I found the series to be a charming alternative to action packed space opera. No massive gun battles, no aliens out to kill humans, just a story of life as a merchant marine. It was quite a pleasant surprise.
As with so many space operas, the author sets up an awkward set of premises to get the space ship handling, and times between ports, to be roughly equivalent of those of a ship at sea, with the “solar clipper” being a solar sail, and a “gravity keel” to allow them to tack up (solar) wind as well. They use wormhole/FTL/magic premise to get between solar systems, but they have to sail away from the gravity well to get to the point they can engage it. Lowell explains the series premise at his site.
Having read the series twice (well, I heard it as a podcast first), some of the flaws become a bit grating after repeated exposure. The protagonist is always showing up experts through his rather banal but stunningly successful coffee making techniques, and later by his cooking expertise. And the economics of the flea market trading seem incredibly favorable, and I mean that as in not credible. Yet, for all that, these tales of an earnest young orphan’s travels from port to port and quotidian chores while under way at sea, er I mean “in space,” was nice break from my usual fare.
I’d actually suggest people listen to the original podcast first. Lowell has a great reading voice (he read it himself). The first book of the new series is out but not - as yet - available in podcast form, and he won’t be reading it himself.
I have to say that I was surprised by the quality of the podcast. Author-read books are hit and miss, and I figured an indy book could be even more so. Instead, the reading was pretty solid. And the price was right. A bad reader can ruin a good book and a good reader can make a marginal book a lot more fun (eg. Lenny Henry reading American Gods) and I found Lowell’s narration worked well for the subject. But, listening to the intros and outros for each individual podcast can get annoying if you are trying to listen to the book more than a single podcast at a time.
Yeah, he should do an edited version without the intros and outros for those coming late to the game and binge listening. It was a non-issue when they were first coming out, and we were waiting for each new chapter.
Yes, a low-conflict series of tales that’s sometimes exactly what you need instead of the tension-ratcheting of many epic stories.
As a non-USAnian, I did laugh at the seriousness given to making stewed coffee. Interstellar flight but no espresso machines on spaceships?
Well, it wasn’t sci-fi, but The Da Vinci Code was the last straw for me. Every paragraph was a tease. Every note read privately, its contents causing astonishment, but not revealed to the reader. Every phone call a mysterious voice. Enough with the page turning writing already! That was the day I quit thrillers.
I’ve also tired of books that keep ratcheting up the destructiveness of the enemy all the way up to galaxy-destroying Evil With A Capital “E” that hates all life and everything Good, because (no) reasons. Sigh. Boring. Overdone. Plot spackle.
I lost track of how many gallons of coffee each crew member must have consumed per day based on the quantities he brewed…
A lovely series. I recently reread them and it was as much fun the second time.
In the comments section of the page I linked to earlier Lowell responds to a reader who found the protagonist a bit too perfect:
[quote]A lot of people see Ishmael that way.
In my mind he’s nothing like that even tho he thinks of himself that way. I didn’t do a good enough job making it clear that he’s completely off the wall for most of the story. What he thinks is almost always invariably wrong, but he never realizes it. What he does is often misguided, but he doesn’t think so. What he sees is accurate, but what he thinks about it, how he responds to it, and how he reacts in many situations is silly, stupid, or fool hardy. Sometimes all three.
That I can see all this clearly in the books but so many people do not makes me think that I’ve not done as good a job as I might in putting the story on the page.
I’m glad you’re enjoying the books in spite of that shortcoming. [/quote]
That is interesting to me, because the likable Ishmael does seem a bit too perfect at times to me even if Lowell has tried to not write him that way and be nuanced about it. As much as people rail against Mary Sues and Marty Stus, sometimes a bit of that kind of wish fulfillment is satisfying, especially if the protagonist does have to work at it, as is the case here, and in, as an utterly unrelated example, The Name of the Wind.
Could someone kindly put up a link to the podcast? Amazon doesn’t have an audio version yet, and we prefer that in our house for long drives.
Sounds like Finland.
I’d probably need gallons of coffee to keep me awake if I lived in Finland… One can only Tango so much…
I’m a big fan, and I would be even if I wasn’t Tuckerized into the podcast of Double Share.
Just finished the newest Tim Powers so I’ll try this next
… did you just call American Gods a marginal book ?
Don’t you know that any book that mentions The House on the Rock is an awesome book?!?!?
The House on the Rock
Ooh, I must have just written an awesome post!
I just never got into American Gods. But Lenny Henry’s reading of it was awesome. After listening to the audio book I immediately searched for more books read by Lenny Henry, and not for more books by Neil Gaiman. Unfortunately there were no other books read by Lenny Henry, but there were more books by Neil Gaiman. Sigh.
I’d recommend The Rivers of London, aka Midnight Riot, featuring a wonderful reading by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.
Just yoinked down Quarter Share; if it passes muster, the rest will follow shortly.