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Nigel

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Passé imparfait

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

Reviewed: 13-11-18

Intricate, evocative story of a modern murder investigation interwoven with a legendary Second World War tale of spies and the Resistance which laid the foundation for it. The narration was so good, I was glad I listened; the storytelling was so good I bought two more copies to give away to friends.

1 person found this helpful

He knows what you're thinking...

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

Reviewed: 13-11-18

This is an astonishing feat of world-building, plunging you straight into an alien-infected earth half a century after ... something ... happens. It also has a superb central character, over-powered but morally impoverished; and a beautiful evocation of a Nigerian city which only comes to exist because of the miracle-working dome at its heart. Sci-fi meets detective noir, it has genuinely new ideas, yet a hint of so many other genres that it's scope seems enormous. I listened to the first half of this on a six-hour motorway commute, and I was sorry when I had to stop. An extraordinary first novel,

1 person found this helpful

Good stories ... but is it meant to end this way?

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

Reviewed: 06-10-17

Some good stories, generally well read. Love the feral kitchen appliances and renegade bio-engineered dogs. But the book ends so oddly - not just mid-story by apparently mid-sentence, that I can't believe there isn't a technical problem waiting to be fixed.

Heroic character development

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

Reviewed: 24-07-15

I discovered Abercrombie's work a year ago, and I'm devouring it with relish. Anyone who's fed up with a deluge of second rate fantasy-action novels (and surely that's everyone by now?) will find refreshment here - fantasy with tight boundaries around the magic, hot action tempered with a cold dose of reality. Lots happens, but the real magic is in the interplay of conflicted characters, each with their own light and darkness.

The first thing to say about The Heroes, then, is that you really, really ought to start by listening to the First Law trilogy, then the related 'revenger tragedy' Best Served Cold - obviously because it sets up the world and the plot, but more because it sets up the personalities. Each of the books feels better than the last due to the genuine empathy you build up for a freak show of characters. Every time Caul Shivers appears in The Heroes, for instance, you'll have a wry and sympathetic smile on your face if you've listened to Best Served Cold ("I had my dreams of being a better man") ... but he's just a scary brute without that set-up.

The Heroes takes place over a very short period of time, and is essentially about a battle for a pointless hill. The amount of character development which takes place in this compressed space is phenomenal, though, and there's plenty of room to explore the (occasional) joys and (plentiful) misery of war. The writing is always decent and occasionally poetic (my only real peeve in all these books is the overuse of the word 'grimace', which somehow stands out more in the audio). Gloriously, for a fantasy war story, there are strong and sympathetic female characters who are real agents in the plot; and plenty of great counter-type jokes (the giant barbarian Stranger-Come-Knocking longing for civilisation springs to mind.)

In common with everyone else, let me applaud Steven Pacey. I think he has now become my favourite audiobook reader - his accents are masterful, and I would pay an Audible credit just to listen to him doing a long monologue as Whirrun of Bligh.

Twice the city for your money

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-05-12

My first China Mieville title, but I've already downloaded another. Gosh, this is good.
Those who have lived rough on city streets know the phenomenon of acquired invisibility - passers-by strive not to see the awkward beggar (in Mieville's terminology, they 'unsee' them). Jack Vance took this phenomenon further in the Dying Earth, imagining a city called Ampridatvir where the cursed citizens are divided in two; those who wear green can no longer see those who wear grey, and vice versa. Mieville has taken the concept on by a huge leap, brilliantly creating a credible city divided in two by that strangest of human abilities - the capacity to ignore reality. The division of the two cities is enforced in a startling way, while outsiders have to deal with this strange reality as best they can. Science Fiction becomes classic if it is about ideas which illuminate our current human condition, and on that basis this haunting work is destined for classic status. It also helps when there are good characters, and Mieville serves up some approachable people - the conscientious cop and his potty-mouthed counterpart from the 'other side' are superb foils. This is a genre-busting novel, and the ear for detective-fiction dialogue is equally sharp.
The narrator is John Lee, who will be well known to Audible SF listeners already. Your ears are in safe hands here.

12 people found this helpful

The Night Eternal cover art

Carrion Discomfort

Overall
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-04-12

I love Guillermo del Toro's movies, and can only imagine that this trilogy was written to give him material for a film series - and if so, I'll probably watch it, because I bet he'll make some different choices with the plot and characters in the editing room. The truth is, much of the best of this story comes from Dan Simmons's Carrion Comfort, and all the extra stuff just piles up, rather than adding depth, becoming really, excruciatingly dull.
The opening of the first in the series, The Strain, has a plane landing and standing silent on a runway - it was genuinely spooky and a great homage to the silent ship in the Dracula movie. And the rest of that book was a pretty decent, nuts-and-bolts chase-around. The second book should have been called More Of A Strain, but this one really does feel Eternal. Our hero is now so unpleasant that I actually longed for him to get bitten early on - he'd lost the will to live, and so had I.

Plausible alternate history, slow detective plot

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-04-12

There are two stories at work, one in the closing days of the Second World War and one in the modern era. The modern story is of a not-entirely-sympathetic protagonist unlocking the secret of the past whilst contending with a rather feeble opponent. The 1945 story is the better yarn and has by far the more interesting characters, but is weakened a little as the setup to the present-day story has already revealed the outcome of the first.
There's plenty to keep you listening, though - the diving scenes are realistic, the WWII flying details well researched, and the narrator is a pleasant companion on the journey.

1 person found this helpful

Designer children in a designer plot

Overall
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-04-12

It could have been so great - scary kids in the Midwich Cuckoos mould, parents struggling with tensions between themselves and threats from outside, up-to-date science and devious serial killers. So why was it so dull? Because you don't care about (or even like) the lead characters, don't really sense a threat from the kids, don't believe the 'religious' bent of the psychotic killer and can't hear a real human voice in the dialogue, that's why.

All new, all memorable

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-04-12

Weeks after listening to the book, stories and scenes keep on coming back to me. This is an artful collection of short stories, selected not around a genre or theme, but around the idea that good stories hold a magical power to create worlds in the reader' s mind, regardless of their subject matter.
OK, there may have been a couple that I wished were shorter stories, and one I wished wasn't there at all, and for that I'd have dropped it to four stars ... but then the choice of readers and their engagement with the texts was so enjoyable, I put the missing star back in again just for the audio experience of it.

6 people found this helpful

The Master's servant's voice

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-04-12

C S Lewis is one of the most-quoted Christian apologeticists of the modern era, and I've heard him cited by adherents of a wide range of denominations. His reasoning is solid and his arguments lucid. So it's a real treat to hear him deliver one of his most influential texts in his own voice. Some of the comments in the section on 'eros' may feel a little dated now, and perhaps reflect the era and his own seclusion in the bastion of male academia of the time, but overall the insights in this short narrative remain incisive and helpful on every topic.
I have fair regard for Chuck Colson as an author, too, but would have preferred his interpolations in this recording edited out. He's really acting as cheerleader and doesn't add much insight - but each of his commentaries is short, so all is not lost.