This book was truly a mixed bag, even feeling haphazard at times. It could really have easily been a tour de force, and I kept hoping that it would turn into one. But alas, it comes out feeling like the book needed a decent editor.
The novel starts out quite dense, and I had to struggle not to get lost with all the names and things going on. We get glimpses of the war on a cosmic scale, only to be mired down in drivel and wasted pages. Eventually I listened to the novel at double speed while at work, realizing that I didn't care enough to get that invested and I just wanted to catch the highlights of what happened.
A strong content rating on this one as well, as adult situations and languages abound. A few bright moments, such as the escape through the inside of the massive Culture craft, as well as the high-stakes card game on the eve of a giant space Ring's destruction. Also some of the humor was actually funny. I did not feel like the book ended well at all, however. Up until the end I was lost in useless detail, and a climax that was completely unexpected and underwhelming.
Looking back, I would not have started the series with this book, because now I'm not sure if I want to read any more or not.
A plus note: The narrator did a fantastic job with what he had. His normally British accent, very pleasant to hear in the narration, turned into a plethora of amazing voices with different characters. Alas, if only the characters had been written as well as they'd been narrated!
The premise of this book felt really familiar as I started listening to it. Then I realized I'd already seen the movie a couple of years ago, only then it was called Surrogates and starred Bruce Willis.
Seriously though, while I have enjoyed a lot of Scalzi's books, this one just wasn't nearly as exciting to me as most of the others. It was actually almost boring at times, and I think that is because it felt like we're just treading along well-plowed ground. Sure, the instigator of the technology (a virus) was a different twist, but that just made it feel like your average epidemic book, followed by, well, the film Surrogates.
Scalzi isn't known very much for blazing new trails, but rather refining concepts that are already familiar to us. Old Man's War was much like Starship Troopers or Forever War. Redshirts is essentially a Star Trek parody. Fuzzy Nation was based off of Little Fuzzy, and so on and so forth. Likewise, this novel is similar to Caves of Steel and similar detective stories featuring android/cyborg characters, and it doesn't offer all that much new except for including tons of modern culture into it. The book almost feels like it could happen within then next couple of decades, but stretches the imagination just a bit too far to sell the concept completely.
This is a solid 3-star book, and isn't Scalzi's best by any stretch of the imagination. It was solidly written in Scalzi's sardonic style, and included some good humorous moments. However, I'll have to give a strong language warning on this one, because there is definitely some filthy speech going on at times.
This was another debut military sci-fi novel, this time by Evan C. Currie. However, unlike the "Man of War" series I recently started as well, this one is not only quite clearly a "first novel", it is also clear that it was self-published first. Although it gets better near the end, the first part of the book is amateurish and difficult to continue listening to. It shows why good editors are so important in fiction writing. The author makes a number of choices in the story that simply are too much to possibly believe. Feeling like a kind of cheap Star Trek copy, the novel starts with humanity's first faster-than-light ship's maiden voyage, that then quickly turns into a Jack Campbell-style military sci-fi romp. But the jump is way too sudden, and the situation utterly unbelievable. Almost immediately upon arriving at Alpha Centauri, the ship responds to a distress signal in yet another system, which they blindly follow, after which continues one unlikely decision after another until this fleet is involved in full-scale battles with alien forces. It is simply not believable that such a captain would make decisions like this, not based on our current knowledge of military procedures and extensive and careful prototype testing.
While the book does get better later on (at least the space battle are well done), it can't make up for the strange and out of place decisions that are made by both the author and characters in the first half. Another seriously unbelievable element is in the type of "aliens" they run into, although I won't spoil that particular point. Ultimately if he wanted to write an exploration novel, then exploration should have dominated the theme of the book and the conflict kept small and realistic. If he wanted to write military space battles, then he should have introduced us to a world in which this was already feasible, not tacking it on to what was essentially an exploration mission. Some people might disagree with me and say that it worked for them. If so, then please continue reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of the series. I'll be stopping here, thanks.
I'm not really a fan of McCaffrey's style or her writing, but I did enjoy this one more than other books of hers. In essence this is a very character-driven tale of self-discovery and a touching story of love and family. We follow the Rowan from the time she is a baby through to motherhood, and everything is rendered very beautiful and real. McCaffrey's style is very visible as there is a lot of focus on character interactions more than the wider world. Still, the aspects of telepathy and telekinesis were cool and the exploration of it in terms of the relationships was very well done.
I'm not interested to the point of continuing the series (the alien aspect is not too interesting to me), but I think as a standalone it works quite well.
Huge props to Audible for offering this as a free download! And with an all-star cast! There are some really great voices in this collection, and although some of them seemed to struggle a bit with a few words, for the most part they did an admirable job.
