My Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 (Non-Zombie)

21 02 2014

2013 was another great year for post apocalyptic novels. Where 2013 truly stood out was the diversity of it’s offerings. From straight forward apocalyptic tales, to absurdist comedies, last years apocalyptic audiobooks showed just how much ground there is to cover in the genre. It was tough for me to pick just 10 Apocalyptic audiobooks, partially with the glut of continuing series putting out even better entries this year. Yet, after much contemplation and hair pulling, I came up with my list. So, if you are like me, and one of your favorite, most relaxing activities is to listen to the world go up in flames, here is my list of the best 2013 had to offer.

Expect my Zombie based Top 10 to appear soon.

Yesterday’s Gone by Sean Platt and David Wright

Read by RC BRay, Chris Patton, Brian Holsopple, Ray Chase, Maxwell Glick, and Tamara Marston

Podium Publishing

Yesterday’s Gone truly borders on the goofy at times, and I think in some ways this was the authors’ intention. Maybe not goofy per se, but the twists are so over the top, the plot so derivative of the classics and the characters so bizarre that you can’t help but shake your head at it. Yet, somehow it all works brilliantly. Yesterday’s Gone is a post apocalyptic fan’s somewhat inappropriate, at times shamefully wonderful dream. Yet, what truly sets this one apart is the brilliant production and wonderful narration. Ray Chase gives one of my favorite performances of the year, and add that to the excellent work the other narrators included notable performances by RC Bray and Chris Patton, and Yesterday’s Gone can crown itself my favorite Post Apocalyptic Audiobook of 2013. And, lucky for us, this is just Season One.

Countdown City (The Last Detective, Bk. 2)

Read by Peter Berkrot

Brilliance Audio

Countdown City picks up were The Last Detective leaves off, bettering the series by leaps and bounds. Book 2 offers a unique apocalypse of anticipation, where the wait for the world killer asteroid is an apocalyptic event all it’s own. Winter’s fascinating world is brought to life expertly by Peter Berkrot. Berkrot’s performance still sticks with me months after I finished listening to it.

Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

Read by Kirby Heybourne

Tantor Audio

Arguably, Odds Against Tomorrow is more of a disaster tale than a typical Post Apocalyptic novel, but really, there is nothing typical about this one. Apocalypose fans looking for something utterly unique should check out this tale of a brilliant disaster analyst who finds himself immersed in the “perfect storm” that he predicted. Equally moving and hilarious this tale is brought to life wonderfully by Kirby Heybourne who manages just the right tone for this tricky tale.

 

Breakers by Edward W. Robinson

Read by Ray Chase

Podium Publishing

Breakers is The Stand meets Lucifer’s Hammer with weird crab creatures. Podium Publishing is quickly making a name for itself with unique audiobook offerings excellently produced and Breaker’s is no exception. Ray Chase masterly guides us through this strange new world helping create one of the freshest looks at alien invasion since Gerrold’s Chtorr series.

Ashes by Brett Battles (Project Eden, Bk. 4)

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible, Inc.

I have always been one of those people who get a bit annoyed when the good guys stop the global  conspiracy top release a world killing pathogen. Luckily, in The Project Eden series, the competent good guys are facing impossible odds, and well, aren’t able to do the impossible. This series starts with a straight forward pathogen thriller and progresses to a The Stand-like pandemic tale, and I loved every second of it. Plus, MacLeod Andrew’s. The man can bring it.

There was a fifth book in this series, released in 2013 as well, but I have yet to read it. Once I free me up an Audible credit, I plan to jump right back into this dangerous world.

The City of Devi by Manil Suril

Read by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar

Blackstone Audio

So, who doesn’t like absurdist comedy, heartbreaking romantic entanglements, strange embodiments of deities, Bollywood musicals, and gonzo sex in their Mumbai based apocalyptic tales? The City of Devis is a wonderful, and at times awkward tale, beautifully narrated by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar.

Fuse by Julianna Baggot (Pure, Bk. 2)

Read by Khristine Hvam, Casey Holloway, Kevin T. Collins, Pierce Cravens

Hachette Audio

This may have been the year for Book 2’s in Post apocalyptic trilogies, and Fuse is proof that often the followup can better something already pretty darn good. Baggot’s world is darkly beautiful and her characters wonderfully tragic. Plus, the performances, particularly that of Kevin T. Collin’s made me feel things. Like emotional things. I’d rather not talk about it.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy

Read by Brandon Espinoza and Phoebe Strole

Penguin Audio

More Alien Invasions? Yes Please. Despite one annoying plot twist that I may have over emphasized in my review, Phillip Yancey’s YA novel is a heck of a good tale. His alien’s are different, and the plot well constructed. The performances by two new to me narrators also enhance this already quality tale.

Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey

Read by Simon Vance

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

While I tend to like my Post Apocalyptic tales more scifi, there is definitely a place in the genre for a good Fantasy, one that Joseph D’Lacey provides for us in Black Feathers. With shades of The Dark Tower, D’Lacey balances dual timelines with ease to create a fascinating apocalyptic world where everything you believe gets twisted in wonderful ways. And truly, if you are going to go the Fantasy route, you might as well call on one of the best voices for Fantasy, Simon Vance, whose voice gives the context almost instant creditability.

Fragments by Dan Wells (Partials, Bk. 2)

Read by Julian Whelan

Harper Audio

One of the reasons I think I enjoy book 2’s in apocalyptic series, is because they often involve getting away from the static setting of book one and embarking on everyone’s favorite jaunt, the apocalyptic road trip. In Fragment’s Dan Well’s offer’s one of the best, a cross country trip through a devastated wasteland that used to be America. Julian Whelan continues to infuse the tale with heart and personality, the perfect voice to bring the tale’s wonderful protagonist to life.





Audiobook Review: Lycan Fallout:Rise of the Werewolf by Mark Tufo

4 10 2013

Lycan Fallout: Rise of the Werewolf by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Published by Mark Tufo

Length: 11 Hrs 23 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic with Werewolves

Quick Thoughts: Lycan Fallout offers everything you would want in a Michael Talbot adventure, with a new menace, some new allies and a whole new timeline. Tufo fills his intriguing post apocalyptic world with strange new communities, some of his most visual action scenes to date and plenty of juvenile humor. Lycan Fallout is a worthwhile addition to his weird little Talbotverse.

Grade: B+

I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant about Lycan Fallout. With all these iterations of Michael Talbot, battling aliens, zombies, ghosts, dogknappers, vampires and other such horrors, I need a flow chart, Venn diagram, Commodore 64, two shots of whiskey and a 50’s era receptionist to keep it all straight. Yet, with all things Tufo, I have learned to just sit back and enjoy the ride, even when the car careens off the road, and crashes into something twisted and maybe a bit sticky. My other issue was that out of the great monster trifecta, zombies, vampires and werewolves, stories involving lupine shape shifters tend to be my least favorite, and probably fall under lesser beloved monsters like Triffids, squid demons, cats, alien parasites, and taxes as well. I’m not sure why I never get jazzed over werewolves. Maybe it’s all the weird mythology surrounding them or the fact I can never keep the various types straight, or possibly that women are less likely to want to spend time with you if you can’t morph into some sort of animal. Yet, despite my hesitation, I thought, heck, it’s Tufo. I highly doubt his werewolves would be all that sexy and at the very least, I should get enough juvenile humor to balance the whole werewolf thing out.

It’s more than a century since humanity won a pyrrhic victory against the zombie hordes, and half man/half Vampire Michael Talbot is living on his family estate, detached from society. Since the last member of his family died, he’s had no purpose and marks time by when Tommy, his 500 year old Vampire creator and surrogate son would bring him food. Yet, when Tommy and the witch Azile learn of a new menace to the struggling post apocalyptic communities of mankind, they need to find a way to get Michael once again invested in society. Together they hatch a plan to bring him out of exile and into the fight against the Lycans, involving a dog, some beer and baseball. Is there anyway Micheal can resist?

Lycan Fallout is a near future post apocalyptic tale told as only Mark Tufo can, which is straight on, in your face no holds barred storytelling. Fans of Tufor’s Zombie Fallout series will find much of what they like about that series, Michael’s not quite politically correct juvenile humor, visceral scenes of gore, the comradery of brothers (and sisters) at arms, a strange hybrid mythology mixing together as many horror tropes as possible, and plenty of action. Lycan Fallout takes a while to pull you in. Readers need to adjust to the changed world, the new timeline, and a moody whiney version of Michael Talbot, yet, when things begin to move, Tufo grabs the reader by the hair, and pulls them into the story. Mark Tufo, probably unlike any other author, can do things that annoy the heck out of me in a lot of books with over used scenarios and stereotypical portrayals yet make it work by his sheer audacity. Tufo is like that strange friend who constantly tells the same damn stupid joke, but manages to make you laugh at it every time. There was so much fun, cool stuff in Lycan Fallout. I really liked his post apocalyptic world. It’s not anything I haven’t seen before, with new communities, traditions and religions formed from the wreckage of our world, but displayed in an offbeat manner. Tufo constantly keeps the reader off balanced. He has theses moments where his writing almost takes on a poetic quality, and you’re thinking "That’s kind of deep" and then he follows it up with some crude scatological joke. It’s strange and disconcerting and uneven and joyous and a whole lot of fun. I think Lycan Fallout also showed some of Tufo’s maturity as a writer (if you can use the word maturity when describing Mr. Tufo). His action scenes were crisper, less weighed down by extraneous details, and highly visual. His plotting was cleaner, and he even managed some real solid emotional writing that did justice to his characters. Plus, his werewolves were actually kind of cool and even a bit scary at times. My only warning, if you are easily frustrated by series, this is the beginning of a new series, and not a standalone. If you are going to jump of the Lycan Fallout Wagon, be prepared for a long ride. Hopefully your ass won’t get too sore along the way.

