Nancy Kress sets up a fascinating premise in this novel. Aliens, who refer to themselves as Atoners, set up a website and email address for humans toNancy Kress sets up a fascinating premise in this novel. Aliens, who refer to themselves as Atoners, set up a website and email address for humans to apply to become "Witnesses" to a mysterious crime the Aliens committed against humanity 10,000 years ago. Millions apply, but only 21 are selected, 15 coming from the United States. This seems to be a theme in Nancy Kress's books, briefly mentioning other areas of the world (a greater acknowledgement than some other US writers) but ultimately focusing on the importance of the United States influence on events, sometimes even on an interstellar scale.
It transpires that the Atoners kidnapped our ancestors and took them to various star systems. Each system has one A planet and one B planet, the earth serving as the control in an epic experiment. The witnesses find primitive cultures on each of the planets and it takes the first half of the novel to discover what it is the Atoners did in their experiments and what they are trying to fix.
The second half of the novel is the fall out of the revelation on Earth and how we cope, or fail to cope, with it.
Throughout the story we switch between key witnesses’ perspectives. After their initial thrill about being chosen as witnesses, most have to contend with their frustration over not knowing what they are meant to be witnessing, then eventually once they discover what the Atoners have done, what the Atoners want the witnesses to do or say about it. The Atoners never set foot on earth or any of the other experimental planets, and remain largely mysterious throughout. I did have some sympathy for Soledad, a witness who has to deal with a lot of crap, but I didn’t feel much for the other characters.
While I did enjoy the book, and Kress is a solid writer, this story could have been much shorter and had the same level of impact.
I listened the audiobook and Kate reading did a good job distinguishing between male and female voices, and overall it was professional if not standout, performance. ...more
I loved this story, and was sad to find it was a standalone as upon finishing I immediately looked for the sequel. However, it is a complete story inI loved this story, and was sad to find it was a standalone as upon finishing I immediately looked for the sequel. However, it is a complete story in itself. The book starts off as sci-fi thriller set 200 years in the future, where an Apocalypse has rendered earth a lifeless husk, and we are following the story of an archaeologist studying the wastelands of Paris. The story then switches to Paris of the 1950s, but not a 1950s we recognize, some things that should have happened by 1959, haven't.
The stories intertwine, and we are treated to a thriller where the main protagonist, aforementioned archaeologist, Verity Auger, has to complete a mission on this 1950s world as she has the knowledge of Paris at this time. She is a kick-ass character and Reynolds treats her to several near death experiences which left me on a rollercoaster ride of emotion, wondering if she, and the other characters I had come to care about with little, but careful, character development, were going to make it. Recommended.
Audio-book version: I listened to the audio-book narrated by the British John Lee. He did an excellent job with the many female voices, and his narration was very even and I now associate Alastair Reynolds with John Lee's narration. ...more
I feel a bit used. I've listened to the audiobook performed by Katherine Kellgren and apart from her over enunciating "pAAAsengers" she did several diI feel a bit used. I've listened to the audiobook performed by Katherine Kellgren and apart from her over enunciating "pAAAsengers" she did several different types of British accents extremely well. Well enough that the boring characters in this book came to life. The banal things they overcome when things are going right for them, such as a character desperately seeking a black skirt or she'll get fired from her department store job. In an ideal world, these time travelling historians never go anywhere too dangerous. They only want to observe everyday life. This doesn't make an interesting story. So when things take a turn for the worse and the characters do end up in more dangerous places it does get a little more interesting. I'm left wanting to know what happens to these shallow, stupid characters who have no imagination or problem solving skills, damn you Katherine....more
I wish I'd enjoyed this collection of short stories more as Ray Bradbury is such an iconic figure in science fiction literature. These stories, linkedI wish I'd enjoyed this collection of short stories more as Ray Bradbury is such an iconic figure in science fiction literature. These stories, linked together by the title character who has a body covered with clairvoyant tattoos, explore issues that seem close to Bradbury's heart, as they are oft repeated. Book burning, censorship and the value of fiction to culture are themes that crop up in several stories. The stories feature lots of rockets visiting planets in our solar system that somehow support life, and rockets are even used to make trips around the earth a trivial matter. It's I guess what people thought would happen, that'd we'd be living on the moon in a few short decades. While I admire Bradbury's moral compass, especially regarding racism and other controversial issues, the stories felt very dated.
