June Is Audiobook Month Video Special: Becoming Mark Watney: First Look, with an Interview with Narrator RC Bray.

9 06 2014

Today’s June Is Audiobook Guest is brash, obnoxious, and I will grudgingly admit, gifted narrator R.C. “I’m too cool just to call myself Bob” Bray. Bray, always willing to whore himself for some cheap publicity, agreed to stop by my blog today, despite our contentious yet subtly Freudian relationship.


Today we will be discussing the process narrator Bray underwent preparing to take on the role of stranded astronaut Mark Watney in the Audie nominated audiobook production of THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir from Podium Publishing. You can see a bit of that process in the following trailer for the upcoming reality series about Bray’s transformation from smart alecky narrator to smart alecky narrator voicing a smart alecky astronaut in BECOMING MARK WATNEY.

So, welcome to The Guilded Earlobe Professor Bray.

Bite me, Bob.

I may take you up on that, MD.

When you first contacted NASA about flying into space to prepare for a role in an audiobook, were you surprised by their reaction to your request?

Other way around, Bobby. NASA contacted me to see if I wanted to use their sciency space stuff to research the role. And no I wasn’t surprised they reached out to me. I used to sell weed to one of the head dudes there in college and he always maintained that it was my product that gave him the idea for the revolutionary “Jet Propulsive Hydro-Capitulated Fractal Fusion” which resulted in a better zero gravity bra for female and fat male astronauts.

I understand you have an amusing story involving your potato diet and massive, nearly fatal constipation. Would you care to drop that deuce, as the kids say?

No I wouldn’t, Rob.  I would, however, like to discuss is the fifty you still owe me for that gay, black, Swedish clown you picked up in Tijuana this February past.  Care to share that funny story?

No need, Ensign Bray. If I remember correctly, you were the one who uploaded the video to RubeTube. Back to the interview, WC.

While most people seem to think that living inside an air tight, space aged Dora the Explorer Hab would be all kinds of badass, you did face some unique problems. Which problem affected you and your loved ones most significantly?

That’s a great question, Robert.

Thanks, MC. I wish the answers would match the quality of the questions, but then, why start attempting to obtain quality now.

When I first reviewed the original version of THE MARTIAN, before you rerecorded it to match the Random House reprint, we had a violent disagreement over one small issue, which lead to you stabbing me repeatedly with a shiv made out of a Commodore 64 keyboard. Yet, I believe that after that, you were inspired to become even more immersed in the persona of Mark Watney. Do you now wish you could take that stabbing back, or at least tone it down a bit?

You mean allegedly stabbing you repeatedly with a shiv made out of an Apple II – not a Commodore 64.  And while yes, I should not have allegedly stabbed you twice (“repeatedly” is a bit of a stretch, Robbie), I still feel that giving Watney a lisp and ad-libbing some lines because unbeknownst to the author, the incredible Andy Weir, Watney had Tourette’s is a bit stupid. Stick to reviews, Robb.

Further proof that you will never achieve Dick Hill status, although you have totally nailed being a dick, MT. Now, back to my insightful questions.

What is your favorite way to spell out BOOBS?

With my tongue.

Childish… (with his tongue… snickers.) You have won an Earphone Award, been nominated for two Audie Awards this year, and one Audible reviewer called your performance in the Zombie Thriller, Die Trying “pretty good.” All these accolades for a guy that seems to have a giant head. When you were a child, frustrated over the fact you couldn’t find a decent hat, did you ever think you would be this successful in a fringe industry just starting to truly find its place?

Well first, it wasn’t really that difficult to find a “decent hat” as you put it as I believe Trojan started making extra large when I reached middle school. So I was fine in my formative years. As far as becoming successful that remains to be seen. I mean, take George Guidall for example. He reached the one-thousand-unabridged-audiobooks-narrated milestone this year.   But come on. It’s not like he’s done two thousand. Know what I mean?  And what comes after that?  Three thousand?  Four thousand? I mean, how high does it go, right?  Infinity. Can George, or any narrator for that matter, narrate infinity books?  And if so at what price?  What was the question?

Sorry, I forgot. I was distracted by the tidal impact of your huge melon.

Finally, without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us who the next major character to die in THE WALKING DEAD will be?

I hope to god its Glenn so they can create a new character for me that constantly hooks up with Maggie for several episodes before she bites it and I can move on to Darryl.  I mean Michonne.

