Despite some reservations about the book, I did enjoy Timescape. I always treat time travel stories with a grain of salt because I have some very stringent ideas about what makes a good one and it is very hard to meet them.
My first problem with the story is that it was too long. There are quite few subplots that don't really affect the main story and in the end they were more of a distraction than anything else. (I could have done without the stereotype Jewish mother and the womanizing Peterson.)
The most interesting thing about the story was the reactions of the scientists when they encounter something that doesn't fit their current scientific theory. The way that they work through it and investigated the situation was really well presented.
The author's thought processes about the messages from the future and the temporal paradoxes that the might cause really could have used more work. When a character receives confirmation of receipt a message from the past before the message requesting confirmation was sent, I just rolled my eyes. Also when a theorist speculates that a message to the past might cause the whole world around them to change and only the senders would know that it had, I thought "I don't think so".
I thought that two narrators, one for the past and one for the future was a good idea. And both of the narrators could produce a variety of voices, but the British narrator (the future narrator) kept saying to "casual loops" instead of "causal loops".
Still, it was an interesting listen, just don't expect to be enlightened on temporal paradoxes.
I had expected to hear about Einstein, his theories and scientific career, but I had not expected to learn so much about his personal life and his attempts to prevent war. The book is loaded with copious comments from Einstein (thanks to his writing letters to so many of his friends), and you really get the sense that you understand how and what he thought. Most of Einstein's greatest work takes place in the 20th century, so there is the bonus that world events that I had heard about separately from other sources, were told in a linear fashion in the book, allowing me to see events in a more causal fashion.
If you have read many of the Harry Dresden books you know that Jim Butcher is a writer in it for the long haul. He's seems to be trying to outdo J. K. Rowling for interconnected books, always laying ground work for a future book with an over arching story line that seemed to be brought to an abrupt halt in the last novel, Changes, with Harry's death at the end. This book is a complete detour from the whole Black Council story arc, as Butcher explores what it is like to be a dead Wizard in Harry's world.
The beginning of the story is a little thin, as is the victory lap at the end, but the middle is quite entertaining. I must admit that one of the things that I find tiring with the Dresden books is that amount of physical punishment that Harry takes and keeps going. There is very little of that in this book, as Harry can't be hurt but he also has very little ability to affect things in the real world. As opposed to the usual Dresden book where Harry gets angry, taps into a power he didn't think he had and pulls things out in the end, Butcher has set himself the task to be more nuisanced this time, and he pulls it off nicely.
If you haven't listened to the book of short stories, Side Jobs, that is definitely something to do before listening to this book. The last story serves as bridge between Changes and Ghost Story and explains a few things that aren't necessary to know for Ghost Story, but still illuminate the behavior of the mortal characters.
John Glover did a fine job of reading this book, but I still missed James Marsters. He just delivers snarky lines better.
I wish that these stories had been better connected, especially the first one. A character comes in and takes command of a situation merely through the sound of his voice. I would have enjoyed it better if the writer had worked harder at actually writing the words spoken by the character that influenced so many. There were also things happening in that story, such as unnamed government groups trying to destroy the city, that are not touched upon in the other stories at all. Fortunately, the stories get better after the first one.
Stories this old usually have to taken with a bit of salt. Like the TV shows that I thought were great when I was a kid, watching them now, some quite a few years later, can be a shock. As we grow and culture change, things we found funny in the 1960 are dated or just in bad taste now. However, these stories have mostly avoided that trap. Oh, there are a few places where, if these were 1970's SciFi stories, the characters would just have sex, in these stories the main character says "Let's get married." But then, these stories are on the far side of the sexual revolution. Normally, I prefer stories that are hard science fiction, but hard SciFi stories, of course, are always dated within a few years. The stories in this collection shy away from actually trying to explain anything and instead focus on the people in the situation and, except for the chaste moments, their reactions are very real and satisfying. I had read "Farewell to the Master" before so I had a sense of where it was going, even though I remembered few of the details. Still, the ending was very touching. The middle two stories are OK, but make sure that you stick around to the last story "Death of a Sensitive". This one had me sitting in the car after I got home, listening to it finish.
I thought that the Superman Returns was an OK movie, but this audio book really improved it. The additional material, especially the explanation of why Superman went back to Krypton in the first place, was much better than the no explanation at all in the movie. Also, unless I'm remembering it incorrectly, the movie kept hinting that Superman might the father of Lois' son. This book wisely steers away from that bit of soap opera.
It is rather amazing (to me at least) how great these stories are. I mean, granted that his ideas about the Multivac, a computer that is miles long and requires specialist to interpret the results, is a long way from the way things actually turned out, but usually the kernel of the idea that he was playing with in a story has merit worth of examination. I especially liked the story where everyone forgot how to perform arithmetic. (After hearing this one, I computed the tip for a meal out by hand that evening, instead of pulling out the calculator in my cell phone, just to honor Dr A.)
Of course, Asimov did not sound anything like I expected, but he did well in the narration and his comments before and after really helped me understand why he wrote a story in the first place.
I had never heard of most of these stories, so they were off the usual beaten Asimov path. I especially liked the last one, "The Ugliest Boy in the World". The purpose of this story was less interested in examining some scientific principle and more of a character piece. (And it may be the best thing that he has ever written.)
I will probably never listen a second time to most of the books that I download from Audible, but that will not be the faith of this one.
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