When I first read about this anthology, I wondered to myself, "How good can it be?" Given its origin, with all stories donated to pay for cancer treatment, I figured that the quality would be low. In fact, just the opposite was true. It seemed that the authors either attacked the project with the gusto born of a good cause, or dusted off that one story they'd been saving for a special occasion. Either way, I loved most of them.
Of note, several of them are set in worlds already created by the authors' novels. In some cases, it really helped to have read the novels (Like the Wheel of Time), but for the majority, it didn't matter.
My personal favorites:
1. The Sound of Broken Absolutes, Peter Orullian. I'd never heard of this guy before, and I don't know much about music, but it was just plain good. Original. Well written. I went out and bought his book The Unremembered and am already enjoying it. Just ticked that there's no audio version of it!
2. The Old Scale Game, Tad Williams. A fun story, enjoyable. Kept me laughing on a road trip.
3. Select Mode, Mark Lawrence. Fascinating story. I looked up his Broken Empire books, (the world this is set in). I was going to buy it, but reading the Amazon reviews changed my mind. I guess they're pretty gruesome. This story was dark, but not upsetting.
4. Unbowed, Eldon Thompson. I have no idea who Kylac is, but it's a good story.
5. All the Girls Love Michael Stein, David Anthony Durham. A simple, feel-good story. I listened to it with my daughter.
I would highly recommend getting the print or e-book version along with the audio. In the written version, each author writes a 1 or 2 page introduction that illuminates the story, and I found this very helpful, especially for some of the ones that required background knowledge or were just plain confusing.
The narration was top-notch. I found myself wondering if the narrators had all donated their skills as well?
First of all, I have to say that this is one of the most original and well-written series I have read in a long time. All three books were page turners the way only a few others have done in recent years. It was original in concept, well thought out, expertly paced, and just generally good.
Now, for my bone to pick: as other reviewers have pointed out, the ending left a lot of people feeling hollow. Maybe this is inevitable when a series is this good, and then ends. But I don't think so. Here are specific points I have trouble with (**SPOILER ALERT**):
1. The deus-ex-machina aspects of certain plot devices. Specifically, when Chancellor Paige rescues Thomas from the brain surgery. This is "divine intervention", and it took away from the story. There were other moments that were less egregious, such as when Thomas was saved from Red Shirt by the "cop machine", and the magic door to "Paradise" at the end.
2. That we never find out the full back story of Thomas, Teresa, his memores, etc. Granted, we found out the gist of most of it along the way, but it didn't feel great.
3. The biggest emptiness: Failing to deal with the Thomas/Teresa relationship. After making the reader invest so much emotion in Teresa during the first book, Dashner ties up this loose end by dropping a big rock on Teresa. Really? A big rock? That's how you bring the relationship to a close--a big rock? Personally, I think he should go back and re-write the ending, giving Thomas his memories back, and resolving the relationship between them somehow. Then, if he still feels it appropriate to the story, he can drop a big rock on Teresa.
So overall, an excellent series. And the better your book, the tougher it is to tie up the ending in a satisfying way. But truthfully, I think he could have done better on this one.
Lastly, the narrator was excellent. Would gladly listen to other novels read by Mark Deakins.
Wayne Thomas Batson has done an excellent job telling an interesting traditional fantasy story. Yes, it is aimed at middle school age kids (not unlike Harry Potter or such), but I am a 41 year old doctor and I loved it. I downloaded it because my daughter was reading it, and I the book looked interesting. Plus, it never hurts to find out what your kids are reading!
Yes, it has a Christian influence, but it is not heavy-handed (think Chronicles of Narnia). There are a few slow parts in the first half but by the end it was quite gripping. This one is read by the author himself, who really throws himself into it. All the voices are well done overall, a few of the accents are a little goofy (particularly when he slips into a pseudo-English accent while narrating), but certainly better than I could have done. I definitely think that we need more of this type of author in this genre providing well written stories for our kids (and us!).
As an aside, we also have been listening to it in the car on long road trips, which I highly recommend as a good family way to pass the time without watching TV/DVD for hours on end!
Overall, definitely recommend this audiobook.
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