Given all the difficulty Atticus has had after deciding not to run from Aengus Óg, it's a miracle he lived the first 2000 years. He is now dodging the Roman and Greek pantheon, while his partner in crime Granuaile tries to keep him alive and away from decisions that will make them any more enemies. This book had us driving around in the car because we didn't want to end it yet, which is true of all of the series. There are two things that happen in this book that I thought "he couldn't have written that!", one of which actually had me in tears. Vampire politics continue to affect the story, and his former friend seems to look at them as pieces on a chess board, protected if they continue to be useful and sent against opponents without asking permission or feeling guilt.
I look forward to the snarky comments Oberon brings to the text, and he is both comic relief and something of the 'sacred clown' who brings the focus back to what's important. I hope Granuaile will play a larger part as the series progresses, since her modern understanding of druidic identity is different than Atticus'. She has been raised in a thoroughly Western world view, and her ethics is different from his. I suspect revenge against her stepfather is not going to be able to be put off once they finally stop running for their lives - if they ever manage to stop running.I look forward to seeing what mischief they will get into next.
I can't imagine a better reader than Luke Daniels; he gives Oberon a voice that is truly his own, and I never have to stumble over the pronunciation or the accent. Even reading a female voice works; he doesn't engage in an annoying falsetto but you can tell whose voice it is.
My husband and I listened to this while driving the hour back and forth to the grocery store and two hours never seemed to be long enough. We found ourselves discussing the plight of the characters in the book, wondering how Jake would ever manage to survive his magically altered nemesis, or whether the Pale Horse was a hero or a villain.
One of the things I liked about this series is the moral complexity; good people can do bad things for good reasons, and bad people can do bad things that may have some good consequences. At one point as we turned off the car I told my husband that I thought the book would kill me, since I spent so much time holding my breath during the intense parts. He informed me that he thought it would kill me because I spent so much time dodging bullets during the fire fights and was going to get in the way of his driving. Much of that is due to Bronson Pinchot's narration, which really puts you into the story. Altered histories and steampunk is a newly popular genre, and in this version, you can easily see the world as though it were the 'real' one, and I could easily visualize the blimp landing platform on the top of the Empire State Building. The quotes he begins the chapters with really add to the realism, reframing a quote from the Scopes Trial as though it were about magic, for example. You can easily see the conflict between 'normals' and 'magicals' and how that would add to the difficulties of race and class already within the 1930's worldview.
Bronson Pinchot is an amazing narrator, and his work added a great deal to the story. Even while playing a young "Okie" girl or a japanese soldier his characterizations always felt real, bringing life to the characters. I would read another book just to hear him read it, so I hope he is selective in the things he chooses to read.
I am reviewing this on behalf of my 16 year old, who could not get through the printed book and needed to do well on this in order to be allowed to play baseball. The audiobook was more accessible than the written word and he found the story "okay", but his comments were that the writer made little effort to be theatrical in his reading and was extremely slow paced. It was hard for him to stay focused on the story and he would have sped up the reader about double if he had a speed control on his player. Given all that, he did much better than he would have just reading the book on his own and so it was definitely worth the money. At some point I will read it myself and give a 'non 16 year old' review.
This book is captivating, a vivid description of a dystopian world in which the multinationals have won, global warming and over-population has made the world nearly uninhabitable, and everyone lives in the virtual reality of the ultimate MMORPG (massively multi-player role playing game) called the Oasis. As always, humans are looking for a way to escape from reality and so the Oasis has become the escape. The inventors, who appear to be a bit more like Bill Gates than he would probably want to admit, are reclusive and socially awkward themselves, so they built a video-game in which the social is just one more part of the game to master and can be changed much more easily than the real person inhabiting the character. When one of the inventors dies, his will stipulates that his wealth, and the control of the Oasis, is hidden as a series of quests. The quests are hidden somewhere, but no one knows where, and as the Oasis is a virtual universe of hundreds of thousands of worlds inhabited by both real and virtual people, no one will stumble on it by accident, so an intense study of the things the inventor loved is seen to be the most important clues to where they might be hidden. And what he most loves is the 80's in all of it's minutiae.
