LISTENER

E. Smakman

Netherlands
  • 48
  • reviews
  • 201
  • helpful votes
  • 210
  • ratings
  • SpecOps

  • Expeditionary Force, Book 2
  • By: Craig Alanson
  • Narrated by: R.C. Bray
  • Length: 15 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19,784
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 18,782
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18,717

Colonel Joe Bishop made a promise, and he's going to keep it: taking the captured alien starship Flying Dutchman back out. He doesn't agree when the UN decides to send almost 70 elite Special Operations troops, hotshot pilots, and scientists with him; the mission is a fool's errand he doesn't expect to ever return from. At least this time, the Earth is safe, right? Not so much.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY by NO PATIENCE MAN

  • By Jim "The Impatient" on 03-18-17

Good enough but too much repetition

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

Reviewed: 06-20-18

And here is the second book in the ever expanding series "Expeditionary Force". I thoroughly enjoyed book 1 and the development of Joe Bishop from a grunt into a true colonel of the involuntary human space force. This book continues on the trajectory of the previous book, with more interactions between Colonel Joe and Skippy the Magnificent AI. More interaction, but unfortunately, more of the same. And since I have been taking a look at reviews of book 3, 4 and 5, this will continue for the next books. This is a disappointment, as the entire context is very interesting with alien races and the disappeared Elders in conjunction with a somewhat mentally disabled AI supporting the lowest sentient race in the universe. But questions about what happened to the Elders are not even close to being answered and it seems the story itself is going nowhere.

Overall, nice story for this book, but my journey with the Flying Dutchman ends here. I have seen and heard enough.

One final note, the reading of RC Bray is marvellous. His 'military tone' (does that even exist) fits perfect to characters and story. His reading alone kept me enticed despite the story itself becoming repetitive.

  • Iron Gold

  • By: Pierce Brown
  • Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds, John Curless, Julian Elfer, and others
  • Length: 23 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,531
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,029
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,009

Ten years after the events of Morning Star, Darrow and the Rising are battling the remaining Gold loyalist forces and are closer than ever to abolishing the color-coded caste system of Society for good. But new foes will emerge from the shadows to threaten the imperfect victory Darrow and his friends have earned. Pierce Brown expands the size and scope of his impressive Red Rising universe with new characters, enemies, and conflicts among the stars.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Audio needs to be balanced

  • By Anonymous User on 01-21-18

Good story, but not as great as the first.

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

Reviewed: 01-23-18

I am currently about 4 hours into the book, having been spellbound by the first trilogy and thinking about them weeks after I finished. So couldn't wait for Iron Gold....

The book itself does not disappoint, but neither does it (as yet) completely please. Main drawback is that taking the stories through multiple eyes robs the story of depth. It gets more context, contrast and nuance in return in a world destroyed by 10 years of continuous war.

My current biggest frustration is the narration. Tim Gerard Reynolds is good as ever, although sounding a bit tired. And I can stomach the voices of Efram and Lyria as they give some other color. But the voice of Lysander is horrible. After a few minutes of utterly horrible speech - he reads the book like a phone book, not like a story - I have decided to skip the Lysander chapters and read them in the book myself later.

My feeling is that the success of the first trilogy led to this book and particularly audiobook was a bit of a rush job. A waste! Better one month later with the audiobook but then with QUALITY!

  • Red Rising

  • By: Pierce Brown
  • Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • Length: 16 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33,665
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31,385
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31,347

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • excellent

  • By Emily on 05-07-17

One of the best SciFi I have ever read

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

Reviewed: 11-16-17

This review is of the first book of a trilogy, after I read all three books. Only then I could give recommendations, as I would not want to recommend this first book if the others were not so brilliant. But they are and thus I bring you this review while my heart is still beating fast from the final episode of this fabulous story.

This is SciFi at its best! Darrow, a decent boy from an underclass in chains in a hierarchical society set 1000 years in the future is aided to become a member of the class at the top: the Gold. From there, he needs to gain importance in order to destroy this corrupt society from within. In this first book he manages to gain prominence in the initiation 'school' for young adults, and he learns that the situation is not as straightforward as it first seemed.

Why is this a brilliant book and series? The action is riveting, fast-paced as Darrow goes from drama to triumph to disaster and then rises again. There is some romance, but it adds more to the drama than that it detracts. But best of all - imo - is the nuance. Yes, there is absolute evil, but no absolute good. And within each stratum of society there is both good and bad. The overthrow of a corrupt government is not a solution, if you don't know what should come in its place. This society is not just in the backdrop, but is defining how the action plays out and whether it matters at all.

