... right?)

    The story opens with a straightforward expository introduction to Dr. Montague, who wants to spend the night in an 80-year-old house reputed to be haunted and shunned by the locals. It has the usual haunted house history - the builder was cracked, bad things happened, and everyone who's moved in since has left immediately. Dr. Montague hires two people with a history of paranormal encounters to stay with him, on the theory that people who've had weird things happen before are more likely to cause weird things to happen in a haunted house. The owners of the house also insist on sending their worthless heir to join the party.

    It's thin as pretexts to throw a bunch of strangers together in a haunted house go, but it works as well as most horror story setups. The plot itself is no more than the summary - this group hangs out in a creepy old house, and creepy things happen creepily. But Jackson really created characters. Dr. Montague is fussy, stuffy, and (when his wife shows up later in the book), completely henpecked and almost pathetic. Eleanor, the protagonist if this book has one, is a meek young woman used to being pushed around and disregarded. She shows up at Hill House because she figures anything has to be better than her life with her sister and brother-in-law. Theodora is a brassy, sarcastic single girl who occupies the "slut" slot reserved for every horror movie, though on the page she doesn't do much more than flirt with bad boy Luke (though more is certainly implied). There is also the dour local woman hired as housekeeper, and then Dr. Montague's domineering, insufferable planchette-reading wife, who really livens things up when she arrives, and her driver Anthony.

    But the main character, of course, is Hill House.

    Hill House has bumps and shivers and shadows and cold spots and closing doors and whispering voices and all the other special effects of any self-respecting haunted house, but naturally the real horror comes from the effect it has on its victims. One member of our group of house-sitters proves to be most susceptible to its blandishments. I shan't spoil, though it's pretty obvious almost immediately who's not going to leave Hill House.

    This is a ghost story rather than a horror story; for connoisseurs of haunted house stories I wouldn't even say it's necessarily the best. But it is a classic whose influence can be felt in every haunted house story and movie ever made since, and Shirley Jackson does a lot with a little; definitely a must-read on a dark October night.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Leo Tolstoy
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble

    Hailed as one of the world’s masterpieces of psychological realism, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high-court judge who has never given the inevitability of his death so much as a passing thought. But one day death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise he is brought face-to-face with his own mortality. How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?

    Alexandria Milton says: "Elegant, simple, and true"
    "Another of Tolstoy's grim moral parables"

    I find Tolstoy a gloomy writer. Despite his deeply religious beliefs, I have not read a single story of his that seemed to contain any real hope, optimism, or joy, just lives full of misery, hypocrisy, and disappointment, until the very end. Then there is redemption through grace - a very Christian message, but not exactly an uplifting one except to those who've already accepted that life is meant to be suffering and the only relief is your reward in the hereafter.

    The Death of Ivan Ilyich begins and ends with the title character's death. His colleagues and friends are notified of his death, and are deeply affected:

    "Ivan Ilych had been a colleague of the gentlemen present and was liked by them all. He had been ill for some weeks with an illness said to be incurable. His post had been kept open for him, but there had been conjectures that in case of his death Alexeev might receive his appointment, and that either Vinnikov or Shtabel would succeed Alexeev. So on receiving the news of Ivan Ilych's death the first thought of each of the gentlemen in that private room was of the changes and promotions it might occasion among themselves or their acquaintances."

    The story then goes on to trace Ivan Ilyich's entire life, from a fairly happy childhood to a tolerably happy marriage, descending into an increasingly bitter and joyless one, until Ivan Ilyich contracts a terminal disease and dies, in the end, after weeks of pain and suffering and his friends and family all pretending he's not dying, which only upsets him more.

    This novella is really Tolstoy indulging in moral philosophizing. The unfortunate Ivan Ilyich looks back on his life and his steadily decreasing pleasure in it, and then comes to a place of peace only at the very end. Tolstoy's prose (even in translation) is nuanced and subtle and a master artist's portrayal of his subjects.

    Simon Prebble's narration is excellent, and his tone perfectly suited to the story.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Stainless Steel Rat

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Harry Harrison
    • Narrated By Phil Gigante
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    DiGriz is caught during one of his crimes and recruited into the Special Corps. Boring, routine desk work during his probationary period results in his discovering that someone is building a battleship, thinly disguised as an industrial vessel. In the peaceful League no one has battleships anymore, so the builder of this one would be unstoppable. DiGriz' hunt for the guilty becomes a personal battle between himself and the beautiful but deadly Angelina, who his planning a coup on one of the feudal worlds.

