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Himanshu Modi

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Great story, with a lot of science-y exposition

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

Reviewed: 17-03-20

Weaving species evolution in a science fiction story is a difficult proposition. After all, evolution, let's face it, is rather boring. Stuff happens over millions of years. And while the science itself is fascinating - both at the genetic and cellular level, and at the social level - it can be a hard story to tell.

Adrian Tchaikovsky surmounted impossible odds in the first book of this series, Children of Time. It was as much a space opera as a single book could be. With all of that evolution stuff in it.

Here, we return to the series, and explore the evolution of 2 different species - octopuses, and a micro-organism. While the spiders and humans are learning to co-exist. There's an AI in the mix too. If that sounds complex, it is. The complexity, then, is really the books undoing.

Tchaikovsky, has to dedicate reams of pages to the workings of octopods (i am just going with the nomenclature in the book. Octopuses or Octopus' or Octopi all sound too awkward) and how they talk and how they behave. There's as much focus on the spider-human communication mechanics, the AI-human mechanics - which is rather tiring. The story is still great. This scenario of two intergalactic species who have made peace with the existence of alien life, seeking out other life forms and the clash that ensues, has phenomenal potential. And I daresay, Tchaikovsky does do justice to it. But... the science part of sci-fi is just too loaded and felt like a chore. The social aspect of the new species is very different from the way the spider society emerges in book 1. But it's also very convoluted, to the point where I will freely admit that I didn't quite get it - much like the human and spider heroes in the book.

I still enjoyed some of the exposition, and the overall story arch. The narration was spectacular too. I daresay these books are probably the hardest to perform with the amount of different perspectives we get. But Mel Hudson does a fantastic job. Absolutely phenomenal. I daresay this one would have been unfinished but for Mel Hudson for me.

Absolutely Timeless

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

Reviewed: 27-08-19

I am clearly, and spectacularly, late with this review. Oh well, this is not the only classic that was on my to-read list.

I am glad I read this.

It is an incredibly moving story about... about so many things. About race conflict, about frailty of the social constructs, about the strength of those same constructs, about parenting, about school systems. But mostly, really, it is about kindness, especially the kindness that a father wants his children to internalize.

We get to hear the story from Scout's perspective. Interestingly, I was reading this in parallel to "The Hate you Give", another book which features racism front-and-center, which is also narrated by a child, albeit a teenager in the later case. Both have strong father figures, who try their hardest to harbor, and propagate, qualities they think will make a better world for their children. However, one is a white girl, who is unbound in her curiosity and free from the concept of race - the other is a black girl, who is very aware of stereotypes and fights them internally and out in the world.

It's incredible how well To Kill a Mockingbird has aged. Part of it is because it is sort of a historical fiction to begin with - written in 1960s and set around 1930 or so. But mostly it is because the core value - the very simple idea of kindness - is timeless as well. It's hard to realize how desensitized we are to the notion of kindness. That's when the title really hits you - when you are told it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. In any other context, it might have been easy to brush it off. But when you hear it in the voice of a 6 year old Scout, that her father told her that - well, I must admit I gasped a bit, surprised by how moved I was by that dialogue.

It took me a while for me to come out of the shadow of this book. It's a book that made me think about the values I want to confer upon my child, and reminded me how each of my action affects the way my daughter might think. Yes, there are several social aspects that the story explores. But the chemistry between Atticus and his children is what had the most profound impact on me.

I listened to the audio book version of this book. It was incredibly well narrated. Sissy Spacek's voice and reading is laden to the brim with the child-like wonder and innocence of Scout Finch. She manages to pack in all the other un-tempered emotions that only children are capable of. The book is absolutely splendid by itself. But I have to say that the Spacek's narration made it all the more memorable for me.