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The Incrementalists | [Steven Brust, Skyler White]

The Incrementalists

The Incrementalists - a secret society of 200 people with an unbroken lineage reaching back 40,000 years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, just a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about how to do this is older than most of their individual memories. Phil, whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has loved Celeste - and argued with her - for most of the last 400 years.
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Publisher's Summary

The Incrementalists - a secret society of 200 people with an unbroken lineage reaching back 40,000 years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, just a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about how to do this is older than most of their individual memories. Phil, whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has loved Celeste - and argued with her - for most of the last 400 years. But now Celeste, recently dead, embittered, and very unstable, has changed the rules - not incrementally, and not for the better. Now the heart of the group must gather in Las Vegas to save the Incrementalists, and maybe the world.

Editors Select, September 2013 - There are two reasons I’m excited about The Incrementalists. The first is that it’s about a secret, ancient organization that manipulates individuals in order to make the world just a little bit better. The second is that it’s co-narrated by Ray Porter, whose performance made Peter Cline’s 14 the insta-classic it turned out to be. Splitting the narration duties with Mary Robinette Kowal makes perfect sense, as the book’s perspective shifts between Phil, a member of the organization, and Renee, a new recruit. This is just the kind of quirky, contemporary sci-fi I look forward to. —Chris, Audible Editor

©2013 Steven Brust and Skyler White (P)2013 Audible Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Secret societies, immortality, murder mysteries, and Las Vegas all in one book? Shut up and take my money." (John Scalzi)

"Watch Steven Brust. He's good. He moves fast. He surprises you. Watching him untangle the diverse threads of intrigue, honor, character, and mayhem from amid the gears of a world as intricately constructed as a Swiss watch is a rare pleasure." (Roger Zelazny)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (161 )
5 star
 (35)
4 star
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3 star
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Overall
3.3 (150 )
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Story
3.9 (149 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Sean Daly Bayswater, Australia 01-14-14
    Sean Daly Bayswater, Australia 01-14-14

    I like books..usually the read-with-your-eyes type and this is all fascinating new to me. Keen to snatch up a freebie as they appear.

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    "Worth hanging in there.."
    Would you listen to The Incrementalists again? Why?

    Probably wont listen again, by the end of the book i wanted more..but not more of the same again. There's a cool short story available on Tor if you want a touch more though.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Incrementalists?

    Oh by far fav moment were the early talks between Phil and Renee..when he unpacks the basic pitch of the incrementalists.. that was fun!


    What does Ray Porter and Mary Robinette Kowal bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    It was my first audiobook, so the experience of having a woman narrating when it was from Renee's perspective was just really fitting. Ive never heard either narrator before though.. so i have nothing to compare them to.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Probably the part of the story where Phil realises he's been 'meddled' with and as the scope and size of that realisation hit him.. I couldnt help but feel gutted for this guy!


    Any additional comments?

    At first..i didnt like how disoriented i felt at the begining of the story. Reading time/date stamps on emails, the disjointed switches between narrators..it all seemed like a bit of a dud. The lingo of the incrementalists takes some getting used to as well..since it's all in use right from the begining. SO persevere up until Phil and Renee meet. If by then you hav'nt picked up on whats going on..then bail. If you're like me.. and you are curious..get ready!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andreas Henriksson Sweden 01-08-14
    Andreas Henriksson Sweden 01-08-14 Member Since 2013

    Lover of sci-fi and the occasional horror story. Philosophical inclinations. English is my second language.

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    "Empty novel that forgot its own plot"
    What disappointed you about The Incrementalists?

