Sep 30 2012

Sci-Fi And Fantasy Suggestions From Audible.com

Posted by Mathias in Book Reviews, General Things

Today I got my monthly “recommendations” from audible.com in terms of sci-fi and fantasy books. I thought I would present them to everyone else.

NOTE: On a personal basis I disagree with two of these suggestions. First is The Farseer: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. This book is so slow that I still haven’t been able to complete it. Second is The Scar By Sergey & Marina Dyachenko. To read my take on it, click here.

Trumps of Doom: The Chronicles of Amber, Book 6 (Unabridged) by Roger Zelazny
Trumps of Doom: The Chronicles of Amber, Book 6 (Unabridged)
By Roger Zelazny
Narrated by Wil Wheaton
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5 stars
Another quality performance.
Matt (Birmingham, AL)
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Trumps of Doom kicks off the second five-book cycle of the Chronicles of Amber, following the exploits of Corwin’s son Merlin. The choice of Wil Wheaton to pick up the narration was a fantastic one, because he endows Merlin’s voice with just the right mix of youth and experience to suit this unique character. Unlike Allesandro Juliani’s performance in the first five books, Wheaton doesn’t spend much effort in creating distinct voices for each character, making this seem less like an audio play and more like a storyteller relating his adventures. His narration works very well, though, and it helps reinforce the idea that these are two different tales told by two different men. The story’s as great as ever, and I can’t wait to finish the rest up.  (And if Audible decided to go after the audio rights for the short stories Zelazny left behind in preparation for the third cycle he never got to embark upon, well, that would make a perfect addition to these ten great audios.)
The Farseer: Assassin's Apprentice (Unabridged) by Robin Hobb
The Farseer: Assassin’s Apprentice (Unabridged)
By Robin Hobb
Narrated by Paul Boehmer
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5 stars
Best in Show
Lorena (Monmouth, OR)
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This is arguably the best book I’ve ever read, in any genre. I read it first, and then when I saw it here, I had to listen to it as well! Robin Hobb has a gift for creating characters that are so full and true to life that it is difficult to believe they are not real people. Each character is unique, and filled with strengths and flaws. The story itself, is of a boy growing to manhood in a court where he isn’t supposed to exist. He learns court politics, takes on a trade (of sorts) and comes to an understanding of who he is. The magic system is slight, but unique and is weaved into the story to create subtle depth. The dialog is often thought provoking, and I found myself making note of quotes from the book. Having read the story before listening to it, I was surprised to find how well the narrator’s portrayal matched my vision. He is easy to listen to, and captures the tone of the story well.
This is the first in the Farseer series, and really must be read first. It is also the first book set in this world. Hobb’s other series are mostly set in the same world. The series don’t have to be read in order, but if you do there are ties (sometimes subtle) between them that makes the whole experience more enjoyable. If you want to read them in order, read Farseer, Liveship Traders, Tawny Man, and finally Rainwild Chronicles.
Don’t hesitate to get this book, it is well worth it!
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Unabridged) by Robert A. Heinlein
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Unabridged)
By Robert A. Heinlein
Narrated by Lloyd James
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5 stars
A Fair Dinkum Thinkum
Bryan (Monument, CO)
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This is the history of how the lunar penal colony – the only prison that didn’t need guards – and how it revolted against the combined might of Earth and became a free nation.  The recollections of Manuel Garcia O’Kelly tell the story of how the Lunar Authority’s computer, who he nicknamed Mike, became self-aware and developed a sense of humor.  And how Mike and Manny and Wyoming Knott and Professor Bernado DeLaPaz started the revolution that freed the Moon.
This is Heinlein at his best.  A wonderful story, a self-aware computer (remember this was written in early 1960’s when computers were huge boxes with less memory than your phone has today), a very recognizable future based on assumptions that still might be possible today, and characters that you can recognize and empathize with.
And it has one of the most plaintive lines in all of science fiction.  Are you listening Bog?  Is a computer one of your creatures?
The narrator is wonderful and is able to capture the essence of a variety of different characters.  However, I must pick one little nit.  In all the times I read this story (and they are too many to count) I always heard the line no hu-hu as sounding like an owl (hoo, hoo).  It is always done as laughter in this version (ha ha) and it just didn’t seem correct.
You won’t find a better science fiction story, so hurry to add this to your library.
The Sparrow (Unabridged) by Mary Doria Russell
