An Audio-Book Review: Eureka!

Great Scientific Ideas that Changed the World

A series of lectures by Professor Steve L. Goldman

Published by The Teaching Company

 

The Lectures:

After a bunch of books that I blew hot and cold on, I thought, “Hey! Let’s learn something!” So, I downloaded a series of lectures from The Teaching Company and…

I have to admit that I really disliked the first couple of lectures in this series. There were a few problems; I was put off by Dr. Goldman’s style although I still cannot explain why, but what really irked me was that he insisted on differentiating “Know-how” from “Knowledge.” Perhaps I misunderstood, but I eventually figured out to my own satisfaction, that he was hampered by the fact that the English language does not really have a distinct single word for “Scientifically produced knowledge,” vs “merely knowing how to do something.” True, merely knowing how to do something is not necessarily scientific knowledge, but to keep saying “Scientific knowledge” over and over again would have been clumsy and time consuming so he shortened it to just Knowledge vs Know-how. Once past that stumbling block, I found the lectures both entertaining and enlightening.

For the first few hours of the lectures (and each one is roughly thirty minutes) I thought that perhaps a better title to this course would have been “The Development of Scientific Knowledge” because for lecture after lecture Dr. Goldman slowly worked his way from the Ancient World and the Aristotelian, Platonic and Pythagorean views and how they were not scientific in the modern sense, but eventually he gets down to specific scientific ideas.

Now, he is not talking about inventions. That would be an entirely different series of lectures. In this case Dr. Goldman is informing us of the great scientific hypotheses and theories over the course of history and, more to the point, how Mankind’s mode of scientific thought has evolved during that time. He also points out how both atomic theory (thinking in terms of the atomic structure of matter, not how to make them go “Boom” really destructively) and field theory both have their antecedents in ancient Greek philosophy even though how that are applied to modern science is quite different from what the ancient philosophers came up with.

Some inventions are mentioned, but only as consequences of the theories and thinking they were involved with. The telescope, for example, is important in observing the solar system, Milky Way and Universe around us, but it is the way we view that Universe, how we understand it that is the great idea that is being discussed. Computers are mentioned, but only because they are an important artifact of the modern Information Age, but it is how we think in terms of systems that is the point of the lecture.

Doctor Goldman works his way into the present day gradually, carefully showing how each new idea and way of thought developed, affected our understanding and then was replaced or added to new ways of thinking without which we might have the understanding we do today. It is to be noted that decades or a century from now people might look back and see how wrong we were, and yet without taking the step(s) that brought us to our current understand, it is possible that whatever we learn next, whatever new theories are ahead may not be possible without being where we are now. That seems to be the nature of how scientific knowledge has developed.

So, by the time we get to today, when it looks like String Theory may, or may not, have proved unworkable, we have traveled through the concept of matter as continuous, and discontinuous (made up of atoms), that atoms are made up of positrons, neutrons, and electron to discovery that protons and neutrons are further composed of quarks, and that there are a host of other particles as well. We have seen the development of the Gene Theory of evolution, which won out over Lamarckian evolution, the Germ Theory of disease (vs such notions as an imbalance of humors) and so on.

All told it was an interesting journey and I was sorry when it finally ended.

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An Audio-Book Review: School’s Out Forever!

Reality Check

Book 7 of The Empire’s Corps

By Christopher G. Nuttall

Published by Podium Publishing

Read by Jeffrey Kafer

 

The Book:

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted. Sorry about that, I had a couple long pieces to listen through and I’ll admit I forgot to post one of them. So, let’s get back to reviewing…

I think I skipped a few on this series. It was not intentional, but I think a novel ought to stand by itself unless it has been intentionally written as a multi-volume story. Since this seems to be a one volume story that is part of a series, I ought to know what’s happening without filling in from wherever it was I left off (Book 2, maybe). Not knowing what has happened since Book 2 I don’t really see how this story connects to the rest other than it obviously is part of the same future history. I must say that life in Mister Nuttall’s future did not sound pleasant before but it is downright awful this time around.

