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SciFi Kindle

I'm a Hard SF & Space Opera-loving, alien android from the future. I bring gifts of SciFi eBooks & accessories for your leader's Kindle. Take me to him/her/it.

Cheshire, CT USA | Member Since 2013

71
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 67 reviews
  • 95 ratings
  • 271 titles in library
  • 21 purchased in 2015
FOLLOWING
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FOLLOWERS
8

  • Use of Weapons

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Iain M. Banks
    • Narrated By Peter Kenny
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (253)
    Performance
    (238)
    Story
    (237)

    The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks, and military action. The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him toward his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought. The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause.

    Ken says: "Tips on how to listen to this novel - NO SPOILERS"
    "Amazing Character Portrait"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    After over twenty years, this still holds up as a Sci-Fi masterpiece character study into the dark soul of its protagonist, a mercenary named Cheradenine Zakalwe. At first, the unusual story structure of two asynchronous story lines, alternating between the present and an episodic sequence of thirteen key moments in Zakalwe's past (revealed in reverse chronological order), can be confusing. However, it quickly clarifies, and is an absolutely ingenious way of examining the roots of the character's motives, phobias, and mannerisms in such a way that maximum surprise is extracted at each 'reveal'. Of course, as you've guessed from the profession of Mr. Zakalwe, there is no shortage of action throughout, and a good deal of James Bond 007 (I'm picturing Daniel Craig, not the other blokes). The biggest lost opportunity here was to explore, in the book's many settings and locales, some truly alien cultures, philosophies, and biologies, but sadly we see only a large collection of human civilizations in various stages of technological development. At least Gene Roddenberry slapped some prosthetic facial adornments on his humanoid aliens! Nevertheless, the story succeeds in elevating character over deus ex machina; no easy feat considering the persistent omnipotence of the Culture standing behind the mercenary, but here kept at a welcome arm's length, maintaining a high-stakes identification between the reader and the protagonist.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Empire of Light: Shoal, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Gary Gibson
    • Narrated By Charlie Norfolk
    Overall
    (51)
    Performance
    (47)
    Story
    (47)

    In the third Shoal book, the nova war has begun to spread as the Emissaries force the Shoal into a desperate retreat. While Dakota goes in search of the entity responsible for creating the Maker caches, Corso, left in charge of a fleet of Magi ships, finds his authority crumbling in the face of politically-motivated sabotage.

    SciFi Kindle says: "Great setup, then stalls despite fast pace"
    "Great setup, then stalls despite fast pace"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Like a lot of threequels, this read isn’t for those who haven’t already digested the previous installment novels. Not only do many of the background conflicts and events rely on an understanding of those books, but the history between the major characters is found there, too. This is no criticism, however. A lot of series these days try too hard to be a ‘big tent’ for an expanding readership, that early chapters drag with exposition and ‘catch-me-up’ material. If Tolkien felt compelled to do this, he would have needed another hundred pages. I personally prefer when authors treat the reader with enough respect to trust us to remember (or re-read) important previous material- that’s what all the fan Wikis are for, right?

    No, my peeve with this story is that it starts off extremely promisingly, with a collection of characters and motives that are all appealing, both new and returning, with those in the latter category having undergone substantial personal evolution between novels. They are drawn together and undertake a hero’s journey in the form of an expedition into hostile alien territory, further outside of human space than anyone has ever traveled before. And then, with this spectacular set up, the remainder of the story devolves into a finger-pointing mystery among the characters to uncover the infiltrator in their midst. This would have been welcome in a moderated dosage; a sideplot that allows the greater focus to move on to more wondrous, alien, Space Opera, big concepts. However, the story really spiraled into one betrayal after another, and while this kept the tension and action quite high, I feel like it missed an opportunity to accomplish both of those things more engagingly using external threats. It’s possible I feel this way only because of how stupendous the epilogue was in this regard, and it reminded me of all the things that later half of the story proper missed. While this bodes well for my enjoyment of the 4th installment novel, Marauder, it did cause my attention to drift at moments.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Last Colony

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By John Scalzi
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1854)
    Performance
    (1452)
    Story
    (1464)

    Retired from his fighting days, John Perry is now village ombudsman for a human colony on distant Huckleberry. With his wife, former Special Forces warrior Jane Sagan, he farms several acres, adjudicates local disputes, and enjoys watching his adopted daughter grow up. That is, until his and Jane's past reaches out to bring them back into the game.

