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Samuel Montgomery-Blinn

Durham, NC USA
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  • 165
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  • Dancing with Bears

  • A Darger and Surplus Novel
  • By: Michael Swanwick
  • Narrated by: Stefan Rudnicki
  • Length: 11 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 8

Dancing With Bears follows the adventures of notorious con-men Darger and Surplus: They''ve lied and cheated their way onto the caravan that is delivering a priceless gift from the Caliph of Baghdad to the Duke of Muscovy. The only thing harder than the journey to Muscovy is their arrival in Muscovy. An audience with the Duke seems impossible to obtain, and Darger and Surplus quickly become entangled in a morass of deceit and revolution.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Locke Lamora meets Dostoevsky after the apocalypse

  • By Samuel Montgomery-Blinn on 07-21-15

Locke Lamora meets Dostoevsky after the apocalypse

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

Reviewed: 07-21-15

It's a shame there are so few reviews of this audiobook, as this really was pretty fantastic. It's like: Scott Lynch's Locke Lamora meets Dostoevsky in the post-apocalypse. And as always Rudnicki is great, this one he gets to show off a range of Russian accents, cyber wolves, giants, genetically engineered bear-men and Neanderthals, and a fascinating, hilarious pair of con artists in Darger (British, what ho) and Surplus (a genetically uplifted dog, from Vermont, yeah I said it, Vermont). Really, really enjoyed it.

So, the events. Something like this, prior to the book: In the future, we create AI, and have a utopia for a time (some dispute whether this utopia reached, say, Russia or not, and for how long); the AI... yeah it grew to hate humanity. Hate hate hate. War. Destruction. Some AI is eventually exiled to the Internet/virtual world, others are physically cut off. (For example, chiefly in this story, the Russian spaceport of Baikonur. Which hates you, people. HATES you. Biding its time. Hating you.)

And then, unto this comes Darger and Surplus, somehow before the story starts having gotten themselves into the caravan of the ambassador of Byzantium heading to the Duke of Moscovy with a priceless gift. Crossing into Russia. Where Baikonur's cyberwolves have just started their own journey.

So many cons. Great world-building in Moscow, which has its own spiraling, interconnected, double-triple-quadruple-crossing schemes. In this "post-utopian" time we have some gene-splicing, and automatic weapons, and really, really, really, REALLY crazy new drugs, but horse and carriage transport.

"In Russia, there are no facts. Only competing conspiracy theories." (Paraphrase from memory one of MANY great one-liners liberally sprinkled in here on everything from politics to religion.) Just... highly recommended. Fun, smart, colorful, engaging. I really hope the forthcoming sequel (Chasing the Phoenix) comes to audio as well.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Galaxy Game

  • By: Karen Lord
  • Narrated by: Robin Miles
  • Length: 11 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 16
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 15
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 15

On the verge of adulthood, Rafi attends the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Rafi possesses mental abilities that might benefit people... or control them. Some wish to help Rafi wield his powers responsibly; others see him as a threat to be contained. Rafi's only freedom at the Lyceum is Wallrunning: a game of speed and agility played on vast vertical surfaces riddled with variable gravity fields.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Best new SF of 2015 so far

  • By Samuel Montgomery-Blinn on 05-05-15

Best new SF of 2015 so far

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

Reviewed: 05-05-15

Star-spanning science fiction with a trio of coming of age characters, amidst complex geopolitics, mindships, set across multiple planets and cultures. Different and fresh sets of eyes -- and a few familiar ones -- on the continuing saga begun in Lord's The Best of All Possible Worlds. Miles brings even more and even better accent work here, with Rafi and Ntenman being really well characterized in particular. (Ntenman's first person POV was a delight each time he came into focus.) A bit less in terms of details and focus on the "wall running" game than the tin might imply, but enough that I really want to read a short story where all those details make sense in coming out. I want to see this game in action! With historic echoes of games as memory of war tactics. Highly recommended. Also recommended: Re-listen to the prologue when you're done. Sets up plenty of action to be had in further books set in this universe.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Frontera

  • By: Lewis Shiner
  • Narrated by: Gabrielle de Cuir, Stefan Rudnicki
  • Length: 7 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 19
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 19

After the world's governments collapsed, the corporations took control. Houston's Pulsystems has sent an expedition to the lost Martian colony of Frontera to search for survivors, but Reese, aging hero of the US space program, knows better. The colonists are not only alive; they have discovered a secret so devastating that the new rulers of Earth will stop at nothing to own it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fantastic spot-on sf of Mars and our own Earth

