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Kent M. Pitman

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The Ruins of Mars audiobook cover art

Good plot idea lost in juvenile sexist stereotypes

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

Reviewed: 08-30-19

Seriously this reads like a distillation of Bova, who was born in an older time and can be more readily forgiven the frequent sexism of his stories. Bova writes good long-arc politics even if his characters are often cardboard. I fear the author has here copied that style, and intensified it.

The scenes with the AI characters are genuinely interesting and there are just not enough Mars stories written, but the author here sabotages any chance I could recommend this to anyone without strong caveats about the fact that almost literally every scene with a woman and a man together goes out of its way to sexualize or demean the woman.

I am willing to sometimes look past small amounts of this but it was so consistent and over the top that I found those parts ever more excruciating. Moreover, they serve no useful plot purpose. Perhaps the author thinks this adds bonds between characters but it's too cheesy to have that effect. It just feels fake.

The plot also stops early, wanting me to buy a new book as if cynically offering minimum content to pass for a novel. plots are not tied up but are left seemingly intentionally dangling.

I bet a good editor could draw a line through or revise these offensive scenes, trimming out constant references to women's breasts and breast size and men's need to be nonstop evaluating women as sexual partners, and consolidating material from later books into something solid the author could be proud of and that I could recommend.

I want to read about the Martians and the AIs. That part is quite well done. But I am left in a quandary on whether I can stomach this other stuff to get the parts that were good. It's like visiting a clickbait web site so full of ads you have trouble finding the story.

Cleaning this up could have left me giving things four stars instead of two. But as it us, it's a big problem.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight audiobook cover art

An engaging window into another world

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

Reviewed: 08-24-19

Memoir is curious because there is no real plot here other than the path through the author's life, but it's quite an interesting path that I'm glad she wrote about. I've traveled a fair bit, but this is not the sort of world to which I would ordinarily travel, so it was fascinating to get a look into it through the author's eyes. The account is quite engaging and the observations seemed honest and insightful, particularly in the areas of colonialism (and postcolonialist nostalgia), race relations, and poverty.

The author isn't heavy-handedly defensive about her positions on these complex social issues. Rather, she puts us back into the moment that various events occurred and tells us how she was perceiving them at the time, even as the style of her writing, the better objectivity and clarity with which she describes such thoughts, suggests that she perhaps evolved in her attitudes as life went on. It's especially great that she shares accounts of some situations that probably provoked her to such evolution.

The performance by Lisette Lecat really brings the whole account to life in a very vivid and personal way.

The Mueller Report audiobook cover art

The redactions were too much

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

Reviewed: 08-22-19

I really appreciate that (a) someone did this at all and (b) made it available free.

And I get that some people might want to know about the redactions. But there are too many and they are two distracting. I had to stop before I was far into it. I'd have asked for a refund, but... well, it was free. So I feel bad even writing a negative review. I don't want to seem ungrateful. But in case this kind of thing comes up in the future, I felt like some frank comments might hurt.

Even just the very small number of words it takes is too many for as often as it happens. I wanted someone to go through and just omit some mentions, simplify others. I wanted them to just say "blah blah" or hum or something on every redaction so that it didn't intrude on my train of thought for the rest of the sentence. I don't care if the same technique is used in all cases. I think if I were reading to someone else I would vary the ways I identified things, trying to notice places where the redactions were worth calling to attention to, and making them be invisible as much as possible otherwise. Maybe even sometimes say "There are 32 redactions coming up, most of them small and mid-sentence. I'm only going to call out the big ones, but you should know there was a lot removed." A too-literal reading just isn't what's needed.

Children of Ruin audiobook cover art

A really outstanding sequel

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

Reviewed: 08-22-19

Children of Time, the book to which this is a sequel, was really well done, and a hard act to follow, so I was a little apprehensive about this. But I was not disappointed. Sequels are often just trying to do the same thing again, but this was really building on the previous book, not trying to rehash it. There are commonalities, and yet also differences. Each is a unique work.

It will spoil nothing to say that spiders feature prominently in the first book. I hated that at the outset, and yet by the end I found myself understanding that it wasn't an arbitrary choice. The plot could not have been about another species. Everything about that book was a consequence of that choice. This second book is not about spiders. There is a clear connection to the other book, but I won't try to spoil anything by talking about that in detail. I'll just say that the choice of topic is once again something that I found initially odd and yet by the end I was again really sold on.

