Springfield, OR, United States | Member Since 2011
For a book series with a rumored TV adaptation, the 3rd book arrived on Audible with little fanfare. I awaited and searched for release dates for months only to randomly discover it on Audible last week, lacking proper cover art or any features on the website. (For any audible employees reading, a favorite authors system would be great). That said its finally here and it's wonderful to have.
There isn't much reason to justify The Expanse if you've already read the first two books (and if you're like me, you've read the short stories. It's a rich and strangely believable universe of humans and space, where the fab team that make up James S.A. Corey never loose sight of the humans of the story. Having made my attempts at other popular sci-fi series, The Expanse feels rich, detailed and populous, without the extremes hardware worship or the obsessively dry space battles. Its easily my favorite series (besting my previous favorite of Peter F Hamilton's neurotically complex commonwealth series)
This go around rotates the cast, Bobbie and the wonderfully foul-mouthed Chrisjen are absent with new characters, Anna, an immigrant priest with strongly defined moral compass as much as James Holden, and Bull, a tough-as-nails chief security officer on the Behemoth, as replacements. True to form, each adds to the colorful and blossoming cast of The Expanse, although neither quite trump the cast they're filling in for.
Without spoiling much, the ride is exciting although doesn't quite hit the sensational horror of the first novel or the intensity of the second. This isn't to say its lost itself but the arch pertaining to the proto-molecule is largely explained, and while clever, isn't as surprising as some of the other twists in the previous books, especially in the wonderfully unpredictable fashion of the first two. I will give credit where credit is due, as the mystery isn't compounded into irrelevance not is it drawn out to insignificance. Pulling off the big reveal is always difficult and the Expanse does it well. Any additions to the series will now face a new arch.
The book's end stops a few chapters too early but the best entertainment always leaves you wanting more.
I look forward to seeing what the next books will be like.
Harry Markopolos can be grating at times, between his overuse of "zingers" when describing the SEC ( "couldn't find a bee in a beehive"), overemphasis on his Greek heritage, and his reveling in his own self paranoia. Markopolos seems to reveling in the idea of himself as a pistol packing gumshoe, walking the lonely streets of NYC.... and yes, our hero does carry a side-arm, as he reminds us several times.
However, Markopolos does warrant some self-congratulation as he's the lone-voice who repeatedly tried to bring the Madoff Ponzie scheme to light. The book could have been one giant, "I told you so" instead reads a manual of how the SEC failed and surprisingly, some sound advice on how to fix it.
The book doesn't quite outstay its welcome but felt slightly more drawn out than necessary. During the entire book, probably the most fascinating factor is we never quite get to know Madoff, nor does Markopolos extrapolate or even infer what Madoff must have been thinking or feeling. Most of the book, Madoff is a distant figure, far off in an ivory tower. Harry never does face his foe, but instead his beast to slay is the SEC itself, the regulatory agency charged with managing the market.
Even with my fairly pedestrian understanding of the underpinnings of investment banking, it was interesting, damning, and enjoyable.
Lastly, Scott Brick's melancholy narration is perfect for the tone of the book, and helps take a little of the edge off Harry Markopolos . The only breaks in the narration are for the so-so cameos by the author and his crew, and a very painful five minutes when Michael Orcrant, reads his own words. Other than that, Brick is a winner.
The Abyss is the start of a third series all set in Hamilton's incredibly dense and imaginative Common Wealth, a futuristic society of humans set after humans have mastered worm hole travel and the ability to live indefinitely.
If you haven't read Pandora's Star + Judas Unchained and The Void trilogy, the Abyss isn't the place to jump in. The events of the The Abyss take place before and during the events of The Void, but from the perspective of the playboy capitalist, Nigel Sheldon, and a few new comers. The starts with Paula Mayo, the closest thing to a main character to the expansive cast as she's tasked with finding Sheldon on behalf of the Raiel to enter the Void. We're re-introduced to a few old faces but mostly a new faces.
The events take place within the Common Wealth, and the world of the Void, and a new threat, The Fallers.