Fans of YA might like the book, but it is way more violent and brutal than Hunger Games. I would cast the series definitely as adult fiction. But fiction with a heart, as you grow fond of the main characters that fight for each other and for love, kinship and deep friendship. And with tears, as that friendship gets tested through betrayal, pride and misunderstanding. And good people die...

So this is for you if you like Sci Fi, action, purpose and deeper questions about the nature of society. And battles both medieval and in space.

Tim Gerard Reynolds does a marvellous job narrating the story, and his voice fits the brooding nature of Darrow like a glove. The voices of the other characters are easily recognizable and he gives the story even more feeling than paper pages alone would have.

So now, after almost 60 hours of listening to the entire series, I can finally get a good nights sleep once again. Until the second series that is....

  • The History of the Ancient World

  • From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome
  • By: Susan Wise Bauer
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 26 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,662
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,390
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,373

This is the first volume in a bold new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about human history. This narrative history employs the methods of "history from beneath" - literature, epic traditions, private letters, and accounts - to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An Historic Achievement

  • By Ellen S. Wilds on 04-25-14

Historic stories show fragility of empires

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

Reviewed: 10-27-16

I picked up this book as I know little about the ancient world. Only the Greeks and Romans were part of my formal education, but how their empires were built and what happened before was largely clouded in mist. This book filled that gap through an all-encompassing view of written histories from around 3500 BC to 330 AD, when Constantine became the first Christian emperor of Rome. Despite the title, Rome hasn't fallen yet, but the Han Empire has...

Quick overview of the main segments:
- Mesopotamian history: city states, Assyrian and Babylonian empires, rise of Persia and all the surrounding realms from the Levant and Asia Minor to the edge of India
- Egyptian history: from early pharaohs to the Ptolemaics, ending with Cleopatra
- Greek history: Minoan, Micenean, rise of Sparta and Athens, Persian wars, internal struggle and conquest by Macedonia and Rome
- Roman history: from humble beginnings to the decline under some good but many bad emperors
- Indian history: first civilizations, kingdoms to empires. And the rise of Hinduism and Buddhism
- Chinese history: from the early kingdoms to their wars, geographic integration and expansion of the Qin and Han empires

Why is this book so good? It impressively shows how great leaders managed to change and expand their kingdoms/empires, and managed to keep them together or not. But also how weak, decadent and corrupt kingdoms quickly become, leading to their decline and ultimate fall. It is amazing to see how royal families massacre each other for power and wealth, and how little their own population can do against this. The fate of empires hangs often in the balance and it seems sheer luck that empires survive to fight again or just to hang on to life. The world could easily have been very different today if some battles would have turned out just a tiny bit differently. Or if some king was killed earlier or later.

Good history also provides lessons for today. For me, I got convinced again that the checks and balances in modern democracies are a big blessing. That charismatic leaders are dangerous (because they can get rid of their legal constraints). And that vigilance is required at all time for the words and deeds of would-be empire builders.

Just dry facts would not be interesting, but miss Bauer weaves stories from disparate sources as religious texts, historic writers and archeological findings. Stories that educate and entertain. I often laughed or was struck by the real events that played out in our past. Well worth a reading/hearing.

The reading of John Lee is excellent as always!

  • The Wrath of the Great Guilds

  • The Pillars of Reality, Book 6
  • By: Jack Campbell
  • Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
  • Length: 10 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,437
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,220
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,217

The Great Guilds, fearing the loss of their control of the world of Dematr, have gathered their power and joined it with the relentless legions of the Empire. The full might of that host will fall upon the fortress city of Dorcastle. If Dorcastle falls, the revolt led by Master Mechanic Mari and Mage Alain will fail, and their world will soon descend into chaos.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great stopping point, but not a conclusion

  • By Eugene R. White on 08-09-16

Fulfilling ending to the series

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

Reviewed: 10-27-16

The conclusion of the six book series on master mechanic Mari and mage Alain and their quest to change the(ir) world. This is where all previous books have been working towards and finally it is here. If you liked the other parts, you will not be disappointed. If you did not, stay clear. I will not spoil the story, just to say I see another series on Dematr over the horizon...

Jack Campbell writes fast-paced with not much attention to the romantic side of the story, which is good. This is war, and no time for kissing and hugging. There is no deeper meaning to the stories, so just sit back and enjoy.

  • The Secret History of the Mongol Queens

  • How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire
  • By: Jack Weatherford
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 10 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 428
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 350
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 341

The Mongol queens of the 13th century ruled the largest empire the world has ever known. Yet sometime near the end of the century, censors cut a section from The Secret History of the Mongols, leaving a single tantalizing quote from Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female offspring.” Only this hint of a father’s legacy for his daughters remained of a much larger story.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Another Great Book

  • By Shawn on 08-09-10

A watered down version of the original

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

Reviewed: 06-21-16

I greatly enjoyed the first book by Jack Weatherford about the Mongol Empire, from its pre-infancy up to its decline and its continued influence of the world around us. That book was coherent, linking people, places and events in an inspiring way, and showing us the Mongols in an entirely new way.

