When I first found out about this book, I thought it had one of the most unique premises I’ve ever seen. But then the early reviews started trickling in, and it seems the one common opinion among a lot of them were “I had no idea what was going on,” or “I was so confused.” In part, that led me to my decision to listen to The Tourist audiobook in the hopes that the format will alleviate some of the issues, but also, I learned that it would be read by Peter Kenny, one of my favorite narrators.
In the end, the audiobook production itself was as fantastic as I expected; it was the story that left me with mixed feelings. The Tourist, as it turns out, is a time travel book, and “tourism” refers to the excursions back to the past by persons in the future. The 24th century is apparently a rather dreary and dull place, and the possibility of time travel has opened up a myriad options for your everyday jaded vacationer. The most popular destination by far is the 21st century, where the travelers can’t seem to get enough of our quaint shopping malls and fast food joints.
Our protagonist is a tour guide, ferrying his charges back and forth through time, making sure they follow all the complicated rules of time traveling and that they all get back home safely. Then one day, after tallying up his roster following a routine day on the job, he notices that a female passenger in his party has gone missing. She has, ostensibly, been left behind, but as our tour guide digs deeper to recover his lost client, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to the situation.
Ultimately, I think my decision to listen to the audiobook paid off in some ways, while putting me at a disadvantage in others. The story goes on multiple tangents throughout, and had I been reading The Tourist in prose form, these sections might have put me off the book immediately. Needless to say, I am much less likely to lose focus when I am listening to someone reading, especially when the narration is done well.
On the other hand, the audio format did nothing to help the story’s overall feeling of disjointedness; if anything, it might have made it feel worse. For one thing, this book lacks any kind of coherent plotting, and the narrative jumps from person to person, place to place, time to time. In audio, these frequent switches were made even more obvious and jarring. Peter Kenny did his best, but even with his excellent voice work to help differentiate who the story was following, it was hard to keep up. Furthermore, one of the main perspectives was presented in the second-person, a confusing narrative mode even under the best circumstances, and here it only muddied the waters even more.
I have a feeling this book will pose a head-scratcher even for fans of time travel stories, which is a shame because there are some truly original and fascinating concepts in here. Still, it doesn’t matter how amazing a novel’s ideas are, they mean very little if readers cannot make heads or tails out of its story or what the author is trying to accomplish. The Tourist is pitched as a suspenseful mystery thriller, but I am sad to say I didn’t feel any of the “thrills” at all. To be fair though, there actually is a mystery involved, except it just wasn’t the kind that pulled you in, or made you want to know more. Instead, it left me feeling more frustrated than anything else.
Still, while I may be disappointed with the story of The Tourist, I’m not sorry I listened to the audiobook. Even though I can’t wholly bring myself to recommend the novel, the ideas are cool enough that it might be worth picking up this book to experience them, especially if you’re into time traveling stories that are different, and if you’re feeling in the mood for a challenge. Also, given the convoluted nature of this novel, I am even more impressed with Peter Kenny’s narration. The book itself might not have worked for me, but I found little to complain about Kenny’s reading; he delivered an excellent performance as always, on top of which he narrated with an aplomb that gave me confidence that he knew what was going on even if I didn’t—sometimes that alone is enough to keep momentum going, when otherwise I would have set a print book aside....more
What a fun little time travel book! As someone who frequently goes trawling through Audible’s site looking for sci-fi and fantasy releases, I often see the audiobooks in this series pop up in my recommendations and I’ve always been curious about them. Now the first book is finally being released in the US in print (seven volumes are already available in the UK, where the series has become quite a sensation) and when the publisher Night Shade Books offered me a review copy, I absolutely couldn’t resist.
Just One Damned Thing After Another is a novel that wastes no time getting to the good stuff. The story stars our plucky narrator Madeleine “Max” Maxwell, a historian who gets recruited by a group of time travelers working undercover behind the façade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. After the most hilariously bizarre interview process, Max join up with them and the adventures—and the disasters—immediately begin. There’s a rigorous training program required for all newbies where they learn all the dos and don’ts of time travel, and they also have to pass a series of tests, including a physical component because you never know what can happen during a trip back in time. After a while, it’s clear that Murphy’s Law generally applies to all missions at St. Mary’s.
The plot is very entertaining and filled with boisterous, comedic hijinks (and perfect if you like British humor). I for one love the fact that the historians prefer to call it “investigating major historical events in contemporary time” instead of using the term “time travel” because the latter is just “so sci-fi”. Due to the methods used to prepare new recruits, the beginning of the book also has a distinct “training school” vibe, though I have to say this is one of only a handful of stories I’ve encountered where a section like this feels just as good as or even better than the actual time traveling. When it comes to the evaluations at St. Mary’s, cheating is not only excused but sometimes even encouraged, a system that favors the historians who can “think outside the box”, allowing genuinely interesting characters like Max to shine.
Like many time travel books though, this one had its ups and downs. My main criticism is that, for a novel featuring time traveling academics who label themselves historians (and who also work at an institute for historical research), there was in fact disappointingly little history involved. I don’t consider myself to be a huge history buff or anything, but for me one of the biggest perks of reading time travel stories is being able to absorb interesting historical details and facts behind past events, people, and places. I thought this would be a book like that, but it turned out not to be the case. While the publisher blurb says “From eleventh-century London to World War I, from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria”, the truth is, the most exciting time period Max gets to visit will probably appeal more to dinosaur enthusiasts or paleontologists rather than history fans.
Still, if character-driven stories are your cup of tea, then you’ll find plenty to like. Max is hilarious, and I love her spirited and crafty nature. Working with a bunch of time traveling historians is pretty much as fun and crazy as you’d expect, and even the missions that end in complete disasters seem to have a humorous side. There’s also a strong romantic component, and I loved the irresistible attraction that sizzled between Max and Chief Farrell.
That said, not everything is light and fluffy either; every now and then a grim pall will settle over some of the plot’s events. There’s violence, there’s death, and there’s lots and lots of dismemberment. It can be jarring sometimes, especially when there’s a tendency for all this gruesomeness to come on suddenly. Same goes for the sex, and the random emotional displays that seem to drop in and explode out of nowhere. I certainly don’t mind the darkness and brutal themes, but as with all good things, timing is everything. Maybe this book just needed some extra editing, or maybe it was just a consequence of the author’s personal unique style. Whatever it was, I found it somewhat distracting.
So, here’s the deal. If you’re into history, and was hoping to get lots of it out of this book, then be prepare to dial back on your expectations. This book is also not heavy on the “science fiction” side of time travel. Doing it is as simple and straightforward as getting into a pod, setting the dial, and hitting the jump button. To be fair, the science and tech of it is not the point of this series, so Taylor probably did the right thing in glossing over the process. There are some general attempts to explain how the timeline is preserved and why the historians can’t mess with certain things, but my point is, if you want detailed explanations, quantum theory and the whole nine yards in your time travel fiction, then this book isn’t going to be for you.