    SFF11C says: "Awesome"
    "Rogues in space"

    "Slippery" Jim DiGriz is a rogue in a society that is a peaceful, plentiful utopia and has mostly bred antisocial behavior away. That leaves men like DiGriz bored and, unable to cope with society any other way, they plan capers. Since there are so few people like him, there is a Special Corps dedicated to stopping these nefarious ne'er do wells.

    After a bank heist and a scam that turns the wrong way, DiGriz gets captured, and recruited into the Corps. Of course. Takes a thief to catch a thief, and DiGriz's boss is a former arch-criminal himself. DiGriz is sent to figure out why a peaceful, backwards planet is building a battlecruiser. This leads him into conflict with the beautiful and deadly Angelina, who mostly gets away with stuff because this book was written in 1961, so even in this far-future galactic setting, everyone expects a pretty girl to be a hapless doll, not a sociopathic mastermind plotting revolutions and conquest.

    DiGriz is the archetypical scoundrel who's secretly a decent guy, and his crimes are mostly bloodless ones. He reviles Angelina's bloodthirstiness, yet still falls in love with her... because she's hot? And also because she's a criminal mastermind like him.

    Coal-burning robots, giant battlecruisers that exist for no particular reason, thousand-year-old galactic civilizations, and guys 'n dolls. Nothing deep here, but it's an entertaining space romp. This is a classic space opera and light-hearted sci-fi that shows its datedness a bit, but will be fun for anyone who likes the old stuff.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Persuasion

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Jane Austen
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Anne Elliot has grieved for seven years over the loss of her first love, Captain Frederick Wentworth. But events conspire to unravel the knots of deceit and misunderstanding in this beguiling and gently comic story of love and fidelity.

    Emily - Audible says: "Juliet Stevenson is Simply Amazing"
    "Not Austen's best, but still Austen"

    I have now read five of Austen's six novels. Persuasion seems to me to be the most outright romantic of those I've read, meaning that while the entire trajectory of the plot, like all of Austen's novels, was to bring the designated couple together in the end for their Happily Ever After, there wasn't a lot else to it.

    Anne Elliot, a single woman who has "lost her bloom" at the ripe old age of 27 (!) has a vain, foolish father and a couple of vain and selfish sisters, but somehow has herself grown up to be wise, discerning, self-willed, and charitable. She's definitely one of Austen's most likeable heroines.

    Seven years ago, she had an offer of marriage from a young man named Frederick Wentworth. Despite their being very much in love, Anne was persuaded against the marriage (hence the title) by a family friend and substitute mother figure, Lady Russell. F.W. went off heartbroken, joined the Navy, and came back rich.

    Anne, of course, is still in love with Captain Wentworth. Captain Wentworth is still in love with Anne. Will these two star-crossed lovers somehow manage to get together again?

    SPOILER: Yes.

    (It's Austen. Duh.)

    This was Austen's final work, and apparently it's many peoples' favorite Austen. I cannot say it was mine. The simple nature of the love story left few surprises, and while of course there are the usual misunderstandings, false "entanglements," misapprehensions about who's in love with whom and who's going to get married, etc., these are all very obvious red herrings to the reader, as Austen practically spells out everyone's true motive from the beginning.

    That's not to say I didn't enjoy it - I always enjoy Austen. But Persuasion was lacking the thing that made Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Emma so delightful: humor.

    That's not to say there was no humor at all (setting it above Mansfield Park, in my estimation). Anne Elliot's father, Sir Walter, is a perfectly silly man who's amusing because he takes himself so very seriously.

    But the humor is biting; Sir Walter doesn't have any amusing lines, he just goes around sniffing at those beneath him, acting vain and prideful in the face of financial ruin, and generally being an aristocratic fop with zero self-awareness. Likewise, Anne's sisters and her father spend the latter half of the book kissing up to some distant noble cousins, the Dalrymples, who themselves are dull and uninteresting and only important because they've got blue blood, and thereafter making a ridiculous fuss name-dropping their connection.

    So, the foibles of Anne's family are somewhat amusing in an ironic way, and there are other quotable lines, but it's basically a story about one sensible, good-hearted woman in imminent danger of spinsterhood getting properly married despite her spendthrift father and superficial, self-centered sisters.

    Given Austen's own sad fate as an unmarried woman who died at 41, one cannot help suspecting a certain amount of self-identification with this heroine more than any other.

    The themes of the novel are persuasion (when it's good to allow yourself to be persuaded by others, and when it's not) and a bit of proto-feminism (maybe that's just my reading of it) as Anne and Captain Harville argue over whether men or women feel more deeply and more constantly.