As with all of Mark Tufo’s audiobooks, the narration is handled by one Mr. Sean Runnette. I sometimes wonder, with all the time Runnette has spent voicing Michael Talbot, if he hasn’t started becoming a bit of a germaphobe with inappropriately timed humor, a penchant for violence and a high likelihood to verbally abuse inept customer service people. This is the problem; I have trouble separating the narrator with the character, because he has become just as much a part of Michael Talbot as his love of guns and dogs. As always, Runnette’s performance is perfect for this series. He captures the personality of Michael Talbot perfect. One other thing I liked is how when some descendants of Michael’s friends show up, they have vocal similarities to their predecessors, without being carbon copies of them. There was just something comfortable about this, which helped the readers get over the fact that some of our favorite characters are no longer pat of the story. If you have yet to experience a Mark Tufo tale, particularly one surrounding his main character Michael Talbot, whether you want the zombie, alien or werewolf fighting version, I highly recommend experiencing it with Talbot’s true voice, as performed by Sean Runnette.





Audiobook Review: Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien

27 09 2013

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien

Read by Christina Moore

Recorded Books

Length: 5 Hrs 59 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: The classic Young Adult Post Apocalyptic tale holds up well since my initial reading over 30 years ago. There is a reason this novel is a classic, and it’s themes of overcoming misogyny, the destructiveness of science, and individualism still has value for today.

Grade: B+

Note: If you have yet to read this novel, This review may contain some spoilers. BE WARNED!

When I was in elementary school at good old Christ Home Christian School, I remember the bookcase. The bookcase was a shelf of donated books that the kids in the lower grades could sign out and read on their own volition purely for entertainment sake. Growing up in a fundamentalist household, church and school, this was the first time I felt like I could choose my own entertainment. Of course, it never entered my brain the books here where highly vetted acceptable books, just that I could choose them. Through this shelf I had my first boyhood crush on Laura Ingalls Wilder, went on my first otherworld adventures in Narnia, Oz and on the Phantom Tollbooth, and traveled with some strange characters across the Atlantic in the belly of a giant peach. I was also introduced to some rather amusing rats trying to escape from the National Institute of Mental Health. Every once in a while, new books would be added to the bookshelves. One day, a book titled Z for Zachariah by the same author as the NIMH books was added to the shelves. Since the Rats of NIMH was one of my favorites, I just knew I had to read this book. Little did I know that this would be my first foray into the subgenre known as Post Apocalyptic fiction, which would one day become my literary obsession. So, for those of you out there disturbed by my fascination with the end of civilization, you very well may have a bunch of talking rats to blame for it.

Z for Zachariah is the tale of Ann Burden a teenage farm girl from a small town, who due to a geological anomaly finds herself the last resident of a valley that offers protection from the radioactive fallout of a global nuclear war. She lives day to day, supporting herself through hard work, longing for the company of other human beings yet fearing the dangers others may bring. When a strange man wearing a protective suit shows up, her world is forever altered. While not in any way the first Post Apocalyptic novel, for many of my generation, Z for Zachariah was the introduction to the genre and can be listed as a classic example and predecessor to books like The Hunger Games and other modern YA dystopian. It’s also a darkly fascinating tale of claustrophobia and loneliness battling hope in the midst of the fall of humanity.

The main theme of the novel, both as a young elementary student, and now a much older, bordering on middle aged man, is just how stupid men can be. Ann Borden is young and naive sure, and can be frustrating but she is a strong character, full of the right mix of knowledge to survivor the apocalypse. When Mr. Loomis shows up, you can’t help but think he’s hit the jackpot, a young farmer girl who can run the tractor, cook, fix engines and grow crops, plus well, let’s face it, if you believe you are the last man on earth, finding a smart, resourceful 16 year old woman is reason to celebrate. Yet, the chemist, Mr. Loomis, who never had to worry about where his next meal came from before the apocalypse, decides that this young women isn’t his ally in survival, but his property, and not much more valuable than breeding stock. I remember, the younger Bob being flabbergasted by this. Remember, I grew up in a culture where women were encouraged to call their husbands "Lord and Master" and even I found Mr. Loomis to be a stupid misogynistic dillweed before I even understood what the concept of misogyny was. Rereading it now, and understanding things I didn’t as a kid, including the near rape scene, only cemented my belief the Mr. Loomis is not only one of the most despicable characters in literary history, but one of the stupidest.

