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Winchester, United Kingdom
  • 6
  • reviews
  • 8
  • helpful votes
  • 11
  • ratings
  • Blue Remembered Earth

  • By: Alastair Reynolds
  • Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
  • Length: 21 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 376
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 264
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 261

One hundred and fifty years from now, in a world where Africa is the dominant technological and economic power, and where crime, war, disease and poverty have been banished to history, Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey's family, the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Superior space opera

  • By Amazon Customer on 24-06-14

Superior space opera

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

Reviewed: 24-06-14

I'm a big fan of Alastair Reynolds's novels (but particularly the Revelation Space series) so the concept of a medium-future space opera is an enticing one. Most SF tends to be 5 minutes from now or way way in the future so this is atypical, set in a time of colonization of the inner planets, with more sporadic industrial colonization of the outer planets and their moons. Due to environmental collapse due to global warming, Africa as emerged as a major power, and the main characters are black sheep members of the very rich and successful Akinya family making lots of money out of space tech. Doing a favour for his yuppie-ish cousins, Elephant behavioural scientist Geoffrey Akinya is sent on a treasure hunt around the solar system after artefacts left by the fearsome and recently deceased family matriarch Eunice, whose adventures around the solar system started the whole thing off.

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith does another fantastic narration job here. He can do an old Chinese lady talking to a young African boy and put you in the conversation, without it seeming like an episode of Allo Allo.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Revelation Space

  • By: Alastair Reynolds
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 22 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 861
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 585
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 587

Nine hundred thousand years ago, something annihilated the Amarantin civilization just as it was on the verge of discovering space flight. Now one scientist, Dan Sylveste, will stop at nothing to solve the Amarantin riddle before ancient history repeats itself. With no other resources at his disposal, Sylveste forges a dangerous alliance with the cyborg crew of the starship Nostalgia for Infinity. But as he closes in on the secret, a killer closes in on him because the Amarantin were destroyed for a reason.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Good story - Fell out with the narrator.

  • By Peter on 06-07-10

Epic hard sci-fi

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

Reviewed: 07-06-13

This is one of my favourite books. Reynolds has a real physics background, and his comfort with unthinkable scale and relatavistic distances. The plot is constructed like a steel trap, with massive stakes, and strong, memorable characters. If Christopher Nolan did a pure space opera, it would end up being like this. The characters are all brilliant, ruthless, terrifying competent types, which I love, but others might not. It's hardcore sci-fi though, so it's more like Greg Bear or Greg Egan than Isaac Asimov or Larry Niven.

John Lee does a competent enough job of the narration, but it's clear that he doesn't really understand what he's saying. He has a tendency to make all the characters sound like louche French philosophers drinking Pernod in a Parisian cafe circa 1913, even the Middle Eastern soldier Khouri and Russian engineer Volyova. Also, he uses the American pronunciation of words like process (with a short o) which seemed odd.

I also question the decision for a man to be the narrator. There are more important female than male characters here (Volyova, Khouri, The Madamoiselle, Pascale, Sluka, Sudjic etc.), and on balance I think I'd have preferred an actress.

This kvetching aside, he wasn't distracting or anything, so it's still a worthwhile purchase if the subject matter is your thing.

  • Whispers Under Ground

  • Rivers of London, Book 3
  • By: Ben Aaronovitch
  • Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
  • Length: 10 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,279
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,649
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,630

Peter Grant is learning magic fast. And it’s just as well - he's already had run-ins with the deadly supernatural children of the Thames and a terrifying killer in Soho. Progression in the police force is less easy, especially when you work in a department of two. A department that doesn't even officially exist. A department that if you did describe it to most people would get you laughed at.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful story, wonderful narration

  • By Jane on 04-07-12

Another belter

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

Reviewed: 07-06-13

Whilst not being a Londoner myself, I love the way that London as an abstract concept suffuses the Peter Grant books. They're not merely set in London, London's personality, history, geography, culture and people define the plot, the characters, the language, everything. It gives the books a feeling distinctive from other urban fantasy. Grant's connection to London is more profound than Harry Dresden's connection to Chicago, or Alex Verus, or Quill's connections to London.