And I think that's the thing I love about this series. Tchaikovsky starts with a premise and then explains the very complex ways in which the premise affects the other things you'd expect to find. The author takes us where he wants us to go, and we have to just sit back and enjoy the ride. One learns a lot about humans along the way, sometimes becomes of the differences and sometimes because of the shared features.

I definitely recommend this book (though make sure you've read the other book first). I'm hoping for more. I'm not even sure what I would expect to come next, but that's part of the fun.

Deep Past audiobook cover art

A well-told tale

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

Reviewed: 08-22-19

I didn't think this was likely to win stuffy awards for Great Literature, but I did think it was Good Entertainment.

There seemed to be some disagreement among reviews here at Audible, so I was apprehensive, but I found this book really solidly written and excellently performed. It's exactly the kind of story I am so often wanting when I plug into an audiobook.

It was easy to become immersed in. I liked the characters--well, those of them I was meant to like. The story was thoughtful and intriguing. The cultural aspects of it seemed properly researched.

The story ends in nicely wrapped up form, but I was sad that it ended. I would have liked it to go on, both because of the plot and because of the characters. It left enough room for a sequel, and I'll be crossing my fingers for that.

The Overstory audiobook cover art

A powerful work of art on urgent topic

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

Reviewed: 05-28-19

Highly recommended for both narrative and social message. The performance by Suzanne Toren was also excellent.

A very timeline and engaging story that actively challenges one's notion of how nature should be framed in conversations. This book is an absolute must for those who care about environmental justice, but it's also written with the explicit intent of helping those who don't think that way to see why such things matter. This is a critical reframing at a time when the planet's environment is structurally challenged. The story does a good job of making that issue personal.

The title story starts out a bit ponderous, I thought. Very artful, but a bit abstract. I mention this because I didn't really get into the flow of the story right away, and I would urge other readers, if they waver at this point, to stick with it. The book presents at first like a set of isolated stories, but the stories gradually come to have relations, and to finally intertwine as one, in the manner that trees do in a forest. It's worth persevering because the overall message, the "overstory", if you will, is quite powerful.

Fortunately, this is one of the things I love most about audiobooks: For things where there are rough patches, you can just sit back and let the narrator carry you through it until there is smoother going.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

The Three-Body Problem audiobook cover art

Unconventional creativity that's not for everyone

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

Reviewed: 04-23-19

This book is weird, but creative. The story is unconventional and I just don't know if it would appeal to everyone. I liked parts of it more than other parts, and I think overall the book is worthy, but it's not an even read. Its story-telling style is unusual, simplistic in some ways because narrative style is not really the goal, or perhaps the narrative style is just different based on the fact that it was written for another culture. If you're someone who needs to have things in the "normal" way, this might not be the book for you.

The book is super nerdy in places. There are some clever, insightful, and complicated bits that I wonder if readers without the appropriate backgrounds (physics or computer science, including automata theory) will fully appreciate, though I think the author has made the topics reasonably accessible. Maybe that's good. It means that you'll get part of it, even if you don't get all the details. Some of the details are quite subtle and fascinating. The author is trying to be both creative with actual physics and metaphorical in descriptions, I think. It was good to do this on audio because you can just kind of plug yourself in and let it roll even through the parts of it where you might waver.

I rated this 3 stars out of 5, but that does it an injustice because it's too little dimensionality. This book is not trying to be what most books are trying to be. And if it fails, it's not failing for lack of skill. It's very well done for what it's trying to do. It just might not be to everyone's taste. And, honestly, it wasn't consistently to mine. But as a sometimes author myself, I admire the author's vision and his willingness to have taken a set of topics like this and really worked them through consistently.

Kudos, too, to the translator. It doesn't appear to suffer from its translation. There is also politics here. Because it's such a fanciful work of fiction, it's hard to judge exactly, but one gets the impression there is both universal truth and perhaps some very specific truth fancifully embedded.

I actually recommend this book, but only to those who want to take a chance on the unconventional. There is really a lot to be had for the right reader.

Not Alone audiobook cover art

A engaging tale told from an unusual point of view

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

Reviewed: 03-17-18

What did you love best about Not Alone?

