LOUISVILLE, KY, United States | Member Since 2014
This audiobook lecture series is narrated by a an expert historian and an expert teacher. Baum's ability to make historical characters and events come alive is nothing short of impressive. He is able to present Chinese history from the 19th century through the present as an intriguing pageant of people and their motivations instead of just a progression of names and dates. Each lecture is about long enough to listen to in the car to and from work, and the overall story never gets lost in the details.
My only issue is that his speech patterns take on an all-too-familiar cadence that occasionally bugged me (his sentences always end on a low pitch), but that was only because it was impossible NOT to notice over the course of 20+ hours of listening. I have stopped listening to several history audiobooks due to bad narration, and this one kept my rapt attention throughout as much for his delivery as for the material. Outside of the most acclaimed professional narrators, you will find few better narrators of a history audiobook.
In sum, he is the type of history teacher you always wish you had: informed, experienced, engaging, and with an eye towards delivering his material instead of just reciting it.
What this book does well: Like The Blade Itself, this installment in the First Law Series boasts excellent action and builds the scene well. Also like the first volume, the characters are all from the usual stock of fantasy characters, but Abercrombie makes these well-worn archetypes interesting. The world-weary berserker Logen Nine-Fingers and the twisted but contemplative torturer Glokta are among my favorites, but characters like West and Farro gain new depths in this volume. Even Byaz changes in the reader's eye, changing from the wise and trustworthy Gandalf-type to something more flawed and human.
Steven Pacey's narration is excellent, and he brings out all the different shades and turns of phrase that are Abercrombie's efforts to make his third-person prose reveal the characters' interior lives.
Where This Book Could Have Been Better: While I could listen to Pacey read Abercrombie's prose all day (and have), the series so far doesn't quite excite me like it should, and I feel this has to do with the overarching plot. What is it? Who is the main bad guy? Is it the movement of the Gurkish Emperor in the South? the machinations of Byaz's longtime rival Khalul? Is it Bethod and his witch in the North? Yes, things happen and there are conflicts on multiple fronts, but there is a sense that it should be coming together more than it has by this point. All of the principle antagonists are out of view, and we don't really know enough about them for them to make an impression as villains. Perhaps Abercrombie is doing like Welles in The Third Man, in which the antagonist of the film appears only towards the final act after he has been built up a great deal. If so, it's not working for me.
The diffuse nature of the overarching threat kept me from feeling any sense of urgency in the book's plot. Characters move around, travel, fight every now and then (with each other or with men with swords), are manipulated by others, and generally don't get any further to the end of their journey than they were when they began. Things happen, but it feels like the characters are just spinning their wheels. Matters aren't helped by the book's ending, in that like The Blade Itself there isn't one, or not a satisfying one that creates a sense of closure for this volume as it whets my appetite for the next. This book didn't provide that, and I don't think that is as much due to "middle book syndrome" as it is to Abercrombie's plotting in general.
I don't have a solid sense of where this series is going, and I don't mean that in a good way. There are two types of not knowing when it comes to reading a book. The first is the good kind, which means that the author has built his or her world well enough that you find yourself tantalized with specific and vivid possibilities of what might happen next and what is possible. The second is, while not necessarily bad, the less exciting kind: you don't know because it seems to depend more on the author's whim rather than on how he works within the parameters he has already firmly established in the text. While I'm not automatically prejudiced against the latter, I appreciate the former better because it makes the book exciting for me to think about even when I'm not reading. I don't know where this series is going, and it's the latter kind, which I find less engaging.
Love the characters, love the narration, but wish the overall plot was more engaging. Perhaps this is just middle book syndrome. I plan on eventually listening to The Last Argument of Kings, so here's hoping.
I started listening to Marsters' performances of Butcher's Dresden Files last year and each one has been a treat. Marsters' narration brings out the noir overtones of the series well. I came into Dead Beat having been underwhelmed by the previous volume, Blood Rites. The plots and subplots of that book didn't seem to mesh into a coherent whole as well as they do in other editions. Dead Beat reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the series with truly nasty villains, exciting action, and a well-paced plot that continues our investment and interest in the core characters. Bob gets some very intriguing development in this volume, and Waldo Butters (formerly a bit player in previous volumes) makes for an intriguing new addition to the core cast.
Vampires, zombies, necromancers, and the dark legacy of a long-dead warlock against one wizard-detective and his dog. If you are into the Dresden Files, you should enjoy this one. If you're not, start with Storm Front, and you'll be glad you did.