    This is a book I really wanted to enjoy. It has a really interesting sci-fi/fantasy premise and tries to be philosophically and politically informed - that should chime with me, and initially it does. Renee is recruited into an ancient society of people with the ability to change people's minds, an ability they have decided to use to only incrementally change the world for the better. Debates about good or bad ensues, promising the kind of cerebral adventure I admit to being fond of. But this promising beginning is evaporated as the authors suddenly tries to make this a book about facing change, as they create a villain who instead - horror! - want stability. This quickly devolves into a strange storyline where the protagonists have to defend the possibility of change (changing other people?) against the threat of neurotic stagnation (although I never get what should change and what threatens to stagnate) ... But wasn't the story about the difficulties establishing what is good and bad, and the curse of having the power to change people around you? Then the authors just keeps introducing unrelated ideas. There is something about virtual worlds, and then about the power of thought, also something about justice and then power to the people! ... and I am sorry, but this doesn't hold together, not on any level. The story is not exactly empty, just overloaded with unrelated ideas, none of which is explored to any depth. And nothing grips me, sadly. Though I had loved if it had...


    What about Ray Porter and Mary Robinette Kowal ’s performance did you like?

    I like the performance, Porter and Kowal do a splendid job with a difficult material. They kept me listening even after the point at which I had realized the narrative would not get any more exciting.


    What character would you cut from The Incrementalists?

    The characters, I am sorry to say, are vividly described, but not believable. Let's see... We have an almost two thousand years old person who after all that time writes a letter which turns out to be the first in which he risks making a fool of himself before a woman? And a several hundred years old guy who mind travels to other bodies, has his own inner mind garden, changes other people's minds at will ... and who is a Marxist materialist?

    And I am sorry, but I don't get the antagonist. At one point it just turns out she is evil - because...? Oh, right, she is not EVIL evil, but merely wrong, as the protagonists say. But why does she have to be killed, suppressed... ? A lot of other characters are obviously wrong and harm to others, but they are described as nice guys...

    And evidently, the protagonists are deeply engaged in exchanging and debating ideas, but suddenly prefer sex and romantic love before putting them into practice? (I really couldn't see them as protagonists after that.)


    Any additional comments?

    So the novel uses complicated words and refers to big thinkers? Well, a lot of people can do that trick, but precious few are great novelists. The Incrementalists is not a good novel, rather a novel that incrementally forgets the interesting plot at its centre and just goes bananas with random themes, till nothing remains.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Fairfax, VA, United States 01-06-14
    Richard Fairfax, VA, United States 01-06-14 Member Since 2004
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    "Confusing, boring, horrible ending"

    This book was a huge disappointment. The premise sounded pretty good - secret society, crazy member, potential disaster - it could have been good. Instead, it's a book where one guy works through his girlfriend issues in a batcrap-crazy memory palace.

    This book is hard to follow. I say that as someone who has read A LOT of fantasy. I'm used to sorting out the details of an alternate world where things just work differently. In this book, the "garden" where, apparently, all of mankind's memories get stored is dropped on the reader and they're left to figure out what's going on. Worse, characters will often say to the newbie "That's just how it works in the garden," and there's no rhyme or reason to it. The newbie and the reader are both just expected to say "sure, that makes sense," when it doesn't. The newbie seemed to figure it out over the course of the book. This particular reader never did.

    Also, there are three characters in this book - the guy, the newbie, and everyone else. It's like everyone is the exact same person, hanging out in a different body. Worse, one of the characters is actually possessed, and there's absolutely no way to tell. That character is LITERALLY another character in a different body.

    This book is seriously a mess. I was glad when it started winding down, because I wanted to be done with the story. Of course, in the final few minutes, they reveal that despite the fact that it seems like they've wrapped everything up, they've actually solved nothing, and there will need to be a sequel. Keep in mind that the authors don't build this up or show it in any way, they just have the characters say it, straight out of the blue, with no support or reason.

    This is a miserable book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth Thomas Rockville, MD 11-07-13
    Kenneth Thomas Rockville, MD 11-07-13 Member Since 2004

    I am moving to Rockville, Maryland, in the coming week.

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    "Good performance of a complicated tale"
    Where does The Incrementalists rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The book is in the middle of the pack of all the books that I have heard. Despite that, the story, although complicated, intrigued me. The performers portrayed the story and the characters very well.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Incrementalists?

    Getting staked, shot, and the conclusion.