This book IS for you though, if you enjoy 1) fun, adventurous stories about time travel, 2) books that make you laugh, especially when there’s just a touch of darkness in its sense of humor, 3) strong, memorable characters with quirky personalities, and 4) simply relaxing and having a good time with a light, entertaining book. I can see now why this series is such a hit, and knowing more about what to expect in future books, I’m definitely interested in continuing with Max’s fantastic exploits through time!...more
Quantum Break: Zero State is the tie-in novel to the action video game developed by Remedy Entertainment, the same folks who also brought us cinematic masterpieces such as Max Payne and Alan Wake. While it’s clearly marketed to fans of the game—and yes, I too did my stint in Quantum Break and consider myself one—I urge you not to write off this book just because you haven’t played it, or because you don’t think a “video game book” would be for you. Often these kinds of books get a bad rap (and goodness knows they deserve it sometimes) but I promise you this one is different.
From the very first page, I was floored by the stellar quality of this novel. I don’t want to sound like a book snob, especially since I consider myself a diehard tie-in junkie, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact this is a book based on a video game. I mean, it’s almost too good to be one? Needless to say, Quantum Break: Zero State surprised the hell out of me. Tie-in novel or not, it can easily stand on its own against any of the more mainstream or popular sci-fi thrillers out there.
The story stars Jack Joyce, a maverick who follows where his feet take him—as long as it’s away from his hometown of Riverport, Massachusetts where six years ago he cut ties with his older brother, the brilliant scientist William Joyce. Will is a genius, but his mind is also very disturbed. Growing up with him as a legal guardian was difficult, after their parents died in an accident when Jack was just a child. Will was withdrawn and consumed by his research, so his younger brother actually ended up being the one to support them both. It got even worse once Jack discovered that Will had secretly taken all the money their parents left them to use on his work after his own funding and research grants ran out, not to mention the massive debts with the local gangs and loan sharks. After years of cleaning up his brother’s messes, Jack finally said enough is enough. He packed up and left Riverport, washing his hands clean of Will and his crazy theories and problems.
But now, an email from Jack’s childhood friend Paul Serene has brought him back. As it turns out, Will’s theories weren’t so crazy after all. As a pioneer and top scientist in the field of chronon technology, Will has been consulting on a top secret project spearheaded by mega-corporation Monarch Solutions at Riverport University. Paul is one of the research leads on the project, and for some reason he wants Jack to come meet him at the Physics building so he can show him something that will change the face of the planet. Curiosity piqued, Jack agrees to go see his friend and thoroughly gets his mind blown when he realizes what is in the lab where Paul brings him. It appears that with Will’s help, Monarch had created a time machine…
You can definitely read this without knowing a single thing about the game, but some background information will probably give more context. In Quantum Break you play Jack, who gains time manipulation powers and uses them to fight the diabolical authorities behind Monarch. The flow of time breaks down and all hell breaks loose, creating all kinds of insane effects with the environment, including time stutters, time stops, time slowing down or speeding up, etc. As well, one of the game’s “hooks” include a live-action component. After each act in the game, an episode of a TV show will play out onscreen letting you see how your gameplay decisions have affected events and other characters in the story. As noted in the book’s foreword, there really is no “canon” version of Quantum Break, since you are going to be making a lot of in-game choices and in doing so create your own version of events. The game is about time travel and branching timelines, so your own playthrough will likely be completely different from another player’s.
This is why the idea behind this book is so brilliant. When I first read its description, I was initially worried that it would be a straight-up novelization—and who would want that, when you have the choice to actually immerse yourself in the cinematic experience that is the game itself? But here’s the cool part: Quantum Break: Zero State isn’t a true novelization because it is actually a combination of what’s in the game along with a lot more stuff that never made it in—think early story concepts, discarded ideas, or other elements that either weren’t used or abandoned because the developers couldn’t make them work for what they had in mind for the final product. It’s like an alternate timeline novel. As a result, you can read this book on its own without having even heard of Quantum Break! And if you have played it, you can also read this without feeling like it’s just a rehash of everything you did in game.
Like I said, the writing is superb and Cam Rogers’ prose is smart, punchy, and electrifying. As Remedy’s game writer and narrative designer, Rogers knows exactly how to capture the suspenseful atmosphere of Quantum Break, following through on the promise of action and thrilling fight scenes. The big theme here is also the time traveling aspect of course, and it is extremely cool, as are the powers that Jack possesses in game which are outstandingly described and utilized here in text. The story was indeed very different from my gameplay experience, but I found the version in this novel to be no less intense and exciting. I even liked that it gave me the chance to know some of the other characters better, most notably Beth Wilder.
Just for a second, forget that this book is based on a game, even if you are a fan of Quantum Break. If you enjoy sci-fi thrillers in general, and the idea of time traveling and superpowers sounds like a good time to you, then you must pick up this book. And if you happened to enjoy the video game too, then that goes double. This was all kinds of awesome, easily one of the best game tie-ins I’ve ever read, and heck, just a great time travel thriller all-around....more
I knew before starting The Lost Boys Symphony that it would not an easy book to review, and now that I have read it, I find I am no closer to figuring out how to put my thoughts into words. What I do know is that when it comes to the prevalent theme of time traveling in sci-fi, few books these days can still make me see the subject in a different light—but this one did. Making a home for itself in that narrow niche between the literary and the speculative, this book probably isn’t going to be for everyone, but I personally enjoyed it a lot.
Time travel stories, by their nature, are not easy to describe. The Lost Boys Symphony presents an even greater challenge because it is unlike any time travel story I have ever read before. On the surface, the focus is on the lives of three friends: Henry, Gabe, and Val. Henry and Gabe have known each other since they were children. In high school they meet Val, and Henry starts dating her. The three have been inseparable ever since.
Partway through college, however, Val suddenly decides to break up with Henry and transfers to another school. Understandably heartbroken, Henry immerses himself in his other passion, music, while Gabe stands by and offers whatever support he can. But then Henry gets sick. Very sick. And his illness is manifesting in very strange ways, making him hear things and see things that he knows should be impossible. Searching for answers, Henry follows Val to New York City, but then ends up passing out on the George Washington Bridge. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a room with two strangers—but in truth, they aren’t strangers at all. They are him, Henry, at 41 and 80. His future selves have kidnapped the 19-year-old him to give him a message, placing several lifetimes of responsibility on his troubled young shoulders.
Rather than summarizing the book though, it might actually be more helpful to describe its themes, like the disillusionment of youth, the lasting regrets for the paths taken and not taken, not to mention the devastating effects of mental illness—for those who suffer from it as well as for their loved ones. At first, I was intrigued by the ambiguity surrounding Henry’s time traveling. Was he in fact seeing his future selves, and as an extension to that, capable of revisiting the past? Or was he simply experiencing an elaborate hallucination, as a symptom of his deteriorating sanity? Associating time travel with a person’s mental state is also interesting, and likewise the mode of it, linking Henry’s ability to travel through time by becoming one with the music and rhythm of the universe.
