My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Review: Fractal Noise

Fractal Noise Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Performance: *****
Book: ***

The second book in the FractalVerse series following “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” and is [unexpectedly] a prequel to the first; which I liked a lot.  However, the connection is not obvious, so I think you can read them in any order.

Previous Review of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

This review is for the audiobook, which had a production quality and narration as good as any that I have experienced before, short of an actual cast and/or full sound effects dramatization.  I think this is a major reason that the exceptional level of internal dialog and navel gazing introspection as a four (4) man team walked across an alien landscape to investigate a hole was actually bearable (I doubt I could have slogged through reading it on my own).  By way of comparison, you could make a case that it has about as much action as "The Martian" by Andy Weir or "2001: A Space Odyssey" by Arthur C Clarke … fortunately the storyline, as well as the quality of prose, is similar  so it all sort of works the same way.  If you didn’t like either of those books in comparison, this may not be the book for you.  The only complaint I have with the audiobook would be the uselessness of the bookmarks (I hope this is fixed before it is released).

The basic plot is a world exploration and quasi first contact story with the expected set backs and drama needed to generate the required plot conflict that makes this more a psychological character study with some interesting but limited world building and a few science details/predictions that serves as the McGuffin.  Each of the four (4) members of the exploration team have personalities that are difficult to connect with despite the heavy emphasis on back stories and motivations.  More to the point, it seems that each team member is broken in a way that fosters a bit of 'roid rage between the other team members that is sure to generate some head scratching.  How any of them got through a basic psyche eval is anybody’s guess.  

Half way through their terrestrial trek (and the book), it is pretty obvious the mission was now at risk and prudence would typically demand an abort … but where is the story in that right? They will be there tomorrow if they can just survive today. So instead we get a classic example of group think that really stretches credulity. On the plus side, the story does pick up the pace a bit. As everything starts to fall apart, the glacial pace begins to accelerate. However, if you are looking for a tradition ending, you may be disappointed. This story is primarily about self discovery aided by the surreal storytelling where the “hole” is really just a prop in that story. Although not really needed, there is a terminology glossary and over all timeline at the end.

1. Opening Credits (1m)

2. Apprehension - Chapter 1: Perspective Shift (23m)
3. Apprehension - Chapter 2: Questions (59m)
4. Apprehension - Chapter 3: Arrival (37m)

5. Confusion - Chapter 1: Alpha Zone (55m)
6. Confusion - Chapter 2: Beta Zone (53m)
7. Confusion - Chapter 3: Gamma Zone (74m)
8. Confusion - Chapter 4: Delta Zone (28m)
9. Confusion - Chapter 5: Epsilon Zone (76m)

10. Desolation - Chapter 1: Zeta Zone (52m)
11. Desolation - Chapter 2: Eta Zone (30m)

12. Consummation - Chapter 1: Breaking Point (20m)
13. Consummation - Chapter 2: Apotheosis (47m)

14. Addendum - Appendix 1: Terminology (28m)
15. Addendum - Appendix 2: Timeline (4m)

16. Afterword and Acknowledgements (9m)
17.  Closing Credits (2m)

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#FractalNoise #FractalVerse #NetGalley #Audiobook

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.