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I was drawn to this audiobook because of the setting—a scifi, possibly dystopian future that touches on the Singularity—and stayed because of the narration. I wish Audible allowed you to put half stars because my journey through this audiobook was a very see-sawy one.
I enjoyed the book for what it was: a YA scifi story with the usual romance, drama, and conflict thrown in. Romance isn't the main focus thankfully (though Eli's monologues about his crushes certainly get quite the airtime), camaraderie and family is, along with questions that venture into philosophical and religious territory. The questions aren't new, but I could certainly see myself recommending this book for the younger YAs in my life. There are likeable supporting characters, and there's generally tight enough pacing that the story did not feel like a slogfest.
I am a newcomer to Nick Podehl, and I have to say, his variety impresses me. The first time he adopted the voice of Basha, a girl, I did a double-take wondering if I had remembered wrongly and it was a joint narration with a female narrator instead of a solo effort. That's how believable his voices are. Podehl changes seamlessly between different characters even during heated exchanges, and they are all distinct voices; I never had any trouble differentiating between characters, even Eli's internal and external voices.
But this is where the halves come in: I enjoyed it whenever a character spoke, but the choice made for Eli's internal voice (a whiny, almost nasal, sometimes condescending one) was grating for me, requiring that I break up the listening into chunks. It is a choice I question because I know Podehl can do other voices, smoother voices, better voices, because as a first-person YA novel, there is a lot of Eli's monologuing going on. And for that, I wish I could give Performance a 4.5 instead. In the end, I decided that 5 instead of a 4 was appropriate because I loved Cyrus' and Marcus' voices. Cyrus in particular was the deciding factor, he was hands down my favourite character in this book, his voice a warm balm to the long stints of Eli's whining. It's made even better when Cyrus is the only one to call Eli out on his wallowing and whining.
I give a 4 for Story because the story is fairly typical for the first half, with the side-characters carrying the weight of giving it individuality and life. I would've given a 4.5 for the first half as the introduction of new norms and information was well done, tiny chunks that did not feel like a lecture. And for all that Eli went on and on about Lenora, there was still a dry humour present in his internal monologue; just a couple of lines here and there that were so tongue-in-cheek that I'd burst out laughing, the friendly banter between Eli and Cyrus that just made me feel good for them. I didn't dislike him then. I thought he was a typical seventeen year old, but I didn't dislike him then.
But then the humour vanishes, and the second half left me with a 3.5 because despite having more action and giving Podehl more emotional material to work with, it became increasingly dreary whenever Eli was left to his own devices (which at least thanks to Cyrus, isn't too much). The same issues would be turned over and over, which while potentially realistic becomes boring when exact lines get repeated. If this was a book, these would be the parts that I would skim over, but add in Podehl's choice of internal voice for Eli and those portions just became tiresome for me. I did not enjoy Eli. There was nothing that I particularly liked about him, he was an angry boy, condescending at times, holier-than-thou at times, self-deprecating and pitying when it suited him, and entirely far too self-absorbed with his perceived self-sacrifice.
It's sad because I enjoyed the rest of the story, almost the entire rest of the cast, the setting and the situation that it posits, and the varied accents that Podehl pulls for the different characters. I want to find out more about the backstory, more about the ascenders and how things must be like for them, how things happened for them from their point of view. I want to find out if Cyrus is okay, how he deals with the new circumstances that is being thrown at him by sheer virtue of being Eli's first and best friend. I enjoyed this world, but I'm not sure that I can take another novel of Eli's internal whining and wallowing. I'm still undecided if I want to take that plunge. But that's me, maybe you can?
I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Yes. This was a great listen that offered a glimpse into our possible future. Any friend that enjoys post apocalyptic distopian/ utopian books would enjoy this read.
What did you like best about this story?
I enjoyed the aspect of human and robot interaction and the idea of the eventual population of AI ruling the world. I also liked the Olympic games surrounding the arts; painting, singing, spoken word and dancing. This offered a great artistic element to the book whereas other similar books (Hunger Games) were brute strength and force.
What about Nick Podehl’s performance did you like?
The narrator did a great job with the various voices, especially the females. Most male narrators have trouble with the female voices but Nick did a great job.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I would not listen to this in one setting. I listened to this over the course of a few days, mainly while driving. The similarities to other books necessitated the need to stop listening a bit. However, after a while the book took on its own form and finished very well.
Any additional comments?
I am eager to listen to the next book in this series. I would like to find out how characters deal with the various curve-balls they were thrown towards the ending of this book.
I was gifted this audio book by the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
In some ways this is your typical book one of a series, you have a chosen one starting to realise their significance and the troubles this causes, but the world the author builds is an interesting one that helps this novel move beyond this standard starting point.
In this world you have legacy humans who are the have-nots of this future world along with the ascenders who are a post-singularity machine/human hybrid that are almost considered god-like by some humans and hated by others. Elijah (or Eli) is one such legacy human and a talented artist, albeit one who is unable to consciously control his talents with his best work only being produced when he enters a fugue state.
The ascenders seem to value the creativity of legacy humans very highly with the only way for a human to win the right to ascend is to win one of the events in the creative Olympics and this is something that would be very important for Eli since it would also mean that his sick mother could also ascend and in the process would have her cancer cured too. Eli gets his chance to enter the games when Marcus, a friend of his ascender patron Lenora, offers to sponsor him despite Lenora's objections, but what are his motives for doing this for Eli.
From the point in the book where Eli and his friend Cyrus leave their home in the legacy city of Seattle to go to the Olympic village in the ascender city of Los Angeles, the pace of the books picks up greatly and the true reality of this world is revealed to be a far more complex one than it seems at first, as are Eli's origins and it is this latter part of the book that firmly lays the foundations for subsequent books in the series.
The narrator gave quite a subtle performance, the various characters were generally distinctive enough without being too over the top and this resulted in a narration that nicely enhanced the overall story.
Overall, this was an interesting start to a series that should appeal to many people, particularly if they like the chosen one and hunger games kind of scenario.
[Note - I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.]
1 of 1 people found this review helpful