LISTENER

Michael G Kurilla

ROCKVILLE, MD, United States
  • 479
  • reviews
  • 2,699
  • helpful votes
  • 772
  • ratings
  • Blue Mars

  • By: Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Narrated by: Richard Ferrone
  • Length: 31 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,127
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 849
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 869

The once red and barren terrain of Mars is now green and rich with life - plant, animal, and human. But idyllic Mars is in a state of political upheaval, plagued by violent conflict between those who would keep the planet green and those who want to return it to a desert world.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A fine end to a good series

  • By Hooga Chacka on 10-01-13

Trilogy closer

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

Reviewed: 03-22-19

Kim Stanley Robinson's Blue Mars is the final installment in his colorful Mars trilogy (Red - Green - Blue). Events pick up immediately after the end of book 2. Mars is split along red / green lines, while Earth is struggling with an environmental disaster. The tale plods forward with multiple perspectives along with extensive ruminations. A middle of the road approach to terraforming ensues that eventually begins colonization of other worlds in the solar system: Venus, Mercury, asteroids, and eventually moons of the gas giants. Technology by Martian scientists permits more rapid space flight. A tentative treaty is established with Earth to permit limited immigration to Mars. The longevity treatment eventually begins to show its age with deadly consequences.

Robinson continues his richly detailed environmental scenarios mostly on Mars, but also a bit on Earth. His command of nature and subsequent engineering projects is phenomenal. At the same time, there is much philosophical musing regarding economic and political systems that never seem to rise above undergraduate level discussions. It all seems to work out, but without any clear picture of why. Regardless of the situation on Earth, it's hard to believe the small Martian population could ever compete in terms of cutting edge science and technology, but they always do. The overall text is ponderous and in the end, there is mostly a muddle through result.

The narration is excellent with a solid range of voices of both genders. Pacing is slow, but aligns up with the plot.

  • The Chrysalids

  • By: John Wyndham
  • Narrated by: Graeme Malcolm
  • Length: 6 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 324
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 273
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 279

The Chrysalids is set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war. David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, always on the alert for any deviation from the norm of God's creation. Abnormal plants are publicly burned, with much singing of hymns. Abnormal humans (who are not really human) are also condemned to destruction - unless they succeed in fleeing to the Fringes.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top notch post-apocalyptic tale!

  • By Nothing really matters on 01-05-17

Post apocalyptic religious fundamentalism

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

Reviewed: 03-09-19

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham is a futuristic post apocalypse tale set in an isolated, agrarian, pre-indutrial community long after a devastating nuclear holocaust. Fallout has rendered much the adjacent areas unlivable. As a result of presumed radiation, a primal fear of mutation is evident that is manifested by religious teachings that stress strict adherence to God's image and and deviation in plants, animals or humans is regarded as blasphemy and must be destroyed or ostracized. A young boy and his friends have the power of telepathy, but keep this hidden while observing treatment of physical differences. Eventually, they are forced to run and through one powerful telepath manage to make contact with other distant telepaths that have some preservation of technology.

While never actually discussed, a global near extinction nuclear war has devastated the planet, but the tale is taking place centuries after this fact. Mutations are frequent in terms of extra toes and even large horses are viewed suspiciously. The telepathy is something that some children can do with the added twist of digressions into different modes of thought as a result, since words are unnecessary. The rise of religious fundamentalism as a backlash is on ample display.

The narration is well done with a reasonable range of characters and decent gender distinction. This is a short listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • All Clear

  • By: Connie Willis
  • Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren, Connie Willis (introduction)
  • Length: 23 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,814
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,174
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,194

Three time-traveling historians are visiting World War II England: Michael Davies, intent on observing heroism during the Miracle of Dunkirk; Merope Ward, studying children evacuated from London; and Polly Churchill, posing as a shopgirl in the middle of the Blitz. But when the three become unexpectedly trapped in 1940, they struggle not only to find their way home but to survive as Hitler's bombers attempt to pummel London into submission.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Rescued by the second half

  • By Mike From Mesa on 12-05-11

History straightened out

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

Reviewed: 03-08-19

Connie Willis' All Clear is the 2nd part of her WWII escapade in the Oxford Time Travel series, picking up where Blackout left off with drops not opening and three young historians trapped in London during the blitz. Much of the plot revolves around locating other historians with known assignments, but in the end, it all comes to naught. Eventually, Mr Dunworthy goes back and is also trapped believing himself as the cause of discrepancies that forces history to self correct and trapping them. Gradually Polly figures things out after identifying the Hodbin kids as central players. Not everyone makes it back and Collins plays a major role going to other points in history, but after WWII, to get a fix on everyone's location.