I'm a big fan of Butcher's The Dresden Files, which mixes the noir detective genre with contemporary magic/urban fantasy. I was looking for something similar when I came across Correia's Grimnoir series. My first impression of this book from looking at the cover and from the first chapter or so was that it looked like a really hammy alternative fiction with superpowers, but as I listened it opened up into an exciting, imaginative, highly-engaging adventure. In Correia's world, magical powers manifest themselves within individuals as superpowers around 1860, and Correia opens his chapters with fictionalized excerpts from famous people from Lincoln to Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson as they comment on the influence of these powers on history. Each of these powers have specific uses and limitations that made me think of magic in Sanderson's Mistborn saga in that they are well defined and have their limitations, which allows Correia to show how the characters are being clever with their abilities.
The book follows two central characters in the early 1930s. Faye is an "Okie," part of a poor family from Oklahoma who was traveling west in the hopes of finding work and food. Her family ostracized her for being different, for having the power to "travel" in the blink of an eye, and sold her for $10 to a Portuguese farmer with a similar talent. Her new "grandfather," Joe, taught her how to harness her ability and taught her the value of hard work, but when his past catches up to him she finds herself on the road looking for revenge. Sullivan was a WWI hero and now is an ex-con working off his parole by helping J. Edgar Hoover and the new FBI track down dangerous "Actives" (people with powers). Sullivan may look like a big, brutish idiot, but he's sharper than he looks, and it's that intelligence that helped him discover the depth and breadth of his gravity-altering abilities while quarrying rock in the government's special prison for Actives. Faye and Sullivan become unwillingly embroiled in a conspiracy involving the battle between the menacing Japanese Imperium and a secret society of Actives all clamoring for a mysterious device of immense power.
The plot was very well paced with plenty of action AND character development. The story is told form a third-person limited point of view but Correia added enough voice to the prose and Pinchot's narration added enough flavor to keep Faye's and Sullivan's sections distinct and interesting, reflecting the inferiority of each character. Correia might have expanded on how individual magical superpowers are linked (or not) to the kind of magic in spells and writing a bit earlier as early on in the book I was wondering why we are calling it "magic" and why we wouldn't just treat it like superpowers a la X-Men. It was developed later on, but if you find yourself wondering the same thing, just wait a while and it'll be dealt with. I enjoyed the inventiveness applied in the alternate history of the late 19th, early 20th century as it didn't throw things too out of whack and played with the historical tensions that were already there including the growing concern of Japanese imperialism and the general relaxing of tension in America following World War I. I did, however, feel that the characterization Japanese was flat overall. While the only Japanese we see are soldiers of the Imperium and their terrifyingly powerful Chairman Tokugawa, as a people they did feel very "Othered" in this story: they come across as just part of a big, bad, conquering war machine and not much else. While this may be how they would have been seen by contemporary Americans since there was not a lot of cross-cultural understanding between those two cultures at the time, still it irked me a bit.
Overall, however, the characters feel vibrant and interesting, even the Japanese Chairman. I very much enjoyed this audiobook as it was a fun ride with inventive use of magic, thrilling action and adventure, and very affective characters. The book sets up the challenges and mysteries awaiting the characters in future installments well and left me hungry for more, so I look forward to downloading Spellbound soon. Pinchot's narration was very engaging and he has a good range for different voices. I would describe his narration as somewhere between James Marsters and Scott Brick (but maybe a Scott Brick who spoke in a quicker, more animated fashion).
The story might have been more interesting if the characters didn't read so much as mouthpieces for the author's views on alien contact. The long-winded lectures and exposition on the science of contact deflated any tension in the plot or interest in the characters. It was almost like reading a Socratic dialogue in some parts. I listened to much of this book in a kind of numb determination to get through it because there was little actual drama or character development. Good science fiction, in my view, needs to strike an appropriate balance between telling and showing: telling about the science and the speculation on future developments and showing that through scene-driven character development. Fiasco is most definitely a "telling" novel so full of exposition and long asides that the characters are only a tertiary concern. Wyman's narration, which can be very credible when he is given good material, only added to the slog of this book since the regular rolling tones of his speech lulled me into inattention and boredom. Skip this one and get Solaris narrated by Allessandro Juliani if you haven't already; that is guaranteed to be a better experience with Lem. It has interesting ideas, but it's not worth the slog to get to them.
