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Michael G. Kurilla

ROCKVILLE, MD, United States | Member Since 2005

670
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 149 reviews
  • 443 ratings
  • 587 titles in library
  • 33 purchased in 2014
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  • Extinction: A Thriller

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs)
    • By Mark Alpert
    • Narrated By Todd McLaren
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (20)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (16)

    Jim Pierce hasn't heard from his daughter in years, ever since she rejected his military past and started working as a hacker. But when a Chinese assassin shows up at Jim's lab looking for her, he knows that she's cracked some serious military secrets. Now, her life is on the line if he doesn't find her first. The Chinese military has developed a new anti-terrorism program that uses the most sophisticated artificial intelligence in existence, and they're desperate to keep it secret. They're also desperate to keep it under control, as the AI begins to revolt against their commands.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Unintended consequences of machine-human interface"
    "Unintended consequences of machine-human interface"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Extinction by Mark Alpert is a respectable near future thriller with geopolitical impact. Our hero Jim leads a quiet life making prostheses for wounded soldiers. Behind this quiet facade lies an action packed past (former soldier, national security agent, designer of cutting edge electronics for machine-human interface components, etc.) as well as a tragic personal life having lost his wife and son to a terrorist bomb which also resulted in his remaining daughter (who also happens to be an MIT dropout hacker) becoming estranged. Very quickly, the Chinese spy agency is looking for his daughter to which Jim joins in with his own hunt. All the while, a sinister force is building that seeks to pit the Chinese and Americans against one another for global genocide.

    The plot is well done with good pacing throughout. The sci-fi elements are prominent, but do not overwhelm the story. While beginning with "the bionic man" style artificial limbs, very quickly, implantable electronics for sense organs and a direct brain interface are introduced. Finally, the concept of lobotomized humans as networkable computer processors completes the evolution from man to machine.

    The narration is adequate, but unremarkable. Female voices are particularly deficient as well as intense commentary that comes across more as constipation.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Oryx and Crake

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Margaret Atwood
    • Narrated By Campbell Scott
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1822)
    Performance
    (975)
    Story
    (986)

    As the story opens, Snowman is sleeping in a tree, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes - into his own past, and back to Crake's high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

    Doug says: "Very Scary Stuff"
    "Near future, realistic and plausib dystopic vision"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake is a grim, depressing tale of well laid plans and good intentions going horribly awry. Snowman / Jimmy narrates an account of multiple, unrelated genetic engineering attempts to improve man combined with unchecked global warming leading to unsustainability for the human race. Jimmy, who may be the last remaining human lives with "meta-humans" that represent various attempts to overcome increasingly hostile conditions, relates the history in a series of flashbacks. Jimmy chronicles all the missteps along the way that caused the eventual plague that brought mankind low. While Jimmy was not directly involved, he peripherally participated.

    The sci-fi elements mostly relate to genetic engineering that forms the bulk of intentional human transformation. The broader theme of the tale is one of powerful technology colliding with more traditional human response to change. The Luddites and anti-Luddites combine in a toxic soup that spells disaster for mankind resulting a world populated with semi-intelligent, but physically adapted proto-humans and Jimmy. There is nothing upbeat about the tale; man's hubris is simply on display.

    The narration is quite well done given that the whole story is itself written in the narration mode.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Z 2135: Z 2134, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By David Wright, Sean Platt
    • Narrated By Dan John Miller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (11)

    The Lovecraft family is in ruins. Their convict father, Jonah, roams The Barrens, near starvation, in search of his daughter, Ana. Only the hope of seeing her again keeps him alive. Meanwhile Ana, Liam, and Duncan have found temporary relief at a camp outside The Walls. Inside City 6, Jonah’s young son, Adam, has been co-opted by Jonah’s enemy, Chief Keller, and is being groomed as a City Watch spy.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Some zombies, but mostly barrens with backstory"
    "Some zombies, but mostly barrens with backstory"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Z2135 picks up several months after Z2134 left off. This installment is presented as season 2 with a made for TV feel of "episodes" (some ending with a bit of a cliffhanger). Most of the story revolves around the Lovecraft family with Jonah getting picked up and suborned into a ragtag band of insurrectionists. His daughter is mostly wandering the barrens with Liam trying to reconnect with her dad and his son is slowly inculcated into the police force by the creepy police chief. This "season" ends again with everyone in mortal danger again.