Thank you Doctor Bray for stopping by The Guilded Earlobe today, and next time, remember to put the seat down on the water reclamation unit after you are done.

Suck it, Bob.

As they say, misery loves company, so I will be hosting a Giveaway for a MP3 Copy of THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir, which was recently voted the Armchair Audie Viewer Choice winner of 2014. To enter, simply leave a comment, preferably with dirt about RC Bray, or theories what the RC really stands for (my opinion is that it stands for Rectal Confidence.) This giveway will stay open for 1 week, ending Jun 17th. Please leave a means to contact you in you comment if you do win.

Summer Shorts ’14: The Garden of Adompha by Clark Ashton Smith read by Robert Fass

5 06 2014



June is Audiobook Month, and to celebrate, a group of more than 40 professional narrators has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media by offering Summer Shorts ‘14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All sales proceeds from the collection go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.

All month you can visit Going Public and various blogs to hear 1-2 stories stream for free on their release day. You can purchase the whole collection at Tantor Media and you’ll receive 20 additional tracks while supporting a great cause.

The Guilded Earlobe is proud to host Audie Award Winner narrator Robert Fass today, fresh off his 3 Audie nominations in 2014.


Winner of the prestigious Audie Award for his recording of Empire of Liberty: A History of theEarly Republic by Gordon S. Wood, veteran actor Robert Fass is equally at home in a wide variety of styles, genres, characters, and dialects. A multiple Audie Award nominee with over eighty audiobooks to his credit, Robert has also earned multiple Earphones Awards, including for his narration of Francisco Goldman’s novel Say Her Name, which was named one of the Best Audiobooks of 2011 by AudioFile Magazine. Robert has given voice to modern and classic
fiction writers alike, including Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, Isaac Asimov, Jeffrey Deaver, and John Steinbeck, plus nonfiction works in history, health, journalism, and business.

Story Summary:

On Zothique, the last continent of Earth, lies the wide orient isle of Sotar. There, King Adompha and his powerful court magician Dwerulas keep a mysterious, infernal garden – filled with dark and exotic secrets known only to them. Copyright is held by Casiana Literary Enterprises.

Recorded with permission.

After many threats and cajoling, Robert agreed to submit to an interview with me,  getting me to promise to stick to the tried and true narrator interview format, which I readily agreed to. I then almost immediately broke my promise.

Today, as part of Xe Sand’s Summer Shorts Event we have with us Audie Award Winning Narrator Robert Fass, who brings us a decidedly horrifying little tale of lovecraftian horticulture from poet and speculative fiction author Clark Ashton Smith called The Garden of Adompha. Welcome to The Guilded Earlobe, Robert!

Thanks, Bob – I’m thrilled to have finally landed here for June Is Audiobook Month.

I know you probably have done hundred of these interviews -

4 or 5 really, but -

and I’m sure you get asked the same questions over and over again, so I’m going to try and hit the narrator pro forma questions quickly, and then we can move onto something a bit more interesting.

Whatever you like.

So, first off, with the boom of the Audiobook Industry and the cutthroat nature of the narration business, which of the ancient old ones did you need to sell your soul to in order to achieve your level of success?

Well, actually it’s funny you say that, you know, because not many people know that it really is cutthroat. I don’t want to name names, but Johnny Heller for instance – when he thinks I’ve done him out of a narration job, he has more than once actually blocked the door at some of my recording sessions, waving a bejeweled ceremonial dagger and shouting arcane spells. It took me a long time and the loss of a few fingers on my right hand to discover that he’s relatively harmless, and a damn good narrator too. He even shows up at my home studio. I have no idea how he gets in.

As for the soul-selling thing, it’s a gradual experience. At least it has been for me. When I started out I wasn’t too ambitious… Barbara Rosenblat showed me how to go out at midnight and make a small fire using some back issues of AudioFile magazine and then place an author’s icon in the center while chanting a prayer to Tezcatlipoca. That got me some short stories and children’s titles. It wasn’t until I began incorporating ritual sacrifice that my career really began to take off.

While I agree that Johnny Heller was relatively harmless, ever since he was murdered by Druids than resurrected in a Pagan ritual, he has seemed a bit off, and probably should eventually be taken care off. Relatedly, the story you read for Summer Shorts was about Gardening, on a demonic hellish level. Do you enjoy gardening?