This audiobook requires a considerable time investment, and its scene building and dialogue mimic and appropriate styles from 18th and 19th century novels like those of Austen and Dickens. You don't have to have a burning passion for those types of novels to enjoy this book, nor do you have to be particularly adept at parsing out the oftentimes dense prose of such novels either. Prebble's narration does a wonderful job of bringing out the verbal fencing between characters complete with nuances in emphasis and tone that make the dialogue engrossing to listen to, probably more so than the textual version for those who are not savvy readers of the types of novel Clarke's work emulates. The book has plenty of magic, but it's presented in a fairly matter of fact way at times, i.e. this book would not be a summer action blockbuster with a huge special effects budget. The plot develops slowly, which may be frustrating to some readers. It's a very English book that has a lot to do about Englishness, particularly in the early 19th century as England became the predominant military power in Europe with the defeat of Napoleon. If you are an anglophile, like me, or if you really like novels like those of Dickens or Austen, then you should find a lot to love in this novel even if you are not a big reader of fantasy or books about magic. Even if you are not familiar with those genres or are not much into those authors, this audiobook is a very accessible way to get into this novel.
That is my disclaimer for anyone on the bubble about whether or not to give this book a try. I personally found the book to be a wonderful mix of styles: 18th/19th century novels, historical and alternative historical writing, fairy tale and myth, magic and early modernity, and elements of the Gothic just to give it a sense of the ominous. Clarke has written a book that really is so much a wonderful mix that it becomes its own thing. The characters are well developed over the long course of the book. The magic is presented in an interesting way as it is supplemented with footnotes and explanations of the myths and alternative histories that underlie its workings and history, making the scholarship of magic that the characters study feel believable and rich. The story is slow to develop, but by the time the climax comes around you feel like you have lived with these characters and keenly feel their desires and their fears.
A very enjoyable book and an indispensable narration by Prebble.
I've seen a lot of hype about Rothfuss' book and read a lot of very positive reviews, so believe me, I wish I could have enjoyed this book more. I attribute my lack of enthusiasm to the project that Rothfuss is undertaking. By telling us in the beginning that Kvothe is this awesome, but world-weary hero-type character I feel a lot of the bite is taken out of his development from child to adult in the story itself. He is hyper capable, and we know right off the bat in this book that his capability is going to take him very high and then, for actions that are probably largely misunderstood (because he seems good and moral if a bit headstrong), he loses a great deal and becomes notorious. Knowing where he ends up, the journey itself is where the real enjoyment of the book is to be had, right? Well, since Kvothe is chronicling his entire life in three installments, the story doesn't have the usual conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement pattern. Well, it does, but not a traditional one. The larger struggle that will overshadow the trilogy only barely shows itself and is subsumed by the smaller struggles of his day-to-day life.
The book feels, consequently, very episodic, and without a stronger focus on the overall peril and stakes that were hinted at so enticingly early on I didn't feel particularly invested in what was going on. Other readers seemed to have not been bothered by this, while still others can't get past the implausibility of Kvothe's hyper-capability (he excels at absolutely everything he applies himself to), but I just didn't get pulled in by the stories overarching structure. I also was nonplussed by Podehl's narration. Another reviewer commented that his voice may be pitched too high for a fantasy novel, and I think I agree with that; so from the get-go I had issues getting invested in this book and the recording. I think there is lots of good stuff in it: the magic system of sympathy, Kvothe's education in the University, and Kvothe is one of the more convincing musicians I've read in a fantasy novel. The overall package, however, was too unfocused and I couldn't just sit back and enjoy being with Kvothe enough to allow me to look past that.
I don't think it was a bad book, just not to my taste. My recommendation? Listen to the audio sample to see if Podehl's narration is palatable to you and read at least one negative or middling review among the legion of positive, enthusiastic reviews of the book just to get a balance of opinions.
Leviathan Wakes is written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey. This novel, the first in a planned trilogy of books, and right off the bat I'm going to say that I really look forward to books two and three. My overall evaluation is that the book uses a lot of stock elements of science fiction (military, space opera, colonization, etc.) and even common character archetypes (the upright commander and the traumatized cop) particularly well, giving the book an old-school science fiction feel along with one of the better uses of alternating third-person viewpoints I've ever come across in the genre.
