Here in New Orleans, one of the most passionate pursuits of its citizens is cuisine, and that's no surprise. In this wonderful city of diverse cultures and rich history, that's a given. Some of the very best dining in the world is served up right here, day in and day out. From the very first glass of wine, to the final napkin to the lips, the meal's presentation and it combination of flavors and aromas ARE the event, and set the evening's pace for conversation, enjoyment and celebration. And all of this begins with the preparation of the ingredients. Whether it's a fried shrimp po-boy with a col-drink down in da "Ninet Ward", to a five-star evening of fine dining at Commander's Palace, it's all the same: Preparation and presentation.
You know where I'm headed with this, don't you?
A great story, like any good meal, takes detailed preparation and solid presentation for a memorable experience. The table must be set, and the greater the destination, the bigger the table, the better prepared. Otherwise, the evening is ruined.
And in "Promise of Blood,", McClellan has all the makings of a experienced chef. Think alternate colonial historical fantasy - Sort of a musket, pike and magical story that might have been. One that can be a bit overwhelming at first. You'll need to listen very closely to this audiobook, because you're thrust into the story immediately - A royal coup by the military, right in the first few minutes. Done. Over. And the military is mopping up. So you don't have a lot of time to acclimate.
And it's a well-thought, rich world, full of deeply defined characters, diverse story lines worth your pursuit, a magic system both smart and sensical, and a helping of political/historical machiavellian mayhem that sweetens the meal. The dialogue is believable and doesn't meander. McClellan also does a fabulous job of suspending disbelief, which is so essential for an author to accomplish within the journey, In such an ambitious undertaking, all these positives come together for a very, very good listen.
The narrator is solid, but I want more from Rodska in the second novel, to step up his game, if you will. He can add much more to an already good effort, and I'm expecting improvement the next time around.
If you read my reviews, you'll note that I do NOT give spoilers or plot lines - There are countless other reviewers that will do that for you. This is a fantastic meal that doesn't need anyone to throw leftovers at you to get your attention.
This meal has been well-prepared and the presentation is excellent.
Please step up - Your meal is prepared. Your table awaits.
I was rushing into a meeting at work, and totally exhausted, but I HAD to stop and offer a review on this audiobook, and type fast as a maniac. Let' s get to it.
Bottom line? Turtledove has done it again.
If you've ever read my reviews, you know some of my favorite listens/reads are "What If?" alternate historical fiction. A simple twist or two, and minor event change, and what would or could happen?
Tragically, so much of this particular genre is flooded with poorly contrived, unrealistic and excruciatingly painful to read second or third rate rubbish. And the subsequent sequel (If ever) reads like the author lost a bet. The stuff that can drive a book editor to hard liquor.
Not here - Turtledove is the "blue chip stock" writer of alternate history. The undisputed top of the food chain. A Master Chef of excellent listening cuisine. A wordsmith storyteller whose alternate history writings/listens are ALWAYS worthy of your Audible credits.
Do yourself a favor and look into this author's background - No WONDER so many of his his alternate history series are "must reads."
So, here's his "What If?" that is, in essence, a dark political thriller. An original idea. A page-turning, can't wait to hear what happens next listen...
What if Joseph Stalin's family migrated to the United States, along with countless other families seeking a new life and pursuit of a their dreams? Like almost every immigrant family that crossed the ocean to join us, their last name was butchered at Ellis Island, and thus became the Steele family. What if "Joe Steele" was born and raised here, eventually became a governor, ran for president against Franklin D. Roosevelt...AND WON?
Imagine where we might travel as a nation. As a world power. How would our politics change? The military? The two party system? Individual's rights? War? Peace? A bright future? A war-torn nation? World War? Peace At Any Price?
If you want to find out more... BUY THIS AUDIOBOOK.
Still not convinced? Go look at his body of alternate history work - Dead spot on page turners. I own them all, and that's not because I'm collecting them. THEY"RE GOOD. They're full of excellent writing, great characterization and believable premises. Engaging dialogue? CHECK. Epic in scope? DONE. Followup novels in the series that keep the pace fast and fresh? YEP.
But is this "What if?" plausible? Could it really happen?
YES. And how this tuns out is.... well, I've never given hints or page turners in my reviews. That's a bit selfish on my part, and ruins YOUR journey. And what a deeply magnificent one it is.
