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Blythe

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  • reviews
  • 19
  • helpful votes
  • 34
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  • The Chronoliths

  • Written by: Robert Charles Wilson
  • Narrated by: Oliver Wyman
  • Length: 10 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 13
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 13
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 13

Scott Warden is a man haunted by the past-and soon to be haunted by the future. In early 21st-century Thailand, Scott is an expatriate slacker. Then, one day, he inadvertently witnesses an impossible event: the violent appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar in the forested interior. Its arrival collapses trees for a quarter mile around its base, freezing ice out of the air and emitting a burst of ionizing radiation. It appears to be composed of an exotic form of matter.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Strong start, anticlimatic ending

  • By Blythe on 2018-10-24

Strong start, anticlimatic ending

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-10-24

A few years in the future, massive monuments marking the victories of a warlord known only as "Kuin" start appearing around the world. The dates on them are about 20 years into the future. As more and more of the monuments appear, it becomes obvious that Kuin is using some unknown technology to not only mark his victories, but to send the announcements into the past - possibly in the belief that warning the world in advance that he's already won will make his victories even more guaranteed.

As scientists scramble to try and figure out how the massive monuments (chronoliths) are being deployed, and theoreticians debate about whether Kuin's actions are self-fulfilling and/or have created a paradox that will change Kuin's very existence, a programmer called Scott gets swept up in the events surrounding the chronoliths and finds his life permanently entwined with them from the appearance of the very first. Through Scott's memoirs we learn of his history with the chronoliths and his involvement, at first just as an observer, but later working with a group of the scientists studying the temporal phenomena around them, and finally involved in an attempt to try and destroy one. Meanwhile the world itself is dramatically changed simply by their arrival; groups of "Kuinists" form, convinced that Kuin is inevitable and that humanity may as well just embrace their future overlord.

The science and in particular the theories around the chronoliths are really interesting, in particular the discussions of how Kuin might have changed time, and the idea that maybe there never was a Kuin, or at least not really a warlord, but if someone managed to send back the chronoliths and convince the world that there WOULD be a Kuin, then it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy as groups like the Kuinists embrace the 'inevitable' and make it come to pass, even if it hadn't ever really been. The science is cleverly written and the story sparks lots of interesting thinking along these lines So why only three stars? Because I found Scott himself a fairly unlikeable character, as are many of the characters in fact. Some aren't terrible, but as they're all seen through Scott's eyes there wasn't a single one I really fell in love with. In addition, Wilson chooses to define all the women in Scott's family (wives and daughters) by their relation to Scott. He is variously savior, swooping in at the last minute to rescue them, or they are beaten up and raped so we can see his reaction to it. They have so little actual existence of their own that we never even seem to find out what happens to his daughter's husband in the end. And yes, the story is told by Scott so to some degree it makes sense that he's telling it as if the world revolves around him, but it still felt like a very self-centered view of the world in which nobody else's character gets to develop and everything that happens to them happens because of its affect on Scott. Nobody in the story has anything happen to them that is irrelevant to Scott, and I just found that made for a rather boring narrative. And I want to know what happened to his daughter's life in the end - actually I'm far more interested in that than what happens to Scott, truth be told.

So in summary: interesting science, thought-provoking time paradoxes, strong start, moderately interesting middle, rather unsatisfying ending, and lots of 'women in refrigerators' revolving around Scott as center of the universe.

  • The Orenda

  • A Novel
  • Written by: Joseph Boyden
  • Narrated by: Ali Ahn, Graham Rowat, Edoardo Ballerini
  • Length: 17 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 85
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 78
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 78

Christophe has been in the New World only a year when his native guides abandon him to flee their Iroquois pursuers. A Huron warrior and elder named Bird soon takes him prisoner, along with a young Iroquois girl, Snow Falls, whose family he has just killed, and holds them captive in his massive village. Champlain's Iron People have only recently begun trading with the Huron, who mistrust them as well as this Crow who has now trespassed onto their land; and her people, of course, have become the Huron's greatest enemy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent, and enlightening

