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David

Indiscriminate Reader

Member Since 2012

1320
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 270 reviews
  • 274 ratings
  • 552 titles in library
  • 17 purchased in 2015
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  • The Scar

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Sergey Dyachenko, Marina Dyachenko, Elinor Huntington (translator)
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (800)
    Performance
    (714)
    Story
    (712)

    Sergey and Marina Dyachenko mix dramatic scenes with romance, action and wit, in a style both direct and lyrical. Written with a sure artistic hand, The Scar is the story of a man driven by his own feverish demons to find redemption and the woman who just might save him. Egert is a brash, confident member of the elite guards and an egotistical philanderer. But after he kills an innocent student in a duel, a mysterious man known as “The Wanderer” challenges Egert and slashes his face with his sword, leaving Egert with a scar that comes to symbolize his cowardice.

    Robert says: "Highly, highly, Highly Recommended"
    "Shades of Rothfuss and Dostoevsky"
    Overall
    Performance
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    Wow. What an unexpectedly great read. I was hoping for some basic fantasy that might be a little bit different since this novel was originally written in Russian. The Scar is indeed basic fantasy — basic, solid fantasy with no great innovations in worldbuilding or ideas, nothing that fantasy readers aren't thoroughly familiar with — but the writing, the descriptive details, and the character arcs that drive the story, are all so deft and evocative that The Scar is like a shiny, perfect apple sitting in a cart full of apples of acceptable but clearly lesser quality.

    I would compare The Scar somewhat with Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, not in terms of style or story, as the Dyanchenkos' writing is quite different from Rothfuss's, but in the way it takes a story that's old hat, old school fantasy and still makes it new and interesting. Part of this is the writing, which was particularly delightful since translations are always a bit iffy, but while of course I can't compare it to the original Russian, there was a ton of evocative imagery, descriptive detail, and strong emotions conveyed in prose that pushes this book into something of true literary quality.

    The story is mostly about Egert Soll, a brash, philandering swordsman who's basically every jock bully writ large: he steals his friends' girls, he bullies and brags and treats the world as his playground, full of mud puddles that exist to be splashed in other peoples' faces, and he gets away with it because everyone loves him.

    Then he kills an innocent student in a duel that's murder in all but name, the ultimate act of jock-on-nerd bullying. He leaves the student's fiancee bereft and heartbroken.

    This is all the set up for Egert's oh-so-very-well-deserved smackdown. His comeuppance is delivered by a mysterious mage called the Wanderer, who goads Egert into a duel and inflicts a magical scar on Egert that curses him with cowardice.

    While this has the feel of a traditional fairy tale (or perhaps a Russian folk tale), it's Egert's curse that makes the story. Until that point, Egert has been a completely unlikable schmuck, someone you can't wait to see get dirt rubbed in his face. And when he kills Toria's fiancee, you figure he's passed the moral event horizon and you can't possibly feel anything but disgust for him and a desire to see him suffer.

    And suffer he does. And pretty soon you are feeling sorry for Egert Soll. The curse soon turns him into a feeble husk of a man, a hollowed-out shell of his former self who can't even take his own life. And as things get worse and worse, a remarkable thing happens: not only does Egert become sympathetic, but he becomes likable. By a cruel and ironic twist of fate, he is brought face to face with Toria again, the fiancee of the student he killed. And Toria, who also feels nothing but disgust for him initially, comes to feel sympathy for him as well.

    By the time the fate of their city, and of Toria, hangs on Egert's ability to overcome his curse, you are not just rooting for him, you're cheering for him. The climax is both epic and again resonant of traditional fairy tales: Egert is given very specific instructions as to what he has to do to get out from under his curse, and of course things do not turn out quite the way he expects.

    On the surface, this is a swords & sorcery novel, but the sorcery is treated the way sorcery should be, as something vague and mysterious and not usually seen, a plot device rather than a suit of powers. And there are only a few swordfights, and each one serves a very specific and dramatic purpose in the plot.

    So, this isn't really a swords & sorcery novel at all, though it has all the trappings. It's a very psychological novel about egotism, courage and cowardice, grief, and redemption. It's a heroic epic and a romance, and a dark Russian fairy tale with shades of Rothfuss, Wolfe, and Dostoevsky. There's some action and a little bit of magic, but the character arcs are more important than the plot arc.