Do you grow exotic poisons?

Who doesn’t?

Do you bury the bodies of your enemies in your garden as fertilizer?

Not in my OWN garden, no. I live in an apartment so I just have a window box. I tried burying an early, homuncular version of Scott Brick there once, but the whole thing fell 18 stories, which (a) was hard to explain and (b) was extremely surprising since I live on the third floor.  But once I realized that the Bronx is the home of the New York Botanical Gardens, which covers acres and acres and features some incredibly exotic specimens, well… let’s just say that I have plenty of options.

I thought that your choice of story for for Xe Sands Summer Shorts event was an interesting one. Was your choice of recording The Garden of Adompha due to the resolution of a blood debt or just a reflection of your dark nature?

The real reason is that Xe (and by the way is that name right out of a Smith tale!) insisted that the stories be no longer than 30 minutes and my favorite Smith story, THE VAULTS OF YOH-VOMBIS, would probably have been about an hour. So I really had no choice. And the fact that VAULTS is my favorite Smith story pretty much obviates any feeble denial on my part that I have a dark nature. (That and the brimstone smell my neighbors complain about.)

As someone who also had been sold to an archdemon as a child, did you feel a special connection to Dwerulas?

You ask a lot of closed questions, don’t you? Yeah, Dwerulas (for those who don’t know, that’s the evil wizard in the story) was definitely someone I could identify with on a number of levels. I actually managed to contact him via Skype while I was doing my research for the story, and we kind of bonded. He does a terrific Mick Jagger imitation. Like me, Dwerry’s a big Katy Kellgren fan. We like the same single malts… Plus he tried several times to kill me and vice versa.

If you were a tree with a part of a human body grafted onto it, what kind of human body part tree would you be?

I’m tempted to make a joke about a “penis flytrap”, but that’s not a tree, is it? Besides, this is a serious interview. So, hmmm… I’d probably either be a maple with opposable thumbs or a gnarled cypress with the mouth of Samuel Beckett. What about you?

Well, obviously I’d choose a Bonzai Tree with grafted Mr. Miyagi hands. I mean, for someone who has never actually met me, you really don’t know me that well, do you?

As a narrator, do you take on a different process when preparing to record horror, as opposed to dark mysteries or say, non-fiction? For example, I hear when Peter Berkrot prepares for a serial killer tale he just applies lotion to the skin, where as for supernatural horror he wears his favorite Bill Murray human flesh mask while performing vocal exercises.

Yeah, I do. At first it was trial and error, and not without the occasional mishap. I tried Mr. Krot’s method of the human flesh mask before doing my first children’s book, and predictably I haven’t been offered another one since. Same goes for erotica… I recorded the notorious 50 Shades of Puce in a pair of smiley-face-covered footie pajamas. Didn’t work. It takes a while to figure it out, but now I’ve found a method that works for me. For horror I consume a lot of dairy products the day before recording starts so my voice gets really gloppy, then I munch on ladyfingers (real ones, natch) between takes. Dark mysteries I actually record in complete darkness, which requires me to memorize the entire book since I can’t see the pages. That increases my prep time considerably, but I think it helps create a mood. And I treat nonfiction like fiction because I’ve learned that you can’t believe anything you read these days.

When you decided to perform The Garden of Adompha for Summer Shorts, you told Xe Sands that you believed my blog would be a good fit for the story. Is this due to the strange Lovecraftian sex cult I founded, for which I am still waiting for my first acolyte? (Shameless plug!)

No, I thought of The Guilded Earlobe because it’s the funniest, most twisted, intelligent blog I know (out of two). What you do with your evenings is your own business. (Do you accept PayPal for the initiation fee? It’s, um, for a friend.)

If you are looking for another place to shill your awesome Clark Ashton Smith recordings, I would highly recommend the site LOLCthuhlu, which only exists in a twisted alternate reality that I created where people sell bits of their soul for pictures of mult-tentacled squid gods saying cutesy things like, “I CAN HAZ YOUR ETERNAL SOUL TO DEVOUR FOR ETERNITY.”

Thanks for the tip. If I ever have the good fortune to record any more CAS tales, that will be my first stop, I promise. Speaking of multi-tentacled squid gods, there are a couple of notable ones in JOE GOLEM AND THE DROWNING CITY, for which I won an Earphones award and which I hope all fans of MTSGs (not to mention stone men and steampunk) will listen to.