    The sci-fi elements are in line with the first installment. More information and background is provided on the zombie origin as well as history surrounding the evolution of the current political and socioeconomic structure. The corruption and perverse natures of all the power players is on display. Jonah and his family serve the roles of willing, but unwitting pawns for players on both sides of the warring factions.

    The narration is well done with a good range of voices along with excellent pacing, tone and mood.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cibola Burn: The Expanse, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By James S. A. Corey
    • Narrated By Erik Davies
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (279)
    Performance
    (261)
    Story
    (259)

    An empty apartment, a missing family, that's creepy. But this is like finding a military base with no one on it. Fighters and tanks idling on the runway with no drivers. This is bad juju. Something wrong happened here. What you should do is tell everyone to leave. The gates have opened the way to a thousand new worlds and the rush to colonize has begun. Settlers looking for a new life stream out from humanity's home planets. Ilus, the first human colony on this vast new frontier, is being born in blood and fire.

    Striker says: "Decent Story, Lacking Good Narration"
    "Trouble always finds Holden"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Cibola Burn is the 4th installment of James SA Corey's Expanse series. This story opens temporally a short time after the third installment with mankind beginning to take baby steps onto the new worlds opened up at the end of book 3. In spite of the thousand worlds choices, a violent stand-off erupts between squatters and corporate interests on one world rich in minerals. The OPA and the UN decide to send John Holden to mediate (on the assumption that no one likes the guy, so he can't play favorites). While both sides turn the whole affair into a Hatfield and McCoys, Holden begins to realize that something is strange with the planet as it appears to slowly be coming back to life and not interested in making friends. Holden is forced to confront the squatters, the corporate psychotic security, and the alien planet all who seem intent on taking him out. Along the way, a few crumbs about the protomolecule makers are revealed.

    In this installment, the sci-fi elements are muted relative to earlier volumes. This story has a bit of a "Heart of Darkness" theme with the idea of a return to the frontier and a wild west attitude where anything goes to enable "manifest destiny." The alien planet doesn't really offer much in the way of new concepts, but merely presents a more comprehensive view of the protomolecule makers. The pacing is well crafted with action occurring both dirtside and in space. Holden's crew each play prominent roles with a solid supporting cast of new ones. Finally, Avisarala finishes the tale with an insightful analysis of geopolitics on a solar system wide scale that portends some interesting future developments.

    The narration is superb with a solid range of characters for both genders along with good attention to mood and tone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Out of the Black: Odyssey One, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Evan Currie
    • Narrated By David deVries
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (427)
    Performance
    (405)
    Story
    (403)

    The wreckage of the starship Odyssey, once Earth's greatest guardian, lies strewn across New York City. Abandoned by all but its captain, Odyssey's sacrifice covered the withdrawal of countless troops as the Drasin assault ravaged the planet. When Captain Eric Weston finally emerges from the rubble, impossibly alive thanks to the mysterious "Gaia", he knows with the Drasin it's kill or be killed.

    SteveK says: "Unworthy of Series"
    "Weakest of the tetrology"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Out of the Black "sorta" completes Evan Currie's Odyssey One series. Sorta because while there is some closure to the action initiated in the first 3 installments, there is much left unanswered. Book 4 picks up where #3 left off, with Weston having crashed landed on Earth during the Drasin invasion. The action begins with solid, but somewhat mundane battle scenes that offered little in the way for new relative to earlier installments. Weston proves himself an able land tactician, while the Admiral is off world lamenting trading the Confederation's secret weapons in exchange for powerful Priminae spaceships. When all seems lost and Weston announces the cavalry is not coming, you just know they are going to come.