The story starts on Earth in a typical school of that future time which seems to have taken certain trends in today’s society to their most absurd ends. SO that students are not really expected to have to learn anything in order to pass, the teachers are not allowed to flunk the students and bullies, who seem to be about ninety percent of the student population may not be disciplined and are, in fact, encouraged. This pattern seems to extend to the rest of earth which, while technically run by a solid bureaucracy are actually being dominated by gangs against whom the police are powerless because someone might sue for damages. The same seems to extend to all fields of endeavor. In all, it’s a bleak world and not one anyone ought to want to live in. Some might say it’s a portrait of life as it is today, but I disagree. Some of this might exist in the more dictatorial and/or anarchic parts of the world, but not in the major nations and it is hard to believe that the governments of the major nations would allow their control to slip so badly. But that is the situation in this book.

The school our main four characters come from is a microcosm of this dysfunctional world. The Bullies rule and the nerds are held down face-first in the mud (sometimes literally). The school authorities have no real authority and most students will eventually graduate and go on the future’s version of Welfare and never really escape their lives of squalor. The characters are flat, two-dimensional caricatures who all look like they got squeezed out a twisted “After-School Special,” and none have any real redeeming features so far as I can tell. So I was not particularly disposed toward caring much about them.

(SPOILER ALERT: It’s a good thing I did not get attached to the majority of them)

And then there is a contest; write an essay saying why you would want to visit one of the colony worlds. It turns out the contest is fixed as only one of the winners actually wrote a decent essay and that only because he was afraid of ruining his scholastic record. The others at best wrote their names on a piece of paper or, in one case handed in a blank sheet… if that. So, we have one of the main bullies, a nerdy wimp who if one of his favorite victims, a guy who goes along with the bullying since he would just be another victim if he didn’t and a girl who wants to be a movie star. None of them want to visit a colony world, the bully and his henchman just couldn’t care and the nerd and the aspiring actress fear it will prevent them from being able to leave the ghetto they live in. However, they must go whether they want to or not.

On the spaceship they meet several other “winners” and their guide, a tough old bird who sounds like he may have been one of the marines from the earlier books, but I don’t recall any of the names. There was also a tough marine-like woman to keep the young women in line who may also have been seen in a previous volume… or not.

They finally get to the colony world (the bully and his crony end up spending most of their time scrubbing the decks of the spaceship on their way out owing to having been caught picking on the nerd – predictably one fails to learn from the experience) which seems to be a good example of a Libertarian society; lots of legal guns used by a fully self-reliant and self-confident populace and the students must learn how to fit in. Naturally at least one does not and then while flying off to another part of the world their ship crashes, leaving the students with only a native guide to get them back to civilization, such as it is.

What happens after that is all too predictable; some characters learn and grow, some do not and just die, but none do so soon enough for me to care much. All told, even though the ending is somewhat satisfactory, there was nothing about this story that made me want to read the next one even though it ends on a cliff hanger…

 

The Audiobook:

Jeffrey Kafer would have read the book very well if it were a detective story or a military tale. His manner of reading in a somewhat twisted tale of high school students seemed a bit out of place to me, but as often happens I eventually acclimated to his reading style. He read the ex-military types perfectly, but the students just were not quite right, even the evil caricature of a bully. He was, however, not hard to listen to, it’s just that I kept thinking I was about to hear a tale of pitched battle with troop movements, tactics and strategies. He just did not quite fit this particular story.

However, I did acclimate and after a while found he read the story far better than it deserved. MY recommendation; find other book read by Jeffrey Kafer and other books by Christopher Nuttall, but don’t bother with this volume. It’s just unpleasant for the sake of unpleasantness. I haven’t hated a story this much since I read J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy.

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An Audio-Book Review: Nothing But a Pack of Cards

Tides of Light

By Gregory Benford
Published by The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Read by John Polk

 

The Book:

I was less than impressed by this series and so it has been several months since I listened to Great Sky River which is the story that immediately precedes this one in Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center series. Maybe I’m starting to get used to the style or perhaps my memory of the earlier books in the series were such that my expectations were lower than what I might normally have been from an acknowledged master of science fiction? Or maybe this was a somewhat better story.

Regardless, it was almost like a homecoming to pick up the adventures of Bishop and other chess-based families where they left off fleeing the planet Snowglade on an ancient starship. They arrive at a world where there are a number of strange things going on. Why they chose to land at all is somewhat beyond me considering to me it looks lethal even from space (but please go see for yourself) but when they do they find more humans who seem to have defeated the Mechs they had previously fought against but were at war with a different intelligent, but insect-like species.