Finally, do you have any messages for the multitude of people out there that are always bothering me when I’m finally getting to the good part of an audiobook you narrated?

Answer 1. What do you mean, “finally getting to the good part,” you bastard? [at which point I could sprout tentacles and a walrus mustache and devour your eternal soul in my wrath. If you want.]
Answer 2. Since they are all inside your head, there’s really nothing I can say to them.
Answer 3. Are these zombies or real people you’re talking about?
Answer 4. Slap a pair of headphones on ‘em and say, “shut up, you gotta hear this!”

Joe Golem

What JUNE IS AUDIOBOOK MONTH post would be complete without an awesome Giveaway, right? So, for those who made it to the end of this interview, SCORE! Today, I will be giving away a copy of JOE GOLEM AND THE DROWNING CITY by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden to one lucky reader. You must have an Audible Account in order to claim the prize. To enter, simply answer the question I asked Robert in the interview.

If you were a tree with a part of a human body grafted onto it, what kind of human body part tree would you be?

You have until Midnight June 10th (Tuesday) to leave you comment. The Winner will be contacted Wednesday.

Spoken Freely: Summer Shorts will be a month long extravaganza! Don’t forget to check out the entire list of wonderful performances hitting blogs across the blogosphere. If you missed it, the wonderful Tavia Gilbert stopped by The Reading Date to read Beautiful Things, by Michelle Webster-Hein. Lucy has a great interview with Tavia plus a Giveway, so check it out.

Tomorrow, one of my favorites, Luke Daniels will be at The Book Nympho reading Act 2, Scene 2 from Hamlet by Shakespeare. I’m sure that Jennifer, our favorite Literary Nympho will have something special in store for us as well.

Audiobook Review: Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

29 04 2014

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

Read by Tavia Gilbert

Audible Studios

Length: 10 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: A

In Afterparty, Daryl Gregory has created one of the more unique near future thrillers I have experienced in a while, a psychotropic chase novel across a recognizable future landscape full of strange characters, new tech and enough twists to keep you not even sure if you should even try to keep on guessing. Yet, if this was all that Afterparty was, I’d write a nice little review, talking about the above mentioned topics and try to keep it sounding all professional and shit.

Except I can’t because Afterparty punched me in the head. Repeatedly. With lingering effects.

Now, it wasn’t the story per se. The story was like a really good road trip to someplace you never been before with little side trips you never quite expected. Except, this road trip was laced with landmines. One second you’d be driving along, pointing to an all glass Tabernacle and Hoagie shop, or stopping to get your picture at the world’s largest ball of Already Been Chewed bubble gum in the Midwest, then bam, something goes boom and your brain matter gets sprayed all over your upholstery.

Afterparty tells the tale of a group of scientists who invented a drug that had the unfortunate side effect of manifesting a deity directly into your brain. After one scientist purposely overdoses the group with the drug, the group each gains their own version of god along with various levels of self destructive behavior. Years later, Lyda Rose, one of the scientist is now sequestered in her latest mental institute and discovers the drug has now hit the streets and she, along with the Angel who lives in her head, must discover which former colleague is responsible.

So, it’s pretty damn cool on it’s own. Yet, Gregory has laced his tales with reflections of the true nature of God, faith, the delusion of free will, humanity’s biological imperatives, along with other sociological, psychological, religious and scientific mindfucks. I’m probably missing a few ogicals and istics along the way. As someone who grew up in a religious family, raised in a fundamentalist Baptist Church I have spent years trying to come to terms with my spiritual inadequacy in the face of those who find real joy in religion. I rarely come across an interpretation of the Bible that I haven’t in some level explored. Gregory somehow made me look at some things in a whole new light. In fact, it’s something I’m still thinking about and if you get a few beers in me, as some friends were loathe to discover, I will spew it all over you. It’s rare that a book affects me on such a personal level, not based on a character I came to love or some scenario I could relate to, but with issues of self, and faith explored in brilliant new ways. The thing I especially liked about Afterparty is that I think each person who reads it will more than likely have a similar mindfuck moment, yet with a different topic. This is the fun part of driving through a cerebral minefield, you never know which one is going to blow your brains out of the back of your head.

