Audiobook short: Pandora’s Star

 

For the audioversion of this review, check out episode 475 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 15:03.

Peter F. Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star, the first novel of the two-part Commonwealth Saga, is a VERY long and detailed telling, with many characters, many of whom (sort of) protagonists. It takes a whopping 37 hours 33 minutes to finish, so from the start you’ll have to pay attention, otherwise you’ll get lost quickly! I had to ‘rewind’ several times because I wasn’t paying close attention for, like, a whole minute. So this novel is not something to listen to while doing lots of other stuff that requires your attention. Saga, indeed.

Publisher’s Summary

Britain’s bestselling SF writer returns to outer space.

In AD 2329, humanity has colonised over four hundred planets, all of them interlinked by wormholes. With Earth at its centre, the Intersolar Commonwealth now occupies a sphere of space approximately four hundred light years across.

When an astronomer on the outermost world of Gralmond, observes a star 2000 light years distant – and then a neighbouring one – vanish, it is time for the Commonwealth to discover what happened to them. For what if their disappearance indicates some kind of galactic conflict? Since a conventional wormhole cannot be used to reach these vanished stars, for the first time humans need to build a faster-than-light star ship, the Second Chance. But it arrives to find each ‘vanished’ star encased in a giant force field — and within one of them resides a massive alien civilisation.

©2004 Peter F Hamilton (P)2008 Tantor Media Inc

My thoughts: “Perfect if you want to take your time”

As I said, this story requires a lot of time on your part, but if you do like to invest the more than 1½ days (!) it takes to finish, this scifi novel offers a pretty immersive story with the author taking his time to paint his universe. His characters are fleshed out very well, and none are 100% ‘good’ or ‘bad’, which gives them a realistic feel.
As for the scifi aspects, I enjoyed this author’s concept of human society a couple of centuries from now. How humans tackled the immortality problem, the everyday tech gadgets that are used by everyone, and even its application to… porn. Really fun ideas, without getting crass or sleezy. However, be aware that there are several instances of crude language, if that is something you deem important to know.

The author has also integrated diversity into his character concepts, different races and sexual preferences are presented in a very natural way without drawing unnecessary attention. The only thing that does not get much attention is religion; none of the characters seem religious in any way, the entire human race seems to have a naturalistic viewpoint. Which is why religion or even plain spirituality is the only thing I found lacking in this otherwise colorfully diverse universe.

The narration is terrific, with lots of different accents and voices by narrator John Lee. He is a joy to listen to, and adds emotion and identity to his characters without overacting. I especially enjoyed his high society females, the way he read them was absolutely fantastic and often laced with humor.

Loved them all.

A point of criticism: The editing makes it very hard to distinguish between chapters, and even viewpoints. There are no pauses whatsoever. So one minute you’re completely into one character’s story unfolding, and literally the very next sentence takes you to a whole different character WITHOUT mentioning them by name so you still think you’re at the previous viewpoint! Another reason to skip back a couple of minutes several times…

Nevertheless I recommend this novel, and I went ahead and bought its sequel as well, titled Judas Unchained. More on that next time, as I haven’t finished that yet.

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply click ‘Follow’ once you’ve found me)

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Audiobook short: We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

For the audioversion of this review, check out episode 472 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 9:16.

I took a bit of a chance buying We Are Legion (We Are Bob), part 1 of the Bobiverse series, not knowing the writer. But the transhumanist premise was interesting enough for me to try it and the intriguing title lured me in all the way.  It is written by Dennis E. Taylor and narrated by Ray Porter. It takes 9½ hours to finish.

Publisher’s summary:

There’s a reason We Are Legion, We Are Bob was named Audible’s Best Sci-Fi Book of 2016. Unique, hilarious, and utterly addictive, Dennis E. Taylor’s debut novel kicked off an Audible-wide obsession among sci-fi diehards and new listeners alike.

Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure. There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch. So it’s a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street.

Bob wakes up a century later to find that corpsicles have been declared to be without rights, and he is now the property of the state. He has been uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe looking for habitable planets. The stakes are high: no less than the first claim to entire worlds. If he declines the honor, he’ll be switched off, and they’ll try again with someone else. If he accepts, he becomes a prime target. There are at least three other countries trying to get their own probes launched first, and they play dirty.