  • By william gary irwin on 2018-03-22

Graphic violence and annoyingly simplistic natives

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-10-22

I wanted to enjoy this book, but I found it really problematic. Firstly, it's written by an author whose claims to native heritage appear to be very debated, and I do not enjoy reading fiction that writes aboriginal characters in such simple language and short sentences that it portrays them as simplistic. Attempting to portray a different way of thought, sure. 500 pages of referring to Europeans as "the hairy ones"? Painful. I can't claim any native heritage or deep knowledge of aboriginal culture personally, but I'm pretty sure it's possible to write full sentences and express sophisticated thought processes while still being true to native beliefs. "I lay my children down on their furs. 'Show me,' I say." etc etc ... I found it patronizing that the native characters are written in such abbreviated, simple sentences.

It's also basically torture porn. All about the conflicts between the French, the Huron, and the Iroquois; the book is just filled with graphic to the point of extremely disturbing depictions of brutal torture, but all of it performed by the native tribes. There is one brief sentence where the French missionary "Crow" reflects that the Christian inquisitions have performed similar atrocities, but that thought is immediately passed by and never raised again in the entire book filled with graphic torture. The repeated treatment of native tortures and the "bravery" of the warriors who refuse to cry out while they are tortured (in great detail, sometimes from first person perspective) seems to be held out as a virtue in the end. The ability of various characters to undergo excruciating torture for days without "breaking" seems to be presented as winning of virtue in the end.

There are three main characters, Snow Falls (whose parents and siblings are brutally tortured and murdered in front of her) who is adopted by Bird (whose spouse and children were brutally tortured and murdered by Snow Falls' tribe), and the missionary Crow (whose fellow missionaries, and eventually himself also, are variously tortured by Iroquois to various degrees). None of them become likeable to any degree. None of them appear to have much sense of humour. Only Crow seems to be allowed to use any degree of sophisticated language and thought.

So yeah. Do you enjoy wooden characters where the aboriginal characters are portrayed as unsophisticated and lacking depth of expression? Do you enjoy reading pages and pages of graphic description of people being flayed alive, boiled alive, burned alive, brutalized in various ways, blinded, castrated, and otherwise maimed? Do you believe the ability to put on a macho front and withstand such torture is laudable? Then hey, you'll probably love this book. Me, I'm going to pass on any other books by this author.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Kraken

  • Written by: China Mieville
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 16 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 5
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 5

With this outrageous new novel, China Miéville has written one of the strangest, funniest, and flat-out scariest books you will read this—or any other—year. The London that comes to life in Kraken is a weird metropolis awash in secret currents of myth and magic, where criminals, police, cultists, and wizards are locked in a war to bring about—or prevent—the End of All Things.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • So fantastic the plot is like deus ex machina x100

  • By Blythe on 2018-10-22

So fantastic the plot is like deus ex machina x100

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-10-22

I loved Miéville' s "The City and the City" so when I saw he'd written a book with the protagonist being a mild mannered cephalopod biologist, of course I had to pick it up! Set in London, the book follows Billy, the aforementioned, and the furor that ensues when the preserved remains of a giant squid go missing from the museum where he works. The squid is so huge that nobody could possible have removed it without any trace, and yet, that is what's happened. Adding to the confusion, the dead body of a man is discovered in the museum's basement, stuffed intact into a preserving jar into which there is physically no way he could possibly have fit.

Billy tries to make sense of events, but events simply get stranger and stranger. In a fantastical version of London where magic exists, where gods of all sorts are worshipped on a daily basis, and where warring groups of squid worshippers fight to try and recover the remains of their squid-kraken-god, the plot just gets stranger and stranger.

Although I enjoyed the creativity - and the fact the author managed to work the phrase "squid pro quo" into the novel - and of course I enjoyed the biology and the cephalopods - overall I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as The City and the City. The plot was just SO fantastical that the world had no predictability, meaning each plot twist felt like just one deus ex machina after another. When the fictional world is so unpredictable, so unexplained, and so bizarre that the reader is unable to form a coherent mental image of what's going on, I feel the experience loses me somewhat. Definitely creative, fun, and I enjoyed parts of it, but overall it seemed too unpredictable and incoherent to really grab me. I will definitely try another Miéville novel though!