    Apparently the Dyanchenkos are very popular fantasy authors in Russia, yet this novel is the first one to be translated into English. I hope more follow. While this book may not appeal to you if you have no interest in traditional fantasy, I highly recommend it for all fantasy readers, and I'd argue that it has a psychological depth that transcends its genre.

    8 of 9 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
    (66)
    Performance
    (35)
    Story
    (36)

    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
    (76)
    Performance
    (69)
    Story
    (69)

    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.

    David says: "Breaking Bad on Mars"
    "Breaking Bad on Mars"
    Overall
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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
    (129)
    Performance
    (112)
    Story
    (110)

    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.

    Matthew says: "Meh"
    "Amos comin', yo!"
    Overall
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    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
    (239)
    Performance
    (217)
    Story
    (217)

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Winter's Tale: Arkangel Shakespeare

    • ORIGINAL (2 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By William Shakespeare
    • Narrated By Sinead Cusack, Ciaran Hinda, Eileen Atkins, and others
    Overall
    (100)
    Performance
    (91)
    Story
    (91)

    King Leontes of Sicilia is seized by sudden and terrible jealousy of his wife Hermione, whom he accuses of adultery. He believes the child Hermione is bearing was fathered by his friend Polixenes, and when the baby girl is born he orders her to be taken to some wild place and left to die. Though Hermione's child escapes death, Leontes' cruelty has terrible consequences. Loss paves the way for reunion, and life and hope are born out of desolation and despair.

    P. Evans says: "Lovely story with great voice casting"
    "Exit, pursued by a bear!"
    Overall
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    Story

    "Is whispering nothing? Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses? Kissing with inside lip? Stopping the career Of laughter with a sigh?—a note infallible Of breaking honesty;—horsing foot on foot? Skulking in corners? wishing clocks more swift; Hours, minutes; noon, midnight? and all eyes Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only, That would unseen be wicked?—is this nothing? Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing; The covering sky is nothing; Bohemia nothing; My is nothing; nor nothing have these nothings, If this be nothing."

    I can see why this play is called "complex" and "problematic." The tone shifts completely from the first act to the last. It begins as a tragedy in which King Leontes becomes irrationally convinced that his wife, Hermione, has been committing adultery with his best friend, the King of Bohemia, and that her child is that of Polixenes. This leads to a lot of death and misery, which makes the final act, in which everyone is reconciled, a miracle occurs, and the play ends with a Happy Ever After more typical of Shakespeare's more straightforward comedies, almost dissonant.

    That and the fact that it has few of Shakespeare's famous quotable lines is probably the reason why it's one of his less frequently performed plays, but I think it's a great and twisty tale, and if the ending was a bit deux ex machina, it's still rich in humor and tragedy, and well worth listening to.

    "Exit, pursued by a bear!"

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Lines of Departure

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Marko Kloos
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (942)
    Performance
    (869)
    Story
    (865)

    Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the solar system.

    Elle in the Great NorthWest says: "MUCH BETTER than the first book"
    "Better than the first book"
    Overall
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    I enjoyed the first book, Terms of Enlistment, and found the second book in the series to be better; Kloos is definitely developing as a writer. Where Terms of Enlistment was a fairly by-the-numbers knock-off of Starship Troopers, Lines of Departure takes place several years later and further develops the universe and its politics.

    In the first book, humans encountered their first alien race — eighty-foot giants who build almost indestructible climate-altering machines that render a planet's atmosphere unbreathable to humans. As the second book begins, humanity is losing their ongoing war with the "Lankies." They've lost eighty colonies and have yet to actually take a planet back from the invaders.

    Despite what is clearly an existential threat, the two terrestrial superpowers, the North American Commonwealth and the Sino-Russian Alliance, are also at war over their shrinking stock of colonies

    With all this warfare going on, Earth is becoming an overpopulated, underfed planet of slums and riots.

