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Editorial Reviews

Fool’s War, leisurely narrated with warm engaging uplift by Parisa Johnston, is a futuristic science-fiction space story written by Sarah Zettel, whose first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the prestigious Philip K. Dick award.

Katmer Al-Shei owns a company that deals in a new form of communication. While on a business trip to Deep Space (hope she at least got business class for that commute) she is misidentified as a traitor and spy. As Al-Shei works to untangle the mess she’s now in, she stumbles upon a series of conspiracies that are of galactic consequence.

Publisher's Summary

In this New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a strange new life form threatens all of humanity, and only a fool would stand in its way. Katmer Al Shei has done well with the starship Pasadena, cutting corners where necessary to keep her crew paid and her journeys profitable. But there are two things she will never skimp on: her crew - and her fool. For a long space journey, a certified Fool’s Guild clown is essential, to amuse, excite, and otherwise distract the crew from the drudgeries of interstellar flight.

Her newest fool, Evelyn Dobbs, is a talented jester. But does she have enough wit to save mankind? In the computers of the Pasadena, something is emerging. The highly sophisticated software that makes interstellar travel practical is playing host to a new form of artificial intelligence, one with its own mind, its own needs, and its own desperate fears. Combatting this terrifying new threat becomes the fool’s secret fight. Evelyn Dobbs’s personal war might just cost Katmer Al Shei everything, and everyone, she holds dear. But if they fail, humanity itself is lost for good.

©1997 Sarah Zettel (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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A better future

The title doesn't refer to the world of the novel, but to the future of sci-fi as a genre. Ms. Zettel presents a more inclusive world, exposing not just compelling hypotheticals but also a diversity of people, viewpoints, and cultures.

This book WILL get you outside your cultural bubble, if you give it a chance.

History rhymes though, we should remember the first modern work of science fiction can be credited to Shelley's Frankenstein. The new Prometheus was also a story that chafed at the edges of cultural norms. It wasn't just great because it explored the cultural ramifications of conquering death, and Fool's War didn't just postulate about the potential form and politics of machine sentience. Both books have real insight into what it is to live a meaningful and good life.

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interesting universe

Any additional comments?

Interesting book. The universe the book was set in was interesting. Each planet, ship and other setting was well thought out and wonderfully described.

The complexities of the main character's family and religion were also interesting and lent a realistic dimension to the characters.

However, the plot grew well beyond the characters control. The turns in book lead the main character down a rapidly declining slope with all hope lost again and again. Although the characters were colorful, their roles morphed beyond reasonable expectations.

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  • Diane
  • 12-05-17

Great story

This is a great story about what might happen if sentient AIs came into existence and tried to take over the network where they were created. It’s also about the futility of war.

I liked the narrator at first, she has a pleasant voice and could make subtle differentiations between characters using accents and speech mannerisms. However as the book wore on, he odd, very frequent pauses in the middle of sentences (much worse than William Shatner!) became almost unbearable. It was especially bad through techno-babble. A good producer could have edited those pauses out so it flowed more naturally. But the producer also didn’t leave enough space between scene shifts, so that it was a bit confusing and took a little while to figure out that someone else was the focus of the narrative somewhere else. The visual lack should be made up for with longer gaps. Oh well.

Did I say the story was great?

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  • Gadget
  • 04-21-16

Spaces in all the wrong places

Narration: throughout the book, the narrator kept pausing in odd places. Whether this was due to a lack of preparation, or idiosyncratic editing, it was distracting. Most audiobooks that I've listened to don't suffer from this problem, so there seems little excuse for it.

Conversely, there was a distinct lack of gaps between sections within chapters. This was especially evident later in the story, as the viewpoint frequently switched between characters.

Apart from that, the narrator was very clear, and it was generally easy to distinguish between characters.

Story: judging by the Amazon reviews, this is going to be highly subjective. I thought there were some good ideas, but it suffered from a very slow start, meaningless technobabble, and a number of shaky premises.