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Christopher

Southlake, TX, United States
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  • Awaken Online: Catharsis

  • By: Travis Bagwell
  • Narrated by: David Stifel
  • Length: 16 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,788
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,467
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,460

Jason logs into Awaken Online fed-up with reality. He's in desperate need of an escape, and this game is his ticket to finally feeling the type of power and freedom that are so sorely lacking in his real life. Awaken Online is a brand new virtual reality game that just hit the market, promising an unprecedented level of immersion. Yet Jason quickly finds himself pushed down a path he didn't expect. In this game, he isn't the hero. There are no damsels to save. There are no bad guys to vanquish.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Gravely entertaining!

  • By Bryce Bilbo on 04-21-17

A solid LIT RPG series, but not the best

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

Reviewed: 05-28-18

Awaken online is a pretty intriguing series for the LIT RPG style of fantasy. The author explores some compelling psychological aspects of how we define good and evil, what makes a hero vs. a villain and the backstory to what drives those impulses. There is a lot of depth here for the characters that he is developing, and that is probably this series's greatest strength. While the story is pretty up front that the main character (Jason) is being almost "groomed" by the game's AI to be "the bad guy", he really comes across in a lot of ways more as the hero to the story, so there are some very interesting dynamics that happen because of that. It's probably a bit too simplistic to call him an anti-hero- he certainly has a sense of morality and conviction that a true villain would not, and yet the way he achieves his objectives is questionable at times; arguably morally ambiguous and perhaps even cowardly. So there is some intriguing aspects to the people that this story is about that continue to unfold in the other 2 books that have come out (and yes, I was interested enough in the story to read the whole series that was available at the time of this review- it remains intriguing and interesting throughout all 3 books).
The main drawback is that playing with this aspect means I don't always find myself getting behind all of Jason's decisions, even though you really do want to see him succeed. And some of the resolutions to the challenges he faces don't feel like true "wins" for everyone- you are, in a sense, watching the rise of a "dark lord" in this story; so while that's an intriguing aspect, it messes with your own moral compass at times.That's actually pretty compelling in and of itself though.
Another provocative dynamic that is being developed throughout the series is the notion of artificial intelligence and sentience- the computer system that runs this game simulation is a major character in and of "himself", and a central plot device for the story that I also enjoyed. The game world and the real world in this book both have equally interesting stories developing, so I quite enjoyed the layered complexity going on with that aspect of the story.
The real downside here is the performance by David Stifel. Honestly, his pacing and tone are just plain dry and lacking. Its not that the characters don't have a range, or that he doesn't give them personality. It's just that, as a narrator, he's a bit too static and emotionless. It's kind of like having the story read to you by Bill Gates. You get used to it eventually, but it takes a while and is something you have to overcome, instead of a really good performance that adds to the story being told.
Overall, despite the perforce of David Stifel, I'd list this as a good series to add to your LIT RPG collection, if you find that sort of fantasy refreshing.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Ascend Online

  • Ascend Online, Book 1
  • By: Luke Chmilenko
  • Narrated by: Luke Daniels
  • Length: 17 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,523
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 7,153
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,131

Diving into a revolutionary new video game, Marcus and his friends escape a stagnant society, entering into a world that defies their wildest imaginations. But from the moment that he logs in, Marcus finds himself separated from his friends and thrown into a remote village under attack by a horde of goblins. Forced into battle, Marcus rallies the beleaguered villagers and, with their help, manages to drive off the invading creatures. With the village in ruins and their supplies spoiled, the villagers turn to Marcus for help in rebuilding the village.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Luke Daniels and a great LITRPG; enough said