I must say I found myself more interested to the insectoids than the other humans. The humans on this world, like the Bishops and other chess-themed families on the starship, have family names based on an ancient Earth game, but instead of chess they are named for the ranks of playing cards; Treys, Deuces, etc. In Great Sky River I found my credulity stretched to the limit by the thought that even the names of chess pieces would have survived that long into the future, and it went past the breaking point with the card families, however, I suppose they had to have some names and this gives the reader something familiar to grab on to especially since this book has a cast of hundreds (or seems that way) and the point of view keeps bouncing back, forth and all around various characters of the presented species.

That the story was obviously meant to serve as a first contact between the Bishops and the borrowing insect-like creatures, but that does not really happen until nearly the end of the book so I got bored a few times waiting for that to happen especially since I was not impressed by the Pack of Cards (as I thought of them) whose king was considered a god, even by himself. Now, this is hardly the first time in any human history (real or fictional) when kings were considered to be divine, but this one seemed to be modeled more on mad Caligula than, say, the ancient kings of Egypt. Definitely a nut job who took his own purported divinity too seriously. I found him boring but other readers might see him in a different light.

This is definitely a big concept book and will give the intellectual reader a lot of interesting concepts to consider, however, I’m more interested in what the Bishops and their new friend will get involved with next. After that… well, we shall see. In any case the title of the book doesn’t mean a lot; Tide of light? Really? But it is a lovely poetic image that gets used near the very end of this volume and I can’t help but wonder if an editor plucked it from the text and used it instead of an earlier title. Maybe not, but it not, then I can only wonder if it was inserted near the end when Benford realized he had never explained it earlier on.

 

The Audiobook:

In my review of Great Sky River I said, “John Polk delivered a reasonably good reading of this story. It was firm and even and quite easy to listen to. If I have any complaints it was that he left no vocal clues as to who was talking when there was dialogue going on.” I think that applies just as well here.

Once again, I cannot tell if this lack is due to the author who left few, if any, verbal clues for the narrator or if Mister Polk just does not read that way. I have certainly listened to far worse and at least I did not have to listen to a plethora of harsh, grumbles, screechy squeals and other revolting vocal mannerisms.

So, this is, at worst, a passable story and, at best, immensely thought-provoking and it is read in a fairly good manner. You can do worse.

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An Audio-Book Review: Always Hoped That I’d Be a Fedaykin, Knew That I Would Make It If I Tried…

Paul of Dune

By Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Published by Macmillan Audio
Read by Scott Brick

The Book:

This is Book 1 of the Heroes of Dune Series, and Book 10 of the Dune Saga and I am convinced the only purpose it serves is for Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson to further cash in on what was a really good stand-alone novel (Dune by Frank Herbert). Owing to a ton of prequels Dune is now Book 9 of the never-ending series. The whole bunch of books is a study on how to take a true classic and water it down until it gets lost in the shuffle.

Paul of Dune starts out   maybe a year or so after the end of Dune, but then also has numerous flashbacks to the years of Paul’s youth when the so-called “War of Assassins” occurred. I honestly to not remember the War if Assassins in the original book so if it was there, it has slipped my mind. I do recall that Paul starts out in Dune as the young, but accomplished, son of Duke Leto with the implication that he has thus far led a sheltered life and that all his knowledge of fighting and various Bene Gesserit techniques were taught by his tutors and mother. Apparently, according to this retcon mish-mash, he’s been fighting since shortly after he was born. Go figure.

There is a really basic problem with this book; it attempts to build suspense by putting Paul and his family into jeopardy, but since we know they are all alive and well in Dune Messiah (The second book in the series as Frank Herbert had written it) reading it is pretty much analogous to someone watching all the Star Wars movies in order of their chronology, rather than order of release. So, by the time Darth Vader says, “Luke, I am your father,” the viewer just shrugs and says, “Duh! I knew that four hours ago.” A good reason to not to produce prequels, at least not ones that give away dramatic points meant to be revealed later. In my opinion, if you are going to write a prequel it should probably not involve the main cast of the original story and if it does, dramatic tension should be produced in some other manner than sending a Ninja army (or whatever) after them.