The strength lies in the story's meta-fantasy and Hamilton's ability to world build a universe where the humans still feel human despite thousands of years of technology. I've yet to find a series that I can compare to Hamilton's Commonwealth. It's hyper sexed, crass, occasionally violent, dense, sometimes confusing with the amount of detail but ultimately the best series I can name I've read with some truly memorable characters
Caine Riordan, no matter the situation, always seems to have the upperhand, be it surprise assassination attempts or interstellar diplomacy, the point of exhaustion.
The book starts off a bit slow, a bit of "What does all this mean?" Caine, formerly a journalist and analyst wakes to find he's been woken from Cryosleep for 13 years and he's missing 100 hours (give or take) of his memory leading up to the events that put him in cryostasis.
From there, Caine is recruited into a shadowy organization without much choice. However, despite his disposition, rarely does Caine encounter a challenge he can't defeat.
The book stumbles a few times with the awkward timelines, revisiting events that unfold but adding details that weren't told first go around. You're not given the full story with a chance encounter, and then only when the book takes a giant leap forward we get the full scoop. It feels slightly haphazard and somewhat confusing. I imagine reading it perhaps it might be a little more natural.
The book goes in a few unexpected directions, in a good way but even in the most unlikely circumstances, Caine has an unnerving grasp. Other characters get a little more honest treatment, and the book really picks up after a hostage situation.
That said, occasionally the logic of the diplomacy seemed slightly off. Good, but not great. Gannon isn't afraid of complexity or depth which is appreciated. The end cuts off without much fanfare and we're reminded that we can continue in Caine's adventure in the follow up book and given a 15 minute taste of the sequel.
Overall, I enjoyed it but found myself backtracking a few times just to make sure I caught everything.
First before anything else, Liam Owen, deserves some sort of award for his performance of Screw the Galaxy. Liam draws quite a bit of inspiration from Patrick Warburton's candace, nailing Hank's narrative, while giving a depth and variety for the rest of the cast. Generally I'm not a fan of post-processing voices, but for a few particular aliens, mild effects are used sparingly to add to the gamut of alien voices, making for one of the best produced audiobooks.
The story follows Hank, a well-liked and impartial contractor despite being an oafish quad-barrel shotgun wielding goon with violent tendancies in a backwater crime ridden space station. Hank constantly downplays his intelligence but manages to sharp enough to generally navigate through tricky situations.
Screw The Galaxy is humorous, even drawing a few outloud chuckles as I listened. Its a fun listen, albeit fairly tame for a book about a space station of gamblers, gangs, casinos, prostitutes, small time drug dealers and contraband. The story flows well, from introduction to Hank and his world to his soon-to-be adventure and while some of it feels a bit predictable at times, there's a pretty good twist.
While it'd probably make for a decent read, its hard to separate Steven Campbell from Liam Owen's perfect delivery.
The only quibbles is the very end could have used just a few more pages as it's a bit unclear on the status of a few things, and the title "Hard Luck" seems wrong as despite Hank getting smacked around, seems to have pretty decent luck but I suppose "Pretty decent Luck Hank" doesn't have that same ring.
The first Atopia chronicles drew quite a bit of likeness to the Wool series by Hugh Howey, mostly due to its narrative structure and ebook distribution as a series of short stories following separate characters to be stitched together to form a larger novel. Beyond that, subject and writing style, the comparisons mostly draw to a close.
Dystopia Chronicles abandons the previous format for a full fledged novel, with much more fluid transitions between its characters and picks up immediately after the Atopia Chronicles, with Bob and the gang of Atopian castaways left to find Cid's missing body and hopefully stop a conflict between technocractic micro-nations.
The meandering story jumps from an exposition of "What if..." into a labyrinth of pseudo-religion, secret societies and so forth, some of which works and some of which doesn't. Despite the avalanche of ideas and sophisticated tech presented in the first book, it was easy in enough to comprehend. The second feels a little more dissonant, I found myself relistening to a few segments of the book (perhaps I needed a refresher). For example: early in the book Bob has an interaction in a small town that leads to a man brandishing a gun at him. I found myself bouncing back, thinking "How did we get here?". Sometimes a little more pretext or background was needed as Mather seems eager to "just get on with it" more often than not.