The major multi-national corporation, who wants control so that they can "properly monetize" the Oasis, has been trying to cheat its way into a win, without success. No one has even found the first key, but the protagonist, born in the days after the Oasis was born, and having a teenager's tenacity and a case of social awkwardness that echoes the inventor's own, has figured something out. Others will try to get that at any means possible, even if that means murder - and not just of a character.
We started this on a long car trip. We ended up being so engrossed in the book that we were unwilling to stop until the book ended, which meant that we ended up driving until 4AM because when we finally got to the end of the book we were in the middle of nowhere. If you love the 80's video games and culture, this will bring you back to the time, and I confess that having grown up in the 80's I still didn't remember all the little things that he brought up. I wish the book had an accompanying CD of the music to play during the important parts of the book. It will make you want to run out and buy a copy of Ms. Pac Man, just to see if you too can get a perfect game. And if you owned an original copy of the Fiend Folio, you will probably miss the camaraderie of the old fashioned D&D game, listening to this.
The narrator is brilliant, of course, and even though he doesn't change voice to indicate the various character it is clear somehow who is speaking. Wil Wheaton is one of our favorite voices to listen to. It has slow spots, but not many, and it has sudden turns of the plot that you do not expect, but this is really an adolescent coming of age novel, and a search for what community and morality are when we no longer interact directly. I recently read that the average MMORPG player spends an average of 20 hours a week in play, which is far more than we do any other single activity than work. This is a world that is an exaggeration of the connection we have with our Avatars now, and easily imaginable. I cannot imagine what would come after this book, but would gladly follow along should he decide to write it.
Atticus has lost the anonymity that he had worked so hard to gain by putting down roots in one community. This brings him the negative attention he has tried to avoid for a very long time. The story made you believe the relationships he had made with people and the pain he felt when those bonds were stretched - maybe to the point of breaking. The sex that he has is well written, so that it didn't gloss over it with a "soft focus camera angle" but wasn't so descriptive that we had to hear of every sweat droplet and position change, either.
The story kept us guessing about who's plot was driving the action, and the ending surprised us. We got a better sense of his connection with the land, since in the first book he mainly just takes from the earth, and doesn't give much in return, which isn't compatible with Celtic beliefs. The one thing that surprised me is his idealization of certain gods in his pantheon. He has interacted enough with them over the years to realize that his gods are remarkably "human" in their plotting and petty jealousies. I suppose you would want your gods to be more than you are. He describes things vividly, so it feels like you are actually there with him.
He doesn't make silly voices to change from one character to another, but it is clear that a new person is speaking, which helps with the immersion into the character. I love the way he vocalizes the dog, which I would never had been able to do as well with my "inside voice".
The book was fast paced and so enthralling my son didn't want to get out of the car before it finished, even though he missed the whole first book and the first hour of the second. At 16, he has become a bit prejudiced against fantasy, but wanted to know how soon we could get the third book so he could listen to it. That is the highest compliment I could give to any book, if you can get the next generation to read it.
The book kept us on the edge of our seat for a long car trip and was so arresting that we had a difficult time tearing ourselves away from it to stop, and actually drove around more than we needed.
It was similar to Jim Butcher 's Dresden Files; it made the magical understandable and mixed cultures and ages brilliantly.
His ability to bring life to the characters was amazing, especially Oberon. Reading the dog's part brought life to the character that my inside voice would have never done. It also made the Irish words less of a stumbling block.
I can't wait to listen to the next one.
I enjoy Mr. Fforde's Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series, and expected it to be written in a similar style. However, the level of description of the environments was exhaustive, in both senses of the word. Though description may be important in a visually related world, I found it to be tedious, and ended up not finishing the book, which I rarely do.
I would recommend Thursday Next or the Nursery Crimes, but not this one unless you have a lot of patience and a better sense of visual memory than I. However, I might be interested in an abridged version, as an editor might make this book a bit better.
Based on my love of Fforde's books, I would recommend a sequel, as it would be unlikely he would write a second less than awesome book.
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