The Medusa Chronicles Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
A sequel to Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Nebula Award-winning novella A Meeting with Medusa, this novel is a continuation of the thrilling adventure of astronaut Howard Falcon, humanity's first explorer of Jupiter, from two modern science fiction masters.
Howard Falcon almost lost his life in an accident as the first human astronaut to explore the atmosphere of Jupiter - and a combination of human ingenuity and technical expertise brought him back. But he is no longer himself. Instead he has been changed into an augmented human: part man, part machine, and exceptionally capable.
With permission from the Clarke estate, Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds continue this beloved writer's enduring vision and have created a fresh story for new listeners. The Medusa Chronicles charts Falcon's journey through the centuries granted by his new body but always goes back to the mysteries of Jupiter and the changing interaction between humanity and the universe. A compelling listen full of incredible action right from the beginning, this is a modern classic in the spirit of 2001 and The Martian.
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|Listening Length||12 hours and 5 minutes|
|Author||Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||June 07, 2016|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #50,197 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#266 in Hard Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#898 in Hard Science Fiction (Books)
#1,346 in Adventure Science Fiction
Top reviews from the United States
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I probably have read the original novella back in the depths of time - or at least sometime in the 1970s - but I do not remember doing so. Luckily, THE MEDUSA CHRONICLES does not require the original to have been read to enjoy, appreciate, and understand its story. The novel contains a brief but complete summary of its predecessor, which really is sufficient to allow the reader to move on with the larger work. As a brief synopsis here, Howard Falcon is critically injured when an experimental helium airship crashes. He survives due to surgical techniques that leave him part man, but mostly machine. He later goes on an exploratory mission to Jupiter during which he meets the titular Medusae, among other creatures, that live in the upper layers of the Jovian atmosphere.
THE MEDUSA CHRONICLES starts out as a straight sequel to "A Meeting With Medusa" (with a short side stop to Falcon's childhood, some of the details of which play a part in the later parts of CHRONICLES), but evolves into a terrific story of the conflict between man and machine that is, in effect, kick-started by Falcon who also finds himself in between the two factions trying to broker a peace between the two sides. Falcon watches and participates in events that take place starting at Jupiter, where the machines have their base, to the inner solar system as the machines take over each planet in turn, dismantling Earth in the process. Time and again Falcon is called upon to intervene in the situation that he himself started to try to get the machines to end their inevitable march through the Solar System. The last section of the book is devoted to what ends up being a joint mission to the furthest depths of Jupiter with Adam, the machine that was at the start of it all, to find out what really is way down there in the depths of the great planet and in the process maybe find a solution to the conflict.
There's really a lot going on here. Each section of the novel is a story itself, each one being an instance where Falcon is called upon to deal with the machines. It's not until the final story, where he is called to unknowingly be the delivery system for a virus that will destroy the machines, that the ultimate solution - the unification of machine and man - is the way to get the long elusive peace to occur. It's something of a lesson to the current world that the best way to peace is to work together to make it happen; a bit heavy handed perhaps, and maybe a bit too symbolic, but it is done in an effective way so that the reader may not feel hit too hard over the head with it.
While the book is wonderful on its own, it certainly pays homage to Clarke all along the way, sprinkling references to various Clarke stories, most notably 2001: A Space Odyssey. The journey of Adam and Falcon to the depths of the Jovian atmosphere, if it were to be filmed today, would rival the psychedelic trip of Bowman through the monolith on the way to becoming the Star Child. It's clear that both Baxter and Reynolds know and love the work of Clarke, and at several points in the story I was thrown back to the days of my youth when I devoured all things Clarke. This is truly a terrific novel that fans of Baxter, Reynolds, and Clarke will love. It's a throwback to a different time, when the sense of wonder that was present in the science fiction that we read - maybe it was just because we read those books as young people with eyes wide open to the future - was what brought us into the field to begin with.
I was not fond of Peter Kenny as the narrator. He seemed somewhat monotone and unable to either substantially change his voice to represent different characters or sometimes keep me interested in the narration itself. Often times we are attracted to an audio book because of the narrator; Kenny is not one of those narrators. Luckily, the story itself overshadowed Kenny's performance such that I was deeply enough interested in what was going on more than I was being disappointed in the narration. I may have been distracted by the narration in spots, but the story itself pulled me through it.
Other than Reynolds' SLOW BULLETS, I haven't read anything by either one of these authors in quite a long period of time. It seems that I must dig in to my to read list and move a few books to the head of that list. I think it's time I explore these authors again. That's what a book like THE MEDUSA CHRONICLES will do for you.
Our protagonist is Commander Howard Falcon, a character directly taken from Clarke, cyborg adventurist who after a full and active life tries to sit on the sidelines but is repeatedly drawn into conflicts as the necessary trusted 'third party' that both sides respect and will listen to. It is a role that incrementally grates on Falcon but each iteration of apparent Statesman is pressed upon him with increasing levels of coercion as conditions in the solar system become ever more inimical to human life and Falcon is forced to consider how his actions may have led to that.
Like in Banks' Culture novels, the technology that underpins Falcon's universe is generally deployed rather than explained. And for the most part it is not at the level of world shattering weaponry we usually find in a Reynolds story, but more human-level tech such as the various robotic bodies that carry Falcon through the centuries. There is also a nice backstory from the early days of NASA that sets the scene for the politics that drive the characters.
This is not an action-adventure novel in the traditional sense. It moves along at a reasonable pace, but it is the pace of one man living a long time while the world occasionally pivots on his shoulders, so there is a languid nature to the plot. Each chapter does not end on an obvious cliffhanger and for the time period spanned, the cast of characters is actually quite limited. All of which might suggest a boring read, but Reynolds and Baxter are experienced story tellers so "The Medusa Chronicles" never dips below the threshold of interesting. The characters are well drawn and the death of one - even though it was clearly going to happen chapters before the event - evoked a sense of loss.
If you like intelligent, thoughtful sci-fi that explores our moral compass and place in the universe and which slowly builds to a satisfying ending, then you will likely really enjoy "The Medusa Chronicles". I certainly did.
The story by Arthur C. Clarke on which this is based merits the label "classic." If you've not read that story, do seek, find and read first. Clarke's short fiction provided my effective introduction to the genre so very long ago. I don't read nearly as much in the genre as I used to.
I've read some by Baxter and not nearly as much by Reynolds. I got the distinct impression each tried as best he could to emulate Clarke's style. Homages abound both in the main plot and sub-plots. Towards the end it gets just a touch Stapledonian, but that's in keeping with the conflict that the protagonist Howard Falcon faces throughout the centuries, and possibly an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course Jupiter figures mightily in the telling of the story.
One very minor quibble but a quibble nonetheless: The story is set in an alternate timeline that occasionally jars the narrative. There are references to John Young (he of Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle) being the first human to have walked on Mars. And Baxter had to have contributed a sub-sub-plot that reminded me more of his novels Voyage and Titan.
Top reviews from other countries
It's a book! I read it!
It continues where the original Archur C Clarke story ended, and carries on for several hundred years. It raises some thought provoking topics regarding "what is human", "what would meeting other sentient non-humans be like", "how would you assess their motivations", "what is the nature of consciousness"?
Great for those who had been wondering what came next after the original story, but just missed out on 5 stars as I felt the plot development became weaker towards the end.
It also gives you a glimpse of the fallout for communities on the various new worlds when the gates are turned off.