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Publisher's Summary

Humanity is in hiding. Invention, progress, change... all are forbidden. Now it's time to change all that. The science-fiction epic of the decade begins here.

When Earth herself lay under siege by an enemy humankind could not defeat, mankind undertook one last throw of the dice: Operation Ark. Earth's final colonizing expedition was meant to build a new civilization, on a planet so distant even the Gbaba might never find it and without the high-tech infrastructure whose emissions might betray its location.

Eight centuries later, a commander from that Expedition, Nimue Alban, woke up in a cave on a planet called Safehold. She was surprised to discover that the fanatic administrators of Operation Ark had used mind-control techniques to create a false, brutally suppressive religion whose entire purpose was to forbid invention and innovation forever.

But a tiny fraction within Operation Ark's leadership remembered the truth and believed in human dignity and freedom. They've given Nimue Alban a carefully hidden cache of technology and the capabilities of the android body in which her memories, loves, hopes, and dreams live on. Now it's her job to somehow provoke the technological progress and freedom of thought and belief that the Church of God Awaiting has worked centuries to crush.

Listen to more in the Safehold series.
©2007 David Weber (P)2006 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC

Critic Reviews

"Gripping." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Alison
  • Poway, CA, USA
  • 09-08-07

David Weber always good

I admit to bias - I will pick up a David Weber book without glancing at the dust jacket to see what its about. Off Armageddon Reef does not disappoint. Set in a completely different universe from his other books, its a study from multiple political, scientific and religiuos viewpoints of the emergence of a medival/renaissance level society to industrial age sophistication, set against religous strictures forbidding the change - with good reason - but flawed execution. The characters are well drawn - even the bad guys aren't all bad.

As always with David Weber, you have to be willing to sit through detailed descriptions of how the technical stuff works. If you are the type that skips that part to get to the action, you may find yourself hitting fast forward occasionally. I found that listening to the descriptions was actually easier than reading them and ended up listening and Not skipping over the technical stuff.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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The narrator sold me on this book.

I'll try to be as spoiler free as I can manage here...

This isn't the type of book I normally read, since it's pretty heavy on politics and warfare strategy. However, I was intrigued by the premise of a female's brain in an android's body, surviving her actual body and trying to right the wrongs of decades past. The name of Merlin intrigued me too. I'm a Merlin fan.

Once I started listening to the audiobook though (I originally borrowed this audiobook from my local library), I was completely sold on the story due to the dynamic and wonderful reading by Oliver Wyman. Scenes which, when I read them in a book are dull and tedious were brought to life in an entertaining manner. I don't think I would have enjoyed this book if I'd tried to read the paper version. Listening to it narrated here though, it was a fantastic mix of technology, slight of hand, and derring-do mixed in with the politics and strategizing.

When I'd finished, I was really looking forward to the next installment. This book was a fantastic listen. I'll be listening to it again soon.

29 of 32 people found this review helpful

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Not original--but fun and very clever

I'll admit it: David Weber is one of my guilty pleasures. I've read or listened to every one of the Honor Harrington books and associated spin-offs. Some of the action sequences in the Safehold series will strike Honor Harrington fans as very familiar. I'm surely not the only one to notice that space battles 2000 years in the future bear an astonishing resemblance to eighteenth century naval battles. In the Safehold series Weber has brought the naval broadside back to its original vehicle, the cannon-armed sailing vessel.

Weber has also come up with a very clever device to allow him to get away with countless allusions to and outright absorption of mythological, historical, and literary sources. After all, we are told, the whole religious canon of the world of Safehold was plagiarized from terrestrial originals. This makes the author's occasional lapses of originality (how many times does one need to hear the line, "Here I stand, I can do no other"?) sound arch and meta, rather than hackneyed. It works.

At the time of this writing the series is up to six rather long books. I won't review the rest of them, except to say that while they sometimes drag, I'm still looking forward to the next.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Info Dump Central
Three and a half hours in and I am still getting long info dumps. We are told things for countless minutes, get a sentence or two from a character and than more telling by narrator. I also hated the whole premise. The fact that that humans would wipe out there memories so as not to remember an invading superior alien race and install a religion to keep themselves from technological advance and avoid detection from said alien race, just irked me to no end. That is not the human race I belong to. I was also expecting a more technological society, it is David Weber and look at the cover of the book. Instead it is a medieval society. I did not finish this and I will not continue the series.

Nothing New
This is not only not a new concept, but it could have been handled so much better. A story about people finding out that they have had their memories wiped and had a false religion with false demi gods installed would have been a lot more interesting.

31 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Entertaining SciFi epic with a few flaws

Generally, I have been enjoying this latest by Weber, it draws on fewer cliches then some of his other novels, and the plot moves quickly, even if only to set up the sequel. Since 40 hours is serious listening, however, here are the major strengths and weaknesses you may want to consider:

The strengths: An extremely original premise sets up an interesting world for Weber's typical story of technological and military progress in the face of forces designed to slow or stop it. Additionally, the story is quite engaging and generally well-written, despite the fact that this is clearly the beginning of a very long series and that the plot advances quite slowly relative to the length of the book. And, if you like history, especially military history, you will very much appreciate Weber's incredibly deep knowledge of the way that gunpowder was milled or cannons fixed to their carriages, and how that affected the ability of armies and countries to do battle or act as centers of commerce.

The weaknesses: Weber uses many of the standard tired narrative elements of both science fiction and military technothrillers in this book. For example, there are many long, and sometimes suprisingly complicated, technical descriptions that are presented as the musing or lectures of various characters ("Capt. Thundermountain thought of the advantages of using two rollers to mill grain. By reducing heat that caused grainocentisis, this would change the way flour production worked forever!" - except for 10 minutes at a time). Additionally, Weber draws characters with broad strokes, the bad guys tend to be pretty bad, the good guys very good; and there is little human emotion or interaction among the characters aside from "manly virtues," characters may respect, fear, or honor each other, but rarely have more complex interactions. There are also some occasionally repetitive or annoying word choices ("thunderous thunder," the fact that everyone is always cocking their eyebrows).

51 of 61 people found this review helpful

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I didn't even read the summary, I didn't like the name of the books or the book covers.
But last year I decided to give it a try and after 30 minutes I was in!!!
One week later I finished the fifth book, the last one released at that moment.

As always there were some negative and annoying moments but overall I consider this book to be a MASTERPIECE of CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE FICTION!!!!!

The biggest negative part is constant changing of narrators!!!!
Please stop doing it!!!! It's annoying as hell.

27 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • RichM
  • Boulder, CO
  • 10-23-09

Politico Drama set in Fantasy

I downloaded this book thinking it was Deep Space Sci-Fi along the lines of the Hyperion series. The first chapters are just then. And then the remaining endless hours are long drawn out politico drama set in a pre-industrial human world. Seemingly every chapter introduces another three political figures and deepens the plot--or so I suppose. Frankly I lost interest in the dramas of 17th & 18th century type people.

What it does do nicely is give a concise history of 17th & 18th century warfare tactics and developments. But I didn't download this for history, I downloaded it for thought-provoking sci-fi.

Lastly, as if the history lesson were not enough to put me to sleep, the unstoppable main character whose super powers are unmatched in this luddite world does not even bring the slightest bit of tension or excitement to the story.

24 of 31 people found this review helpful

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Slow start, great ending

This is a long book, in a very, very long series. I almost didn't continue after the first couple of chapters, but I'm glad I did. It grew on me. The slow beginning is necessary in order to set up the Safehold world. I enjoyed the story as it began to grow, and introduce the plot.

It's a slow moving book, with a lot of moving parts to keep track of, but it is mesmerizing, with a lot of detail. I did get a bit tired of the technical aspects of weapons and trooper movements, but overall, the characters are likable (or hate-able, as the case may be), and very clear which are heroes, and which are villians.

Definitely worth finishing!

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • RJT
  • Thornton, CO
  • 01-28-07

Excellent Series Start

This book/series is billed as a Sci-Fi epic; yep, it is the beginning of what could be an outstanding Sci-fi or sci-fi/fantasy series. That it is the beginning of a series *needs* to be said, for this book lays all the ground work for the novels yet to come.
I have often thought that Weber places way too many characters in his books - its almost as if his books need to come with a who's-who. Weber departed from style this time around for he had just enough people to make the main and sub-plots work and work out. There seemed to be a few - and *only* a few "loose" characters at the end of this novel, but with just a little imagination one might figure out their place in future books of the series. This book was an audio "page-turner"; I stayed up late, too late, too many nights. So ... basic premise, a bit of a reach but not too bad for a starting point; plots / themes / character consistency, outstanding; narrator?
I was extremely impressed with this narrator. Pronunciation and diction were excellent; accents, excellent; speed, very good; intensity - I felt like the narrator was getting as involved in the novel as I was - outstanding. In addition, while there was no doubt who was speaking, be it male, female, good guy, bad guy, etc., it was done without the narrator attempting to "sound" female or "sound" huge, hulking male. The listener could intuitively differentiate by the narrator's style of speaking. Lastly, he did not have any annoying habits that would have detracted from the listen.
All in all, an excellent book, excellent narrator, and excellent listed (I went to find out if he had published a sequel yet!).

24 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

One-dimensional, no suspense.

The premise is quite original; placing an historical novel in the future is a nice twist. The problems I have with the book are twofold: first, the characters are terribly one-dimensional. The first reviewer references George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones", but Martin knows how to build characters of startling complexity. They begin as villians and become, gradually, heroic - or vice versa. Weber's characters are nearly comedically bad or disgustingly good. They have no crises that alter their personalities and I nearly found myself cheering for the wrong side at the end. The second problem is that despite Weber's attempt to make the odds seem overwhelmingly against the protaginists, it is painfully clear that there is no way in the (new) world that they will so much as work up a sweat utterly defeating their enemies. There is virtually no suspense; nothing hangs in the balance. Still, the anti-technical society, the theocratic rulers and the detail in which the world (as opposed to the characters) is rendered give me at least some hope for the next installment.

12 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary K.
  • 02-02-15

Amusing Yarn

Enjoyable, but predictable, with the result - ie clever android with serious tech manipulates a pre-reformation civilization.- never seriously in doubt. If you like the "1632..." series you will like this novel. Characters interesting and my attention was held. Very good narration..

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Shaun
  • 05-14-17

Amazing, just amazing

The story, reading and just everything about this book and the world's within it are captivating and awe inspiring.

100% recommended.

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  • Joe
  • 12-01-15

Actually surprisingly good

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yeah, it's a decent story, if not a little detail-heavy.
The world is original, the story is gripping and the narrator has quite a nice voice, if not falling down a little with the accents.

What did you like best about this story?

The intrigue regarding the real origins of the Safeholdian religion.

Have you listened to any of Oliver Wyman’s other performances? How does this one compare?


If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?


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  • Stephen
  • 08-07-13


Any additional comments?

If you like sci fi then you'll like the first five minutes of this book , if you like Kings,Bishops,Vicars and that boring stuff then you'll love the rest of this 30 hour book.
Don't waste your time or credits !

4 of 15 people found this review helpful