All I can say is that I stayed up all night to finish listening to it, and on a WORK NIGHT. The night before that crazy meeting. Considering the sheer size of my audiobook library, this doesn't happen often. If this is going to be another of Turtledove's series, I'll buy the audiobook, even if I don't have any available credits.
I'll throw MAD CASH at Audible to get it.
As my time is so limited as of late, and much of it not by preference, I haven't taken the time to write an Audible review since last summer, despite the number of reviews I've offered you in the past. PLEASE understand, it's not because I don't want to - It's the nature of where I am in my business and personal life, including a recent hospital stay - There are simply too many irons in the fire in my life that must burn fiercely - A necessity that simply cannot be avoided. It's no brag, but more of a severe regret. I love the Audible listener community we all share, and I'm proud to be a small part of a great group of people.
So, If I'm stopping and dropping everything all of this hectic life of mine, after listening to this audible gem, and putting all of my excuses aside, to strongly recommend this entrancing, absorbing, world-building audiobook ripe with enjoyment and the potential for either sequels or other original works, be patient with my excuse. Please take what I passionately pen here to heart.
Remember when you read George R. R. Martin's first Game of Thrones novel so long ago?
Sure you do.
Complex storyline, good characterization, astounding world-building, absorbing plots, and well... chock-full of potential. You KNEW that this author and his writing was really good, and was going to go somewhere - This Martin guy, whoever he was, had something going on. You weren't completely sure where that first novel would next take you, but you wanted to be there for the ride. You were hooked, and continued reading his subsequent GoT novels. And you knew in your gut that this would make for a fantastic VISUAL experience someday, if done passionately and correctly. And when the HBO series became a huge hit, you bragged to your friends and family about how you read that first GoT novel LONG ago. You were there when it all started. , and deep down inside, you were pretty pleased about the journey.
Come on, admit it.
But keep in mind, I was reading Martin's WILD CARDS series back in 1987, when his budding (and a bit rambling) writing career was almost swallowed up by a number of much lesser-qualified and not-so-passionate writers (In my opinion) in that series. Martin was honing his writing chops at that time, but he was definitely working his way to the Iron Throne. So I was there with Martin DECADES ago. This Martin guy somehow stood apart, and I knew that I wanted more. I'm so glad I was fortunate enough to discover his earlier works when I did, and to travel along with him for his subsequent growth in his now astounding works. A pleasant romp. a satisfying journey.
But back to the point.
I think we have something VERY special here, dear Audible listeners. As a first world-building and character developing novel, it HAS to start a bit slow. It's part of the process to get the listening pleasure you definitely deserve. However, I'm convinced that this is one of those "I was there when this writer started long ago." opportunities. This is a stand-apart audiobook, despite the small bumps in the road. Can be a bit better than the quite good work it is. Yes.
But is Liu on the same level of writing Martin? Of COURSE not. PLEASE. But you have to keep in mind the following:
Martin has plowed through MANY DECADES of writing MANY solid (and not so solid) pieces of work, to hone his craft, to define his wordsmith magic, before he crafted his brilliant GoT novels. I'm totally confident Martin has thrown out more of his writings over his career than many authors have ever published. Work he considered unworthy for his readers, and one day, his listeners and viewers.
Now, go find Liu's writings - Good luck on that one, and bring a microscope with you when you do. It's dismally paltry, compared to Martin. But for where Liu is in his writing career, and YES, he's quite new at this - It's not perfect (most authors initial writings AREN'T), this is another one of those writers I am going to follow CLOSELY. I swear, there's something here - A beginning, and what I consider to be a very good one.
So, I'm going to be watching Liu closely. Like a HAWK.
Because if he's THIS good starting out the gate like this, at this baby-steps point in his career, so fresh and new at this, just starting to hone his craft, I'm convinced that there can be a MAJOR writing future for this author. I've NEVER said that in 142 Audible book reviews, and 279 Audible ratings since I joined you wonderful listeners as an Audible member back in 2006.
And if you read my reviews, I'm at times, quite frank and can be very BRUTAL.
