Baltimore, MD, United States | Member Since 2012
It seems like my preference is the exact opposite of the majority, because once again I love a book that no one else is wild about.
This is my favorite Hugh Howey novel so far - better than Wool, better than Sand. It reminds me of a sci-fi Lord of the Flies, but with a happy ending. Sometimes I thought I was listening to a Gregory Benford story because the feeling it gave me was reminiscent of the Galactic Center series.
A ship destined to colonize a distant planet carries a few hundred human children, growing in pods. They are hooked up to the ship's computer, Colony, and being trained for their future jobs through a virtual classroom. Unfortunately the computer suddenly decides to self abort the mission when the children are 15 years old. The children awake before they are fully mature and must fight their way out of the ship that is engulfed in flames. Less than 50 children struggle out of the burning ship, realizing they have not completed their training, and are therefore not fully equipped to survive on the strange planet. Because of the arrangement of the pods, the humans with the highest rank were located closest to the flames and died first. The children that are left have the lowest ranking jobs.
Hungry, naked and afraid, the children try to take advantage of the training they have received in their short 15 years. But not all the survivors have the best interest of the group at heart, and a pecking order begins to develop. The strong start to overpower the weak and groups want to splinter off. Things get violent. A democracy quickly becomes a dictatorship. In the background looms the creepy presence of Colony, the computer that decided to kill most of the children off, and manipulates the remaining children into building a rocket for an unknown purpose. Why did Colony abort the mission? What is wrong with the alien planet they have landed on? A group of friends escape the group and begin to discover secrets about the strange planet.
I thought this story was sensitive and intelligent, showing excellent character development. Howey built an alien world that is complex and interesting, and touches on themes such as homosexuality and vegetarianism. I fell more deeply into this world, in a shorter amount of time, than I did with his other novels. I wish there was a second book!
I don't like to give a bad review! I only want to give good review! But I'm on a bad string of listens and I have to vent. Or at least prevent someone else from wasting a credit.
I am a big fan of Hugh Howey but this doesn't feel like Howey at all. This is more of a romance novel than science fiction. I kept waiting for interesting things to happen but alas, I was left with that icky feeling you feel when you suspect a cheesy love scene is about to happen and you really don't want to fast forward because you feel like you are cheating yourself and disrespecting the story but you have no choice... its just too cheesy to bare.
The funny thing is, I had just tried listening to 50 Shades of Grey on a lark, but could only get 10 or 15 minutes in, and then immediately after I started Shell Collector and eerily found some parallels between the two stories. Both stories begin with a sassy lady giving an interview to a rich and famous playboy, with said sassy lady trying very hard to dislike the playboy but eventually being won over and seduced. It was a surreal experience to listen to these stories back to back. I kept thinking, wait a minute, this is Hugh Howey, right?!
OK, back to being serious. In the future the world's oceans are extremely polluted and sea life has been destroyed. Therefore sea shells are very rare and a culture of shell collectors has sprung up, grown, and become part of mainstream society. Our leading lady is a reporter with an attachment to shells that goes back to her childhood days of collecting with her mom and dad. The leading man is a billionaire in the oil business whose family contributed to the very pollution that destroyed the oceans and consequently created the shell economy. He also happens to be the most famous shell collector in the world. More than anything else the story is about the intersection of these two characters. There was only one love scene, which I had to skip.
I already feel guilty for dissing Howey. I still love you. Please keep writing stories like Wool and Halfway Home.
This story really put me in a dark place. I've had a bad string of listens lately and even though this book is very well written and had excellent narration by Claire Danes, it was not the best experience for me. Maybe I'm too sensitive? I really felt like I was a prisoner in a religious dictatorship, so kudos to Margaret Atwood for transporting me to this world, even though its not a nice place to be.
The handmaid is telling her story in her head. It is rambling and jumps around from memory to memory, as if she is going over details so that she doesn't forget them. After some time it becomes apparent that she is a basically a slave with no rights and having no access to pen and paper, she is fine tuning her tale in her mind in the hopes of recording it one day. She doesn't want to forget one single detail. So sometimes she muses on flowers, or the ceiling above her head. Her confinement and feelings of helplessness come across so clearly that it made it hard for me to finish. Not having a name, not being allowed to speak, not being able to touch another person unless directed to do so, are things that have worn this woman down to a nub and all she has left is the voice in her head.
Why is she a prisoner? What happened to society? These answers unfold very slowly and not in a linear manner. Warning! This story is very depressing with hardly any pay off in the end!! But at the end you will have a greater appreciation for the small freedoms in life.
