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Michael G Kurilla

ROCKVILLE, MD, United States
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  • The Space Merchants

  • By: Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth
  • Narrated by: Dan Bittner
  • Length: 6 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 201
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 180
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 181

In a vastly overpopulated near-future world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge transnational corporations. Advertising has become hugely aggressive and boasts some of the world’s most powerful executives. Through advertising, the public is constantly deluded into thinking that all the products on the market improve the quality of life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • a SciFic classic done really well

  • By John Laudun on 05-06-12

"Mad Men" in outer space

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

Reviewed: 12-17-18

The Space Merchants by the writing duo of Frederik Pohl and C M Kornbluth is a 1950's sci-fi epic with a surprisingly timeless appeal. The tale is set in the future when space travel is routine and colonization of Venus is being contemplated. Society is an extension of Auldous Huxley's Brave New World where corporations, run by an elite class, control the globe indirectly and advertising has been elevated almost to a science to maintain the "consumer" class in an indebted state as they are convinced to buy everything. The main character is an elite advertiser who gets the job of selling the colonization of Venus, but ends up being shanghai'ed and dumped with ordinary consumers. To survive and eventually escape, he must align himself with the radical conservationists who are mounting a violent insurgency against the ruling corporations.

Other than space flight and concepts about living on Venus, the tale focuses mainly on societal evolution as corporations rule the roost by corrupting government and subliminally and overtly influencing the general population. In addition, products are intentionally selected and designed for addictive qualities to further enhance their attractiveness. Ironically, the tale nails much of the development of a consumer society for the rest of the 20th century, the rise of conservation and environmentalism, as well as the corrupting influence of money and politics.

The narration is well done with excellent character discrimination and solid pacing. The is a quick listen, but in spite of the short length, the tale takes a number of unexpected twists and turns.

  • The Stone Sky

  • By: N. K. Jemisin
  • Narrated by: Robin Miles
  • Length: 14 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,160
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,835
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,825

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women. Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter, Nassun, and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe. For Nassun, her mother's mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This review is for the entire series

  • By Jesslyn H on 09-05-17

How to unbreak the earth

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

Reviewed: 12-15-18

The Stone Sky is N K Jemisin's final installment in the Broken Earth trilogy.Three story lines are offered with Nassum wanting to use the Obelisk Gate to destroy the Earth and moon, while Essun wants to use the Gate to restore the moon to its natural orbit and end the seasons which is explained as an extremely elliptical lunar orbit. Interspersed with both these perspectives, the backstory on the stone-eaters is presented, especially Hoa, and intersects with the broken earth situation. Essun and Nassum finally meet on the other side of the world in the ruins of the major pre-season city and duke it out for control of the Gate.

Jemisin weaves a bit of sci-fi and magic together in an interesting mix. The obelisks are quite advanced technology while magic in the form of silver threads in living things can be controlled. In addition, the Earth itself is a conscious, Gaia-like entity that is responsible for the guardians. Finally, the stone-eaters represent an unintended consequences of genetic engineering with parallels to the node maintainers from book 1.

The narration is excellent with a solid range of voices. With three storylines that are offered in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person perspectives, the subtle shift in tone was great for telegraphing the changes.

  • The Hobbit

  • By: J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Narrated by: Rob Inglis
  • Length: 11 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,696
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 32,218
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 32,437

Like every other hobbit, Bilbo Baggins likes nothing better than a quiet evening in his snug hole in the ground, dining on a sumptuous dinner in front of a fire. But when a wandering wizard captivates him with tales of the unknown, Bilbo becomes restless. Soon he joins the wizard’s band of homeless dwarves in search of giant spiders, savage wolves, and other dangers. Bilbo quickly tires of the quest for adventure and longs for the security of his familiar home. But before he can return to his life of comfort, he must face the greatest threat of all.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Finally! Thank you Audible!

  • By Bryan J. Peterson on 10-20-12

Simply a timeless classic

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

Reviewed: 12-11-18

JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit is the lead-in to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and stands as one of the defining exemplars of the fantasy genre. Before Frodo, his elder relative Bilbo, in his younger days, experienced his own adventures with dwarves, elves, dragons, goblins, and other assorted magical creatures, found the ring, and amassed fortunes. Always a bit reluctant, Bilbo gradually transforms into a bold adventurer that is well beyond his comfort zone.