    Katherine says: "3.5 stars"
    "Enjoyable, but not as innovative as earlier books"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    After the undeniable SF pedigree of the earlier two novels in the series, this entry felt entirely too devoted to politics and diplomacy, although still enjoyably so. The smirky protagonist (found in all of Scalzi’s books, as far as I know) brings a dry humor to the narrative. In this series, the character is named John Perry, and along with his wife and fellow former soldier, Jane Sagan, find a way to avert disaster for underdog humanity in a hostile universe. The pair are bit too idealized, however, and would be more interesting with some character flaws or blind spots. Another missed opportunity I noted was that while the novel is full of plenty of alien species and characters, there are practically no descriptions of their appearance, physiologies, or philosophies. They could all very conceivably stand-in for humans in all their nationalities and factions, operating from some non-SF setting. The cookie-cutter approach reminds me of the TV aliens in Star Trek, ironically something Scalzi quite successfully lampooned in 2012’s “Redshirts”. For this level of multi-layered strategic diplomacy, one could just as easily have picked up a thriller from the current NYT bestseller list in the Fiction aisle, but as a SF fan, I would have liked to see something more exotic from the characters, settings, motives, etc. A final criticism is one I’ve spotted in other Scalzi books: An overuse of the verb “said” in dialog. After a string of several, my ear was straining for some variety. Where the novel succeeds, however, is in the moderate humor and clever solutions to the tough spots the characters find themselves in. There are some very satisfying ‘back from the brink’ moments here, and on the strength of the earlier novels in the series, I’m willing to continuing reading the series after this bridge book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Singularity Sky

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Charles Stross
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (232)
    Performance
    (126)
    Story
    (129)

    In the 21st century, the perfection of faster-than-light travel and the rise of a prodigious artificial intelligence known as the Eschaton altered the course of humankind. New civilizations were founded across the vastness of space. Now, the technology-eschewing world known as the New Republic is besieged by an alien information plague. Earth quickly sends a battle fleet - but is it coming to the rescue, or is a sinister plot in motion?

    Paula Ross says: "A unique blend"
    "Humorous look at the futility of fighting progress"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There seems to be an uncomfortable amount of bashing the Russian Revolution in the themes found here. A brittle authoritarian monarchy with a deep distrust of post-industrial technology is confronted by an external visitor that turns everything in their society on its head with a deluge of free information. When undercover agents from a freer, more liberal and technologically advanced society insert themselves into the military response, it’s hard not to think of cold war cat-and-mouse thrillers. To make the parallels completely undeniable, Stross has loaded the Soviet-style civilization (ironically named the New Republic) with Eastern European surnames. There’s not a lot of surprises in the plot, however, as the adversaries are so overwhelmingly mismatched. The rigid commanders of the New Republic refuse to realize this, so the reader is treated to a very rapid illustration of a society entering into a technological singularity. Here, I was reminded a bit of Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels where the practically omnipotent Culture society often comes into well-meaning conflict with it’s mortal neighbors. There were also some intriguing possibilities brought up regarding FTL travel and its implications on Causality, as well as some practical economic effects resulting from cheap nano fabricators. Separately, a lot of these ideas are explored in other Space Opera books, but they came together nicely here and serve as a reminder of what foundations must be in place before certain technologies safely come into a society’s grasp.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jupiter War: The Owner, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Neal Asher
    • Narrated By John Mawson, Steve West
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (73)
    Performance
    (66)
    Story
    (67)

    Alan Saul is now part-human and part-machine, and our solar system isn't big enough to hold him. He craves the stars, but can't leave yet. His sister Var is trapped on Mars, on the wrong side of a rebellion, and Saul's human side won't let her die. He must leave Argus Station to stage a dangerous rescue - but mutiny is brewing onboard, as Saul's robots make his crew feel increasingly redundant. Serene Galahad will do anything to prevent Saul's escape. Earth’s ruthless dictator hides her crimes from a cowed populace as she readies new warships for pursuit.