This is not in anyway to say that Z for Zachariah is a bad novel. I am focusing on the area that stuck out most to me. In reality, Z for Zachariah should be applauded for creating a wonderful strong female character in Ann Burden, who despite her naiveté, displayed true strength in a devastating world. I know if I was to find myself in similar circumstances of this young girl, I would be dead within weeks. O’Brien’s use of the diary format gives us a very limited perception on the story, yet also adds lots of depths to the tale by showing us Ann’s thought processes, and the evolution of her understanding of Loomis. In many ways, this style allows us to see the process of her maturation, from the girl hiding in a cave but dreaming of marrying the mysterious stranger, to the girl who finally bests the highly educated scientist. There is a reason why Z for Zachariah is a classic of the genre. It’s a wonderfully plotted tale that taps into the essential issues of a post apocalyptic world, highlighting the evolving moralities of the changed world. 

While the audio production is solid, it also displays one of the problems with the format. Christina Moore reads the first person tale with a sort of stunned coldness at first, morphing eventually into something harder. While this is appropriate for the character, it doesn’t make for the most entertaining of listens. Moore often uses a flat affect to show how much Ann is affected by the world, muting her emotions. This makes some scenes more powerful at the end of the novel, when Ann’s emotions finally shows through, but it also at times gives the book an almost dreamlike flow that creates a barrier between the listener and the tale. Overall, I think Moore gives the right performance which brings out the author’s intent but, this doesn’t always keep the reader entranced as a more emotive performance would have.





Audiobook Review: Breakers by Edward W. Robertson

30 08 2013

Breakers by Edward W. Robertson

Read by Ray Chase

Podium Publishing

Length: 12 Hrs 10 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Edward W. Robertson’s Breakers is a mish mash of classic Post Apocalyptic tales, blending a world ending pandemic and an alien invasion together to make a novel that fans of the subgenre will delight in. If you love books that embrace their comparisons to The Stand, and you love watching humans with nothing left to lose kill crab-like alien invaders with laser guns, well, get yourself a copy of Breakers post haste.

Grade: B+

(Breakers is scheduled for release September 5th, 2013. Preorder Today)

Space travel is not easy. We here on this lovely planet we call Earth have seen this. We have sent men to the moon, and rovers to Mars. We have sent probes deep into our solar system, and hopefully beyond. Yet, we have suffered catastrophes, set backs and the loss of public faith. Many people question whether it’s worth our time and money to head out into the darkness of space when we have people starving on our own planet. So, any species that can overcome these technical, social and financial burdens to actually create a mothership and sent it millions of light years across the vastness of space in order to destroy humanity and occupy earth would have to be a highly advanced species. It’s pretty much a given that any such aliens would assuredly kick our sorry asses. So, why is there so much alien invasion fiction? How can you create any tension when the balance of power is so great? This is handled by fictions writer’s greatest tool… the BUT…. In Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar series, The Race, the invading reptilian species, came to Earth during World War 2 with overwhelming force and advanced technology ready to defeat the barbarians and take over the planet BUT… they were in such a state of cultural stagnation with an inability to adapt that they were surprised to find the Earth had progressed significantly from the probes they had sent back in the 12th Century. In Larry Niven’s Footfall the elephantine Fitph traveled from Alpha Centauri intent on taking over earth BUT… their advanced technology was not their own but inherited from a former species that viewed them almost as pets. And don’t forget the alien invaders in Independence Day who were ready to lay the smack down on earth, BUT… for some reasoned designed their computer system to be compatible with Earths, and forgot to update their Norton Antivirus. Luckily for Earth, most of these species, whether they be Lizards wearing human skins, or slug creatures who bond with human hosts, always came with at least one BUT… that us pesky humans will always figure out how to exploit.

