After listening to Michael Drout's lecture on Science Fiction (From Here to Infinity), I picked up Connie Willis' novel. The premise is beautiful. A section of a future Oxford devotes itself to historical study via time travel. These students study a particular time in order to experience it first hand. Willis' research is evident through Kivrin, the novel's protagonist. And Jenny Sterlin's handle of Middle English is impressive!
Where Willis falls short is in some of the technology in the future. In a world where time travel is possible, you would think that some of the other types of tech would be more impressive. However, I don't think that was Willis' focus, and it doesn't take the reader away from the novel too much. I found myself preferring to listen to Kivrin's story in 14th century England instead of what was going on with her colleagues.
Essentially, the novel has two parallel stories. And yes, the novel is predictable in the sense that you know the twist before it happens. But again, I don't think this was Willis' intent. She was not writing a suspense novel, although this could have easily have become one. Read Michael Crichton's TIMELINE if that's what you want. Instead, her narrative is much more literary and thought provoking -- having as much to say about people and human nature as futuristic time travel and scholarly research.
I was thankfully introduced to Robert Jordan's WHEEL OF TIME series while in middle school. These books helped me through many classes as I read and re-read them. The narrative is extremely detailed, full of colorful characters, cinematic dialogue, and squirm-inducing action.
My criticisms are that every character seems to have a "special ability." I just wanted to meet someone who was an interesting character rather than their ability to this or that. This particular novel introduces readers to a world where a young man discovers he's one of the few men who can wield The One Source and the toll it takes on those around him. It's an epic fantasy that spans more books than I think were necessary, but this is still one of the most accessible 1000+ page books for people who "don't read fantasy." During the 90's, it was easy to find people who read these books despite their length and genre.
Michael Kramer reads the majority of the novel since most of the books focus on the boys. For the moments that the female characters are in the limelight, Kate Reading picks up. I'm not sure this is the best choice for the production, but it didn't bother me to much. The dialogue is so good, however, that a full cast recording would be really interesting.
These books are a good gateway to larger (and richer) works like THE SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. Whereas those books are for adults, I would recommend this book -- and hence the entire series -- to mature young readers willing to jump into a fantasy world full of adventure.
I am more familiar with Warren Ellis through his comics, so this novel seemed like a good idea. I can't say that I didn't enjoy it. I listened to it in about three days, but I felt "dirty" for listening to it -- which I suppose is the point.
Warren Ellis has a knack for forcing his audience to look at the seedy underbelly of society. Arkham Asylum was nothing if not a great look into a crazed mind in Gotham's history. But this sometimes read as if he googled unseemly activities -- some which I am convinced don't really exist -- and he puts them in the plot for shock value. However, I can see this book being compared to George Lippard's QUAKER CITY in a less political way.
Todd McLaren was unexceptional with the narration -- not bad but not phenomenal either. If I had it to do over, I might pass this one up.
I'm always looking for good books to teach my students. Every now and then I come across a book that I just KNOW my kids are going to enjoy. THE HUNGER GAMES was one of those several years back. This one, I predict, will also be a successful franchise.
Dashner tackles his story line focusing on action rather than relationships. The characters are well developed with dialogue peppered with their own slang. What you won't get is a sappy love triangle that predominates YA literature so much right now. You also won't be beaten over the head with symbols or metaphors. The plot is well crafted, and he keeps you guessing up to the end with a satisfying conclusion that makes you want to pick up book two. If an author can make some of my students get excited about reading, then it's a book worth checking out.
My go-to genre for literature as a teen was fantasy. Escaping into fantastical worlds was my way of coping with middle school and high school life. It wasn't until high school, however, that I began to get into science fiction as well. I've always enjoyed sci-fi as a genre for movies and television. Star Trek and Doctor Who were my usual entertainment. But it wasn't until I realized that some science fiction could not only transport me into other realms, but it could make me THINK as well. Science fiction so many more questions other than "What if..." that I believe it is the richest genre of literature on bookshelves. I started with some of the classics like ENDER'S GAME and STARSHIP TROOPERS. But had I not listened to this lecture, I might have missed several incredible novels.