  • By Samuel Montgomery-Blinn on 01-26-15

Fantastic spot-on sf of Mars and our own Earth

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

Reviewed: 01-26-15

This one's really fantastic. Shiner’s 1980s debut novel, right in there with Neuromancer and Bruce Sterling and the others of the cyberpunk movement with which he was a big part, and with a real solid hard sf space mission to Mars element as well, finally in audio. I think I've finally found an audiobook that I can point to when someone asks about "Hey I liked this book The Martian what else you got?" It’s a lot, lot more f'ed up than The Martian; bigger cast (there’s the titular Mars colony) and a couple decades into a further, weirder future with cyberpunk influences (brain implant tech, corporations, genetic drift, psychedelic drugs, …). I’m a huge, huge, raving Lew Shiner fan, and Rudnicki is one of my favorites, and both he and Gabrielle de Cuir are fantastic on this one, as always. This one's aged uncannily well, as Shiner's extrapolations (crumbling Soviet Union fragmenting, collapse of US government space program and rise of private space interests) hit the bullseye all too well.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Thirteenth Step

  • Zombie Recovery
  • By: Michele W. Miller
  • Narrated by: Gabrielle de Cuir
  • Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 42
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 41
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 40

Eight people escape zombie-infested New York. They have only one thing in common: the addict gene. The same genetic quirk that makes alcoholics and addicts susceptible to booze and drugs gives them a mysterious ability to evade the undead. But that's not enough to unite them. They're an unlikely crew: A Botoxed Upper East Sider; a drug dealer; a resentful daughter of addicts; a recovering AA guy; a Japanese ex-dope fiend; an addicted Ivy Leaguer; and a Mexican immigrant.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • very unique and enjoyable

  • By Audible Customer on 04-02-16

Just when you think you've seen every zombie novel

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

Reviewed: 01-26-15

Zombies are not typically my bag, yet somehow I've read or otherwise heard or gotten to a lot. I wasn't expecting too much from a self-published book, but de Cuir as narrator piqued my interest enough to check it out and I ended up enjoying this quite a lot. While there are some "staples to the point of trope" of the genre here (motley cast of characters assemble! bring in zombies! scare and run! sometimes we lose somebody! oh by the way some other human survivor’s are either going psycho, or trying to reinstate the 50s!) there’s also some really unique wrinkles, the main one being that for some reason, alcoholics and others with an addiction gene have some level of resistance to being detected by the zombies. There's also the "THANK GOD SOMEBODY FINALLY" character who has actually read Max Brooks, and we get the fun of comparing notes a bit between fiction and (this fictional) reality. Also, on that "motley crew" this one has a lot going for it. It's diverse in age, race, gender, sexuality, nationality, disposition, goals. And de Cuir brings it all to life, with some additional nice production touches such as radio static effects, that really take this audiobook up a couple notches. It's a refreshingly original wrinkle in the zombie apocalypse subgenre -- who knew that Alcoholics Anonymous would be ready for this?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Authority

  • Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 2
  • By: Jeff VanderMeer
  • Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot
  • Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 956
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 880
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 881

For 30 years, a secret agency called the Southern Reach has monitored expeditions into Area X - a remote and lush terrain mysteriously sequestered from civilization. After the 12th expedition, the Southern Reach is in disarray, and John Rodriguez (a.k.a. "Control") is the team's newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and more than two hundred hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves - and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he's promised to serve.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Out of Control - Spoiler Free

  • By Daniel Grant on 08-22-14

Another surreal expedition into the uncanny

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

Reviewed: 05-12-14

In Authority, VanderMeer pivots from the first-person journal of the unnamed biologist (read by Carolyn McCormick) which introduced “Area X” in Annihilation to an exploration of a different, though as uncanny and surreal, terrain: the organization which sent her into “Area X” in the first place, the Southern Reach itself. We do see the biologist often in Authority, but it is through the eyes of agent/operative John Rodriguez (aka “Control”), newly appointed acting director of the Southern Reach, interrogating her after her reappearance along with the other survivors of the expedition depicted in Annihilation. Control finds offices in decay and disarray, a shrinking staff divided into factions loyal to the previous director and “lifers” who are in it for the weird science and/or have nowhere else, really, to go. Throughout, Control reports his progress and findings — often couched — to The Voice, a shrouded, mysterious figure known only as a (digitally masked) voice on the phone. The cast of characters here each have layers and motivations — usually inscrutable — of their own: Grace, the assistant director who believes the previous director is still alive; Cheney, the head of the science department; and fellow scientist Whitby, who frequently acts as Control’s guide. I found the Southern Reach in Authority to act as both a metaphor for the many fragments of our own labyrinthine consciousnesses while also a rejection of such abstraction or disaggregation; an organization gone feral after decades of attempting to understand the incomprehensible, having stared too long into the abyss. Meanwhile Control’s expedition into its hierarchies and storage rooms and film archives plays with and against reader expectations: again we must question the reliability of our narrator, of the purpose and use of evidence and rationality in the context of such a narrative in the first place. VanderMeer creates mystery, unease, and an escalation of the compulsion behind this series: what is “Area X”?