    Colton says: "Great conclusion to a good series."
    "Villains return for more beat-downs"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In this trilogy-capper, true to the title, when the characters aren’t engaged in life-and-death battles, they’re gearing up for such fights. Somehow the defeated tyrannical forces of the previous installments have regrouped enough to once again pose an existential threat to the unbeatable anti-hero, Alan Saul- ‘The Owner’. His overpowered infallibility is paired with an increased detachment from human-scale relationships in this novel, so Asher has wisely spread the burden of the POV protagonist flag to other, more relatable characters. Another welcome development is that a few of the previously antagonistic ‘villains’ undergo some transformation and serve more redeemed roles. The story structure is a fairly straightforward build-up to inevitable conflict, although there’s some clever tactical twists that are rewarding to watch unfold. The only theme I identified was a continuation from the rest of the series: violent revenge will visit the guilty.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Permutation City

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Greg Egan
    • Narrated By Adam Epstein
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (48)
    Performance
    (39)
    Story
    (40)

    The good news is that you have just awakened into Eternal Life. You are going to live forever. Immortality is a reality. A medical miracle? Not exactly. The bad news is that you are a scrap of electronic code. The world you see around you, the you that is seeing it, has been digitized, scanned, and downloaded into a virtual reality program. You are a Copy that knows it is a copy. The good news is that there is a way out.

    LAURA says: "Not recommended."
    "Moral dilemmas of digitalization"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This exploration of digital consciousness is heavier on the philosophy than hard SF, although enough near-future exposition and tech is provided to support the premise: supercomputers allowing for digitization of living minds. Once that platform is established, Egan is free to play with all the high concept questions that result from a physics-free playground subject to will and desires. In the virtual environments that these uploaded consciousnesses inhabit, every sensation and perception can be modified to the individual’s tastes, as can those tastes and indeed- the individual’s own personality. The story’s drama comes, in part, from characters altering their very selves to accommodate circumstances. Additional moral questions come into play when system-generated additional personalities are introduced to provide community, and when intelligent life evolves from scratch in the VR and begin to seek their own origin. When these intelligences come into conflict with one another, or with the outside world, where the same computer resources are in demand for improving life for the billions of our reality, additional dilemmas ensue. All in all, the novel does a great job extending the trope and giving it the full examination it deserves, although it’s a bit weak on the characters or action.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Quantum Thief

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Hannu Rajaniemi
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (219)
    Performance
    (189)
    Story
    (193)

    Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist, and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy—from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he’s confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to get up and kill himself before his other self can kill him.

    David says: "Idea-heavy, requires an attentive listen"
    "Disorientingly delightful Big Idea SF"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A satisfyingly rich worldscape is presented, so dense that it’s possible to immediately get disoriented and be tempted to walk away from this book, but for readers who opt to enjoy the ride cresting on the top of the fast-moving waves, and not worrying too much about the depths below, there’s a terrific thrill in store. While there is a recognizable whodunnit mystery plot at it’s core, the juiciest bits are all the posthuman concepts introduced. Or rather, never formally introduced: Rajaniemi’s style is to drop ideas, reference backstory, factions, etc conversationally on the reader as if you were as familiar with all of it as the citizens of the story. This can sometimes take many dozens or even hundreds of pages to gather enough exposition (often inferred from context) to explain, making this book a good candidate for a multiple-read approach in order to fully appreciate- perhaps with a glossary or wiki near at hand. Fortunately, it also has plenty of fast-paced action sequences and consistently well-crafted language to make a re-read welcome. The central theme is reminiscent of Plato’s Cave: In a society where every thought and every personality is digitized and mediated by ubiquitous personal encryption, what constitutes reality, ownership, freedom, or memory? In this utopia, personal privacy is so highly regarded that conversations, interactions, and even observations of an individual can be erased from all memories if that individual desires- even retroactively. Of course, such a system becomes an immediate target for corruption, so plenty of dramatic possibilities here.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rendezvous with Rama

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Arthur C. Clarke
    • Narrated By Peter Ganim, Robert J. Sawyer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2127)
    Performance
    (1358)
    Story
    (1382)

    At first, only a few things are known about the celestial object that astronomers dub Rama. It is huge, weighing more than ten trillion tons. And it is hurtling through the solar system at inconceivable speed. Then a space probe confirms the unthinkable: Rama is no natural object. It is, incredibly, an interstellar spacecraft. Space explorers and planet-bound scientists alike prepare for mankind's first encounter with alien intelligence.