However, time travel is not the point of this story. It’s not even a big part of it. At its heart, The Lost Boys Symphony is about relationships, growing up, and coming to terms with the decisions you make in life. Henry’s character along with all the versions of him at various ages show how a person can change over a lifetime, and his efforts to go back and alter his future don’t always work out the way he wants them to. Val is another example of a character feeling lost and untethered, after leaving everything behind (her old home, her old school, her old boyfriend) to remake herself and start completely fresh. But it’s unclear that she even knows what it is she wants, and her life does not turn out the way she expected either. Unquestionably, the most melancholic parts of the book are the moments where the “what ifs” and the “what could have beens” come to the surface. If you were offered the choice to find out what your life could have become if you did things differently, would you want to know? For Henry, Gabe, and Val, not knowing might be less painful.
Needless to say, fans of time travel fiction will definitely want to check this book out, though be wary, for this is far from your typical time travel story. It’s easy to get confused if you don’t follow along closely, keeping track of all the different Henrys and the branching paths his life takes as well as how those paths intersect with those of his friends, Gabe and Val. Still, the way the time traveling was handled was one of this book’s most compelling aspects.
In the end, it’s probably safe to say The Lost Boys Symphony is one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. This is a very different book than what I’m typically used to, but the relationship dynamics and mix of emotions really spoke to me. Mark Andrew Ferguson’s novel is a very human tale about life and love, exploring a young man’s grief for lost dreams and hope for a better future. A fascinating read....more
While Into the Dim is not without its flaws (like calling it “an Outlander for teens" might be a bit of a stretch),4 of 5 stars at the BiblioSanctum
While Into the Dim is not without its flaws (like calling it “an Outlander for teens" might be a bit of a stretch), there’s still no denying this book has its charms. The story is impressively robust for a YA time traveling book, and what it lacks in world-building and logistical explanations, it makes up for with pure entertainment and plenty of fun twists along the way. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed myself.
Most of this story actually takes place in the twelfth century, but first there’s a considerable introduction to establish our main protagonist and her circumstances. We begin with sixteen-year-old Hope Walton at the funeral for her mother Sarah, an academic who was lecturing overseas when an earthquake struck and brought the building down around her. Eight months later, her family has finally given up the search for her body and accepted that she is gone. To help deal with the grief, Sarah’s sister has invited Hope to spend the summer with her in Scotland, and after much reluctance, Hope eventually realizes she has nowhere else to go and accepts.
Now this is where the adventure truly begins. Hope arrives in Scotland and learns more about her family than she’d ever bargained for. Turns out, her aunt is a leader of a group of time traveling agents who are battling another group of rival time travelers to locate a powerful gem lost somewhere in history. That, and Hope finds out that her mother Sarah might be still alive, but trapped in the past. There may be a way to bring her back, but only a small window of opportunity to make that happen, and Hope will need all the training she can get to prepare her for the mission of her life.
Hope and her new friends, fellow time travelers Collum and Phoebe, end up journeying back almost a thousand years to 1154, the year of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s coronation as queen consort of England. As the focal historical figure for this novel, I thought she was a most fascinating choice. One of the most powerful women of her age, Eleanor led an incredible life and was appropriately portrayed as an important character in Into the Dim. Also, the High Middle Ages was a period of much significance and change in Western Europe, creating an intriguing backdrop for the novel. We’re plunged into this world to experience the social, political and religious climate of the times, and author Janet B. Taylor certainly does not skimp on details of the sights, sounds, and–unfortunately—the smells.
For me, there were only two major weaknesses, and they kind of go hand-in-hand with each other. The first is Hope herself. A poster child for “book smart, street stupid” if I ever saw one, our protagonist was born was a photographic memory, but her brilliance is also offset by her staggering social ineptitude. Kept out of “that inbred travesty they call an education system” by her snobby and overprotective mother, Hope grew up completely clueless, which would perfectly explain the scene where she meets Bran Cameron for the first time. This segues into my second gripe: the romance. I’m still appalled by Hope’s reaction to Bran at their first meeting, where she catches him taking stalkerish photos of her with his camera without her knowledge. But instead of running for the hills to the closest police station, what does Hope do? She flirts with the creepy creeperish creeper, and finds his behavior totally adorable and flattering. Ew, no. Sadly, this soured the rest of the relationship for me.
While engaging, the plot is also nothing too deep. The historical aspects and “science” behind the time traveling will not hold up to heavy scrutiny, though to be fair, that’s not really what this book is about. Yes, you’ll definitely have to roll with some punches, but the story is entertaining and holds up well. I liked the fast-pacing, as well as the no-nonsense way Hope and her friends come up with creative ways to solve problems.
It’s worth mentioning too that I listened to the audiobook version, which was amazing. Before this, I had never listened to anything read by Amanda Ronconi, but her performance for Into the Dim made me an instant fan. They couldn’t have chosen a better narrator. With her wide range of accents, she was perfect for a book like this, which features characters from the US and from Scotland. Then, there are those characters from the past. Ronconi’s Olde English accents are convincing, as is the slight French lilt she gives Eleanor of Aquitaine when she reads her lines. I can see how listening to this book might be more immersive experience, compared to reading the dialogue as it is written.
All in all, Into the Dim is quite a lovely novel, even with its flaws. It’s a simple, straightforward book, which serves its purposes to be fun and light-hearted, but that’s not to say there aren’t a couple of unexpected surprises thrown in as well. I found it very refreshing, given the string of bad luck I’ve had with the YA genre lately, and I ended up enjoying this a lot more than I expected....more
While I enjoy time travel books as much as the next reader, I still recall my doubts when I was first pitched this book: What if I don’t know that much about World War I? How much history do I need to know in order to follow the plot? Will I still be able to enjoy this story?
Looking back at those questions now, I have to laugh. Really, I needn’t have worried about a thing. Even though history is at the center of this plot and WWI is the inciting incident that sparks the fuse, Time and Time Again turned out to be about so much more. With shades of Stephen King’s 11/22/63, this novel is a suspenseful and heartfelt adventure through time and alternate realities. In truth, it focuses more on the repercussions of changing history and what it means for the main character—as well as for the whole world and the generations after him.
In a not too distant future from now, Hugh Stanton is an ex-soldier and a washed up celebrity who has lost everything. The army wants nothing to do with him, and his once popular survival webcast had to be shut down after ratings fell. His wife and children are dead, killed in a hit-and-run accident in which they never found the culprits. With nothing left to lose, he agrees to take on an insane mission from a group of Cambridge scholars who call themselves the Order of Chronos.
If you had one chance to change history and make the world right, when and where would you go and what would you do? This was the question posed to Stanton by his old history professor Sally McClusky, the Master of Trinity College herself. For all of them, the answer was simple—June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, to prevent the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand thus removing the catalyst for World War I.