My initial thought was this book was YA (maybe from the summary?) and that a story told from a zombie perspective would be too cheesy for me. A zombie protagonist seems to be more in the realm of comedy than anything else. I thought, little girl doesn't know she is a zombie and in the end finally discovers the truth. But that is not this book at all!!! I was so pleased that it turned out to have characters with depth and a storyline that really did overcome the zombie-apocalypse cliche for me. Of course there are still some cliches here, small pockets of humanity trying to survive in a world over run with zombies... zombies that must have a clever nickname ( in this case they are called "hungries"), and typical human-eating zombie behavior. There are enough unique variations on the zombie archetype in this story to keep it interesting, and the complexity of the characters fleshes it out very well. The zombie protagonist, Melanie, puts me in mind of a hero in a Joss Whedon or Luc Besson film. She does have all the gifts and her destiny is to save her friends and the world, but thankfully the ending is not what you would expect.
If you were or knew an extremely gifted teenager during your highschool years, you will connect with this story. If you enjoy Nabokov or Donna Tartt, you will see familiar themes in this book.
Blue van Meer is the kind of girl that recites Keates in her head in order to remain calm and appear self-possessed. Her equally gifted and enigmatic father, Gareth, a college professor of political science, drags her across the country in his crusade to enlighten the students of small town colleges with his arresting and illuminating lectures. Consequently she is always beginning at a new school, and always enduring long road trips with her father in which they discuss obscure literature to pass the time. Blue describes the people and places she sees during this 10 year period with razor sharp wit and hammers it home with myriad references to books, plays, films and famous quotes, just in case you didn’t get her point. These references add a weight and hilarity to the story that is supremely entertaining.
Gareth and Blue make their final stop in North Carolina, so that Blue can finish out her senior year at the Galloway school and subsequently apply to Harvard. Enter the mysterious and beautiful teacher Hannah Schneider, an Ava Gardner look-alike, who makes a deep impression upon Blue when she sees her at a grocery store. Hannah enters into Blue’s life and everything changes. A complex mystery unfolds that causes the reader to question whether Blue is ignoring the obvious, or making connections where there are none. Back and forth you will go between believing that all is harmless and normal, to believing that there is a sinister conspiracy beneath everything that Blue has known and that all events of the story are tied. The tension that Marisha Pessl has created is delicious!
I will leave you with my favorite quote from the book, when Blue describes the Latin gardener for whom she harbors a feverish crush. She sees him from behind at Walmart but recognizes him, of course, because of his sense of "Tahiti".
"Instantly I recognized the showy sigh, the slouch, that slow underwater movement, his overall sense of Tahiti. No matter what time of day or amount of work to be done, someone with Tahiti could close his eyes and the reality of moody lawn mowers, scruffy lawns, threats of termination of employment, would recede and in seconds he'd simply be in.. Tahiti. Stark naked and drinking from a coconut."
This is the third novel in Gregory Benford's Galactic Center series. In book two, we left Nigel as he was rushing towards Galactic Center. We left Warren in an underwater haven built by the Skimmers, as the Swarmers continued with their dirty work of destroying life on earth. We were given a glimpse of the mechs and an understanding of their agenda. Now in Great Sky River, we see what has become of mankind in a far distant future. This is the world that was described in Benford's novella, A Hunger for the Infinite, the reason I started listening to this series in the first place.
Humans live in tribal families and lead nomadic lives on the planet Snowglade. We understand that the humans once lived in beautiful citadels and were somewhat tolerated by the mech population, until something changed and citadels were destroyed and the humans viciously hunted. The planet's climate has been changed by the mechs, from the lush and green world implied by the name Snowglade, to a dry and harsh environment suited to mechs and dangerous to humans. The Bishop family is constantly on the run, looting mech factories for food and parts. All humans have robotic enhancements and implants to help them survive. "Aspects" are the memories and personalities of fallen comrades, which can be stored in chip form and inserted into the back of the neck. Family Bishop values their Aspects and relies on the knowledge and experiences of their ancestors to stay alive.
Killeen Bishop is the new hero and faces off against the Mantis, the extremely creepy mech that harvests humans and creates artistic monstrosities for enjoyment. We see a small glimpse of Nigel, knowing that he must have passed this way on his journey to Galactic Center. Killeen finds the initials N.W. on a beautiful structure built by humans.
This story is thrilling and intense, and completely different from the two previous books. We learn what has become of humanity after mechs take over the universe. This is what I was waiting for when I started the series and I'm so glad I hung in there!
