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.
"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)
Lover of sci-fi and the occasional horror story. Philosophical inclinations. English is my second language.
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...
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Established and doing well.
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.
Getting staked, shot, and the conclusion.
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.
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.
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.
I love a good book
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.
No. Too cerebral. Seems to move 2 spaces back and 1 step ahead at every turn.
Get a Clive Cussler book for a really good read.
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.
An okay central idea executed sketchily. A few interesting characters, but never fleshed out. Painful to listen to a favorite narrator Ray Porter strain to make something out of it.
I like the story. Brust and White created a very vivid and engaging world with extremely dynamic characters and mysterious circumstances. We're thrown headlong into the conflict earlier than perhaps we're strictly comfortable, but trust me, it's entirely in keeping with the plot to do just that. The basic concept of the story is fascinating, and makes me want to know these characters more and more as the book goes on.
But there is a single overarching issue that simply jars during the performance: It's done as a paired male/female team of readers, Ray Porter and Mary Koval are both excellent readers, but Koval's reading seemed oddly divergent from Porters in multiple, repeatedly-frustrating ways. It's clear that the two readers never talked to one another and each did their own "thing" in assembling the character voices and even in pronouncing the names.
Porter manages to characterize Rin adequately, which is hard for a man with a deep voice to do. Her flippant tone comes across very well. Koval's Rin was almost TOO flippant, almost whiny, and so glibly sarcastic at times it made me want to spank her. But Koval's Phil was delivered in a very odd vocal style that made it sound like everything Phil said was a laconic sneer. It didn't fit the character, and seemed that Koval was struggling with making him sound MALE enough or something. But that's only the beginning of how the vocal choices rankled over time.
Porter's characterization of Irena was as a Russian, or at least Eastern European accent. Koval's voice for Irena was elderly British. Either would have been okay for the character, but flip-flopping between the two was annoying and made it hard to follow some of the dialogue. Ditto the two different voices for EACH of the characters -- Porter portrayed Jimmy with a tenor American accent, Koval with a gruff French accent, Porter's Oscar had a Germanic voice while Koval's was a deep vaguely-English.
The portrayal of Ramon was the most annoying. Neither reader's accent matched the other, and Koval clearly thought his name was just "Raymond" without the "d" at the end, it coming out "Raymin" when she pronounced it, his voice not having much of a regional accent at all. Whereas Porter pronounced it as if it were Spanish, "RahMON", the accent on the SECOND syllable, and gave him a slightly put-upon Spanish flavor.
If either reader had done the entire book him or herself, the performance would have been fine and equally-acceptable. Swapping back and forth, however, implies that the readers should have been put in touch with one another so they could at LEAST come to an agreement on accents and pronunciations. Multiple readers NEED to collaborate, or the result is a mishmash that makes it clear that they did NOT, which detracts from the performance as a whole.
It's a good book, made a bit tedious by the lack of communication between the readers. The listener has to work too hard to associate two different vocal styles with each character and differences in how their names are pronounced in some cases.
The authors set up a great backstory/concept about a secretive group that tries to make the world better over long spans of time. But then these cool characters in their interesting group never actually get around to do any of the beneficial work that underpins their stated reason to continue existing and continue being a group. All they did was bicker and have dramatic battles of words. The same exact general plot could have just as easily been applied to a bookclub of catty country club wives. It was disappointing to have a great setup with a grand purpose, and then all I got was petty bickering.
Perhaps. Both of them have very nice voices (easy to listen to, expressive, etc). Ray was definitely the better of the two. Mary's portrayal of male characters was very odd and done in a way that almost sounded intentionally campy.
The big problem I had, however, was that both actors had to voice all the characters...but they didn't use similar accents for the same characters. For example, the character Irina is voiced by Ray as speaking English with a Slavic accent, but the same character voiced by Mary just sounded like an old lady with a standard American accent. It got very confusing at certain points.
I can't imagine this being a movie. Maybe a Seinfeld-like "movie about nothing".
If two narrators are sharing the work, please coordinate your accents for the various characters. It was really distracting.
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