The reasoning behind their choice is both surprising and not surprising, but you’ll have to read this book for yourself to find out why. Suffice to say though, it made for a good premise. It’s no wonder that there are all sorts of “What If?” speculations surrounding this date, considering the string of extraordinary coincidences that led directly to the Archduke’s death (if you haven’t heard the story about the sandwich that changed the world, definitely look that one up!) If just one thing had changed that day, could the Great War have been averted? And how might the world look like afterwards?
And here, Ben Elton had my full attention. As I said before, I enjoy stories about time travel, and my favorite books are always those that make me see things in a whole new light. Time and Time Again definitely deserves a place in this category. I love time travel theories that pull together history and science fiction, and Elton achieves this in style, postulating that Sir Isaac Newton had found a way to travel back in time and even tied this event to the great mathematician’s nervous breakdown during the period of 1692-1693. However, the best thing about this book is all the twists and turns, especially when it comes to a couple of big revelations near the end. Obviously I can’t go into them in any detail, but what I can say is that with so many poignant and unforgettable moments, Time and Time Again is one truly special book.
Ben Elton also knows how to keep a reader’s attention. I went into this book thinking it would be similar to a historical drama, but I was surprised to find an exciting mix of mystery, suspense, and even some romance and light humor. This isn’t a story that relies on a single element or one aspect of its premise to make its point, and again, this was what made me think of King’s 11/22/63. If you enjoy multi-faceted time travel stories, Time and Time Again is worth checking out—even if you aren’t particularly well-versed in the history of World War I. I myself have never been too interested in the topic, yet I found myself unable to resist the author’s vivid descriptions of early 20th century Europe, and it was doubly interesting to experience this world through the eyes of a character as fascinating as Hugh Stanton.
But above all, I loved how this book made me think. Going back to the original question Sally McClusky posed to Hugh Stanton: If you could make one change in history to make the world better, what would it be? Perhaps our protagonist should have answered the question with another one: Would you even want to? Not that the idea itself isn’t tempting, but who makes history anyway? Can a single person really make a difference, or are we all just like particles in Brownian motion, creating history with each and every random collision? Maybe it’s naïve to believe we can change the future by altering the past, deciding who lives and who dies. Maybe it is hubris and lack of understanding that ultimately causes Stanton to make all his mistakes, leading him to his own little quandary.
In case it’s not obvious by now, I had a great time with this book. This is the first time I’ve ever read Ben Elton, and I’m very impressed with his extensive knowledge of the time period as well as the brilliant way he structured and paced this story. I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to time travel plots, and never have I been so glad to be proven wrong. Time and Time Again swept me up in its richness and intrigue, taking me to places I never expected. I know this one is going to stay with me for a long time. Definitely one of the most captivating time travel novels I’ve ever read....more
I was actually first introduced to Departure as an audio title (given how often I browse for interesting new titles to listen to, it was pretty hard to miss how often it popped up on the popular science fiction and fantasy audiobook lists). What I didn’t know, was that the book itself was originally self-published. The news of its success must have caught on though, because I just learned recently too that HarperCollins has bought it and will be re-releasing it later this year. Runaway hits like that often have a way of catching my attention, so my curiosity probably got the better of me when I decided to check this one out.
The story begins with the crash of a passenger plane on route to London from New York. Flight 305 ends up somewhere in the English countryside, its fuselage split in two. In spite of this, there are actually quite a few survivors, most of them from first class because their half of the plane went into the trees while the tail section went into a nearby lake. As the survivors treat the wounded and fight to save as many lives as they can, they soon realize that they have crashed into a very different world. Rescue might be a long time coming. If ever.
There’s not much more I say about the story without spoiling it, but suffice to say, the Lost vibes are strong with this one. If you enjoy mind-bending sci-fi thrillers with a slight touch of creepy mystery, you should give this one a look. On the other hand, if you were looking forward to more of a survival adventure, you’ll probably want to alter your expectations like I did. As someone with a fear of flying, I was really nervous and bracing myself for a heart-pounding intro, but what I ended up getting was barely a notch above suspenseful. After the first quarter of this book, the emphasis also rapidly shifts to the bigger conspiracy.
The focus mainly falls on five passengers: Harper Lane writes biographies for a living, but her real dream is to writer her own series of adventure novels one day; Nick Stone is an American businessman, on his way to a meeting with The Gibraltar Project to discuss the building of a dam in the Mediterranean; Sabrina Schröder is a German medical scientist, making her the best choice to care for the wounded crash victims even though most of her experience was in a lab; Yul Tan, a Chinese-American computer scientist, has just developed a quantum internet capable of transmitting more data farther and faster than anything seen before; Grayson Shaw, son of a billionaire philanthropist, is struggling with alcohol problems after finding out some news about his father.
Unbeknownst to any of them, these five characters are all connected in some way and may hold the clues to the reason why their plane crashed, not to mention an answer to where they’ve ended up. The details are gradually revealed as the events unravel, and it was a captivating journey to discover the truth – even in spite of the many confusing moments along the way. To be honest, this book ventured a little too far into hard sci-fi territory for me to feel truly comfortable, and even though I was able to follow the plot just fine, a lot of the themes that came up later in the book are just not topics I find interesting. Be that as it may, I didn’t actually dislike this book; I found most of the story very enjoyable in fact, and even liked how it ended (as opposed to how I felt about Lost!) but it’s difficult to ignore the technology aspects that I personally couldn’t get into.
As for my thoughts that are specific to the audio version, I’m always happy listening to multi-narrator books and I thought both Nicola Barber and Scott Aiello delivered excellent performances. They portrayed Harper and Nick respectively, and voiced their own characters’ dialogue even when they were in the other character’s perspectives, giving this audiobook a quasi full-cast feel without it actually being a full-cast production. With their natural performances, the two narrators also made a lot of the dialogue sound a lot less awkward than the way it probably looked on paper.
In truth, I don’t think I would have fared as well reading the print version of this, given the propensity for my eyes to glaze over when they come upon pages of technobabble, especially when they have to do with subjects like the quantum theories of time travel. My brain has a better time when this stuff is read to me, so I was quite happy with my decision to listen to Departure in audio format. This is a book I might have enjoyed more if it had been the survival adventure I expected, but all told it’s a pretty solid book with a story that will no doubt appeal more to sci-fi thriller fans who also enjoy some conspiracy with their mystery....more
Full disclosure, though I am writing this review for the ARC, I actually had the distinct pleasure of being a beta reader for an early draft of Time Salvager last year, and I just want to say now that being able to experience this story again felt even more amazing. Wesley Chu has already shown a flair for writing thrilling sci-fi adventures with his Tao trilogy, and there’s no doubt that his new novel is another strong entry into the genre.
Time Salvager takes us to a future where Earth has become a toxic wasteland. Those who could afford to get off-planet have long since taken their lives to the outer solar system, but this dispersion has also created a greater need for resources to support the population – resources that Earth is no longer in a position to provide.