Sadly, I don’t listen to enough Tavia Gilbert. This is only the third time I have had the privilege to listen to her narrate a book, and it was definitely my favorite. How often does a narrator get to take on religious schizophrenics, delusional deities and bizarre cowboys? For some this may be daunting, but for Tavia Gilbert it came off as great fun. She deftly guided us through an strangely familiar world, while giving the intricately laced dialogue an organic feel. Gilbert never gave anything away, just allowed you to discover the various psychosis of the characters as well as their foibles and secret intentions in a manner worthy of the text. It’s a performance that is both nuanced and just a little bit goofy, and simply fun to listen to.

Audiobook Series Review: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

25 04 2014

For my reviews of the first two in this series, click on the images above

Hammered by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 3)

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B

Tricked by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 4)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 41 Min

Genre:Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Trapped by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 5)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 2 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Hunted by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 6)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: A-

People seem to love The Iron Druid series. In fact, they love it so much that upon discovering that someone may be like two… or four books behind in the series, that person’s status as a blogger and perhaps even their masculinity is called into question. As someone who cares greatly about his image as the manliest of all audiobook bloggers, it was my secret shame to be woefully behind in the various adventures of the titular Iron Druid, Atticus and his canine cohort Oberon. Now, I had, some time ago, listened to and enjoyed the first two books of this series. I even reviewed those books pretty positively, so OBVIOUSLY I should have quickly moved on to the rest of the series.

Yet, I didn’t. I got all sorts of distracted by other pretties. Hot new releases, other series, covers with alien crab walkers on it. I said to myself, Hey, you need to get back to that Druidy thing with the funny dog, and I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah… but this book has cyborg robots in love with Unicorns. Maybe after this book about a small boy and his talking chimp who survive global economic chaos through pluck and bad cockney accents.

Basically, there is too many goddam books for me to listen to them all, and dammit, I listen to a lot of frakkin’ books.

I know, excuses, excuses.

Since 2014, so far, has been the year of the audiobook series binge listen, and since I knew that in the relatively near future, due to a change at work, my listening time may decrease, I decided that if I was ever to catch up on this series, I needed to do it now. Hence, the Iron Druid Binge Listen. I have always been a fan of the binge listen. In fact, it’s my favorite kind of binging, since binge eating leads to health issues, and binge drinking eventually leads to me vomiting next to a merry-go-round in a elementary school playground. Yet, I find that certain types of book series, particularly Urban Fantasy and Horror series are well suited to the binge listen.

OK, confession time. Often times when I start the next book in a series, after the required year long wait, I am totally lost. I don’t know if it’s just the limit of my brains, or the affects of reading 150-200 books a year, but I tend to lose much of the details of a book over time. Even with my most favorite series ever there are characters who I know I should know, and foreshadowing events I should absolutely remember, but instead the details take a long time coming. More than once, I will get like two thirds of the way into a book, and have an “ah ha” moment saying, “Holy shit, that’s who that dude is.” I think this is one of the reasons I’m hesitant about epic fantasy, since by the time book 3 comes out I forgot who 758 of the 760 perspective characters where. This, my friends, is why Cthulhu created the series binge listen.

So, I started the binge listen with Hammered, book 3 of the series. Honestly, throughout most of Hammered, I was kinda “ho… hummm…. this is nice.” I definitively was suffering some of the dissonance of jumping back into the story, and the core part that always stuck out to me in this series was the relationship between Atticus and Oberon, which wasn’t as prevalent in Hammered. It seemed to me that Hammered was that essential book in every Urban Fantasy series where the protagonist goes off to do something incredibly stupid, which they know is stupid, and everyone they trust tells them it’s stupid but they continue to do it for some sort of arbitrary “pride” or “honor” reason and you the reader just knows it’s basically going to unleash the shit storm that they will be dealing with in upcoming books. You know you have to get through the “protagonist acting like a complete nit” book, in order to get to the more awesome “protagonist dealing with the shit storm that acting like a nit unleashed” books. There were two scenes that made Hammered worth it. Atticus’s interaction with Jesus, and the “bonding” sequence where each of the questers told their stories. So while I was less than thrilled with Hammered, I believed there was good things to come.

Thank God I was right!

