Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Hardspear reviews Redshirts by John Scalzi (Audible Version)

Dr. McCoy Disproven
As to the genre…  I, J. Hardspear de la Azotea don’t “get” the whole science fiction slash satire or fantasy slash satire thing.  Or usually I don’t.  I don’t “get” Douglas Adams.  I don’t “get” Terry Pratchet.  Howevurrr…  Redshirts by John Scalzi is different.  It is meta.  Maybe meta is different from satire.  As I started to listen to the Audible version of Redshirts, I thought, “Oh no.  Here we go again”.  Before long though, I became totally enmeshed in a geek get-off sort of way.  It is impossible not to if you have any affinity for Star Trek.

As to the plot…  In this galaxy there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all that, and perhaps more...only one of each of us”.  -Dr. McCoy, Star Trek, “Balance of Terror”.  

Well… not according to John Scalzi!  According to John Scalzi, in some weird alternative time-line there CAN be more than one of us.  Just ask Ensign Andy Dahl and his other low ranking, red-shirted compatriots. 

The Three Codas…  Towards the end, the cadence of the book changes from a fast paced and funny warp 9 to a slower, thoughtful, thrusters only velocity.  As I liked things nicely wrapped up, I would not have minded six or even more codas.

The narrative and the narration…  Wil Wheaton reads with √©lan and gusto and excitement.  The last coda he reads with emotion and compassion.  Many of the Audible reviews comment on the distraction of the overuse of character perspective indication.  It’s complicated… How do I explain.  In the narration there are conversations between characters where the sentences are short and all of them end in “he said, she said” or “Dahl said, Duval said.  This is especially rampant at the start of the book, but grows less.  I have not seen the complaint in reviews of people who read the book as opposed to listened to it.  Maybe the book is written to read like the script of a TV episode, I don’t know.  I just thought it added to the book’s overall quirkiness.

As to quality, yes it is worth to use your monthly free credit.  As to length, it was a bit short.  I usually try to get more minutes for my money.  (Remember, my monthly Audible subscription costs 130 South African Rands)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Hardspear Reviews the Audible version of Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Listen to Me, Read Me, Reamde.

On the topic of fiction novels where a large part of a book is set within a computer game, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Reamde by Neal Stephenson come to mind readily.  As opposed to the (near) futuristic dystopia in which Ready Player One is set, the backdrop to Reamde is a very realistic present. The lion’s share of Ready Player One takes place within the virtual reality of a computer quest-like game.  In Reamde, the percentage of the story that takes place within the World-of-Warcraft-like game called T’Rain is significantly smaller.  From here the differences between the two books just grows wider.  In the end, it is greatly unfair to even try to compare the two books.

It is difficult for me, J. Hardspear de la Azotea to pen down just how much I enjoyed the Audible audiobook version of Reamde.  It may just be the most entertaining and gratifying Techno-Thriller I have ever read/listened to.  As this is the first book by Mr. Stephenson I have had the pleasure to consume, I can only really comment on this book as it is, having no reference in terms of his other books.

Despite being classified as a Techno-Thriller, the narration is unbelievably funny at times.  There is one scene involving the Fantasy writers of the background to T’Rain referred to the ‘Apostropocalypse’ which had me crying with laughter.

The book is also about girl-power.  Zula Forthrast is one of the most quick-witted protagonists one can hope to encounter in a book.  The supporting characters of Olivia Halifax-Lin and Xian Yuxia positively delights.

The male characters, more specifically the “good guys” (sometimes the lines between good guys & bad guys gets a bit blurry, especially in the case of Solokov) are easy to relate to, with all their heroism and all of their fallibilities.

The book is long, VERY detailed and yet very fast-paced.  I listened to it on the plane, in the car, in bed before I go to sleep, first thing when I woke up, whilst I washed dishes etc, etc.

The matter of fact tone of the narration by Malcolm Hillgartner suits the story fantastically.  His accents runs from good (British) to bad (Scottish) but it is much better than I can do and still gets 100% for effort.