So, again, if I'm putting everything on hold to this crazy time in my life, after almost a YEAR of not writing Audible reviews, and writing of my LONGEST reviews ever, I do it for a very selfish reason - This is great beginning, and a VERY enjoyable listen from what I consider a new author.... One that still has a ways to go. But, I want bragging rights on Liu down the road, to say I was there when it started.
And I'm betting you will too.
And also, the narrator did an excellent job bringing the novel to life - Always a good thing.
So, go ahead. Crack open that virtual wallet. Pull out that Audible credit for this audiobook.
Brab your bragging rights while you can.
On the road, but I wanted to take a moment to give a review on this fun romp of an audiobook.
It's an enjoyable listen, because it takes unusual liberties to create a delicious take on Armageddon that reminds me of the lingo and larceny of Firefly, with the adventure ride of Indiana Jones.
This is an antihero's recollection of a hero's journey. Almost like a 1940's Saturday night serial movie. It has interesting character development, good story lines with interesting twists and turns, descriptive writing, witty and original dialogue.
Is it perfect? NO, but by it's very nature, it's not supposed to be, and it works.
If you've read my reviews, you'll note that I've often targeted strong classic scifi and fantasy works, as well as groundbreaking writers of note. This is a bit different. It's lighthearted, smart, and unique. And FUN. If you're like me, once in a while, you need a break from the highbrow literature of note.
Think of this as a martini for your mind. And this particular martini is shaken AND stirred!
Star Wars... Starcraft... Halo... Mass Effect... Hitman... Resistance...
You know most of these franchises and their popularity. So, what do they have in common?
William C. Dietz.
Dietz is a "Go-To" writer for these franchises. The reason they flock to him is obvious, once you've read or heard his work. He creates worlds: Fantastic stories, characters with depth, descriptive page-turner writing, and good dialogue, all blended together to give you an enjoyable reading or listening experience. In effect, he can put franchises on the literary map.
So, do these accolades and high praises warrant your valuable Audible credit? Definitely.
In fact, regarding this audiobook, "Runner," Dietz does not disappoint - If anything, after reading this, you'll possibly want to go on a voyage of discovery regarding his other writing.
This story feels like a early classic Andre' Norton style novel, replete with failing technology spanning star systems, psychic sensitives, technobot zealots, waring religious factions, a failing fleet of sentient starships ferrying barbaric peoples back and forth across the galaxy, warring royal families, tek-tomb raiders uncovering lost star gate technology, chosen prophets, runners who brave passage on the failing starships for riches and power, and at the center of it all, a slumbering master computer arching across the starways, sought by all of the above.
Be warned - The plot will unfold a bit into the story, as Dietz sets the pace by providing richly defined characters, great back stories, and sub-plots leading to the master story line itself. The lead characters are so well defined, that you'll empathize with their successes and failures. Dietz's descriptive writing is dead-on, placing you right in the middle of a believable milieu, and at the end of the day, that's crucial in an exceptional audio work.
As to the narration, Runnette was a pleasure to listen to in this work, and brought it home.
I've enjoyed this audiobook, so much so, that I've gladly ponied up another cherished Audible credit for the second book in the the "Run" duology.
And frankly, I can't wait to start listening.
If you follow my reviews, and God knows why, you'll note that I love superhero audiobooks. This sterns from my love of comics as a young lad in uptown New Orleans. And I still enjoy them a bit - I even collected the four "Dark Knight Returns" graphic novels - First issues, too!
So, what's this rambling diatribe have to do with Sentinels?
I'm monologuing, thank you very much - A definite NO-NO for villains everywhere.
You see, this modest diamond in the rough audiobook has it all - Origin stories, great plot lines, dark mysteries, fantastic powers, epic edge-of-your-seat battles on earth and in space, secret bases, futuristic technology, strange alien agendas, nefarious backstabbers, heroes with weaknesses, and...
Villains that monologue. A LOT.
I so loved this listen, and everything jelled just right - Except for that, and the narrator. A bit campy on the villain's monologues, which did NOT help.
However, this is a great series that I will dive into. This is all about fun listening without a moral lesson or force-fed ethics. Just a great roller-coaster ride of an audiobook. So, I do recommend it for its very successful storytelling, despite these two flaws.
Now, if you're totally an Isaac Asimov or Greg Bear type of listener, who enjoys technical background descriptions and explanations, this may NOT be for you. But still, I DO recommend that you let your hair down and have a little bit of fun.
