Audiobook Review: Goslings by J.D. Beresford

12 07 2013

Goslings by J. D. Beresford

Read by Matthew Brenher

Dreamscape Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 12 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Goslings is a fascinating, if somewhat scattershot, exploration of gender roles and collectivism in post plague England. Beresford explores many social issues in his look at the necessary rise of a British matriarchy. The plot is a bit unfocused, moving characters around as a means to explore his themes, more than creating a self contained story, yet, it still manages to be quite interesting.

Grade: B

I have to admit, despite the hours and hours upon hours I spend researching Post Apocalyptic fiction I had never heard of Goslings before it showed up on Dreamscape Audios catalogue. Shocked that a book featuring a worldwide pandemic that wiped out the majority of the world’s male population would somehow escape my notice, I had to grab it post haste. Goslings is perfect novel to rekick off my Welcome to the Apocalypse feature, because one of my goals with the feature is to examine classic Post Apocalyptic novels, since it seems Audible and other producers seems to be putting them out in as fast as they can secure the rights. I was fascinated by the concepts behind Goslings because, it examines the roles of the sexes, yet being written in 1935 is also a child of it’s time. One of my issues with older fiction is I have trouble determining what is satire and what is actually  just a product of the era it was written in. For example, I always was uncomfortable with the relationship between the main character and his African American neighbors in Alas, Babylon. Yet, for the 1950’s, it was actually quite progressive. What made it harder for Goslings, is I believe much of the book is satirical. Goslings was probably quite progressive in 1935, yet the language and concepts just drip with misogyny. Gosling’s younger daughters are painted as frivolous, because they like shopping and fashion, yet when one proves to be logical she is described as having masculine qualities. Yet, conversely, one character talks about how business men prey on women by manipulating fashion so they must buy the newest, hippest thing each season, then goes on to examine his own foppish nature. There are obvious satirical elements, it was just hart to pull them out of \the pervasive mentality of the 19030’s.

In Gosling’s a plague has ravished the world, killing off the majority of men, and now the women must find a way to survive on their own. When Mr. Gosling, one of the few men immune to the disease, finds greener pastures, he leaves his troublesome wife and daughters to fend for themselves. Not prepared for the changed world, they set out in search for a safe place and discover a collective community where women, along with one strange man, work together to find a way in the new world. Goslings is a fascinating, if somewhat scattershot, exploration of gender roles and collectivism in post plague England. Beresford explores many social issues in his look at the necessary rise of a British matriarchy. The plot is a bit unfocused, moving characters around as a means to explore his themes, more than creating a self contained story, yet, it still manages to be quite interesting. There is a lot of humor in the tale, particularly at the start with surly Mr. Gosling, and his relationship with his women. Mr. Gosling is a bit of a prat, shocked at the idea that his women could ever survive without the help of a man. Yet, when the end comes, he leaves his troublesome ladies because they won’t risk their lives to head out and find him tobacco. While the set up is seems to be about gender roles, I think Beresford’s true goal is the exploring the ability of humankind to better themselves through social collectivism and fixing the mistakes of the past. While he explores interesting gender issues, the mentality of his time bleeds in. The most successful communities of women, all surround a particularly skilled male, who can direct them. In the Gosling daughter’s community, the main male is a resourceful gentleman who isn’t interested in sex. He encourages the females by explaining that they need to act like men now. It often feels like Beresford is saying that women can do just fine without men, as long as the put behind girly things like flirting, clothes and religion. He seems to believe that women may be better stewards of humanity because their malleable nature is more open to change and collectivism. Luckily, the overall story is quite fun, and while the ending seemed a bit too easy, I enjoyed the experience. Gosling’s is a fun little book, with an interesting post apocalyptic setup and some intriguing and often goofy characters along the way.

I was actually a bit surprised that Matthew Brenher, a male, was cast to read this novel where most of the males die. Yet, Brenher may have been the perfect choice for Goslings. He reads the book as if it was a true satire, capturing the often absurd moments with a tongue in cheek smirk that seemed to say, “Ah… these people. Can you believe them?” He actually was quite skilled at female voices, creating a slew of believable female characters of all ages. Despite the dated language, he gave the book a modern accessible feel the is often lacking in audio versions of older books. He had a crisp, sure reading style that made the book a lot of fun to listen to. While the book itself was a bit all over the place, Brenher’s reading never was, and his performance made any problems with the overall book seem trivial.