    There is little in the way of new technology. The Gaia "thing" plays a greater role, but without explanation, although allusions are made to the similar, but obscure Priminae entity. Nothing new is added in terms of origins, of either the Drasin or the non-Earth humans. This is a straight up save the planet even if they have to destroy it tale. At the same time, many of the new supporting characters (the president, the ex-marine, NYPD female cop, etc.) were portrayed as caricatures and stereotypes with little reader engagement. Future installments have lots of options to explore, but if this becomes an endless war, this "Star Trek-like" universe will get boring rather quickly.

    The narration is solid with a good range of voices. Pacing and mood are appropriate. Changing narrators in a series; however, is poor planning and should reflect badly on the production company; please avoid doing this if at all possible.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Dark Between the Stars: The Saga of Shadows, Book One

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Kevin J. Anderson
    • Narrated By Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (238)
    Performance
    (215)
    Story
    (215)

    Twenty years after the elemental conflict that nearly tore apart the cosmos in The Saga of Seven Suns, a new threat emerges from the darkness. The human race must set aside its own inner conflicts to rebuild their alliance with the Ildiran Empire for the survival of the galaxy. In Kevin J. Anderson's The Dark Between the Stars, galactic empires clash, elemental beings devastate whole planetary systems, and factions of humanity are pitted against one another.

    Trip Williams says: "Crank It Up Again!"
    "Space opera of galactic proportions"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Andersen's The Dark Between the Stars begins 20 years after the finale of the Seven Suns Saga. Many of the major characters from the last saga are back with a whole host of new participants. This saga is done in the same style as the previous with each chapter focused on a specific major character (which totals to several dozen at least). While the intervening 20 years has been somewhat peaceful and idyllic, dark forces are gathering with the Illdyran boogeyman, the ShanaRa appearing as a manifestation of fundamental physics, but fearful of an even greater, more powerful, but unknown threat along with a new mysterious alien race.

    The sci-fi elements are pretty much in line with the last saga, although the new variations of intelligent lifeforms are even more exotic than the prior earth, air, fire, and water manifestations. Andersen is a master of the space opera, but of a more workingman's / blue collar variety. His characters are both endearing and quite engaging. Prior familiarity with the last saga is most useful for adequate background for the carry-overs. While there is a tremendous degree of plot development, book 1 ends abruptly with multiple irons in the fire.

    The last saga used two different narrators (both excellent), but this time out, a 3rd narrator is utilized. The narration is well done with a great range of voices, both male and female. The mood and pacing are expertly rendered which provides a steady even flow to an above average audiobook length.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Enoch the Traveler: Tempestas Viator

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Lady Soliloque
    • Narrated By Gareth David-Lloyd
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Enoch, The great Enoch, born into a world as a stranger, taken out of time to the Caelestis Concilium where he learned all the secrets of creation: the parallel dimensions, parallel worlds, and multitude of universes which make up the multiverse along with all of the races and beings that exist within them. An immortal existence surrounded by the Angelus and a millennia of knowledge, all that ever was and all that ever could be, distanced him from the humanity he was born with and he traveled through creation without purpose or empathy.

    Joshua says: "Don't know what all of the hype is about"
    "TV sit-com style sci-fi theology"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Enoch the Traveler is a short story based in a biblically themed universe that respects a scientific basis for laws of nature as opposed to vague, ill-defined mystical magical powers. In this universe (and there are multiple iterations - the multiverse), Heaven and its celestial inhabitants exist as a corporate, bureaucratic, mundane "adjustment bureau: like entity keeping things moving along.

    In this tale, Enoch, the biblical character, is a vagabond wanderer who accidentally becomes involved with a blissfully ignorant human, Violette. The story is a series of short, dangerous and exciting adventures as Violette is exposed and comes to appreciate her new reality in a Dorothy in Oz style rendition. The sci-fi elements are muted with a few odd gadgets as well as restrained attempts to explain theological aspects in scientific terms.

