“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
So, the only other experience I have with Blake Crouch is through the ridiculously insanely pulpy, Drakulas … written by three other authors. I can’t say I was able to tell who wrote what, so it really wasn’t a huge help. Other than that I had good feelings going in because Drakulas is amazing. Read it, do it.
Dark Matter is difficult to explain without spoilers, but let’s just say it involves … science. Wow, could this review get more boring than that. Okay, there’s got to be a minor amount of spoilers to get this review moving, so let’s say spoiler warning for the first quarter of the book.
Our protagonist, Jason Dessen, has the perfect life and, more importantly, the perfect family. Okay, his marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s a place he loves being in more than anything. In fact, it’s something he gave up a budding science career to pursue.
Like anyone, he always imagines what it would be like if he’d made different choices. The only difference is that he actually gets to see for himself.
While tightly plotted with one heck of a twist at the end (I thought), this book packs more of a punch in the psychological aspects. Considering the implications of the science (which I’m really trying not to spoil), the questions addressed by Dessen are what really got me. Thinking about what I would do in the same situation is what will keep this book in my brain for some time.
What would you do for your family? What lengths would you go to to be with them? To save them? To permit them to be happy? What if that choice makes you miserable?
4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)
Note on the narrator: Jon Lindstrom is one of those voices that really needs to fit the character if that makes any sense. I feel like there are some books that his voice wouldn’t work for. It worked for Jason Dessen. Craig Wasson (11/22/63 and many others) is one of those voices for me as well.
I received an audio copy from the publisher for review.
Star Wars: Bloodline (New Republic) By Claudia Gray; Narrated by January LaVoy
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 3 May 2016
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 14 minutes
Themes: / Star Wars / New Republic /
WITNESS THE BIRTH OF THE RESISTANCE When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory. Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy. As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing. . . .
To start I will say that I was about to give up on Star Wars books because I haven’t been enjoying them lately, but now I’m telling my friends that do like Star Wars book to go read this one because we might be turning a corner here.
What starts out as a slow, politics-laden story became a fun Star Wars book that actually had meaningful events. The recent flow of Star Wars novels have felt like filler more than content so it’s about time a story actually starting to really fill in some of the events between Episodes 6 and 7. The book isn’t perfect by any means but I enjoyed it well enough and it gives me hope that more good novels could still happen. Did you miss all the politics that didn’t happen in Episode 7? Well you are going to love the beginning of this book. Glad there weren’t politics in Episode 7? Be patient with the beginning of the book and you’ll be rewarded with some redeeming adventure afterwards!
The story begins with tension in the senate between Democrats and Republicans in the senate….err I mean Centrists and Populists. Really the whole two party system felt like an allegory for the current political climate in many ways. If you’re sick of all the primaries and partisan stuff going on, you’ll be able to relate to the nonsense going on here. Both sides of the New Republic government see each other a villains or weak and their bickering means nothing gets accomplished (see what I mean about it being just like our government???). Enter a real threat and everyone is too busy arguing to pay any head so lets send a bipartisan contingent to investigate! Leia (populist) volunteers to go on a mission to investigate this criminal organization and an annoying, pompous centrist volunteers to go with her.
Enter Ransolm Casterfo. This guy starts out pretty annoying but I actually came to really like him after the first little foray of adventure. He has more depth to him than many other Star Wars characters and is given many nuanced decisions to make throughout the book while dealing with the fact that he becomes friends with his political enemy. He has a big role to play in this story and does not disappoint. There are a couple of other interesting characters that are introduced in this novel and they are also often more than they seem…but Ransolm Casterfo is the best of them.
Speaking of adventure, the action has a bit of a rocky start but gets to be more interesting as the story progresses. There were some moments early on when I got pretty tired of Leia being some kind of expert of the criminal world and acting pretty reckless, but a lot of that pulpy behavior faded out as the story continued. Star Wars is still the kind of world where you don’t send special forces or spies to investigate criminal organizations, you send some of your most important leaders (Like how Star Trek always seems to have the top ranking officers of the ship on dangerous away missions).
