By Neal Stephenson; Read by Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 19 May 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 31 hours 55 minutes
Themes: / science fiction / apocalypse / space station / humanity / disaster /
What would happen if the world were ending?
A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.
But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain….
Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown…to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
Executive Summary: Another interesting book from Mr. Stephenson, that was somehow a bit too short for me despite its 32 hour duration. This one won’t be for everyone, but I’d put it on par with many of his previous books.
Audio book: This was my first time listening to a book narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal. She’s really excellent. So excellent, that I was pretty disappointed when it changed to Will Damron for Part 3. I’m not sure why they did this. Was Ms. Kowal too busy to finish recording? Was it intentional?
That isn’t to say Mr. Damron is a bad narrator. I just didn’t like him as much as Ms. Kowal, and the change in narration was jarring. If there was any place in the book it was appropriate to change, it was with Part 3, but I think it would have been better suited if they had just stuck with Ms. Kowal.
I’ve been a fan of Mr. Stephenson ever since picking up Snow Crash back in college. I haven’t read all of his books, but I’ve enjoyed all but one of those that I have.
I had no idea what this book was about when I volunteered to review it. Much like most of his work, it’s long. The start is a bit slow, and as usual it goes off on tangents and into way more detail than is necessary on things. In some of his books, I’ve enjoyed those tangents and the excess of detail. In others, less so. This one was somewhere in the middle for me.
This is the kind of thing that will turn many readers away early on. I was never bored myself, but I wasn’t really engaged in the book until nearly halfway. In a book this long, that will be too much of a commitment for many. However, I suspect if you enjoy the detail and tangents, you’ll be engaged much sooner.
This book is split into three parts. The first part is essentially a present day disaster story. The second is largely a space opera, and the third is a bit of a post apocalyptic tale.
Many authors might have focused on one aspect of this story. Instead of giving us bits of history that help shaped the world of part 3, we live many of the details in parts 1 and 2. For me personally, I would have liked part 1 to be shorter with more time spent on part 3. Part 2 was my favorite of the book, but that may be because I felt despite being a third of the book, part 3 ended too soon.
I have questions still. A lot of them. Is Mr. Stephenson planning a sequel that will contain some of these answers? I hope so.
This isn’t a case of a long book that abruptly ends though. For me the issue is that Mr. Stephenson did such a good job with the world building that I want more. I felt like there wasn’t enough. I would have happily sacrificed much of the present day (which I found slower anyways), for more time in the future story with the world he created.
Mr. Stephenson doesn’t spend all the time on world building either. He develops several interesting characters that are used to make most of the story character-driven. We have a largely female cast, and somewhat diverse background for most of them.
Overall, while this isn’t my favorite Neal Stephenson book, I really enjoyed it, and I hope we get another book set in the same world that he built in part 3.
Review by Rob Zak.
Talked about on today’s show:
2012, Amazon Vine, Android Karenina, Sense And Sensibility And Sea-Monsters, Quirk Books, nurturing writers, rage, apocalyptic stories, mysteries, The End Is Nigh, BRING HER TO ME, not-technically the end of the world, wretched stragglers, going bucket-list, Tam questions, “witty questions”, would you do a podcast if you knew the world was ending next year?, more classics, cozies, get your mind on someone else’s destruction, depressing things make Jesse feel good, “a jar for urine”, Jenny would forget reading, Tam would do “something involving women”, an existential novel, the mystery is secondary to the world building, planting potatoes, four or five months, brutish and horrible and short, the belt, the hoarding, money or love or jealousy or power, real random or artificial random, red herrings, Agatha Christie, the sister, hope, she networks well, the spotty cellphone service, the literary allusions, the romantic plot arc, a lot of ore to be mined, Detective Culverson, the mother and the father, the secondary characters, the coffee shop guy, the existential stuff, On The Beach by Nevil Shute, at the dentist, it’s all going to end, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, Peter Berkrot is a great narrator, “Hen” is brooding, Palace like Pallas, upon the bust of Pallas, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, nevermore, the reverential use of “freeze motherfucker”, it’s about existence, Salvador Dalí, finding reasons for existence, suicide, doing the thing that must be done, a little case of doubling, “I finally get to do what I wanted”, a