Mongol Queens is a decent follow-up, but makes one essential mistake. It focuses on the women of the Mongol empires throughout the centuries after Genghis Khan. Although it is 'a story that needs to be told' - which I agree with - it also means that sometimes the women are dragged into the story and history of the mongols where their actual contribution was quite limited. That is a pity. I think Weatherford could have written a greater book if he would have made the women important, but not the only part of this book.

Just a brief overview and why I think it is still a good book. I see the book in three parts:
1 - the first Queens in the Mongol Empire: the wives and daughters of Genghis Khan. They played a crucial part in binding the empire together, keeping allies and securing bases within and outside the Mongol territory. This part is excellent as a context for Genghis' strategies and a worthy addition to the first book.
2 - the chaos and tribal fracturing following the death of Genghis Khan, in which the importance of women declined (or was broken) and the women and men in and around the Mongol royal family struggled with each other for the power. A bloodthirsty struggle, reminiscent of the decline of the Roman empire where Emperors followed each other in quick succession, each dying a violent death. This period more or less comes to an end when almost all descendants of Genghis Khan have been killed.
3 - 'almost', because part 3 is in a way the only part that truly conveys the meaning of the title of the book. This is about Queen Manduhai the Wise, a woman who married an old Mongol tribal leader but throughout her life took more and more control over the Mongols, together with her newly adopted infant husband and true descendant of Genghis Khan. She reconquered Mongolia, and strengthened her base there, being wise enough to not stretch her army. She brought order and stability, and gave the Mongols a renewed sense of pride and honor. She is the true heir to the legacy of Genghis Khan.

So, in brief: part 1 is an annex to the first book, part 2 is a mess with the consecutive warlords and lordesses, and part 3 is another magnificent book in itself.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Pirates of Pacta Servanda

  • The Pillars of Reality, Book 4
  • By: Jack Campbell
  • Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
  • Length: 11 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,771
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,499
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,488

Master Mechanic Mari and Mage Alain have survived every attempt to stop them, but their enemies are determined to kill Mari, the only one who can save her world from a storm of destruction. As armies begin to gather and cities seethe with tension, Mari, Alain, and their friends must prepare to confront the storm in the place it first appeared: the broken kingdom of Tiae.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazingly fast ride while being informative.

  • By Josh P on 01-16-16

pivot in the series: from flight to attack

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

Reviewed: 06-21-16

This is not only a review of the book, but of the series up to and including this fourth volume. And meant for the occasional viewer of this book for purchase, not for the buyers of the previous volumes. They know what they are going to get and don't need reviews to convince them :-)

The series is about Master Mechanic Mari and 'her' mage Alain, two characters that meet in circumstances that could (and should) mean their death. Where they should hate each other, they learn to cooperate, respect and love each other. And learn many things about themselves and the world they live in as a consequence. What they learn strengthens their resolve to change this world for the better. The first three books in the series revolve around them finding both the evidence of the tension in the world and its origins, as well as the means to do something about it. It was about their survival, their flight from enemies both public and hidden, and their visits to places of wisdom and mortal danger.

This fourth book is the pivot of the series: Mari and Alain stop fleeing but know what they want to achieve. They want to start their assault on the power of the Guilds and of the Empire, and gather new friends in the process. Friends that need to learn that the old ways are wrong and that new wisdom can be found in other behavior. Not easy for most to learn, but the promise of more openness and loving relations among humans is enough stimulation for the increasingly large army.

The question lingering at the end is: will Mari keep on surviving the assaults of enemies seen and unseen, and will she and Alain live to see their children grow up in a free world.

On to the next volume(s) !! (did I already mention the reader does an excellent job?)

  • Heir of Novron

  • Riyria Revelations, Volume 3
  • By: Michael J. Sullivan
  • Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • Length: 31 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 16,235
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 15,137
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 15,147

On the holiday of Wintertide, the New Empire plans to burn the Witch of Melengar and force the Empress into a marriage of their own design. But they didn’t account for Royce and Hadrian finally locating the Heir of Novron—or the pair’s desire to wreak havoc on the New Empire’s carefully crafted scheme.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Spectacular fantasy series

  • By Ron on 01-03-13

Predictable fantasy, yet satisfying

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

Reviewed: 02-21-16

The Heir of Novron. For frequent readers of epic fantasy, most of the major events and plot twists do not come as a big surprise. Ordinary people who make the journey in the end never are what they themselves may have thought in the beginning. And so it is with this last of the trilogy (or of the six individual books) that covers Riyria, the epic of Royce and Hadrian.

