Friday, February 16, 2007

Ida - an audio book

I like writing reviews, but delayed writing this one. I don't like to write negative reviews, and I'm still not sure if this one will be positive. Well, for one thing, there is the halting problem, and i can't predict how this review will come out before i'm finished with it.

So, the audio book is about 12 hours. However, each of the 32 audio files has an introduction by the author, and, and i hate this word, an outro (outroduction). And here is the first thing i didn't like about the presentation. Timothy apologizes for his Philadelphia accent before you even get to hear him read. Guys - if you're presenting a show, let the audience decide if they like it themselves. Don't make us pity you for being too stupid to get someone else to read your book. Don't go the other way either. It's OK to promote some other work of yours or someone else's, but just avoid it here.

After the first chapter, the introductions also contained a summary of what had gone on before. OK. So maybe the serial was released a chapter a week. Maybe some people can't remember what happened last week. I skipped all the introductions. The guts of the new chapter start after a bit of music, and my iPod was able to get me there in fast forward most of the time. I also skipped the outro's, which is easy enough, since he says that's the end. I don't have to fast forward, i can just skip to the next track. Since i skipped all that material, there was somewhat less than twelve hours of total material for me.

Another odd thing. After the book, Ida, was over, he offers in a single track, his book Balance. Balance is, by comparison, a short story. And, this story takes place well after the story in Ida. Ida is a prequel. It's a backing story to Balance. Like his introduction to Ida, Timothy apologizes for his book Balance. Jeez. For the record, i liked Balance better. As a short story, the pacing was much faster. Remember that reading a book to yourself is something like three times faster than reading it aloud. So, short stories with very fast pacing work better in audio format. And yet, Balance was long enough to give you the idea that several events actually took place. The events in the story were believable. The events were mostly related to each other. No laws of physics were broken in the making of the story.

The worst parts of Ida have to do with laws of physics being broken. They weren't broken like faster than light. They were more like having a character survive an acceleration of ten or twenty thousand miles per hour in a few seconds time. That would be something like 50 G's, minimum. Ouch. A little more explanation could salvage the suspension of disbelief, and oh, by the way, the plot. This suspension of disbelief nearly caused me to quit listening.

It's science fiction. It'd be nice to have someone vet the science by doing some math here and there. It wouldn't take much. Really.

The best part of the story was that there really is a plot. Things happen. Characters interact. Characters are changed by the events. They aren't entirely wooden. The characters are in space. Space is dangerous. So, the danger isn't just believable, it's expected. In fact, the routine spots are the less believable spots. What about cosmic rays? What about coronal mass ejections and other radiation? Dangers abound.

In all, the work had sufficient interest to make it worthwhile. Multi-dimensional characters. Character interaction. Believable responses. You can identify with the characters. Pick favorites and root for them. Suspense. And the end of the story was not simply telegraphed. There were plenty of surprises in the middle. And the flaws - mostly physics gaffs - were nothing so bad as those in typical Hollywood movies. They're mostly fixable.

Is there sex? Yes. Is there violence? Yes. Is there swearing? Yes. Is the swearing pointless? Yes. This story could have been consumable by my ten year old, but because of pointless swearing, it isn't.

By the by. I'm not generally overly fond of critics. For one, they often think, "Oh, i'm a critic, i should criticize." But they're real goal should be to let their audience be able to decide if they would like something. So, you shouldn't care if i liked this work or not. You should only really care if you are now informed enough to decide if you'd like it. You might not care about the laws of physics. You might not care about the plot. But, you do care if it's going to be worth twelve hours of your time.

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