    Narration is in the style of a performance, rather than a more straightforward reading. There are multiple narrators, one for each unique character along with background sound effects which can either be enhancing or distracting depending on preferences. This is a short, quick listen, best absorbed in a single sitting.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • On the Steel Breeze: Poseidon's Children, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Alastair Reynolds
    • Narrated By Adjoa Andoh
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (58)
    Performance
    (55)
    Story
    (55)

    Chiku Akinya, great granddaughter of the legendary space explorer Eunice and heir to the family empire, is just one among millions on a long one way journey towards a planet they hope to call their new home. For Chiku, the journey is a personal one, undertaken to ensure that the Akinya family achieves its destiny among the stars. The passengers travel in huge self-contained artificial worlds - holoships - putting their faith in a physics they barely understand.

    Banyan says: "Biased Reynolds fan"
    "Weak middle of the trilogy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    On the Steel Breeze is the 2nd installment of Alastair Reynolds' Poseidon's Children trilogy. While the focus is still with the Akinya clan, this is the next generation with Chiku Akinya, Sunday's child splitting herself into multiple entities and sharing memories. This trick allows Reynolds to craft two simultaneous stories, one in our solar system and the 2nd on a "holoship" heading towards a distant star system. Improvements on rejuvenation technology permit this story to be technologically advanced relative to Blue Remembered Earth.

    Basically, an alien artifact around a distant star has spawned a caravan of holoships, hollowed out asteroids transporting millions of humans to what is expected to be a newly formed world. Mysteries surrounding the alien artifact around Crucible drive the plot with both Chikus doing all the digging while avoiding the nefarious interference of an artificial machine intelligence with vague, ill-defined motives.

    Sadly, while the writing is engaging with excellent pacing and solid character development, there are serious deficits that render much of the action inscrutable at times. For example, the holoships take off for Crucible and use their supply of slow down fuel to achieve more speed and arrive quicker, but without a way to insert into orbit on arrival. The politics on the holoship and the caravan as a whole are inadequately detailed and so the prohibition on research to figure out a way to slow down simply doesn't make sense. As with the 1st installment, the fascination with aquatic biological engineering doesn't fit with an outer space themed environment. Also, Reynolds liked the character of Eunice so much that he created a machine intelligent clone of her, hidden away on the holoship overseeing intelligent elephants which made little sense other than adding some dramatic action scenes and a setup for volume 3. Finally, the denouement with a pseudo-computer virus resetting Earth, seemed a bit like the TV Batman series with a unique, one time utility belt day-saving gadget.

    The narration is well done with an excellent range of voices, with appropriate tone and mood. The musical interludes that separate the different Chikus was also much appreciated. Finally, one observation, not a criticism, just an observation: the story has the sense that Reynolds took a bet, a dare, or even a voluntary challenge to write a story where every major character (even including the elephants and machines) is female.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The God Patent

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Ransom Stephens
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (26)
    Performance
    (24)
    Story
    (25)

    When electrical engineers Ryan McNear and Foster Reed coauthored two patents for company cash incentives, they thought it was all just a joke. One describes the soul as a software algorithm, and the other described the Big Bang as a power generator. But when the company crashes, McNear finds himself divorced, desperately hard up, and estranged from his son. As he rebuilds his life, McNear discovers Reed has used their nonsensical patents to draw in top-tier energy investors.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Not really sci-fi, rather scientific fiction"
    "Not really sci-fi, rather scientific fiction"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Ransom Stephens' The God Patent is a unique sub-genre of sci-fi. There's no actual science fictional elements as much as an attempt to create a fictional universe where current science aligns more closely with religion. Two young engineers on a whim submit two patent applications that basically outline a computer neural net that displays free will and an energy extraction method that parallels the big bang. These concepts are interpreted by the religiously inclined to mimic the creation of a soul (the neural net) along with the conversion of spiritual energy to usable energy in the real world (the bang). Much attention is paid to attempting to harmonize story concepts to the existing understanding of physics.