    Andrew Grayson, our protagonist, has become a career soldier, realizing he doesn't have anything else to do and that while war in space is likely to shorten his lifespan, it beats going back to Earth to stew in a slum and eat recycled waste. He also has a girlfriend who's a fighter pilot, and is a combat network controller, making him a respected professional in the NAC's beleaguered military.

    Lines of Departure is a fine example of military SF, and while perhaps not quite as philosophical as Heinlein's Starship Troopers, Grayson does become an interesting and thoughtful character as he has to weigh his duties as a soldier with the morality of unlawful orders and the practicality and consequences of disobeying them. As well, the stupidity of fleet staff and the intransigence of political leaders is quite believable — yes, I think we Earthlings really would keep squabbling among ourselves even in the face of alien invasion.

    Be warned, though, that this book ends in a cliffhanger, so if you've been hooked this far, you will not see the story resolved until the next volume.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sense and Sensibility

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Jane Austen
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1097)
    Performance
    (713)
    Story
    (720)

    When Mrs. Dashwood is forced by an avaricious daughter-in-law to leave the family home in Sussex, she takes her three daughters to live in a modest cottage in Devon. For Elinor, the eldest daughter, the move means a painful separation from the man she loves, but her sister Marianne finds in Devon the romance and excitement which she longs for.

    Jo says: "Superb - Justice to Jane Austen and Emma Thompson"
    "Austen is always worth a listen"
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    Elinor Dashwood is "sense" — the sensible, even-tempered sister who is mindful of propriety and the necessities of life. Marianne Dashwood, the younger sister, is "sensibility," which in the Austenian sense means something more like "sensitivity" — Marianne is the passionate, feeling sister who wears her heart on her sleeve.

    ...

    "Nay, Mama, if he is not to be animated by Cowper!—but we must allow for difference of taste. Elinor has not my feelings, and therefore she may overlook it, and be happy with him. But it would have broke MY heart, had I loved him, to hear him read with so little sensibility. Mama, the more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! He must have all Edward's virtues, and his person and manners must ornament his goodness with every possible charm."

    ...

    (There's a third Dashwood sister, Margaret, but she's thirteen and barely enters the plot.)

    We can see here the "formula" Austen was working on. Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion... each book examines a particular set of character traits and their effects on the person marked by them. (Her other books did the same thing, if not in the titles.) Elinor is the protagonist of Sense and Sensibility; she initially falls for a man named Edward Ferrars, the eldest son of a rich family, whose problem is that he wants to become a humble clergyman while his mother, who controls the family fortune, has great ambitions for him and certainly doesn't want to see him marrying some poor girl from an impoverished no-account family of minor gentry. (Shades of Lady Catherine from Pride and Prejudice.)

    Marianne, meanwhile, falls for the rake who always wreaks romantic havoc in Austen novels. In this one, his name is Mr. Willoughby. Initially set up as a true scoundrel who leads Marianne on, even forms an "attachment" to her (i.e., an engagement in all but name), only to later break it (which in Regency times was a very grave moral offense if not a legal one), and then turns out to have left one of his other conquests ruined and with child. Austen does a clever job of making Willoughby out to be a villain, only to somewhat redeem him later by revealing that, while he is no saint, his conduct wasn't quite as bad as it appeared to the uninformed Dashwood sisters.

    Waiting in the wings is the other Austen prototype, Colonel Brandon, the very serious old bachelor who'd be a fine catch for the right girl who doesn't mind marrying someone twenty years her senior. (Colonel Brandon is unmarried and in his early thirties — for a woman that would be beyond hope, and even for a man, in Regency times, that was getting well past prime marrying years.)

    Having read all of Austen's other novels, Sense and Sensibility did suffer a bit from being yet another story about two sisters with contrasting temperaments, living in reduced circumstances thanks to the ungenerosity of their more affluent relatives, facing spinsterhood due to their lack of prospects before happy engagements with men who fortuitously turn out to be well-heeled, not without first surmounting a number of misunderstandings and existing engagements as obstacles.