Narrated by Bronson Pinchot for Blackstone Audio, the audiobook is, again, fantastic, cementing my feeling that Pinchot is one of the best narrators in the business (from non-fiction like How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick’s Robotic Resurrection to the wide-ranging accents of Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides and Last Call, to Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree). Pinchot’s characterizations of Grace (annoyed, Southern, mistrustful of Control), Cheney (bombastic, seemingly oblivious), Whitby (hesitant, waffling, couching), linguist Jessica Hsyu, and indeed “Ghost Bird”, the biologist from Annihilation are all spot-on. On the latter it’s really, really interesting to get a third-person perspective on the biologist, who remains a bit flat in affect but with something else waiting underneath. Pinchot also does something a bit subtle in the first chapters: he starts voicing Control’s dialogue with a soft Hispanic accent, which slowly disappears until being read with a neutral accent. Is his identity so quickly swallowed up by the Southern Reach? It’s just one more of the layers-within-layers that draws us ever deeper in. As the sense of unease, of wrongness, of looking where we should not be looking grows (to me drawing connections between the Southern Reach of Authority and the Coburn National Laboratory and Observatory in Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere), Pinchot’s narration matches it, tension for tension, finally bursting apart like a puffball mushroom and letting the ideas aloft like spores across the terroir of the transformed landscapes, closing after a novel with a more thriller pacing of half-hour chapters with an extended last chapter three times that length which is impossible to put down. In the end, Authority like Annihilation stands alone; one can read the other without having read (or having to read) the other; reading Authority without Annihilation may if anything add to the mysteriousness at hand, though of course each offers additional layers of context for the other. Also: both novels offer by their final pages a certain closure to dramatic arcs of decision and action, while of course inviting (if not compelling!) further expeditions.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Lagoon

  • By: Nnedi Okorafor
  • Narrated by: Adjoa Andoh, Ben Onwukwe
  • Length: 10 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 316
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 294
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 288

Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria's legendary mega-city, they're more alone than they've ever been before. But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways they could never imagine.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Colorful magic realist science fiction

  • By Ryan on 07-04-14

Lagos, where nothing works and everything happens

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

Reviewed: 04-18-14

Lagoon By Nnedi Okorafor is the World Fantasy Award winning author’s first novel for adults since 2010′s Who Fears Death. Narrated By Ben Onwukwe (known for his role in London’s Burning) and Adjoa Andoh (known for her roles in Dr. Who and EastEnders) for Hodder & Stoughton, the audiobook is really well done. Onwukwe handles most of the mainline narration, with Andoh providing the introduction and filling in for a few vignettes as well as providing all of the female voices “inline” with Onwukwe’s reading. Both narrators display quite a range, from multiple “American” accents to diverse African (Nigeria, Ghana, pidgin English) to British ex-pats and more; from simple dialogue to guttural screams, both actors give fantastic performances. At first, the “inline” insertions are a bit jarring, but as the audiobook progresses it becomes more natural and seamless to the ear. Inspired by “Wizard of the Crow, Under the Dome (the novel), Nollywood movies, and District 9″, Lagoon is a story of first alien contact, Lagos, Nigeria, and (principle among the protagonists) Adaora, a marine biologist. Okorafor’s aliens are different — upon high-magnification examination, Adaora discovers that they are not composed of cellular material at all, but rather billions of tiny metallic crystals — who can shapeshift, read thoughts, and are quite serious when they say that they bring “change” — a keyword refrain that I read as an homage to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Written with a cinematic sensibility, along with the primary thrust of the story (Adaora, rapper Anthony, and soldier Agu trying desperately amidst the chaos of rioting Lagos to bring alien ambassador Ayodele together with the popular but ineffective Nigerian president) there are many, many sub-plots afoot, from a “born-again” church’s bishop hoping to use Ayodele, to small-time 419 scammers preparing to upgrade to kidnapping, to (as is perhaps a defining characteristic of Okorafor’s work to date) the intersection of science fiction and mythology: ghosts, gods, trees, animals, the ocean itself. Highly recommended.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Annihilation

  • Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1
  • By: Jeff VanderMeer
  • Narrated by: Carolyn McCormick
  • Length: 6 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,613
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4,265
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 4,265

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Great story, bad narrator

  • By Julian P. on 01-26-16

An intense journey into a surreal landscape

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

Reviewed: 02-04-14

When I started reading about this book, I spent far too many hours trying to come up with my dream narrator for it. Somehow I never considered McCormick, the voice of The Hunger Games, but from the first line she is fantastic. Her laconic, detached mainline narration perfectly suited to the biologist's clinical, scientific mind, and it is the biologist's narrative voice, through the structure of the novel as her definitive account left in a journal, which, detail by detail, flashback by flashback, brings depth both to the mysteries of "Area X" and to her character. McCormick does not employ too much in the way of vocal gymnastics to differentiate the few characters -- just enough to characterize them effectively and succinctly as, one presumes, the biologist herself might do. The principal exception to this is her work on the voice of the psychologist, the designated leader of the expedition, which is given a decidedly (almost British-schooled?) formal turn, a flavor which makes McCormick's outstandingly dynamic work with her later in the novel stand out all the more strikingly. On the story: from the first pages, the narrative -- of an all-female 12th expedition to a mysterious "Area X" after 11 previous and mostly catastrophic expeditions -- is driven by a compulsion, a both scientific and inescapably personal curiosity to answer the question of: what lies at the tower's base? This tower, which is not even supposed to be here, which does not appear on any map or in any record of "Area X"? This curiosity grows further into fear-yet-we-must-see territory as the first foray into the tower reveals strange words written, glowing, breathing, alive? on the walls of the tower, heading down. We find the mysteries of Area X and "The Southern Reach" growing deeper and broader both down into and in the surrounding, increasingly surreal landscape beyond the tower, setting up and leading naturally into further explorations in the successive books, but the biologist's journal stands alone as a completed arc, a completed story of inquiry, discovery, and transformation. It is a fantastic book and audiobook, highly recommended.

11 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Ajax Penumbra 1969

  • By: Robin Sloan
  • Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
  • Length: 1 hr and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,094
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 998
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 993

Young Ajax Penumbra has not arrived in San Francisco looking for free love or a glimpse of the technological future. He is seeking a book: the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. The last record of the book locates it in the San Francisco of more than a century earlier, and on that scant bit of evidence, Penumbra's university has dispatched him west to acquire it for their library.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Penumbra Prequel Is Too Slight

  • By Dubi on 03-06-14

Reminds me just how much I loved the novel

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

Reviewed: 09-27-13

Narrator Fliakos reprises his turn as narrator for Sloan's narrative of dataviz, cryptography, secret societies, and bookstores -- though the tech and approaches and bookstore customers are decidedly 1969 rather than the 2010s of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Instead of Google Maps, we have actual maps. Instead of 3D visualization prototypes, Penumbra has to overlay his data the old fashioned way. But it's still the same grin-inducing voice of discovery and adventure in the story of Penumbra's arrival in San Francisco as I enjoyed in the novel. It's a story that could have slided right into the novel as a flashback narrative and not felt out of place. We see young aspiring psychohistorian Claude Novak, and several other characters from the novel either get name-dropped, slipped into conversation, or play roles nearly as large as young "junior acquisitions" man Penumbra's. "What do you seek in these shelves?" More stories. There still feels like there's plenty that could be told here, and I was delighted to be reminded just how much I enjoyed the audiobook of the novel.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • No Return

  • By: Zachary Jernigan
  • Narrated by: John FitzGibbon
  • Length: 13 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 46
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 42
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 44

On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists - only what his intentions are. Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon - a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle - warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Danoor, on the far side of Jeroun's only inhabitable continent.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A stunning and original debut fantasy

  • By Samuel Montgomery-Blinn on 04-17-13

A stunning and original debut fantasy

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

Reviewed: 04-17-13

In a crowded year of strong debut fantasy novels, "No Return" is a very strong contender. Beginning with an assured voice, a prologue of a pitiless landscape of an hallucinogenic salt lake, expanding out to a world whose currency is the powdered skin of an Elder race, populated by (among others) rival enclaves of warrior monks engaging in ritualized battles to defend and proselytize their competing faiths. There is a god with city-killing orbital kinetic ordinance at his whim; there are deeply weird and sexualized alchemistic magics; there are sentient constructs of magical metal spheres; there are dragons and ghosts.