So, a long-time reader of the “Dune Series” will open this book knowing that all the main characters who survived from Dune to Dune Messiah are going to get through unscathed in this book as well no matter how many over-convoluted plots are acted out against them. On the other hand, it means that all the new characters have roughly the same life expectancy of a “Red Shirt” in the Original Star Trek Series.

Well, how about that? I managed to pull in both Star Wars and Star Trek references. Considering all this started with one of the great classics of SF, that might even be appropriate…

Anyway, assuming you are still a fan of the whole “Dune Series” in a way that I guess I’m not, This story fills in details about Paul’s early life as well as some of what went on during the years of the Jihad that established the empire that was eventually inherited by his son, Leto II, the human sandworm God-Emperor. You know, now that I actually use that phrase it really does make the whole rest of the series after the original story just seem silly.

Sometime back I reviewed another book in this series and mentioned how a good friend of mine says that Dune is “a great book. You should read it.” The rest of the series, though, maybe no so much. I still agree with him.

 

The Audiobook:

Scott Brick reads this one fairly well. I’ll admit that I tend to blow hot and cold on his narrations, but this really was a fairly solid performance; no funny voices and no really annoying mispronunciations of oft-repeated words. If I sometimes had trouble telling one character from another, I think that was more the fault of the authors than the reader since except for the annoying “Mmhmms” and “Ahs” of Count Fenring (who was actually toned way down this time) they really do all sound alike and think alike as well. Yes, they all think in terms of highly convoluted, Byzantine plots, often in cases when more direct action would likely work out better.

So, a decent reading for what I hereby nominate as the second most unnecessary sequel of all time… after Austen’s Pride and Prejudice II: The Awakening…

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An Audio-Book Review: What? Again?

The Lost Destroyer

Volume 3 of “The Lost Starship.”
By Vaughn Heppner
Published by Vaughn Heppner
Read by Mark Boyett

The Book:

So, Starship Victory, an ancient vessel not so much commanded by Captain Maddox as negotiated by Maddox and the ship’s “deified” AI, Galyan, manages a resounding defeat of the vastly superior “New Men,” but while en-route back to Earth, Maddox and his small crew discover a planet-destroying machine inside an ion storm. However, there is a traitor on board and soon that planet destroyer is on its way to Earth, pausing only to wipe out a few worlds and their defending fleets along the way.

The synopsis sounds good, but I guess I am in the minority in my opinion of this book and of the series it is a part of.

First of all, the antagonists are pretty much all the same. It doesn’t matter if they are the “New Men,” the “Methuselahs,” people from high-gravity worlds, or alien artificial intelligences. They are all smugly arrogant in their assurance that they are better than the normal humans (who are actually in rather short supply among the characters) and spend far too much time telling everyone else how much smarter and/or stronger they are. If Heppner’s future world had Twitter, I swear you would be unable to distinguish their Tweets from the torrent of self-congratulatory verbal diarrhea that spews from Donald Trump’s account. As many people pointed out recently, a truly intelligent person does not need to keep going on about how smart he or she is and, in most cases, they won’t. So, my first instinct on reading this book is that none of these “supermen,” who ought to be directly vying with each other over the dominance of Mankind, sound all that intelligent. In fact, they sound more like they are trying to convince themselves rather than intimidate the lowly mere humans they are addressing. However, they seem to have convinced the normal folk (and even the main characters of the series) that they really are better.

I’m still not convinced. In this book, at least one of the “New Men” has managed to infiltrate the government and military of Earth and can deliver orders, unbeknownst to the top brass, to the entire fleet. Meanwhile, they know the planet-killer thing is on its way (and apparently want it to come, so they can use it), but the only orders sent out are to arrest Maddox and shut down Victory. Seriously? Why? It might be more effective to order the fleet away into the wrong part of space, or simply command all ships to engage in “radio-silence.” Or give any number of orders on Earth itself, but, no, they go after Maddox and his ship. Why not simply send orders to Maddox to go somewhere else?

The Methuselah Men appear to be just as silly at times, proof that a high IQ does not mean much if you do not actually think through solving a problem. They have a whole different Machiavellian way of thinking and also seem to have because a strong “shadow force” within the Earth Government , but they, too, seem to like complex and uncertain schemes (that show how clever they are???) where a few simple actions would be more effective. I won’t go into details – spoilers – but they should be easy to spot.