After the events of Hammered, Atticus has a lot on his plate. Gods want to kill him, Religious whackjobs still don’t trust him, he has an apprentice to train, and Oberon still needs sausages. Tricked benefited a lot from a scenery change, and a whole new mythology to explore. I often cringe when books bring in Native American mythology, because it often comes off as derivative, but Hearne has a way of exploring mythology in creative ways while not diminishing the traditions. Tricked was a fun change of pace, and gave the characters a bit of a breather before the chaos begins, well, if you can consider dealing with evil skinwalkers a breather.

I was both surprised and relieved with the 12 year time jump in Trapped. When Atticus discussed the prophesy of the word burning in 13 years, I was like “Shit, now Hearne is going to write 12 novels each spanned out over a year until we get to the global apocalypse we all are waiting for. WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY WORLD BURING NOW!!!!” Now, maybe he still plans on string out 12 more novels, but at least Ragnarok is looming closer and closer, and this absolutely builds the tension. I really, really enjoyed both Trapped and Hunted. First off, I love that Hearne ended the sexual tension between Atticus and Granuaile with a choice, and not some clumsy fumbling moment where they both finally give into their long repressed passions. I love the interplay between Atticus and the various Gods. Hearne never gives into the Hollywood dulling of the natures of the gods but embraces their utter despicableness. Hunted is a brilliant otherworldly chase novel, that cleverly included some new perspectives, and lots of cool twists and turns that kept me enthralled until the end.

Yet, everyone, let’s be honest. We’d all probably like a Iron Druid novel if the plot was an unadventurous trip to the Laundromat, as long as their were plenty of interactions between Atticus and his hound Oberon. Sure, life and death struggles, battles with the gods, hot druid sex are all fine and good, but without Oberon bartering for sausages and bitches, what’s the point? Oberon makes this more than just another Urban Fantasy series. He imbibes it with soul, acting as Atticus’ insatiable moral compass. I mean, he’s a friggin’ dog and he’s awesome. What else do you want?

Now, I like to keep my personal feelings about a performer out of my evaluations of their performances, so I will not let my jealousy of the fact the ladies swoon at the mere mention of Luke Daniels name influence my thoughts on that rotten bastards narration of The Iron Druid Chronicles. I have listened to Daniel’s narrate a lot of thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary science fiction novels, and I am always impressed with his ability to tell a good story. He handles characters well, making each one distinct and creating dialogue that feels natural. Yet, I often forget just how wide of a range he truly has. Books like The Iron Druid Chronicles and Martin’s shared world anthology Wild Cards show that Daniels can take on any character, no matter what sex, nationality, genetic mutation, planet of origin, or any other goddam weirdo thing a screwed up author throws at him with ease. I honestly at times thought, “Now, Kevin Hearne is just fucking with him, right?” with some of the voices he had to pull off, but pull them off he did. I truly can’t imagine experiencing this series in any other manner besides audio without a significant decrease in awesomeness, and really, people, we want more awesomeness, not less. So get with it. So, if you have yet to listen to this series, maybe you too should partake in an Iron Druid binge listen.

Audiobook Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

24 04 2014

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Read by Peter Kenney

Hachette Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 10 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: A-

Here’s the thing: Give me a book about someone reliving their life over and over again, while maintaining their memories, and I’m gonna read it. And, more than likely, love it. People often say that there are no new plots, like that’s a bad thing. Maybe I’m strange, but often when I read a really good book, I want to read something just like it again. Maybe it’s the experience. You can never really re-experience a book again for the first time, but you can try and recapture that experience again through something else.

One of my all time favorite books is John Grimwood’s Replay. I friggin’ love that book for so many reasons. It’s time travel without the stupid machine. It’s a chance to fix your mistakes, or make new ones. So, when I heard about The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, I knew I had to listen. It reminded me of Replay, and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. So, it’s hard to truly evaluate how much of my reaction to this novel is a reflection of the shared experience and how much was an appreciation of this specific experience.

Yet, I really liked Harry August, both the character and the novel, for many reasons. One of my favorite aspects is how Harry used each life to investigate a certain aspect of condition. Through science, religion, drugs whatever, he explores what it means to be a man reliving his life. This gives the novel a whole lot of metaphysical and scientific time travel speculation stuff that I always enjoy. I like novels that make my brain jump through hoops, consider strange possibilities, while maintaining character that I find engaging. The plot was full of moral complexities. How much influence should Harry and his like have on world events? Are they responsible to make the world a better place, or obliged to keep history flowing as close to the original path as possible? North explores these questions in interesting ways. I liked all this thinky stuff. The basic plot itself was fine. Harry receives a message from the future that something is happening to speed up the end of the world, and he investigates it. He works, at differing levels, with a group of others reliving lives called The Chronos Club. The investigation serves the purpose of creating conflict, and does it pretty well. All in all, I felt it came together well. In fact, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a novel that stuck in my brain for a long time after finishing.