I listend to the audiobook version, and the first whole book I've listed to that was narrated by Scott Brick, even though he's narrated over 600 books. His narration was fine. Not amazing, but well done. ...more
Reading the description this book looked interesting with elements I like in a sci-fi story, particularly how first contact will change human life. HoReading the description this book looked interesting with elements I like in a sci-fi story, particularly how first contact will change human life. However I'd put off reading it as I'd heard that the author was very right wing and bashed you over the head with it in the book. Now that's an overstatement but if capitalism offends you, this may not be the book for you.
The baddies are commies, and the goodies are capitalist go-getters who hate city dwellers and liberals. That sounds quite partisan, but the author does wrap it all up in a good story, and the writing isn't bad. Unlike the even more right-wing story, One Second After, Live free actually had likeable characters, even if you didn't agree with the protagonist's politics, he was likeable enough to go along for the ride.
The author didn't seem too pro-military. At least in this story, the military were a tool for the state, and the state happened to have a left-wing head, who was going against the constitution to appease earth's new alien overloads, who were demanding our precious metals in a Mafia style interstellar protection racket. I could understand the U.S president's position as the earth had absolutely no defence against a much more advanced, albeit communist, alien civilisation. And the protagonist, think Tony Stark, ended up playing a significant role in both establishing relations with peaceful aliens, and attempting to defend the earth from not so peaceful aliens.
I listened to the audiobook, which often makes me wonder how much this changes my enjoyment of a book. In this case I think it improved the book and I would've enjoyed this a lot less had the characters not been as well acted. I especially likedMark Boyett's voices for the characters from Maine.
I liked exploring the idea that with the right determination, and a little smart capitalism, we could seriously get into space in the not too distant future.
spoiler!..... (view spoiler)[the stupidest part of the book was the partially foiled alien biological attack. The aliens were going to decimate the earth with several strands of virus that would eventually kill everyone without a gene for blonde hair. The attacks that would kill people who weren't blonde were prevented, but one virus package was missed, this would have restored the labour force for the new alien overlords by increasing the fertility of the remaining blonde females. So now humanity has a bunch of blonde women who go on heat once a month and have multiple babies. Why blondes you ask? Besides author's fantasy, the main protagonist, the aliens nemesis, and earth's saviour happened to be be a brunette. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Enjoyed this book even with its plot holes. As Banyan the protagonist and 1st person narrator was likable, had a very good moral compass considering tEnjoyed this book even with its plot holes. As Banyan the protagonist and 1st person narrator was likable, had a very good moral compass considering the world he lived in, it was easy to like the story he told about his life building artificial trees in a world where no more natural trees exist due to GenTec's, an evil corporation, genetic engineering of pest resistant crops which resulted in super bugs that ate everything else on the planet. Banyan soon sets out on a quest to find his missing father who left him, while also trying to find a semi-mythical place where trees still grow....more
Set in a utopian world of a destroyed Chicago, we are never told if the rest of the world survived the cataclysmic event that destroyed the city, butSet in a utopian world of a destroyed Chicago, we are never told if the rest of the world survived the cataclysmic event that destroyed the city, but we can assume it was war as to stop all wars and human conflict society is divided into factions, and as you come of age, at 16, you must choose the faction you'll be for the rest of your life, and the faction you choose determines where you live work and you you associate with. It would be interesting to find out what happened to the rest of the world, as we are only seeing what life in one city in the U.S is like. The factions remind me of high-school clicks, jocks, nerds, stoners, narks, losers. But according to the narrator, Tris, there hadn't been a murder in the city for a long time, so it's working for them.
Yes, it was better then the Hunger games. But I wanted to know about the rest of the world....more