ITHACA, NEW YORK, United States
This book sold me on Wil Wheaton's abilities as an audiobook actor. I first tried out Fuzzy Nation and was extremely bored and, because I liked the Old Man's War series so much (with William Dufris) I blamed Wheaton for ruining Scalzi's writing. Well, I was shown in this book that I was completely wrong.
Wheaton perfectly portrays the human male and female characters as well as the androgynous alien characters, giving them a wonderful balance of the human qualities they hope to convince us they have and the alien qualities that are inherent to their nature.
The book is surprisingly suspenseful, flawlessly weaving its way through comedy, tragedy, and tragicomedy to portray a fairly plausible set of circumstances that had you in the midst of all of the uncertainty. I found myself wanting to try to help the protagonists in their dilemmas, brainstorming ideas as the book went on. I laughed out loud, and constantly wanted to applaud Scalzi on his cleverness.
The extraterrestrials are a very different sort, exceptionally creative and unique in design. I worked my way through this book months ago and still think about the mechanistic details of the aliens and their reproduction. Yes, there is some pretty detailed alien reproduction in this book, but it's... to use a cliche... out of this world.
First, if I wrote the book's blurb:
An everyman computer scientist is propelled into a cosmic landscape that will bring out his best, and, unfortunately, his worst. The "ring" to Hell is manufactured with Kyle Riggs' intentions. But, as you'll find out, Riggs' really is the right man and perfect protagonist for BV Larson's genre smashing space operatic military apocalyptic science fiction pragmatic technothriller.
Second, why I chose this book:
This book caught my eye because I was looking for a new sci-fi series, and I really enjoyed Troy Rising which was also narrated by Mark Boyett and has been compared to Star Force by others. Similar to at least the first book of Troy Rising (Live Free or Die), SWARM and the Star Force series in general (I'm on Book 3 as of writing this) has a strong protagonist who starts as a humble rural type with an additional edge of technical prowess (More about Kyle Riggs below). But while Troy Rising really lost its momentum after the first book, the Star Force series keeps it going and lays it on hard.
If you like military science fiction of the sort portrayed in the Troy Rising series, you will love the Star Force series. And, to those of you who enjoyed the Star Force series, you will enjoy Troy Rising. But, as of Book 3, I have to put Star Force above John Ringo's space opera brother from another mother.
Other comments have already mentioned some of the reasons you may have to suspend disbelief, but I think good science fiction will always include a few things that make you feel a touch incredulous. Nevertheless, I really don't feel like Star Force takes it over the top in any way, and I never felt like what I was hearing was too absurd or unbelievable. The technology focuses a lot on a few specific plot elements (if you are intrigued by nanotechnology, this book is your fantasyland) , but the descriptions of said technology are surprisingly within the realms of science fact. Larson either did his research well or has a wealth of information that I wish was wielded by more writers of science fiction and fantasy. Most readers will find a little bit to learn from this book. And, as good science fiction should, it will hopefully inspire your envisionment of things that are very possible given our current rate of technological advancement, even without extra terrestrial intervention.
A little bit of analysis about the books protagonist:
Like so many nerds growing up in the information age, I at least considered the possibility of pursuing computer science as a career choice. And, I think anyone who has ever found beauty in the workings of a machine or the elegance in a mathematical proof will be able to relate to Kyle Riggs and put themselves in his position. Larson seems to intentionally leave out specific details about Kyle Riggs appearance and style so that the reader may either truly empathize with Riggs' through his tribulations, or one can easily insert the image and essence of whichever heroically moral archetype they feel most comfortable with. Some may criticize that this leaves the main character seeming more hollow, but I think this allows Riggs to be less a man and more a symbol for the resilience of humanity. Kyle Riggs is not a single man, but as I alluded to in my first sentence all the way at the top, he is every man.
Finally, While Mark Boyett's accents may at times all sound alike, his attempts still bring wonderful life to the characters. I really enjoyed Boyett's work for the Troy Rising series and believe he shines even more here. I'll be looking for more books narrated by him simply for his performance. Many audiobook narrators have a voice with distracting qualities of varying degrees,making listening to the book somewhat challenging regardless of the content. But, with Boyett, I have absolutely no trouble focusing on the story he is telling, but at the same time his acting fits most characters absolutely perfectly.
That brings me to one more point. This is the first series where I've noticed that the narrator is incredibly effective at channeling a representative presence in his characters. What I mean is, the cast in this story are from so many diverse backgrounds, as they should be. So much military sci-fi puts the US at the forefront with a couple token internationals sprinkled in due to necessity. But I feel that Larson very effectively has created a very believable cast of characters from all aspects of life from all over planet Earth. This, of course, is something which would almost definitely be the case provided the scenario in the book came about.
