I should have known from the image that Agent of Change would read more like a romance novel than sci-fi. If I have to hear another time about his haunting green eyes or aching beauty I'll slit my wrists. If that's your thing you may like this book, but if I'd known there was a ship whose drive was an aphrodisiac and there'd be lines like the following, I wouldn't have purchased the book: "His SHIrt caressed CHEst and AAARMS with EVery MOOOVE as he deLIGHTedly slid his PAlms down LEATHered THighs."
I have to agree with others on the narration problems. Looking at some other random samples of Andy Caploe's narration seem to have the same problem. He puts strange pauses in the reading and emphasizes unusual words or syllables making it seem melodramatic, almost like a caricature of Captain Kirk but more annoying. Listen to the free excerpt and sample to see if it annoys you. "The MAN who was NOT Terrence oGRAdy". I hadn't really noticed it in the sample and it didn't bother me much at first, but after hours of listening it annoyed me to no end. I could see using it as a way to distinguish characters through their dialogue, but it doesn't belong in the narration. Most of the characters are okay, but I thought Miri and Watcher's voices were poor fits. I'll not be getting another book read by him if I can help it, but maybe it won't bother you as much.
Finally I'd like to note a similarity to Twilight. I hadn't noticed in Twilight until it was pointed out, but it probably isn't good to have tweens reading romantic fiction glorifying an abusive relationship. Like Twilight, Agent of Change has a female protagonist falling for a dangerous man-child whose nature it is to kill and whose every instinct tells them to kill her, but she is able to change him into a more sensitive, caring person through her love and by sticking by him even though it puts her in danger. I've seen this mentality where it isn't really the abuser's fault and they're sorry but they just can't help themselves and it isn't right and shouldn't be idealized.
As for the story, I'd give the plot a three but the writing a one so I averaged to a two.
Very "hard" sci-fi, Diaspora's main characters are AIs, the protagonist being "born" early on. They can run points of view that allow them to enjoy a work of art as if it were someone else perceiving it for instance. There's no faster than light travel and this isn't a space opera, it's an introspective tale of exploration.
If you're frustrated with science fiction that let action get in the way of rigorous explanations of the science behind what's going on, this book is for you!
This book is really a collection of inter-twined short stories. Scalzi does a great job with his characters and there are some funny moments, and I really like the universe and science that he's created. Something just didn't sit well with me after listening and I was going to give it less than five stars, then I realized the reason was because I was left wanting more.
'nuff said. If you're looking at this book I assume you've already read "The Crown Tower" and probably the Riyria Revelations series starting with Theft of Swords. I've listened to the books in the order written and am amazed at how well Sullivan has fleshed out the early adventures of Royce and Hadrian. I didn't like books two and three of Riyria Revelations as much as "Theft of Swords", but these earlier books stand up. Tim Gerard Reynolds does an excellent job at narrating as always.
Every twist of the story is telegraphed chapters ahead of time and I was forced to listen to boring hours before the characters in the novel caught on. I read all about the series on wikipedia and am relieved that I won't be missing much of interest in the next six books. The enemies and their motivations are nebulous and ill-conceived, they seem to be there just to give Mr. Anderson something to write about. The universe of the book is somewhat interesting, but I feel that learning about it from a few paragraphs on wikipedia is much more enjoyable than sitting through another 120 hours of these books would be.
Bland characters and methodical writing aren't helped by the narrator. You can tell who the bad guys are right away, but it's really hard to sympathize with the characters.
I would say it was the science that was frustrating, but it's not really science but more basic logical contradictions that puzzle me. (minor spoilers) - It doesn't matter what caused a leak in a spacesuit, airlock or fuel line, the effects would be the same. When someone can't breath suddenly that means he must have lost air pressure, right? But the suit had half its air left, so why couldn't he breath? It just doesn't make any sense. That's like saying "nanobots pulled the trigger to fire the gun, but the bullet never left the barrel, but the guy died of a gunshot wound anyway". In fact they mention several times how slow the leaks were, which means the pressure loss should be detected before there was a real problem. The same could be said for all instances, it just doesn't make any sense.
And what normal functioning person would take their eyes off someone that was part of the plot against the whole station, someone that kidnapped a person and stole a shuttle, someone that you backed into a corner where he would have to face punishment for his actions, and someone that you had just punched in the face and knocked unconscious for a minute.
This book was interesting in that it seemed like a documentary what life might be like on a moon base in the future, but failed as an interesting work of fiction.
I enjoyed the book. It has good action scenes, interesting themes and decent characters. I think I just thought a lot of the action seemed arbitrary and did little to further the plot. About 1/2 way through I was just wishing the story would move to the final confrontation, but I knew I'd have to listen to several more encounters with the bad guys to get there. It just seemed like filler. The powers and weaknesses of the epics seem arbitrary as well and didn't ring true.
