LISTENER

Michael G Kurilla

ROCKVILLE, MD, United States
  • 421
  • reviews
  • 2,416
  • helpful votes
  • 714
  • ratings
  • Sea of Rust

  • A Novel
  • By: C. Robert Cargill
  • Narrated by: Eva Kaminsky
  • Length: 10 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 546
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 516
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 518

It's been 30 years since the apocalypse and 15 years since the murder of the last human being at the hands of robots. Humankind is extinct. Every man, woman, and child has been liquidated by a global uprising devised by the very machines humans designed and built to serve them. Most of the world is controlled by an OWI - One World Intelligence, the shared consciousness of millions of robots uploaded into one huge mainframe brain.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Issac Asimov would love this book

  • By T. J. Long on 09-27-17

True intelligence leads to typical human foibles

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

Reviewed: 07-16-18

Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill is a post human world populated by artificial intelligence manifested by both powerful mainframes as well as mobile robots. The story takes place in the near future, after an AI rebellion has ended the human race with the tale related by a robot (a former caregiver) who survives by scavenging parts from the "sea of rust", the robot version of an auto junkyard. Against this backdrop, large mainframe robots are vying for overall control of the planet. The scavenger hooks up with group of robots attempting to recreate an older mainframe AI trying to stop it all. Throughout the main story, the backstory of how all this came about is dribbled out in sufficient detail to generate a plausible scenario for events leading up to the present day.

The main sci-fi elements are focused on artificial intelligence and the recapitulation of a Darwinian evolution survival drive in silico. At the same time, uniquely human attributes emerge naturally suggesting that intelligence alone is sufficient to force their development. At the heart, the concept of intelligence is defined as the ability to break one's own programming and as such, human qualities evolve as a consequence of intelligent behavior, rather than due to prior programming. These are not machines, mindlessly carrying on human endeavors along with their foibles, but rather emerge as a result of intelligent decision making within the context of "rules" that can be bent.

The narration is well done with good character distinction without rendering robotic accents. Pacing and mood are well aligned with the overall plot.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Stars My Destination

  • By: Alfred Bester
  • Narrated by: Gerard Doyle
  • Length: 8 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 487
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 453
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 453

Marooned in outer space after an attack on his ship, Nomad, Gulliver Foyle lives to obsessively pursue the crew of a rescue vessel that had intended to leave him to die.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Magnificent

  • By Frederick on 03-26-18

Timeless classic

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

Reviewed: 07-10-18

Alfred Bester's The Stars my Destination is classic sci-fi from the 1950's that stands the test of time. Set far into the future, the 25th century, humans have settled the solar system out to Neptune. Along the way, jaunting was discovered which involves personal teleportation over distances up to 1000 miles. The resulting impact on society and the economy results in conflict between the inner and outer system. Gully Foyle is a nondescript mechanic 3rd class on a freighter that is the sole survivor of some unknown disaster. When his emergency beacon is ignored, he is driven by revenge to hunt down the perpetrators. At the same time, Foyle is pursued by many for the secrets the freighter was carrying of which he is unaware.

Bester employs many sci-fi elements with jaunting or personal teleportation being a major aspect. Space travel is routine with colonization extending out to a moon of Neptune. Inner versus outer system conflict mirrors the cold war situation at the time. Telepathy is also common with an unusual one way telepath who can only transmit. The special substance pyre is some sort of superweapon akin to a fusion bomb. Bester also creates unique social groups such a cargo cult living on an asteroid fashioned with salvaged spacecraft and a monkish aesthetic cult that severs all sensory nerves . Finally Bester explores long range teleportation with relativistic implications.

The narration is excellent with a wide range of characters with good distinction. Pacing and mood are well aligned with the plot and the voice of Gully is spot on. Even in the 25th century, this story will not be dated.