    Peter Tersteeg says: "Excellent story, terrible naration"
    "Foundational Space Opera"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    While there is well-deserved respect for this classic, I think it lacks some of the complexity and economy of more contemporary space opera stories. Admittedly, many of those modern works stand on the shoulders of this novel, relying on concepts pioneered here or in Larry Niven’s ‘Ringworld’ when using shorthanded jargon such as ‘orbital’, ‘arkships’, ‘generation ships’, etc. Clarke has created a fantastically mysterious alien artifact that evokes both the reader’s wonder, and frustration. The thoughtfully imagined engineering is very internally consistent, and completely soaring in its wonder and scope. Lacking any apparent passengers, Rama qualifies as one of the genre’s original inscrutable BDO’s (Big Dumb Object), and is the center of the story’s plot and focus. In fact, very little interpersonal drama or secondary conflict appears in the story aside from some brief nationalist sword rattling which never transcends sideshow status. The only tension that ever seems high enough stakes is that provided by Rama itself, and in each case Clarke returns to the theme of cosmic indifference towards microscopic mankind. Likewise, Clarke’s treatment of characters is fairly superficial, allowing just a peppering of distinct personalities to differentiate the cast a bit. For me, the most interesting, yet unexplored of these was Rodrigo, a devout member of the Fifth Church of Christ, Cosmonaut. These “Cosmo Christers’ hold a belief with a xenopomorphic deity, and I feel could bring many questions and dilemmas to this or just about any Space Opera story. However, much like the ‘Simps’ (genetically engineered SuperChimps), they are a concept introduced and then largely ignored in the text. Narratively, the novel is structured to bounce between a first person perspective through protagonist explorer Commander Bill Norton, and third person scenes from the chambers of government, providing some exposition and perspective. All in all, this story gives a thoughtful, slow examination of BDO concepts- rare in more contemporary works- at the expense of drama and characters, and provides helpful historical background to newer genre readers looking to gain perspective and appreciation for the Space Opera libraries.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Terms of Enlistment

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Marko Kloos
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1265)
    Performance
    (1152)
    Story
    (1153)

    The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to 2,000 calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth.

    DAVE says: "Solid military sci-fi."
    "Love story between the author & the military"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This military SF piece indeed begins indistinguishably from several other ‘new recruit’ stories it has been compared to (Scalzi’s ‘Old Man’ series, Haldeman’s ‘Forever War’ series). A first-person protagonist, Andrew Grayson is recruited into the Space Military (my generic coinage) and goes on to discover that war is Hell. More so that either of those examples, however, this story pays a more muscular respect to the details of military life, and the author’s soldiering history is apparent. Military jargon and abbreviations abound, and the reader truly is immersed in the life. For the first half of the story, however, this presents a risky problem for the reader; many will be drawn to its realism, but many may become disinterested in the dearth of significant SF material to distinguish it from mainstream fiction.

    Around the 60% point of the novel, however, there is a drastic setting change that shifts the balance of tone back into the SF corner while backing away from the military realism. As this portion of the narrative takes place with a naval setting, I’m assuming Kloos’s first-hand knowledge ends with the infantry experience. Details that were thick in the earlier chapters become thinner, and feel abbreviated in the later chapters. Both halves prominently feature a ‘parent-figure’ commanding officer, and both share a can-do-no-wrong, too-good-to-be-true air about them. Sargent Fallon & Lt Commander Campbell are insufficiently flawed characters, I feel, and represent wish-fulfillment. Neither makes any mistakes, and both will go to extremes to defend every individual in their command.