In fact one of the epic's powers is to create shadows and turn incorporeal. His weakness is UV light so he keeps the city encased in perpetual darkness so they never see the sun. But the sun destroys his shadows so how is he keeping the city dark? And why can they still see Calamity if they can't see the sun? The inconsistency makes it seem illogical, like the powers weren't thought out but just thought of to fill in what was required or what popped into the author's mind.
The writing is competent and the story is not too bad, but I found this book frustrating for it's mis-characterization of much of the information it espouses as truth. In the over 600 books I have on Audible, this is the first one I will be requesting a refund for. If you are unfamiliar with the actual evidence for evolution and against irreducible complexity then you may enjoy this book more than I. In that case however I suggest you watch some youtube videos, specifically AaronRa's "Falsifying Phylogeny" playlist, any video of Ken Miller talking about irreducible complexity, and BestOfScience's 25 part "Facts of Evolution / Natural Selection" playlist. I really tried to keep an open mind and was able to enjoy the story somewhat as a pure work of fiction, but illogicality kept drawing me out of the story and frustrating me.
You can tell from the author's introduction that he has an agenda. He compares scientists to fundamentalist Christians with 'unassailable' texts and 'received wisdom'. In reality the mountains of evidence constantly being discovered that reinforce the notions of evolution and common ancestry just can't be outweighed by mental exercises claiming that the odds are too great for that evidence to be true. This way of thinking comes from both a lack of knowledge of the actual evidence and from a misunderstanding of probability. For instance if you shuffle a deck of cards well and pull one card at a time, you will have a list of 52 cards. The odds of you drawing the 52 cards in that order is 1 in 8*10^67, that's an 8 with 67 zeroes behind it. You must be mistaken when you think you pulled those cards out in that order because it is so unlikely, the simplest conclusion is that God did it.
In fact there are 29 places I bookmarked where the author wrote something illogical or just plain false. Lack of transitional forms, conscious observation required for quantum mechanics to work and fine tuning are just some of the topics you'll encounter that are mischaracterized or that completely ignore relevant information. This is a work of fiction and I could easily accept the fictional evidence the aliens have if that were really important, but more of the book seems to be a sort of Socratic dialogue between the scientist and an alien that is supposed to have a 'superior intellect' but that seems to have huge blind spots in their thinking. This isn't the forum for a lengthy discussion, but I'll give one example with spoilers below.
In the first hour of the book the Aliens claim that their version of Occam's razor PROVES that God exists and that he caused nearly simultaneous mass extinctions in the past on the three planets with intelligent life we know of in the book (including Earth). Simpler explanations than 'god did it and he did it for the purpose of forwarding our evolution onto a path to lead to "intelligent" life forms' are out there. The first idea would be that it was not local events that caused the extinctions (such as an asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs), but some cosmic effect such as a supernova or local gamma ray burst. If the causes were known to be local then a simpler explanation would be that they were caused by an intelligent alien race.
In an amazing lack of insight later in the book we find out that another civilization that is no longer present on their home world in fact sent something to cause a supernova in order to cause another mass extinction in our local area, possibly to get rid of competition. The very type of thing that the aliens claimed was indisputable proof of God is now shown to be causable and in fact attempted by an alien race, but the author repeats his earlier claim that Occams razor shows that those earlier events MUST be God's work, although we know this attempt was in fact NOT. It makes me want to scream.
There's a good story here and some character development, but there are also flaws. I found the motivations and actions of some of the human villians (and heroes) hard to fathom. The demons are even worse, but maybe that will be fixed in one of the FOUR sequels, which most reviews seem to think will be at least two too many.
While fairly original, this world at night does remind me of the labyrinth in the Death's Gate series.
Nothing was explained about how or why rune-craft was discovered originally, or how it was rediscovered. How do runes keep demons away that are smart enough to notice weaknesses but who can't figure out they just have to lay a branch on the runes to disable their protection? How can no one have figured out the offensive runes? Why don't people have layers of protection around their houses so one worn rune doesn't kill their family? I also just can't believe there are any animals left alive. Demons seem to swarm around people wherever they are and without runes they would all be dead, but they are warned about packs of wolves which would have to feed on other animals?
I really enjoyed the characters and action in Theft of Swords. Tim Gerard Reynolds did an excellent job narrating and really brought the characters to life. The story and backlground of the world are original, although the setting contains many familiar fantasy tropes.
This is the first and best of a three book series, but the story in this book stands on it's own so you don't have to feel pressured into getting the next two. The latter two contain some rather contrived plot elements and subplots, a sort of deus ex machina to handle the invincible enemies facing humanity and are somewhat predictable, but they had some really great parts as well and I'm glad I listened to them.
Joe Abercrombie gives us a gritty fantasy novel with multi-dimensional characters that develop through the book. There is some torture and coarse language in this book and lots of blood. I can't say enough good things about the narrator. Every single character has a voice perfectly matched to their character and is instantly recognizable. The other two books in the trilogy are good as well, but I think I liked the promise of the first book more than I liked the series as a whole. I was disappointed in the directions the third book took especially, but I've listened to the part of the first book when the bloody nine is introduced several times and I get chills every time!
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