noble element, the shooting, and then there’s the dog (a bichon frise), a very well put together book, doing the romance, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Distant Pale Glimmers, a Marvel vs. DC movie, Firefly, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Reading Envy, Batman, emancipation or execution, the guns anomaly (AK-47), the trilogy, the second book, Concord, New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”, Texas, “live free, then die”, first person present tense, “that noir style”, treasuring the moments, The Star by Arthur C. Clarke, Christmas, the message, where’s the seed bank on the Moon?, “think of your life as a story”, the key “Truth”, the most important thing ever, TV news is telling shitty stories, 2011 Norway Attacks, “psycho” vs. “psychotic“, “you’re not the main character”, the villain of the piece, “it would be noble, except…”, an intensification of everyday life, the rebuilding, societal change, a “novel” idea, World War Z by Max Brooks, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell, the Edgar Award, the snow, the animals, “maybe the science is off”, denying reality, seeing it with a telescope, denial doesn’t help you, The Jilting of Granny Weatherall by Katherine Anne Porter, coming to grips with mortality, assisted living movie group, alternative medicine and false hope, “a natural reaction”, quit your job and go crazy, spend time with your friends, who cares about podcasting?, “the secret to podcasting is that it’s an excuse to spend time with your friends”, podcast is a great medium, unlike The Geeks Guide To The Galaxy, “that’s not what the podcast is”, religious books, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Reading Envy, The Inklings, the formatting is facilitating, proper flow, “super-consumable”, re-readers, “this makes you think about what’s important in your life”, “a thought provoking book”, The Source, Hank’s purpose, ‘locked town mystery’, the process, empathy, a grubby little murder, caring, the insurance office, Hank Palace cares about all these stories, a Star Trek reference, The Inner Light, Picard learns to play the flute,
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / destruction / apocalypse / survival / engineering / politics /
Wool introduced the silo and its inhabitants. Shift told the story of their making. Dust will chronicle their undoing. Welcome to the underground.
Final books in a series are always tough. Endings are difficult. Not everyone may be happy.
The ending to this series was good, but not great. I think it really comes down to what you’re expecting. Wool really sets the stage of a mystery series with a post-apocalyptic setting. By the end of it I had a ton of questions. Some of those questions were answered or at least explored by Shift, but a few more were posed as well. For me more than anything I wanted my questions answered to my satisfaction in this final book.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for me. I still have questions. A few of the things that were explained, weren’t done to my satisfaction. The clarification I was hoping might be in this book never really came. We do get some answers. Just not enough. When discussing it with others I found that some of my lingering questions hadn’t occurred to them at all. Your mileage may vary.
That said, it’s still an enjoyable book with a good, but not great ending. Mr. Howey does a good job in tying the two halves of the story set out in Wool and Shift together.
I found Juliette not as enjoyable in this book as in the first, but I still probably enjoyed it the most. Solo was probably a close second. After Shift I found myself mostly getting tired of Donald however. He’s not exactly the most likable of people. I found myself not really caring what he did except how it affected the others.
Tim Gerard Reynolds is once again a great reader. When deciding between reading or listening to a book, who the reader is often makes a big difference, and Mr. Reynolds makes this a must listen. He does voices and accents that add a little extra something to the story. If you’re deciding between listening and reading the book, I’d recommend listening.
Review by Rob Zak.
The End is Nigh (Apocalypse Triptych #1)
Edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey (full author and performer list below)
Publisher: Broad Reach Publishing
Publication Date: 8 April 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 15 hours, 8 minutes
Themes: / apocalypse / destruction / short stories /
Famine. Death. War. Pestilence. These are the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse, of the End of the World. In science fiction, the end is triggered by less figurative means: nuclear holocaust, biological warfare/pandemic, ecological disaster, or cosmological cataclysm.
But before any catastrophe, there are people who see it coming. During, there are heroes who fight against it. And after, there are the survivors who persevere and try to rebuild.
Table of contents and audiobook narrator listings copied directly from John Joseph Adams’ website. If you want more detailed summaries of each story, I found the review at Tangent very good, particularly because it is so hard to keep track of short stories when you are listening instead of reading!