Enter ChronoCom and their elite corps of time-traveling agents, aptly known as “Chronmen”. If the present can’t provide the resources that humanity needs, then they shall plunder the past. However, messing around with the chronostream is always dicey, so chronmen are dedicated to keeping their ripples in the past as small as possible so that the timeline can heal itself before effects can be felt in the present. This means that a lot of rules put in place, and the harshest punishments are brought down on those who break them.
Unfortunately for chronman James Griffin-Mars, on his final mission in the twenty-first century to secure his retirement, he experiences a moment of madness and breaks the most important and unforgiveable rule of all. Unstable and already close to snapping, James spontaneously decides to rescue a young woman named Elise from her fated death and brings her back to his time. Viewed as a temporal anomaly that must now be eliminated, Elise is forced to go on the run with James as the full might of ChronoCom descends upon the two fugitives.
Firstly, time traveling stories are always tricky to pull off, and admittedly I can’t think of too many where some willingness to turn a blind eye to temporal paradoxes and contradictions is at least required. Time Salvager is no different, though to Chu’s credit, the time traveling system he proposes is compelling and well-developed. Even though it may not stand up to heavy scrutiny, the process behind the technology lends itself perfectly to the story which will delight readers who are in it for the action and the entertainment. In other words, yes, you’ll probably have to roll with the punches, but at the same time I’m hard pressed to think of any other instance where doing so has been more fun.
Those who have read the author’s Tao series may also notice that the story of Time Salvager has a darker, more despairing vibe. Much of this has to do with the protagonist of James, whose long years working for ChronoCom and salvaging dead-end timelines has exposed him to too much death and destruction. Added to his overall jadedness are the dangerous physiological effects of doing too many time jumps, the character of James Griffin-Mars is definitely not singing a song of sunshine and rainbows. Perhaps the only reason I like Wesley Chu’s Tao books slightly more is because of the emotional cocktail of desperation, hopelessness and pent-up rage that is James’ personality. It fits who he is and makes for interesting development later on in the novel, but it does give Time Salvager a certain gravitas and makes it a heavier read.
Chu, however, did impress me with his characterization of Levin Javier-Oberon, the ChronoCom auditor tasked to capture James and Elise. With his complex view of the world and the way he believes things should be, Levin became my favorite character as soon as he was introduced as a point-of-view character. I can’t even really bring myself to name him as the antagonist; it doesn’t seem fair just because Levin is rigidly tied a set of moral standards that happens to be the antithesis of James’. I hope we’ll see more of Levin in the next book, because I’m not ready for his tale to be over yet, especially given how the book ended.
It goes without saying, I’m really looking forward to the sequel. Time Salvager feels like the next big step in Wesley Chu’s writing career, which continues to rise promisingly. This book does a fantastic job setting up for a fast-paced sci-fi thriller series that is brimming with potential, and you really can’t ask for much more....more
Michael Moorcock’s The Whispering Swarm is certainly a strange book and not what I expected at all. My first venture into this renowned author’s work notwithstanding, even I could tell this was quite a departure from his older work, involving no small amount of literary experimentation – and not least because of the novel’s semi-autobiographical nature in which Moorcock chronicles the shift of his craft from sci-fi fantasy pulp fiction towards a “new wave” and more modernist tradition.
The first book of a new trilogy, Moorcock’s latest novel presents to readers a semi-factual, semi-fictitious version of the author’s younger self growing up in post-World War II London. We follow Michael Moorcock as he navigates the world of science fiction and fantasy publishing, starting out as editor of his Tarzan Adventures fanzine at the age of 17 and eventually moving on to bigger and more prominent roles in the industry – including his controversial position as the editor of British science fiction magazine New Worlds during the 60s and 70s.
While the character talks about much of his writing, the narrative is also laced with a heavy dose of fantastical elements. Between sections detailing Michael’s personal and professional life, the book slips in and out of reality to feature an alternate world called Alsacia, a hidden sanctuary and home to both historical and legendary figures like Prince Rupert of the Rhine or Dumas’ musketeers. It’s a place where death does not exist and time flows differently, where heroes from different centuries can share a pint and rub elbows down at the tavern and no one will bat an eye. The first time young Michael accidentally stumbles into Alsacia, he meets the beautiful Mol Midnight, literally the girl of his dreams who later on becomes his muse for a number books and stories. And so begins his long relationship with this mystical place and the denizens within. Thus Michael finds himself torn between two worlds, the real London where his career and family reside, and Alsacia where he can indulge in wild romances and adventures. Before long, he can hardly ignore the whispers of what he calls the Swarm, always calling him, tempting him back into the sanctuary where he can find solace from the pressures of the world.
As someone previously unfamiliar with Moorcock’s work, I found myself intrigued by the premise of the book. Unfortunately, I was also frequently frustrated with the seemingly disorganized and irregular pacing of what at times barely passes for a plot. As previously mentioned, a huge chunk of the novel is written in a semi-autobiographical style, where readers are swept along on lengthy descriptions of young Michael’s professional and social life, which include his experimentations with sex, drugs and music. I wasn’t so fond of the explanatory narrative and found myself less interested in the nitty-gritty details of his editing and writing, but when it came to the character’s internal insights into the evolution of his style, I was perhaps more enthusiastic.
As a character, Michael’s motivations were hard to grasp. He’s an unsettled and indecisive narrator, not to mention frequently unreliable which made it more difficult to find him sympathetic. He would alternate between being selfless and self-pitying, especially where the needs of his young family are concerned. The times he steps through the veil into Alsacia are the highlights, however. Regrettably I found these to be too few and far between especially in the first half, or else I might have had an easier time getting into the book; instead, I had to push myself through most of the beginning.
On the other hand, I didn’t expect to enjoy the blurring of reality and fantasy as much as I did; there was always that uncertainty lingering in the background, mixing in that element of the unknown which made the situation more compelling as Michael became more entrenched in the business of Alsacia. This novel is definitely the first of its kind that I have read, and even knowing that most of Michael’s personal details had to be completely fabricated, the questions it made me ask were the sort that were entirely different and unique.
I have a feeling this is a very special trilogy in the making, but the ultimate payoff may require too much investment for some readers, including myself. Michael’s exploits with the various adventurers from Alsacia were exciting towards the end, but I wish more of the book had been dedicated to that aspect of the story. There are some great ideas in here, if somewhat radical and on the experimental side, but my experience was mainly dampened by the slow pacing of the plot as well as a lack of direction for most of it. An interesting novel overall, and in the end I’m not sorry I read it. The style is not exactly to my tastes, but it’s broadened my horizons....more
Being a type A personality and stickler for organization, I employ the use of many different shelves to sort my books on Goodreads. Anyway, just to give you an idea of the kind of book we're talking about here, these are just some of the ones I've tagged for The Daedalus Incident: Action-Adventure. Aliens. Alternate History. Fantasy. Magic. Science Fiction. Time Travel. Oh and I almost forgot, Pirates, too.