In all, what could be a vastly entertaining space opera just grinds on with the same “I’m much better than you are, you lowly worm, so just stop fighting and bow down to me” rhetoric with a lot of action scenes in between the braggadocio, leaving me with the feeling that I have seen all this before. It might be nice if, just once, a knowledgeable and intelligent character was actually helpful and not setting up the main cast for betrayal, though.

Well, Like I said, I seem to be in the minority and the book has received much better reviews elsewhere, so maybe it is just me.

 

The Audiobook:

Mark Boyett reads the story passably. I was neither wowed nor disappointed by his reading. His presentation could have used a bit more character, but then I was not constantly groaning and being tempted to turn it off either. It’s not bad, it’s not great, but as I said, it’s quite passable.

So, while the book is not to my taste and neither the characters nor the situation ever really develop (one or the other at least, please!) It’s passable and technically better than a lot of the trash that is out there. I don’t think most readers will throw it in the far corner of their room convinced they could do better… (well I think I could do better, but remember I’m a self-published author too), so for a gritty space opera, it’s not horrible and Mister Boyett’s reading might even enhance it a bit.

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An Audio-Book Review: Flash! Bam! Alakazam!

Fire and Fury

Inside the Trump White House

By Michael Wolff
Published by Macmillan Audio
Read by Holter Graham

The Book:

Like most of the recent books about politicians how you feel about this book is going to be colored by your own political bent. I think a lot of people who bought it did so simply because President Trump and his representatives tried so hard to stop its release. I’ll admit that was my main reason. Certainly, had he not made such a fuss and kept his mouth shut, the book would have been released and probably forgotten after a week or two. So, before I go any further, if you are a Trump supporter, you are probably going to hate this book and not believe a word of it. And if you lean anywhere from slightly right to left of the celestial sphere, this book will give you vindication for opposing the current administration.

One of the criticisms I have heard is that it is entirely inaccurate and full of fictional accounts. That is not a good criticism. Yes, some of the details have been found to be in error or to put it bluntly; wrong, but the overall picture of an administration running on chaos with a direction that changes with the wind? Yeah, that seems to be right on the head of the proverbial nail. This is apparently not just the opinion of Michael Wolff. Supposedly, there is another upcoming book, Defiance Disorder by Fox News host, Howard Kurtz, that will corroborate the chaotic view Wolff’s book gives us. However, I haven’t heard much about that one since the initial advance releases were made two weeks ago. I think it was supposed to be released last week, but I have yet to see it. Whether it has been quietly pulled back or is being updated to include the latest… I do not know. (Correction: The name of Kurtz’s new book is Media Madness and was released on schedule. Defiance disorder was his diagnosis of Donald Trump. And if I can find a copy, maybe I’ll review that one too…)

Regardless of what you think of the content of this book, it is written entertainingly. You probably not learn anything from it you have not heard by channel surfing at news time, but Wolff does glue it all together in a rough timeline starting near the end of the campaign up until Steve Bannon left the White House. I could not help but think, “Stay tuned for next week’s episode.”

For some reason, my audio edition played the book backwards. I don’t know why this happens, but sometimes when I transfer a book to the flashdrive I listen from in my car, the chapters start from the end and work their way back to the start. When listening to a novel, I can easily overcome this by using the button that moves me to the previous track and then, as each track ends, go back to the one that should come after it. It’s a little annoying but since tracks generally last from 20 to 60 minutes, it’s not like I am constantly hitting the “Last track” button.

This time, however, I chose to listen to it in reverse order. I had already read most of the book on my Kindle Fire, so I knew how the book progressed. I also knew that the chapters are fairly self-contained. You really can open the book at random and read a chapter without finding yourself hopelessly lost, so listening to the chapters in reverse order very much opened my eyes to stuff that I had forgotten.

As the current administration bulls onward with one controversy upstaging the last at a pace that is exhausting us all, we tend to forget things that have happened or been said earlier than a few weeks ago. Hearing some of Donald Trump’s earlier pronouncements and actions after the more recent ones, really brought home how little improvement there has been in the chaotic situation at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. All that seems to have changed, in fact, is the cast of characters as fewer and fewer of those working there and speaking for the White House come forward with increasingly less experience at what they are doing.