The audio was an incredible asset to this anthology, although I will probably also need to buy this for my shelf o’ anthologies. The best in audio are Removal Order, BRING HER TO ME, and The Fifth Day of Deer Camp.
My favorite stories were BRING HER TO ME and Goodnight Moon.
I’m most interested in the next installment (so please let there be a next installment) of Removal Order, Pretty Soon the Four Horsemen are Going to Come Riding Through, and Spores.
What do I mean by next installment? The End is Nigh is the first volume of a triptych. It will be followed by The End is Now and The End Has Come, with some authors contributing linked stories. Very exciting concept, and as the Queen of Apocalypse there is no way I couldn’t read this.
Here are my more detailed impressions, story by story!
Nearly 10 years I began reporting that J. Michael Straczynski had been asked to write a radio drama for CBC Radio One. Later, we learned that Cynthia Dale had been cast in the title role. And still later that the show was in production. And it was indeed recorded. But it never aired. Over the years the campaign to get it aired plodded along – but without any success. Then a couple years ago word of a comics version came about. Now, after the comics version is actually out (the first issue was dated February 2014) I am stunned to report that there is indeed now a new audio drama available.
As you can see above, a QR code (and the regular http:// address) are given in the latter pages of the first issue of the comic.
I should point out that this is an entirely NEW recording (not the one Canadian taxpayers paid for but never heard) and we don’t know yet if the remaining 3/4 of the story will be produced for audio.
The Adventures of Apocalypse Al – Issue #1
By J. Michael Straczynski; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 19 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
When a mysterious figure gets his hands on the Book of Keys, whose secrets can cause the destruction of the world, Allison Carter is the only one who can stop him. Her journey takes her through a world populated by zombie cops, machinegun toting imps, techno-wizards, closet trolls, demonic theme parks, other dimensions, Ultimate Darkness, and an undead ex-boyfriend.
Produced By: Patricia Tallman
Patricia Tallman as Allison Carter
Robin Atkin Downes
Sound Effects Editor/Designer: Robin Atkin Downes
[Thanks also to Q Buckley!]
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / global warming / post-apocalypse / apocalypse / survival / floods / eco-disaster /
It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and sunshine glistened across the drenched land.
Following years of catastrophic hurricanes, the Gulf Coast—stretching from the Florida panhandle to the western Louisiana border—has been brought to its knees. The region is so punished and depleted that the government has drawn a new boundary ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the Line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules.
Cohen is one who stayed. Unable to overcome the crushing loss of his wife and unborn child who were killed during an evacuation, he returned home to Mississippi to bury them on family land. Until now he hasn’t had the strength to leave them behind, even to save himself.
But after his home is ransacked and all of his carefully accumulated supplies stolen, Cohen is finally forced from his shelter. On the road north, he encounters a colony of survivors led by a fanatical, snake-handling preacher named Aggie who has dangerous visions of repopulating the barren region.
Realizing what’s in store for the women Aggie is holding against their will, Cohen is faced with a decision: continue to the Line alone, or try to shepherd the madman’s captives across the unforgiving land with the biggest hurricane yet bearing down—and Cohen harboring a secret that may pose the greatest threat of all.
In a near-future apocalyptic Mississippi, hurricanes and flooding are so frequent (nearly constant) that the government has redrawn the southern border of the country above the disaster zone. Anyone living south of The Line has no government assistance, no security, and must fend for him or herself. This setting is one of the most realistic apocalyptic worlds I have read. I’m intentionally not using the word “post” because throughout the novel, destruction continues. People are trying to survive below The Line, but hail and winds and rains are still a bigger enemy than the sprinkling of humans trying to create lives for themselves.
Cohen is a man who holed up in grief until he goes against his instincts and gives a ride to a man and woman on the road. Various events force him to make the next moves in his life in order to survive. I was quite interested in the story in the first half and in the end, but the middle almost lost me as Cohen seems to wander more in his memories than in solving his problems.
I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I didn’t realize he was the reader until the end, and thought he must just be a voice actor I hadn’t heard before. His accent is subtle but places the listener within the region, and he sounds slightly worn, slightly tired, which fits the character completely.
Posted by Jenny Colvin