When a mysterious plague hit the earth, spreading like wildfire through the populace, Walt Lawson is devastated by the loss of his girlfriend. Now, on the verge of suicide, Walt decides to walk from New York City to Los Angeles, the city his actress girlfriend Vanessa dreamed of moving to, fully expecting to die along the way. Meanwhile, in California, Raymond James and his wife Mia, find their financial struggles are over when the majority of the world dies. They set up a haven in an idyllic home on the coast, finding happiness in their simple life. Yet, when the alien mothership appears in the horizon, and the crab like occupants begin killing or rounding up humans, the survivors find a new purpose, fighting the menace that has devastated their planet. Edward W. Robertson’s Breakers is a mish mash of classic Post Apocalyptic tales, blending a world ending pandemic and an alien invasion together to make a novel that fans of the subgenre will delight in. Instead of avoiding seeming like a retread of novels like The Stand and Footfall, Robertson embraces this, as he very well should. The Stand is a great novel which has helped create a generation of Post Apocalyptic fans, and I am often flabbergasted how some authors go out of their way to avoid looking like a copycat of it. I found Robertson’s characterizations very interesting. I started off pretty much hating both Walt and Ray. To me, they seem like two sides of the same loser coin. In many ways they were like mirror images of the other, with Ray being kind but stupid loser and Walt being a manipulative and brash loser. Yet both characters, especially Walt, grew on me. Walt’s slide into self hate may have made him the perfect survivor for the times, and by the time the book hit the alien invasion part, he was responsible for some of the most laugh out loud funny moments, despite his dark personality. The plot and action was fun, bordering on cheesy. While the guerilla tactics to fight the aliens often lacked descriptive depth, the plot moved along quickly and never left you bored. My only major complaint was I would have liked to seen a bit more diversity in the character types and greater depth in the peripheral characters, and since this is the first in a series I expect my wish will come true. The novel built up to a finale that was equal parts “that’s the corniest thing ever” and “holy hell, this is awesome.” If you’re looking for some hoity toity new exploration that defies apocalyptic tropes to create a new approach to the genre, keep looking. But, if you love books that embrace their comparison to The Stand, and love watching humans with nothing left to lose kill alien invaders with laser guns, well, get yourself a copy of Breakers post haste.

In the early part of the novel, I struggled a bit differentiating Walt from Ray. While I liked Ray Chase’s voice, the voices between these two characters were very similar, and caused some early dissonance. Luckily, once things got rolling and the author began to flesh out these characters, and they began to transform into what they would become by the end of the book, this no longer became an issue.  Once this issue was resolved I was more than happy to fall into the capable voice of Ray Chase. He has a deep voice, bordering on gruff, but softens it with a rhythmic style that is reminiscent of Scott Brick. His reading style added levels to the prose that I feel elevated it, giving Walt’s journey across a devastated America an almost stream of consciences feel, and Ray and Mia’s time in their dream home an overwhelming sense of contentment.  This was my first time listening to Ray Chase, and I really liked him. I think some of the struggles he had with some of the characterizations came more from the fact that some of the characters were a bit cardboard, but he did what he could to bring them to life. When the author gave a character depth, you could feel it in the narrator’s performance. Based on this performance, Ray Chase is a narrator to be on the lookout for. Hopefully, we will see more audio versions of this series, with Chase acting as our guide in the fight against the alien crab things.

Thanks to Podium Publish for proving me with a copy of the title for review.

This review is part of my weekly “Welcome to the Apocalypse” theme. Click on the image below for links to more posts.





Audiobook Review: The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

23 08 2013

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

Read by Drew Ariana

Dreamscape Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 12 Min

Genre: Classic Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: The Scarlett Plague is a classic post apocalyptic tale of one man’s survival during a global pandemic, that is fascinating more because of it’s vision of our future, then any special aspects of the tale. If read as a satire on a possibly classist future America, it is actually full of some funny absurdist moments, I’m just not quite sure that is what the author intended.

Grade: B-

One of the reasons I like reading classic science fiction is I am always fascinated by people from another time’s view of the future. I think you can tell a lot about a person and their culture by seeing how they imagine the future to be. I first read Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague about 12 years ago, when I was obsessed with reading all the classic examples of Post Apocalyptic fiction I could get my hands on. Listening to it now, I paid more attention to its vision of out future. The Scarlett Plague was written just over 100 years ago, and Jack London’s titular plague struck humanity in 2013. So, I was quite interested in seeing how this man view our future to be, before 2 world wars, the rise of the US to being perhaps The Superpower and the technological leaps we have taken.  London’s take on 2013 America is, well, kind of weird. I was first impressed with his population tabulations, putting Earth’s 2013 population at around 8 Bullion. Yet, his sociology was simply strange to me. London imagines 2013 is a very class based society, with what seems like an almost American aristocracy, and a subjugated working class. Before you start going all political, yes, I do believe elitism and classism exist in America, but it’s much more subtle, and perhaps more insidious, than appears in The Scarlett Plague. I think if you walk up to an American, rich or poor and ask them directly whether or not someone is a better person based on their economic and social class, most people would scoff at you and answer no, despite what they may actually think. In London’s 2013 America, I think you would get the opposite reaction. What fascinates me is what aspects of 1912 culture caused London to believe this was were we were heading. I can understand why he believed we would travel by airships, but this social aristocracy aspect fascinates me.