The narrative is split along 5 principle points of view in a rotating fashion, across two primary storylines. In the first, it is a 'journey' narrative, in which we meet the three companions who form a bond as they travel to a massive gladiatorial tournament. These three are 1. a warrior monk, 2. a female sell-sword, and 3. a construct. In the other, it is a more political/academic setting of advanced magical research, and the power struggles (and competing lusts) of a senior mage and one of her more junior colleagues with experimental theories. These "outbound mages" make excursions to space, to observe the god and take measurements of his "spheres" -- the two smallest of which had been used centuries before to demonstrate the planet-killing power at hand.

The world builds and deepens and widens; the journey narrative treks us through disparate peoples and landscapes and histories, developing the characters and (through flashbacks) providing back stories as well. Throughout there's always the atmosphere of a deeper world at work, at mysteries not yet revealed. Who is the god Adrash, what does he want? Building toward dual climaxes in both narratives and powering on into denouement and stage-setting for a sequel, a lengthy epilogue serves to further widen the mysteries of this world by another deep breath. All in all, a very strong, no-holds-barred and emotionally impactful debut novel by Jernigan, whose short fiction I have followed on and off through M-BRANE SF and Asimov's. His is a bold, determined voice, with a razor's edge balance of rawness and assuredness; each character's point of view was distinct and fully realized. This is absolutely an heroic fantasy novel not to be missed.

I had never heard of the narrator John FitzGibbon before; presumably he was found by Audible through taking on stipend-eligible ACX titles. In any case he appears to be a US stage actor, and this training serves him exceedingly, exceedingly well. There are some passages of potentially uncomfortable content, from eviscerating violence to explicit sexual encounters. FitzGibbon does not shy away from any of these, nor over-emphasize in a campy way. His voices for each character are solid and distinct, bringing accents which accentuate the character's backgrounds. In particular his voice for the construct, Berun, is as outstanding a character voice as you'll find in audio.

Highly recommended.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Vellum

  • The Book of All Hours
  • By: Hal Duncan
  • Narrated by: Bernard Setaro Clark
  • Length: 18 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 18

It's 2017 and angels and demons walk the earth. Once they were human; now they are unkin, transformed by the ancient machine-code language of reality itself. They seek The Book of All Hours, the mythical tome within which the blueprint for all reality is transcribed, which has been lost somewhere in the Vellum – the vast realm of eternity upon which our world is a mere scratch.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • What is *not* in this fantastic book?

  • By Samuel Montgomery-Blinn on 01-05-13

What is *not* in this fantastic book?

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

Reviewed: 01-05-13

I had not even read the back copy, and so had absolutely no idea what to expect. Maybe a fantasy set in a vaguely Scottish monastery, though full of the fantastic imagination and powerful writing I expected from the many recommendations I’ve received over the past few years for this book, also on my “first novels to be nominated for the World Fantasy Award” list. It turns out to be a novel of an endless war between angels and demons, re-cast and re-cast again and again through history and mythology from Enki to Enoch to Metatron. Much of the storyline is either contemporary, or set in a near future of VR and AR goggles. It is there a kinship with parts of Snow Crash is felt, though themes of deep linguistics and layers of archaelogy permeate the novel throughout. There’s a density of ideas and frame-shifting, mind-screwing avalanche of sensawunda that I can compare to only a few novels, like Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief or M. John Harrison’s Light. There’s also, through the multiple split by millenia and then decades timelines, somewhat reminiscent of Daren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, but a more apt comparison might be with David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, with souls replaying their dances across multiple lives. But these don’t really capture what’s going on at all, either. It’s brilliantly original and creative, heartbreakingly personal and yet epic, fantastical yet with technological elements as well. Fantastic book. (And I haven’t even touched the plot… which is perhaps a bit disjointed, adding to the effect of amazement over the imaginative romping Duncan is doing across myths and history, with a bleak, devastating gut-punch of an ending, with a mouth full of dirt for dinner.) The narration — let me back up. So, this book in its novel form is presented in such a way, told in such a way, that there were doubts as to how well the narrative could be followed in audio. But Clark was fantastic. I’d never heard of him — this looks to have been his first professional narration, which boggles the mind. (It looks like he spent the better part of 2012 narrating a dozen of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels.) But he was wonderful: carrying Seamus’ Irish brogue, Metatron’s power, gritty when needed, soft when needed. A fantastic audiobook on top of a fantastic book.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful