Tag Archives: Audible.com

Empires of EVE in Audiobook Format

Empires of EVE started off back in 2014 as the Andrew Groen Kickstarter project to write a book about the null sec wars of EVE Online.

I was in as a backer, as were more than three thousand other people from the EVE Online community.

Two years later, the book was out and I had my nice hardback copy, which is currently sitting on the desk beside my keyboard.  The title, originally A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online, had been slimmed down to Empires of EVE, but the content was in no way trimmed.

How much more black could it be?

The book follows the formation of the first null sec corporations and alliances from the launch of the game in 2003 through what is called The Great War and the eventual downfall of the Band of Brothers alliance in 2009.

The book went out to the backers of the Kickstarter as well as going up for sale in both physical and ebook formats.  At last update, Andrew Groen has sold more than 12,000 copies of the book.  Not bad for a book about an obscure game with an odd name in a small segment of the video game market.

To promote the book Andrew Groen has given presentations at various gaming event, such as PAX.  If you get a chance to see one of his presentations, you should go.  He is an engaging speaking and remains enthusiastic on the topic.

So I was quite happy to hear that he had produced an audiobook version of the work and that he was the narrator.  It is available from Audible.com.

Audible.com is a subsidiary of Amazon

Having had an “any two titles” per month subscription with Audible.com since 2000, I put it in my queue and picked up a copy with my August titles and just finished listening to it.

It is not perfect.  Having seen Andrew Groen present about EVE Online and Empires of EVE, the book does not live up to that sort of experience.  This is not Andrew in front of an audience gushing about a topic in which he is invested, this is Andrew reading a book in a measured and even tone.  That was a minor disconnect for me, though I did get used to it quickly enough.  It just doesn’t seem like him.

Then there is pronunciation, something that plagues just about every audiobook.  How do you pronounce things in New Eden?  I remember during the Casino War being confused to find that CCP pronounces the region of Deklein as if it were the work “decline” and not “Deck-lynn” as I had always heard it pronounced.  In Andrew’s case, among other things, he pronounces the region Venal, which I always say as though it were the sin (which seems appropriate for null sec), as though it rhymes with the word “fennel.”

Also, hearing a written work read aloud tends to call attention to awkward phrasing and word repetition.  That is why it is an oft used self-editing technique.  At one point Andrew uses variations of the word “history” three times in a single sentence.  Reading that to yourself you might not notice it, but on hearing somebody say it aloud and it draws a cringe and an audible correction from me.  I talk back to my audiobooks in the car.

Then there is the recording itself, which is not optimal.  It was not recorded in a professional studio by my estimation, given the minor echo that runs throughout the book.

Finally, with the audiobook you do not get any of the maps of visuals included with the physical book.  The reason that my hardcover copy is next to me was that I pulled it out a couple of times to look at maps. (I also spent time at DOTLAN looking at regional maps.)

Still, these are not insurmountable issues.  And there is something very helpful or comforting about having somebody telling you about these events as opposed to reading the text off of a page.  The events wash over you and the threads and overall arc of the story become more important than whether or not a fight too place in the system C-J6MT.

I burned through the book in a few days, mostly while playing Minecraft or doing things in EVE Online like tend my PI farm, move ships, and rat.  The work is solid and enjoyable.

Furthermore, the work maybe be just the start.  Andrew Groen wrote in his update about the audiobook production of Empires of EVE that it was a learning process as much as anything with an eye towards being able to tell more such stories in the format.  So this may be the start of something.

Anyway, my gripes all summed up were minor while my enjoyment of the book in audio format was huge.  I recommend it, and I look forward to what might come next.

Three Science Fiction Series Starters

I do love me a good science fiction series… or even a not-so-good one as long as it knows how to keep my attentions… as I have written in the past.