The safest place for Bob is in space, heading away from Earth at top speed. Or so he thinks. Because the universe is full of nasties, and trespassers make them mad – very mad.

Listener-favorite narrator Ray Porter (14, The Fold) brings the many Bobs into being in all their glory, delivering a performance that listeners have described as “outstanding,” “nuanced” and a “dizzying tour de force.”

©2016 Dennis E. Taylor (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

My thoughts: Surprisingly nice ‘read’

The story didn’t immediately sweep me off my feet, but was enticing enough to hold my interest anyway. I had to get over my expectation of a darker story with more difficult challenges for the main character, including emotional ones, but once I settled in for a more light-hearted kind of scifi, it was an entertaining ride.

This is ‘hard’ science fiction with a smile, with space ships and planets and galaxy exploring and of course space battles. All of that without it being longwindedly technical, and no Deus ex Machinas or otherwise too easy solutions, which I appreciated.

Ray Porter is a fine narrator that held my attention well.

All in all I was surprised to find myself deciding to buy Book 2 (april 2017) and even, very recently, the third installment! So I recommend it, with 4 stars for performance, story and overall.

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply click ‘Follow’ once you’ve found me)

Audiobook short: Darth Bane Trilogy, pt. 3

In my fourth Audiobook Short I’m sharing my impressions of Dynasty of Evil, the final installment of the Darth Bane trilogy, a Star Wars novel series from the so-called Expanded Universe, written by Drew Karpyshyn and narrated by Jonathan Davis. Length: 9 hrs and 25 mins.

For the spoken version of the below review go to Episode 466 of the Spirit Blade podcast, time stamp 48:52.

Publisher’s summary:

Twenty years have passed since Darth Bane, reigning Dark Lord of the Sith, demolished the ancient order devoted to the dark side and reinvented it as a circle of two: one Master to wield the power and pass on the wisdom, and one apprentice to learn, challenge, and ultimately usurp the Dark Lord in a duel to the death. But Bane’s acolyte, Zannah, has yet to engage her Master in mortal combat and prove herself a worthy successor. Determined that the Sith dream of galactic domination will not die with him, Bane vows to learn the secret of a forgotten Dark Lord that will assure the Sith’s immortality – and his own.

A perfect opportunity arises when a Jedi emissary is assassinated on the troubled mining planet Doan, giving Bane an excuse to dispatch his apprentice on a fact-finding mission – while he himself sets out in secret to capture the ancient holocron of Darth Andeddu and its precious knowledge. But Zannah is no fool. She knows that her ruthless Master has begun to doubt her, and she senses that he is hiding something crucial to her future. If she is going to claim the power she craves, she must take action now.

While Bane storms the remote stronghold of a fanatical Sith cult, Zannah prepares for her Master’s downfall by choosing an apprentice of her own: a rogue Jedi cunning and cold-blooded enough to embrace the Sith way and to stand beside her when she at last wrests from Bane the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith.

But Zannah is not the only one with the desire and power to destroy Darth Bane. Princess Serra of the Doan royal family is haunted by memories of the monstrous Sith soldier who murdered her father and tortured her when she was a child. Bent on retribution, she hires a merciless assassin to find her tormentor – and bring him back alive to taste her wrath.

Only a Sith who has taken down her own Master can become Dark Lord of the Sith. So when Bane suddenly vanishes, Zannah must find him – possibly even rescue him – before she can kill him. And so she pursues her quarry from the grim depths of a ravaged world on the brink of catastrophe to the barren reaches of a desert outpost, where the future of the dark side’s most powerful disciples will be decided, once and for all, by the final, fatal stroke of a lightsaber.

©2012 Drew Karpyshyn (P)2012 Random House Audio

My thoughts: “Alas, the trilogy has ended!”

I actually started and finished this audiobook in only one day, that’s how gripping it was. We follow Darth Bane and his apprentice Zannah, but also some new characters, just like in the previous two parts. This time I found these new characters actually interesting in their own right, so this is an improvement compared to parts 1 & 2.