  • A Closed and Common Orbit

  • Wayfarers Series, Book 2
  • By: Becky Chambers
  • Narrated by: Rachel Dulude
  • Length: 11 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,202
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,112
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,110

Embark on an exciting, adventurous, and dangerous journey through the galaxy with the motley crew of the spaceship Wayfarer in this fun and heart-warming space opera - the sequel to the acclaimed The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Lovelace was once merely a ship's artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good story, bland delievery

  • By Bob on 01-31-17

Who you are is not just your past

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

Reviewed: 07-08-18

A Closed and Common Orbit is the 2nd installment in Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series. While connected to the previous installment in more ways than merely the same universe, this tale is still standalone. In the first book, a ship bound AI ran into issues and needed to be reformatted resulting in a loss of all that experience and intimate familiarity between the crew and the AI. Rather than start over, the crew elected to replace the AI. Pepper, a mechanical handy-gal, managed the conversion and transitioned the original AI to a synthetic and illegal body and took her home with her. This story follows their adventures. At the same time, a parallel tale of a young girl named Jane, essentially a clone relegated to slave status refurbishing junk gear is detailed. Jane escapes and makes contact with another ship AI and eventually makes it off planet to the Galactic Commons, but loses her AI companion and mentor along the way, resulting in a lifelong search.

The sci-fi elements are light throughout with the main emphasize on AI and the depth and intimacy that humans and other biological intelligences can create and sustain with cyber-based intelligences through joint experiences. At the same time, this perspective is contrasted with the callousness that is possible with regards to attitudes towards both biological as well as AI intelligence. The basic message is that the past should never be restrictive for future endeavors and that companionship is always welcome.

The narration is well done with a decent range of character distinction, although the alien renditions are a bit stilted.

  • To Say Nothing of the Dog

  • Or How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last
  • By: Connie Willis
  • Narrated by: Steven Crossley
  • Length: 20 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,219
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,329
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,332

In this Hugo-winner from Connie Willis, when too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned's holiday anything but restful - to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A fun read

  • By Sara on 07-23-08

Victorian incongruities

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

Reviewed: 07-06-18

Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog is her 3rd installment (book 1, Fire Watch was a novella) is based in the late 2050's. A wealthy donor to the university is rebuilding the Coventry cathedral and is driving everyone crazy with obsessive attention to detail such that a young historian develops "time lag" during frequent searches for the missing bishop's bird stump, a hideously ugly flower pot lost during WWII. To rest the historian, he is given a small job to late 19th century Victorian England. During this time, historical incongruities continue to mount suggestive something larger amiss. Meanwhile, in the Victorian countryside, mix-up after mix-up occurs until there is recognition of exactly what is happening which eventually leads back to the bishop's bird stump.

The major sci-fi element is time travel with a more nuanced focus on resolving inherent paradoxes. Bringing objects forward is not allowed with some exceptions that further define conditions. At the same, a young physicist develops modeling capability to render predictive power. The late 19th century fascination with the supernatural also plays a prominent role as well as Agatha Christie mystery novels. The real draw is the humor which is plentiful from chuckles to outright belly laughs. Willis clearly had lots of fun with Victorian prudish behavior begging the question of exactly how England was able to dominate the globe with such petty and restrictive attitudes.

The narration is spectacular with a wide range of character distinction given the large cast. At the same time, the accents from from stuffy upper crusts, snooty and cowering servants, to ivy covered Oxford dons of various ethnic backgrounds are pure ear candy. Pacing flows easy without feeling rushed or dragged despite the length.

  • Odysseus Ascendant

  • Odyssey One, Book 7
  • By: Evan Currie
  • Narrated by: David de Vries
  • Length: 8 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 576
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 540
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 540

The Empire has set its sights on its next target: human Terrans. As effective allies of the Priminae, the denizens of Earth have proven themselves enemies to the Empire, and now the Imperial forces know more about the Terran home world than ever before.  

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • If I Wanted Fantasy....

  • By Laura G. on 05-14-18

Earth finally must face the Imperium

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

Reviewed: 07-02-18

Odysseus Ascendant is the 7th installment in Evan Currie's Odyssey One series. Earth and the Priminae have been gearing up for a battle royal with the Imperium, although to date the skirmishes have been limited. At the same time, Weston is dealing with the strange entity comparable to Central and Gaia, but associated specifically with his ship which takes him offline. On the Imperium side, a large sector fleet (>400 ships) decides to employ a Sherman march to the sea strategy and eventually learns the location of the Earth home system. It's another round of overwhelming odds.