Nearly all of the action takes place during WWII with several jaunts to 1995 and the opening of a war memorial. Polly continues her acting career in a semi-professional sense, while Michael turns his reporter credentials into an asset for British intelligence's disinformation campaign (he even gets to meet the Queen) and Merope goes "loco parentis." Even Alan Turing makes an appearance as an inattentive cyclist. The tale is quite long due to events seeming to always get in the way of anything the trio attempts to do, although the Hodbins tend to add some welcome comedic interludes. At the same time, the contemps always seem to drone on and on that borders on annoying. Willis does a fantastic job of relating the flavor of wartime on the civilian side.

The narration is excellent with an impressive array of characters with all the various UK accents and exceptional gender distinction. The pace is steady and reasonable quick in spite of the overall story length.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Terminal Experiment

  • By: Robert J. Sawyer
  • Narrated by: Paul Hecht
  • Length: 9 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 421
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 247
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 251

An experiment has gone terribly wrong. Dr. Peter Hobson has created three electronic simulations of his own personality. One will test life after death; another, immortality. The third one is the control unit. But now all three have escaped from Hobson's computer into the worldwide electronic matrix. And one of them is a killer.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Incredible

  • By David on 05-19-08

Murdering AI

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

Reviewed: 02-24-19

The Terminal Experiment by Robert J Sawyer is an early exploration of artificial intelligence (AI) running amok across the internet. Peter Hobson (named for the reference to Hobson's choice) is an engineer who develops a device that demonstrates when brain activity completely ceases (in order to establish death for organ harvesting) and discovers evidence of an electrical field that seems to leave the body upon death. Dubbed the 'soulwave' this appears to establish some form of afterlife beyond death. To study this phenomena further, with the aid of a colleague who dabbles in artificial intelligence, Peter develops AI versions of himself, one purely intellect, one imbued with the notion of immortality, and the third serving as a control. Soon, crimes begin to appear that are linked to Peter and he concludes that one of the AIs is acting upon his own feelings and must figure out which one is the culprit before the police close in on him. At the same time, the AIs replicate themselves across the internet seeking to roam beyond his reach.

For its time, Sawyer was quite prescient in his notions of AI as well as the distributive and exploding power of the internet. While the idea of mapping individual neurons may be ambitious, embedding concepts into their own neural nets that can be selectively deleted is intriguing and offers the opportunity to discuss unique approaches such as how certain situations are viewed in the face of immortality. At the same time, Sawyer sets up an engaging police procedural as the crimes occur and are investigated.

The narration is well done with a solid range of voices and good character distinction. Pacing is fine.

  • Beggars in Spain

  • By: Nancy Kress
  • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
  • Length: 16 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 388
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 263
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 267

In a world where the slightest edge can mean the difference between success and failure, Leisha Camden is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent, and one of a growing number of human beings who have been genetically modified to never require sleep. Once considered interesting anomalies, now Leisha and the other "Sleepless" are outcasts, victims of blind hatred, political repression, and shocking mob violence meant to drive them from human society and, ultimately, from Earth itself.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Pleasantly Surprised

  • By CB on 09-23-09

Sleeplessing your life away

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

Reviewed: 02-20-19

Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain is a tale of perturbing social balance by introducing gene modification to obviate the need for sleep. This future portends genetic modifications by prospective parents that start with obvious traits like good looks and intelligence, but adds the elimination of a requirement for sleep. This allows for well above average intelligent children (gene mod'd at the same time) to outpace their peers. Gradually, society cleaves into sleepers and sleepless with extreme prejudice on both sides. In addition, the sleepless are also found to age slower which further reinforces the division. One of the early sleepless attempts to reconcile the two groups. Eventually, the sleepless relocate to a space station and plot the destruction of the sleepers, while developing even greater post-sleeper genetic modifications.

The central sci-fi element is the relative ease and introduction of gene modification which by today's technology seems eminently reasonable. The introduction of cheap energy is also quite insightful as a method for driving economic growth that results in a society where 80% of the population doesn't need to work which creates interesting scenarios with evolving social mores. The legal scenes are also well crafted and quite believable. While then sci-fi is compelling the real impact of the tale is societal inertia to change. One can't avoid the comparisons to the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X or the X-Men with Professor Charles and Magneto.