Tolkien introduces a cavalcade of creatures and magical places as Bilbo and a group of dwarves embark on a quest to recover lost treasure. Along the way, they must deal with all sorts of nasty creatures as well as malevolent forests and insects. While the action is never far away, the descriptions of the environment and the cultural variety of the various communities is engaging and compelling.

The narration is superb with excellent character distinction and most satisfying the various singing episodes are well done. This is a tale to get lost in.

  • The Obelisk Gate

  • The Broken Earth, Book 2
  • By: N. K. Jemisin
  • Narrated by: Robin Miles
  • Length: 13 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,405
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4,906
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,895

This is the way the world ends, for the last time. The season of endings grows darker, as civilization fades into the long cold night. Essun - once Damaya, once Syenite, now avenger - has found shelter, but not her daughter. Instead there is Alabaster Tenring, destroyer of the world, with a request. But if Essun does what he asks, it would seal the fate of the Stillness forever. Far away, her daughter Nassun is growing in power - and her choices will break the world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Miles is becoming my favorite narrator

  • By Jesslyn H on 08-29-16

Like mother, like daughter

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

Reviewed: 12-09-18

The Obelisk Gate is N K Jemisin's second installment of the The Broken Earth series. While formally a sequel, the tale follows Essun forward from book 1, but also details her daughter's (Nassun) flight with her father after he killed her brother. Nassun is taken by her father to a faraway place with the suggestion of a cure for orogeny, but the comm is run by a group of Guardians, including Essun former handler, Schaffa who are training the children outside of the Fulcrum. Essun meanwhile has settled into a comm with feral orogenes and finds Alabaster slowing dying as he turns to stone. He is able to impart some critical teachings that allude to actual magic (silver energy) as well as the loss of the moon, an event which started the cycle of the periodic fifth season. The obelisks somehow play into tapping sufficient energy to bring back the moon, at least into a more normal orbit. Controlling all the obelisks allows for a gate to access this power. Eventually, Essun must defend the comm against raiders with disastrous consequences for the comm.

While there is less orogenic action in book 2 relative to book 1, the underlying explanation for the periodic fifth season has a somewhat scientific basis. The moon has had its orbit altered to a more eccentric, elliptical orbit which periodically exerts outsized tidal forces. The nature and origin of the obelisks remains obscure, but along with the nearly magical functioning of the geode (which requires orogenic presence), suggests an older technological age that used implants or genetic engineering.

The narration is quite well done with excellent character distinction. Pacing is a bit on the slow side, but well aligned with both a child's perspective as well as the 2nd person narration for Essun.

  • The Rise of Endymion

  • By: Dan Simmons
  • Narrated by: Victor Bevine
  • Length: 29 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,378
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,592
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,602

In the stunning continuation of the epic adventure begun in Hyperion, Simmons returns us to a far future resplendent with drama and invention. On the world of Hyperion, the mysterious Time Tombs are opening. And the secrets they contain mean that nothing - nothing anywhere in the universe - will ever be the same.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Well written and narrated

  • By Chaim on 06-26-09

Sci-fi messiah

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

Reviewed: 12-02-18

Dan Simmons' The Rise of Endymion is the fourth and final installment in his Hyperion Cantos and takes up where book 3 ended with Raul and Aenea on Earth. Meanwhile, the collusion between the Church and the Technocore becomes more obvious, while the Technocore's end game is revealed. The Church is becoming more ruthless with pogroms against other religions and anyone else who will not accept the cruciform. Eventually, Raul and Aenea leave Earth separately and follow convoluted paths that eventually has them converge and travel to Pachem where Aenea confronts the Pope. Both are captured and the basis for Raul's detention in the Schrodinger box is revealed. Aenea is tortured to get her to farcast so the Core can study the process (which has been their goal). Raul eventually escapes and puts the band back together to return to Martin Silenus and check off all the old poet's bucket list laid down in book 1.

Simmons utilizes most of the technology previously outlined in books 1 - 3. In addition, he provides a rationale for the ability of the Church to utilize the cruciform for resurrection that relies on the Technocore; basically, the storage capacity necessary for a fully functional human being is beyond any single cruciform and so the Technocore provides that storage capacity. There is also discussion of an energy source that is tapped by farcasting and fat lining that derives from the "void that binds" which is wrecking havoc with the broader universe (the lions, and tigers, and bears) and appears to be a representation of zero point fields. Lastly all the extended travelogues that Raul and Aenea experience actually have a purpose.