I was glad to finally get to listen to a audiobook narrated by Peter Kenney that I actually liked. I had listened to him once before, and his performance was the main thing that kept me in that game. Again, Kenney gives a wonderful performance. OK, some of his American voices sounded weirdly like Daffy Duck, but his handle on international accents was excellent, and he added so much texture to the reading. He moved effortlessly between long bouts of exposition and dialogue seamlessly, keeping the listener actively engaged. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is an experience I won’t soon forget, and the next time I see a book about someone living their life over and over again, I’ll probably be all over that as well.

Audiobook Review: The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price

16 04 2014

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price

Read by Rich Orlow

Recorded Books

Length: 21Hrs 27 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: A

OK, so this may get weird.

The other day, I was finishing up a particularly disappointing listen. I had been in a strange cycle of awesome followed by awful in my audiobook listening, and needed to balance out the latest heartbreaking letdown with some new brain-busting goodness. Scanning through my pile of yet to be listened to audiobooks, my brain was screaming “NO NO NO!” at each one I perused. So, as normal people are known to do, I started to scan my extremely packed Audible Wishlist for something, anything that may tickle my malleus. Then, I saw this:


“What the fuck is this?” I asked myself in my typically profane way. I had no recollection of adding this title to my Wishlist. While I have been known to add some weird stuff to Wishlist, this book didn’t seem to be some strange hedgehog porn title, or an Apocalyptic Robot Unicorn Spatterpunk Anthology, and I had no clue how it got onto my Wishlist. Immediately I went to my list of go to possibilities.

Drunk Wishlisting: This is of course, the cousin to Drunk Texting for the more socially awkward.

Hacker Pitches: Maybe some Author/Hacker gave up pitching their novels to me through email, and used the Heartbleed Bug to access my Audible Passwords to add their book to my wishlist.

The Pets: I know these bastards use my computer when I’m not home to fuck with me.

But, being curious I read the Publisher Summary. This book seemed really good. Like, something I would really like. Then it hit me.

Maybe, future Bob went back in time and added this book to my Wishlist, because it was so damn good.

But then, this creates a weird Paradox. How exactly would future Bob know this books was so good if it was never on his Wishlist and yet how was it added to my Wishlist unless future Bob knew it was good? Maybe, it wasn’t actually future Bob. Maybe, one night I faced a choice, embrace my extroverted side and go out and engage in some social activity like a normal person, or give in to my introverted half and spend the night researching audiobooks like some hermit auditory entertainment addict. Now, in the past, I tended to feed the introverted side, and stay home, but lately I have been more social. So, what if when I made this latest decision, the choice created an alternate timeline, where alt-Bob stayed home and discovered THE FLIGHT OF THE SILVERS, read it, became fascinated by temporal paradoxes, created a dimensional spanning time machine, traveled to the timeline where I actually engaged in social activities, and accessed my Audible Wishlist, adding THE FLIGHT OF THE SILVERS to it, knowing at some point I will be looking for an alternative to my latest disappointing listen.

I know, right! Makes sense.

So, I did listen to THE FLIGHT OF THE SILVERS and goddammit, Future Alt-Bob was on to something here. When a book starts with the utter annihilation on one existence, and get weirder from there, well, I’m in for the ride. THE FLIGHT OF THE SILVERS is tale of regular, everyday people, who just happen to be cross dimensional temporal superheroes who must come together to prevent the destruction of the multiverse. It’s like Markus Sakey’s Brilliance meets Fringe, with a touch of the Superfriends. You have all the typical superhero cliches, the tragic beginnings, the broken heroes, the discovery of their powers, the struggle with the ethical issues of power, silver glowing force field ball things, over the top action sequences and awkward romantic tension, yet added into it is some bizarre physics/timey wimey meta-mystical weirdness. Oh, and an isolationist alt-America that is rife with Xenophobia because WHY NOT!. To make it better, Daniel Price has the writing chops to pull what could be an incoherent mess, into a fast paced, exciting chase story. His characters are lovingly constructed, and come alive in your brain. His action sequences are so well put together, and detailed that at times they seem to go on a bit too long, but still keep you utterly enthralled. My only real complaint is that as part of a series, my brain wanted a bit more resolution. Sure, the story had a lot of strong reveals at the end, and it was pretty well contained, but Price utilized his temporal plotting to create lots of foreshadowing of potential things to come and I wanted to know NOW! THE FLIGHT OF THE SILVERS grabbed me from the apocalyptic beginning, and held onto me with it’s giant white fist through all the multidimensional time weirdness, to the exciting finale. It was pretty damn good.

