Howey has served up a novel rendition of the post-apocalyptic genre. With much of the explanation for the climatic and geologic conditions left up to listener's imagination, a future world that is little more than a giant sandbox is the starting point. Geographically, the story is set in Colorado which has basically become a desert overlying our distant past. The sparse barely survives by "sand-diving" in an analogous manner to scuba diving hunting for the buried treasure from an ancient civilization. The story revolves around one family with a father gone missing, a mother forced into prostitution to support her family and the children of varying ages, most of whom have gone into diving to make ends meet. Their journey concerns the dawning recognition that there is more to the world than their small patch of sand.
Howey presents credible scenarios where "sand-diving" is accomplished by special dive suits and static electrical charges to vibrate the sand such that movement similar to swimming can be attempted. Deep dives runs into pressure issues analogous to ocean diving. While the story is self contained, Howey has clearly created a future that offers much expansion potential with a great mix of characters.
The narration is quite well done with a great range of voices and pacing that matches the mood and tone of the tale.
David Golemon's Overlord is the 3rd and final installment of the Event Group trilogy concerning an impending invasion by aliens that was hinted at in the 1st two installments. Overlord is the codename for the plan to defend Earth. The story builds on the first two parts, Event Group and Legacy, but adds many more players to the mix. Final preparations for Overlord are consummated and the plan is somewhat executed. Mixed in are both intelligence and political opponents who lack insider information and harass, rather than hinder the main characters.
The sci-fi elements are limited to wormholes with funky time effects and powerful lasers. While an engaging and exciting tale, with good pacing throughout, the story suffers from a crude, naivete. Basically, the overlord plan was designed and wholly known by just 4 individuals, one of whom is already dead, two who get injured and are out of action, with the last being the little friendly alien who has been holding back. This leads to the continual mantra of "need to know" which seems useless when world ending events are unfolding. 70 billion aliens in spaceships sailing across the galaxy looking for food also seems pretty lame (you can create an energy source big enough to bend space-time, but you can't produce food - really???). The actions of speaker and intelligence chief were also overly simplistic and farcical.
The narration was quite good with an excellent range of voices that was needed for the expanded character set.
Chris Kennedy 1st installment of the Janissaries: The Theogony is an unsophisticated tale more suitable to 1950's style sci-fi for pre-teens. Basically, Earth has been under the watch of an alien race with much of Greek mythology deriving from a prior contact. The alien communications beacon stops working and is interpreted as indicating that a previously believed extinct alien race of 10 foot man-eating frogs is still around and intends to invade Earth for a banquet. What ensues is an eclectic band of GI Joes types who ally with the watching aliens using technology from another extinct alien race that happens to be hanging around Earth and begin an adventure to save the planet and start exploring the galaxy.
The sci-fi elements are basic and crude: wormhole travel for spaceships along with anti-matter and laser weapons. The multiple alien races are either humanoid or variants of terrestrial animals (birds, frogs, and lizards). Naive geopolitics include the US president getting a phone call from a war hero to come alone regarding an issue of national security. World leaders use body double for secret meetings and no one other than a select few know anything. "New" top secret classifications need to be created with the president working on establishing a unified world government. All of this is based on 3 aliens just saying so. Russia has reverted back to the KGB with a stereotypical femme fatale. The multiple aliens are either pacifists with a prime directive or blood thirsty carnivores who are pure evil and want to eat any intelligent life form.
The narration is suboptimal with alien renditions of boring college professors and alien contact at the level of "we'll be your friends if you help us.". Also annoying is the repetition of the same information over and over again to different characters. There's a distinct lack of subtlety and nuance.