  • The Dark Web

  • Written by: Geoff White, Bernard P. Achampong
  • Narrated by: Geoff White
  • Length: 4 hrs and 10 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 83
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 70
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 72

From sex trafficking and fraud to government secrets and anonymous hacking groups, this definitive exploration and exposé of the dark web goes where no documentary has gone before. The anonymous and lawless online environment of the Dark Web makes headlines on a daily basis. It touches all of our lives, without our knowledge, in many different ways. But where do the myths end and reality begin? Tech writer and broadcaster Geoff White ( Channel 4 News) wants to find out.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting, intriguing foray into the Dark Web

  • By emloughl on 2018-05-20

Can't seem to access more than the first episode

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-09-30

As an Audible member, I thought I'd check out the new podcast style content. Downloaded this, which is supposed to be 4 hours worth of content in 25 minute episodes. Listened to the first one in the Audible iPhone app, but then there is nothing else, no apparent way to get the others, no clues on how to fix the issue.

The first episode was ok, though clearly only an introduction. But useless without the rest of the series.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Stone Sky

  • Written by: N. K. Jemisin
  • Narrated by: Robin Miles
  • Length: 14 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 141
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 129
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 128

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women. Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter, Nassun, and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe. For Nassun, her mother's mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A real grind to get through

  • By Amazon Customer on 2018-06-05

Final part of the trilogy: tying up loose ends

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-09-16

Wrapping up the Broken Earth trilogy. Essun finally catches up with her daughter once again, only to find Nassun has clearly increased in skill to at least a ten ring level also. We learn more about the stone eaters and their origins at last, as well as where Alabaster went and what he was doing before Essun found him again. And, of course, we finally learn what happened to the moon in the first place, and what will happen next.

Overall this book felt like a huge tying-up-loose-ends from the past two books; although the various stories did proceed a bit more it felt as if there was less movement in the present and more back-and-forth in time catching us up with what happened in the past. It's still a fascinating and detailed world with good characters, but still a bit of a slow read as you keep track of multiple story threads and timelines until they finally fit together. #Audible1

  • Children of Time

  • Written by: Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Narrated by: Mel Hudson
  • Length: 16 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 382
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 360
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 359

Adrian Tchaikovksy's critically acclaimed stand-alone novel Children of Time is the epic story of humanity's battle for survival on a terraformed planet. Who will inherit this new Earth? The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life. But all is not right in this new Eden.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • SF masterwork in the style of Brin or Vinge

  • By Blythe on 2018-09-16

SF masterwork in the style of Brin or Vinge

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-09-16

OK, wow. Occasionally a book comes along that makes me want to go back and downgrade all my previous 5-star reviews to 4-stars just so this one can be clearly ahead of all the rest. This is definitely that book. I picked it up fairly randomly on Audible and holy crap, this is an amazing masterwork. Apparently winner of the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and can we give it all the other awards too? If you enjoyed David Brin's Uplift Trilogy, if you enjoyed Diane Duane's spider scientist K't'lk, if you enjoyed Raising the Stones by Sherri Tepper .... then you will love this book, and love finding elements of all of these in it.

It starts with a clear nod to the Uplift Trilogy as the terraforming ship "Brin II" begins preparing a potential colony world for a long process of terraforming, ultimately with the hope of creating a new earthlike planet and "uplifting" monkeys using a custom nanovirus. Long story short - things don't go according to plan, either for the human race or the monkeys, nor for a charming and unusually intelligent species of jumping spider that turns out to be somewhat susceptible to the virus also.