There is a scene early in this book, where Amanda, a nurse and one of the future SILVERS, is trapped in her protective bubble as the world is being destroyed around her. It’s a brilliant and poignant scene between her and her somewhat estranged husband that has emotional resonance throughout the rest of the book. Listening to this scene, I felt like I was there, witnessing a conversation between two distinct people. It literally gave me chills. This is when I said to myself, “Rich Orlow is a pretty badass narrator.” And, really, he is. There are performances to remember, and Rich Orlow gives one here. His handling of the many characters was wonderful. From the sociopathic creeper Evan to the strange otherly beings that seem to be directing each step the Silver take, Orlow nails them all. His pacing is spot on, allowing each sequence to move at just the right speed. While we are only a few months in, this is definitely one of my favorite performances of the year. Dammit, the man even sings a bit. If you like science fiction, time travel, shiny awesome things, or have a soul trapped somewhere in your flesh cocoon, give THE FLIGHT OF THE SILVERS a listen.

Audiobook Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters

15 04 2014

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Bk. 3)

Read by Khristine Hvam

Hachette Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 11 Min

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Grade: C

Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters was one of my most anticipated releases of spring 2014. I loved the first books in the series, particularly in audio. Taylor’s prose was like poetry come to life, dripping magic with every word, brought into life like music through the voice of Khristine Hvam. Even the angst filled forbidden love between Karou and Akiva, the star crossed angel and his lovely monster, managed to keep me entranced. Her world full of angles and demons, of battles spanning time, fate and worlds was unique in a genre filled with stilted cliches. I was anxiously awaiting the final ballad of the trilogy, the last burst of magic that would bring this story to it’s ultimate world changing climax.


I did not love Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Oh, the beauty and magic were still there, and Taylor’s writing still enthralls me, but the final chapter of this trilogy was 12 hours of angst interwove between 6 hours of story. There was stuff I did like. I really liked the new character of Eliza, a doctoral candidate who worked as the assistant for the scientist studying the genetic makeup of a discovered mass grave of Chimera, whose dark past hid secrets to her dreams of monsters and angels. Even though her story arch took some odd turns along the way, Taylor’s prowess at developing strong characters is on full display her. My major problem, beyond the long eloquent ruminations of fated love, was the way the plot was concluded. The Angel invasion into earth was anticlimactic at best. I applaud Taylor for trying to bring an nontraditional closure to this storyline, yet, it’s execution paled in comparison the nature of the set up. The large battle between the Seraphim and the joint rebel Angel and Chimera was totally Dues Ex Machina, even worse it was an off camera Dues Ex Machina in service of an unnecessary twist. All this blunted the tale, allowing the angst to become the driving force of the tale, instead of an influencing factor. Taylor explores some fascinating new physics concepts, adding more Lovecraftian spins and examining the nature between magic and science. It was a wonderful, beautifully formulated thought experiment, and if added in more detail to the earlier novels, or explored on its own in another book, I may have really digged it, but by the time these concepts were fully examined, I was so frustrated with the book and ready for it to end. All criticisms aside, Dreams of Gods and Monsters didn’t diminish my view on Taylor as a writer. It just didn’t offer what I was looking for in a conclusion. I am sure, those who love the tragic love tale between Karou and Akiva, will be thrilled by this ending. I was not one of those people.

As always, I have nothing but high praise for Khristine Hvam. More than once her reading of this novel gave me chills. I highly doubt I would have made it through the 18 hour production if it was read by a lesser narrator. Her performance is music, and beauty and humor in all the right places. I almost enjoyed the long soliloquies on love and fate… well, almost almost… well, not really, but at least there was a bit of sugar to help those bitter pills go down.


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