After handling London's history of unrest, and jazz, this book concentrates on the London Underground. WUG's different from Moon Over Soho, which balanced the Case of the Book and the Larger Background Threat. WUG is very much about the main murder case of an American student, which comes with it the disrupting force of an FBI agent. The Warren Clarkish DCI Seawoll is also back in full force after a book's convalescene, bringing with him his usual hatred of Nightingale and distrust of this magic rubbish.

I was very happy to see Lesley back in the plot. She bounces so well off Grant as a character, providing snarky observations of Peter's flights of fancy. We also meet the Bully Bottom-ish figure of Zach Palmer, who I imagine will return at some point.

Holdbook-Smith does his usual fantastic job of doing all the ages, all the accents and all the genders. You don't need to be told who's speaking since he makes all the characters so recognisable and distinct. He really acts the book out and makes everything feel very alive.

So, I quite liked it then.

  • How to Train Your Dragon

  • By: Cressida Cowell
  • Narrated by: David Tennant
  • Length: 3 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 867
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 679
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 682

Hiccup was a truly extraordinary Viking Hero, Warrior chieftain,awesome sword-fighter and amateur naturalist. He was known throughout Vikingdom as 'the Dragon Whisperer' on account of his power over these terrifying beasts. But it wasn't always like that.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Thoroughly enjoyed by the whole family

  • By Alexina on 20-01-14

Great fun

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-04-13

Bought for a long drive, we all (2 adults, 9yo boy, 7yo girl) really enjoyed Tennant's reading of this. Almost nothing like the Dreamworks film, of course, here the Scottish Hairy Hooligan tribe all have dragon pets and the weedy Hiccup, son of the fearsome Chief Stoick The Vast gets the smallest, sarkiest, and most cowardly dragon any of them have ever seen. How will Hiccup and Toothless fare in a intertribe dragon tournament (against an apparently Northern Irish neighbour tribe) as well as an alarmingly vast sea dragon coming up from his slumber at the ocean?



David Tennant is predictably deft at all the funny accents, and we all had great fun with this audiobook.

  • Cryptonomicon

  • By: Neal Stephenson
  • Narrated by: William Dufris
  • Length: 42 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 765
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 538
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 535

With this extraordinary first volume in what promises to be an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Probably the best way to tackle this behemoth!

  • By Simon on 06-08-14

Nerd Nirvana

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-04-13

I'm helplessly in love with this book in dead tree form, and it's no different in audiobook form.



The narrative jumps between a Marine Raider and a codebreaker in World War Two, and a computer hacker descendant in the present time. This is an precursor to the much more ambitious Baroque Cycle in many ways, and shares lots of the same themes (and surnames) with that: currency as an abstract concept, computers, codes, war, information theory, maths.



It also shares the usual Stephensonian tropes: lengthy (but fascinating) digressions, snarky, dialogue, a plot somewhat less important than the prose, digs at the soft sciences, and sumptuous period detail.



It also finally tells you what that scroll lock light on your keyboard is useful for.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Moon over Soho

  • Rivers of London, Book 2
  • By: Ben Aaronovitch
  • Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
  • Length: 10 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,040
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4,174
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,157

I was my dad's vinyl-wallah: I changed his records while he lounged around, and that's how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And it's why, when Dr Walid called me to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognised the tune it was playing. Something violently supernatural had happened to the victim, strong enough to leave its imprint like a wax cylinder recording.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very good sequel

  • By P. J. Williams on 05-08-11

My fave of the (currently) 3 Peter Grant books

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-12-12

For me this is the best of the three Peter Grant books so far. The setup has been done, and this book successfully deepens and adds detail to the universe. The Jazz theme satisfyingly suffuses the book, giving it a strong and distinctive feel.



As others have said, Holdbrook-Smith is a perfect fit for the narrator, with deft use of accents and clear diction he's an easy listen, even for someone not lusting after him.