Leviathan Wakes is structured by a third-person viewpoint that alternates between two primary characters. The first is James Holden, an executive officer on board an ice hauler in the asteroid belt. He comes off at first as a typical man-of-honor type character: uncompromising, plagued with the usual concerns of being a good and honorable leader, and fairly predictable. The second primary character is Miller, a cop on a space station dug out of an asteroid. Miller is a stereotypical cop-drama character in many ways: middle-aged, divorced, borderline alcoholic, who sees the world in various shades of gray. To the authors' credit, they use these stock characters as two points of ethical comparison as the entire solar system is plunged into a jingoistic war and a conspiracy that conceals something much, much worse. As the story alternates between the two, we get to experience a kind of dialogue between the logic and morals of both the upright Holden and the moral grays of Miller, which adds nice depth to the story in that it allows for no easy answer to some of the important situations the characters encounter.
The plot develops as Holden witnesses a horrific crime and, along with a handful of survivors, broadcasts a solar-system wide indictment that sparks a war. Miller is tasked with finding a rich mogul's runaway-turned-revolutionary daughter while also attempting to keep the station from erupting in riots, although he finds that the two tasks have more connections than he first realized. The book has plenty of travel within the outer reaches of the solar system, and does a great job in constructing the people and cultures of the asteroid belt, although it could have done more with the people and governments of Earth and Mars.
This book is also an interesting mix of different genres. Space opera might win out as the dominant genre, but it has elements of the hard-boiled detective story, military science fiction, and the first-contact story with a little bit of horror thrown in to the mix. This means that the book has plenty of guns and action for action junkies but also enough variation to please a variety of audiences. All of it has an old school science fiction feel. While I feel all the parts it appropriates from different SF genres are used particularly well, none of it is exactly new and some readers may feel like the book is trying to do too much or is relying too much on well-worn conventions. It's not quite a big idea novel, but it is a fun ride.
The narrator, Jefferson Mays, does a very credible job with the material. He has often subtle but distinguishable variation between voices and keeps it interesting. I would definitely listen to him narrate the second book, Caliban's War, without hesitation.
First, rest assured this is a recording of Phillip K. Dick's book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and not a novelization of the film. However, this is one instance in which the book compliments the film. Phillip K. Dick, who didn't live to see the film completed but did see production stills and read the script, also felt the film complimented his work: one can add to the appreciation of the other. Having seen the film before reading (or listening) to the book, I feel like I have a better understanding of both and can appreciate each on its own merits.
On a near-future earth ravaged by the radioactive fallout of the last World War, the remnants of humanity who have stubbornly decided to stay (instead of emigrating to the off-world colonies) occasionally have to contend with androids--escapees from their lives as servants on the off-world colonies. Much of humanity has reached a state of relative peace thanks to a religion based on empathy (sympathizing and then identifying with another), but the androids lack empathy and are thus dangerous to other humans, so its up to bounty hunters like Rick Deckard to find out who is human and who is machine and "retire" the androids.
Phillip K. Dick's books often have wacky premises, but the reason readers and film producers keep coming back to his work is that he creates a compelling internal logic and structure of feeling for his characters to act within. Deckard comes to question how he defines his humanity and the perils/limits of empathy, for example. This book isn't action-based (although there is some of that), but really based around tense moments (and to Dick's credit, they are tense moments) where Deckard is having crisis of conscience or is questioning who is a real person, who is artificial, and what that distinction means. This led to several moments that put me on the edge of my seat. The ominous atmosphere of post-nuclear earth, the inhuman threat of the androids, and the other strange elements of the story come together to form a quirky but immersive atmosphere for Deckard's inner struggles with himself and outer struggle with the androids.
I would summarize Scott Bricks typical narrative style in two words: broody and languid. He draws out words and creates an almost hypnotic rolling effect with his voice that is enjoyable if you are in the mood for that. Brick doesn't read, he performs, but that performance may not be to everyone's taste (so do listen to the sample clip). Still, it fits well with this book: his almost melancholy narration highlights the gloom of post-nuclear Earth and the broodiness of the characters themselves.
The Dresden Files series is fun. The characters are interesting and believable, the action is well orchestrated and described, and the tension built throughout the plot keeps me--book after book--in a state of suspense. Death Masks continues this trend in Butcher's series, and Marsters continues to deliver stellar performances that keep getting better as the series goes along. His tone and pacing does a good job of evoking the noir-detective elements of the series, and his ability to do a multitude of distinct voices is improving from book to book. The series as a whole is very entertaining genre fiction, and the audiobooks are equally enjoyable.
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