So I'm not going to beat around the bush: I love A Song of Ice and Fire, and as such I didn't mind dropping my credit on this book just to get the Dunk and Egg story out of it. And I was not disappointed at all by that story. George R.R. Martin can make me love or hate (or love to hate) a character in a single sentence, and this story is no exception! There really isn't much else to say, aside from being a gushy fangirl.
The other two though. Well. Not so much. McCaffrey's story certainly isn't bad, it's just nothing special. I loved reading the Pern books in middle school and high school, so it was a nice bit of nostalgia, but it just didn't really have anything special to offer. The main character is a typical fantasy heroine: super beautiful and Not Like Other Girls. The plot is very predictable and infuriatingly slow, but underneath it all not a terrible way to pass a couple of hours.
The Feist story though. Wow. I don't remember much of it because I honestly had a very hard time paying attention. I think I remember it being predictable, and having certain undertones that were uncomfortably racist. It was so bad that I am giving this whole book two stars despite that Martin's story is excellent and McCaffrey's merely forgettable. I actually wish I would have just skipped the entire section, I would have been far more satisfied with the book as a whole.
This book is a speculative fiction classic. The rise of the Gilead society seems all too plausible in today's political climate, and Offred's story is painful in its intensity.
I often find myself disappointed by the narrators of audiobooks, but not so with this one. Claire Danes does an incredible job reading, listening to her is like being inside Offred's head, and she manages to inject pathos into the story without ever distracting the listener from the true star: the words.
Readings this good of stories this potent are the reason audiobooks exist. If I could give it ten stars I would.
What is there to say about Neuromancer that hasn't already been said better by someone else? It defined a genre, and so much more. So much of what the internet is has been defined by Gibson's Sprawl books that it's hard to believe none of the terminology therein existed before he wrote it. Any fan of science fiction is morally obligated to read this book.
The reading takes a little getting used to. My husband joked that he sounded like a "computer voice," like the voice that Apple OS "reads" in. Once he gets going, Dean gets a bit easier to listen to, but the voice he uses for Molly is utterly ridiculous. In all fairness, it's probably pretty hard for a man to deliver her lines in any way that does not come off as ridiculous.
Still, I have an abridged audiobook as read by the author, and that is probably the best way to listen to this book. Unfortunately, it's abridged. This reading does make a nice compromise.
This book is certainly a lot of fun for anyone with a passing interest in intellectual history in general, or the turn of the eighteenth century in England in specific. If you're already pretty versed in the beginnings of the Royal Society or the life of Isaac Newton, you probably won't learn very much, but Dolnick's handling of the subject matter is still engaging and makes it feel like you're listening to a story about some old friends. A great aspect of this book is that it pays particular attention to the interpersonal relationships between the great minds of the era. Newton's feuds could fill a book of their own, but this book handles some of the big ones rather neatly.
I would like to point out, however, that the reading is pretty grating. Alan Sklar certainly has a pleasant speaking voice, but his delivery of the material seems almost condescending at times. At several points in the narration, he actually chuckles while delivering some lines, and the result is that he comes across as holding the primary sources in contempt, whether that is actually true or not. Some of the great discoveries of that time have become practically cliché, but in their original context they deserve more respect than this reading gives them.
Still, this book is an enjoyable experience from start to finish. As someone who has researched this particular period fairly extensively, I didn't really learn much from it, but I enjoyed listening. I recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the Scientific Revolution, or what kind of man Sir Isaac Newton actually was.
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