Furthermore, and somewhat importantly, he doesn't harp on about it. In the third Troy Rising book, 75% of the story was about the conflict between South American culture versus US culture versus Middle Eastern culture. So, sure, there was a lot of diversity,and sure, there almost certainly would be a culture clash provided people from diverse backgrounds were forced together in close quarters. But I do not think it has to be a huge focus, or a focus at all really,in a book that is about the unification of humanity into an established and significant force.
Thanks for reading.
The title of my review for Hard Magic (Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles) was "Simply, the best audiobook I've ever encountered." After getting through Spellbound I have to say that Hard Magic still holds that title, but the sequel is certainly no disappointment. Perhaps it was because Hard Magic just felt more fresh, and upon reading Spellbound my wonderment at the universe had been a bit diluted (I listened to them back to back all in less than a week). But, the best way to put it is, if I give Spellbound 5 stars all around, I'd have to give Hard Magic 6 stars. Although, Bronson Pinchot's performance still gets 10/5 in both books.
Spellbound has the same incredible historical urban science fiction fantasy mojo that is touted by Hard Magic. Most of your favorite characters return and the new characters that are introduced, for the most part, do not disappoint, with a very interesting interaction between a magic-envious academic and a demon possessor; yes a demon summoner that possesses the demons. Clever stuff.
You won't be disappointed by Spellbound if you found Hard Magic worth your time. But, while this seems obvious, definitely get through the first book before even attempting this one. Though, you could probably take a pretty big break in between and have no trouble picking right back up into the universe. And, what a universe it is!
The only disappointing thing about Spellbound is that Larry Correia hasn't finished the last book yet. Right now I'm feeling quite impatient waiting for both Cold Days, the next Dresden Files installment and for the third book of the Grimnoir Chronicles. I'm working my way through the Monster Hunter series now, trying to get my fix of Correia's action packed fantastical imagination.
Comparing Grimnoir Chronicles to Monster hunter:
After finishing the first book, Monster Hunter International, I would suggest that both Hard Magic and Spellbound really represent a definite refinement of Correia's art. The Grimnoir Chronicles series blows, at least the first, Monster Hunter book out of the water, and that's saying a lot because MHI itself represents a fantastic addition to the urban fantasy genre. Though I admit that I am probably speaking too soon since the MH books likely improve with each new installment. I am quite excited to see how Correia evolved as an author.
Plug for Iron Druid Chronicles:
Oh, and one final recommendation for those waiting for the third GC book: The Iron Druid Chronicles. While the series is a magnitude lighter than Larry Correia's writing, Kevin Hearne's own take on urban fantasy with a 2000 year old druid living in Arizona might be of interest to those who have similar tastes to myself, based on my review above.
WWI was fought, in part, with magic. Hydrogen powered dirigibles dominate the skies because wielders of fire can prevent Hindenburg-like incidents. Genius supplemented with magic creates supergeniuses (Cogs) that advance technology far beyond what was imaginable. Nikola Tesla provides an (extremely deadly) alternative to nuclear weapons... and I'm not even giving away the story!
This book is packed full of ideas and historical figures and characters that bring to life a parallel universe that you'll be convinced must exist. Every chapter begins with an in-universe quote, often from a real-life political or scientific heavyweight of the time, that provides a peak inside the heads of those native to the that universe, allowing us to understand how living in a world where magic exists might actually impact society, ethics, and science.
Bronson Pinchot absolutely dominates as narrator. His accents, articulation, tone, and pacing are so perfect for all of the major characters, and there are many. James Marsters of the Dresden Files has become my favorite narrator due to his ability to perfectly become the voice of whatever character he's reading for, but in this book Pinchot provides a depth of character that is unsurpassed. There are quite a few difficult characters to read for in this book, and Pinchot shines through all of them. He absolutely gets the subtle and well-deserved haughtiness of Japanese soldiers and officers, enhanced with magic, who are arguably the deadliest the world has ever known.
Hard Magic has historical fiction, urban fantasy, and science fiction absolutely covered. If you like the Dresden Files or other urban fantasy-type novels, you will definitely enjoy this book and the sequel. There are strong, capable female and male protagonists alike.
I will say that a few moments felt a lot like some superhero movies I've seen, and around the half point of the book, I felt like I was listening to a story based on the X-men Universe. But, don't fret. While perhaps inspiration and genre sampling from such sources may impact this story, it really is so much more than simple power flinging and devastation. Though, there is quite a bit of that.
Even after the sequel, I still want more. I can't wait for the 3rd book, and I really really hope that they're able to get Bronson Pinchot for the part.
This is my first book by Melissa Marr, so I can't compare it to her others. But, I was impressed with how she was able to construct such a creatively woven fabric of reality, balancing three different worlds: witches, demons (the castes within), and humans.
