At the heart of a bizarre planet lay the goal of every being that had ever lived.…
Below average in height and unprepossessing in appearance, Nathan Brazil is an unassuming if cynical starship owner, carrying passengers and cargo for a living - hardly the sort of person to hold the fate of the entire universe in his hands.
But when Nathan detours from his route to answer a distress call, a hidden stargate hurls him and his passengers to the Well World, the master control planet for the cosmos. Billions of years ago, a godlike race unlocked all the secrets of space and time and remade the universe according to their grand design. Then they vanished and left behind the Well World to maintain the pattern of the universe.
Now someone is searching for the planet’s hidden control room - the Well of Souls - to seize control of the cosmos. Nathan must stop them, but this planet causes bizarre metamorphoses in visitors, changing them into centaurs, mermaids, and giant insects seemingly at random. As a result, Nathan no longer recognizes his friends, let alone his unknown enemies. His task seems hopeless - until his long-suppressed memories begin to return and he realizes who he really is.
©1982 Jack L. Chalker (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"A big, bold book that takes traditional science fiction and turns it upside down!" (Leigh Brackett, science fiction author and screenwriter on The Empire Strikes Back)
It's been a while since I've penned a review - So much listening, and so little time.
However, I'm ready to begin another series of reviews on Audible scifi/fantasy selections.
So, let's begin with Jack L. Chalker's "Midnight At The Well Of Souls."
Why is this audiobook first? Simple. It's the beginning of a FANTASTIC series that will captivate you with a rich, rewarding listen, and have you wanting the next in the series, Exiles at the Well of Souls, which is also available.
This is the opening book for a VERY powerful series, one that pushes the boundaries of typical science fiction as you know it. Imagine, if you will...
The Well World: A world created by a long-vanished race, covered in vast, country-sized hexes, each housing a different intelligent alien species. Crossing the boundaries of the hexes can change the very air you breathe, the laws of physics, technology and even magic. Each hex represents the birthplace of that species, and some are at war with others. They can take over other hexes, enslave an adjacent hex's species, and can even forcibly swap hexes with another race. Creatures of myth, fantasy and nightmare vie for control of a planet they cannot leave, but can eventually rule. Even mankind occupies a hex on this planet.
One half of the planet houses carbon-based hexes, the other half alarmingly alien hexes, and each hex is the birthplace for these races and their migration into the universe eons ago. This world is countless light years away from our own, unknown, hidden and waiting for an opportunity to rewrite the universe to its own making.
The story begins with a host of human castaways that accidentally travel to the Well World, and are each randomly changed to a new species in different hexes.
It is all part of a very large story that will soar across the surface of the Well World in its telling, as many races and hexes to vie for a rare and valuable treasure that can change the Well World and our universe forever!
Despite all this, I haven't given away any spoilers whatsoever!
Chalker's Midnight At The Well Of Souls was so well received when it was first published, that he went on to write many more novels to expand the stories both upon the Well World, and even light years beyond it. Be careful, Audible listener. Once you travel down this wonderful rabbit hole, you might very well not turn back! It truly is that amazing.
So, step through the portal, human, and be changed forever!
This is the first book in a wonderfully imaginative series that takes me back to my early teenage years when I first discovered it. Chalker creates a weird and detailed setting for the novel and the characters are memorable. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys intelligent science fiction stories.
I REALLY liked this book in the beginning. I liked it pretty good in the middle. I liked it well enough to try to finish it by three quarters. I didn't really like it at the end.
Why? It's hard to say exactly, but it started out as a cool story with a interesting concept, a wide array of characters and a goodly amount of mystery. Near the end, most of the mystery was gone, the characters got stale, the story broke down, and things just went off the sci-fi rails.
Maybe it was just my mood, the phase of the moon, or maybe this review is right. In any case, it would be a worthwhile read just for the first half, very inventive! The narration is very good as well.
My taste vary. I love a good, blood stained horror, but also a well written kids story. Lots of Sci-Fi, but also Hist. Fiction. No boring!!!
WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU?
I have found that most of the reviewers that like this, start by saying they read it when they were teenagers. I can see a teenager liking this, especially one new to Sci/Fantasy. They aspect of meeting new creatures such as Cousin Bat, would seem interesting to the novice listener or this could bring back good memories. To the well read in this field this is STAGNATION. The bulk of the book is running around a built world meeting strange creatures, such as human plants, centaurs, batmen, half snake and half walrus, etc... The first few that you meet are interesting and done well by Chalker. I found the human plants and the episode of the twining to be pretty cool. I really liked the Kafka moment of the man turned into a female insect. The problem is that this all gets old and redundant.
