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Michael G Kurilla

ROCKVILLE, MD, United States
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  • Blood Music

  • By: Greg Bear
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 10 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 261
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 220
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 224

Vergil's innovative experiment restructuring the cells of a common virus becomes a nightmare when, in order to save his research, Vergil injects the entire culture into his bloodstream.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating, Fast Paced, & one hell of a Mind*^ck

  • By amblingtumble on 04-17-13

Genetically engineered intelligence

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

Reviewed: 10-18-18

Greg Bear's Blood Music is a tale from the early days of genetic engineering. A scientist manipulates lymphocytes by adding DNA that allows natural selection for intelligence. He injects himself with his modified lymphocytes to smuggle them out of the lab and is slowly transformed as they continue to evolve. Eventually the entire North American biosphere is transformed, except for a few isolated individuals. Meanwhile, one victim has managed to escape to Europe and is studied as the rest of world panics over this unstoppable plague.

The main theme is of the potential for unintended consequences from genetic engineering. In addition, the general public and government panic and fear is on display. At the time, Bear explores the notion that reality and perceptions of reality are shaped by the physical basis of thought itself. The story meanders back and forth between biology and philosophy.

The narration is well done with excellent character distinction and reasonable pacing.

  • Record of a Spaceborn Few

  • By: Becky Chambers
  • Narrated by: Rachel Dulude
  • Length: 11 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 52
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 52

Hundreds of years ago, the last humans on Earth boarded the Exodus Fleet in search of a new home among the stars. After centuries spent wandering empty space, their descendants were eventually accepted by the well-established species that govern the Milky Way. But that was long ago. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, the birthplace of many, yet a place few outsiders have ever visited. As many Exodans leave for alien cities or terrestrial colonies, those who remain are left to ponder their own lives and futures.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent Science Fiction

  • By Daniel Cascaddan on 10-14-18

Melodrama among the exodus

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

Reviewed: 10-17-18

Becky Chambers' Record of a Spaceborn Few is her 3rd installment (and perhaps the final) in her wayfarers series. This story picks up immediately after the 1st book with no connection to book 2. Various human characters and their lives are portrayed that provide a flavor of the descendants of the exodus fleet that left Earth centuries earlier, along with some background on their current lives and how generations in space have changed them. There's good and bad people, but everyone is mostly surviving.

There's little of alien races, save for one species that has a quite different social and child rearing conventions. Much time is spent describing adaptations humanity has made and endured through generations living in space. Through an archivist, we learn much of the history, while a young man who doesn't fit in finds no peace and teenagers will always be teenagers.

The narration is well done with decent character distinction and good pacing.

  • The Deceivers

  • By: Alex Berenson
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 12 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,189
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,106
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,106

When John Wells is called to Washington, he's sure it's to investigate the carnage in Dallas, but it isn't. The former CIA director, now president, Vinnie Duto has plenty of people working in Texas. He wants Wells to go to Colombia. An old asset there has information to share - and it will lead Wells to the deadliest mission of his life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Topical political/espionage thriller!

  • By Wayne on 02-07-18

Attacks on the homeland

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

Reviewed: 10-14-18

The Deceivers, Alex Berenson's latest John Wells installment begins with what appears to be an undercover sting operation that ends up as a major terrorist attack in the US. John Wells is tasked by the president to follow-up a possible lead in South American, that in typical Wells fashion, unravels a deeper and more sinister plot than mere terrorism. Independently, his aging friend pursues a discarded FBI interviewee when something doesn't seem right and stumbles into Wells from a completely different direction. Wells completes his mission in his own way and with the classic Wells' style.

John is becoming more introspective in his later years and the body count that racks up around him is beginning to weigh on his conscience. At the same time, his aging partner still at the CIA refuses to call it quits, but still can out-think everyone else at Langley. Berenson has crafted a complex, but quite plausible black op scenario which is actually designed to shape a global alliance that the US seems reluctant to enter into. The story ends with a setup for the next installment.

The narration is superb; George Guidall's gravely voice is perfect for the older, more experienced and jaded spies. Pacing is well aligned with the plot and there are plenty of non-Wells interludes that gives the listener a sense of underlying complexity of the operation before Wells can figure it out.

  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union

  • A Novel
  • By: Michael Chabon
  • Narrated by: Peter Riegert
  • Length: 12 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 611
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 566
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 561

For 60 years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the federal district of Sitka, a temporary safe haven created in the wake of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. The Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. But now the district is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great story and voice but what's with the music?