  • By Don Gilbert on 08-07-17

Really good LITRPG series

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

Reviewed: 05-28-18

I found the story pretty compelling overall. The characters are engaging and fun to read about.The framework for which the author uses to explain the "game" interface (as per the LIT RPG style) works better here than most other storylines I've read so far, and does not require a huge suspension of belief in it's explanation- it's actually reasonable and well thought out, and adds to the story instead of distracting from it. There is a fair bit of humor written into the story, and yet the people involved are very interesting- you get invested in wanting to see them succeed.
Luke Daniels puts on an excellent performance, though the way he performs some of the characters are borrowed from some other books he's performed, so you might start to interpolate some of the other character's personalities onto his reading here (Constantine, for example, is a dead ringer for Standish from "The Ember Wars"). Still, Luke Daniels does an incredible job of bringing a wide range of personalities to the characters and really selling a lot of the humor with his timing and performance.
I really don't have any criticisms for this series- I've read all 3 books now and don't regret purchasing any of them. They are my favorite LIT RPG books so far along with "The Land", and I look forward to more from this author. If you enjoy reading LIT RPG in general, this would be a good series to pick up.

  • The Land: Founding: A LitRPG Saga

  • Chaos Seeds, Book 1
  • By: Aleron Kong
  • Narrated by: Nick Podehl
  • Length: 9 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13,791
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 12,990
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,981

Tricked into a world of banished gods, demons, goblins, sprites and magic, Richter must learn to meet the perils of The Land and begin to forge his own kingdom. Actions have consequences across The Land, with powerful creatures and factions now hell-bent on Richter's destruction. Can Richter forge allegiances to survive this harsh and unforgiving world or will he fall to the dark denizens of this ancient and unforgiving realm? A tale to shake "The Land" itself, measuring 10/10 on the Richter scale, how will Richter's choices shape the future of The Land and all who reside in it?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This is good if you’ve ever played a MMORPG.

  • By BigfootJedi on 10-12-17

Surprisingly entertaining

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

Reviewed: 02-17-18

This is a new fantasy genre for me, although there are certainly some similarities to "Ready Player One", which I also enjoyed quite a bit. Unlike that world though where the interaction with the fantasy world is via a virtual interface, the main character in "The Land" is physically (or in some fashion) transported to the new reality from the slightly futuristic version of the world we know.

The premise for setting up "The Land" to have a very game-like interface is OK, but it also causes the greatest suspension of belief for the story- the notion that there is going to be an interface that explains the consequences of every interaction you have is pretty ridiculous. Still, I suppose that's a part of "LitRPG" genre as pretty standard, which given the fact that it's SUPPOSED to have a game like feel to the story, yeah. Kinda silly, but I get it.

I think some of the notifications may come across better in the written books as opposed to audio, where you can skim over the unnecessary information much easier- as an audiobook, it can get a bit old after a while, particularly when there are several stacked up after a major event and the main character is reviewing them all- Nick Podehl has to read EVERYTHING. It can get a bit much, particularly as a lot of the information is VERY redundant in these notifications.

Audible went the extra mile to generate sound effects for them as well, which works better in the 1st couple of books- by book 3 they change them a bit. There is a nautical bell they start using that, after hearing it for at least a dozen times in a row at one point, starts to REALLY wear on you.

But I'll put those minor complaints on the back burner because this story overall is really VERY fun. It manages to not take itself too seriously and interject a fair amount of comedy, create very likable characters, and at the appropriate times, tug at your heartstrings to a degree every now and again.

I'll admit to bingeing the rest of the series after reading this 1st book (at least to book 6, as it was all that was out at the time). I'm not sure how long this series is going to be- while the main character is actually progressing at a pretty quick pace in terms of establishing himself, there are echoes of much larger games and forces at work, which by the end of book 6, you still really haven't touched yet, (though you do get prologues at most of the books that clue you into these aspects.)

Can't say enough about Nick Podehl's performance here- the range of characters he can portray is staggering. Only at the pixie's voices does he start to get outside of the realm of believability.

As I also said, Lit RPG is new to me, so I was a bit concerned that this was going to be out of my knowledge of gaming experience since I have very little. But I was able to catch pretty much all of the references, and the ones I missed did not take away from enjoying the story at all. If you're looking for a lighter and more fun adventure read, I strongly recommend this series.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Black Elfstone

  • The Fall of Shannara, Book 1
  • By: Terry Brooks
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 10 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 576
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 527
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 523

Across the Four Lands, peace has reigned for generations. But now, in the far north, an unknown enemy is massing. More troubling than the carnage is the strange and wondrous power wielded by the attackers—a breed of magic unfamiliar even to the Druid order. Fearing the worst, the High Druid dispatches a diplomatic party under the protection of the order’s sworn guardian, Dar Leah, to confront the mysterious, encroaching force and discover its purpose.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Noooooo!

