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Aviva

United States
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Inferno audiobook cover art

A Plea for Genetic Engineering After All???

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-10-16

Warning--Some spoilers and a subjective POV to follow: This was a very enjoyable listen, and, while I am looking forward to the movie, am really glad to have heard the unabridged novel as the author wrote it. This is full of suspense, many plot twists that turn the world Brown creates, its characters, and what you think you know about them upside down (like Dante's underworld). Overall, I highly enjoyed this, but one thing does disturb me--there does seem to be an argument for genetic engineering as a shining promise and social good. This argument is made only toward the very end of the book, in the character of Sienna (Langdon and the WHO head are her audience for this impassioned speech), but I am always suspicious of arguments that tout the promise of technological interventions, the "natural" process by which humanity comes to possess the potential to make such interventions, and the conclusion that such interventions (selective engineering to increase human intelligence), lead to "progress." I would feel better if Langdon (in his self proclaimed role as the "old fashioned" thinker and/or Elizabeth had countered with questions about the sociocultural effects as indivisible from pure scientific rationalism. Even though earlier in the novel genetic engineering is brought up as an example of human hubris and (although it is not directly stated by any of Brown's characters, a late 19th -20th century example of a white supremacist agenda supported shamefully even by white feminists like Margaret Sanger), here Sienna's words hang in the ears of Brown's listeners unchallenged as a future "good" to work for. And, of course, 1/3 of the population has been genetically fixed and the bio-terrorist while doing something none of us would ever admit to being a good thing, is, in the closing dialog between Elizabeth, Sienna, and Robert, revealed to be a visionary after all (although none of them agree with his methods and he was driven to madness, he made the tough call). Words have power. Stories both reflect and shape culture. Brown's suspenseful, fun chase through Florence, Venice, and Istanbul, all the while rooting for our hero, the professor who can outsmart the villains and is an agent representing "our" perspectives and values is worth the read. I am left with a lingering uneasy feeling about Brown's ideology and willingness not to delve more deeply into the class-race-power issues that cannot be divorced from scientific and technological R&D and their applications. As Sienna earlier reminds us before she becomes the mouthpiece for engineering human brains, there is a dark history of weaponizing technologies for ideological agendas and a vector virus could be used to target specific ethnic populations for extermination, which is why she doesn't fully trust WHO and the CDC. She expresses this, Langdon convinces her to trust him and tell Elizabeth what she knows, and then, a few minutes later, Sienna gives an impassioned speech on the promise of genetic engineering. Not only does the character not fully track her at the end, the dangling argument left for the audience that social engineering is a product of "natural" human evolution, and an exciting idea, full of promise for a "better" world, makes me very uneasy. This may be a naive and rash thought--a momentary enthusiasm espoused by Sienna that does not really jive with her earlier worry about ethnic cleansing, but this oversight does not fit either Brown or his characters. The other possibility is it is an intentional didactic message in support of a wider "post human" vision for progress--the driving topic of this novel-- that finally, the claims of a "TRANShumanist" stance to achieve a "perfect" and "objective" vision is what we need to solve all the worlds pressing problems and preserve a future for us all. If so, Brown's final dialog among his all white cast of major characters suggest a kind of implicit agreement that science and what drives its practice is "above" conditions and ethical considerations of class, race, gender, ethnicity, how we define health and illness--that is, that these ideas arise in a pure realm where minds exist free from bodies and free from the pervasive influences of regimes of human dominance and oppression--the real human surround in which technologies are created and designed to respond to.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Ghostly Interests audiobook cover art

Annoying narration

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-04-16

I really don't like Angel Clark's narration; her voices are ruining this for me. She makes the main character, Harper, sound like a nasal-y twelve-year old when she is supposed to be in her late 20s. Very annoying voices. She also tends to slow way down and almost sound like a robot reading at odd times. I am going to listen to samples before I buy from now on.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

True to the Highlander audiobook cover art

I am rating before I finish

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-24-15

I wish these forms weren't so set and directive; I am rating this early because I may not be able to finish. This book is highly rated by readers, and I may decide to get the Kindle version to read on my own. Somehow even though I haven't joined Audible (I am not impressed with the membership terms), this book was delivered to my library as free with my Kindle Unlimited subscription, so I was happy to receive it.
However, the narration of the Audible version is a real problem for me, and I don't think I can get past the nerve-grating reading enough to fully get into the story or to get through all 12 hours of it. When the narrator reads in the voices of character's it's fine; she does a decent Scottish accent for the male characters too. In her own voice/omniscient perspective, it is a harsh, terrible rhythm of heavily accenting and drawing out of the the last syllable. You'd need to listen to a sample, but it's something like this if you can imagine it in a kind of nasaly-northern US voice:

"Alishia opened the do-OR. She felt her heartbeats speeding UUU-P. She looked up at the handsome Sc-OOT. She didn't know what to Sa-AY. . . ."

I can't do it justice here, but it's really, really distracting. Too bad she does this weird final syllable thing at the end of every sentence; otherwise her voice is not terrible and her character voices are much better. I do think I want to read this story later,

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

Moonlight and Diamonds and The Vampire's Fall audiobook cover art

The Second Story Much Better

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-24-15

I really didn't like the first story; too many characters and the heroine was not likable or relatable at all; her very late conversion was not convincing either. The second story held together much better and the characters were more interesting and likable.