Listening to Dr. Drout is an easy task. His lectures are well researched, his delivery is conversational, and the content is full of great suggestions for reading. I discovered so many authors from this lecture that I am still working through the stack next to my bed. I even teach a couple of the short stories mentioned in my literature classes because of this lecture. He breaks science fiction down into sub-genres, focuses on the early days, and even throws some new names into the pot.
Available along with the download is the .pdf file for the course. This is a great way to keep a checklist of books to find after listening.
I still consider myself "New to Who," since I only started becoming obsessed with the modern series. However, I have watched 8 seasons of the original DOCTOR WHO and I continue to enjoy the older series as well. This novel, as I'm sure you're aware, is based on a script written by the immortal Douglas Adams. Although impeccably plotted and enjoyable, do not expect much of the Adams' HITCHHIKER wit. It's THERE, but it's subtle.
I applaud Gareth Roberts for bringing this to a mainstream audience. He's done a great job puzzling out the pieces and putting it together. This is an accessible Fourth Doctor adventure, but you don't necessarily have to be a veteran of Doctor Who to enjoy it. You will meet old friends if you are familiar with the original series, or you will meet new ones if you are not.
Read by Lalla Ward, the original series' Romana II, the audio is produced in a way to resemble a BIG FINISH audio production. Full of sound effects, musical score, and even a cameo from K-9. Ward does a great job immitating Tom Baker, and her other voices are fine without being cartoonish. This has more of a "radio drama" feel to it rather than an audio book. I enjoyed it packaged the way it is, but I understand that some listeners may want a more straight forward audio book.
This was an enjoyably fun audio adventure.
This is a fun way to revisit the book in an abbreviated amount of time. Nothing compares to the book, but many of the most memorable comical scenes are here in the original radio show. A must for the die-hard Douglas Adams fan!
This is one of those novels that I've always been a little intimidated about reading. When I read that this was a "cast" recording, I snatched it up pretty quickly. Although the novel is truly a classic of science fiction, this recording was not wonderful. Simplicity is sometimes better, and this audiobook would have benefitted from a single reader. My biggest complaint about the cast is that the actors playing the parts seemed inconsistant.
Herbert was a wonderful world-builder. His characters are as vivid as his planets. Worth reading for any sci-fi fan.
Once upon a time, I was a young writer in a college Creative Writing class. After submitting one of my short stories, the professor informed me (and the entire class) that GENRE fiction was a useless waste of time, and we, as writers, should pursure more nobel pursuits like true literature. I have spent years recovering from that slight on my writing and have found myself struggling to write anything since.
Dr. Drout takes the notion that academics have about fantasy and challenges it. He is a well known and published scholar of several aspects of literature and composition. I was elated to find that a SCHOLAR thought the same about fantasy literature that I did. Drout takes the idea of stories and breaks down the elements of fantasy. He focuses mostly on Tolkien (of course), but he branches out as well. His best lectures are on Tolkien and his works.
Drout also focuses on the effects that Tolkien had on fantasy literature -- specifically LeGuin and Stephen R. Donaldson. Then he moves on to children's literature. I would think that Modern Scholar might want to ask Drout to do a lecture series on HARRY POTTER.
Throughout the lecture (as with the Science Fiction recording from MODERN SCHOLAR) I made myself a list of books to tackle. Some I've loved, others (THOMAS COVENANT) I hated, but Drout has turned me on to several new writers that I have either missed or didn't know.
Let me begin by saying that LeGuin is at her best when she is creating a new culture by looking at it anthropologically. For example, she shines in her Earthsea novels and the science fiction novels like THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. In this novel, she has a society that she understands fully -- but it is already historically realized. I felt her creativity was limited with what I think she does best -- her expertise on culture and people. However, her insight into people comes through in the impeccable characterization in this novel.
Bresnahan does a fine job with the text. Not my favorite by LeGuin, but a nobel effort.
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