    What about Ray Porter and Mary Robinette Kowal ’s performance did you like?

    I thought their portraits of the characters were very well done. They did the normal rendering of different characters by inflection, accents and tonal quality. They had a good range of styles to perform from two different actors.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    At times I was lost. The story is complicated, using logic to create tension between the plot and listener. I didn't cry or laugh, but was frustrated at times that I had to go back and think about what the performers said and consider the logic.


    Any additional comments?

    The story isn't a beach read, nor a dark and miserable tale. It can be brooding and incomprehensible with references to mathematics, logic and poker strategies. I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone. It is more than cerebral and requires much thought and consideration to get through with some understanding.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harmony CHARLOTTE, NC, United States 11-05-13
    Harmony CHARLOTTE, NC, United States 11-05-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Neat idea that went nowhere"
    What disappointed you about The Incrementalists?

    This book was recommended based on other reads. The storyline was intriguing, but instead of focusing on the title idea- that the characters were capable of making incremental changes in the world around them through the years- the story focused on an unlikely, trite, contrived romantic relationship. Boooring.


    What aspect of Ray Porter and Mary Robinette Kowal ’s performance would you have changed?

    I do not care for dual narrators. It takes you out of the story too much.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gage SAN ANTONIO, TX, United States 10-22-13
    Gage SAN ANTONIO, TX, United States 10-22-13 Member Since 2010

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Couldn't Get into This. Too Cerebral."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I don't think I'd recommend this one. I couldn't get into the story line. I fast forwarded ahead thinking it would get better. No.


    Would you recommend The Incrementalists to your friends? Why or why not?

    No. Too cerebral. Seems to move 2 spaces back and 1 step ahead at every turn.


    Did The Incrementalists inspire you to do anything?

    Get a Clive Cussler book for a really good read.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Timo Arlington, MA, United States 10-18-13
    Timo Arlington, MA, United States 10-18-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Too metaphysical for my taste"

    Sadly, I was really struggling with this book. While I like a dose of surrealism in my books, this one was too much for me. I liked the overall universe the story is set it but did not care for the fates of the people or their endless meanderings. I didn't find it "quirky" as the Audible review suggested, nor exciting or even mildly amusing but rather lengthy and very difficult to get through. Clearly this book was not my cup of tea.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Boppie San Diego, CA United States 10-14-13
    Boppie San Diego, CA United States 10-14-13

    There's always something to read in my purse

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "WARNING: NOT SCi-Fi. Love Story In Disguise. Meh."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    This book is being sold as a secret society molding human history through the mists of time/sort-of time travel story, when in fact it's just another 'we were meant for each other' sappy love story with a thin veneer of 'we have this amazing way of transferring memories from one human consciousness to another over the last 40,000 years, but that's just a plot device.' SOOOO disappointing. I kept listening waiting for the good stuff to kick in, and it never does. I don't know who decided on this bait and switch marketing approach but it's really lame.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The narration isn't awful.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No way.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicki Aurora, CO, United States 10-10-13
    Vicki Aurora, CO, United States 10-10-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I could not finish this book"
    What disappointed you about The Incrementalists?

    The story was all over the place; it couldn't keep my interest and I had no desire to finish it.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Steven Brust and Skyler White again?

    I don't know


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Westbury, Australia 10-08-13
    Karen Westbury, Australia 10-08-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Expected much more"

    When I chose this book, I was expecting to hear about the world of the Incrementalists and tales of their endeavours to make the world a better place. Instead, the actions of the Incrementalists were no more than hinted at all through the book. As intriguing as the premise was, the development of it was patchy in most places and was not much more than the backdrop to a rather mawkish romance.
    The narrators were okay but they had a disconcerting practice of using different accents for the same characters. Mary Kowal portrayed the character Jimmy with a French accent while Ray Porter gave him a gruff American accented voice.
    The descriptions of the practice of the Incrementalists and how they work was intriguing but this book was unable to satisfy the need for a story with substance to match the premise.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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