    Did I enjoy this book? Yes, certainly. Every Austen is worth reading. But I finished it for completeness' sake. I would recommend that everyone read something by Austen, and if you like the first one, read some more. But I don't think anyone but the true Austen fan needs to read all of her works, and I'd really only recommend Sense and Sensibility as either your first Austen (in which case all the tropes and devices will be fresh, and you'll see them used more skillfully in later books) or if you are a true fan wanting to read her complete works.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Atrocity Archives: A Laundry Files Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Charles Stross
    • Narrated By Gideon Emery
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (962)
    Performance
    (806)
    Story
    (804)

    Bob Howard is a computer-hacker desk jockey, who has more than enough trouble keeping up with the endless paperwork he has to do on a daily basis. He should never be called on to do anything remotely heroic. But for some reason, he is.

    Ethan M. says: "A great techno-spy-Lovecraftian-horror-comedy"
    "Chuck vs. Cthulhu"
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    Bob is a hacker who accidentally came to the attention of a super-super-no-for-real-secret British agency known as the Laundry, and was recruited into an intelligence agency that literally makes you sign your oath of secrecy in blood. The Laundry is dedicated to saving the world one day at a time from eldritch horrors who threaten to blot out the sun, and also to maintaining Total Quality Management and keeping Parliament from cutting back on their office supply budget. In other words, it's meant to be wacky Call of Cthulhu adventures as undertaken by Chuck. No sooner does he get back from a mission to Pluto to stop undead Nazis from summoning a Great Old One than Bob has to explain to his bureaucratic tyrant of supervisor why he didn't file a request for comp time when he didn't show up the next day during core office hours.

    I liked this book better than Stross's space operas, though it did not have quite the genius of Accelerando. But it's a sort of weak Stephenson, the satire more reminiscent of Dilbert and User Friendly comic strips than the biting inventiveness that marks really good satire. I found it funny because I got a lot of the jokes which many readers will not, as they lean heavily into fairly esoteric computer science references, plus being an (ahem) civil servant myself, I know a bit about the spook shops that Stross is satirizing.

    I don't think you need to be a CS geek or a federal employee to enjoy The Atrocity Archives. You do need to have some appreciation for British humor and Lovecraft, though. I enjoyed Stross's sharp skewering of government work (and yeah, I can totally believe that even a super-secret super-elite agency that literally saves the world on a routine basis still would not be exempted from bureaucratic and regulatory idiocy), but Bob himself was the sort of gormless Everyman character so popular in British urban fantasy (think Neil Gaiman) and on TV, who manages to execute very clever tricks to save the day and somehow manages to wind up with girls several orders of magnitude out of his league, and seems to be a wish fulfillment character for his nerd audience.

    Fun, light, somewhat clever, would read more Laundry novels, but it's the kind of clever that can get old quickly if the author gives in to the tendency to let cleverness substitute for plotting and character development.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream: Arkangel Shakespeare

    • ORIGINAL (2 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By William Shakespeare
    • Narrated By Amanda Root, David Harewood, Roy Hudd
    Overall
    (59)
    Performance
    (53)
    Story
    (53)

    When Oberon, King of the Fairies, uses his magic upon four runaway lovers in a midsummer wood outside Athens, chaos ensues. Who really loves whom? Meanwhile, a band of well-meaning but bungling local actors have their rehearsal sabotaged by the mischievous Puck, who bewitches their leader, Bottom, and Titania, the Fairy Queen. The result is a lively and anarchic comedy which can only be resolved by an elaborate disentangling of spells.

    Gil of the Amazon says: "Shakespeare is rolling in his grave."
    "A great performance of a Shakespeare favorite"
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    A Midsummer's Night Dream has more physical comedy than most of Shakespeare's plays, and you're missing out if you don't see Oberon and Titania and the rest of the fairy court, so I wasn't sure how enjoyable this purely audio presentation would be. But it's a delight. Oberon and Titania are otherworldly, and sound effects make it clear what's going on to make up for the lack of visual cues.

    This is a comedy about two pairs of youths, one in love and the other couple both in unrequited love. Their flight into the fairy woods, a well-intentioned fairy king (and a not so well-intentioned Puck), a troop of actors, and a quarreling fairy royal couple, all collide in a funny, magical fantasy that gets untangled with a happy ending, unlike Shakespeare's other famous play about star-crossed lovers.

