Audiobook Review: Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Crashing HeavenCrashing Heaven by Al Robertson

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Audible Studios (06/18/15)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars

Narrator: Thomas JuddLength: 12 hrs and 35 mins 

Cyberpunk and I don’t always make the best bedfellows, but when I read the description to Crashing Heaven I just knew I had to check it out. Published in the UK, I’d initially decided to either get it shipped from overseas or wait patiently to see if it’ll eventually get a release date this side of the Atlantic. To my happy surprise though, I later discovered on the publisher website that it was actually available in the US in audio format. I very excitedly requested a review copy.

What I got was exactly what the description promised, a novel that hits relentlessly hard, fast and without mercy. I could sense the influence of William Gibson and classic cyberpunk in its bleak narrative about a future of an abandoned Earth, AI wars, and people living in augmented reality. After spending years in prison, protagonist Jack Forster is a soldier who returns home with two things: a reputation as a traitor for surrendering to the Totality, and a virtual puppet named Hugo Fist tethered to his mind. Designed as a weapon to fight the enemy, Fist is a combat-AI which would eventually expire and take Jack’s personality and effectively his life with it.

All Jack wants to do is to clear his name, but upon his return to Station, he discovers that while he was away, two of his old friends have met with suspicious deaths. One of them is a former lover, spurring Jack to get to the bottom of this mystery and find those responsible before his time runs out.

The story can be a bit confusing, though to be fair, I have a history of being frustrated with cyberpunk. While Crashing Heaven may be a much easier read than a lot of other books in the genre, I still found many of its ideas abstract and hard to follow, such as trying to imagine Fist as a puppet that mostly exists inside Jack’s head but which can also be “pulled” out to manifest in a form similar to that of a ventriloquist dummy. The writing is also rough in places and not always sufficient when it comes to giving descriptions, which added to my difficulty.

However, I was also impressed by a lot of ideas in this book. Using Fist as an example again, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that such an innocuous-looking puppet can also be such a deadly weapon, with one hell of a potty-mouth on him to boot. The world is a rich tableau of both wonder and bleakness, where myth mixes with virtual reality. Mysterious entities worshipped as gods walk among the populace and grant favor to the faithful. The dead can return in “Fetches”, bodies housing the memories of the departed so that the living can spend more time with those who have passed on. Almost every aspect of the world-building is multi-faceted and gave me a lot to think about.

Still, probably my favorite part about the book is the relationship between Jack and Fist, the complex dynamic between them and the way it evolves as the story progresses. Forever linked together, the nature of their interactions range from the humorous to the grotesque. You can never predict what Fist might say or do next, which might be exasperating for Jack but it works great for a reader watching these exchanges play out. They inject a fait bit of lightness to this otherwise gritty and despairing story.

Narrator Thomas Judd can also be credited for making the Jack-and-Fist alliance the highlight of this audiobook. His performance was overall decent but nothing too remarkable – except for one thing: his Fist voice. It was perfect. It also helped a lot, considering how much of the book is made up of Jack and Fist going back and forth in conversation.

Apart from a few flaws, Crashing Heaven was a good book. The writing may be awkward at times and the plot is convoluted in places, but the entertainment value in the story makes up for that. Furthermore, dedicated fans of cyberpunk will probably like this even more than I did, so if you love the genre, definitely consider checking out Al Robertson’s unique debut.

Story: ae969-new3-5stars Performance: ae969-new3-5stars | Overall: ae969-new3-5stars

15 Comments on “Audiobook Review: Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson”

    • That’s how I used to think of cyberpunk, but some of it is quite good! I would highly recommend Ramez Naam’s Nexus (Angry Robot) if you want something more accessible and less confusing 🙂


    • Totally, if you enjoy books like Altered Carbon, I can see you being a being a big fan of cyberpunk books like that. You’d probably like this one too.


  1. You’ve sure been cranking out the reviews lately;-) The relationship between Fist and Jack reminds me of the Tao books, and so I find that idea intriguing. I have to agree with you though, cyberpunk is rather abstract with its ideas and I find myself reading very slowly in order to grasp everything. Not my favorite either!


    • Oh I know, the last two weeks has been crazy. I usually read books ahead of time and take my time reviewing, so some of these reviews you see have actually been scheduled a week to a couple week in advance. But with so many books released this month they are all clustered together and I’m afraid I might have used up whatever headstart I had 🙂


  2. Okay, Mulan is nothing like this type of cyberpunk. At least, nothing confusing has happened yet. But I’d probably pick this up. Sounds like the Jack and Fist companionship would keep me very entertained.

    I like that cover too. I think we are supposed to be looking up into the sky, but I kid of feel like we are also traveling down the center of some circle, futuristic town design.


    • I think with comics it would be different too, because the visuals would help a lot. One of my struggles with this was trying to picture stuff in my head using whatever descriptions I was given. With a graphic novel I wouldn’t have this problem 🙂


  3. Pingback: Audiobook News & Reviews: 07/29-07/31 | ListenUp Audiobooks

  4. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: New Books & What I’ve Been Reading… | The BiblioSanctum

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