As you can see, this is a novel that mixes elements from many genres. We're talking about some pretty wild stuff here, like 18th-century ships sailing between planets, or famous historical figures like Benjamin Franklin being one of the most skilled alchemists to ever come out of the American colonies. And that's just in one timeline. Another story thread takes place in 2132 in a whole other universe, where the personnel team on a trillion-dollar mining operations taking place on Mars has been experiencing some strange things lately -- things like a 300-year-old journal that is writing itself, or like a giant pyramid forming itself out of the desolate terrain.
What do these two disparate timelines have to do with each other, you ask? Now that's the million dollar question of the day. The answer is a journey that will take you beyond the limits of time and space, introducing you great characters you'll care about and fantastic new worlds to boot.
It did take a short period of adjustment, but once I got into the rhythm of jumping between the two different story lines, I started having a lot of fun. Admittedly, the 18th-century timeline was the one that held a greater appeal, featuring a world that was more interesting with its alchemical-powered ships, alien races living on different planets, and the explosive clashes against space pirates. In some ways, it read much like a high fantasy plot line done up in a different package, so you get things like planets instead of faraway kingdoms, alchemical artifacts instead of treasures troves, ancient alien forces instead of an evil demonic adversary, etc. No doubt my usual preference for the "historical" over the "futuristic" probably has something to do with it as well.
On the other hand, the 2132 Mars storyline started losing me around the halfway point -- though to be fair, I'm thinking that it's not the book. It's me. Start throwing around terms like "non-ionized radiation" or "particle physics" and you might as well be spraying your book with a big dose of anti-Mogsy repellent. I can't help it; my eyes seem predisposed to glaze over whenever they wander too close to hard sci-fi territory. I'm really more of a life sciences kind of person, whereas the more complex workings of the physical sciences tend to go over my head.
Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed the characters -- in both timelines. I love the immersive quality of Lt. Thomas Weatherby's voice, which sounds convincing coming from a man of his time period in the 1700s. There were a lot of memorable characters in that alternate universe, including Dr. Finch and Anne Baker. In the future Mars timeline, I liked following the central character of Lt. Shaila Jain, mostly because of all the different relationships she has to juggle while trying to keep things from falling apart at the mining base. And don't even get me started on that critical moment when the characters from both worlds finally meet -- oh come on, you had to have known that they would at some point! Anyway, it was definitely a scene worth waiting for, not to mention the full scope of the events that follow.
It's true that this one had its ups and downs, depending on where I was in the story, but I have to say the overall premise is unquestionable unique. I would recommend this to fans of cross-genre fiction or anyone looking to check out a book that blends fantasy and science fiction in an innovative way....more
So every once in a while, I'll come across a book that's just so extraordinary and bizarr3.5 Stars This review originally posted at The BiblioSanctum.
So every once in a while, I'll come across a book that's just so extraordinary and bizarre that I find myself struggling for the right words to describe it. I both love and hate it when this happens. Love, because chances are it's probably something really unique, and as a reader it's always a joy to find a book that surprises me. Hate, because chances also are I would also be completely torn as to how to rate it.
Man in the Empty Suit is one of these books. Even now I find it hard to sort out my feelings for it. The intellectual theorist in me has her mind blown and wants to praise this book for daring to be different and a little strange, for having the guts to spit into the face of time travel paradoxes and say, "I just don't give a damn." The casual reader in me, however, feels there's something integral missing from the experience.
The book's description about its time traveling protagonist was what initially caught my attention. Every year, our narrator travels to a dilapidated New York City hotel in 2071 (the 100th anniversary of his birth) to party it up with all the versions of his past and future selves. And every year, it's the same -- until the year he turns 39 and becomes "The Suit", named for the dapper outfit he wears to the celebration. This time, the unexpected happens. He discovers "The Body", the 40-year-old version of himself, dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Clearly, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong here.
From that brief summary, I figured I was going to be in for an easy, light and humorous read, but it turned out this book wasn't what I thought it would be at all. Sure, it has its funny moments, and while its relatively short length means that it shouldn't take you longer than a few days to complete, this book was also more cerebral than I expected. I remember telling a friend of mine that if you're the sort of person who likes debating brain-melting plot holes and time paradoxes in movies like Looper, then this book might be for you. Or, you know, maybe not. On the other hand, it probably has just as much potential to utterly frustrate you and make you want to tear out your hair.
I think on some level, even when things seemed to make sense, I had to accept while reading this that ultimately the story would go where it wanted, and that the author had purposefully taken certain time travel tropes and turned them all on its head. Some of the paradoxes went far beyond what I was willing to ponder, but I was also more than happy to sit back and go with it. I've been told many times by friends that that's probably the best attitude to adopt if you want to enjoy time travel stories. That definitely applies here.
Still, something prevented me from embracing this book completely. I believe it was the lack of context the story provided. I felt like I was thrown into the narrator's world without any explanation as to who he is or where he came from or when he came from or how he got there and what is going on. The book's NYC in the future is a very strange place indeed, but we have no idea why it is that way, why everything in the city seems rundown and abandoned, why its citizens live the way they do. There were just so many questions, so many gaps left unfilled. We don't even get to know the time traveler's real name.
I suppose in the bigger scheme of things, none of that stuff matters or is central to the plot. This book is about our main character trying to puzzle out the murder of his future self at his party and not about his time traveling adventures (though, more about his various trips through time would have been interesting), or how he built his time-traveling raft in the first place. I totally get that. Still, knowing more of the details would have gone a long way for me to ground myself to the story.
That was the main thing that bothered me. Otherwise, this book probably deserves a lot more attention than it has gotten, more praise than I have given it. Like I said, it was very difficult for me to rate this, and I have to wonder how much of that is due to its esoteric nature. However, in spite of everything, I have to say I admire and love the way Mr. Ferrell played with the time travel idea in a fun, clever and different way, and yet somehow still made it all work. Very impressive....more
Hollow World was easily one of my top reads of 2013. I was fortunate to receive the ebook version early because I was a backer in the Kickstarter campHollow World was easily one of my top reads of 2013. I was fortunate to receive the ebook version early because I was a backer in the Kickstarter campaign, a project I pledged my support to as soon as I found out about it because I am a fan of the author. At the time I had just finished reading his Riyria Revelations series and was still coming off from the high, so I was pretty keen on the idea of seeing Hollow World take off.
First, though, a bit of history: in his afterword, Michael J. Sullivan writes that he first took this project to Kickstarter because while everyone he spoke to about it loved the concept behind the book, the general consensus was that this kind of story just wasn't marketable. The science fiction landscape these days is dominated by space operas, military sci-fi, or books from established franchises. It seemed there was very little room left for Hollow World and its good old cross-genre time traveling tale about a 58-year-old man dying from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, who decides to journey into the future in the hopes of finding a cure.