The scope is literally epic, spanning millenia, and touching on humanity's self-destructive instincts, the end of the human race as we know it, space exploration, uplift, insane artificial intelligence, extremely sympathetic spider characters, and programming via ants (couldn't help wondering if this was a nod to Terry Pratchett also...) It is a LONG book, 16.5 hours in audio form and massive in scope, but beautifully written and I can't imagine any science fiction fan who enjoys authors like Brin and Vinge would not also enjoy this. But enough review writing, I must now go and read everything else by this author. #Audible1

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

  • The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made
  • Written by: Jason Schreier
  • Narrated by: Ray Chase
  • Length: 7 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 125
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 116
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 116

Developing video games—hero's journey or fool's errand? The creative and technical logistics that go into building today's hottest games can be more harrowing and complex than the games themselves, often seeming like an endless maze or a bottomless abyss. In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier takes listeners on a fascinating odyssey behind the scenes of video game development, where the creator may be a team of 600 overworked underdogs or a solitary geek genius.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Must Listen for any Gamer

  • By Samuel Chan on 2017-12-14

Fascinating and informative

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-09-16

Have you ever played a computer game and wondered things like "why didn't they do that better?" "why didn't they fix that bug?" "how could they not spend the time to do this one obvious thing?" "why are those developers making such stupid decisions?" ...If so, then you should read this book. Not just because it will answer all those questions, but because it will give you a better picture of why you will almost certainly never find a bug or badly designed feature that the team isn't already painfully aware of but were completely unable to do anything about. Because if you're seeing it, it's because the team chose to not fix it and instead fixed the one, or ten, far WORSE horrible bugs or features that you never ended up seeing because to launch with them would have been far worse.

While this book could be an interesting read for anyone, from non-gamers to developers actually working in the industry, I think it's the fans of computer games who are puzzled at the apparent stupidity of game developers who will get the most enjoyment, and benefit, from this one. Schreier tackles one game per chapter, telling the behind-the-scenes story of what actually happened that resulted in the successes and failures that the players ultimately saw at launch. It's a fascinating view into how much goes wrong in the process of making games, and why it's never as simple as "why didn't the devs just..."

I happen to work in the computer game industry myself, and last year I happened to be talking to a financial planner about high tech investment funds such as biotech stocks and clean energy. Learning that I make computer games for a living, she asked if I was interested in funds that invest in computer games. "HECK NO," was my immediate reaction, without even thinking. Having worked in the industry for over a decade, I do love my job and the amazing games that the industry creates, but I can't think of many riskier things to invest in than computer games. My favourite quote from the book appears very early on, as Schreier talks to an exhausted game developer about the game he just launched. ‘“Sounds like a miracle that this game was even made,” I said. “Oh, Jason,” he said. “It’s a miracle that ANY game is made.”’

From the launch day disaster of Diablo 3 to the tools pains of Dragon Age Inquisition to the incredible solo journey of Stardew Valley to the disastrous last-hour rewrites that decimated Destiny's story to the Star Wars 1313 game that never was, each story is interesting and fascinating and demonstrates different behind the scenes challenges that every game can, and probably will, face in different ways. Interesting and readable, highly recommended. If you have even the slightest interest in computer games or what goes into making them, pick this up. #Audible1

  • The Difference Engine

  • Written by: William Gibson, Bruce Sterling
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 14 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 7

The Difference Engine is an alternate history novel. A prime example of the steampunk sub-genre, it posits a Victorian Britain in which great technological and social change has occurred after entrepreneurial inventor Charles Babbage succeeded in his ambition to build a mechanical computer called Engines. The fierce summer heat and pollution have driven the ruling class out of London and the resulting anarchy allows technology-hating Luddites to challenge the intellectual elite.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Good narrator , unsatisfying story

  • By Mike Reiter on 2018-10-30

Early steampunk set in Victorian London

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-09-16

This is a very hard book to rate. As an early example and inspiration of the steampunk movement, it's a highly recommended read if your interests lie that way. As an alternate history of Victorian London, it's reasonably interesting also; the book is based around the premise that when Charles Babbage thought up the Difference Engine it was actually built at the time, and changed the world so that the England in this novel is now running on steam-based computers ("difference engines") and the entire course of technology is changed. However, as an actual novel to read enjoy without a particular interest in either steampunk origins or alternate histories of England, and without the inclination to look up all the references to the historical figures and computing theorems mentioned, it's pretty dry and at times confusing. This is definitely a novel that requires some work to fully appreciate. I have enough background in English history and computing history that I caught a lot of the references without having to do extra research, but I'm sure there's plenty of nuance I missed, and I think the average reader would miss a lot more. If you're reading it without that background and without the interest in looking it up, I don't think you'd enjoy the story alone.