Sixty years after over 99% of the world was wiped out by a fast acting disease called, The Red Death, and old man bemoans’ the survivor’s fall into savagery as he tells the story of his survival to a group of his tribes crude young adults.  The Scarlett Plague is a classic post apocalyptic tale of one man’s survival during a global pandemic that is fascinating more because of its vision of our future, then any special aspects of the tale. It was really strange to revisit this tale. When I first read it, I took it very seriously. London does a good job telling a tale of a society falling into ruins, then finding a way to reconnect. It, at times, reads like an outline to a novel like Earth Abides, with a barebones approach, telling mostly the bullet points. Yet, on my second run through, perhaps due to the performance of the narrator, it turned into an almost absurdist comedy. I’m not sure if London wrote this as a bit of satire, or if it just comes across this way due to how it has aged, but I found laughing. The main character was such an unlikable, cantankerous old bastard that he reminded me of a racist grandfather who makes ridiculously socially awkward statements that he seems more like a really bad caricature instead of a toxic bundle of hate. I found myself laughing as he described the brutishness of the working class that provided them with everything they need in an interesting style them resembled economic blackmail. His love lorn talk about the high society woman who was lowered to the status of a brutalized wife of a former "service industry" person was balanced by his absurd attempt to purchase her from this brutal man. The old geezer took every opportunity to degrade the boys he was talking to commenting on their lack of civility and their reliance on strange new superstitions.  It was all a bit disconcerting, but also interesting. It’s funny, because in many of the descriptions The Scarlet Plague is said to be about an older man sharing his wisdom to his grandsons. What isn’t revealed is how ridiculous his wisdom is, and how much utter contempt he has for his grandsons. One interesting aspect is the evolution of language. While not as drastic a change as you would see in Hoban’s Riddley Walker, London still gives his post apocalyptic survivors their own patois of mish-mashed words. It gives the story a little bit extra, and also adds for some interesting examinations of just how far society has regressed. Overall, this is a story that hardcore post apocalyptic fans should read, since is serves as a blueprint for a lot of classic and modern novels exploring pandemic survival, for anyone else, there are much better examples of the genre to check out. 

I really have mixed feelings Drew Ariana’s performance in The Scarlet Plague. My initial reaction was basic cringing at his voices, particularly those of the kids. I find that narrators voicing kids is very tough, and often they sound like cartoon characters instead of actually children. I also wasn’t a fan of his old man voice, which was too bad since the book was mostly an old man telling his tale. I though maybe a narrator with a gruffer voice would have been better suited for the narration. Then I began to think. My initial annoyance with his old man voice was based on my thought of the character as an old survivor of an apocalyptic pandemic. Yet, as I began to think of it as a satirical novel, and the old man as a former professor who was on the fringe levels of a modern aristocracy chagrined at his new station in life, I found the voicing a bit more appropriate. In fact, it made me laugh.  I really think that, despite his annoying kid voices, Drew Ariana’s is a pretty good narrator. I think his impression of the character probably ended up mirroring my own, and this was reflected in his performance. Other aspects, his pacing, and strength of voice were quite good. This is why I have a mixed feeling. I ended up enjoying listening to Ariana and he probably highlighted the satirical elements of this novel. I’m just not totally sure what London’s true intentions were.

Thanks to Dreamscape Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: Ex-Communication by Peter Clines

21 08 2013

Ex-Communication (Ex-Heroes, Bk. 3) by Peter Clines

Read by Jay Snyder, Khristine Hvam, & Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 10 Hrs 32 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse with Superheroes

Quick Thoughts: With a strange new arrival, a shocking return and an epic, action filled finale, Ex-Communication is about as much fun as you can have surrounded by dead people who want to eat your face. Ex-Communication is a blockbuster movie shot into your brain through your earholes. A fun filled action packed zombie and superhero extravaganza that comes alive in your tastiest brain parts and rattles around in there until the brilliant finale makes it explode out of your skull.

Grade: B+

If you’re anything like me, you have probably had plenty of those late night, half drunk conversations with friends about some pop culture geeky subject like who is hotter Han Solo or Chewbacca (Chewie) or how every time Kirk beams down to the surface to bed green women and fight aliens the transporter is actually killing him and feeding his soul to the great old squid gods. Of course, on those nights were you are just a bit less drunk, you have more normal conversations like who you would most like to headshot in a zombie apocalypse or what superpower you would want most. For me, the headshot conversation is pretty easy (Hitler’s Venezuelan Clone) but I always struggle with the super powers thing. Whenever someone asks me what super power I would want, I usually freeze up, then sputter out something stupid (Ummm… teledynmanics, I mean thermokinesis) because I really don’t know. I mean, sure, it obvious that there are lots of cool superpowers that seem to defy the laws of physics, like flying, or shooting beams out of your eyes or the ability to eat 500 hotdogs when you weigh 120 lbs, but honestly, the characters that often have these powers seem like prats. Sure, Superman has all these awesome powers, but what I’d really want is his camouflage glasses that makes everyone around him too stupid to realize that he’s Clark Kent, and somehow manages to fool even the CIA’s facial recognition software (I assume, or they’d be using him to assassinate the leader of the Illuminati or Justin Beiber.)  Honestly, my favorite superhero characters have always been those who suffered some personal tragedy leading them to become highly skilled at a multitude of human tasks, but have no actual enhanced skills, Of course, when people ask you what superpower you want and you answer "I want someone I love to be brutally murdered by a corrupt politician leading me to devote my life to learning a uniquely special skill set from an old master in order to hunt them down in the darkest shadows of night" even my closest friends look at me funny. So, I just usually end up answering Anti-entropy, because, it makes me seem smart even though I have no idea what it would do but when they ask me what I mean, I just tell them it’s too complex to explain.