To be honest, reading about the reasons why Sullivan ultimately decided to crowdfund Hollow World came as a surprise to me, especially after just having finished the book. Yes, the story is undoubtedly very different than what is typical in the mainstream right now, and Ellis Rogers would not be what you would call a traditional protagonist. Yet the character's adventure through time is no less extraordinary. Hollow World tells the tale of a man who has played it safe his whole life until he has nothing left to lose, and what he finds in the far, far future is way more than just the freedom from his illness.
It's a great time for speculative fiction right now, with what I've noticed is an increased interest in cross-genre novels and so many great and original ideas having found their way into being published in recent years. I thought surely -- SURELY -- this book could have found a place. In any case, thank goodness for small press and self-pubs as well as sites like Kickstarter, because Hollow World is probably my new favorite book by Michael J. Sullivan, right up there with Heir of Novron. I think his style suits a book like this very well, with its modern character and simply astonishing setting.
The story was compelling from page one, with its masterful introduction to Ellis in the moments after he first receives the life-altering news about his disease. Both character development and world building are Sullivan's greatest strengths, and it was easy to establish a connection with Ellis right away. But that feeling of "Oh wow, this book is something REALLY special" did not hit me until later, when we actually find ourselves in Hollow World. The author has created a breathtaking version of the future.
It's obvious that Michael J. Sullivan drew inspiration from The Time Machine, and he even makes mention to H.G. Wells' classic in his Author's Note. How Ellis Rogers managed to travel forward in time in a disembodied old van seat surrounded by a stack of plastic milk crates isn't the point of Hollow World -- it's the character's story, its fascinating concepts and the heartfelt emotions it invoked, that will make this book stay with me for a long time. Authors of time-travel fiction have long speculated on the future of our planet and humankind, and Sullivan has accomplished something truly amazing with Hollow World, mixing together elements from many different genres including science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thriller and suspense, action-adventure and even a bit of romance.
This confluence of ideas from so many different genres is likely what made the book such a tough sell to publishers to begin with, but its multiple facets is actually what I enjoyed the most. In fact, Hollow World is like a study in pluralities. There are some heavy subject matters within, from interpretations of God and religion, to sociological discussions of hive mind versus individuality, harmony versus chaos. It asks questions like, when does a utopia become a dystopia, and does it matter from whose perspective we look at? Is it worth it to trade comfort and security for freedom? Or how about sacrificing peace and happiness for a sense of accomplishment? Is there a middle ground? Why can't we have it all?
Even though I thought I knew the answers, reading this book was an eye-opener. Ellis Rogers' journey to Hollow World changed his understanding of life and love, making him rethink all the things he thought he knew, and I found myself naturally immersed in his experiences. At certain points, the story made me so angry I wanted to smack the main character upside the head; at others, I was so moved that I was almost in tears. Whether or not you'll find yourself shocked, disturbed, ecstatic, annoyed, or deeply touched (I was all of these and more), Hollow World is a character-driven story packed with intensity and emotion.
I rate this book highly based on pure enjoyment factor; Hollow World is so many things, but without a doubt, the best part about it is also its most obvious duality: that is it at once a light and entertaining read, but also heavy on important issues and philosophy. Most important of all, this story will make you think and feel. I absolutely loved it. ...more
I can't believe I'm giving such a high rating to something that's listed here at a mere 88 pages. I'm not usually a fan of short stories because I lovI can't believe I'm giving such a high rating to something that's listed here at a mere 88 pages. I'm not usually a fan of short stories because I love character and plot development, and often there's not enough for that to happen.
But I should have had faith in Sanderson; there's a reason why he's one of my favorite fantasy authors. I seriously love the stuff the guy comes up with, especially his unique magic systems and characters' fantasy powers. Legion is no exception.
To the outside world, our narrator Stephen Leeds appears to live by himself in a huge mansion, but that's a totally different reality from what he sees. His mental condition allows him to generate a variety of hallucinated people who share his space with him, and they are all unique with their individual personalities, skills and knowledge. They in turn advise and share their expertise with Leeds whenever he needs to know about certain topics.
For example, Leeds doesn't know Hebrew. But one of his hallucinations do. He calls her up and she will immediately act as a translator and language tutor. But of course, no one else but Leeds can see her! To everyone else, he appears to have mastered the language in a matter of minutes. It's like this with any other subject. This therefore makes Leeds seem like a genius, making every scientist and doctor in the world want to study him. The thing is, Leeds doesn't really understand it himself, and the book doesn't really explain. But his unique "power" makes him one hell of a detective/investigator.
Anyway, got this in audiobook format as a freebie through audible.com, and am so glad I did. I'd say I hope Sanderson might expand this story and concept one day, if I weren't already so looking forward to the next book of his Stormlight Archive series. Obviously, I'd want him to get on that one first!...more
I love books like this that deal with time travel in an interesting way, with a touch of the supernatural and unexplained. Stephen King's 11/22/63 wasI love books like this that deal with time travel in an interesting way, with a touch of the supernatural and unexplained. Stephen King's 11/22/63 was kind of like this, and in many ways that book could be a considered spiritual successor to Replay. They share similar elements, themes and are both certainly in the same frame of mind.
The novel begins with the death of 43-year-old Jeff Winston, who inexplicably awakens back in 1963 as his 18-year-old college student self (the book was published in the late 1980s, which is totally amazing to me, as aside from the references to the dates, for a science fiction time travel novel it has aged extraordinarily well). With his memories of his previous life intact, Jeff thus begins to "replay" his life again. Like a time-loop, this happens again and again, with Jeff dying at 43 each time, but awakening later and later in his life, losing more time each cycle. Each of Jeff's replays become vastly different, due to his attempts to change events.
I adored the concept, but as with the danger with many great ideas, I think sometimes they can become too big for themselves. I thought this was the case with this book. I have to say the ending was a little disappointing, but at the same time it was something I'd expected; a book like this with such an original and imaginative premise, it's difficult to imagine what kind of ending would be worthy of it, with which I would have been happy. I would say that the final message, to live life to its fullest, is adequate enough. In any case, I ate this book up like candy....more
Whacky, hilarious and a treat for Star Trek fans, since this book basically pokes fun at the original series in which various stock characters in redWhacky, hilarious and a treat for Star Trek fans, since this book basically pokes fun at the original series in which various stock characters in red shirts tend to always die in the show. These throwaway deaths were frequently used to illustrate the danger of an episode's situation. However, while poor redshirts drop left and right like flies, main characters are often left unharmed or given means to overcome any injury.
This essentially gives us the basis of Redshirts. Our protagonist Ensign Andrew Dahl is thrilled to be assigned to the flagship Intrepid until he starts noticing the high mortality rate of low-ranked crew members who go on away missions. Meanwhile, Captain Abernathy, Chief Science Officer Q'eeng, and Lieutenant Kerensky always seem to manage to survive! Just what the hell is going on?