As for the audio side of things Star Wars continues with its great formula of great narration, music, sound effects, and atmospheric sounds. January LaVoy does a great job with the narration even though her range of distinct voices isn’t as varied as some. The music and special effects were great as usual with some odd music choices for some scenes but some very poignant choices for others. Most of the atmospheric sounds were good but some scenes go on a while and I felt like the background noise was on a bit of a loop – a problem I haven’t heard from a Star Wars audiobook since Star Wars: Kenobi (thank goodness it wasn’t very distracting).
Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes that the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.
At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.
As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives? Lily Brooks-Dalton’s captivating debut is a meditation on the power of love and the bravery of the human heart.
Isolation, loneliness, facing down death. This book contains two interwoven narrative threads. One belongs to an aging astronomer named Augustine. The other thread belongs to an astronaut named Sullivan. Something bad appears to have happened, and Augustine chooses to remain at a remote Arctic base as everyone evacuates. Sullivan is on her way back to Earth from Jupiter when Mission Control goes dark.
The premise is appealing. I have a fondness for cold and hard distant landscapes. The arctic and space is ripe and powerful for story. Lily Brooks-Dalton writes a strong opening and a heck of an ending. It is a successful ending as it turns me inward. I am still thinking about… well, no spoilers.
I felt Sullivan’s narrative thread was stronger and better written. As character, she is more round and engaging than Augustine, at least for me. Most of my complaints are founded in my own study of writing and story, and may not be fair or interesting to the general reader. As characters go, Augustine was a disappointment, but Sullivan and her crewmates more than compensated. As noted, I felt the beginning and ending was especially well crafted, but the middle seemed to lag, and the writing here didn’t feel as refined. This leads me to my biggest bug, and this is pacing. I felt that too much of this story was back on its heels, and while this certainly can be metaphor to mirror an inward introspective sense of self and life and universe, at times this slowness pulled me from story. I also would have appreciated a deeper excavation of setting.
This has two narrators, one for each story thread. John H. Mayer handles Augustine’s portion, and Hillary Huber takes care of Sullivan’s. I usually dislike more than one narrator, as I feel it runs the risk of getting in the way of what is being read, but this was handled quite nice, and I have no real complaints about the decision to use two readers. Both Mayer and Huber were pleasing and I found each voice suited the character. My only issue came with Huber’s accents. There is a South African, Russian, and an American Midwest accent that are rendered a tad dramatic. I think we can agree that this is a small thing, but it still kind of bugged me, and pulled me out of the moment.
This is a solid 3.5 out of 5, and I think if I weren’t so hyperaware of craft and story as story for story’s sake, I’d probably nail a 4 out of 5 on this book. In short, this is a fine book, and if you are at all interested by what this seems to be about, I think you’ll genuinely like it, a lot.
The SFFaudio Podcast #338 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Paul talk about new releases and recent arrivals (audiobooks, books, and comics).