    Definitely a great way to experience this play, although still better on stage.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Dreaming Void: Void Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Peter F. Hamilton
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2636)
    Performance
    (1741)
    Story
    (1759)

    AD 3580. The Intersolar Commonwealth has spread through the galaxy to over a thousand star systems. It is a culture of rich diversity with a place for everyone. A powerful navy protects it from any hostile species that may lurk among the stars. For Commonwealth citizens, even death has been overcome.

    Ethan M. says: "Solid Hamiltonian Space Opera"
    "Another fat SF book with a galactic threat"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Dreaming Void is the start of a new trilogy that takes place in the same universe as Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained, but thousands of years later. Like those books, it's a huge, epic space opera full of powerful aliens, amazing tech, and galaxy-threatening perils, and like those books, I found it packed with Big Ideas and should-have-been intriguing characters that never really thrilled me.

    Given my similarly lukewarm feelings about Iain Banks, Alastair Reynolds, and Charles Stross, I am starting to think that British SF just doesn't do it for me.

    In The Dreaming Void, there are numerous factions at work in the human Commonwealth, centuries after the great war with the alien Primes that almost wiped it out. It's governed by a sort of collective AI/post-human network known as the Advanced Neural Activity, while humans are somewhat divided in how trans-human/post-human/enhanced/immortal they want to be.

    At the center of the conflict in the story is the Void, sitting at the center of the galaxy and swallowing stars at a sedate-by-human standards pace, but rapidly enough to significantly shorten the galaxy's lifespan on a cosmic scale. While the Void is kind of like a black hole in that nothing that enters it can escape, humans have apparently disappeared into the Void before and supposedly, according to dreams shared by a messianic figure named Inigo, survived there. Then Inigo disappears, and his billions of followers undertake a pilgrimage to the Void. This upsets a number of alien races, including the Raiel, who believe that messing with the Void could cause it to enter an "expansion" phase in which it begins growing and swallowing up the galaxy at a dramatically faster pace.

    There are a lot of characters all engaged in separate subplots, not all of whom seem to bear directly on the central threat. While you don't need to have read Pandora's Star or Judas Unchained first, there are many references to events in that book, and several returning characters. (Humans, thanks to uploads, rejuvenations, and stasis fields, can now have lifespans measured in centuries or even millenia.) In particular the return of the Javert-like Paula Myo will no doubt be greeted with applause by fans of the first two books, and the constant references to Ozzie Isaacs suggest he's almost certain to appear again, probably at the series climax. But there's also a subplot about a young ex-waitress named Amarinta and her many love affairs, in which Hamilton carries on that fine sci-fi tradition of trying to write imaginative sci-fi sex and just making me want to skip ahead to the intrigue and the aliens.

    Running through the book are Inigo's dream chapters, which are the saga of a young man named Edeard on a barely-post-medieval world within the Void. It is implied that these people are descendants of the human explorers who first entered the Void, but Edeard's story reads more like a traditional epic fantasy, in which psychic powers replace magic, and Edeard is of course the Chosen One. Despite realizing at an early age that he is far more powerful than all the other telepathic and telekinetic humans on his world, he watches his village get wiped out by bandits, then travels to the big city and becomes a member of the constabulary, where naturally he learns that everything is corrupt and he can't really make a difference — until he unleashes his spectacular abilities.

    Oddly, despite reading like fantasy rather than SF, and taking place completely parallel to the main plot, I found Edeard's chapters the most interesting ones in the book.

    There is plenty left hanging at the end of this whopper of a book, and it was just enjoyable enough for me to maybe want to continue the trilogy, but it just didn't grab me. A lot of it seems like rehashing the Pandora's Star duology. Sure, one would expect some of those events to be mentioned, but it's over a thousand years later — even in a super-technological society with functional immortals, I think Hamilton could have made the Commonwealth more different from its previous incarnation than it is. There is also a sameness to Paula Myo chasing cultists and nefarious agents around the galaxy trying to figure out which faction, human or alien, is really up to what. And while theoretically, a void at the galactic core threatening to expand and swallow the whole galaxy should feel like an existential threat, there is, at least not yet, none of the sense of impending doom we got when the Primes were on the verge of exterminating humanity in Judas Unchained.

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