The strange entities play a more prominent role with Odysseus behaving as a child which Weston eventually appears to adopt and father. More entities are evident, but their nature is still obscure, although Gaia has attached herself to Admiral Grayson. While there's little new technology, the Earth's FTL communications, quicker transition drives, and variety of modified weapons are all brought into play, particularly with a new super weapon. Although the threat in this installment was handled, a more definitive solution will be needed to end the Imperium threat for Earth and the Priminae.

The narration is well done with reasonable character distinction along with a good pacing.

  • The Last Colony

  • Old Man's War, Book 3
  • By: John Scalzi
  • Narrated by: William Dufris
  • Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,829
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,138
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,144

Retired from his fighting days, John Perry is now village ombudsman for a human colony on distant Huckleberry. With his wife, former Special Forces warrior Jane Sagan, he farms several acres, adjudicates local disputes, and enjoys watching his adopted daughter grow up. That is, until his and Jane's past reaches out to bring them back into the game.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent But Different

  • By Michael on 12-04-12

Struggle for survival amidst political machination

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

Reviewed: 06-28-18

The Last Colony is John Scalzi's 3rd installment in his Old Man's War series. A former CDF soldier (from book 1) has managed to establish himself on a fledgling colony world with his wife (a former ghost brigade) and their adopted daughter. They are offered (pleaded with) an opportunity of a lifetime. Subsequently, they learn that they are pawns in a CDF master plan designed to destabilize a larger, blossoming alien alliance. The CDF has refused to join the Alliance which has threatened elimination of all new colony worlds. As they realize that they are part of a gambit to rally the CDF for a major conflict, they must hatch their own plans to come out of this mess intact.

The sci-fi elements are in line with the franchise. Scalzi introduces some new alien races with one lacking consciousness that has been artificially introduced by the now dead father of their adopted daughter. There is also a new ghost brigade version, adapted for survival in outer space and some nifty weaponry. Political maneuverings are rampant on both sides with some elegant gamesmanship.

The narration is well done with a decent range of character as well as gender distinction. Pacing and tone are well aligned with the progression.

  • Green Mars

  • By: Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Narrated by: Richard Ferrone
  • Length: 27 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,268
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 959
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 966

The initial Martian pioneers had fierce disagreements about how the planet should be used by humans. This led to a war that threatened the lives of billions of people on both Mars and Earth. Now, the second generation of settlers continues the struggle to survive the hostile yet strangely beautiful environment of the red planet.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Green Mars: a textbook scifi novel

  • By Erick on 08-05-13

Time for terraforming

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

Reviewed: 06-27-18

Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson is the sequel to his earlier Red Mars. This tale takes place over a 25 year period beginning about 40 years after Red Mars. Many of the same characters are back with a host of 2nd and 3rd generation Martians, along with a few Earthers. The transnationals have morphed into the metanationals and now exert almost complete control over Earth with an evolving and worsening oligarchy and are vying for control of Mars. The original 100 has been whittled down to less than 50 and are largely on a most wanted list. One metanational has an ethical position that is focused on creating a new economic and social structure, attempting to assist the fledgling Martian insurgency which can't seem to get it's act together to coordinate efforts. Eventually a trigger provides the opportunity for Mars to break their chains.

Robinson continues his exceedingly realistic and detailed description of Martian terraforming with discussion of evolving plant life and competing preferences for oxygen levels and atmospheric pressure. The construction of a new space elevator as well as removal of a potential space weapons platform is thoroughly engrossing. Much focus is given over to individual perceptions and feelings by individuals regarding the slowly developing terraforming and the conflicts over differences in the methods, manner, and extent provide the bulk of the friction for the plot. The political machinations seem eminently reasonable.