I tend to try them out in audio book form as they are especially good for passing the time in the car during the commute to and from work.  Because of my ancient, grandfathered, pre-Amazon acquisition Audible.com subscription, I get two audiobook titles a month as part of a “use it or lose it” plan.  Sometimes I have my purchases planned out months in advance, sometimes I just grab something that looks shiny.

Over the summer I decided to try out a few new series from authors I did not know.  So I picked out the starter book from three different science fiction series that were available.

ThreeSciFiSeriesStartersThis is my report on what I found.

Steel World by B.V. Larson (2013)

Summary: Earth is small part of a giant galactic empire.  The empire expects planets to provide something and grants each one a franchise on what they do best, and woe be to those who don’t have something worthwhile or who impinge on the franchise of another planet.

Earth, being backward and savage, provides mercenaries for use in conflicts within the empire, which the empire allows because… I don’t know, maybe they think it keeps people busy.  These mercenaries, which are organized as Roman legions… because… Romans are cool I guess… make Earth a respectable part of the empire and earns Earth credits so they can buy fancy space technology.

One of the technologies Earth buys lets them backup and restore dead mercenaries, within certain parameters. (Very EVE Online)  You have to be confirmed dead before you are restored, which becomes a plot point the way transporter malfunctions do in Star Trek.

Anyway, this means that Earth’s legions have an practically endless supply of soldiers.  Meanwhile, Earth is overcrowded and if something bad happens and you lose your job, you are in bad shape.

Such is the case of James McGill, who due to family issues loses his ability to pay for college.  He was a huge gamer, so he sells his elaborate console and goes off to join one of Earth’s legions, something akin to somebody today selling their XBox One and running off to join the army because they were really good at Call of Duty.  Hilarity ensues.

Highs: The tech, the galactic situation, and the way the legions operate were enough to keep me engaged throughout the story.

Lows: Owes a lot to 50’s Heinlein, very “Johnnie Rico” at times.  Too cute by half McGill escapes from impossible situations.  Plot complications telegraphed well in advance.  Galactic situation, and the situation on Earth not very well fleshed out.  Only available on Kindle or through Audible.

Follow on Books: Dust World, Tech World.

Into the Black by Evan Currie (2012)

Summary: In the not-so-distant future, after a conflict that divided the world into two armed camps and pushed the US and Canada to form the North American Confederation, various technological breakthroughs have put mankind into space.  We follow Captain Eric Weston, former commander of the elite Archagels squadron and now captain of the newly launched NACS Odyssey as he takes Earth’s first faster than light capable ship on its shakedown cruise to likely nearby stars.

And, at their very first stop at another star, they detect tachyon emission that leads them to the site of a space battle where they rescue and alien from a life support pod.  From there, difficult questions ensue and the Odyssey ends up involved in the war, taking sides without really checking back to see if this is okay with Earth.

Highs: The tech is not the easy standards of the genre.  Book attempts to, if not fully explain, at least explain well the parameters of the tech.  That is some FTL drive!  Asymmetrical tech ideas work.

Lows: Owes a bit to David Webber.  Considering how much time is spent on how cool and elite the Archangels are, they really do not add that much to the whole story.  The early plot depends on a lot of really low probability events.  Would we just let our first FTL capable ship just go swanning about where the solar winds blow like this?  Boy, them friendly aliens sure put all their eggs in one basket.  Another “lost tribe” story.  Tachyon emissions.

Follow on Books:  The Heart of the Matter, Homeworld, Out of the Black

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos (2014)

Summary: In the not-so-distant future the world is divided into two armed camps with the US and Canada forming the North American Commonwealth, and various technological breakthroughs have put mankind into space.  Hrmm… that sounds familiar.

Earth is a mess, over populated, with the greater underclass confined to crowded, walled off cities.  If you don’t have a job, or lose yours, well you are stuck subsisting off of government handouts in a dirty, crime plagued corner of what passes for life for most people.  This too, sounds familiar.

The only way out is to win a lottery to a life on a colony world or join the military.  The story’s protagonist, Andrew Grayson, opts for the latter.  Insert somewhat standard boot camp scenario.  He has dreams of getting into space, but when he makes it through training but ends up in the Territorial Army, whose job it is to keep the peace here on Earth rather than head to space or garrison colony worlds.  He ends up back in cities again, this time fighting the masses of which he was once a part.

Still, where there is a will, there is a way, and Andrew really wants to get into space.  Meanwhile, aliens are on the move.

Highs:  Well paced, author knows when to skip the story ahead without feeling like you’ve missed something.  Doesn’t dwell on the tech beyond what is necessary for the plot. Really alien aliens.

Lows: Owes something to Heinlein, Haldeman, Harrison, and probably John Ringo as well, and it is hard not to draw the comparisons as you read.  Why is our future always a dystopian, over crowded, welfare state?  Detroit cannot catch a break.

Follow on Books: Lines of Departure, Angles of Attack (Due April 21, 2015)

What to Pick?

None of these titles were bad. I listened to all three to the very end, even putting the headphones on at home to continue listening to the stories outside of commute time.  Mentioning that a given story owes something to a past author’s work means that the desire to compare the two became a distraction, but that may be just a product of my own mind and having read far too much science fiction over the years.  Do not read too much into that.

l listed the titles in the order in which I listened to them, so Terms of Enlistment gets a couple of unfair “sounds familiar” mentions in its summery because it was the third in the queue.

But when I got to the end of the three books, I immediately went back to Audible.com and put Lines of Departure on my wish list.  I’ve already finished that, too, and am now impatient for Angles of Attack.

That said, at least it gives me time to pick up The Heart of the Matter.  While Into the Black didn’t thrill me as much as Terms of Enlistment, it still sunk a hook in me and I want to find out what happens next.  Maybe the Archangels will live up to their hype.

Which leaves me with Steel World.  As I said, it wasn’t bad, but it also didn’t leave me looking for a sequel either.  On the other hand, if you look at B.V. Larson’s Wikipedia page (the only one of the three authors apparently notable enough to have one), he has a whole slew of other titles, so there are some avenues worth exploring.

Anybody else on board with these authors?

The Wheel of Time – 3,430,682 Words Later…

I wrapped up the last available book in Robert Jordan‘s “The Wheel of Time” saga, “The Knife of Dreams,” this past weekend.  I am now all ready for the last entry in the series, “The Memory of Light” which is due out this fall and which might end up so long that it may need to be broken into two books to accommodate the estimated 700,000 additional words that have gone into this partly posthumous work.

I did cheat a bit to get to this point.

You will note I did not say I read the series.  I listened to the whole thing in audio book form.  Audible.com has the entire series available in unabridged format. (I insist on unabridged.)

The series adds up to nearly 350  hours of audio, or about 14 and a half days to listen to all 11 books plus the prequel.

Most of that listening was done in the car during my commute to and from work, a 60-90 minute round trip.  I started listening in mid-January 2008 and just finish in mid-March 2009.  I am afraid that MMO related podcasts suffered a downturn in listening on my part as a result.

One of the nice things about listening to the whole series is that I know how to pronounce everything!  I compare this to my attempt to read The Silmarillion for the first time; I could not pronounce anything correctly!  Too many umlauts, for a start!

At least I sort of know how to pronounce every thing.  The book was read by two people, a man for all the parts that were from a male perspective and a woman for all the parts that were from a female perspective.  Unfortunately, for the first few books they appeared to be working with different pronunciation guides, so a change of narrator would change how some things were said, sometimes dramatically.  For a while I thought there were two different characters, one with a name that sounded like “Moe-gah-dean” and one with a name that sounded like “Muh-gid-ee-en.”  After a while they seem to have had a meeting of the minds and settled on a single pronunciation of Moghedien.