  • By Samantha Dunaway Bryant on 09-18-16

Alternate history: kosher Alaska

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

Reviewed: 10-11-18

Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union is an alternate history tale based on a never executed plan to resettle European Jews in Alaska in the run up to WWII. While the story itself is a police murder investigation, a more sinister plot of global proportions is in the works that the police investigator stumbles into. At the same, a plausible historical scenario is outlined as a result of this initial event.

The story is set in about the year 2000 with a deadline approaching for the expiration of the special Federal district creating some degree of tension and ambivalence. Chabon also posits the intriguing scenario of the refugee resettlement reducing the extent of the Holocaust, but also allowing Germany to concentrate more on their war effort and defeating the Soviet Union extending the war. The state of Israel doesn't survive (presumably due to the Alaskan alternative siphoning off population). At its core, this is murder mystery that is well crafted in design.

The narration is excellent with a good rendition of accented conversations that are still quite articulate and understandable.

  • This Immortal

  • By: Roger Zelazny
  • Narrated by: Victor Bevine
  • Length: 6 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 505
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 304
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 309

Conrad Nomikos has a long, rich personal history that he'd rather not talk about. And as arts commissioner, he's been given a job he'd rather not do. Escorting an alien grandee on a guided tour of the shattered remains of Earth is not something he relishes - especially since it is apparent that this places him at the center of high-level intrigue that has some bearing on the future of Earth itself.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Zelazney's humour and lyricism

  • By Jane on 12-25-09

Post apocalyptic struggles against alien overlords

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

Reviewed: 10-06-18

This Immortal by Roger Zelazny is a tale of a post apocalyptic, nuclear devastated Earth where the population has been reduced to just several million. An alien race, the Vegans, oversee the planet as a sort of vacation and tourist attraction. The narrator is unique in being "immortal" with a long past he'd rather not discuss. As an official for cultural affairs, he must escort a high ranking Vegan to see the sights. Local Earth elements are determined to assassinate him and the narrator elects to protect him, while conveying to him the sense of commitment by earthmen towards their own autonomy, by making it clear that he'd rather destroy Earth's heritage, rather than let it survive as mere tourist fodder.

Zelazny mixes immortality with a superior alien race, although these are largely just givens. Beyond a prior nuclear war that devastated the human population, mutations among animals has gone wild. At the same time, while the greatly reduced population manages a semblance of civilization, there is a pervading sense that nothing matters and there is no future. As such, mercenaries are plentiful and there are pockets of "lord of the flies" fluttering about. The general message seems to be that on a planetary scale, the long term view is the best and immortality does tend to promote affection for the long term view.

The narration is superb with excellent character distinction with good pacing. Of note is that this is same narrator who does Dan Simmon's Hyperion series. Both works have much in common with frequent stories within stories,references to poets, the travelogue nature of the tale and the common narrator provides another common element.

  • All the Birds in the Sky

  • By: Charlie Jane Anders
  • Narrated by: Alyssa Bresnahan
  • Length: 12 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,631
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,499
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,501

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families. But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Too twee for me.

  • By Amy on 03-13-17

Magic and science clash

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

Reviewed: 10-05-18

Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky is a mixture of low resolution science fiction with a pastoral bit of magic that appear to clash while working towards a common goal, set as the backdrop to a love story. Two misfit kids, one a scientific genius and another a latent magician become lifelong friends and eventually lovers due to their grade school bonding. They manage to find solace in each other, while their parents seem stereotypes from central casting.

The sci-fi is a bit light: a two second time machine and some vague gravitic, transdimensional portal system. This is meant to "save" the world which appears to just be falling apart for unclear reasons. The magic side is a bizarre bunch that take care of the little things all the while avoiding "aggrandizement" which is their most grievous mortal sin. This results in lowering an AIDS patient's HIV load, but not curing them. Their focus is on fixing the small things for people to just get by. The rest of the world is fairly oblivious of impending doom. Eventual resolution is modest.

The narration is quite good with a decent range of character distinction with adequate pacing.

  • Lock In (Narrated by Wil Wheaton)

  • By: John Scalzi
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 9 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,971
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,229
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,207

Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever, and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent - and nearly five million souls in the United States alone - the disease causes "Lock In": Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fun! Things you might want to know:

  • By Alexis on 08-29-14

Robotech for paralysis victims

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

Reviewed: 09-30-18

Lock In by John Scalzi is an excellent envisioning of a futuristic high tech response to a medical crisis. A global pandemic that kills 100's of millions, leaves a small percentage of survivors with total paralysis (comparable to Lou Geghrig's disease or ALS). As the beloved president's wife is stricken, medical research is undertaken with a result that most "Haden's" victims manage by means of a physically separate robot body they drive around through a neural net connection while their biological body remains in a bed receiving care. An even smaller number of survivors end up with their brains rewired and can integrate with a Haden's sufferer for short periods of time. One Haden's victim becomes an FBI agent and stumbles upon a diabolical plot with both political and economic implications for Haden's disease sufferers.