The story is split into three parts, whose characters abruptly vanish mid novel as the entire narrative changes. And while we do meet some of them again at the very end, there are huge gaps in the narrative and many things left unexplained and untold. I found that every time I was getting interested in a character, they'd disappear, probably never to be heard from again as the narrative shifted to some entirely different people and plots. The last of the three parts was the least interesting to me, as I didn't find Oliphant as interesting as either Sybil or Mallory, and it seemed the most disjointed. I was listening to this as an audiobook and I'm pretty sure I listened to Oliphant's section of the book at least 6 times before having any idea how the book ended because I fell asleep every time. The very end of the book is just a series of scattered excerpts, reports, and news articles around events throughout the book that gives some slight closure to some of the plot gaps but doesn't feel satisfying. So overall, pretty mixed feelings about this book. #Audible1

  • The Lions of Al-Rassan

  • Written by: Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Narrated by: Euan Morton
  • Length: 19 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27

The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan - poet, diplomat, soldier - until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A sweeping epic fantasy inspired by medieval Spain

  • By Blythe on 2018-09-16

A sweeping epic fantasy inspired by medieval Spain

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-09-16

This is a grand, sweeping epic set on a fantasy world with two moons, though clearly strongly inspired by medieval Spain and the religious conflicts of those times. The plot centers around the conflicts between the three main religions of Ashar (worshipers of the Stars), Jad (worshipers of the Sun) and Kindath (worshipers of the Two Moons). The Kindath are the more oppressed of the three (rather strongly aligned with Jews) while the other two seem to represent a conflict similar to Christianity vs Islam. As the Kindath physician Jehane meets Ammar ibn Khairan, Ashar warrior and poet, and Ser Rodrigo Belmonte, renowned Jad captain, they develop a deep friendship and fight together as a mercenary force while in exile. Once their exile ends, however, they are forced into opposing sides of a great religious war. The "lions of Al-Rassan" refers to the once-powerful Asharite emperors of the lands of Al-Rassan, but that empire is now splintered and fallen and the lands of Al-Rassan are now contested by the Jaddites. I believe however that the "Lions of Al-Rassan" in the title also comes to apply to the two opposing warriors, Ammar and Rodrigo, who come face to face in battle towards the end to decide the fate of Al-Rassan for the future. If you enjoy grand-scale, sweeping political and military stories you will likely enjoy this a lot. I had read it long ago, and enjoyed refreshing my memory with the Audiobook version, however I did find that sometimes the different foreign names are a bit confusing in the Audiobook without being able to see the different spellings in print. #Audible1

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Illegal Alien

  • Written by: Robert J. Sawyer
  • Narrated by: Joe Barrett
  • Length: 9 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 12

When a disabled spaceship enters Earth's atmosphere, seven members of the advanced Tosok race are welcomed by the world. Then a popular scientist is murdered, and all evidence points to one of the Tosoks. Now, an alien is tried in a court of law -and there may be far more at stake than accounting for one human life.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A bit dated now

  • By Blythe on 2018-09-16

A bit dated now

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-09-16

I've read other books by Sawyer and would have to say this is my least favourite so far. Not that it's terrible, but maybe it's a little dated now (being over 20 years old), both in reference to technology and also in general treatment of alien communications. After my joy of watching "Arrival" and the sophisticated explanations of the difficulties of communication between species so very different, I found the utterly simplistic way that alien communication is dealt with in this novel to be jarringly unbelievable. Also, it's less pure science fiction and more of an American courtroom drama; and while I enjoy the former, I tend to avoid the latter so the last half of the book definitely dragged on a bit. So, massive suspension of disbelief required at many points in the book, and while the premise was entertaining and probably a bit more original 20 years ago, the effort didn't really pay off for me. Not terrible, and if you like courtroom dramas you'll probably like it more than I did, but definitely not one of Sawyer's best. #Audible1

1 of 1 people found this review helpful