    ""But let me observe that all histories are against you--all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men."

    "Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."

    Persuasion has all the usual Austen virtues - fine prose, wittiness, and sharp social criticism - and an assortment of characters just large enough to make for an interesting cast, with heroes and villains in the romance wars. But the simplicity of its plot and the missing humor element can't make this one my favorite.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Ex-Communication

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Peter Clines
    • Narrated By Jay Snyder, Khristine Hvam, Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In the years since the wave of living death swept the globe, St George and his fellow heroes haven't just kept Los Angeles' last humans alive - they’ve created a real community, a bustling town that's spreading beyond its original walls and swelling with new refugees. But now one of the heroes, perhaps the most powerful among them, seems to be losing his mind. The implacable enemy known as Legion has found terrifying new ways of using zombies as pawns in his attacks.

    Lore says: "Corpse Girl for the win!"
    "Book 3 in the zombie apocalypse-superhero mashup"

    I started reading the Ex-Heroes series because I have a geeky affection for zombies and superheroes, but Peter Clines is growing on me. The second book was a little better than the first, and the third book, while more of the same story-wise, continues to improve. It's still just a comic book in novel form, but like any ongoing series, if you stick with it you start to get attached to the characters and conversant with the continuity.

    The heroes guarding the walled enclave of Los Angeles, surrounded by several hundred thousand "Exes," or zombies, ended the last book with a new arch-enemy: Legion, a superhuman who has the power to spread his consciousness among an ever-growing number of zombies and control them. In Ex-Communication, Legion continues to try to get at the survivors, but then a new Big Bad appears. St. George, Captain Freedom, Stealth, Cerberus, and Zap have to defeat an honest-to-God demon lord from hell.

    The addition of actual magic into the Ex-Heroes' cosmology does it no great damage; it was already a comic book world. St. George continues to be the Superman of the series, and Stealth (now his girlfriend), the Batman. Zap is the Green Lantern, Cerberus is Iron (Wo)Man, and Captain Freedom... well, guess.

    Clines spins a fun yarn, and it's about as consistent and coherent as a superhero/zombie novel can be. There are the usual twists, reveals, a little more worldbuilding, and some clever power stunts, but at this point the books are just new installments for fans of the series. Hopefully Clines will expand this universe and stretch out a little before it gets stale.

    The audio performance is almost the best part about this book; the multiple narrators give each hero (and villain) a distinct voice, and greatly add to the entertainment value, making it even more like listening to a comic book being roleplayed with perfect earnestness.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Into the Storm: Destroyermen, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Taylor Anderson
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Pressed into service when World War II breaks out in the Pacific, the USS Walker---a Great-War vintage "four-stacker" destroyer---finds itself in full retreat from pursuit by Japanese battleships. Its captain, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Patrick Reddy, knows that he and his crew are in dire straits. In desperation, he heads Walker into a squall, hoping it will give them cover---and emerges somewhere else.

    Lore says: "It just never grabbed me."
    "Lemur-people vs. Dinosaur-people"

    A World War II destroyer is sent back in time and joins lemur-people in a war against dinosaur-people.

    If that concept sounds awesome to you, then you should read this book. If that concept sounds silly to you, then I've just told you everything you need to know.

    Now, to be more precise, it's not entirely clear whether the USS Walker goes back in time or sidewise, but either way, the ship, on the run from a vastly superior Japanese fleet, winds up in an alternate timeline in which humans never evolved. Instead, they find themselves in a South Pacific inhabited by "Lemurians," who sail the seas in gigantic aircraft carrier-sized "home ships," and are currently facing an invasion by the savage, saurian "Grik"... who have sailing ships that are direct copies of 19th-century vessels from our timeline. Obviously, the Grik at some point encountered other humans who wound up in this timeline.

    The USS Walker's crew includes a large cast of characters notable mostly for their individual personality quirks, like any war movie, and the Lemurians also get some named characters who will obviously be important in future volumes. The Grik, at least in this book, are just a bloodthirsty horde of nameless monsters, and all we learn about their culture is that they're insanely violent and driven to conquer. They are so mindlessly violent, in fact, that it seems incredible they could even take the time to learn how to operate sailing ships. Hopefully they'll get fleshed out a bit more in future books.

    Into the Storm is the first volume in what appears to be a long series. There is nothing deep about it, but the writing, while nothing remarkable, was straightforward serviceable storytelling with brave men (and Lemurians) fighting a vile foe, and a lot of naval tactics, resource management, and inter-species diplomacy. I found it great fun, enough that I'll continue with the series unless and until it loses steam.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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