BOOK: Pensées (1669)

Pensées Year: 1669 Author: Blaise Pascal Length: 771 minutes / 12.85 hours While I do enjoy and appreciate the ease of which I can listen to an audiobook and absorb the content of a variety of books, there are always a few books that don’t translate well into the format. Sure, I might have my qualms about the narrator’s pronunciation, volume control, or other technical issues. However, this is the first book where the rating I’m giving applies explicitly to the audiobook version, and not necessarily to the book’s contents. The difference here is that the audiobook version of Pascal’s Pensées doesn’t allow the reader enough time to adequately absorb the content. If I were to classify this book, I’d probably say it’s closer to a listing of complaints/observations that would work better on a multi-year “item-a-day” calendar than in an audiobook format. The majority of Pensées is a series of proverbs by Blaise Pascal, a name that most scientists will recognize. The fact that...
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BOOK: As You Wish (2014)

As You Wish – Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride Year: 2014 Author: Cary Elwes Length: 421 minutes / 7.02 hours While I love audiobooks for their capacity to let me mindlessly absorb books while I’m driving to or from work, much of the story comes down to the narrator and their inflections. Sometimes these narrators can be annoying, or incomprehensible, or vary their volume too much. It is a rare treat to find an audiobook that fully capitalizes on the medium, either by adding music and sound effects or (in this case) using the voices of actual people to narrate the story. As You Wish is just such an audiobook, and I would even go so far to say it is the superior version of this book, even without “reading” it for myself. As one of the most frequent and common of quotable movies, The Princess Bride (1987) is an odd little film that just works. It’s fantasy, it’s comedy, it’s family-friendly. It’s all these things...
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BOOK: Captains Courageous (1897)

Captains Courageous Year: 1897 Author: Rudyard Kipling Length: 356 minutes / 5.93 hours Captains Courageous is one of those classics that I just haven’t read, for whatever reason. I got the sense it was about being at sea, probably in the same vein as Moby Dick or Treasure Island. And yet, I don’t know if I could tell you what happened in this book. Sure, the main character was picked up by a fishing vessel, and eventually, they learned how to deal with the harsh job of being a fisherman, but that’s pretty much it. The series of fishing adventures seem to be loosely tied together, and the overarching plot was weak at best. Part of me wonders if the audiobook version of this classic was to blame. Not only did the narrator have a bit of an accent, but she did all the different dialects of the various characters based on their ethnic origins. While I would usually love this attention to detail, more...
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BOOK: Flashforward (1999)

Flashforward Year: 1999 Author: Robert J. Sawyer Length: 628 minutes / 10.47 hours As time marches on, predictions of the future made in the past are tested against reality. In 1984, we didn't have George Orwell's dystopian government. In 2001, we didn't have Arthur C. Clarke's interplanetary travel. Sure, these authors did have a few interesting ideas that did come true, eventually. Still, they were writing well before the events in their books would come to pass. Robert J. Sawyer's Flashforward did not have that luxury. Written in 1999, Sawyer only imagines a future set a decade in the future. For those keeping track at home, Flashforward takes place in 2009, with a vision of a future 21 years ahead of that. Since 2009 has come and gone, there were a few things Sawyer got right, but many he could not have predicted. The crux of this story is similar to that explored by Machine of Death: everyone in the world gets a glimpse of their future...
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BOOK: The Sword of Shannara (1977)

The Sword of Shannara Year: 1977 Author: Terry Brooks Length: 1,600 minutes / 26.67 hours Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: an unassuming character is given the task to use a magical item to destroy a great evil that once terrorized the world. To help this character on their quest is their best friend, a magic-wielding individual, a ranger with a love interest, a dwarf, and some elves. Look, I get that The Lord of the Rings redefined the fantasy genre in the 1950’s, but why were fantasy writers still replicating this formula twenty years later? I only half-paid attention to this derivative plot, mostly because I already had an idea what was going to happen. Now, I will admit that The Sword of Shannara isn’t completely a 1-for-1 rehashing of The Lord of the Rings, but enough of it is similar that it feels almost too familiar. The plot does divert from the Tolkien formula, but probably not until about halfway through....
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BOOK: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1965)

