LISTENER

Michael G Kurilla

ROCKVILLE, MD, United States
  • 466
  • reviews
  • 2,623
  • helpful votes
  • 759
  • ratings
  • Death's End

  • By: Cixin Liu, Ken Liu - translator
  • Narrated by: P. J. Ochlan
  • Length: 28 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,207
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,852
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,847

Half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to coexist peacefully as equals, without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fermi paradox meets first contact.

  • By John S. Robinson on 10-01-16

This is how the trilogy ends, not with a bang...

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

Reviewed: 01-21-19

Cixin Liu's Death's End is the third volume in an excellent trilogy, The Three Body Problem. While extending after book 2, this tale returns to the origin years of the crisis era and introduces a couple of new characters who manage through hibernation technology to survive post Trisolarian. A program similar to the Wallfacer project brings in a young woman in the astronautics field, along with as colleague. While her colleague suffers an incurable disease, his brain is sent to the Trisolarian fleet who recover him and clone him. She has early success and fame with the planetary defense council and goes on to control a large corporate entity focused on space flight. She eventually replaces the original sword holder from book 2, but abdicates her role and allows humanity to be subjugated by the aliens. Eventually, light speed travel is developed and she manages to escape the solar system before its destruction.

The major sci-fi element is the concept of dimensional manipulation, The solar system is destroyed by reduction from 3 to 2 dimensions. Descriptions of 4 dimensional space are offered with the notion that intelligences cannot influence beyond their own dimension. There is also the idea a race to the bottom with the suggestion that the universe as been slowly reduced from higher dimensions down to our current three intentionally and that reduction all the way to one will initiate another big bang and start the process all over again. In addition, the potential for multiple universes is offered.

The narration is superb with an excellent range of voices and good pacing throughout.

  • Up the Line

  • By: Robert Silverberg
  • Narrated by: Paul Boehmer
  • Length: 9 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 23
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 21
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 22

Being a Time Courier was one of the best jobs Judson Daniel Elliott III ever had. It was tricky, though, taking group after group of tourists back to the same historic event without meeting yoruself coming or going. Trickier still was avoiding the temptation to become intimately involved with the past and interfere with events to come. The deterrents for any such actions were frighteningly effective. So Judson Daniel Elliott played by the book. Then he met a lusty Greek in Byzantium who showed him how rules were made to be broken....

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Wow, I don't mind erotica but this is really dirty

  • By Colin Engstrom on 03-29-17

Time travel as a profession

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

Reviewed: 01-10-19

Robert Silverberg's Up the Line is a time travel story from the 1960's. A slacker 20-something disillusioned with his work decides to take advantage of his college history courses and takes a job as a tour guide taking people back in time to witness the significant historical events related to present day Istanbul (Constantinople, the Byzantine empire, the crusades, etc.). Along the way, he meets several colleagues running side operations while trying to stay away from the time patrol. He also takes an interest in researching his ancestors, but finally runs into a determined tourist who goes off on his own and must pull out all the stops to reset history straight.

While the history outlined is engaging and compelling, Silverberg spends much of the time discussing all the inherent paradoxes that result with time travel and then goes to great lengths to detail caveats that make for a consistent set of operating conditions. Given the time period the story was written there is much attention to sex and sexual proclivities with the general assumption that promiscuity was a social convention unique and specific to the time period in which the tale was written.

The narration is well done with an excellent range of voices. Pacing and tone are aligned with the overall plot.

  • The Man Who Folded Himself

  • By: David Gerrold
  • Narrated by: Charles Bice
  • Length: 4 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 193
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 175
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 178

The Man Who Folded Himself, written in 1973 (and reissued by BenBella in 2003) is a classic science fiction novel by award-winning author David Gerrold. This work was nominated for both Hugo and Nebula awards and is considered by some critics to be the finest time travel novel ever written.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • One of my first tastes of trues science fiction

  • By Russell Norton on 12-29-13

Time travel paradox

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

Reviewed: 01-07-19

David Gerrold's The Man who Folded Himself is a tale of caution about time travel. The main character inherits a time travel belt from his uncle and grapples with all the inherent paradox of this concept. Meeting older or younger versions of himself is permitted and this leads to all sorts of possibilities as well as problems. Time travel isolates him and he even enters into sexual relations with older and younger versions of himself. He also observes historical events and then begins to intervene, but each attempt leads to future unintended consequences that forces him to go back and undo the initial perturbation. All along the way, he is introducing minor variations into his future timestream and eventually encounters a female version of himself that leads to another relationship that also ends in despair. In the end, he has a self-licking ice cream cone and seems to have lost his enjoyment of life itself.