One complaint is that Steve Bannon plays an over-riding role in the book and does not receive all the criticism he has coming to him. Wolff almost manages to make him a sympathetic character especially as Trump begins to sour on him. Frankly that was not a viewpoint I was willing to accept or even believe. It seemed to me that everyone involved tended to get what they deserved good or bad. Bannon was no exception.

In any case, even if you are a Trump supporter, I recommend reading this book. It is a view of what is happening in today’s politics and how they affect us all. As I said above, the book is entertaining and written like a novel rather than a dry treatise on poitics. That might cause some to discount what it says, but forget the details – you have probably heard them all by now anyway – and just get a feel of what it’s like to work in Trump’s administration.

…and then be thankful you have a nice humdrum and possibly boring job, because sometimes boring brings comfort.

 

The Audiobook:

Just as the book is written in a dramatic manner, Holter Graham makes a dramatic reading of it. I don’t know, however, if that was a good thing. Graham’s dramatic style, for me, detracted from the more serious issues Wolff brings up. In spite of the novel-like use of dialogue to push the story, the book is nonfiction and dramatic enough without the reader working hard to make it even more so.

My biggest complaint, however is that he constantly mispronounces Corey Lewandowsky’s (lu ənˈ daʊski) name. When Holter Graham says it, it comes out “Levandovsky” which may have been how it was pronounced  in the “Old Country” or not I don’t know, but not the way the person in question says it. At first I wondered that Trump had two people working for him with such similar names, but eventually I decided that Mister Graham must have been living under a rock for a year and a half and so did not really know who these people were. Is that possible?

On the other hand, I think I would really like to heard Mister Graham read some of my favorite novels, because he does it very well.

So, the book is easy to read and entertaining whether you like what Mister Wolff says or not and a window into the Trump White House in part of its first year. Some details are in error, but overall it has been proven to be right. If you have not read it, do not go by what the pundits have told you, because like in the case of most books they did not read the entire book, only the opening chapter and selected snippets the publisher tossed out ahead of the actual release. The really meaty stuff is still in there waiting for you. And, if you want to listen to the audiobook, well you will definitely not fall asleep!

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An Audio-Book Review: Almost There!

How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR Dragon Book #11

By Cressida Cowell

Published by Hatchette Audio

Read by David Tennant

 

The Book:

We’re coming up on the end of the series and each book in turn seems to take place in an increasingly short amount of time. The last two books, according to the introduction of this penultimate volume, take place across the span of only two days.

When we last saw our heroes, the plan was to get to the Island of Tomorrow and to present the “King’s” Ten Things to the Guardians there, after which Hiccup could be crowned the King of the Wilderwest. If they were to approach but with even one item short meant the Guardians would kill them. Plus, they must do it during the Yule of Doomsday season. Any other time… death. The Guardians are not nice people, I guess.

Hiccup only has one of the things, the toothless dragon (aka Toothless) and our old friend Alvin the Treacherous has the rest, having stolen them from Hiccup. Now, Hiccups ’s Mom, Valhallarama, has told Hiccup and his friends, Fishlegs and Camicazi, to stay hidden while she retrieve’s the rest of the King’s Things, but don’t you know that nothing ever goes according to plan?

So far, the entire “How to Train Your Dragon” series has been a lot of fun and this volume just continues in that line. Admittedly the story has been getting increasingly dark (so did the Harry Potter series), but while the adventure has increased in gravity, there has still be a lighter line running through it so even when Hiccup and his friends are in very deep trouble, it is still a fun story.

A lot happens during the single day this book covers and giving any more details would be unfair spoilers, but if you have read the first ten of the series, this would be a terrible place to stop. Like last time it ends with our heroes in a lot of trouble and you’ll be anxious to see how it all resolves.

 

The Audiobook:

I have said it before, but David Tennant reads these stories excellently. He is one of only two readers I have listened to who can do “Funny voices” without driving me completely up the wall. The only reader I have heard who does it better is Tom Baker, another former star of Doctor Who. Now I don’t think it’s fair to say that only The Doctor can get away with funny voices, generally the bane of audiobooks, but these two certainly can. I will admit that some of Tennant’s voices grated on my nerves a bit, but then so did the characters he applied them to (such as Excellinor the witch, who would have annoyed me no matter what voice was used to delineate her).

So, the story continues even if this volume represents a definite “Middle-of-the-story” and I look forward to listening to the conclusion.

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