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Year: 1965 Author: Robert A. Heinlein Length: 852 minutes / 14.2 hours Certainly well ahead of his time, Robert A. Heinlein remains one of the definitive writers of the science fiction genre, even today. In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein covers such topics as artificial intelligence, extraterrestrial colonization, and interplanetary warfare. Even today, most of these subjects are accurately depicted in the narrative, even if some of the technology has advanced past where it was thought to be in 1965. Part of me is almost jealous at Heinlein’s ingenious use of Earth’s gravity well, and I know any attempt I might make to replicate the idea will merely seem derivative in comparison. As is the case with some of his other works, Heinlein makes many socio-political statements via his writing. His stance on taxes, revolutions, and independent governing bodies is a critical section of the plot in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and I can certainly...
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BOOK: The Accidental Superpower (2014)

The Accidental Superpower Year: 2014 Author: Peter Zeihan Length: 739 minutes / 12.32 hours I can’t remember when or why I added this book to my “to-read” list on Overdrive, but I’m certainly glad I did. While it’s a little dated from a 2017 perspective, The Accidental Superpower is an incredibly insightful book that helps to peel back the onion of global politics and economics to reveal the underlying factors that are, and have been, shaping the world into what it is today. As a bonus, after reading this book, I have a better understanding of how countries and societies develop from a geographical and economic standpoint and can use these insights to aid in the world-building for a few of my upcoming novel series. Right from the get-go, The Accidental Superpower opened my eyes to the obvious: geography determines economy. Mountains separate areas almost as well as oceans do, but the best economies are the ones that can move their goods about in the...
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BOOK: Smoke and Mirrors (2012)

Smoke and Mirrors Year: 2012 Author: Neil Gaiman Length: 636 minutes / 10.6 hours As someone who has to read many short story submissions for the anthology my writing group puts together each year, I can appreciate a well-written short story. I have not read much of Neil Gaiman, but in his collection of anthology short stories, Smoke and Mirrors, I was able to see what kinds of stories a professional writer writes for an anthology. While quite a few stories were interesting, not all of them were necessarily in genres I typically read. Then again, I consider erotica and stories submitted to Hustler as pornography, which is why I do not read these kinds of short stories. Furthermore, it is a little more uncomfortable listening to erotica, as was the case with this audiobook. Fortunately, Gilbert Gottfried did not read it, but it still is uncomfortable to hear it nonetheless. Sure, the concepts in these short stories were somewhat interesting, but the sex ruined...
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BOOK: Amped (2012)

Amped Year: 2012 Author: Daniel H. Wilson Length: 522 minutes / 8.7 hours Having read Where’s My Jetpack? and Robopocalypse from Daniel H. Wilson, I had some high hopes for this book. Clearly, Wilson has a depth of knowledge about current and upcoming technologies that allows him to write succinctly both non-fiction and fiction. He can fuse the science with either humor or action and maintain an accurate sense of it without having the details bog down the plot. In Amped, Wilson explores a world where humans use technology to assist their bodies, either to overcome a disability or to overcome their humanity. Unlike Robopocalypse, which was primarily a collection of intertwined vignettes, Amped follows a single individual through the effects of a fear-filled society charged by an inferiority complex. While the main thrust of the plot is about mental augmentation, there are mentions of other exciting technologies, including self-driving trucks and mechanical exoskeletons. Overwhelmingly, though, the brain-altering technology is the focus, as it hurtles...
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BOOK: The Gods of Guilt (2013)

The Gods of Guilt Year: 2013 Author: Michael Connelly Length: 709 minutes / 11.82 hours Despite The Fifth Witness leaving the door open to an interesting diversion from the same defense lawyer story we've come to know and love from Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller, The Gods of Guilt puts Haller back in the hot seat as the counsel protecting a digital pimp from a murder conviction. Some of the depth of the Haller character developed in previous books in this series was eliminated after his unsuccessful District Attorney run, but there was still enough humanity in him to advance his story. After all, his coping mechanisms and needs are some of what we all deal with in our own lives. While I have come to expect a twist ending from Connelly, it was surprisingly missing from this book. For once, Haller's client wasn't as bad as everyone made him out to be, and that's saying something for the digital pimp of Andre La Cosse. Perhaps...
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