The sci-fi elements present an integrated collection of interesting biology, implantable neural nets, and robotics with extensive background descriptions of their origin, both technically as well as the political and economic incentives that allow for this level of technology development. There is also much focus on a cyberworld experience for these individuals with some controversy about personal preferences. Parallels to the early AIDS epidemic in the 80's and 90's are evident.

The narration is well done without resorting to a robotic rendition. As the biological sex of the main character is never clearly identified (being a Haden's vcitim), this version is with a male narrator.

Note: Included with the novel is a standalone novella that reads as a series of interviews with various people documenting the historical aspects of the disease prior to this story. The novella is about 2.25 hours, making Lock In itself, a bit less than 8 hours total.

  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

  • By: Claire North
  • Narrated by: Peter Kenny
  • Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,031
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,592
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,592

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now.As Harry nears the end of his 11th life, a little girl appears at his bedside. "I nearly missed you, Doctor August," she says. "I need to send a message." This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An unexpected treasure

  • By Stefanie on 08-24-15

Groundhog life

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

Reviewed: 09-27-18

Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is an engaging tale of an individual relegated to reliving his life over and over again. After a full life replete with death, he is born again into the same previous conditions and just as he is emerging from his toddler stage, he recovers all his past memories of all his previous lives. Over time he changes things and comes into contact with a few others like himself. Eventually, he is drawn into a situation where one of his kind is pushing forward science and technology on each successive life which leads to messages being passed down from the future that this is causing the end of mankind centuries into the future.

While no explanation for this phenomenon is ever provided, endless possibilities are explored. Harry changes his life each time, including soldier, doctor, physicist, crime boss, etc. At the same, should he survive long enough, he will inevitably succumb to the same disease that medical science has never quite figured how to deal with in his lifetime. There is also an intriguing way to actually forget, but Harry also displays a mnemonic brain that allows him to remember every detail precisely. This is the tale of one man dedicating his lives to stopping another from taking the future.

The narration is superb with an excellent range of voices and accents for both genders. Pacing and tone are well aligned with the plot.

  • Blackout

  • By: Connie Willis
  • Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren, Connie Willis
  • Length: 18 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,268
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,434
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,439

In her first novel since 2002, Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Connie Willis returns with a stunning, enormously entertaining novel of time travel, war, and the deeds - great and small - of ordinary people who shape history. In the hands of this acclaimed storyteller, the past and future collideand the result is at once intriguing, elusive, and frightening.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Double review - Blackout and All Clear

  • By Monica on 06-03-12

WWII UK home front

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

Reviewed: 09-24-18

Connie Willis' Blackout is her 4th installment (including the novella, Fire Time) in her Oxford time travel series. The focus this time is England during WWII. Three different historians are sent back to observe particulars on the homefront: the evacuation of Dunkirk (from the UK side), the evacuation of children from London to the countryside, and London during the blitz. Each historian runs into their own problems which traverse the serious to the humorous. At the same time, there are clues that something is not right with the net. Eventually, the three link up, realizing that not only are their return drops not working, but that retrieval teams are no where in sight.

While most of the action takes place in 1940, there are numerous discussions regarding the nuances of time travel and the prohibition of interfering with divergence points. Something is clearly amiss, but resolution must wait for All Clear which is considered a continuation of the same story (both books shared awards). Willis' theme is the impact of war on the home front and the non-military aspects of war time.

The narration is spectacular with a wide range of voices, excellent character distinction, and varied accents from different part of the UK as well across different classes.

  • Falling Free

  • By: Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 8 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,739
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,427
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,440

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

The intro to the Vorkosigan universe

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

Reviewed: 09-15-18

Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free, although a standalone novel that was the first in the Vorkosigan universe, nevertheless is Vor free. The tale tells the story of the origin of the "quaddies" who are humans that have been genetically engineered to replace their legs with another set of arms to enable them to live and work in zero gravity full time. Beginning as a corporate research project, the development of artificial gravity obviated the need for their specialty. As a result, rather than allow to be retired to a gravity well and die out, Leo Graf an uber-engineer develops a plan to carry them off to freedom.

All the basic sci-fi elements of the Vorkosigan universe are in play with many of the familiar planets and star systems frequently mentioned. Bujold presents a solid grasp of space issues with construction as well as biological and medical aspects specific to both zero gravity and replacement of legs with another set of arms.

The narration is quite good with an excellent range of characters of both genders. pacing and tone are well aligned with the plot. This is an easy, short listen that flows effortlessly.