On the day after Halloween, in the year 1327, four children slip away from the cathedral city of Kingsbridge. They are a thief, a bully, a boy genius, and a girl who wants to be a doctor. In the forest they see two men killed. As adults, their lives will be braided together by ambition, love, greed and revenge. They will see prosperity and famine, plague and war.
Couldn't stomach this all the way through. Read the first book and was uncomfortable with how rape was handled but it wasn't too bad and the rest of the story and characterisation made up for it.
This book, however has clumsily handled rape plot lines all over the place. Honestly, just unnecessary amounts of rape. Added to that, every single female character is described in weirdly sexualised terms. Women who have achieved impressive intellectual and political plot points are constantly described in terms of how perky their breasts are and how horny they are at that moment. Unsurprisingly the men are described in terms of hair colour and emotional state.
Honestly it's weird because it seems like it's meant to a kind of feminist book (monks = bad, nuns = good, women = capable of running businesses etc well, men = failing to adapt to changes to society) but the actual portrayal of the female characters and the dubious ways that rape is dealt with undermine the whole text.
Overall the plot is seriously lacking compared to the first book both historically and in the characters' personal lives and given that most of the male characters are arseholes (even the 'good' ones) and the women are reduced to being nymphomaniacs this is not worth the sexism. Also the sex scenes are weird, awkward and tediously frequent.
A magical serial killer is on the loose, and gelatinous, otherworldly creatures are infesting the English countryside. Which is making life for the Ministry of Occultism difficult, because magic is supposed to be their best kept secret. After centuries in the shadows, the Ministry is forced to unmask, exposing the country's magical history - and magical citizens - to a brave new world of social media, government scrutiny, and public relations.
Yahtzee really should have worked out before he started to write this book if he was writing a novel or if he was writing a piece of political commentary.
The book is written with Yahtzee's characteristic humour. His prose is tight and snappy. The writing is around the same level of quality as in Will Save The Galaxy For Food - so a big improvement on his first two books.
The real problem with Differently Morphous comes from the characters. There are only three or four actual characters in the entire book - characters with their own motivations, wants, desires, flaws and so on. Most of the characters are poorly disguised straw men (or straw people, to be more accurate) who have been constructed to represent both sides of a political argument.
The book has a lot to say on current political talking points, such as identity politics, institutionalisation, how the internet loves a hate mob and so on. The problem is none of it is particuclarly coherent. Characters from both sides of the debate spout comically oversized talking points. One character (the only person of colour in the book) is a ridiculously overblown hippie who complains about everything and everyone behaving offensively. She is pitted against a selection of people who are thinly veiled allegories for ignorant hate-mongers.
As far as I can tell, the book never has anything to say itself. It is happy to line up these straw people and have them rant for pages at a time, but it very carefully comes down on neither side of the issue. The book sits on the fence, making fun of both sides, but never having the courage to get down off the fence and put itself in the firing line. It's a very Team America: World Police sort of satire - the sort that takes pride in its ability to make fun of everyone, but never has the bravery to state where it stands on any of the issues discussed.
This is what I mean when I say that Yahtzee should have decided if he was writing a novel or an allegory. If he was writing a novel, then he failed because most of the characters are two dimensional people who exist only to posit political nonsense. If he was writing a political alegory then he failed because the book never actually engages with the issues, it just sneers from the sidelines.
There are other issues. The plot is basically fine, although there is a twist near the end which is so unbelievably bad it squandered what little patience I had left with the book.
It's a real shame becasue Differently Morphous starts out really well. The protagonist is a fun subversion of the Hermione Granger archetype and there the various early plot moves Yahtzee makes causes the story to really stake out its own terratory. It feels fresh and new. Then things get spoiled somewhat by the political stuff.
Generally speaking, Differently Morphous is fun and witty and mostly well written. If you think you can get past the political stuff that annoyed me so much, I think you'll really, really enjoy it. If you get annoyed by Yahtzee's ranting about Social Justice Warriors, at the same time as he seems to support most of the same positions Social Justice Warriors take, I'd leave this one alone.
2 of 4 people found this review helpful
Felix Castor used to cast out demons for a living, and London was his stomping grounds. But in a time when the supernatural realm is in upheaval and spilling over into the mundane world of the living, his skills are in renewed demand. With old debts to pay, Castor is left with no choice but to accept one final, well-paying assignment: a seemingly simple exorcism. Trouble is, the more he discovers about the ghost in the archive, the more things refuse to add up.
So the story is fine in a pulpy predictable low grade sexism throughout kind of way. But the narration is distractingly weird. This guy cannot be British, his prenounciation of a number of words is unlike any English speaker I have ever heard (I am a Brit) he continually uses the incorrect vowels in words and it is annoying as hell.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
It is for the entities known as Sleepwalkers to cross between dreams and hunt the nightmares that haunt sleeping minds. Theirs is a world of impossible vistas, where reason is banished and imagination holds sway: the connected worlds that all sleeping minds inhabit, and the doors that lead between. But tonight, one Sleepwalker has gone rogue. Abandoning her oath to protect the dreamscapes, she has devoted herself to another cause, threatening to unleash a nightmare older than man.
The vast majority of the book is set in a shared dream. This is inventive, but it has the serious problem that there can't be any stakes for the characters. If the characters die in this dream, they just wake up. There can't be any real peril for the characters if they're just going to wake up. This really hurts the drama and the motivation of the characters.