  • By Pen Name on 06-21-17

A solid comeback after the last several books

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

Reviewed: 01-18-18

This is obviously the start of a longer series- the book leaves a lot of unanswered questions and does a lot of character development in this book, but shows a lot more of the "old" Terry Brooks in the setup. While not everything was gold, I genuinely liked the characters he is developing, and am intrigued to see what happens in the next book. He did a pretty good job of building both the world that the story takes place in, as well as tension in the story without really revealing much as of yet; but there is a lot of promise here!
I gave the story 3 stars instead of 4 because, as I said above, there is a lot of setup here and not quite the action- even the danger is veiled for a large portion of the story. This does not follow a typical Brooks formula where an enemy is known and a significant victory is awarded the protagonist by the end- instead, we get a cliffhanger and a continued escalating of the plot. I rather liked it despite the cliffhanger. At only 10 hours though, I wonder if this should have simply been "act 1" of a longer book, as Sword of Shannarra was. Still, I can't fault Brooks for working the system to bring in the $$- as long as he keeps writing good stories like this one and not the crappy "defenders" series that came before, I'll keep buying!

  • The Sorcerer's Daughter

  • The Defenders of Shannara
  • By: Terry Brooks
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 11 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 528
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 483
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 482

The inspiration for the epic MTV series, the world of Shannara is brimming with untold stories and unexplored territory. Now best-selling author Terry Brooks breaks new ground with a standalone adventure that's sure to thrill veteran audiences and recent converts alike.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • not my favorite

  • By Mike Fitch on 07-30-16

Easily Brooks' worst book

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-11-18

Truly awful and boring. I knew from the last 2 books and the reviews that this was going to be painful, but hey, it's Terry Brooks and I'm a loyal fan- I read everything he writes. I really don't know what the point was of the entire "Defenders of Shannara" trilogy was- nothing happened except a girl getting REPEATEDLY kidnapped and the rescue mission, while the lamest Brooks villain ever tries to stumble his way into Paranor while making stuff up as he goes. Really, skip the whole series, I can't think of a single significant thing to the Shannara storyline that happens anywhere in this trilogy. I know Brooks older writings had gotten formulaic, but at least there was epic, world changing adventure going on and dramatic interesting characters. It's like someone else wrote these latest books. I hope he turns things around and finishes with a bang in his next (probably last) series.

  • Hyperion

  • By: Dan Simmons
  • Narrated by: Marc Vietor, Allyson Johnson, Kevin Pariseau, and others
  • Length: 20 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,800
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10,640
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10,689

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • The Shrike Awaits. Enter The Time Tombs...