Talked about on today’s show: Aftermath: Star Wars (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens) by Chuck Wendig, read by Marc Thompson, not a curse fest, the crawl, grief, The Geeks Guide To The Galaxy, one star reviews, diversity up down left and sideways, a pink lightsaber, a rainbow lightsaber, Timothy Zahn, sounds like Star Wars names, Heirs Of Empire by Evan Currie, read by Deric McNish, Brilliance Audio, it sounds like a Stars Wars book (but isn’t), a 47 North Novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick, read by Luke Daniels, drugs!, sounds trippy, re-reading Philip K. Dick (for The SFFaudio Podcast), different assumptions, by the inventor of Science Fiction… In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells, read by Walter Covell, the salvation of the human race, cynical then preachy, The Star by H.G. Wells, The Poison Belt by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1906, The World Set Free, The Sea Lady by H.G. Wells (a mermaid in Edwardian society), Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, a comedic bicycling novel, military SF, David Weber, The Child by Keith F. Goodnight, read by Nick Podehl, Tam’s macho voice, Adam Christopher’s The Burning Dark, Event Horizon, hyperspace as a Hellraiser universe, this all goes back to H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond, drugs plus radar shadowing, a terrific adaptation The Banshee Chapter, the 1980s adaptation of From Beyond, fear of the dark in a lighted world, The Oncoming Storm by Christopher G. Nuttall, read by Lauren Ezzo, the youngest captain in naval (future) history, what is 47 North? it’s Amazon’s publishing house, synergy, PlayStation has it’s own TV show (based on a comic book called Powers), an Honor Harrington novel with the serial numbers filed off, fantasy (non epic), Locke And Key by Joe Hill, adapted by Elaine Lee and Frederick Greenhalgh, audio drama, AudioComics, 13.5 hour audio drama, Gabriel Rodriguez, Paul needs to get Welcome To Lovecraft, horror, dark fantasy, hyper-imaginative, Joe Hill looks and writes like his dad (Stephen King), kids in a creepy situation, the manipulation of power, more fantasy elements, the origins of the keys at Key House, back stories, Fred Greenhalgh as a champion of field recorded audio drama, a film production unit without cameras, listening with headphones, this could be the star of something really amazing, the business model, word-of-mouth then the long tail?, Elaine Lee’s Starstruck, William Dufris, epic fantasy, Twelve Kings In Sharakhai (Song of Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu, read by Sarah Coomes, Paul is a fan of Bradley P. Beaulieu’s writing, “his best novel yet”, it is impossible to promote books you aren’t enthusiastic about, “the ones that sing to the song in your blood”, Paul is a long term epic fantasy fan, true confessions, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, epic fantasy as a lifestyle choice, Kate Elliot, The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher; read by Euan Morton, Penguin Audio, urban fantasy, airships!, a new steampunk secondary world, beautiful endpapers and maps Priscilla Spencer, books in the middle of series: Darken the Stars (Kricket #3) by Amy A. Bartol, read by Kate Rudd, The Ciphers of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood #2) by Jeff Wheeler, read by Kate Rudd, Unholy War (The Moontide Quartet #3) by David Hair, read by Nick Podehl, Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2) by Jeff Wheeler, read by Sue Pitkin, Jenny’s favourite section “dystopia, unrest, destruction, apocalypse”, an interesting theory about zombies and dystopias, it fits in with the Christian end times, Revelations and rapture theology, the 1950s optimism, we’re not in Star Trek times anymore, 2 Walking Dead TV series and Z Nation, zombies never die, The Heart Goes Last: A Novel by Margaret Atwood, read by Cassandra Campbell and Mark Deakins, an economic and social collapse, the “Positron Project”, what is the point of the premise?, allegory not SF?, an Asimovian word, she doesn’t really care about the consequences of science, people who are interested in science, Ted Chiang, what if…, doesn’t that mean XYZ?, let her write her books, paranormal romance, Dark Ghost (Dark Saga #28) by Christine Feehan, read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross, a bounty hunter, a vampire slayer, a geologist, fairy tales, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie, read by Robert G. Slade, history and folklore, “the time of the strangenesses”, a djinn, 1,001 nights (two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights), a Nobel Prize for Literature, a print book, Joy To The Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction For The Holidays, a mix of mystery and speculative fiction and Christmas, Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak, G. Clemans, upcoming authors, Andy Weir, that’s how the young people are reading, get of Tam’s lawn, House Of M, Marvel Comics, why is Thor a girl now?, Scarlet Witch can re-write reality, annoying-off people(?), the $1 floppy deals, Free Comic Book Day, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is fun and fabulous, her squirrel sidekick, a silver age happy go lucky superhero in our cynical