On the other hand, I couldn’t spell very many names of people of places.  Rand and Lan I could handle, but Egwene and Nynaeve, and frankly many of the female names, were not so easy for me to sound out into written form.  I had to go look them up, even to write that last sentence.  Robert Jordan seemed to relish coming up with names that were spelled in unexpected ways, at least when compared to how they were pronounced.

Another nice thing about going through the whole series as audio books is that I have a good deal more tolerance for… well… the tedious or boring bits.  One of the issues with the series is that it follows the paths of so many different people that it makes the works of James Michener read like The Bobbsey Twins.  And amongst all those threads (yes, I get it, they all weave together on the wheel of time) there are a few that I just didn’t give a damn about or that I felt could have gotten the point across in a couple hundred less pages.

Having gone through the whole series almost one after another, I started to notice patterns as well.  Repeated phrases began to grate, rather like the constant reference to cigarettes, their availability, price, and quality, by nearly every character in the Harry Turtledove Timeline 191 series.  Some that come to mind:

Must we hear about the ageless quality (or lack there of) of the face of every Aes Sedai that shows up?

Smiles that do not reach the eyes – can we come up with another description?

Tugging on braids; it was bad enough when just Nynaeve was doing it, but later other female characters show the same mannerism, at least when they aren’t needlessly/nervously smoothing their skirts, or stopping short of doing so.

And speaking of skirts, do skirts with multiple colors ever have a second color that isn’t a “slash.”  Blue skirts slashed with red, brown slashed with green.  Had they not discovered stripes?  Was plaid beyond them?  Maybe I am just unclear on the concept.

And, finally, can we dispense with the stock descriptions of some characters after the first couple of usages per book? Do I need to hear how Vanin, Mat‘s best scout in the Band of the Red Hand, sits in the saddle like a bag of suet every time he rides up?  Must I hear about Julin Sandar‘s red, flat topped conical cap (read: fez) or Thom Merrilin‘s mustaches every time they show up?  Every second tier character seemed to have some stock phrase associated with him or her that had to be used every time they showed up and it began to get on my nerves.

I know, who am I to nit pick?  I write a blog post and then I have to go back and remove my own excessively used turns of phrase, like starting sentences with, “So,” “Of course,” “On the other hand,” and the others that I over use out of habit.  And Robert Jordan has passed away, so it isn’t like he’s going to do a re-write for me in any case.

Still, maybe some author will take this to heart.  When you compare this with Patrick O’Brian‘s Aubrey/Machurin series, a 20 book epic of its own (also available on Audible.com) you will find that Mr. O’Brian never fell into this sort of repeated usage of the same phrases until they became tired cliches within his own work.  I have read interviews with him where he went on about the craft of writing and keeping just that sort of thing from happening.

Enough of that though.

I made it through the whole thing, listened to every word, never skipped ahead, and do not regret the effort.  I enjoyed most of the books and I do plan to read or listen to the final book(s) when available.  I have to find out how things end up for the five people who started off from the Two Rivers all those books ago, even if I am not so concerned about some of the people who they have met along the way.

But a company out there, Red Eagle Entertainment, says they are going to make movies and an MMO out of the series.  Is that viable?

For an MMO, there certainly is enough background material there.  There is a large and reasonably well described world.  There are key cities with lots of sparsely settled or empty space in between.  There are enough factions to go around and then some.  There is a set group of bad guys with their own army of slavering minions, plus a whole evil infrastructure in the dark friends to root out.  There is a wide range of potential classes.  The right company could make a Lord of the Rings Online level of game out of it.

I think the right company is the key, of course.  I know nothing about Red Eagle, so my confidence in there ever being such a game is pretty low.  And since they made their initial announcement, EA has loomed into the picture, adding not a whit of confidence on my part.  The wheel weaves as the wheel wills. (There was an oft repeated phrase that disappeared around book 7 or so.  I wonder why?)

As for movies… I rather picture the whole thing done as a low budget BBC 100 part series with old “Dr. Who” or “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” level of props but excellent writing for the screen play adaptation.

But that just might be me.