I wasn't wild about the first novel in this series but I had a feeling it was setting the stage for very exciting things. I'm so glad I hung in there! Nigel is in his element aboard Lancer, a ship modeled after the Mare Marginis wreck. Peopled with a crew of experts in every field, the ship is exploring the universe. I finally begin to admire Nigel and understand why he is the hero of this story. Nigel is a frontiersman. He is looking for the truth and nothing will stand in his way of discovering it. Lancer is tracing a radio transmission far into space, and we see Nigel grow older as it takes years to reach their destination. He tenaciously holds onto his desire to make contact with other life forms and to prove his theory that machine life is up to no good out there in the universe.
Meanwhile back on earth, strange creatures have been deposited (by guess who?) into the world's oceans. The story alternates between Nigel on Lancer, and a new hero on earth, Warren. In a chilly turn of events, we are introduced to the "swarmers", alien sea creatures that bombard ships and devour the humans inside, making sea travel impossible. Warren is a shipwreck survivor, clinging to a make shift raft and beating starvation and dehydration by killing and eating the lone swarmers that attack him.
On Lancer, earth's transmissions take years to reach the crew, so they are not yet aware of the swarmers. Instead they are focused on a planet called Isis, where organic life forms have evolved to communicate through radio waves in order to outsmart the machine life that has suppressed them.
There is so much action in this novel. Everything starts to fit together and I understand why Benford spent so much time on the themes presented in "In the Ocean of Night." Nigel is rushing toward the Galactic Center and the story is picking up speed! I can't wait to listen to the next book!
After listening to the novella by Gregory Benford, "Hunger for the Infinite," I was intrigued and ready for more of the same universe. This novel is very different. It is very slow moving and for much of the first half focuses strictly on main character Nigel and his "triad" relationship with Alexandria and Shirley. I was hoping for a little more science fiction, but patiently listened through Nigel's ups and downs with his lady loves. The lingering back story seems to be Nigel's struggle to over come politics within NASA and finally discover something real and true about the universe.
I was waiting for the "science fiction" part to dominate the "dramatic" part, and it doesn't really happen until the end of the first half. The creepy robots of Benford's novella have not shown up yet in Nigel's world, but he begins to get a sense of their presence. The entire novel is a build up to the idea that robotic life dominates the universe and that organic life is rare. My favorite character in the novel is actually the "snark", an automated craft that has been sent by these as of yet unseen robotic forces, to sniff out organic life. The snark does not know why it exists but only behaves as it has been programmed to behave. In its discussions with Nigel, there are some of the most interesting passages of the book. The snark drifts eternally through the "ocean of night" and finds its only fulfillment through learning about organic life forms.
I was disappointed that this novel was so different from "Hunger for the Infinite," but I enjoyed it anyway. Its slow and thoughtful, with no real gripping action or suspense, but contains some captivating musings about mankind and our relationship to the universe. I will continue with the series to see where it leads.
I never thought I could be so creeped out by robots. The antagonists of this futuristic sci-fi novella are called "Mechs." They see humans as vermin, and the author luridly describes some of the tortures they inflict upon the human race. Even more disturbing than the grotesque and perverse artworks created by the Mantis, a mech that is trying to understand humanity (literally from the inside out), is the voice that the narrator gives to the character. It is calm and polite, almost soothing, as it talks of "harvesting" humans. Eeek!
I thought this novella was great. The language is definitely poetic and sometimes slightly vague, alluding to things that are left unsaid. The mood is cold and dark, but also witty and elegant. There were moments of extreme beauty and elation, but also chilly fear.
This novella is not warm, and its not really friendly. It explores some frightening and complex themes. If you need obvious story telling with copious amounts of dialogue, you will probably not enjoy this story. I loved it. The narrator is excellent. I will be purchasing all available books from this author.
This story is about a rag-tag group of pioneers on Mars, with a tough, salt of the earth, matriarch at their center. Mary Griffith runs the Empress of Mars, providing beer to the few residents that have been able to stick it out on a desert planet with no oxygen, freezing temperatures, and dangerous sand storms. I love all the characters that Kage Baker has placed in this story of life in a bio-dome on Mars. Mary Griffith, of course, is the heroine. She is feisty, strong, and fiercely protective of all her fellow pioneers. Her brew house is a haven to many interesting people, the ex goddess-worshiping heretic, the enthusiastic journalist from Nepal, the gentle South American artist that carves beautiful statues in the Martian desert.... Kage weaves many themes into this tale - religion, politics, and feminism, but she always keeps it humorous. This is the second Kage Baker novel I have listened to and I will now proceed to gobble up her complete list of works!
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