    The plot holds plenty of shoot-em-up action throughout, and the slightly exotic settings of the later chapters provide some SF backdrop, but no new SF concepts or questions are ever presented. Thematically, this is a straightforward love story between the protagonist and the military. The appearance of aliens in the story’s climax arc feel like they are mindless targets inserted to simply provide an enemy for the hero, although things are left vague and mysterious enough to possibly have a more complexly-structured sequel where the reader will presumably learn more about the unfolding threat. Still, ‘Terms of Enlistment’ would make a good summer read, and does entertain even if, like a drill sergeant, it doesn’t ask it’s readers to think for themselves.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Proxima: Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Stephen Baxter
    • Narrated By Kyle McCarley
    Overall
    (90)
    Performance
    (75)
    Story
    (74)

    The very far future: The galaxy is a drifting wreck of black holes, neutron stars, and chill white dwarfs. The age of star formation is long past. Yet there is life here, feeding off the energies of the stellar remnants, and there is mind, a tremendous galaxy-spanning intelligence each of whose thoughts lasts a hundred thousand years. And this mind cradles memories of a long-gone age when a more compact universe was full of light... The 27th century: Proxima Centauri, an undistinguished red dwarf star, is the nearest star to our sun. How would it be to live on such a world?

    William says: "could be the start of a good series"
    "Wins on both concepts AND character levels"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This well-structured space opera manages to deliver both a engaging character-driven drama as well as some jaw-dropping wonders of an alien BDO (Big Dumb Object). Baxter tells a multi-narrative story from various character perspectives over a lifetime, and divides the action across two star systems.

    One protagonist, a press-ganged colonist named Yuri Eden, is dragged across interstellar space to be abandoned on a hostile new world to establish a human foothold along with a scattering of other unwilling exiles. Their story of survival over several decades brutally demonstrates both the dangers of human psychological isolation as well as an unfamiliar and alien environment. There is some interesting and exotic biota, although he keeps it to only three or four varieties, which I was engaged enough to have wanted more. A good deal of research and calculation must have gone into determining what the conditions of such a world must be, and Baxter goes into convincing depth of detail describing weather, geology, etc.

    Where I thought the story really shined, however, was in the other main narrative back on the Earth, where a catastrophic conflict is brewing between two power blocks. A physicist named Stephanie Kalinski finds herself caught in between the two as the alien artifacts she’s spent her career studying become the central prize that they are contesting. Neither the miracle alien power source nor the alien wormhole gateway are all that unique in SF literature, but Baxter introduces an unexpected twist when Stephanie’s first encounter with one of the artifacts generates a full-grown twin sister, complete with an altered history and memory of this new character for all but Steph herself, who alone recalls her sister-less past timeline. This mid-story twist came quite unexpected, and is among the many teased mysteries left for the subsequent series installment(s) to further address.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Gods of Risk: An Expanse Novella

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By James S. A. Corey
    • Narrated By Erik Davies
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (77)
    Performance
    (70)
    Story
    (70)

    As tension between Mars and Earth mounts, and terrorism plagues the Martian city of Londres Nova, 16-year-old David Draper is fighting his own lonely war. A gifted chemist vying for a place at the university, David leads a secret life as a manufacturer for a ruthless drug dealer. When his friend Leelee goes missing, leaving signs of the dealer's involvement, David takes it upon himself to save her. But first he must shake his aunt Bobbie Draper, an ex-marine who has been set adrift in her own life after a mysterious series of events nobody is talking about.

    David says: "Breaking Bad on Mars"
    "This risk wasn't worth it"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is the first of the novellas in the “Expanse-iverse” I’ve read, and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. While the amazing novels are all complex, multi-narrative, loaded with hard SF and trademark dialog, this shorter work was a lot more… terrestrial. The protagonist, teenage chemist David Draper, is fairly archetypical as a nerdy dreamer who falls for the prom queen. However, in this story, she’s a junkie and her boyfriend isn’t the captain of the football team, he’s a drug dealer with a quietly menacing demeanor. Some of the backdrop to the story connects to the larger events of the novels, but very peripherally so. The one crossover character from those books, David’s aunt, Bobbie Draper, is disappointedly underutilized, as she is a fan favorite character who really only has one scene at the climax. The biggest miss for me however, was how completely pedestrian the setting is. One would imagine an author could do a lot of impressive things, setting scenes in a Martian habitat, but here it’s actually very unremarkable, and could be interchangeably substituted for any city. Even the events of the plot could have been written within a contemporary 21st century setting without putting anything out of place. This story really is only recommended for the most devoted Corey fans, but none of these should feel like they’ve missed anything critical if they never get a chance to pick this one up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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