The Sparrow (Unabridged)
By Mary Doria Russell
Narrated by David Colacci
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5 stars
Superbly Written and Thought-provoking
James (Chicago, IL)
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I’ve read and/or listened to this novel 3 times and I like it more each time. It’s a thoughtful, engrossing first contact story with theological, moral and science fiction themes. The Sparrow tells the tale of a Jesuit mission to an alien world and, more specifically, the story of Father Emilio Sandoz, the lone survivor of that mission. His experience is life-changing, to say the least.
Russell writes interesting, highly plausible characters and she not only explores the theological implications of the book’s events, she also creates a memorable alien culture.
David Colacci’s reading is quite good. He starts a little uncertainly but quickly gains his footing, giving voice to the various characters without ever taking accents and dialects to distracting extremes.
I can’t recommend The Sparrow highly enough but be warned: if you’re the type of science fiction fan who wants action-packed space opera, this isn’t the book for you. It’s a book about people and ideas, not an action/ adventure story.
Caliban's War: The Expanse, Book 2 (Unabridged) by James S. A. Corey
Caliban’s War: The Expanse, Book 2 (Unabridged)
By James S. A. Corey
Narrated by Jefferson Mays
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5 stars
No sophmore slump as both plot and writing improve
Ethan M. (Cambridge, MA)
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Leviathan Wakes was a really solid example of modern hard SF space opera – Caliban’s War is better. Corey (actually two authors, but they generally do a good job of writing as a team) pays attention to the nice hard SF details (ship acceleration, radiation exposure, transit times between Jovian moons, etc.), but the love is clearly for the opera part of space opera. The main set of characters are a winning team that excel at narrow escapes and being at the right place at the right time, while engaging in both banter and emotional asides.  And, even though the book takes time to develop the emotional states of the characters, plot elements zip along, tension is ratcheted ever upward as chapters quickly switch from viewpoint to viewpoint (and maybe author to author).
The new main characters are less blue collar than the first book, but also more well-written and unexpected – this is the first SF novel I have read with a foulmouthed 72 year old Indian grandmother, let alone one where that foulmouthed grandmother is genuinely intimidating.  Similarly, the writing has improved, with less awkward passages and some genuinely moving descriptions.  Reading is very solid, with accents being handled without too much exaggeration.
If you liked the first novel, this is a no-brainer.  If you like Peter Hamilton-style space opera, this is also a clear winner. There is a lot of questions still to answer in the final book, but I am clearly along for the ride.
God's War: Bel Dame Apocrypha, Book 1 (Unabridged) by Kameron Hurley
God’s War: Bel Dame Apocrypha, Book 1 (Unabridged)
By Kameron Hurley
Narrated by Emily Bauer
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5 stars
A thought provoking rarity
Hari (San Francisco, CA)
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This is one of those rare sci-fi novels that uses the genre to explore our own culture and assumptions by turning them on their head in a far-flung fictional world.   The true beauty and success of the narrative is that the book does this without becoming preachy.
This is not a simple book.  It explores questions of gender, religion, morality, violence, war, bio-engineering and what it means to be human.  The protagonist is an anti-hero… complex, morally ambiguous, someone who I could believe as a scarred war veteran.
You should read this book and appreciate it for the nuanced examination of social structures, belief and the affect of war on the human psyche.   Or, you could simply read it for the action, the pacing, the unique sci-fi world building and the interesting story.
The narrative and the narration flow so well together that I didn’t experience any of that disconnect you sometimes feel in an audiobook.
I rarely give 5 stars.  I gave this 5 stars across the board.
The Scar (Unabridged) by Sergey Dyachenko, Marina Dyachenko, Elinor Huntington (translator)
The Scar (Unabridged)
By Sergey Dyachenko, Marina Dyachenko, Elinor Huntington (translator)
Narrated by Jonathan Davis
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5 stars
A Series Worth Waiting For
Holly
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If you’ve been bemoaning the wait for the next Patrick Rothfuss book, or wondering why nothing modern ever reads like Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, read this. The Scar is epic in a personal sense, lyrically haunting, and felt on every human level. Jonathan Davis did an amazing job at narration, catching the emotional nuances. I now count this among my favorite books, and Davis among my favorite narrators.
Agent of Change: Liaden Universe Agent of Change, Book 1 (Unabridged) by Sharon Lee, Steve Miller
Agent of Change: Liaden Universe Agent of Change, Book 1 (Unabridged)