grim age, she’s got squirrel blood!, writing comics for kids, Genosha, kids Squirrel Girl cosplaying looks fun, making your own costume, Princess Leia (Marvel Comics/Star Wars), there’s something wrong with Princess Leia, Disney is making so much more product than Lucas, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrow’s Providence (Avatar comics), Neonomicon, when will the first Providence trade come out, what Moore is doing and saying with Providence, an examination and meditation on H.P. Lovecraft stories, Providence doesn’t seem to have a very important plot, Herbert West’s equivalent, if you are deeply involved in Lovecraft…, if you don’t know Lovecraft can you still enjoy Providence?, the turns!, not merely visually shocking, The Dunwich Horror, a trans-dimensional invisible character, Moore is wrestling with Lovecraft, Watchmen, Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade’s Crossed Plus One Hundred, “124C41+”, “Return Of The King”, “Glory Road”, “A Canticle For Leibowitz”, “Tyger, Tyger”, “Foundation and Empire”, the difference between crossed zombies and regular zombies, the Crossed series, Alan Moore is about thinking deeply about things, evolution, “the big surprise of 2008”, bone piles, the change of language, AFAWK, Moore has reconstructed English in the way of A Clockwork Orange or Anathem, zombies as a fear of death, zombies as a fear of loss of individual volition and personality, a fear of Alzheimer’s, we don’t talk about death, The Walking Dead Volume 12 (hardcover), everybody’s infected, no matter what happens you become a zombie, zombies as a non-scary version of momento mori, Brian K. Vaughn and Steve Skroce’s We Stand On Guard, the invasion of Canada by the United States, the only time Canada has ever been invaded was by the United States, reading for writers not for artists, the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre series, The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, DART The Horror At Red Hook, a straight up adaptation of The Horror At Red Hook by H.P. Lovecraft, DART Dagon: War Of Worlds, Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft, imagine War Of The Worlds not from Space but from beneath, X-COM: UFO DEFENSE, X-COM: Terror From The Deep, aliens at the bottom of the ocean, the Orson Welles style War Of The Worlds, mapping out all of Lovecraft’s squiddy watery fears, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Call Of Cthulhu, “I love that!”, attention to detail, if it says it in the story they take it seriously, The Whisperer In Darkness, Infocom games included props, H.P. Lovecraft The Spirit Of Revision Lovecraft’s Letters To Zealia Brown Reed Bishop, David Michelinie and Brett Blevins’ The Bozz Chronicles, originally from Epic Comics, a 19th century Sherlock Holmes alien mashup, lots of nudity, The New Mutants artist, Dover Publications, a 200 page trade-paperback for $20, a feel of the new Doctor Who, Madame Vastra, what if Sherlock Holmes was not Sherlock Holmes, Fred Saberhagen’s Bezerker story, Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula novels, Conan Red Sonja, a lack of attention to details, 1980s sensibilities vs. 20teens sensibilities.
Aftermath: Star Wars (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
By Chuck Wendig; Narrated by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio Release Date: September 04, 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 Hours and 16 Minutes
Themes: / Star Wars / rebels / empire /
The second Death Star has been destroyed, the emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down. Devastating blows against the Empire and major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over.
As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance – now a fledgling New Republic – presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial star destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.
Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former Rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world – war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’ urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is – or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.
Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit – to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies – her technical genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector – who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.
Star Wars Aftermath is the first book of the newly renovated Star Wars timeline to take place after the original movies and it doesn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it. We were enticed by the potential for details of what happens after Return of the Jedi but details of the main heroes are doled out sparingly while the main part of the story involves mostly new characters. This isn’t quite the journey to the Force Awakens I was hoping for.
The main plot follows those new characters, Wedge gets some screen time in there, and we get small glances of the rest of the universe through small little interlude chapters – which are the most interesting parts of the book. We get to find out some hints of interesting things going on elsewhere in the universe and it’s the unclear nature of those hints that make them so interesting.