The action scenes are fantastic, read perfectly thrillingly by Davis and enhanced even more by tracks from John Williams’s original soundtrack. The plot kept me interested in between action scenes as well, although it did ask me to suspend a lot of my disbelief in terms of consistency of character & skill set (can’t say more, otherwise I’d spoil it).

The sound effects were awesome as always, with one minor criticism: at one point the alarms are going off for a LONG time, it got on my nerve a bit since you can’t tone it down without losing the narration.

The final confrontation had me at the edge of my seat, the action climbed and climbed and climbed to a climax, which when it finally arrived however left me wondering “Wait. What happened?!” So not entirely as satisfying as I’d hoped, especially after such a thrilling ride to the top.

The epilogue is a definite cliff hanger, leaving me again dangling in the void of Wanting More, but this time there’s no more sequels to quench that thirst! Not so cool.

But those are only minor peeves, and not worth subtracting any stars. All in all this trilogy was absolutely thrilling, exciting and totally awesome. Jonathan Davis is a fantastic narrator, with a huge range of voices without overacting.

This third part of the series tempted me to listen to Darth Plagueis again even though I finished that not too long ago, because it is the next novel in the long, long list of the SW Expanded Universe novels and this trilogy left me really wanting some sort of continuity fix :-).

Again, highly recommend!

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply click ‘Follow’ once you’ve found me)

Some images on this blog temporarily disabled

As you may or may not have noticed, my blog didn’t show its many many images for a week or so. This was caused by Photobucket changing its terms of service overnight, without prior notice! For those of you who don’t know, they are the company that until very very recently marketed itself as the third party host of images, for blogs, forums and the like. They have done so for well over 10 years and thousands of bloggers have been hosting their pictures for their blogs on Photobucket.

Well, as it happens, Photobucket have very recently decided to change their policy to now no longer allow third party image sharing (or hot linking), unless users pay a whopping $399,- per year.

So yeah, that’s not going to happen on my end. So I worked very hard to replace every single image by a newly hosted one. I truly empathize with those bloggers who wrote hundreds of posts with thousands of images…

I can only hope the inconvenience for you all has not been too much of a drag, but even so I apologize. I hope you are still with me and keep enjoying my previous and future ramblings on this blog 😉

20170704 BlogOn

Audiobook short: Darth Bane Trilogy, pt. 2

Rule of Two is the second part of the Star Wars: Darth Bane trilogy, written by Drew Karpyshyn. The audiobook version is narrated by Jonathan Davis and is 10 hrs and 12 mins long. In this Audiobook Short I’ll share my impressions.

For the spoken version of the below review go to Episode 461 of the Spirit Blade podcast, time stamp 22:00.

Publisher’s summary:

In the New York Times best-seller Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Drew Karpyshyn painted a gripping portrait of a young man’s journey from innocence to evil. That man was Darth Bane, a twisted genius whose iron will, fierce ambition, and strength in the dark side of the Force made him a natural leader among the Sith – until his radical embrace of an all-but-forgotten wisdom drove him to destroy his own order…and create it anew from the ashes. As the last surviving Sith, Darth Bane promulgated a harsh new directive: the Rule of Two.

Two there should be; no more, no less.
One to embody the power, the other to crave it.

Now Darth Bane is ready to put his policy into action, and he thinks he has found the key element that will make his triumph complete: a student to train in the ways of the dark side. Though she is young, Zannah possesses an instinctive link to the dark side that rivals his own. With his guidance, she will become essential in his quest to destroy the Jedi and dominate the galaxy.

But there is one who is determined to stop Darth Bane: Johun Othone, Padawan to Jedi Master Lord Hoth, who died at Bane’s hands in the last great Sith War. Though the rest of the Jedi scoff at him, Joshua’s belief that there are surviving Sith on the loose is unshakeable.

As Johun continues his dogged pursuit of the man who killed his master, Zannah, faced unexpectedly with a figure from her past, begins to question her embrace of the dark side. And Darth Bane is led by Force-induced visions to a moon where he will acquire astonishing new knowledge and power – power that will alter him in ways he could never have imagined….