The Atlantis World is the 3rd (and hopefully last installment) for Riddle's Atlantis series. Most of the action takes place off world as characters hop from portal to portal piecing together the alien backstory. David and Kate attempt to recover Kate's latent memories conveniently dispersed to distant portal locations. Dorian is hot on their trail. What transpires is mostly a series of memory dumps by Kate and Dorian at each portal that provides the alien background info for how they came to be on Earth with divergent agendas. Added to the mix are two other sets of remnants of different alien civilizations (the sentinels and the serpentine armada). Dorian gradually arrives at the realization that Aryes has been using him and simply kills him over and over again with little purpose, while David and Kate unknowingly employ the Independence Day strategy to defeat whatever turns out to their ultimate enemy.
The sci-fi elements are mostly alien civilizations that are never fully detailed or fleshed out. Why an advanced, intelligent race would need to freeze and thaw someone for decision making every couple of hundred years never made sense. The alien uprising / revolution was also poorly presented (after thousands of years, this society could not effectively deal with this issue?). Finally, most unsatisfying is that much of the tale breaks a cardinal rule of story telling in that the multiple memory dumps merely tell the backstory instead of showing the action.
The narration is passable and renders as good a job as possible with a weak storyline.
Coming Home is the latest Jack McDevitt installment in the Alex Benedict series. The main character, Alex is a combination Indiana Jones / Sherlock Holmes with the narrator, Chase, playing his Watson / gal Friday. This story involves two independent tales with Chase heavily involved in the rescue of a large cruise ship caught in space / time warp that Alex figured out in an earlier installment. Added to the mix is that Alex's uncle is on board. At the same time, Alex comes into possession of an "ancient" (25th century) artifact that suggests a connection to a missing cache of early space exploration items. The story jumps back and forth between these two separate plots.
This universe is set in the far future (beyond the 30th century) and a distant settled planet, although there are several Earth visits involved. One particularly unique feature of this series is the almost normal behavior of everyone in the story. People get hungry and go to restaurants; they go out to lunch with friends and discuss relationships; they go sightseeing on vacations, etc. There are no new sci-fi elements relative to earlier installments and the action scenes are muted and limited relative to earlier tales. McDevitt does provide a sense of the vastness of space which appears to slow down life in the future.
The narration is superb with an excellent range of voices with good pacing. This series and narrator have always been an enjoyable listen and this time out is no exception.
The Trafalgar Gambit completes Christopher G Nuttall's Ark Royal trilogy. The story picks up immediately after the conclusion of Book 2 with Earth having been directly attacked by the aliens while Ark Royal was on her mission in enemy territory. In the concluding chapter, Ark Royal is given the mission to make contact and negotiate with any alien faction intent on peaceful resolution. Along the way, the crew must deal with sabotage attempts both external as well as internal. The battle scenes are brief, but intense. Prince Henry is recovered and plays a decisive role in both negotiations and battle.
The sci-fi elements are limited mainly to prior physics with some added alien biology and unique socio-cultural factors of the aliens, although there is little novelty. While the conclusion is satisfying, and likely signals the end of this series, there were some unanswered questions, from the mundane to whatever happened to Molly to how the geopolitical organization of Earth will evolve.
The narration is excellent with good pacing and range of voices. This is both an enjoyable and engaging listen.
Peter Hamilton's latest, The Abyss beyond dreams, initiates another Void adventure that appears to be occurring concurrently with the previous Void trilogy. The action takes place in another part of the Void and involves Nigel attempting to reach the 1st Void world, but ending up on another. This story concerns a prior human colony ship that ended up in the Void. Quantum states are completely screwed and 3000 years have passed resulting into a semi-stable societal organization. Another trapped alien life form plays havoc with the humans. In typical Hamilton fashion, we experience the story through multiple perspectives that only later intersect. Nigel gradually pieces all the various bits together, while inciting revolution along the way.
The sci-fi elements are pure Hamiltonian with Void style space time distortion along with enhanced psychic abilities. There are also novel alien creatures with unusual powers which also provides additional background to the Void in general. While Nigel is eventually able to rescue the colonists from the Void, the tale ends with a setup for further adventures for the rest of the trilogy.
John Lee is nothing short of spectacular in his narration. His mood, pace, and tone are expertly delivered for a truly satisfying and entertaining rendition.