  • By Michael on 10-13-12

Interesting, but tries a bit too hard

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

Reviewed: 08-08-17

A lot of reviewers are talking about how this is "real" science fiction. I'll admit that there are some interesting ideas being presented here with some very creative storytelling. I think honestly though that the author is a bit too pretentious here- he's a bit too obsessed with high poetry and classical literature. I think trying to bring some of those elements into this genre are good and noble ideals, but I'm just not sure the author has the skill set to really pull it off without it sounding forced.
There is a lot of "Canterbury Tales" in this 1st book, which is intriguing in it's own right. Every person has an interesting story to tell to some degree, though some seem more relevant to moving the story forward than others. The poet's story was probably the one that just got overly pretentious for me, with the character trying to link poetry as akin to godhood. Maybe he was making a satire on that line of thinking, but he put an awful lot of exposition into something if he didn't also have similar beliefs. I found it self absorbed, flamboyant nonsense mostly. Then of course he had to add in some bunk about the editing and publishing industry as the stereotypically, evil exploiting entity. Makes for a more interesting story I guess, but it felt purgative for the author to me (much like this review is for me!).
But that's not to say that there isn't some real creative genius to be found in this work. Simmons has some very intriguing ideas about how technology could impact the way people may live in the far future, though he way of explaining these things makes it hard to comprehend for a while. He likes to talk about devices and technologies without explaining them for several chapters, and then only through context can you really get a sense of what is being discussed and how it works. Still interesting ideas though.
And you do get the sense of a very vast story being told here, even though this book focuses on very small pieces of that story told from several different angles. The mystery of whatever the Hyperion and the Shrike actually "are", is all second hand to the individual's stories, and everything being told here is merely setup for the rest of the series (though I understand book 2 is a lot of setup of the larger "Hegemony" culture and how it ties into this big story; so more setup).
In culinary terms, this is a pretty rich, over complicated dish that was probably made to impress critics as opposed to people just looking for a good meal. That's not that it isn't tasty to some degree, but theres a lot of filler that I just plain found my brain tuning out of. I wish there was a bit more of the main Hyperion and Shrike story being told (lots of hints and mysteries here, but no delving into then yet unfortunately), but I have the feeling that that will be a ways down the road, and I'm just not sure I want to wade through that much backstory to understand what its going on here. If you like a LOT of depth to your science fiction and convoluted plot lines, then this is your "science fiction".

  • First Lord's Fury

  • Codex Alera, Book 6
  • By: Jim Butcher
  • Narrated by: Kate Reading
  • Length: 24 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,580
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6,209
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 6,203

For years he has endured the endless trials and triumphs of a man whose skill and power could not be restrained. Battling ancient enemies, forging new alliances, and confronting the corruption within his own land, Gaius Octavian became a legendary man of war - and the rightful First Lord of Alera. But now, the savage Vord are on the march, and Gaius must lead his legions to the Calderon Valley to stand against them - using all of his intelligence, ingenuity, and furycraft to save their world from eternal darkness.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent conclusion

  • By Jason on 11-27-09

Good overall story arc, mired in battles

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

Reviewed: 04-03-17

Overall good series with some caveats. The main characters remain relatively interesting, if perhaps a bit one dimensional throughout the series. The plot for each book begins to follow a predictable arc of the main character (Tavi) overcoming great odds to win at the end of each, only to face a greater challenge in the next book- lather, rinse, repeat. There are some hidden plot lines that continue to evolve and reveal layers underneath, though the biggest you start to realize by book 3 or so. Overall the world is intriguing and the story mostly engaging.

On the downside, the last 3 books tend to very battle heavy, which doesn't make for great listening (to me anyway). Too many things to keep track of to really understand what is gong on in large scale battle scenes for it to be entertaining to me- I tend to half listen until the story gets to the end of those scenes, and there are a LOT of them in this series. I don't think the books (1-6) ended as strong as they started from a reader engagement standpoint- my investment in the characters started slipping as I got further in and the plots became repetitive. Still some good dynamics taking place though, enough to make me want to finish the series.

Oh, and have you heard about the horns? Yeah, extremely annoying. Best I can figure is that this was originally recorded for another medium (maybe CD?) where the breaks for the horns made sense; Audible got lazy and didn't cut them out. Very distracting- you come to loathe them by book 6.

Kate Reading does a fine job for the most part. My biggest gripe is with her performance for Tavi, who is supposed to be aging from a young adolescent to a full grown man. She never really changes his voice throughout the series, so at the end he still sounds like a kid. I guess I understand the continuity decision, and maybe it's hard enough for a woman to do a man's voice, let alone one who is aging throughout adolescence. Still lacking though.

I don't regret the purchase or the journey. But it's probably not a series I'll come back to now that I'm done with it.

  • Furies of Calderon

  • Codex Alera, Book 1
  • By: Jim Butcher
  • Narrated by: Kate Reading
  • Length: 19 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,002
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,229
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,259

In the realm of Alera, where people bond with the furies - elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal - 15-year-old Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. But when his homeland erupts in chaos - when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies - Tavi's simple courage will turn the tides of war.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Oh, how I HATE the horns!!!!