©2012 Drew Karpyshyn (P)2012 Random House Audio

My thoughts: “Even better than Part 1!”

I started listening to this book right after I finished Path of Destruction, for that first part of the Darth Bane trilogy left me wanting for more. And ‘more’ is exactly what I got with Rule of Two!
I found it even more gripping, it was (even) better paced and narrator Jonathan Davis gives a truly masterful performance.

Following Darth Bane as a full-blown dark lord of the Sith was a thrilling ride. Especially since he now has an equally intriguing apprentice in Zannah, a young woman strong in the dark side, whom Bane teaches a lot but who also has a unique talent of her own: Dark Force magic!
Darth Bane continues to be the villain you root for inspite of yourself. Zannah is a strong female character with her own voice and her own gifts, strengths and ambitions. Together, they are too strong to defeat…

As with the first part of this Star Wars EU trilogy I was so completely wrapped-up in the story I could only sit on the couch listening, doing nothing else. Which kind of totally defeated the purpose of listening instead of reading (i.e. multi-tasking!). So, on the couch I stayed… again…!

Unfortunately I finished this novel far too soon and again found myself wanting still more…. Fortunately there’s a third part! 🙂

Highly recommend!

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply click ‘Follow’ once you’ve found me)

Audiobook short: Darth Bane Trilogy, pt. 1

This, my second Audiobook Short, is again about a Star Wars novel from the so-called Expanded Universe: Path of Destruction, which is part 1 of the Darth Bane trilogy, written by Drew Karpyshyn and narrated by Jonathan Davis. Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins.

By the way, the spoken version of the below review is part of Episode 457 of the Spirit Blade podcastgo to time stamp 18:26.

Publisher’s summary:

Once the Sith order teemed with followers. But their rivalries divided them in endless battles for supremacy – until one dark lord at last united the Sith in the quest to enslave the galaxy and exterminate the Jedi. Yet it would fall to another, far more powerful than the entire Brotherhood of Darkness, to ultimately realize the full potential of the Sith and wield the awesome power of the dark side as never before.

Since childhood, Dessel has known only the abuse of his hateful father and the dangerous, soul-crushing labor of a cortosis miner. Deep in the tunnels of the desolate planet Apatros, endlessly excavating the rare mineral valued throughout the galaxy, Dessel dreams of the day he can escape – a day he fears may never come. But when a high-stakes card game ends in deadly violence, Dessel suddenly finds himself a wanted man.

On the run from vengeful Republic forces, Dessel vanishes into the ranks of the Sith army and ships out to join the bloody war against the Republic and its Jedi champions. There, Dessel’s brutality, cunning, and exceptional command of the Force swiftly win him renown as a warrior. But in the eyes of his watchful masters, he is destined for a far greater role in the ultimate Sith plan for the galaxy – if he can prove himself truly worthy.

As an acolyte in the Sith academy, studying the secrets and skills of the dark side at the feet of its greatest masters, Dessel embraces his new Sith identity: Bane. However the true test is yet to come. In order to gain acceptance into the Brotherhood of Darkness, one must fully surrender to the dark side through a trial by fire that Bane, for all his unquenchable fury and lust for power, may not be strong enough to endure… especially since deception, treachery, and murder run rampant among the Sith disciples, and utter ruthlessness alone is the key to survival.

Only by defying the most sacred traditions, rejecting all he has been taught, and drawing upon the long-forgotten wisdom of the very first Sith can Bane hope to triumph – and forge from the ashes of that which he must destroy a new era of absolute dark power.

©2012 Drew Karpyshyn (P)2012 Random House Audio

My thoughts: “Hours on the couch doing nothing but listening!”

This is a gripping story about the rise of Darth Bane. The author allows the reader/listener far more than a mere glimpse of the dark side of the Force when telling the origin story of one of the great Dark Lords of the Sith.
Darth Bane is the one who will eventually instate the Rule of Two, which we know from the movies and which says that there can only be two Siths at one time. Which means that for most of this novel, the Rule of Two isn’t there yet, hence there are a multitude of Siths and dark side Force wielders!

The story is read brilliantly by Jonathan Davis, and of course enhanced with awesome Star Wars audio effects.

In conclusion, I literally couldn’t bring myself to do anything but sit on the couch and listen for hours on end – which is an absolute first for me for usually I do all kinds of stuff while listening to audio books.
If you like this book as much as I did, beware: for you’ll find it an absolute MUST to lay your hands on parts 2 and 3 of this trilogy as well!

Highly recommend!

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply click ‘Follow’ once you’ve found me)

Audiobook Short: Darth Plagueis

Hey all! It’s taken me a while to get back here, what can I say, life is busy and often beautiful 🙂 But, here I am and with a new habit of geeky content consumption: audiobooks. Audiobooks are the ideal way to combine reading a novel while doing other stuff (like living life, busy and beautiful) and ever since I discovered the sheer endless well of narrated titles I dove in and started swimming.

And to help you swim along, if so inclined, I’ll share my audiobook reviews with you. My intent is to keep them concise and mostly just about my experiences with the books, without doing a fullblown review. This will keep it easy to get a feel for what a book might bring you without having to spend too much time reading each post – hence the name of this category: Audiobook Shorts. I will start each review with the publisher’s summary so you get a feel for the story, then add my own thoughts. I’ll also rate them according to the Audible.com rating categories of Story, Performance and Overall, with 5 stars as the highest score.

As a bonus, and in the audio spirit of things 😉 , I’ll post a link to a spoken (by me) version of my Audiobook Shorts series whenever one is available on the Spiritblade podcast. Like this one, my first 🙂 :

Spiritblade podcast episode 455, go to timestamp 2:54.

My first Audiobook Short is about a Star Wars novel from the so-called Expanded Universe: Darth Plagueis, written by James Luceno and narrated by Daniel Davis. Length: 14 hrs and 49 mins.

Publisher’s summary

He was the most powerful Sith lord who ever lived… but could he be the only one who never died?

“Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? It’s a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise that he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.” -Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith

Darth Plagueis: one of the most brilliant Sith Lords who ever lived. Possessing power is all he desires. Losing it is the only thing he fears. As an apprentice, he embraces the ruthless ways of the Sith. And when the time is right, he destroys his Master – but vows never to suffer the same fate. For like no other disciple of the dark side, Darth Plagueis learns to command the ultimate power… over life and death.

Darth Sidious: Plagueis’s chosen apprentice. Under the guidance of his Master, he secretly studies the ways of the Sith, while publicly rising to power in the galactic government, first as Senator, then as Chancellor, and eventually as Emperor.

Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious, Master and acolyte, target the galaxy for domination – and the Jedi Order for annihilation. But can they defy the merciless Sith tradition? Or will the desire of one to rule supreme, and the dream of the other to live forever, sow the seeds of their destruction?

From the Hardcover edition.

©2012 James Luceno (P)2012 Random House Audio

My thoughts: “Fantastic Star Wars lore!”

Captivating story, brilliant reading performance by Daniel Davis, awesome audio effects & SW music. This is precisely why I love audio books so much!

The story clarifies a lot of Darth Sidious’s background and of course tells the story of Darth Plagueis, the main character. We also learn intriguing things about the Dark Side of the Force, and the order of the Sith.

To me this audiobook captured a real Star Wars atmosphere, it made me want to listen to it 24/7 and I wish the novel had lasted at least twice as long.
Because of it, I wanted to watch SW Episode I immediately following it, which to some would be a great feat in and of itself 😉
It also made me want to look into the Expanded Universe, which up until now I had always studiously avoided because – knowing myself – I would probably want to read everything, books, comics, audiobooks. Which would be 1. an enormous time hog and 2. frustrating since Marvel & Disney have declared the entire EU non-canonical, so, why bother. However, this first toe-dip left me wanting more and while still avoiding a full dive, I decided to go for a careful swim. So I bought the Darth Bane trilogy, about which you can read more in my next 😉

In short, I highly recommend Darth Plagueis and give it 5 stars for story, 5 stars for performance and 5 stars overall!

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply click ‘Follow’ once you’ve found me)