The Nelson Touch is a great sequel that builds on the above average introductory story of the Ark Royal series. Basically Nuttall has created a future universe with faster than light travel, while preserving the current geopolitical structures during an era of expansion akin to 18th and 19th century colonialism. In the opening salvo, mankind encounters an alien race seemingly bent on human annihilation. An old, mothballed British "carrier" is the only spaceship that can put up a fight and takes the lead with a crew of rejects in defending humanity.
In this installment, humanity goes on the offensive and takes the fight to the aliens with several surprising developments. Details about the aliens are slowly revealed. There is the addition of a "mystery" crew member this time out and Nuttall does a great job of alternating big picture developments with a host of personal revelations with the major characters, including career advancements. Nutall also displays an excellent sense of portraying the fog of war throughout. Finally, the author sets up the 3rd installment with Earth hanging in the balance and a potential diplomatic solution. Sci-fi elements are limited largely to alien biology.
The narration is excellent with a great range of voices, tone, and mood.
Event by David Lynn Golemon creates a supersecret United States agency started by Abraham Lincoln to investigate archaeological sites. The proffered rationale was to "learn" stuff, but why the US would feel the need to run covert military ops for national security reasons in recovering buried treasure was never made clear. So with such an organization in place, Roswell, NM takes on a a different flavor. Furthermore, the alien artifacts from 1947 were stolen by someone believing that they could protect the nation better than the US government. 60 years later, some of the original players are still around ready for round 2 with the alien return.
The sci-fi elements are limited to alien "stuff" mainly little green men and a rabid, killer, engineered alien lion like creature designed to eat humanity. At the same time, there is a freelance former French legioneer with a penchant for old things who simply gets in everyone's way. All the action occurs against a backdrop of military and espionage lite action.
The narration is quite good with a solid range of voices and excellent pacing.
Z2136 hopefully, completes what will only be a trilogy. Written in the style of a made for TV mini-series with each book containing a series of episodes to comprise a single season, this is basically Hunger Games with Zombies. Book 3 doesn't so much bring resolution and closure as it simply runs out of things to say and do. The unlucky Lovecraft family, now only brother and sister spend most of their time trying to to connect with one another with disconnected battles against zombies, psychotic maniacs, and barren baddies. Jonah was successful in the last installment in damaging city 1 and his old boss is forced to take over all the cities.
The story breaks down on several levels. Everyone in a position of power is either corrupt, demented, or megaomanical with almost everyone else either a loyal follower or a freelance sociopath. The backstory for the zombies makes no sense whatsoever with the intention in the 1970's to turn the world into zombies while a small cadre of selected people ride out the storm underground. The tale ends with the supposedly upbeat tempo of the one individual who has done the most to persecute the Lovecraft lineage finally seeing the light and dedicating his life to... not persecuting Lovecrafts anymore.
The narration is well done with a good range of voices and nice pacing.
Nuttall's Ark Royal begins a story arc set in the 23rd century after development of faster than light drives that allow Earth to populate near space. Quite unexpectedly a previously unknown alien race begins attacking outer settlements. With no means of dialogue, Earth learns that their technology is deficient, but an older warship (Ark Royal) is the only vessel that can put up a fight. While Earth attempts to retool, Ark Royal and her cadre of misfits and forgotten, go above and beyond to take the battle to superior forces.
The geopolitical organization of Earth is preserved with each major nation having established their own planetary colonies. England still has a king as well as a well bred aristocracy. Ark Royal is a starship carrier that has been mothballed and maintained barely functioning with a skeleton ragtag crew including a former alcoholic for a captain. Everyone rises to the occasion through a thrilling series of battles that takes place on both the grand scale and the personal. The sci-fi elements are routine with faster than light drive accomplished by "tram" lines in space that a special engine can access. Space weapons are straightforward and unimaginative.
The narration is well done with an excellent range of voices along with a smooth delivery, regardless of action. This is a very enjoyable listen with a classic theme rendered in a futuristic timeframe.
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