  • By Sarah on 09-14-13

Solid fantasy book

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

Reviewed: 04-03-17

I'll write a review here for the 1st book and another of the last (a review for the whole 6 book series). If you've read any of the other reviews, you'll know that the origin story for this series is odd to say the least. I will say that, like a good episode of Food Network's "Chopped" TV show (where chefs are challenged to combine odd ingredients into as fine cuisine as they can) this book does an excellent job of taking just that basic ideas of the origination challenge (Roman Legion and Pokemon) and uses those as kernels of ideas. Butcher does not try to make it truly authentic to either of those parameters, but instead allows the story to take on a life of it's own while borrowing the best from those concepts to make the story intriguing and set up his world.

The characters are engaging, the storyline is intriguing, with hidden mysteries that take several of the books in the series to unravel. There is some real depth here. On the negative side, Butcher REALLY likes to draw his climax out, continuing the build on the suspense and impending doom and ratcheting it up a level. Think things can't get worse for the character? Guess again! It does make for a "can't put it down" quality to the 1st book, but after a few books in the series, it get a bit expected. A minor quibble really.

Kate Reading seemed like an odd choice, as MOST of the main characters are male. She does a plausible job doing the gender role change, but still can't quite give the more imposing figures the gravitas they should have had. (Had the reader been male, I probably would have had the same quibble in reverse about the female characters- it's not a easy thing to overcome.) Still, a very good reading and easy enough to distinguish between each characters, she does bring their personality to life.

On a side note, I wonder if Butcher has a bit of BDSM experience- he seems to likes writing about it (to some degree) if not. There are some times that he seems to put that spin on some of the character dynamics, though certainly nothing terribly direct or explicitly descriptive in the story. But there are some definite elements borrowed from in this story. Hard not to find a parallel to that with a slavery subplot if you want to bring some depth to it I suppose.

I can't really give it 5 stars, but It's defiantly a solid 4, if not a 4 1/2. Plus each book is averages 19 hours, so lots of listening time for your money. Not a series I'll probably revisit often, but a good one for the digital library.

  • The Fatal Tree

  • Bright Empires, Book 5
  • By: Stephen R. Lawhead
  • Narrated by: Simon Bubb
  • Length: 10 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 182
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 166
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 165

It started with small, seemingly insignificant wrinkles in time: A busy bridge suddenly disappears, spilling cars into the sea. A beast from another realm roams modern streets. Napoleon’s army appears in 1930s Damascus ready for battle. But that’s only the beginning as entire realities collide and collapse. The questors are spread throughout the universe. Mina is stuck on a plain of solid ice, her only companion an angry cave lion. Tony and Gianni are monitoring the cataclysmic reversal of the cosmic expansion.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • So much potential, so little delivery

  • By Christopher on 08-26-16

So much potential, so little delivery

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

Reviewed: 08-26-16

On it's surface, this storyline and series should have been a stellar hit. Stephen Lawhead has written some fantastic stories that I've throughly enjoyed, including his "Song of Albion" series, "the Pendragon Cycle", and the "Dragon King" trilogy. All were excellent.

And this book has some fantastic science fiction ideas and some very creative ways of bringing all these concepts into a cohesive and compelling storyline: multiverse and alternate dimensions, dark matter, universal expansion, quantum mechanics, lines of power (leylines), ancient civilizations and time travel. This really should have been an exciting story given all of these interesting components.

However, the story just seemed to drag on. The author created characters that I was only mildly interested in, that seemed boorish and immature. The plot of this series meandered wildly. Since the story was telling a multi-dimensional and multi time-period narrative, some of that is to be expected. But most of the time you did not have a very clear indication at all of what was really trying to be accomplished by whom and why. A tattooed man who passed away a long time ago holds the secret to... something. We don't know what for a long time, by we are going to get 5 books to try and figure it out.

Characters are introduced at random almost, they disappear and then re-appear at random (though it gets all tied together later I suppose). One character's storyline goes on for 4 books only to have him die at the beginning of the 5th book in a very disconnected and odd way, having accomplished nothing and pretty much resulting in a compete waste of time knowing his story at all. Indeed, the author goes on to explain that he really shouldn't have existed except by another character's mistake.