The conclusion is underwhelming and felt a bit like a cop-out. I'm sure it'll be divisive: some loving it and some hating it. Overall, I enjoyed the first book more but found myself becoming more distracted with The Dystopia Chronicles. It was enjoyable but lacked the deftness that I felt the first book had.
The ending seems pretty finite, so I'm expecting we won't see any more in the Atopia series. If for some reason Mathew picks it back up, I may skip.
Year Zero starts off with a decent premise:
The rest of the universe is wildly infatuated with our music after it was discovered in 1970 and then redistributed the music The catch is:. Aliens who reach a certain point in technology are part of a multi-stellar conglomerate of civilized worlds. Due to the level of technology required to be a civilized world, the creatures in the civilized worlds dedicate their lives to the pursuit of art and consume the art in the way that honors the culture that created it.
Earth's intellectual property laws around music are unique. The copyright laws mean that the civilized worlds have been pirating our music, every song in existence for 40 years. Due to our overly egregious copyright laws (up to $150,000 USD per song) and the civilized world's deep commitment to the arts, the infractions threatened to bankrupt the entire universe.
Its a good start, humorous in theory.... except it isn't. The power of earth music is so great that it caused massed die-offs in civilized worlds but because, y'know, because classic rock is that good... to all sentient life. The main character, a low level lawyer with name that is similar to a once famous pop-star (cue the laughs), is the point of contact with two very human aliens who immediately accepts the story presented by the aliens at face value.
While its commentary on the cynicism of our IP laws in the world are entertaining and mild side-steps into pop culture and tech are clever, the story isn't so much. It's a bit of let down. The potential is there, but rarely capitalized on or explored. I'm not familiar with Rob Reid but this felt like a rookie novel as characters are pretty vanilla.
John Hodgman does a decent job with the material, although occasionally an alien voice or two are slightly grating (but are described as such) and even kicks out a half-sung rendition of a boy-band ballad, which in the wrong hands, could have been abysmal.
After reading Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet (buying most on a whim during a sale), I've avoided military sci-fi. Campbell's one-dimensional, wooden characters combined with his over-usage of a few basic human interactions (I started to cringe each time I heard "smiled without humor") and snoozefest battles seem to the be gold standard of the sub-genre. I'm happy to say that Christopher G. Nuttall is a much more capable writer than Campbell. Ark Royal occasionally falls victim to a few repeated issues, a character who has a relationship with a younger character "old enough to be her father" was constantly restated to the point of awkwardness and it falls victim to standard military fiction tropes like "all reporters are idiots" and "all bureaucrats are morons". Ark Royal also doesn't venture too much out of safety, but none of the main characters are infallible, each with their own internal conflicts. The characters are much closer to actual people opposed the Lost Fleet. Overall, its a pretty minimalist sci-military fiction, there's no real exploration of the universe at large and minimal world building beyond just enough to get you into cockpit of the space battles.
I picked this book up due to the comparisons to Battlestar Galactica. Beyond the obvious, an out-of-date carrier with a ruff and tumble crew, Ark Royal lacks the nuance or interplay between the enemy and humanity. I enjoyed the story but wasn't enamored by it either.
Ralph Lister has a great guttural commanding voice but doesn't have much dexterity for conjuring up unique voices or inflections for each character. I wasn't annoyed or put off by him but I found myself wishing he had more range. He's better than average, and doesn't detract from the material but doesn't add to it either.
I'll probably try out the second book in this series, perhaps it'll pick up steam.
Erik Davis's narration isn't the worst but his staccato delivery, and lacking dexterity of Jefferson Mays is wildly apparently. Some of the humorous/sarcastic quips by characters are undelivered (in a series that actually has sometimes quite amusing dialogue despite the heavy tones) and voices are just so-so. Sometimes, I find his broken fragments jarring but I'm still able to focus, (where as I have had a few books were the reader completely made the book unlistenable).
I am not a fan of Erik Davis and I'm unsure as to why the series would have been yanked from exceptionally talented Jefferson Mays, who made a great book even better (if it were pay, he's worth every penny and then some).
The analogy I'd use is having a super star actor to be substituted by an unknown from your community theater. Even if the performance is good, its just not the same... and sadly Erik Davis's performance isn't as good either.
There's no love lost for writing duo for the Expanse as authors rarely have much of a say in matters such as this.