I have only recently started venturing into the world of D&D, so there were a lot of characters that I didn't know. I'm sure that fans of the series will enjoy this immensely. For me, there were some stories that were harder to follow than others. Most of these stories do not actually feature Drizzt directly, which I hadn't expected. Still, there is a good mix of stories here, enough to give one a good sense of the variety of characters, creatures and events that exist in this world. There's also plenty of action-packed battles.
This was a worthy follow-up to the first book, and even exceeds it in pretty much every way. For anyone who likes military space action, this is one you'll probably enjoy. It has a feel of the best traits of Jack Campbell's "Lost Fleet" series or David Feintuch's "Hope" series, but does stand way out on its own with some very nice and original ideas.
Although you will almost immediately recognize this world because of common traits you've seen before, there is something refreshing about this series that really makes it stand out. Part of it is a very well realized world that doesn't waste time on extraneous detail. The series has a mission-by-mission feel that really draws you into the world and makes you feel like you're there. It brings back memories to me of games like Wing Commander, where you're on one ship that is part of a much larger war, but you don't really see the big picture. It's definitely still there, but there's also a big sense of mystery about what's going to happen next. I also like the incorporation of truly varied alien races, with a very believable dynamic to them; in fact, this universe brings back memories of another of my favorite games of all time, Star Control II. There is a sense of many races out there each vying for their own interests, each at different technological levels, and both communication, trade, and territory is all mapped out very believably and interestingly.
Overall I would say any fan of adventure scifi will enjoy this series. It's definitely off to a good start and I could really see this story stretching out across many enjoyable books. I'm looking forward to the next volume.
This was a great debut effort that stands out because of the strong characterization of the main character. Boiled down, this is a pretty straightforward mystery novel. The thing that makes it stand out is that the story is told in the voice of a main character who is a sociopath. In that sense, Wells has done an outstanding job. Now, I don't know if his depiction of a sociopath is accurate or not, but it feels believable enough. On the other hand, the main character is afraid that he is going to turn into a serial killer because he has so many common serial killer traits and thoughts. I don't know if I buy all that, and I think that it is overdone in several places. Parts of the book were disturbing and I would rather they not be in there, personally. But overall I have to admit that it is well done. The overall plot may not be realistic, but the book itself is pretty good.
This a solid military sci-fi debut from a new author. Fans of Jack Campbell's "Lost Fleet" series or David Feintuch's "Hope" series should enjoy this one. It has all the elements that fans of the genre look for - well-realized universe in which humanity is struggling against a strong alien foe, a variety of great interactions aboard ship that bring the reality of military life to bear (not just endless space battles), a sharp military attitude that is well-portrayed and draws you into the world, and a couple of well-developed characters that are memorable.
One difference I noticed in this series was the sense of confidence and knowledge that the main character already possesses in this opening volume - usually writers take a more "cadet" approach, where someone young and inexperienced gets into situations above their head and proves themselves admirably. Instead, our main character here has a very difficult past and quite a lot of experience, so he already knows what needs to be done in most situations. That kind of feels refreshing in a way, since it slips out on the mold ever so slightly.
One caution: there is significantly stronger language in this series than Campbell's "Lost Fleet" or even Feintuch's "Hope" series, so keep that in mind.
INCONSISTENT VOICES!!! Seriously, this is getting ridiculous! But more on the performance in a moment...
This is another epic installment to the Malazan series. It hits all the marks - wildly creative, eloquent in prose, frantic in its action, and a scope almost unparalleled in fantasy fiction. Erikson is in full stride on this one, and for fans who have made it this far, it is a crazy and fulfilling ride.
The amount of stuff that happens in this book is simply astounding. Erikson is known for his massive cast of characters, and just about all of them come into play here. For those who have made the investment to know them all, who have learned about the world and followed the story up to this point, the payoff with this volume is absolutely huge. Sequences string together and pull you right along, and you can never guess what is coming next. The characters, which initially felt shallow due to the lack of "screen time", have by this point come into their own, and feel incredibly well realized in the reader's mind.
To even attempt to summarize the plot is pretty much a ridiculous endeavor. Nevertheless if you've made it this far, you should enjoy it immensely. Now that we're past the halfway point, it's starting to feel like the main threads are taking shape and coming together, and I can see several confrontations ahead that promise to be as epic as almost anything I've read. The intricate plot continues to develop and intrigue the reader, as this war among the pantheonic players develops full force.