Ex-Communication is the third novel in the series that pits superheroes against ravaging hordes of the undead. The last bastion of humanity is holed up in Los Angeles, fighting a constant battle against the encroaching hordes that have fallen under the control of a powerful super villain named Legion. If dealing with the zombies isn’t bad enough, within the compound, elections are coming, tension between the superheroes and the regular folk are increasing and one hero who could wipe them off the face of the map is beginning to act a bit unstable. Peter Clines manages to top himself once again in this series that just seems to get better and better. With a strange new arrival, a shocking return and an epic, action filled finale, Ex-Communication is about as much fun as you can have surrounded by dead people who want to eat your face. Honestly, I have enjoyed this series. Both Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots were fun but with both novels, it took me a while to adjust to the story. With Ex-Communication I was instantly engaged, and Clines kept me hooked for the entire ride.  I think that Clines had a bit more flexibility in this tale, since he has already competently built his world and told the majority of the origin stories of his heroes. This allowed him to play with his THEN… NOW… format a little more, with much better affect.  All his characters seem to have taken on more depth, moving beyond just being pretty cool superheroes, to actually seeming like real people. He introduces one new charac6er through a series of THEN segments that actually have the reader a bit disoriented and confused, until the click comes, and it’s like, HOLY SHIT I GET IT NOW! THIS IS AWESOME! Even better this character goes on to be one of the best of the novel, and the most fun to watch develop. I also like that Clines took the time to add some more fantasy oriented mythological spins to his story. He balances the growing religious adaptations of the survivors between bizarre cherry picking of Biblical references to a more open and inclusive religious experience, then throws in some surprising bits of religious historical mythology to make things even more intriguing. Part of me was sad when one of those threads was nothing more than a brief side trip in the ultimate plot, but it was still pretty cool. The final battle was pretty epically awesome. Clines writes cinematic blockbuster fight scenes, and continues to put together some of the best finales that simply come alive in your brain. Ex-Communication has all your favorite characters, with some new ones, doing all your favorite things in delightfully awesome ways while battling an enemy that could very well kick all their asses. Clines even manages to throw in some open ended twists that make the reader reevaluate a lot of what they assumed earlier. It was all well done, and the most fun I have had in this series yet. Ex-Communication is a complete tale, yet leaves enough threads to make me very excited to see where this series goes next.

From what I understand, based on comments and reviews, Audible has some production issues with Ex-Communication, particularly editing errors dealing with the multi-narrator style but they were fixed. This is something I want to mention first, because there were still some errors. Now, I’m not sure if I just got the older version, or if there was one that was worse, but along the way there were few occasions when a male voice read a female character’s dialogue (unlike the rest of the novel) and at least one repeated line.  Yet, these little blemished were the only scars on an otherwise excellent production with three talented narrators. Jay Snyder has the voice of a blockbuster movie. This doesn’t always fit when he is voicing a regular Joe character, but he is simply perfect for this series. He is the anchor that holds the production together. Boyett balances him with a gruffer, older voice that manages to shove a little humanity into the production. Khristine Hvam is always wonderful to listen to, and her grasp on these characters is great. Her work on the new character was so fun it reinforced my wish that Clines provide more chapters from female POVs just so I we can get to hear more Khristine Hvam. Ex-Communication is a blockbuster movie shot into your brain through your earholes. A fun filled action packed zombie and superhero extravaganza that comes alive in your tastiest brain parts and rattles around in there until the brilliant finale makes it explode out of your skull.





Audiobook Review: The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

2 08 2013

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle, Bk. 1) by Jason M. Hough

Read by Simon Vance

Random House Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 27 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Darwin Elevator is Leviathan Wakes meets A Mote in God’s Eye, a rip roaring science fiction adventure with some mysterious alien machinations. Hough creates a complex but intriguing Post Apocalyptic world, and fills it with some truly engaging morally complex characters. The Darwin Elevator is easily my favorite science fiction debut of the year.