Another reviewer remarked that this is science fantasy and I feel that is a perfect description. It started out pretty interesting, with an archeological dig on a unpopulated planet of an extinct race. This starts one of our first Introductions. We also meet some interesting characters. The planet had been run by a brain that was the world itself. I was soaking all of this up. I also enjoyed the space truck driver and the introduction to his world. It all seemed pure Science Fiction. Then they fell into the well and the story went strictly fantasy. At first it seemed even this would be worth listening to, but about five hours in, it becomes monotonous. I hung on for two more hours hoping it would return to the well written story it started as, then Jim the Impatient called it quits.
World of Tiers
This is very similar to Farmers, World of Tiers. It is also reminiscent of Anthony's, Split Infinity. The book is dedicated to Roger Zelzany and his style is evident. You will find most of Chalker's work in the paperback section of you used book store and it seems their is a reason you will not find him in hardback. I have one more of his books on my wish list, hopefully that will be better, as it seems he has lots of talent.
I focus mainly on History, Endurance Sports and Science/Speculative Fiction books.
Really Good Sci-Fi
Hard to say...Chalkers' overall writing style was breezy, enjoyable and entertaining. The entire book is part adventure, sci-fi, fantasy and character development. I found myself getting drawn in bit by bit and didn't want it to end. Thankfully there are others in this series.
At times it was stilted...maybe the performance demanded it..overall I liked him a lot
Yes...I just never do that with audible. I usually listen to books in my car and at the gym.
I don't understand why Chalker was not more popular and well known. This writing is on par with early Asimov and the style is reminiscent of classic science fiction. This is entertaining, fast paced, and utterly enjoyable. Something that will let you relax and take you out of your every day. Loved it.
I loved this series back in the 80s when I was a teenager, but like so much Sci Fi from then it does not hold up well against the works of modern writers like Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, etc.. The world/universe is almost cartoonish and the villains rather laughable and some of the characters actions are inconsistent or unbelievable. I would call this more Science Fantasy than Science Fiction.
I'm actually listening to Exiles at Well of Souls to see if it gets any better...so far it has not.
Deep, deep, and deep!
This book is relevant today after so many years in the way it looks at possible future consequences of technology on society, and then escapes a misery of collectives into the individualistic well world, with its plethora of different aliens to meet. At the core of the concept is quantum mechanics, which people probably know better today than when this book first came out. Its entertaining, it introduces important heady topics, and then carries you away into the well world, free of all those considerations to follow a gripping plot.
When the well of souls is first found, you transit the psy-fi world into the fantasy world.
I like Peters voice.
Been waiting for these books to hit Audible. Sure hope the rest of the series are in the making.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
I just re-read this book [to be accurate, I should say I listened to it as an audio book] and have to say it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it being. Reminiscent of both the Ringworld and Riverworld books, this novel sets up a premise that allows the author to jam together a bunch of things that would not normally be side-by-side, and then takes the reader on an extensive tour. Sure, the worldbuilding is impressive, but somehow the sum is not greater than the parts.
I do think this book would be a good introduction to scifi for an early teen. There are quite a few interesting ideas, including one passage in which a character ruminates on whether plant life would be more likely to develop intellectually than animal life, because plants don’t have to spend so much of their time looking for food. There are also several neat passages in which Chalker does a great job describing how the world would look through alien eyes—an insect and an antelope are the ones I recall the most vividly. Also, different types of reproduction, including sexual and non-sexual, are explained, most memorably one passage in which one of the main characters undergoes “twinning.” Some of the final questions posed (such as how does any one person know what changes could put the world on the “right” track) were concepts a teenager might find mind-blowing, but many adults will find overly preachy.
About that ending: I wish the resolution would have veered more obviously into the scientific realm, the theoretical physics behind multiverses and universal constants. Was 1978 too early for that? I don’t know. As it is, the book’s resolution felt more like hand-wavium and seemed a paltry payoff for such a long book.
[Because the book was so long, and the narration so slow, I listened to this at 1.25 speed and that seemed just fine.]
First let me start by say I am a huge Jack Chalker fan and have read all of his series, and this series, at least three times. I do not believe Peter Macon was the best choice due to his deep voice and inability to change his tone a whole lot. I do think he did a good job though. The story is written in such a way that most of the time you know who is speaking, but it would have been nice to have a bit of variety with the various characters. I did still enjoy listening to it and would recomend the book.
"Hmmmm, different certainly"
It started well and I was interested but then it spent so long simply describing each different realm and creature. The story then got a bit lost in the descriptions.
The narration was fine.
Maybe it improves at the end - I didn't get that far, I did try to!
It is the first audio book I gave up on at just over half way. Guess I need a bit more action!
"Finally! And gald it's unabridged"
I am already on my third listen through of the best Jack L Chalker there is! I am so glad this is unabridged. While Peter Macon does an ok but uninspiring read, the drama of Chalker's original story comes through. Picking up a mix of mythology and new creatures Chalker manages to convey the mystery of a world where every country is ruled by different sentient beings and the main characters are transformed while still reflecting their innermost beings.
I can't wait for the next installments.
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