Audiobook Review: Energized by Edward M. Lerner

30 07 2012

Energized by Edward M. Lerner

Read by Grover Gardner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 27 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts:  Energized is high concept science fiction that should appeal to fans of Larry Niven and Greg Bear. Yet, for me, I could never engage with the world, the plot or the character until far too late, due to expositional world building. The latter half of the novel is quite good, but by the time I got there, I just didn’t really care. There is definitely an audience out there for Energized. Sadly, I wasn’t it.

Grade: C+

I’ve always liked softer things. In college, I studied the softest of soft science, Political Science. In fiction, I have always preferred softer science fiction to hard science fiction. In hard science fiction, writers tend to explore our world using a strict adherence to scientific laws as we know them. When done right, the science almost becomes a character in its own, influencing plot, pushing the characters in interesting direction, and creating a logical world but one the can push the boundaries of who we are. Yet, far too often, it becomes a Deus Ex Machina, a device that boxes in the plot, creating unnecessarily limitations, but eventually providing a last minute save for the character. Often, the science in poorly done science fiction, doesn’t interact with the characters, but tethers them, strips away their agency and eventually sucks the life right out of them. I think poorly executed hard science fiction muddles the waters between hard and soft scifi. Originally, soft science fiction was meant to portray science based fiction that focused on the softer sciences like sociology, psychiatry, anthropology and the like. Yet, too often, people look at soft scifi as character driven and hard scifi as concept driven. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Leviathan Wake is hard science fiction, yet the science based elements doesn’t take away from the wonderful characters and story telling. So, one of my goals this year was to try to read more harder science fiction than I have in the past. Unfortunately, I haven’t really done that. So, when I read the synopsis for Energized, and realized it was hard science fiction and a lot of concepts I liked in in, I decided to give it a go.

Energized is a topical near future science fiction tale which takes place years after a catastrophic attack on the Middle East petroleum reserves, which leaves Russia as the most significant oil producing nation on earth. This leads to a sort of new cold war between Russia and the US. Yet, when NASA discovers an asteroid on a near earth trajectory, they figure a way to pull it into earth orbit, affectively making it another moon, one rich in energy potential. While this is good for the US the change in balance creates political repercussions. While Edward M. Lerner tale is full of fascinating concepts, his world building is overly complex and is parsed out using expositional tricks that suck the life out of the first half of the novel. Lerner over uses the science fiction trick of creating the back story through meandering thoughts of the characters. While this is better than straight exposition, it also leads to a sort of glossing over of the actual development of the characters. This makes the players in this tale fall a bit flat, and leaves the readers unmotivated to embrace them. The main character of this tale Marcus Judson, is a likable guy, yet, by the time he becomes an active participant in the tale, instead of a spectator, I had basically lost interest in him. It seems at about the halfway point, Lerner realized he needed to make his characters people you can care about, rather than a Redshirt whose peril creates no tension. Yet, by that point, it was far too late. Case in point, he creates a sort of tepid, mechanical relationship between Marcus and a brilliant astronomer, yet, right before he is sent away on a dangerous mission, they discover that they are in fact desperately and passionately in love. This romance, despite being between two likable characters, felt forced and a necessity of the plot, rather than a true organic human relationship. The second half of the novel was much better, providing real tension, big time villains, and some fun use of technology and cunning among the characters. Lerner has skills as a writer, but I think he was so fascinated by his concept, which is a good one, and their implications, which could be fascinating, that he spent more time setting things up and showing off his mind, then trying to suck the readers into his world. Energized is high concept science fiction that should appeal to fans of Larry Niven and Greg Bear. Yet, for me, I could never engage with the world, the plot or the character until far too late, due to expositional world building. The latter half of the novel is quite good, but by the time I got there, I just didn’t really care.

None of my problems with this audiobook can be blamed on the narrator. Grover Gardner gave a solid performance for what he had to work with. Energized has a large international peripheral cast, which Gardner handled with ease. A good narrator, with an engaging tone can make some of those longer expositional passages a bit easier to take and Gardner‘s skills definitely kept me going with this novel. Yet, one of my issues with the book was that it didn’t really utilize some of my favorite aspects of Gardner’s narration. Gardner is great at capturing the dark humor and dry wit of the text, and this novel was largely lacking in humor. By having a narrator that is great at pulling the humor out of the text and displaying it for the audience, it made the often lifeless tone of the book stand out like a sore thumb. Energized is one of those books that has a lot of things I should have liked, a catastrophe with a corny name (the Crudetastrophe, guffaw), near future political and scientific exploration and robots, but fails to engage me. There is definitely an audience out there for Energized. Sadly, I wasn’t it.

Note: Special thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing me with this title for review.

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One response

30 07 2012
Laurie C

I just finished listening to All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen, a literary thriller with scientific and mathematical underpinnings, narrated by Grover Gardner. At first, the narration was disconcerting, because the narrator’s voice reminded me so much of the last audiobook by him that I listened to — Ringworld by Larry Niven — but then I settled into it and he did an excellent job with the book, including the French pronunciations, I thought.

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