However, I do have issues with the audio presentation of this series. Michael Page has a great voice, but I don't think it's the right one for this series. There are several annoying problems:
1. Inconsistent voices. This is an amateur mistake that could easily have been avoided. Most notable among these are Karsa Orlong, one of the main characters introduced in House of Chains, and his voice is very different from what it was in that book. He sounds more generic here, and frankly more stupid.
2. Inconsistent pronunciations. The pronunciation for "soletaken" has changed again, as has the pronunciation of several character names, places and race terms.
3. Strange choices for the voices. There are some character voices that seem jarringly out of place. Icarium, a massive barbarian, has a tiny, high-pitched voice like a child. Empress Laseen, whom I would think has a cool, calculated voice, is delivered like an old woman with a heavy foreign accent. Shadowthrone is delivered like a senile old man.
4. Limited variety in the voices. Granted, there is a huge cast of characters here. But the majority of Page's voices seem to be limited to (A) growling, beastly voices and (B) high-pitched, overly accented voices. Also, "pirate" voices are very predominant as well. There are very few characters delivered either as intelligent, manly, or neutral, making me wonder if Page is just limited in the voices he can deliver?
I realize that it's too late to do much about this at this point, and granted, there is a huge cast of characters, making delivery insanely hard for anyone. But it is such as shame as I feel that all of these problems could easily have been avoided.
Overall this is definitely not one to be missed, and more than any other probably leaves you eager to start the next book in the series.
This was my first foray into the Forgotten Realms series. Nevertheless this was a good, well-written read, although after this I still don't feel like I know much of anything about the world at large. I do however know a lot about the Drow, or dark elves. They weren't at all what I was expecting from dark elves as compared to other series; much of this story is a lot darker than I'd thought, and I don't like the Drow at all (which is as it should be). This is really a story about the politics and treachery between houses. This is really like The Godfather of fantasy.
However, as a Drizzt-centered story, this was very well executed. The character development is nicely done, and the empathy built for him through the story is a definite strong point.
The action sequences are good, and I think that because the scope of the story is so limited, this book really worked. I'm sure I'll have to read the next two in this trilogy, but I am also looking forward to discovering the rest of this massive world and the various races and cultures. I'm afraid this is another long series that I'll eventually have to get to.
This was one of my more anticipated titles of 2014, as the followup to the tour de force first novel Blood Song. I was hoping for a much more expansive, epic and inspiring tale and an answer to many of the mysteries in the first book. However, the result of this was hit or miss.
The expansive scale is definitely there, as well as epic, bloody battles. In fact, there are tons of them. I thought the first book was pretty dark, but I would have to say this one is definitely darker.
There are definitely some problems with this book, and those stem, I believe, from not learning from the mistakes made in the first one. Most of the mystery surrounding the worldbuilding is not really resolved at all. It's unclear whether there are any rules to the magic system, or any truth to any of the belief systems in this world at all. Everything is left ambiguous, and ultimately portrays a bleak, pessimistic worldview that really starts to drag the reader down after a while.
Ryan continues to place a large emphasis on the religions in the world. However, I'm not sure if he has really taken the time to develop these belief systems in his own world. For all their large emphasis, there are huge flaws in the writing. The religions aren't realistic at all. I'm not sure if Ryan just doesn't understand what religions are, or whether he hasn't taken the time to research them, but the ones in this world are shallow and empty. It's like he just read up on popular elements of various religions and decided to write them without any kind of depth. So it's hard to buy that anyone would actually follow any of the religions in this world.
Furthermore the Unified Realm follows a system of belief called the "Faith". However this name is an oxymoron because they don't actually believe in anything at all. This makes no sense. The only "faith" they have is that their souls enter some kind of paradise called the "Beyond" when they die, yet they have absolutely no evidence or reason to support this at all. What I mean by this is that there aren't even any myths or legends to explain how or where these beliefs originated. Such beliefs don't materialize out of thin air. They clearly have deep superstitions about the "Dark" (magic) and such, yet surely any world in which magic power is manifested so powerfully would have to have some cause to make such a thing happen. The magic system is simply unexplained.
This whole flawed system really cripples the book, because it's such a fundamental element that the characters are talking and thinking about all the time. The main character has even come to the conclusion that the "Faith" isn't true, yet there is never any explanation of what the actual truth is in this world, only that there are obviously some kind of evil spirits at work that have returned from the Beyond.
Interestingly this book show some excellent examples of why moral values truly exist and we see illustrated again and again the negative effects of the immoral choices that certain characters make. This is one of the most broken worlds that I have seen depicted in epic fantasy and that gives it a very dark flavor. It's a shame that the world feels so hollow, because it really stops the reader from fully engaging and suspending their disbelief in this world, which is what fantasy actually strives to achieve.
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