The narration is well done with an excellent range of character distinction. Pacing is well aligned with the plot.

  • Darwin's Radio

  • By: Greg Bear
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 17 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,059
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 664
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 668

In a cave high in the Alps, a renegade anthropologist discovers a frozen Neanderthal couple with a Homo sapiens baby. Meanwhile, in southern Russia, the U.N. investigation of a mysterious mass grave is cut short. One of the investigators, molecular biologist Kaye Lang, returns home to the U.S. to learn that her theory on human retroviruses has been verified with the discovery of SHEVA, a virus that has slept in our DNA for millions of years and is now waking up.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Don't have to be a biologist to enjoy!

  • By Sue on 03-07-12

Punctate human evolution

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

Reviewed: 02-17-19

Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio is a fascinating tale of human evolution occurring in the blink of an eye resulting in fear and confusion along with violence. What starts as an apparent new infectious disease is eventually identified as endogenous retroviruses coming out of the human genome and causing flu-like symptoms only in women. Subsequently, aborted pregnancies occur resulting in a second, asexual pregnancy with a chromosome count different from human. While, public health officials and the general public regard this as a new disease, a small group of investigators believe this heralds the next step in human evolution and find evidence to support a past similar event in Neanderthal history.

Bear utilizes some intriguing concepts capitalizing on HIV biology to suggest that endogenous retroviruses, rather then being genomic, leftover detritus are in fact the drivers of Darwinian evolution along the lines of a punctate model, where environmental conditions set in motion enhanced genomic mutation rates to find a "new" solution for a viable organism. The integration of molecular biology, hormonal physiology, and what at the time was an emerging genomic appreciation is masterfully accomplished. At the same time, the scientific, cultural, and political angles are well crafted. Perhaps the only minor criticism is the notion that the CDC Director would aspire to be the Surgeon General which suggests a lack of appreciation for the power hierarchy within HHS.

The narration is superb with excellent character distinction and a good range of voices. Pacing is well aligned with the plot and results in a speedy listen.

  • The Time Traveler's Wife

  • By: Audrey Niffenegger
  • Narrated by: Fred Berman, Phoebe Strole
  • Length: 17 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 9,294
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,271
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,301

Clare and Henry have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was 36. They were married when Clare was 23 and Henry was 31. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Forget the Movie!

  • By Heather Feuerhelm on 03-31-12

Trying to keep all those dates straight

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

Reviewed: 02-10-19

Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife is a love story across time where one partner is not quite grounded in time. Henry suffers from a genetic condition that causes him to periodically transition to another time, usually tangentially related to his life (in terms of places and significant events). As such, he meets and interacts with his future wife when she was a child (as young as 6) as well as travelling forward in time. When he travels, he arrives naked; no physical objects can go with him. As such, he has learned lock picking, shoplifting, and fisticuffs to survive. The story relates the tale of Henry and his partner Clare as they mature into a relationship that is able to transcend whatever time they find.

The time traveling basis is rooted in a genetic anomaly related to circadian rhythms and eventually, the biological basis for this disorder becomes understood. At the same time, there is an impact on his immune system that causes premature aging as well as conception and pregnancy issues. The real heart of the tale is a love story where each partner interacts asymmetrically in terms of their age and maturity: Clare as a child with an older Henry and Henry younger than a mature and older Clare. The story is both engaging and touching.

The narration is handled by two narrators, taking Henry's and Clare's perspectives. Each offers reasonable character distinction and pacing is well aligned with the casual tone of the tale.

  • When Gravity Fails

  • Marid Audran Trilogy, Book 1
  • By: George Alec Effinger
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
  • Length: 11 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 401
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 351
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 350

For a new kind of killer roams the streets of the Arab ghetto, a madman whose bootlegged personality cartridges range from a sinister James Bond to a sadistic disemboweler named Khan. And Marid Audrian has been made an offer he can't refuse.The 200-year-old godfather of the Budayeen's underworld has enlisted Marid as his instrument of vengeance. But first Marid must undergo the most sophisticated of surgical implants before he dares to confront a killer who carries the power of every psychopath since the beginning of time.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Neuromancer in the Middle East

  • By David on 07-28-13

Noir Arab detective thriller

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

Reviewed: 02-06-19

George Alec Effinger's When Gravity Fails is the first volume of his Marid Audran trilogy. Marid is a kind of private detective / investigator, but moreso an all around troubleshooter. He operates out of the Budayeen which is the seedier / dangerous part of town. He becomes drawn into a series of killings that he either witnesses or finds them and is hired by the local crime boss to figure it all out as business is starting to get affected. The full story is complex and convoluted.