The book is fine and quite enjoyable as morality ambiguity where neither side exactly begs for sympathy and the always-moral Holden has to navigate a situation that tests him.
I worried that The Expanse might not have much more to go on after Book 3's ending that gave what I thought might be a series end. Instead, it looks like there's plenty to explore with the Rocinante.
Holden seems a little more cynical and also a little more fearful after everything he's experienced. Amos Burton is colder and harsher. Naomi Nagata confidence seems to gotten the better of her, each character internalizing the events of their previous adventures differently.
Having burned through several biographies (Hamilton, Einstein,Robert J Oppenheimer and four separate books on Theodore Roosevelt) it was time for me to branch to another historical figure. Harry S Truman fascinated me but I only had the history 101 treatment of Truman: successor to Franklin, made the decision to drop the A-bomb, and headed up the beginnings of the containment strategy of communism starting with the Korea War.
Harry S. Truman: A Life is a bit duller than most of the other biographies I read, where books like The Big Burn and The River of Doubt unfold like page-turning novels or the reader is left amazed by the brevity of details like in the case of Oppenheimer (ultimately making the reader wonder how he or she would have handled being accused of communism). Truman: A life mostly reports the events as they happened. The biography is at its best when the authors take stands on interpretations of events, such as Truman's decision to use the nuclear bomb option on Japan or Truman's stance on the Korean War, or Truman's disdain for McCarthy and critical of his lack of action. A personal mild criticism also comes in the when some of his more human moments underplayed such as when he asked the formerly disgraced Herbert Hoover to head up humanitarian aid to Europe post war.
The lack of edge comes to a close at the death of Hoover which simply reads his tombstone and closes without any further words, which feels cold and detached. There's no closing statements about the life of Harry S. or about what became of his widowed wife, his daughter and much about the historical weight of his presidency other than in early portions of the book. Character profiles of anyone outside of Truman are brief, his wife whom he was clearly dedicated to and his daughter feel like footnotes and accessories. By outward appearances, he was pretty close to them but the book failed to make much impression beyond that. Quite simply put, the title, "Harry S Truman, a life" is pretty accurate as its his life and hardly much beyond that. The best biographies often delve into the lives of other important people close the main subject to help better understand him/her (and it make usually for a better read).
Also to add to the sometimes anti-climatic nature of the biography, is Jeff Riggenbach, reads in a very academic measure, rarely using much variance of inflection to give quotes much weight or adding more life to the subject. He's clear, easy to listen to and a pleasant enough reader but lacks any flair, sad since Truman had some pretty great off the cuff quotes, and remembered as one of our most quotable presidents for his a-little-too-honest-for-politics remarks.
At times it was laborious to get through portions as names of cabinet members fly in rapid succession and other times I found myself truly enjoying the book. As far as biographies of Harry, A Life is "Where the buck stops". It could be better but it could be worse.
First and foremost, William Dufris is a great audiobook narrator and has read quite a few books in my library. Normally I consider him one of the absolute best.
That said, this isn't Dufris finest performance, and its never good mojo to switch readers in a series if the previous reader did a good job.
Secondly, while audio effects aren't always bad, there's some exceptionally poor choices here, with an effect that drones on and on, what sounds like a bad flanger + reverb over the voice to note certain interactions. Its distracting and pulls you from the story as it makes the book harder to understand.
Also beyond the narration Woken Furies feels meandering and aimless at times. Where as the first book really explored the the repercussions and a new interstellar universe, mostly dictated by the ability to transfer information at beyond-the-speed-of-light while faster-than-light speed wasn't possible, and the second book really focused on the ideas of humans and the exploration of the remnants of an alien civilization, Woken Furies seems to be locked solely in its own mythos of a departed revolutionary.
As a whole, Woken Furies seems decidedly unfocused, Kovacs is on a revenge-quest against a religious extremist group which makes for entertaining first portion of the book but the revenge-quest seems to rapidly dissipate. With a large rotating cast of characters (not necessarily a bad thing) only muddies the plot.
Due to some of the issues with the audiobook itself and the plot, this may have been better read than listened to. I didn't hate it but I lacked motivation to finish it.
Report Inappropriate Content