I had just worked my way through all the available Dresden Files books, and was looking for something to satiate that wanting for more, and I saw James Marsters had recently worked on this book. I was worried that I would have trouble getting Harry out of my mind while listening to this book, but Marsters somehow varied his pacing, articulation, and tone to a degree that made this reading completely unique compared to his other performances. Still, Marsters did an amazing job setting the theme for the novel, and his accents (although a bit odd, giving American Southern accents to otherworldly creatures) do give life to the characters, and by the end of the book I felt them to be quite fitting and appropriate.
Comparing this to Dresden, I didn't have a hard time imagining this world to be just a couple universes over within the fantasy multiverse. The magic is similar, the importance of circles and wards being ubiquitous. But, the rules are much different; killing and mind magic don't seem to be the same sort of sins. This book is certainly much darker.
Marr did a great job of setting up what will hopefully be a fantastic series. The cliffhanger was both satisfying while also leaving you wanting to know what comes next. I do hope Marsters continues to read the upcoming stories.
I only recently got into Red Dwarf, but found myself addicted quite quickly. The show and characters are great at cheering me up and this book works just as well.
As others have said, the story is pretty much just the best bits from the first few series woven together into a single narrative. The book does address a few questions not answered in the series though such as: When/How did Lister and Rimmer first meet? Do the Cat people have names? as well as quite a bit of reconning especially with the relationship between Kochanski and Lister. Though the story was not entirely original, I still enjoyed listening to it in this way and I intend to hang onto it for a rainy day.
As everyone else has said, Chris Barrie is perfect. I actually thought Llewellyn was also involved since Barrie's Kryten is completely flawless. You do almost forget there is only one narrator. I mean, Chris Barrie got his start doing impressions, so it's not too surprising, but a treat nonetheless.
I enjoyed this book, and I'm sure any Dwarfer would as well. It's worth the price.
I thoroughly enjoyed Halpern's first book as well as Sean Schemmel's performance. Of course, Halpern's infamous father appears in this book as well, but now in much much more of a supporting role to the narrator.
Schemmel still does a pretty good job of bringing life to the stories, though I do remember him making every female character sound like a stereotypical "dumb girl." Though, maybe those are the only kinds of girls Halpern has any real interaction with? Eh.
I found myself not being able to keep my attention during a lot of the anecdotes, which I found to be filled with "more of the same". And I don't even mean the same stuff from Halpern's first book. No, no, but more of the same in terms of vaguely entertaining stories of Halpern hooking up with hot co-workers who inexplicably dump him and all seem to disappear. Watching a teen movie will deliver the same punch-lines, but Halpern's book at least is a little bit more mature. I suppose the title is pretty damn accurate, so in that case... it delivers!
it's a nice light read if you want to chuckle inside, a little bit, and get a self esteem boost if you're feeling like you too have troubles with the opposite sex. But, don't get the wrong impression, Halpern gets plenty. Though, the book only gets 3.
Absolutely, if not for Hodgman's performance alone. As others have said, those who are a huge fan of music from the 70s and 80s will REALLY appreciate a lot of the subtle and not-so-subtle references made to the era. I am NOT a big fan of said music, but I still found the story quite entertaining and thought provoking.
The book also gives a pretty good, although cynical, overview of copyright laws, but does so in a way that is informative, relevant to the story, and interesting all at the same time.This book will also be enjoyed by anyone who has even the slightest interest in human-extraterrestrial relations. It holds its own as a humorous science fiction adventure. Fans of Douglas Adams will feel nostalgic for the Hitch Hikers series due to the pacing and style of this book, but I feel the story was lacking some of the mojo found throughout the HHGTTG series.
John Hodgman does an incredible job in this audiobook. I had absolutely no problem picturing Hodgman himself as the main protagonist (which actually made the story a bit more entertaining in my eyes). I was surprised at how much diversity Hodgman was able to bring to the voices of the other characters and felt that his delivery for each character was appropriate and life-giving. I really hope we get to see Hodgman doing many more audiobooks in the future.
There is a bit of Mac vs PC war going on in the book, but it ties somewhat humorously into the plot. This was a little bit annoying and almost unnecessary, but the comedic aspect ALMOST completely makes up for it.
Definitely. This book hits the full spectrum. If you have even the slightest interest in scifi, religious studies, philosophy, action films, extraterrestrial relations, law, biotechnology, animal science, computer science, politics, or fun you will find something to love in this book.
I got used to Wheaton's reading style in Agent to the Stars, where I came to appreciate his ability to convey the emotional state and personality of a character, even alien characters, with great precision. The voices he gives to the individual extra terrestrials are absolutely spot on.
The way Scalzi is able to take ostensibly parallel plot lines and weave them into the intricate climaxes (yes, I would say this book has a few) present in this book gave me goosebumps on a few occasions. I would find myself with a huge smile realizing at specific moments, "My, how clever!"
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