Much of the tale draws parallels with Aenea and Jesus Christ: Aenea learns architecture(like carpentry), and gradually accumulate an entourage of apostles and disciples who receive her gift which is a genetic resistance to the cruciform by drinking her blood (viral transmission). Finally, her closest associates are tortured for their allegiance and she sacrifices herself in order to ignite the spark that overthrows the Church.

The narration is simply outstanding with excellent character distinction in spite of the large cast. Pacing is deliberate and the mood is tailored to the constantly shifting action versus tender moments as well as frequent introspective scenes.

  • Past Tense

  • A Jack Reacher Novel
  • By: Lee Child
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 12 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,178
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,893
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,872

Jack Reacher hits the pavement and sticks out his thumb. He plans to follow the sun on an epic trip across America, from Maine to California. He doesn't get far. On a country road deep in the New England woods, he sees a sign to a place he has never been: the town where his father was born. He thinks, What's one extra day? He takes the detour. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • FIVE STAR BOOK And NARRATION!!!!

  • By shelley on 11-05-18

Reacher doing his thing uncovering his father

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

Reviewed: 11-25-18

Past Tense is Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher novel. This time out, Reacher manages to wander into Laconia, New Hampshire which happens to be his father's childhood home. Never having been there before, nor knowing much of his paternal grandparents, he decides to investigate. He uncovers information that doesn't add up about his dad, while also managing to annoy a couple of heavy hitters in the area and must deal with ambushes and guerrilla tactics. In the end, he pieces together a plausible explanation for his dad's childhood, why he entered the military at 17, and most importantly, never returned to Laconia. At the same time, a parallel story of an unwitting couple who find themselves in over their heads, end up getting an assist from Reacher that takes out some sick hunters.

Reacher's detective skills are the main element this time out as he pieces together old police reports and census data, manages to find an abandoned town, and expertly navigates a hit squad. His fight scenes are few, but well executed with detailed analyses of his approach and strategy. As usual, Reacher is not shy at taking out the truly deserving. Idyllic, pastoral countryside is rare in this region of New Hampshire.

In spite of the narrator switch, while Scott Brick is not Dick Hill, he performs admirably with a decent range of voices and characters and respectable pacing.

  • Endymion

  • By: Dan Simmons
  • Narrated by: Victor Bevine
  • Length: 23 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,519
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,620
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,630

Here, Simmons returns to this richly imagined world of technological achievement, excitement, wonder and fear. Endymion is a story about love and memory, triumph and terror - an instant candidate for the field's highest honors.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A fine Part II of the Hyperion Cantos

  • By David on 09-06-12

Hyperion, the next generation

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

Reviewed: 11-23-18

Dan Simmons' Endymion is the 3rd book in his Hyperion cantos. The story takes place almost 300 hundred years later from where book 2 finished. Endymion is a young lad with a varied and checkered background working as a hunting guide on Hyperion. The poet from the first two books is still around and saves Endymion from an execution by a kangaroo court and tasks him with protecting the daughter arising from the prior coupling of the detective and the cybrid. She comes forward in time out of time tombs. In the intervening centuries, the Catholic church has come to dominate the remnants of the hegemony, both politically and militarily. For unknown reasons, the church wants the girl. Endymion, with the help of the shrike, manages to escape with the girl in the former consul's ship along with the android from the original barge trip back in book 1. This leads to an interstellar chase as the girl seems to mysteriously activate the long thought dead farcaster portals. As they travel from world to world, the changes brought about by the destruction of the farcaster network are outlined, along with the rise of the church supremacy as a result of the resurrection crucifixion. Eventually, the group winds up on Old Earth (or at least a copy of Old Earth) and the influence and actions of technocore have become apparent, although motives are still murky.

Much of the technology of this age is actually less developed than the 1st two books, but creative use of resurrection is employed. As a result, ships can be accelerated much faster to the point of killing humans given that resurrection can occur at the end of the trip. In addition, to the Endymion band, the priest-captain of the Church in pursuit narrates from his perspective and slowly beings to question the intent of the church as well the actual threat of the girl. Endymion narrates his perspective from inside a Schrodinger box that is a sort of quantum electric chair, although how this situation came to be is never discussed.