By Sharon Lee, Steve Miller
Narrated by Andy Caploe
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5 stars
Val Con and Miri ROCK!!!
Jeanine (La Grande, OR)
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One cannot even express the joy of finally having one’s favorite series in audiobook form.  I first read this book almost 25 years ago.  Seriously – check out the original cover – LOVE the clutch turtle with Miri and Val Con.   These books were so ahead of their time, Sci-fi with relationship/romance and adventure.  You will not feel this is an older story – it’s timeless and current.  The authors do word play like no other, they can world build with such depth without overburdening the reader/listener with endless detail.  In a few words, a paragraph you are sucked into a different world and you grieve at the end of each book.  That is what I felt 25 years ago, waiting and waiting for this series to continue.  Val Con and Miri are wonderful in this first story and they stay true to their characters with each book and yet grow and evolve, interweaving with the other stories protagonists.  You CARE about them.  I did have a little trouble at first with the narrator, he is good, but his voice was not what heard in my head as Val Con’s.  It’s too deep.  But he did well with Miri’s tone, unlike many male narrators speaking as a women, he didn’t try squeaky falsetto. I did resolve the difference, however, and ended up really enjoying the performance.  He got Edger spot on.  Grab these books and sit back and simply enjoy a wonderful ride like no other.    Clutch turtles rule!!   Long live Korval.
Monster Hunter Legion: Monster Hunter, Book 4 (Unabridged) by Larry Correia
Monster Hunter Legion: Monster Hunter, Book 4 (Unabridged)
By Larry Correia
Narrated by Oliver Wyman
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5 stars
What A Shock…
Sandi (Hardinsburg, IN)
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I would’ve never thought it possible for me to love a series of books with lots of guns, violence and monsters. Now, I can’t get enough. And I’m kind of unhappy that I’ve just purchased this on the 2nd day of it’s release and now have to wait for the next installment. Personally, I’m holding Larry Correia and Oliver Wyman responsible; Correia weaves a fast-paced interesting tale that’s surprisingly almost plausible and Oliver Wyman simply brings the men AND the women in these stories to life in a way that audiobook readers hope for with every download.
One of the best aspects of this series is that the characters are so very, very different from myself that there is very little for me to identify with and despite that, they’re very real, down to earth people who could be (and probably are) my neighbors. I find myself empathizing with them and cheering them on whether they’re dealing with end-of-the-world-monsters or bureaucrats. In the midst of unusual and/or challenging situations these characters are still just men and women dealing with whatever life is handing them and struggling to do the best they can; some are heroic, and some are evil-kind of like what we run into everyday. Yet it’s heartening to think that there’s an organization that looks for flexible minds and trusts in the diversity and innate humanity of most individuals.  Plus I just like a story that includes werewolves and dragons based on a  gun-nut accountant and his Southern Belle art lover wife who kicks ass and carries big guns. Now THAT”S quite a love story!
What I didn’t like about this book? Other than the fact that it wasn’t long enough and I wanted more Earl? Nothing.  The story offers a compelling take on an interesting point in history; we learn a little more about an organization that doesn’t officially exist as well as learn a little more about its nefarious head.  We get to see the repercussions of past adventures for members of MHI as well as for those who are collateral damage like Mosh (David).  This story explores the fears of the hunters and as a writers device it’s brilliant-we get the back story for characters we’ve come to love and we also encounter characters we thought we’d lost forever while getting more information about Owen and Julie.  This is solid story-telling from Correia; the story may drive the characters but it’s the people he’s created and that Wyman gives life and substance to that always leaves me wanting more.
The Handmaid's Tale (Unabridged) by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale (Unabridged)
By Margaret Atwood
Narrated by Claire Danes
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5 stars
Pitch perfect
Tracey A. Burger (South Miami, FL)
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The novel itself is a classic; reading the print version is a moving and terrifying experience.
But Claire Danes’s narration elevates this classic to new heights. She embodies Offred so fully and completely that she has just become my favorite audiobook reader. She narrates with such conviction and yet with such grace and candor that I’m absolutely blown away by her performance. She never becomes maudlin or inappropriately emotional.
This was the perfect marriage of novel and casting. Buy it! You will not be disappointed.

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