Written by a highly regarded expert on space travel and exploration, Allen Steele's Arkwright features the precision of hard science fiction with a compelling cast of characters.
In the vein of classic authors such as Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke, Nathan Arkwright is a seminal author of the 20th century. At the end of his life he becomes reclusive and cantankerous, refusing to appear before or interact with his legion of fans. Little does anyone know, Nathan is putting into motion his true timeless legacy. Convinced that humanity cannot survive on Earth, his Arkwright Foundation dedicates itself to creating a colony on an earthlike planet several light-years distant. Fueled by Nathan's legacy, generations of Arkwrights are drawn together - and pulled apart - by the enormity of the task and weight of their name.
This is classic, epic science fiction and engaging character-driven storytelling that will appeal to devotees of the genre as well as fans of current major motion pictures such as Gravity and Interstellar.
©2016 Allen Steele (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
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"Simplistic storyline with way too much melodrama"
The first part of the book is the only genuinely interesting bit: a fictional re-telling of science fiction writing and famous sci-fi authors during the golden age of the genre.
But then the long middle part of the book is a tedious melodrama throwing in every daytime soap opera cliche about troubled families.
It gets briefly interesting again when the author behind to imagine humans on a distant planet, but soon it's back to family dramas before a really hokey sentimental ending.
I didn't enjoy the narrator's reading of it either. Something about the pitch and tone of his voice grated me throughout, though I must admit that he mimicked the voices of the older characters really well.
Very slow and inane story. Not at all what I was expecting from Steele after reading the coyote series.
"Welcome to a snooze fest."
This book takes entirely too long to get to the point. I kept listening and near the end of the book finally got some of why I purchased this book, but there are many other great books in this genre so spare yourself the time and money.
"meh. way too much needless character dev."
good concept. good narration. but way too much needless character development. I almost quit multiple times. glad I finished it, mostly because of how much it cost, but it's unlikely I'll read this author's stuff again.
"Aging SF Writer Invests in Long-Range Colony Ship"
Quick Non-Spoilery Summary
Nathan Arkwright is a massively successful SF writer and contemporary of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. His wildly popular space operas have made him rich and he quietly invests his earnings into real science in the hopes of advancing space travel and even colonizing another planet. The narrative plays out over several generations of the Arkwright family, following Nathan's dream into reality.
My book club chose this from a short list of SF fiction that I created by indexing multiple "best of 2016" lists and then removing works that weren't available in e-book/audiobook formats and any works that were #x of a series.
Arkwright was an easy, but overall shallow and disappointing read. If this was among the best of 2016, then it was a sad year for SF.
The characters are likable enough, but you never really get the chance to know any of them in any depth. This could be do to the generational narrative of the story; it switches viewpoint characters with each section. But honestly, I felt like the viewpoint character was always the least interesting person in the room. And don't get me started on the super weak guy-meets-girl romances in this novel.
The plotting was like a videogame set on "easy mode." Challenges to the Arkwright agenda were sketchy and far too easily remedied. I never really felt the vision was at risk or altered itself to the changing personalities and pressures of each generation.
The book takes cheap shots at religion. One of the threats to Arkwright's vision came from religious fantatics. (Obviously religion vs. science is a popular theme these days.) But I felt like it was an intelligence-insulting strawman argument rather than a serious plot complication. Religion in Arkwright was represented by Bible-belt fundamentalists, of course, all suitably thick-headed. They were never either rational or really dangerous. (Unlike the real/current US, in which religious fanatics, along with the NRA and big oil, are kind of a shadow gov't.) Later in the book a religion on the destination planet springs up and it's another of the thickheaded misinformed type. The new religion has the feeling of being very old and codified, but it sprung up in like one generation. So Steele's whole view of religion is slanted, reductive, and unrealistic.
Steele also fails to present a "world" view. Apparently everyone native to the Caribbean drinks Red Stripe and deals pot. And pretty much everything is told from a US point of view.
He even fails to do good hard science. Science doesn't really change much over the long timeline of the story. It's like all technology freezes after the ship launches and doesn't progress or even regress in the generations of waiting.
Finally, the book was super meta in its attempt to create a conversation around science fiction and its relationship to real science. Steele referred to it as "a novel about science fiction that becomes a SF novel itself." This amounted to lots of pointless name-dropping and a serious failure to say anything about or evoke any interesting discussion around the relationship between SF writers and real science. I wanted a main character that wasn't a pulp fiction writer, but more of an Arthur C. Clarke type. A dreamer that influenced as well as championed science.
Don't I have anything nice to say? Well, it was an easy read. And the premise and writing were just good enough that I kept reading to see if it would get better. Also the narrator did a great job, though he was too slow for my years. (I listened at x1.25.)
"An uplifting take on the full potential of science fiction"
This was an enjoyable story with a strong connected narrative and an exciting optimistic view on the potential of science fiction to effect science development. There were some dull parts in the story, and the constant shift in narrators as the years pass leads to some less-than-stellar character-driven storylines, but the ending was well done and enjoyable.
narration was good. But... If ever ever there were a Mary Sue sci-fi story about a sci-fi author, this is that story. Action was weak; pacing was tolerable; story was a bit sparse.
"It's all about the backstory"
A lot of Sci Fi books start right in the middle of some action, and the backstory is treated as a mystery. There's a bit of backstory in this novel, but really it feels more like it is all backstory. That's not a problem though. It is interesting because it is unique. Life is mostly about the slow build and the long wait...
"Really good plausible story"
This book embraced reality and hoped for a better future. People were still people with all the flaws and the speed of light was never broken.
"Such a good story....."
The story was surprisingly entertaining and has kept me wanting more on what will happen next.
"weak start, optimistically implausible premise"
I found the wide-eyed golden era of sci-fi/alternate universe beginning quite weak and with poor dialogue; bit of a missed opportunity given all the classic author name drops. Central premise I think is overly optimistic and implausible though I wanted to like it and rooted for the protagonists.
The book hit it's stride a little more in the latter half, with more plausible character interactions and more drive to the plot. thoroughly enjoyed the ending.
"solid narration, forgettable story"
the story is bouncing between cringeworthy scifi-history namedropping and boring. the narration is great though.
"A story about the Arkwright dynasty"
Starting with the death of the Arkwright we then learn that this is how we start. One mans vision of a possible future , which ends some 500+ years later on a star far far away.
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