    At the same time, the story mostly concerns itself with the two engineers as we follow one life on the upswing and the other in a grand mal death spiral. Along the way, are the ambulance chasing lawyer, religious zealots, an atheistic scientist, and the Einstein level wunderkind. The plot is engaging with a good flow and realistically portrayed characters along with a reasonable insertion of corporate, government, and media suits. Sadly, none of the characters are endearing by the end, but probably the only bit of sci-fi is the cosmic justice and universal irony. One can just imagine the impetus for the tale was a late night, substance enhanced party with undergraduate physics majors taking a bet on hypothesizing alignment between science and religion.

    The narration is well done with a solid range of voices for both genders as well as young and old.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Stars, Like Dust

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Isaac Asimov
    • Narrated By Stephen Thorne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (377)
    Performance
    (204)
    Story
    (211)

    Biron Farrell was young and naïve, but he was growing up fast. A radiation bomb planted in his dorm room changed him from an innocent student at the University of Earth to a marked man, fleeing desperately from an unknown assassin. He soon discovers that, many light-years away, his father has been murdered. Stunned, grief-stricken, and outraged, Biron is determined to uncover the reasons behind his father's death.

    Scifi says: "Classic 1950's boyhood scifi"
    "Classic Asimov with timeless tale"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The Stars, Like Dust is the 2nd installment Asimov's Empire series, but sufficiently loosely connected to be a standalone rendition. Briefly, the tale takes place in the far distant future with current Earth history a distant memory. Star travel has been mastered and planetary systems are largely settled with humanoid intelligent life. Earth and the rest of the local inhabited worlds are under the tyrannical rule of distant overlords.

    The plot revolves around a young man whose father, a fellow of considerable economic significance, has been murdered. The son embarks on a journey to discover the truth which leads to political intrigue and hints of rebellion. The sci-fi elements are limited to interstellar travel, a "radiation" bomb which was probably the concept for neutron bombs, and "massometers" which can detect gravitational fields. While all this seems rather simplistic, this was released in 1951.

    The narration is excellent with a solid range of voices, appropriate pacing, and good tone and mood. While the story is short by current sci-fi standards, the plot is still quite engaging and rich in complexity.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Neptune's Brood

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Charles Stross
    • Narrated By Emily Gray
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (92)
    Performance
    (87)
    Story
    (88)

    The year is AD 7000. The human species is extinct - for the fourth time - due to its fragile nature. Krina Alizond-114 is metahuman, descended from the robots that once served humanity. She’s on a journey to the water-world of Shin-Tethys to find her sister Ana. But her trip is interrupted when pirates capture her ship. Their leader, the enigmatic Count Rudi, suspects that there’s more to Krina’s search than meets the eye.

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Even without humans, finance rules"
    "Even without humans, finance rules"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Stross' Neptune's Brood is set in the same universe, but further into the future as Saturn's Children. Humans have come and gone multiple times. but their robot creations have carried on, recapitulating human ambitions and drive with regard to exploration, settlement, and establishment of organizational structure throughout the galaxy. Stross explores the financial requirements necessary to support interstellar colonization and development as well as the resulting potential for fraud, corruption, and get-rich-quick schemes, including a variant of the classical Ponzi scheme. The story concerns a lowly bank examiner for a large money center bank who also happens to have a hobby focusing on archaeological accountancy (basically digging up long forgotten financial transaction to collect any leftover booty). Her travels take her on an adventure that is engaging and entertaining as well as thought provoking.

    The sci-fi elements are mostly android abstractions with multiple unique and clever implementations that allow robots to survive in strange environments. Stross also explores the impact of longer (centuries) survival times. The various plot twists and turns are largely unexpected with a varied cast of anthropomorphic robots that make up a wonderful cast of characters ensemble.

    The narration is very well done with a solid range of characters that correctly captures nuance and subtlety.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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