So what about the main story? It’s fairly standard pulpy Star Wars action that I honestly can’t really remember a whole lot of because nothing particularly stood out. Some of the remnant of the Empire decide to hold a secret meeting somewhere they don’t have firm control (or also not somewhere in deep space) so that Rebels (or New Republic people) could stumble upon them and we could have some nice “stuck on a planet” moments. I’ve seen some criticism of the writing style but I think the main problem this book has is that the plot doesn’t really seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. Besides, I don’t look for fine writing in a Star Wars book anyway – I look for fun and action.
As for the audio side of things, Marc Thompson and the sound engineers did a great job as per usual. Thompson does a great range of voices and impressions even though he didn’t really get to use many of those impressions in this book. His Wedge sounds a lot more like Luke but Wedge doesn’t really have as much of persona from the movies anyway. The music and sound effects were great as they usually are in Star Wars productions.
Fool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool #2) By Robin Hobb; read by Elliot Hill
Publisher: Random House Audio Publication Date: 11 August 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 33 hours, 13 minutes
Themes: / epic fantasy / magic /
The harrowing adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer and his enigmatic friend the Fool continue in Robin Hobb’s triumphant follow-up to Fool’s Assassin. But Fool’s Quest is more than just a sequel. With the artistry and imagination her fans have come to expect, Hobb builds masterfully on all that has gone before, revealing devastating secrets and shocking conspiracies that cast a dark shadow over the history of Fitz and his world—a shadow that now stretches to darken all future hope.
Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter.
Distracted by the Fool’s perilous health, and swept up against his will in the intrigues of the royal court, Fitz lets down his guard . . . and in a horrible instant, his world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon.
But FitzChivalry Farseer is not without weapons of his own. An ancient magic still lives in his veins. And though he may have let his skills as royal assassin diminish over the years, such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten.
Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.
Executive Summary: I loved this book. It’s everything I had hopedFool’s Assassin would have been. There are a things I didn’t like, that will understandably be much more off putting for some than they were for me.
Audio book: Elliot Hill once again does an excellent job. He does a variety of voices and inflections that make doing this book in audio a good option.
I absolutely loved Fool’s Fate. I’d have been perfectly content if the series ended there. Last year’s Fool’s Assassin was enjoyable, but not as much as I’d have liked. It left me apprehensive for this book. I shouldn’t have been. That isn’t to say bad things don’t happen to our beloved Fitz. Any fan of the Ederling books won’t be surprised by that. Ms. Hobb sure loves to torment Fitz, though probably not as much as he torments himself.
This book grabbed me from the start, and never let me go. I hated every time I had to stop listening. In fact once my hardcover copy arrived, I augmented my audio time by reading the print as well.
For reasons I can’t fathom, many people seem to skip the excellent Liveship Traders series and more have skipped the quite enjoyable Rainwild Chronicles. While I wouldn’t call it a prerequisites for this book, I would highly recommend reading those books first. There are so many great rewards in the book for people who have. If you haven’t, I doubt you’ll be lost, but you won’t get the same enjoyment in my opinion.
It’s pretty much impossible for me to get into why I loved this book more than the last one without massive spoilers, however I suspect most longtime fans will share my excitement.
That said, despite getting one of my rare 5 star ratings (this is only the second book by Ms. Hobb I’ve given that to), there are some complaints. Or maybe not complaints so much as things I wish weren’t in this book. I found them very upsetting. I’d have preferred some kind of alternative reason used to drive the plot forward. I suspect some people may be more upset than I was, and others may be more indifferent.
Overall though, those were very minor things to me in an absolutely fantastic book. I will warn that if you hate cliffhangers, you may wish to avoid reading this book until we’re much closer to the release of the next book. It is a pretty big one. With it being the second book of a trilogy, and how the first book ended, I can’t say I’m very surprised.
Much like the last one, I am both nervous and excited to read the next one and see what Ms. Hobb has in store.