While the mystery is engaging with a number of plot twists, the real draw of the tale is the futuristic scenario that is not so much dystopic as simply different. Set in the 22nd century, the major powers of globe have lost influence leaving the Arab world largely on its own. There is technological progress, but the rest of life seems business as usual. The most noticeable advancements are in the area of sex changes which are nearly routine and neural implants that allow for both instantaneous, but temporary language acquisition as well as wholesale personality changes.

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • A Maze of Death

  • By: Philip K. Dick
  • Narrated by: Benjamin L. Darcie
  • Length: 6 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 132
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 119
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 120

Delmak-O is a dangerous planet. Though there are only 14 citizens, no one can trust anyone else and death can strike at any moment. The planet is vast and largely unexplored, populated mostly by gelatinous cube-shaped beings that give cryptic advice in the form of anagrams. Deities can be spoken to directly via a series of prayer amplifiers and transmitters, but they may not be happy about it. And the mysterious building in the distance draws all the colonists to it, but when they get there each sees a different motto on the front.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • JJ Abrams YOU are a book thief.

  • By Darwin8u on 08-24-13

What is reality?

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

Reviewed: 02-01-19

A Maze of Death by Philip K Dick is a tale about examining reality. A group of colonists end up on a world that doesn't make sense. Once they arrive, they are supposed to learn their mission, but things go awry. There are unusual artificial creatures as well as a mysterious building, that appears different to each colonist. In addition, there is a 'creature' that appears to duplicate items, but also answer questions in a cryptic manner. Eventually, the colonists begin dying and/or killing each in what they believe is a sinister experiment where they are the guinea pigs. The big reveal at the end further questions the notion of reality.

Dick posits a future where space travel is somewhat routine, but still in the early stages colonization. Specialists of all types are exploring various worlds. At the same time, this future has a variant religion that is quite pervasive consisting of several elements some of which can walk around and interact with humans.Finally, the sophistication of virtual reality (although not referred by Dick as such), leads to the questioning of where reality begins and ends.

The narration is respectable with reasonable character distinction and adequate pacing.

  • Shadow Captain

  • By: Alastair Reynolds
  • Narrated by: Clare Corbett
  • Length: 13 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 165
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 152
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 153

Adrana and Fura Ness have finally been reunited, but both have changed beyond recognition. Once desperate for adventure, now, Adrana is haunted by her enslavement on the feared pirate Bosa Sennen's ship. And rumors of Bosa Sennen's hidden cache of treasure have ensnared her sister, Fura, into single-minded obsession. Neither is safe; because the galaxy wants Bosa Sennen dead, and they don't care if she's already been killed. They'll happily take whoever is flying her ship.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • The slurpening.

  • By Matthew on 01-25-19

A weak follow thru for a sequel

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

Reviewed: 01-31-19

Alastair Reynolds' Shadow Captain continues the escapades of the two sisters who got more than they bargained for when the ran off to find their fortune in space, similar to youths running off for the high seas. Having previously defeated to infamous space pirate, Bosa Seenum, and taken over her vessel, the crew is now forced to distance themselves from the pirate in order to avoid confusion. They pull into a frontier world for repairs and supplies, only to run afoul of a mobster who runs everything. In addition, they are being hunted by an organized effort to rid space of the former pirate and are trying to avoid run-ins with superior ships. Along the way, the sisters have begun to focus on the patterns of the current and prior occupations as humanity is lightly ruled over by more powerful aliens.

This universe is a far future, where humanity has spread across this portion of the galaxy, rebuilt their worlds from the remnants of the originals, and then subsequently lost of their technological dominance. Scavengers hunt for "baubles" which appear to be high tech found in abandoned space installations. The societal organization has a decidedly Victorian era feel down to the cocknyed accents. The aliens who seem more interested in economics than space or technology remain mysterious, but the historical pattern of recurring occupations as well as noticeable absences, is pointing to some unknown entity pulling galactic strings. While new characters are introduced, no one is who they seem. A few horrible late stages of 'glowie' infection are disclosed. Hopefully, the next installment will reveal the larger mysteries.

The narration is quite well done with a good range of voices and excellent character distinction. Pacing is reasonable and the tone is well aligned with the plot.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful