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Publisher's Summary

A century after the Martian war of independence, a group of kids is sent to Earth as delegates from Mars, but when they return home, they are caught between the two worlds, unable to reconcile the beauty and culture of Mars with their experiences on Earth in this "thoughtful debut" (Kirkus Reviews) from Hugo Award-winning author Hao Jingfang.

This genre-bending novel is set on Earth in the wake of a second civil war...not between two factions in one nation, but two factions in one solar system: Mars and Earth. In an attempt to repair increasing tensions, the colonies of Mars send a group of young people to live on Earth to help reconcile humanity. But the group finds itself with no real home, no friends, and fractured allegiances as they struggle to find a sense of community and identity trapped between two worlds.

©2020 Hao Jingfang (P)2020 Simon & Schuster

What listeners say about Vagabonds

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

Someone please give Ms. Woo Zeller some feeback!

This is the third, and last, attempt at listening to this narrator. I really like this book, but the narrator ruined the audible version, thank the universe for Kindle.

If Ms. Woo Zeller just moderated her voice and stopped being so way over the top, I would actually like her voice. However, her renditions of most male characters makes me cringe, jump, or take the earbuds out all together, so, so, SO bad. And, she way exaggerates the drama with the female characters, almost crying with some, hyper whining with others. For me, absolutely impossible listen to, which sucks, she is chosen for some really good books and then ruins them for the listening.

78 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Surprisingly eloquent poli-sci-fi book.

Read some negative reviews focused mostly on a knee jerk reaction to its endorsement of Socialism, while critics lauded it. So I had to check it out. I thought it discusesed the pros and cons of both systems very rationally. Mostly, it illustrated generational dissatisfaction with the status quo and the repetition of political paradigm shifts thereupon. Also, whether due to cultural writing styles, translation or the soothing narration, it also had an element if ethereal poetry to the narrative. Reminds me a bit thematically of Heinlein's novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

45 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Jingfang is no LeGuin

I was drawn to this book due to its apparent similarity to The Dispossessed and the opportunity to get a Chinese perspective on different systems of political economy. The first section of the book was engaging and suggested it may be a worthy companion work to LeGuin's book. Unfortunately this book was unable to fulfill its promise as the second section read more like YA literature with pretentious arrogant teenagers taking on an outsized role in global politics. everything happened far to quickly to be remotely believable - in the second section of the book the teens start a revolution but when it looks like it may be difficult and not achieve its ends quickly they quit. As best I can tell that subplot occurred over the course of a week, but that is nothing compared to the decision to terraform mars with the melted water of a dwarf planet Ceres. after making the decision to move forward with their plans they have completed all the infrastructure and architectural construction in a matter of days and they put their plan in motion. of course the lead engineer on this planet altering project is a early 20-something maybe a teenager. profoundly silly. so as science fiction this leaves a lot to be desired, it does have some worth - perhaps - as a perspective on east west relations for a new generation of Chinese who have experience with both cultures and now feel like vagabonds - without a home - in either world.

35 people found this helpful

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Exceptional thoughts and concepts

In this crisp, but poetically expressed futuristic story, we are able to examine not only the real possibilities of human migration to other planets but also to truly query human motivation, evolution, and all the complexities of utopic and dystopic societies.
The solid science used to describe the Mars habitat allows one to engage fully in the reality of the story and appreciate the beauty and effectiveness of possible technologies, while also following the anxious unfolding of ideological and political struggles in a totally new environment. The listener is gently but inexorably drawn into the debate and encouraged to explore his or her own approach to humanity and society. It is a wonderful listen, as I am sure it is an exceptional read. The narrator captures every nuance, allowing the reader to assimilate the intriguing story while keeping the pace even and compelling.

19 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Poetic Goodness, but darn that narrator.

Overall, the story was good, but not great. I appreciated the way that the storylines and mentions of nonchalant matters that seemed insignificant within the Novel eventually came back and wrapped itself altogether. At times, I didn't think it was going to come together as clean and as crisp as it did. So, I was thoroughly shocked! There were some ideologies that I disagreed with based on my personal political views, but as I listened I felt less and less offended and began to understand all the different points of view. It was eye opening in that regard, which I appreciated.