Gerrold explores all the inherent paradoxes embedded in the concept of time travel and attempts to allow certain outcomes, such as meeting yourself. Rather than explaining this away or suggesting some universe annihilation event, he rolls with this and creates scenarios where subtle variations, each of slightly different ages, work together. Any attempt to dramatically influence the world (preventing the birth of Jesus) always ends with disastrous results in his future time (the story takes place in early 21st century). Gerrold has amended the story, originally published in the 1970's, to add certain events occurring after 2000.

The narration is well done with decent character distinction and reasonable pacing. This is a quick listen and offers a glimpse into a rational exploration of time travel conceptually.

  • Red War

  • A Mitch Rapp Novel, Book 17
  • By: Vince Flynn, Kyle Mills
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,501
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,165
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,139

When Max Krupin - Russia's leader - discovers that his kidney cancer has spread to his brain, he's determined to hide his diagnosis. He begins by getting rid of anyone threatening to him - as well as creating chaos in the region to keep the world's attention diverted. Soon, Krupin's illness becomes serious enough that he needs a more dramatic diversion, prompting him to invade the Baltics. Desperate to understand what's causing Krupin's unusually erratic behavior and Russia's aggressive moves in the region, America begins working with Russia's disgraced prime minister to stage a coup.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • EXCELLENT addition to the series...

  • By shelley on 09-25-18

Pivoting back to cold war comrades

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

Reviewed: 01-05-19

Red War by Vince Flynn / Kyle Mills is the latest Mitch Rapp installment. This time out Russia is making threatening noises. It's president has been diagnosed with a terminal disease and the gloves come off as there appears to be no long term interest, while short term interest remains merely staying in power. With all outward intentions looking like a play for the Ukraine, Mitch assesses the true strategy lies elsewhere. Action jumps around as Mitch tries to be everywhere at once.

Rapp seems to be losing his bearings as the shift from Flynn to Mills is transitioning. The Russian president with brain cancer is a bit over the top. Russia seems schizophrenic with a nostalgic affection for Soviet era dominance, while issues jump back and forth between maintaining internal control versus acquiring more land and disrupting NATO. The military action scenes are overdone and the description of submarine warfare is way beyond reasonable for this scenario.

The narration as typical of the Rapp series is superb with that gravelly delivery. Character distinction is excellent and pacing is perfect for the flow of the plot.

  • Artificial Condition

  • By: Martha Wells
  • Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
  • Length: 3 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,643
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,521
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,514

It has a dark past - one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself "Murderbot." But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more. Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don't want to know what the "A" stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Awesome but painfully short.

  • By Brian Barry on 09-05-18

Murderbot is investigating

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

Reviewed: 01-03-19

Artificial Conditions by Martha Wells is the sequel to All Systems Red. Our friendly neighborhood murderbot is attempting to investigate his past and understand how everything went off the rails in book 1. He poses as a security bot, secbot, and is hired by a group wishing to retrieve some files on the same world he is heading to. Along the way, he 'sorta' teams up with an artificial intelligence running a spaceship and receives some mods and upgrades. File recovery is not without some trouble, but he manages to complete his assignment as well as uncover enough past information to relieve himself of guilt over his prior failure and point him in a new direction for more answers.

Wells further explores the notion of an entity needing to reestablish his humanity if for no other reason than to not stand out so much. At the same, there are more descriptions of other 'moded' entities such as security and sex bots. There is also continuation of the theme of less than human as well as artificial intelligences being fascinated and obsessed with soap operas.

The narration is well done with excellent character distinction and good pacing. This is a quick listen, although why the four separate releases remains a mystery; one single edition would have made a normal length listen.

