This work contains the five Beacon 23 stories, originally released in serialized form.
For centuries, men and women have manned lighthouses to ensure the safe passage of ships. It's a lonely job, and a thankless one for the most part - until something goes wrong, until a ship is in distress.
In the 23rd century, this job has moved into outer space. A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at many times the speed of light. These beacons are built to be robust. They never break down. They never fail.
At least, they aren't supposed to.
©2015 Hugh Howey (P)2015 Hugh Howey
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"Good, but not great."
Well, this is my second foray into Howey's writing. The first, of course, being the Silo series. I actually liked this book more. In fact a great deal more. It was more nuanced (for the vast majority of it), more... mature and developed.
While a compilation of 5 shorter stories, it wasn't as repetitive as other compilations I have read. Yes, there's a bit at the start of each new section, but not overly so. Hughey delves deeply into PTSD, loneliness, and forgiveness in this book. Yes, it was Sci-fi, but that is certainly not the driving thrust here, just the setting.
This book would have been a 4 or 5 star for me if he had left out the epilogue. It killed the nuance of the choice at the end to know which way things went and made it feel like he was pandering to the reader. Otherwise a very solid story and worth a read.
"Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination"
Much like light houses in our current world, in the vase sea of space there are beacons to guide ships along safe passages. Digger is the man who monitors beacon 23; it is a lonely job with minimal contact with others. The problem is, spending that much time with only your dark thoughts as company can break a man, or make him crazy.
First, this is 5 stand alone stories compiled, therefore after listening to the first story all subsequent stories will re-introduce you to information you've already learned, making them a little redundant.
At the beginning I had to rewind a few times because the narrator was so intense that I almost felt overwhelmed and confused, and I was worried I was missing things. I grew to appreciate the intensity and commitment of Ryan McCarthy's interpretation of Digger; the narration was the thing that I enjoyed most about this book.
Since each story should stand alone I would expect it to be more eventful, but I found this omnibus to be anti-climactic. I'd never read a book by Hugh Howey before but I've heard a lot of great things and I was very excited for this book, but at the end I felt unimpressed and underwhelmed.
Conclusion: Very strong narration. Good character development through the first two stories, and some of the third but takes a turn after that. I don't think all of the stories are worth listening to, but I don't think it's a lost cause.
Five interrelated stories about a space-age lighthouse keeper add up to a short but satisfying anti-war novel by Hugh Howey, employing his M.O. of releasing individual stories serially and then collecting them in omnibus editions, as he did with the great Silo trilogy. This is, obviously, the omnibus edition in audio.
Set in a distant future when hyper-light speed galactic cruisers rely on space beacons to steer clear of obstacles like asteroid fields, these stories have more in common with 17th century armada battles, pirate raids, and lonely lighthouse keepers, as well as with war in today's Middle East and its impact on soldiers.
The protagonist, identified only by his call sign, Digger, battles loneliness, guilt, and PTSD, as well computer bugs, pirates, bounty hunters, fugitives, alien overlords, fierce alien pets, and a pet rock (yes, most enjoyably, a pet rock). But don't get the wrong impression -- he mostly battles himself, mostly by himself, with only occasional intrusions by outside entities.
In the end, he faces a similar choice to the one that landed him in his lonely lighthouse in the first place -- how to change the course of war. There is good stuff here -- not sure I totally got it or agreed with it, but there is depth and heft despite the modest length. As always, Howey takes his time telling his tale, focusing first on character, dwelling on detail. Well done.
Play it at high speed -- the narration is good but slow.
"Intense and thought provoking"
Wow! This book may take place in the future, in space and include a war between humans and an alien species, but it is so much more than your average science fiction book. It is a deep psychological exploration of life, love, war and peace as seen through the eyes and mind of a solider with PTSD. It is very well written and the audiobook is very well narrated. If you're looking for an action space adventure book, move along. If you want something thought provoking and interesting, give this a try.
"Thoughtful, thought provoking story"
I thought this was going to just be a fun story about a guy's adventure in space. So much more. Highly recommended if you
are in the mood to have your world view challenged a bit.
Hugh Howey becomes a more versatile writer, in my mind, with every story of his that I read. This one is "psychological science fiction"; to coin a term. Wow, I'll have to think about this one. I'm sure it will be rolling around in my thoughts for days. Hugh, thank you!
It was just last summer I got turned onto "Wool" by Hugh Howey & it was stellar. Loved it and it's subsequent tomes enough to search out every last word I could find by the guy & so far it's all been fantastic. These stories have such interesting and unique plots, very fresh in a genre with a lot of stale ideas. Also while this is being presented as a novel it, like his "Silo Saga" stories, was originally released in serial form in digital & paper publications and I feel as though that lends something to the final product as a whole. Have to test that theory out. Anyways a great book thats well read and will surely entertain you!