The narration is quite well done with an excellent range of characters and good pacing, despite its length. This is pure storytelling at its best.

  • The Girl with All the Gifts

  • By: M. R. Carey
  • Narrated by: Finty Williams
  • Length: 13 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33,233
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30,701
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30,705

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius". Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hours in, restarted so husband could listen too!

  • By Pikay on 12-13-14

Post-apocalyptic zombie thriller

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

Reviewed: 11-16-18

M R Carey's The Girl with all the Gifts is basically a zombie tale. A fungal infection that turns insects into zombies-like creatures mutates to infects humans. A group of infected children are being studied at a remote military base until it is overrun by "junkers" who are uninfected, but feral humans. A doctor, a teacher, a couple of soldiers, and a single, infected child manage to escape the junker attack and embark on a trek back to the main military fortifications. Along the way, they encounter more junkers and zombies and learn a bit more about why the girl as well as other children like her are different from the adult zombies.

The utilization of the fungal basis for zombification is intriguing as it mirrors real biology. Other than this bit of fiction, the remainder is mostly current or near future science. Ultimately, the message is human evolution in sync with its environment and survival of the fittest within the constraints of prior conditioning as well as necessary childhood psychological development.

The narration is well done with reasonable character distinction of both genders.

  • The Consuming Fire

  • The Interdependency, Book 2
  • By: John Scalzi
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 8 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,659
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,417
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,398

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it - unless desperate measures can be taken. Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Building upon a collapse, this follow-up exceeds!

  • By C. White on 10-16-18

Vying for control of the collapsing empire

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

Reviewed: 11-10-18

John Scalzi's Book 2 of the Interdependency series, The Consuming Fire shifts the action relative to book 1 to hub central at the seat of power of the empire. While there is general refusal to accept the collapse of the flow streams, collapses are beginning. The Empyrox creates some tension by claiming visions and various house powers are jockeying for position to step in to control the dwindling empire. There is quite a bit of double dealing, while at the same time, a few novel tidbits of the empire's history are disclosed that allude to other sources of human civilizations.

The flow stream and its eventual collapse are discussed in more detail. The Empyrox room with simulations of older rulers is explored in depth. There are multiple action scenes both planetside as well as in outer space. While the Empyrox survives and is in a stronger position, the situation with End leaves few options for relocation and will likely be the main focus of book 3. There's also multiple episodes of romance breaking thru.

The narration is less than ideal has it is rendered in a blue collar fashion that is a bit in contrast to royalty and business elites that populate the story. This is short listen.

  • Thin Air

  • A Novel
  • By: Richard K. Morgan
  • Narrated by: Colin Mace
  • Length: 18 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 281
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 268
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 267

On a Mars where ruthless corporate interests violently collide with a homegrown independence movement as Earth-based overlords battle for profits and power, Hakan Veil is an ex-professional enforcer equipped with military-grade body tech that's made him a human killing machine. But he's had enough of the turbulent red planet, and all he wants is a ticket back home - which is just what he's offered by the Earth Oversight organization, in exchange for being the bodyguard for an EO investigator. It's a beyond-easy gig for a heavy hitter like Veil...until it isn't.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Turns out there is life on Mars

  • By Gilbert on 10-26-18

Gritty Martian noir

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

Reviewed: 11-06-18

Thin Air by Richard K Morgan is a gritty detective tale set on Mars. While the main character is not strictly a detective, he begins as a bodyguard for an Earth auditor and ends up piecing together a complex conspiracy. Mars has been colonized and supplies Earth with some specific merchandise. The Earth conglomerate in charge has arrived for an audit amidst local grumblings. What transpires is a hodgepodge of corrupt politicians, cops, and assorted major and minor criminal gangs, while a larger coup is in the works. All the while, Veil is trying to do the right thing, while everything is constantly shifting around him.

Morgan presents a credible future with Mars colonized, but still with a decidedly colonial flavor. There are extensive operations around the solar system and Veil, the main character is a former Overrider meaning he's been modified for long, solo space flights. As such, he makes good muscle for hire along with his implanted AI as a constant companion. The plot is richly complex with a wide variety of players each with their own agenda, but basically, this is the wild west with a free-for-all attitude.

The narration is quite well done with a good range of voices. Pacing and tone suit the noir nature of the tale.