So, Mr. Plexico, I leave you with one important quote that will serve you well:
"He starts monologuing! He starts, like, this prepared speech about how feeble I am compared to him. How inevitable my defeat is, how the world will soon be his, yadda-yadda-yadda... Yammerin'! I mean, the guy has me on a platter, and he won't shut up!" - Frozone, The Incredibles Movie
Remember, less is more, Mr. Plexico. And have a talk with the narrator - Pull it back a notch. Or two.
And thanks for a great romp!
Most everyone's heard of the Dresden series...From books to the cable series, it's had a following for some time.
But wait, isn't this about the Alex Verus series? So what gives, here?
Well, I bring up the Dresden series, because if you like THAT series, I'm betting you'll like this one equally, as well. Maybe a bit more, as I do.
In a nutshell, both series are modern urban fantasies. Adventures/mysteries that throw in a taste of magic, good writing and maybe some humor to give the series wit and add to the work's momentum.
The Dresden series is good, mind you, but it never stuck completely with me. For whatever reason, I wasn't too excited about getting to the next audiobook in the series.
Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus series is somewhat similar, but is much more my style. Here's why I write this:
As much as I like Butcher and his work, this is simply better writing, with a stronger and superior magic system that's much more socially prevalent, if you will. It reads better. It's more of a "page turner" than Butcher's series, more detailed in certain aspects. Also, setting it in England seems to give the magic system more depth, perhaps more suspension of disbelief. The storyline is solid and makes sense, and the dialogue is spot on for what Jacka sets out to accomplish. Anyway, this definitely strikes a chord in me, and I liked this first in the series. MUCH more momentum, for me.
Now, let's remember, that at the end of the day, this isn't supposed to be socially relevant, nor is it a deep moral lesson. This is about enjoying a good story. The sheer fun.
And this was.
So, I recommend this work to those who seek the thrill, who want the fun, who want to enjoy the moment, for once. And maybe, if you like it as much as I do, twice, with the second book.
Enjoy the moment.
It's interesting how an author's work can strike a positive chord in some, and in others, a severe dissonance.
Think before you react on my statement. Consider a few of YOUR favorite authors - You love their work, while other people loathe them. Ultimately, it's about an author's words reaching out to YOU, where YOU live, and a literary connection is birthed, a relationship between inspired writing and your personal taste.
How does this diatribe regarding style and preference fit into this review?
In the case of this particular work of Ian Whates, this simple literary rule will predominate for both its listeners and readers, and here's why:
Descriptive expression is so important for successful fantasy or scifi writing, because you're asking the reader or listener to suspend disbelief, and journey into the author's work in good faith.
Mr.Whates excels in plot and character communication and interaction. However, while he has built a FASCINATING milieu, bursting with astounding potential, the descriptive necessities of the world he's created could be more detailed. Despite this weakness, this is out of the box creativity personified - The potential here for great storytelling is superb, to say the very least.
That being established, if you enjoy urban fantasy, with a mixture of originality, steampunk, magic, intrigue, and interesting dialogue, you'll enjoy this audiobook, as I did, and you'll forgive the less descriptive narration. However, if you like rich, deep, lengthy descriptions of the author's literary world he or she has created, a solid focus on setting the milieu, such as Jordan does in his "Wheel Of Time" series, you may NOT fully enjoy this author's first work in the series.
As to why I like this work, it's very original on a number of levels, and if followed through appropriately by Whates, it has the tremendous potential to become a fantastic launchpad for future works. All this being said, though, his lack of better description of even simple things pulled my ratings back on this work.
It's a good solid beginning, and while I enjoyed the ride a lot, the milieu descriptives, so important to suspend disbelief, were thin. Shallow at times. So, despite the lack of stronger descriptive writing, the other wonderful strengths in this work has made it enjoyable for me, thrusting wind into the author's literary sails of this work. I truly enjoyed it, I'll overlook this descriptive thinness, and I'll acquire the next in the series.
Will it do so for you? I have to say that it's going to be about individual preference on this one.
Here's hoping this audiobook fills YOUR sails ...
So, after nine books, what more can be said about Larson's ninth book in the Star Force series, The Dead Sun?
DEAD. SPOT. ON. That's what.