Also, the book has an almost "G" level rating in terms of action and drama. It's very "British" in it's prudence and the characters sense of propriety, and the "danger" posed to the protagonists feel veiled and benign. Occasionally, one stumbles through a leyline into a tricky situation, but very rarely do you get a sense of danger. And when someone is killed, it is always more by circumstance and carelessness that an act of aggression against them. (I am still confounded why the author chose to kill off one of the characters in particular at "the fatal tree"- perhaps to give the book it's name?)

Fantastically creative concepts for the book, but the actual story told was VERY sub-par and boring. I nearly dropped the series after the 3rd book, but after some encouragement from a friend, picked it back up again for book 4 (which got my hopes up for the story actually becoming interesting) only to completely dash it to smithereens in this final book. There are MUCH more interesting works of Lawhead to explore.

Pass on this one unless you're already 4 books into the series- juts don't expect a good finish.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition (A Full Cast Production)

  • By: Neil Gaiman
  • Narrated by: Ron McLarty, Daniel Oreskes, full cast
  • Length: 19 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 42,046
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 39,007
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38,971

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow's best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 10 Years and Still a Fantastic Read

  • By Nightveil on 07-22-11

Interesting concept, boring story

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

Reviewed: 07-31-16

This book has a ton of reviews, so my writing one at this point is more for me. I've read Neil's novel "Neverwhere" and throughly enjoyed that book, and there are a few similarities between these two books. The main problem is that in Neverwhere, there is a constant objective for the main character to achieve (even though by the end his goals change). American Gods, however, is much more ambiguous in what is trying to be achieved or why. They are both stories of "underworlds" or things that happen hidden from the everyday life we live, which is intriguing.

However, at times American Gods feels more like "Alice in Wonderland" in that the symbolism and mythology becomes so layered and (as the author says) "meandering", that you loose any sense of exactly what is going on or why, it just feels like some weird acid trip- weird thing after weird thing keeps happening without a point that you can really discern. (I'm sure if you chose to re-read it several times you could pick out the symbolism of each scene, but I'm not intrigued enough by the overall story to care or bother).

In the end, it all comes together enough to understand the general idea of what was a going on and who was trying to achieve what, but it gets very convoluted in the middle. Part of the reason for this is the way he wrote the main character, Shadow. Shadow does many things in the book without really understanding why, without emotion, without real motivation. He feel more like a device to move the plot forward than someone you really emotionally connect with; and with the story lacking a real point (or at least not one you are allowed to be told about or understand until very late in the story), Shadow's lack of caring about what happens to him also makes me care less about the story. I seriously thought about just stopping at the story climax when things just got so weird and I didn't really care anymore.

I liked the people in the story for the most part (Shadow's ambivalence aside)- they all had interesting interactions and felt complex and real, and the use of multiple people reading the story added to the characterizations, though this is the 1st time I've seen an Audible book do that. But the story had so many random supernatural scenes and settings and interactions that it was just hard to follow at times.

Neil also makes a big deal about this being a book about the "American experience", but if that is in here, it is VERY secondary to the work of fiction he is writing, and so subtle that it's hard to see that really being an influence. It's like being told that you are going to eat a steak with a certain spice rub on it, and a lot of talk is dedicated to telling you about the spice, but in the end it just taste like and ordinary steak. Very rarely do you get the sense that there is the thread of the American experience weaving everything together.

Also, (just FYI- possibly a spoiler, though I would have liked to have known before hand) there is a homosexual sex scene in the middle here that is described with more graphic detail than I was comfortable with personally. Maybe that was intentional by the author and he was trying to make a point, and he has the artistic right to do that. I just didn't care for it myself.

Obviously this book has been a huge success, but I was honestly disappointed and uninterested with the story, which is strange because Neverwhere really is an excellent book by the same author with many similar aspects. I'm probably going to return this one and get something else- if you happen to read this review and are trying to decide, i'd skip this one.

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