I think the biggest pro to this book is the poeticism. Hao Jingfang is exceptional at explaining the theme and establishing a perspective without reducing it to simple words. It's as if you're mind through the words alludes to the point of discussion without ever actually hearing the true meaning being spelt out for you. This happened time and time again on grand levels and miniscule. I really enjoyed it. On top of the poeticism, a lot of the world-building wasn't mind-cramping. What I mean by that is the way things in the world were described didn't take a lot of energy to consume and remember as the story went along. I didn't have to retrace my steps to try and remember what something that was unique to this world was.

Now for the cons. First, the Narrator in my perspective was atrocious. I felt like every male character was a pre-pubescent boy. It was hard to distinguish any of the male characters at some points in the story. This narrator has 3 voices, Narrator,
Soy Boy, and High-pitched Girl. That's all I will say. Another con would be the lack of pull when it comes to emotional investment. Lots of things happened that should've felt more epic or dramatic in the grand scheme of things, but for some reason it didn't hit me as hard. It could've been lack of character development or maybe too much political jargon being intertwined between major plot points.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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A slog

This novel is more of a philosophical treatise than a real novel. It offered some interesting thoughts on Sino-American relations and definitely showed lots of tidbits of Chinese education and experience, but it was painful to listen to.

First, the writing is just rough—awkward plotting, way more telling rather than showing, and heavy on the angst (told rather than interestingly shown, of course). If you made a Wordle of this book, you’d be sure to get hits like “turmoil,” “confusion,” and “worry” as large as, say, “Mars.” Perhaps some of this is a translation problem, but I don’t think so.

The narration also makes this difficult to listen to. The narrator has about 3 voices. Though I’d usually rather hear women voice men’s voices than vice versa, this reader’s attempt at a gruff male voice makes all males, 18-80 sound like the same joke of a man trying to seem macho.

I almost quit this novel several times and am still not sure why I suffered though more than a taste.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Couldn't finish it.

While I was hoping for some kind of space action story, or at least a political thriller, but I got was it a political story from the point of view of people who have no idea what's going on, no idea what to do with their lives, no idea how they're supposed to fit into it. Halfway through the book nothing had changed in that. This is all narrated by a narrator who was completely flat. Half the time, I felt like it could have been the automated voice on my phone reading it.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Very slow

There were some tough parts to narrate, to be sure, but she did a great job overall.

The book itself though, woooh. Tough read. I generally am one to force myself to finish what I start and this one was a slogfest. The cadence was very strange, the story quite superficial and the characters very drab. Seemed to have political undertones, without actually outright stating it.

Not recommended. Sorry.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

great narrator, dull story

First of all: Emily Woo Zeller is a national treasure and gives another perfect performance.
Despite that, I had problems finishing this book. Everything is resolved with so little attention from the writer, that if you zone out for 5 seconds you risk just missing the resolution.
There are at least 3 or 4 stories in here which all kinda just blends into the next.

There is a lot of east vs west symbolism, and it's very obvious throughout, although the author doesn't really reveal any personal preference until maybe the last third/half of the book.

The production gives very little pause between scene transitions, so a character can be in one place doing one thing one minute, and the next second they're in a completely different place doing something else, with almost no pause in the narration.

spoilers ahead:

This is a story with very little structure. we're early introduced to two characters who meet and form a kind of bond, then one of them just leaves and has nothing to do with the last half of the book.

the early conflict is resolved without any kind of climax, the second conflict as well. It seems like there could be a good special event tv series in here if each of the "mysteries", or whatever you wanna call them, was given time and proper endings, but everything just kinda fades away and then the book is over.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

I kept hoping the story would go somewhere, it did not. There were many spots in the sore that could have been exsplored but you were left hanging . Don’t waste your time.

1 person found this helpful