In a land dominated by men, and the overpowering church, events do become ever grander as dwarves, goblins and all powerful elves join a cast of wise, virtuous and disparate characters as they travel to Mordor... Sorry, I mean Persepliquis, the buried ancient imperial capital. There, mysteries unknown for 1000 years finally become solved. And in the subsequent and dramatic climax the trilogy comes full circle and delivers a very satisfying ending.

Sullivan has borrowed heavily from Tolkien and apart from the Hobbits, the elves, dwarves and people behave as expected. The mixed races are a nice addition just as some unexpected heroes. The cast is wide and sympathy grows with even some of the slightly despicable characters. The four stars is for the satisfying story, one star withheld for lack of originality.

The narrator is ok and I got used to him over the entire series. He is a bit bland although he makes the cast recognizable from their tone and way of speaking. Another four stars.

  • Falling Free

  • By: Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 8 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,738
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,426
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,439

Leo Graf was just your average highly efficient engineer: mind your own business, fix what's wrong, and move on to the next job. But all that changed on his assignment to the Cay Habitat, where a group of humanoids had been secretly, commercially bioengineered for working in free fall. Could he just stand there and allow the exploitation of hundreds of helpless children merely to enhance the bottom line of a heartless mega-corporation?

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Don't read this one first

  • By Carol on 02-20-13

Separate story in the Vorkosiverse

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

Reviewed: 11-13-14

To start, this book is part of the Vorkosigan Saga series, but does not have any direct relation to the other books as the story is set 200 years ahead of the other books. The story explains the origin of the Quaddies, a strange race of four-armed (extra arms for legs) humans which we encounter also in the Miles books, particularly in Diplomatic Immunity.
Events and places in that book can be better understood if you have read Falling Free, but it is absolutely not necessary to do so. This book can be read on its own without the others, or the others without this one.

I give this book 4 stars because - even though the story is more simple than later novels, and things go a bit too easy (comparatively) - Lois McMaster Bujold once again mixes SF with moral questions and dilemmas in a pleasant way. What to do with a bio engineered race that their creators own, but are conscious. Being humans, it might be easy, but what if they are stranger still? What if they potentially form a threat to the human race? These questions are not answered, but cause different reactions in the various actors in the story.
Particularly interesting it becomes if the morality shifts or people overstep a moral boundary. What would you do?

Grover Gardner is one of the best readers and shows it here once more.

  • A Civil Campaign

  • A Miles Vorkosigan Novel
  • By: Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 18 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,969
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1,328
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,340

Lord Miles Vorkosigan has a problem that all his new power can't solve: unrequited love for the beautiful Vor widow Ekaterin Vorsoisson. Ekaterin is violently allergic to marriage as a result of her first exposure. But, as Miles learned from his late career in galactic covert ops, if a frontal assault won't do, go to subterfuge.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bujold does Jane Austen--nicely

  • By David on 10-16-09

Best Miles: tense and passionate hero

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

Reviewed: 10-05-14

I have been reading the full Vorkosigan series from the very first book, and have taken my time. Each of the books are fun, witty and adventurous; and by reading them in order, you fully understand the world that LMBujold is building. Each book is thus a joy to read and I liked them.

However, from Memory and then Komarr and now A Civil Campaign (ACC), Bujold gives something extra: tension! First the tension within Miles about his own identity, and next the tension in his relationship with the woman he loves but does not dare to court directly.
As far as I am concerned, both Komarr and ACC are primarily about Miles' love for Ekatarin, a love that she proves herself more than worthy for (and who would expect anything less). The adventure story in ACC was, imho, thrown in as a backstory. Let alone the story of Mark and the butter bugs, which was mostly diversion.

What makes this book better than others is that it contains very wise lessons about the nature of relationships. For example that wanting to give the person you love anything she needs, might not be the best for her/him. I also liked the lesson Aral gives desperate Miles about the difference between honor and reputation: reputation is what others think of you, honor is what you think about yourself. You need to concern yourself mostly with the second, because that is your soul. The relationship between Miles and Ekatarin grows as Miles is restraining himself to be a good partner, instead of trying to conquer Ekatarin. And she grows in her role as the future Lady Vorkosigan because of his attention and the world he offers. "If the person is defined by the friends he has, than Miles must be something special indeed" is an interesting way of looking at relations. One that kept me thinking for quite a while (and still does).

That Miles together with Ekatarin save the day can only be expected, and they truly deserve each other. I wish them all the love and happiness!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful