Read by MacLeod Andrews
Length: 9 Hrs 29 Min
Genre: Science Fiction
Quick Thoughts: Undercurrents is a rollicking, fast paced Science Fiction adventure. Buettner’s world may be rife with social and political issues, but the story itself is simply fun, with touches of humor, romance and a few surprises that will delight science fiction fans.
Winter is my least favorite time of year. With the bitter cold, shorter days, and inclement weather, winter has always had a claustrophobic affect on me. I think this is one of the reasons that I often feel pulled towards science fiction novels. For me, science fiction is the ultimate escapism for the winter months. We can step outside our little cloisters and visit the stars, travel through time, and experience things outside of our routine. While science fiction is not my only way to escape through books, I think the thought experiments that often go hand in hand with science fiction is what makes it perfect for the winter. Playing within the bounds of physics and our understanding of the way the universe works allows for a sort of grounded escapism. We can explore topics within these bounds examining the human experience. Last year, I read the first novel of Robert Buettner’s Orphan Legacy series titled Overkill. What I was expecting based on the picture on the cover, and the product description was a Military Scifi Adventure novel, what I got was so much more. Yes, it was a grand adventure on many scales, but also a look at what it means to he human, and what values to place on life. I was also surprised that the series was a spin off of his earlier Orphanage series, because the book worked so well as a standalone.
In Undercurrents, we again hook up with Jazen Parker, but things haven’t been going too well. Not getting what he wanted out of his time working as an Intelligence Operative, and his relationship wit Kit crashing and burning, he finds himself running his bar and living a basically dull life. Until the mysterious yet possibly untrustworthy Howard Hibble shows up and offers a new mission, one that Jazen cannot refuse. I think, going into the novel, that I was in the totally wrong mindset. I wanted to relive the experience of Overkill, and I just knew I wouldn’t. I was so impressed with what Buettner did in Overkill, that I think I set my expectations, if not too high then too narrowly. I also brought a bit of skepticism, just knowing I would be missing important aspects of the story because I wasn’t familiar with the Orphanage series. Let’s deal with the first part, my expectations. While Undercurrents didn’t have the emotional impact of Overkill, Buettner uses the solid science fiction tale to explore ideas of what it means to be a soldier, and the legacies of family. Buettner spends a lot of time examining Jazen’s mixed feelings for his family, dealing with his feelings of abandonment and betrayal, despite an intellectual understanding that these feelings may not be truly justified. On the second issue, while I did feel I was missing parts of the story by not knowing more about the previous series, I feel that that lead me not to devaluing this series, but wanting even more to read the predecessor. All this lead to a final decision, I need to stop over thinking these things. While there are many interesting subtexts to this story, the novel on its surface is a rollicking, fast paced Science Fiction adventure. Buettner’s world may be rife with social and political issues, but the story itself is simply fun, with touches of humor, romance and a few surprises that will delight science fiction fans.
MacLeod Andrews is one of those narrators that understands that the majority of the people in existence do not talk like a silky, smooth radio personality with a deep pleasing baritone. MacLeod puts life into the characters he reads complete with the flaws of the typical human. I am always impressed with the choices Andrews makes when presenting his characters. You just know he puts serious thought into these characters, yet nothing seems forced or over done. I also enjoy the way he reads the action scenes. There is an undercurrent of humor in Buettner’s action sequences that Andrew’s sardonic tone captures beautifully. Listening to this novel made me wish that the earlier series was available in audio form, but no matter what, Undercurrents convinced me I need to go back and check out the Orphanage novels soon.