There were times during this book where I thought I was listening to a self-aggrandizing autobiography, and just as I was judging the author for a pointless diversion, BAM! He’d hit me upside the head with something mind-blowing, earth-shattering, or just laugh-out-loud funny. This book is now on my unequivocal recommendation list. GET IT, READ IT.
When I picked this up, I was expecting something along the lines of Reynolds’ other books such as House of Suns (one of my all-time favorites) and the Revelation Space series. What I got was so completely different, I nearly gave up on it early on. After I finished it the first time, my initial rating was only 4 stars. But after some distance from it, I kept thinking about how my expectation got in the way of what is an absolutely fantastic novel. I gave it a second listen and was thoroughly entertained.
Reynolds does an amazing job of both building the universe and moving the action along. And it’s a wild combination of steampunk (on the habitations), space travel (intra-solar system only), and far-out sci-fi (from previous generations long since dead). The main character is a young girl and her character development is one of the best parts of the book.
As I said with “Name of the Wind” you have to treat this book, that clocks in at over 42 hours as separate books combined into one. In this case, it’s three distinct stories that could have been three separate books. Keep that in mind.
My best analogy for the protagonist, Kvothe, is this: the timing of Forrest Gump, the wisdom of Ender, and the wit of Bean. This time the setting is at first the Hogwarts-esque school but soon ventures far afield. And now Kvothe adds to his skills by becoming the fantasy equivalent of Jason Bourne.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the elf sex scenes. There’s always that as an incentive to read this three-books-combined-into-one fantasy novel.
I love this series so much I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s get one thing out of the way, the books are very long. This one clocks in at over 27 hours, however, it’s more like two distinct books than just one.
But let’s talk about Kvothe, the protagonist. Take the best aspects of Ender (a child far smarter than his age), add in the orphan story of Bean (see Ender’s Shadow), then mix in the luck of Forrest Gump (always in the right place at the right time—or wrong place at the wrong time) but obviously with wit of Ender or Bean, then add in the wizarding school aspects of Harry Potter (including the rivalries) and that’s book one. In a fantasy world, of course. And that doesn’t really do it justice.
This series will be the best fantasy series you’ve read in a long time.
There are very few things in the world that have had such a profound impact on me as “Who Stole the American Dream?” I read this in 2014, after being hired by SoftLayer, a recent IBM acquisition. Though my paychecks said IBM, everything else I did was under the SoftLayer banner and culture (until 2016, but that’s a story that wraps up here).
I was flying around the country, working with startups, evangelizing a cloud product I cared about and believed in, and getting paid by IBM to do it. IBM, by the way, is prominently vilified by Hedrick Smith in a few places. Smith’s vilification and my job enjoyment—way beyond mere satisfaction—seemed in direct conflict. This was just one of the many points in the book that had me thinking deeply about my purpose in my life.
It was a few months after finishing the book, reflecting on it, and working with a coach that I crystallized my mission: to transform the world through innovation and entrepreneurship.
Here’s where this review becomes an actual review. The book is about the systematic erosion of the middle class in America, and how the opportunity to achieve “American Dream” is being destroyed by everything from bi-partisanship, to corporate influence over government, and ultimately the widening of the wealth gap. All of this is told through a reporter’s investigative lens in a narrative style that pulls you in page after page (or minute after minute).
I believe I can make a difference in the American Dream and returning the middle class to prominence, but it sure as hell is an uphill battle. If you need some inspiration to join me on this quest, start here.