  • Head On (Narrated by Wil Wheaton)

  • By: John Scalzi
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 7 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,530
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,250
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,234

Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent's head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are "threeps", robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden's Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real, and the crowds love it. Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • THIS is why I read SciFi! Scalzi gets into your head (be it on or off)

  • By C. White on 04-17-18

One big Haden headache

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

Reviewed: 01-02-19

John Scalzi's Head On is a standalone story in the Haden Syndrome universe first introduced with Lock In. The FBI duo of Van and Chris is back has they investigate the death of a Haden during game play a new professional "threep" sport. As they dig into the clues, the case becomes more and more complex as the league commissioner commits suicide and and the dead player is found to be having an affair with another player. From there things get even more complicated. Both Chris and Van conduct their investigation in there own unique styles with Van directly confronting her FBI colleagues.

Scalzi utilizes much of the same technology from Lock In with the addition of more specialty threeps. He also explores the potential for virtual reality in much greater detail compared to Lock In. Chris and Van appear to be shaping up as a durable duo for many future detective stories in the Haden universe.

As before, two version are offered as the chromosomal assignment for 'Chris' is never revealed. The male version is superbly down with a spot-on rendition of Chris. Character distinction is excellent and pacing is brisk in the typical Wheaton style.

  • The Scar

  • New Crobuzon, Book 2
  • By: China Mieville
  • Narrated by: Gildart Jackson
  • Length: 26 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 576
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 524
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 527

Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being transported to the fledgling colony of New Crobuzon. But the journey is not theirs alone. They are joined by a handful of travelers, each with a reason for fleeing the city. Among them is Bellis Coldwine, a renowned linguist whose services as an interpreter grant her passage - and escape from horrific punishment.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Huge and engrossing

  • By David on 10-04-16

High sea adventure

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

Reviewed: 12-31-18

The Scar by China Mieville is the 2nd installment in the New Crobuzon series. This is technically a standalone tale, although the main character, Bellis is a woman running away from her connection with the events in Book 1. Bellis is a language guru and takes a job on a ship to act as an interpreter. The ship takes an unusual course and based on a mysterious hitchhiker's information elects an even more obscure return, but is waylaid by pirates who operate a floating city fashioned from captured vessels. What transpires is a series of adventures to an island with mosquito-like people, the capture of a mythical creature to power the structure, and finally an attempt to connect with a region of the distant ocean where reality collapses and unlimited potential is encountered. Throughout, there are a few additional perspectives offered.

Several of the unusual intelligent lifeforms from Book 1 are present, along with some additional such as the island of mosquito people. Vampires play a prominent role. The floating city is rather progressive with all races living in apparent harmony, including the remade. The mythical sea creature that is targeted is a leviathan of the deep, a type of super-whale,. although clearly non-mammal. Mieville toys with reality with a "possible" sword that when activated is a super weapon.

The narration is decent, but ponderously slow and slows even more for soliloquies from specific individuals. Character distinction is well handled.

  • Blackfish City

  • A Novel
  • By: Sam J. Miller
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam
  • Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 66
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 60
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 60

After the climate wars, a floating city is constructed in the Arctic Circle, a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, complete with geothermal heating and sustainable energy. The city's denizens have become accustomed to a roughshod new way of living; however, the city is starting to fray along the edges - crime and corruption have set in, the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside direst poverty are spawning unrest, and a new disease called "the breaks" is ravaging the population.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Blew Me Away

  • By faithy on 04-29-18

Dystopic 1%'ers and Occupy adrift

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

Reviewed: 12-21-18

Sam J Miller's Blackfish City is a dystopic vision of the future following climate change and the collapse of world governments. Societies separate from sovereign nations have been established in the oceans by tapping into geothermal energy. Human nature persists and pretty soon the haves (landlords) and the havenots (tenants) are going at it. Into this mix add dysfunctional and corrupt local government and criminal gangs and you have the usual pattern of human history. An ensemble cast of various players, initially presented as unrelated end up having many connections.

The basic economic viability of this arrangement is never quite satisfactorily presented. A meta-AIDS disease, the "breaks" is extant. Nanotechnology has permitted the mental linkage of humans and animals with a genetic component. There's a typical "life is cheap" mentality, but the presumed fragility of this tenuous ecosystem is never explored.

The narration is reasonable, although character distinction is just acceptable.

  • 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 203
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 182
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 183

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 4,509
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4,159
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,147

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.