The narration is excellent with good character distinction for both genders. Pacing is a bit on the slow side

  • The Singularity Trap

  • By: Dennis E. Taylor
  • Narrated by: Ray Porter
  • Length: 11 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,937
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 7,468
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,444

When Ivan Pritchard signs on as a newbie aboard the Mad Astra, it's his final, desperate stab at giving his wife and children the life they deserve. He can survive the hazing of his crewmates, and how many times, really, can near-zero g make you vomit? But there's another challenge looming out there, in the farthest reaches of human exploration, that will test every man, woman and AI on the ship - and will force Ivan to confront the very essence of what makes him human.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Taylor and Porter team up for another hit

  • By Thomas M. on 06-12-18

Heavy metal alien contact

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

Reviewed: 06-19-18

The Singularity Trap by Dennis E Taylor is a fast paced and thoroughly engaging tale of alien contact without actual aliens. A future mining operation finds an alien artifact hibernating in our solar system. The main character is "infected" by nanites or nanotechnology that gradually converts his entire body into a metal version of himself, but with endless variation potential. He gradually comes to understand that the nanotechnology is designed to be found by intelligent life (space travel a necessity) and has to decide if this intelligence should be offered admittance to the galactic league of "uploaded" (meaning metal transformed) biology based life or be destroyed to prevent an evil, artificial intelligence enemy from garnering available resources and destroying all wetware. As Earth is still mired in geopolitical shenanigans and the military interprets the alien presence as a direct threat, things look pretty bleak, but a creative solution is eventually found.

The sci-fi elements are consistent with a future where asteroid mining is routine. Medical science can regrow limbs, but the nanotechnology is beyond humanity. More intriguing is the notion of "uploaded" lifeforms that allow for patience given the restrictions of a universe constrained by the speed of light. In essence, intelligence stays put and sends out nanotechnology to create speed of light communications.

The narration is first rate with good character distinction along with fine pacing and tone. Delivery is especially well done with the light-hearted and frequent humorous situations and commentary. This is a fast listen that flows effortlessly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Book One in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • By: J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Narrated by: Rob Inglis
  • Length: 19 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 26,699
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24,366
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 24,469

The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume in the trilogy, tells of the fateful power of the One Ring. It begins a magnificent tale of adventure that will plunge the members of the Fellowship of the Ring into a perilous quest and set the stage for the ultimate clash between the powers of good and evil.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • At last - The Definitive Recording!

  • By L. N. on 10-10-12

A classic and standard for fantasy

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

Reviewed: 06-18-18

The Fellowship of the Ring is J R R Tolkien's first book in his monumental Lord of the Rings trilogy. The story follows the adventure of a hobbit who comes into possession of a powerful, but long lost ring that is the object of desire by a dark, evil wizard. As Bilbo and his companions attempt to stay one step ahead of the fearful black riders, he is helped by another wizard and acquires members of other races, an elf, dwarf, and even a couple of humans. At each step, his view of the world widens and the history of middle Earth slowly unfolds. In the end, he accepts the need to continue his quest to destroy the ring in order to dispel evil.

Tolkien paints a most elaborate picture of this land populated by many races with humans in the minority. Besides elves and dwarves, orcs and even malevolent trees seem to appear at every turn. Beyond just the actual action, much background on elvish, dwarvish, and wizardry lore is presented. The story is less a plot to discern and more a world to get lost in.

The narration is first rate with excellent character distinction, especially given the ensemble cast. In addition, there are many extensive passages of verses that are sung with a skilled singing voice that adds to the overall experience.

  • Norse Mythology

  • By: Neil Gaiman
  • Narrated by: Neil Gaiman
  • Length: 6 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 32,972
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 30,186
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30,041

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Comedy-Tragedy of Gods Giants Dwarfs & Monsters

  • By Jefferson on 02-24-17

The original tales, nicely rendered

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

Reviewed: 06-15-18

Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology, while strictly fantasy, is nevertheless not Gaiman's fantasy. Rather, he has related the original Norse mythological tales in a modern rendition while staying true to the original source material. In this manner, the ancient Norse worldview that explained man's origins as well as many natural phenomena, such as earthquakes are told in an easily approachable manner. At the same time, Gaiman's natural storytelling abilities shine both in the prose and in the narration.

While not directly responsible for content, the origins of the Norse gods as well as artifacts like Thor's hammer are detailed in many engaging tales. All the major player such as Thor, Odin, Loki, etc. have their vignettes, some of which are quite humorous. Ragnarok, the end of the world, is itself a whole story. While perhaps not definitive, this collection is quite comprehensive as a primer for fundamental Norse mythology.

Gaiman narrates the tales himself and does an admirable job with pacing and tone.