At the same time as being a well-paced adventure story, this is also a discussion about society, humanity, and the Universe, told from the point of view of characters that are quintessentially human. The author has a keen point of view about morality that pervades the book in a way that does not fight the storyline but rather enhances it. It's so hard to talk about morality without sounding preachy or slowing plot, but it was excellently done here.

What did you like best about this story?

I liked the character of Emma. Her presence gives a very particular and unusual point of view to the entire tale that was both engaging, insightful, and weirdly informative about an aspect of the world I don't normally have a window into.

What does James Patrick Cronin bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narration was pleasant and voices were quite well done, with accents that seemed natural and enough differentiated that it was easy to tell which of many character was speaking at any given time. That's so important to a good audio performance, since not every statement comes labeled with who said it. The narration was a definite plus and I totally recommend the audiobook over just reading the text.

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

I laughed out loud at how the ending went. I don't mean to say it was a funny ending particularly. I just mean I didn't see it coming, so I laughed at myself for having not seen it. I had enjoyed the story, and would have given it a four out of five already. Often stories like this are hard to end, and I didn't have overly high hopes. Such stories, told for their character interactions, often stop in an awkward place that seems arbitrary or annoying. I kept watching the amount of time left and wondering how they could possibly do otherwise. But I really think this ends artfully well, and I bumped my appraisal of it to a five out of five as it wound up so well. I hope that doesn't oversell it. But really I was very satisfied.

Forged in Fire audiobook cover art

A bit like Ender's Game, yet more adult and real

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

Reviewed: 02-27-18

By now in book four, Thorensen has created richly detailed characters and a very coherent social landscape out of which he is able to construct a highly engaging tale of ordinary life interrupted by the threat, and later the actuality, of battle. The build up is well-constructed, leading to an end that seems inevitable, even as it holds the listener on the edge of their seat.

I didn't set out to learn about war, but I think that's part of the point. War isn't something you schedule, it's something thrust upon you in the middle of so many other things, never really at a convenient time. Heroes are not people that aspire to be heroes, they're people who don't shy from things that need doing. Although heroes may bring surprising skills and insights, it almost seems the most important thing they bring is a willingness to endure the ultimate in inconvenience.

This inspiring tale offers a window into the hardships and heartbreaks of war that is both detailed and highly engaging. The audio performance by Jonathan Davis is top notch and adds a lot. I cried at several points near the end. It's hard not to. The presentation is great and these are characters one really gets to know and care about.

There is much more to this series of books than war, but this book was a necessary part of the larger saga and did not disappoint. If you've gotten through the first three books, you won't be disappointed by the fourth. If you haven't read them, this is not the place to start. Start from the beginning and let it build to this one. As for me, I'm just waiting for the next. Please keep them coming, Olan.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Children of Time audiobook cover art

An elegantly-woven web of hard sci-fi

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

Reviewed: 09-17-17

I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. The uplift notion, of using technology to nudge other species to be intelligent, is kind of a wildcard in story-telling. Easy for it to seem dorky, tedious, or not very credible. It's hopefully no spoiler, as it is how the book opens, to say that the attempt to uplift monkeys goes terribly awry, and we're left with what may be uplifted spiders instead. Spiders. That sounds so icky and like it's going to go the way of zombies or other horror. And yet. This story does not go the way of zombies. So the opposite. It is lovingly and fascinatingly told, and masterfully structured. And as nearly as I could tell, still hard sci-fi, though not grungy-hard, more artsy-hard. Glistening. The detailing of spider society, the scope of the epic told, and the brilliant plot leads one step by step to realize that this is a story that outright required spiders. This was no arbitrary choice but a fully integrated aspect of the story in every way. Touching on themes of ambition, pride, love, sacrifice it is Shakespearean in its character evolution. I was blindsided and teary as it built to a conclusion. I really can't say enough good things about it. I often worry in such cases that I'm setting it up for defeat, that your tastes may differ and you might set your own expectations too high. It's a risk, so factor that in. Yet my point is that if you have an aversion to spiders, get over it, at least for just a little while to read this book. It's well worth the vacation from spider prejudice to see how this fictional web is woven. I used to think Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow my favorite book, and maybe it still is. But this one is giving it a run for its money in my mind. If not my new favorite, Children of Time is quite a contender. And I highly recommend doing it on audio. The narration by Mel Hudson is as beautiful as it is expert and adds a great deal to the telling.