The main threat of the book is a Nightmare King - a creature that (it is said) can influence people to do naughty things upon waking. The thing is, we never *see* this happen, so we don't know if the characters are just making stuff up.
These two points mean that it's really hard to care about anything that happens in the book. Maybe if the characterisation was rock solid this could be made up for. The characterisation is fine but nothing particularly special.
The reader is pretty good.
Our universe is ruled by physics, and faster-than-light travel is not possible - until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transports us to other worlds, around other stars. Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It's a hedge against interstellar war - and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.
Have you listened to any of Wil Wheaton’s other performances? How does this one compare?
Wil continues to be a really good narrator. He does a slightly curious performance for three members of a family in this book. I *think* he was trying to sound English but he just ended up sounding pompous and weird. Otherwise he was as good as he usually is.
Any additional comments?
If you've listened to a John Scalzi book before you know what you're getting. A fun Sci Fi universe with extremely light characterisation. The idea of the collapsing empire is a strong one and it kept me interested throughout.
Scalzi does do the thing sci-fi authors _love_ doing when they're writing what they intend to be a long running series - he forgets to have a satisfying conclusion. The book just ends after ten hours. There is sort of a conclusion but it does feel like this series has maybe 30-40 hours of plot in it and Scalzi just cut the first 9 hours from that block, tacked a hasty conclusion on the end and pushed it out into the world.
That's not exactly a bad thing, but it means the book definitely ends with a 'is that it' feeling, rather than a nice satisfying conclusion. If the rest of the series turns out to be good it probably won't matter but for now, it's a bit of a problem.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Space travel just isn't what it used to be. With the invention of Quantum Teleportation, space heroes aren't needed anymore. When one particularly unlucky ex-adventurer masquerades as famous pilot and hate figure Jacques McKeown, he's sucked into an ever-deepening corporate and political intrigue. Between space pirates, adorable deadly creatures, and a missing fortune in royalties, saving the universe was never this difficult!
Any additional comments?
I've listened to Yahtzee's books before and they've been... fine? Quite funny in places but both Mogworld and Jam fell apart a bit in the third act.
Will Save the Galaxy for Food didn't fall apart at any point. It was compelling and funny throughout. It never felt like a parody. It had well realised characters with strong motivations. There were the occasional story wobbles and Yahtzee isn't the worlds greatest narrator but generally this was a really strong book. I'd happily recommend this to any fan of sci-fi comedy, even someone who wasn't already a fan of Zero Punctuation. Fans of John Scalzi, Douglas Adams and Jasper Fforde should definitely check this out.
Those who belong to the secret society called The Oversight know many things. They know cold iron will hold back the beasts in the darkness. They know it is dangerous to stand between two mirrors. And they know that despite their dwindling numbers, it remains their duty to protect humanity from the predations of the supernatural. And vice versa. But two of the society's strongest members, Mr. Sharp and Sara Falk, are trapped in the world between the mirrors, looking for each other, searching for a way back home.
What disappointed you about The Paradox?
This isn't a book with a beginning middle and end. It's a book where various plot threads are introduced and then spin their wheels for ten hours.
What was most disappointing about Charlie Fletcher’s story?
Charlie spins maybe two hours of content out over a ten hour book. Few things are resolved by the end of the novel. Most threads are clearly meant to be resolved in the next book.
How could the performance have been better?
Charlie could have hired a professional voice over artist, like he did in the first novel, rather than doing it himself. His narration is flat and uninteresting.
What character would you cut from The Paradox?
I wouldn't necessarily cut any characters, I'd just have more things happen.
When Zach and I were born, our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. The complete set. They would have been disbelieving - nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega. Nobody. Born as twins. Raised as enemies. One strong Alpha twin and one mutated Omega; the only thing they share is the moment of their death. The Omegas live in segregation, cast out by their families, as soon as their mutations become clear.
I couldn't finish this book. The set up was interesting but everything always returned to how terrible life was for the main character. Everything in the world was designed to make her life as awful as possible. It got very old very quickly. It wasn't exactly a subtle way to create your standard young-adult dystopia. There was no sense of fun to contrast the darkness and no real depth to the world to make it worthwhile. The reader was good though.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Welcome to Borley Rectory, the most haunted house in England. It's 1926. Sarah Grey has a new job - assistant to Harry Price, London's most infamous ghost hunter. Harry has devoted his life to exposing the truth behind England's 'false hauntings', and never has he left a case unsolved. They are invited to Borley Rectory - a house so haunted that objects fly through the air. But when night falls, they're forced to confront an uncomfortable possibility: the ghost of Borley Rectory may be real.
I managed to get about half way through before giving up because I was skipping whole chapters in an effort to get the story moving. In about eight hours of book there were maybe two hours worth of plot. The rest is just filler. It might have been okay if the characters were interesting but they're pretty two dimensional. I would definitely not recommended this.
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
Marius dos Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead. Just like the living citizens, the dead need a king - after all, the king is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are. And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: If he wants to recover his life he must find the dead king.
What did you like most about The Corpse-Rat King?
Lee Battersby has a great descriptive style. The story moves along at a fair clip and isn't ashamed to add humour to offset the often grim subject matter.
Any additional comments?
Michael Page's narration is really good. He nails the dry wit of the story.