Grade: A-

In his infamous 1987 speech to the United Nations, Ronald Reagan discussed how we as a planet would put aside out nationalistic and other petty differences and come together if faced with an alien threat from outside. I’m not sure he was so right. One of the popular themes of post apocalyptic fiction is humanity’s ability to adapt. This is typically portrayed in a positive way, with a plucky group of survivors overcoming world changing events to find a new way to live. Yet, when it comes to adaptation, it’s not just the positive traits that we will take into a whole new world. Humanity has an almost natural ability to ostracize and stigmatize those who are different, whether those differences are physical, emotional, or simply geographical. When natural differences don’t exist, we will find new ways to categorize and label people. We will seek out the ways OTHERS are different from us, even if it’s just the fact that they are others. Classism will still rise. Some people will have more rocks in their garden than their neighbor, and try to use those rocks to gain greater status in the community. Even with a looming alien threat, we would find ways to separate and label each other. In Jason M. Hough’s debut The Darwin Elevator, he creates an interesting arbitrary class structure between “orbitals” those who live in the orbital platforms above the alien build space elevator, and those down below, in the slums and habitats of Darwin. While the Orbitals are pristine and clean, in both mind and body, the citizens of Darwin are a dirty, disgruntled lot full of refugees, religious cultists, and power hungry guards. This separation contributes greatly to the novel, and creates a fascinating background for this action filled novel.

The Darwin Elevator is Leviathan Wakes meets A Mote in God’s Eye, a rip roaring science fiction adventure with some mysterious alien machinations. Taking place in the 24th century Australian City Darwin, the only city immune to an alien plague due to the aura surrounding the space elevator built up by the unseen alien visitors, Hough capably incorporates a post apocalyptic social experiment with some fast paced action creating one of the best science fiction debuts of the year. I knew very little about The Darwin Elevator going in beyond it being a post apocalyptic science fiction novel about an alien plague, so I was a bit surprised to discover that there were… let’s not say zombies, but plague afflicted regressed humans who give into the basest needs and attack non afflicted humans in swarms. Not Zombies… but close enough. As a huge zombie fan, I was delighted by this, and in a way, happy I didn’t know, because in reality, The Darwin Elevator, like the afore mentioned Leviathan Wake, isn’t a Zombie novel, it’s a science fiction adventure novel that just happens to have some kick ass scenes involving zombie-like humanoids. I’ll take that. Yet, the heart of the novel is how humans adapt to change, and how these changes separate them and what it takes to bring them together again. The main character, Skyler heads a team of scavengers, the only team made up fully of those immune from the plague. Due to this ability, Skyler and his team are able to go to places other teams can’t and them on the radar of the Orbital Industrialist and his key scientist, who taps them to help them figure out what is the next step in the alien builder plans. I love the world that Hough has created, the juxtaposition between the two emerging cultures, yet I felt this novel just barely skimmed the surface of its potential. Hough makes a lot of illusions to religious cults, and other groups among the citizenry of Darwin, yet, much of that takes a back seat to the political maneuverings of the factions in the Orbitals. While this probably served the story better I’d love to get down in the grime of the city and learn more about its operation. There is definitely an old school science fiction vibe to The Darwin Elevator, with a well conceived blend of strange technology and engaging, morally complex characters. The ending opens so many possible doors, although there may have been a few too many open ended plot points left in the mix. This open ended conclusion of the novel would have been much more frustrating to me if I had to wait a year for the next edition, but luckily for us, there will be two more books in the series released over the next two months.  The Darwin Elevator is easily my favorite debut science fiction novel of the year, and I shudder in anticipation to see where the series will be heading next.

Simon Vance is one of the best voices in the business, and applies his skills to The Darwin Elevator. You pretty much know what you are going to get with a Vance narration, vivid characters and well paced action all delivered with a storyteller’s flair. I really enjoyed the authenticity Vance gave to the international cast. He never shirks away from a trying accent, or odd mannerism, instead embraces them. The Darwin Elevator takes place in Australia, yet is full of characters from across the globe. The main character, Skyler Luiken, is a Dutch pilot who really comes to life under Vance’s touch. There are many narrators who can do accents, but very few make them feel as natural as Vance does. This may have been the most action packed novel I have heard Vance narrate, and he constantly pushed the pace, adding tension, knowing just when to slow things down to give the listener time to reflect on a big reveal, or new development, The Darwin Elevator is a book the translates wonderfully to audio, and I’m very happy that Vance will once again be in the narrator chair for book 2, The Exodus Tower.

Thanks to Random House Audio for providing a copy of this title for review.

Note: This review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse series. Click on the banner below for more posts.








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