Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Defiant - the Kris Longknife series, Book 3

  1. Mutineer (May 22, 2009) – 3 out of 5
  2. Deserter (May 22, 2009) – 4.5 out of 5
  3. Defiant (May 22, 2009) – 4 out of 5
  4. Resolute (July 28, 2009)
  5. Audacious (July 28, 2009)
  6. Intrepid (July 28, 2009)
  7. Undaunted (October 27, 2009)
  8. Redoubtable (February 1, 2011)

Narrator: Dina Pearlman  – 2.5 out of 5 
Length: 15:11 hours, purchased on audible

In Mutineer, summarized here, Kris Longknife proved that she is Navy in the 24th century and one of “those damned Longknifes” after she removed her maverick commanding officer, thereby stopping a war with Earth.  In Deserter, summarized here, she embraced her role as Princess Kris, the granddaughter of King Ray, a legendary war hero who reluctantly took the newly created throne of the U.S. (United Sentients – about 90 planets) after the Society went belly-up.  At the end of Deserter, the Navy promoted Kris to man her own tiny ship, the Pf 109. 

At the beginning of Defiant, Kris is commanding a misfit crew, holding up her own.  Things are looking up until Kris is arrested. The political climate has turned as Kris’s father is removed from his post as prime minister of the planet Wardhaven.  In the midst of political squabbling, no one except Kris notices the Peterwalds pulling the strings.  The politicians’ eyes open only under threat of invasion, and it is up to Kris to lead a suicide mission to preserve Wardhaven’s freedom and independence.

How many of them can we make die?
In this review I noted that Mutineer was a bit disjointed, where parts of the story stood on their own and didn’t really fit together that well.  In some ways, Defiant goes back to that formula. 

At the start of Defiant, I was expecting Down Periscope. Instead of giving Kris a real command, the Navy makes her commander of an experimental ship full of misfits no one else wants.  I thought it was going to be funny and cheeky, just like the movie, except in space.  That expectation was quickly squashed when Kris is arrested.  The way Mike Shepherd described that arrest is worth a second listen.  It’s very, very well written. It’s written with so much feeling, so much emphasis, that I expected the arrest and trial to be a focal point for the entire novel a la A Few Good Men.  Again, this expectation was quickly dispelled when Kris is sent on a diplomatic mission to a planet Hikila (planet Hawaii), which turns into a hostage/terrorist situation.  I was pretty shocked at how little time and energy Mike Shepherd spent on Kris’s rehabilitation from the arrest.  About 8 hours into the book, Kris returns from Hikila and maybe five minutes of the audiobook are dedicated to a summary recounting of how while she was away a few people from Olympia talked to the media and charges were dropped.  I would have loved to hear this part in detail.  Instead, we have Tom and Penny’s wedding leading right into the major conflict of the book: the invasion.

Disjointedness aside, the invasion was wonderful. Mike Shepherd finally uses that third-person narration to get away from Kris and present us with the enemy.  The enemy becomes much more realistic and the conflict more suspenseful. When Kris and her team start the plotting, the strategy talk, the prep work for the major conflict 6 hours to the end of the book, I wondered how it could be possible that anyone would expect a listener to hang in there for that long just for one fight. I was sure I’d get bored.  Boy, was I wrong. Around 5 hours to the end of the book, a feeling started in the pit of my stomach, that feeling you get when you are a few hours away from giving a big speech – excitement and worry.  Dread and anticipation.  About 4 hours to the end of the book, I could not stop listening.  I stay up until 2 a.m., on a Tuesday night, to finish the audiobook.  Best part about listening to Defiant not in the car or at the gym, but on my computer?  When Tom hits up the theme to the battle – “the March of Cambreadth” – I hit up youtube and listened along on repeat at a low volume.  

On Narration:
I’ve reviewed Dina Pearlman’s reading of the Mutineer here and the Deserter here. In both audiobook reviews, I enjoyed her rendition.  I had issues with her reading of this audiobook.  It started on Hikila.  When good narrators give any Native American (or sensei - don’t ask me why) accents, they always slow down the speech.  Unfortunately, Dina Pearlman didn’t just slow down the speech for the Hikila natives – she slowed down Kris’s speech, everyone's speech. Even Kris's internal dialogue became slow and over-emphasized from then on. It made the story sound insincere. That aside, what really killed it for me was her reading of “the March of Cambreadth.”  Mike Shepherd dedicates about 2 hours integrating that song to the major fight.  He quotes all the lyrics.  He has Tom discuss a false history of the song and lets the listener know that it’s from the 21st century. He reiterates the chorus with Kris and her crew screaming along.  They shoot on the song’s command, for crying out loud! And Dina Pearlman reads the lyrics with the cadence you would use when playing “patty cake” with a toddler.  Now, I know not everyone is Marguerite Gavin, who as I mentioned here actually made up tunes in her reading of Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan/Hollows series and sang songs that never existed for the enjoyment of the listener and enhancement of the audiobook.  And even fewer books are like the first few Anita Blake audiobooks produced by Penguin Audio that have sound effects (background music, shotgun sounds, footsteps, etc.).  But this tune is integral to the most important part of Defiant, and the audiobook format provides an incredible opportunity that the text cannot.  Moreover this song is a simple Irish-like tune, very easy to hum, and very easy to find on youtube.  I certainly never heard of it before listening to this book, and a google search got me everything I needed. The audiobook’s treatment of “the March of Cambreadth” is lacking - it's an opportunity missed - and, sadly, Dina Pearlman read the song like a cheerleader spells “be aggressive.”


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