"Conflicted Unknown Soldier"
Better than average story w/ so many layers and intriguing literary vehicles... Joys, sadness,depression, humor, love,and selflessness ar all on display, many simultaniously... The idea of self isolation/exile and introspective internal dialogues are fascinating and thoughtful... The main character is tragic and relatable... The nameless soldier vehicle is masterfully administered, and sneakily proposed... Empathy and going along w/ the needs of the many as to a few is weaved throughout... Even though unnamed the operator is known to us as he touches on common feelings and frailties... Although a little irritating when Navy ppl keep referring to themselves and others as soldiers, the Army guy in me kept saying "you mean sailor". The secondary characters are entertaining and complimentary, especially Rocky and Cricket... The climax left me conflicted. I understood the idea, but the reality of it's execution left me uncomfortable, still not sure how I feel about it... I suspect that's precisely the point... Not a book for the casual reader wanting to not think about what they read... You'll find yourself contemplating this story quite a while after you've finished... The depth of thought and humanity's humanity vs. inhumanity are tropes I've come to expect from Howey, and enjoy the way it works the gray matter... Narrator fit the novel's voice, andd changed along w/ the mood of the operator... Not the best Howey, but in the top 3-4...
"It’s dark and it is tragic"
This was originally released in eBook as episodes, this is a collection of these episodes to form the full book about Digger and his inner journey on the outskirts of space.
Lighthouses have kept boats safe from crashing into rocks or shore for centuries. Now that we are exploring the outer reaches of space we needed something to keep us safe. The Beacons have become our new lighthouses. Just like the lighthouses of before, each Beacon needs a keeper. Out on the edge of Sector 8 (so close it should be Sector 9) sits Beacon 23. This story is about Beacon 23’s keeper and his struggle with both his inner and some outer demons. This is where we first meet Digger. The keeper of Beacon 23. He is alone at the edge of space with just his thoughts and memories.
Ryan McCarthy did the narration for this collection. Ryan was one of the narrators that an author dreams of. He became Digger. Now if I hear another book read by McCarthy I’m going to have to take a few moments to realize the story isn’t about Digger again. He gave this character a voice and made this book a breeze to listen to. The benefit that McCarthy had was that there really weren’t any other characters to narrate. Only a few people interact with Digger through the whole story – so he really got to dive in head first. Quality was perfect and will be enjoyed by a lot of listeners.
I’ll be the first to admit, I bought this book because it was written by Hugh Howey. I’ll also be the first to admit that I read the summary and thought it sounded a bit like The Martian and I’m still in a Martian induced hangover waiting for another book that I’ll enjoy as much as I did that. Now, while you’re thinking that this does sound like The Martian – there are some differences. Digger has chosen to be where he is. He was not left here, there will be no rescuing.
This single difference allows for some incredible science fiction to be written. Howey explains the premise of the Beacon and he is able to get really into the head of this loner in space. There were a lot of moments where I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to Digger, not as much from space, but from himself.
The story weaves in and out of present and some “history” about Digger. The more and more you find out about his past, the more his present (and his future) makes sense.
The humor in this book was really great. There were parts that had me laughing late into the night while listening to this. To me, the humor was really needed, because there were a lot of dark mental material throughout (PTSD and anxiety to name a few). The book mixed these two so well that I would go from laughing one minute to almost in tears the next.
Don’t get me wrong, the story isn’t upbeat. It’s dark and it is tragic. But I am glad that I read this. Getting to know Digger wasn’t something I knew I wanted to do, but by the end I’m glad that I got to.
Audiobook purchased for review by ABR.
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"Confusing but interesting, ending too pat"
Yes; I think the life the narrator brings gives depth that the written word would not. Especially since this is all told in the first person by the narrator.
3.5 stars. An odd, slightly surreal, trippy little book. The unnamed narrator mans a Beacon (think future space lighthouse) alone, guidepost to farflung spaceships travelling at faster than the speed of light, as a reward for being a war hero. It seems like scant reward, except that our narrator has definite mental issues stemming from his service, and he wanted to be alone. The story is told in first person and you realize fairly quickly that he isn't entirely stable and that despite the wish for solitude, he is lonely. The book is told in five parts (originally five separately released novellas), and they offer peaks into this far future world, a war with another intelligent alien species, the trauma of war, the craving for contact with others, and the self-awareness that you might be losing your mind. Some sections work better than others, and you are always wondering how much is real and what is the narrator's hallucination. Except that by the end, you are simultaneously given a good deal of reason to question the narrator's lucidity, but have a conclusion that feels both final and definitive, if a bit too pat. Mixed feelings on this one, but still felt worth the time.
Found the beginning a bit slow to get going, but was soon hooked and couldn't put it down. Never quite sure what is real or imagined, beautifully written and perfectly narrated.
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