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Lamentation (The Psalms of Isaak) by Ken Scholes
Review by Nicki Lynch
Macmillan Audio Audio CD  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781427206251
Date: 17 February 2009 List Price $44.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

I probably came to audio books late. People have been recording books for the sight impaired since recording began. When audio tapes came along, the recorded books came into their own with the various people who read the books becoming popular in their own right as performers. Audio books have moved on to CDs and MP3 players, with readers being able to download audio books either from the local library’s digital library or from the audio book company. Audio books have moved from being produced for a small group of people to being part of one of the many ways to enjoy a book. I started listening to audio books a few years ago because I got bored with listening to the same music while walking, quilting or doing housework. I was hooked.

So, it was with great anticipation that I started listening to Lamentation by Ken Scholes. The audio book is 12 CDs read by Scott Brick, William Dufris, Maggi-Meg Reed and Stephan Rudnicki with a running time of 15 hours. Lamentation is the first book in the 5 book series - Psalms of Isaak.

Lamentation opens with the destruction of the Androfrancine city of Windwir by an unknown ancient weapon. With the city gone, the Androfrancine order, which has held the knowledge and technology of the ancient past for over two thousand years, has been almost eliminated, leaving a power vacuum in the Named Lands. This is exactly what Sethbert, the Overseer of the Entrolusain City States, wanted when he maneuvered one of the Androfrancine’s own mechoservitors into reading the ancient spell of destruction. In one atomic bomb-like blast, Sethbert is within reach of ruling all the Named Lands. He has installed his weak cousin as the new Pope of the Androfrancine order and named Rudolfo, Lord of the Ninefold Houses, as the person responsible for the destruction.

However, Sethbert did not take into account his consort, Lady Jin Li Tam, who is as intelligent as she is beautiful. She is also a master spy for her father, Vlad Li Tam, a king in his own right who uses his 37 sons and 53 daughters (of which Lady Jin Li Tam is number 42) in his plots and intrigues. After meeting the dashing Rudolfo and learning of Sethbert’s part in the destruction of Windwir, Lady Jin Li Tam leaves to become betroth to Rodolfo and aid in his quest to defeat Sethbert’s ambition and rebuild the great Androfrancine library.

To aid in rebuilding the library is Mechoseritor Number Three, AKA Isaak, one of the robot servants built by the Androfrancine order to work in the library and do other tasks. Isaak was found, and named, by Rudolfo at the edge of the former city. Isaak was missing a leg, but not memories. He was the one who caused the city to be destroyed, though the treachery of Sethbert. To atone, Isaak is willing to assist in rebuilding the library and help Rudolfo in his struggle against Sethbert.

Another survivor is the boy, Neb. His grew up in Windwir and was planning on becoming an acolyte in the order. With Windwir gone, he finds himself befriended by a mysterious old man, Petronus. Not what he seems Petronus was once an Androfrancine Pope and is now the true head of the Androfrancine order, not Sethbert’s choice of Resolute the First. Together Neb and Petronus gather those who are left to bury the dead. Neb is also not what he seems when he begins to have prophetic dreams that coincide with the dreams of the mysterious Marsh King. After years of isolation, the Marsh King and his people reappear to take their place in the struggle power in the Named Lands.

As an audio book, Lamentation is a pleasure to listen to. The book has four main narrators and three secondary narrators divided between four voices. Each narrator is introduced by his or her name and that character narrates that section. The only distraction I had was when different actors voiced the same character, such as Isaak, as different actors did the voice differently. While it might have been confusing to have one actor voice the same character, no matter who the main narrator was, I have heard it done successfully in other audio books.

I do have a few quibbles about Lamentation, mainly things that pull me out of the story. The first is the whole set up of the Androfrancine order, based on the Catholic Church. The use of familiar religious titles tends to pull me out of the future and back to the present. I’m also not sure how the whole long distance communication system works as it is based on sending notes by birds. I think the birds are mechoservitors built by the Androfrancines, as only the most important people seem to have them, and the bird finds the message recipient by the sender whispering the destination to it. However, this seems like a clunky form of communication from a group of people who can build robots, but not a simple telephone or telegraph.

I also have trouble with the constant secret codes (slight leaning of a letter gives a whole new meaning to a message), sub vocal manual languages (mostly finger spelling or tapping in a variety of secret languages), and slight facial movements to convey messages. With this constantly going on at each meeting, the characters all sound like a twitchy bunch that must be continually concentrating on recognizing each and every subtle sign of the person sending it. If ones mind wonders for a second, a kingdom could be lost. It all feels very exhausting.

While I really enjoy the Mechoservitor Isaak, I have a problem with robots that seem to be steam powered, as they are always venting steam. That type of power requires a constant supply of water, which the mechoservitors never seem to take on.

All in all Lamentation by Ken Scholes is an interesting story to listen to with excellent narrators putting you into this intriguing world of the future.

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