When a series gets this long in the tooth, the writer has earned his or her place, and the work is built upon the author's previous tomes in the series. IF the author is smart, they give their readers what they want. Larson does this in a major way in The Dead Sun.
But Larson has always done that in the Star Force series.
He drags me onto the battlefield, where blood and steel join in the exploding heat of combat. He slips me behind enemy lines into the heart of the enemy conflict, and shoves me into the shadows, watching as politicians and generals coldly set the fate of countless warriors ready to sacrifice their lives for sometimes blurred and shallow causes. Larson builds worlds, and sets the pace, tempo and rhythm of this stirring march into this incredible military scifi that is Star Force.
So, when I read or listen to Larson's work, I can't accept the tired rhetoric and hastily written pulp so many other authors think of as noteworthy military scifi. Larson rules this arena totally, and The Dead Sun reminds me why I started this series in the first place: Larson, as a writer, is, in a word, exceptional. His work lives beyond the written page, and above the audio data bytes. If you peruse the web, you'll find blogs, chat rooms and web pages praising, debating, arguing and exploring the entire series. Want to know when an audiobook series REALLY does its job well? When people argue over their favorite characters, declaring that their favorite should have their own books in the series, and even write fan fiction in the same milieu, giving the series life beyond the author's pen..
Larson's Star Force series has all of this, and in my opinion, leads the way in this genre.
But, what about The Dead Sun? I sense in this ninth book, that we may be seeing the end of this fantastic journey (I hope to God not!). If this IS the end, what an incredible journey!
However, this may only be the end of a CHAPTER - We'll just have to see where Larson takes us. But having said that, I don't give very many reveals or spoilers in my reviews. I try to give you very solid reasons to buy or not buy an audiobook, based on the merits of the author's style, talent, and passion. By now, you know my philosophy on this - I will not spoil the author's wonderful work by giving you sneak peeks into what happens - You have the brief overview provided by Audible, as well as many other reviewers that happily spill the beans about the audiobook. As usual, I'll get marks against me for not doing so. Still I must be true to my convictions.
However, I WILL give this one thing to you regarding The Dead Sun - A new generation may be on the horizon, a new ushering in, if you will, of a new chapter and direction in this fantastic series. In this ninth audiobook, surprises, revelations and changes await you.
And, of course, exceptional writing.
If you follow my recent reviews, I have been MERCILESS on a number of military Scifi writers - Want to know why? I listened to the previous audiobooks in THIS series.
And the listening has spoiled me completely.
Very well done, Mr. Larson.
Where blood and steel join, take me there again!
I fully expect to get mixed feelings on this review - It's more on a personal level of my preferences regarding good military scifi. And since it's my opinion, I'm okay with that. So, let's rev this up...
This is, if you will, a mixed bag of nuts. Various authors provide a scifi military short story to create an small omnibus, if you will.
I like these authors and their stories, but I'm not a fan of short stories. Yes, it's somewhat the rage in certain circles. It IS a bit trendy lately, with authors trying to write stories that comprise a page or two, or three or fifty, and say as much as they can in as little space as possible.
In my mind, that defeats the very idea of expression. You don't define a great work by it's page count - You define it by the richness, definition and completion of the effort.
Certain authors do this NATURALLY, because it's who they are and how they write. It's their very nature, and when it happens, it's a glorious thing.
Military science fiction, by its very nature, needs length to some degree, to ramp up the listener into the author's milieu and to suspend disbelief, which is always essential to good military scifi writing. If rushed via a short story, it will inevitably boil down to...
"X shoots lasers and missiles at Y, BANG!, Y shoots lasers and missiles back at X, POW!, a mysterious secret is revealed, a hero arises, and both allow either X or Y to win, or both to die."
You just can't pigeonhole quality military scifi into a short story without giving up something important.
I feel that the authors here all had good stories, but they should be presented as full stories, not short, whet your appetite novelettes. So many questions, so many holes. In fact, these stories are so short, that saying anything about them almost gives it story away in its entirety. I WILL say, hover, that Larson had, in my mind the better of their tiny stories, and that's not just because I like Larson - In this case, he did okay with the span in which he wrote.
Again, they're all interesting, but thin. And thin doesn't cut it for me.
So, while these are pigeonholed, they're good, but not great - They need larger real estate to thrive.
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