I place it among the top 10%
It was different than a typical Star Wars book. It is a small and intimate story without a great evil power or epic space battles. I enjoyed the change.
Jonathan Davis did an excellent job making each character sound distinct and bringing them to life. The audio version (as the Star Wars versions do) also had background audio -- when someone pours a drink, you hear a drink being poured, but it didn't overpower Jonathan Davis' performance.When voicing Obi-Wan, Jonathan Davis sounded exactly like Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan. I have a hard time believing he wasn't brought in to do some of the voice acting. If it really was Jonathan Davis, he did an incredible job.
I haven't read (or listened to) a Star Wars book in a long time, but this one sounded interesting. One reviewer described it like the 1985 Clint Eastwood movie "Pale Rider", and I agree. It was essentially a Western and not a typical Star Wars science fiction book. No space travel or big starship battles. It wasn't "the future of the universe turns on these events" kind of story.
Instead it was a rather small, intimate story set on Tatooine right after Obi-Wan Kenobi (now going by Ben Kenobi) drops off the baby Luke Skywalker with his aunt & uncle. Ben Kenobi tries to settle into a hermit's life near a small settlement, trying not to draw attention to himself or reveal himself as a Jedi Knight (which would draw the Empire's attention to him and Luke). But of course there are attacks by Tusken Raiders, bad guys to deal with, the harsh conditions of Tatooine itself, and a little romantic tension thrown in.
Caring for people and righting wrongs while remaining as aloof and as anonymous as possible are Ben's challenges. It was a nice change of pace for a Star Wars story.
The Paladin Prophecy begins a lot like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, with a slightly older Harry Potter named Will West. Will, who has no real friends, loses his parents and ends up in a special school for gifted children where he makes his first real friends. While there he learns more about and develops his special skills, finds enemies among the students, and discovers an evil conspiracy at the school.
But the story adds a deeper mythology that sounds a lot like J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion. It is difficult to say too much here without giving too much away, but the key is that the conflict Will West is experiencing is part of a much longer, older battle. Sort of like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, Will West is playing a critical role in a long-lived battle at a critical juncture.
And then at the end the author adds some aspects of The Bourne Identity. They barely touch on this towards the end, but I suspect it will play a larger role in the next novel.
If you enjoyed the Harry Potter novels, I recommend this book. The story moves quickly and is easy to follow (I suspect a movie is in the works), the characters are enjoyable, the storyline is interesting, and Nick Chamian delivers an excellent performance.
This novel is self-contained; I felt satisfied at the end. But the title does call this "Book 1", so there are a number of plot lines that are left dangling to be picked up in Book 2, which, sadly, at the time of this writing is not out yet.
Mark Watney, the lead character, who manages to laugh at adversity and his own stupidity and celebrate with enthusiasm with each accomplishment. And he needs a lot of accomplishments just to survive.
If you want to experience the power of audio books, this is a great one to start with. Bray seemed to capture the character of Watney perfectly. Bray is a voice actor, not just a narrator. He brings the characters to life. If I read the text to myself, the story would not be nearly as interesting.
Weir adds just the right amount of technical material and calculations to make the story thoroughly believable while not slowing down the story. The author clearly did some homework before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). While this is "science fiction" there is never a moment that made me think that this couldn't happen in my lifetime.
(BTW, I also enjoyed the 1964 movie "Robinson Crusoe on Mars", but this book had much more depth and was much more believable.)
If you enjoy books about space, space travel, or science fiction (especially when it isn't too speculative), I would recommend this book. I also recommend that you try the sample audio as it provides a good introduction to the story and gives you a flavor of the rest of the book.
The book begins at the end; that is, you know humanity survives after a devastating plague. And of course you know the author/interviewer and each person he interviews survives since he interviews them after the war. So the book doesn't get its tension by hiding significant outcomes from the reader until the end, and this makes listening to it again enjoyable.
The book is also written in bite-sized, relatively self-contained interviews, so you can literally drop into a chapter and enjoy that chapter all by itself.
From what I've read, the style of the book is patterned after the Pulitzer Prize winning book "The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two" by Studs Terkel. (unfortunately, this is not available on audible.com)
It is also somewhat similar to "The Beginning of the End: Apocalypse Z" (which is available on Audible). That book uses a diary format to describe one person's view of the unfolding zombie plague.
This is another ideal book for an audio version. The large cast should be called "voice actors" and not "narrators". They bring the book to life. Each character is given his or her own voice, full of accent, rhythm, and emotion that makes the book feel eerily real.
I could see this audio version augmented with photographs (faked of course), and it would play like a Ken Burns miniseries on PBS.
I just re-downloaded part 1 of the book. This new version has restored several minutes of the first part with Kwang Jingshu's interview. These minutes cover the time right before the doctor meets patient zero, and now it makes more sense to me.
I am not necessarily a big zombie fan, but I am enjoying this book very much. One day we may face another devastating plague like the Black Death, and the zombie is essentially a stand-in for this future plague. The interviews in this book lets you put yourself in the shoes of lots of different people in very challenging situations and wonder, "What would I do?" Would you kill your own child to protect him or her from a fate worse than death? Would you panic and lose control? Could you make the politically difficult decision to purposely sacrifice large portions of your population to ensure that humanity isn't completely wiped out?
Starship Troopers has always been one of my favorite books, and I've read it a number of times. This is far far different than the movie that came out. The story follows the young and privileged high school graduate Juan Rico who, almost on a whim, joins the military. When you are at peace joining the military seems more like an adventure, but then war breaks out. We follow Juan growing from a boy and into a man over the course of the war.
The book is full of social ideas which some find appalling. Personally I didn't have any problems with them, but if your politics tends to lean way to the left, you may have issues.
Several years ago I bought the audio CDs for about $60, but I never got past ripping the first CD because the reading was so bad -- monotone, slow, bad rhythm. I bought the audible version thinking (1) it might be better, and (2) at least I didn't need to spend the time ripping multiple CDs.
Bad decision. It is still the same bad version. I can recommend the book. I cannot recommend the audio version. Hopefully Audible.com will commission a new audio version.
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