Be prepared for some mind-bending stuff. Very abstract. Very meta. While it may not be the most original concept, it's going to give you a lot of laughs.
But while humorous and a lot of fun to read, I can't say much for the writing. Here's the biggest thing that bugged me: Do a little experiment -- count how many times the word "said" is used in this book. As in, "Dahl said" or "Kerensky said" or "Duvall said", etc. It's in practically every paragraph, or whenever someone speaks! It might not have been so noticeable, if not for the fact I "audioread" this book. It is VERY obvious there. Given how much conversation is in this novel, listening to the audiobook version was a hair-tearing experience. It got so ridiculous I started to wonder if Scalzi didn't just do it on purpose to mess with his readers' heads. Or maybe he just needs to find another way to write conversation, or get himself a thesaurus?
On the bright side, I have to admit that the "he said/she said" thing went along well with Wil Wheaton's narration. Now don't get me wrong; while I like Wheaton, the guy just cannot do voices like the best of the professional audiobook narrators, and everyone sounded exactly the same. In a rare case of where two wrongs do make a right, having "he said/she said" always keeping track of who was talking actually ended up working out pretty well for me.
That said, while the main story was a good time, I think I might have actually enjoyed the three codas more. Aside from being better written, they also have more depth and meaning, and lends a bit of seriousness to the novel. By itself, I don't think I would have appreciated the main storyline as much....more
4.5 stars. I really liked this one. What a great book, probably the most thoughtful and provocative science fiction novel I've read in a long, long ti4.5 stars. I really liked this one. What a great book, probably the most thoughtful and provocative science fiction novel I've read in a long, long time, and written in such a style and with such care that I wouldn't hesitate to call it a work of art. Influenced and inspired by classic English literature, history and themes (Keats, obviously, will be a recurring figure), it's definitely not one of my usual sci-fi fluff reads. Simmons also adds some his mind-blowing twists on the idea of time and time travel.
Hyperion is a "frame story", its structure is loosely similar to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron. As the universe teeters on the edge of intergalactic war, seven pilgrims travel to a planet called Hyperion to make a request of the demon-gold called the Shrike. With this setting as a backdrop, each pilgrim tells his or her story of why they are going to see the Shrike. Each story is like a puzzle piece, answering questions and filling in more of the time frame and plot.
I loved that about this book, but it's also the only reason I didn't rate this a full 5 stars. You have about half a dozen stories from each of the pilgrims, each with its own mini-plot, theme, mood, style, symbolism and voice. They were all very well done, but obviously a few of them appealed to me more than others. Without giving away any spoilers, I just want to make a few comments on each individual story, as it's just easier this way for me to express why I enjoyed this book so much.
The Priest's Tale: Traveling to Hyperion, the pilgrims all wake up from their cryogenic storage state on a treeship and meet each other for the first time. To pass the time, they decide to tell each other their stories, and of course no one wants to go first. I mean, would you want to share your deepest secrets and most personal memories with a roomful of strangers? So they sort of draw numbers to determine the order in which they will go and the priest Father Hoyt draws the short straw. And, wow. Just wow. What a great story he has to tell, and what a perfect opener hitting the reader like a freaking gut punch. With hints of horror, it will disturb you and leave you with more than a few uncomfortable questions.
The Soldier's Tale: I am not so very impressed with Colonel Kassad's story, mostly because the theme is love (albeit a twisted, messed up kind of love) and here I find Simmons is a bit weak in describing relationships (yes, even the twisted, messed up kind) and intimate feelings. The revelation between the lovers is mind-boggling though, and I have to applaud his cleverness and vision.
The Poet's Tale:: It probably actually speaks well of the author that I was actually quite annoyed with Martin Silenus' tale, because while the poet is hilarious, he's also foul-mouthed, arrogant, irritatingly loquacious, and constantly using big words and quoting literature in a pretentious way. Admittedly, the fact Simmons is able to maintain the voice of that blowhard and make it convincing throughout his entire story is quite the feat. I just didn't really like the character, but he was written extremely well.
The Scholar's Tale: Sol Weintraub, the Jewish professor traveling to Hyperion with his infant daughter Rachel, has the most heartbreaking story of all. And it's probably my favorite out of all of them. It's a gut-punch too, but in a whole different way.
The Detective's Tale: Brawne Lamia's tale is detective/noir-ish, and if I'm not mistaken contains quite a few cyberpunk tropes. I'm often lost in stories dealing with such themes, which could explain why I found the least enjoyment in reading her backstory.
The Consuls's Tale: The story that seeks to tie everything together and bring a close to the first volume of this Hyperion Cantos. In this tale I once again get the feeling that Simmons struggles a bit in writing the subtle nuances between couples in this kind of Romeo and Juliet story that ends in war and hatred and bitterness.
As you can see, the stories are quite varied, resulting in a little bit of everything in this novel, thus my interest shifted accordingly. But on the whole, I thought this was one brilliant book. Hyperion and the next book Fall of Hyperion is meant to be one work in two volumes, so I'm definitely going to be picking it up soon for the conclusion....more
I think I can only take the romance genre in small doses. In any case, this book was okay, but I don't think I liked it enough to want to continue witI think I can only take the romance genre in small doses. In any case, this book was okay, but I don't think I liked it enough to want to continue with the series.
I love how Diana Gabaldon writes, though; she has a way with words and uses some beautiful phrases....more
I wouldn't consider myself to be a huge Stephen King fan. Unlike my husband, who has read pretty much every single one of his books, I've only read aI wouldn't consider myself to be a huge Stephen King fan. Unlike my husband, who has read pretty much every single one of his books, I've only read a select handful. But out of those, most got favorable reviews from me.
So when my husband told me after reading 11/22/63 that this was probably one of the best books King has ever written (but still doesn't beat The Dark Tower, of course) I knew I had to check it out for myself.
At the time, I knew very little about the book, just that it was about a "what if" scenario, as in what if JFK had survived the assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald that fateful day in 1963. And that's it, that's all I really knew of the story's premise. Looking back, that was probably a good thing. The less you know about the story going in, the better the reading experience is going to be, I think.
That's why I'm not going to say much about the plot here, because so much of my enjoyment of the book had to do with wondering what's going to happen, where the story was going to take me next. Never have I been so tempted to flip to the back of the book or even skip down to the end of a page to find out what happens -- but of course, I refrained. I told myself the only way I was going to find out was if I kept reading. So I did. And that's how I finished this 850 page monster in a little more than 4 days. Sure, the book had its ups and downs and there were some slow sections that really could have been cut out or filed down, but I plowed on through anyway.
Perhaps the biggest surprise -- and the biggest treat -- for me was the love story in 11/22/63. You wouldn't think romance was Stephen King's forte, but wow, the depth of emotion and feeling he achieved here was very impressive. The last pages had me in tears. YES, A STEPHEN KING BOOK MADE ME CRY! But then again, unlike the novel's protagonist, even a touching commercial would make me tear up, so maybe don't read too much into it.