Thanks to Dreamscape Audio for providing me with 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.





Audiobook Review: Sick by Brett Battles

17 04 2013

Sick by Brett Battles (Project Eden, Book 1)

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible, Inc.

Length: 9 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Plague Thriller

Quick Thoughts: I was in search of a fun filled, explody, chasy , blood pressure escalating listen and Sick totally hit that spot. It combines elements of Apocalyptic Plague tales, like The Stand, with the fast paced thinking man’s action similar to the Jack Reacher series. Narrator MacLeod Andrews narrate this tale with Faster Than Light pacing which I’m sure may be a violation of the laws of physics, but made it one hell of a ride for this listener.

Grade: B+

I understand the life of a character in a thriller novel can be tough. You usually have some background story that makes you wary of things to begin with, whether it be time in the military or law enforcement, or personal tragedy, you rarely come into the start of your time as a book character full of naive innocence. To make matters worse, you find yourself at the start of a Thriller novel, which means death and mayhem is coming your way. You wake up to find a fast acting plague has struck the newly established military base you are working at. As you try to save your family, you are swept up by a team in hazmat suits and taken to a secret base, where you are informed by a shady doctor that your family has all dies. You are told that it’s your duty to cooperate, but they refuse to give you any more information, or to see the bodies of your children. You are kept locked in a room with no contact from the outside world until a secret cryptic message is sent to you through your meal. Then you are rescued by another secret group, transported through across the country by intricate means being chased by shadowy types in black helicopters, until you arrive at a out of the way ranch full of secretive types with lots of high tech equipment. All of this is confusing but you’ve managed to keep it together, with an open mind, despite reeling from the loss of your family. When you finally get a chance for some answers, you find that the people who rescued you believe that this is all so sort of conspiracy? I know, what the hell? A conspiracy?!?! Haven’t these people ever hear of Occam’s Razor, where the simplest explanations of you being exposed to a deadly quick acting plague and kidnapped by a shadowy group are the simplest. Like terrorists or accidentally spill. It’s obvious the secret shadowy types and black helicopters are probably FEMA or something.  I mean, a global conspiracy, yeah right. Next they will try to tell you that NASA faked the moon landing. Conspiracy! What a bunch of highly funded, well trained and seemingly reasonable whackjobs.

Sick is the first novel in Brett Battle’s Project Eden series, about an everyday military man, Daniel Ash, who finds himself mixed up in a global conspiracy by a shadowy group.  Recently, I have been listening to a lot of high concept speculative fiction novels, and I was in search of a fun filled, explody, chasy , blood pressure escalating thriller listen for a bit of a change of pace and Sick totally hit that spot. Sick is a fun fast thriller that combines elements of Apocalyptic Plague tales, like The Stand, with the fast paced thinking man’s action similar to the Jack Reacher series. Battles starts this novel with a brutal punch, when Daniel Ash wakes up to find his wife dead, and his daughter deathly ill from a mysterious plague which infects his entire town, leaving only him and his son free of symptoms. After being held after his exposure, he is rescued by a group, who informs him that in fact, his children are still alive. Now, Ash has one goal, save his children. From the very beginning, Battles had me enthralled in his tale, and lever let me go. I really liked the Daniel Ash character, and found his story quite compelling but he also is a bit wooden throughout the novel, which makes some sense due to his shock. Along the way, he meets a variety of other characters, members of a group who are fighting a secret war against a powerful enemy. Most of these characters are colorful, on a surface level way, and hopefully will get further developed as the series continues. Daniel Ash eventually teams up with a mysterious and broken woman, Chloe, who was a victim of the Project Eden group. I found Chloe a little better developed as a character, with Battles allowing us to see true progress in her character. Yet, the fact that Ash‘s mission drove the plot, I though the true fun of this tale was the story of those dealing with the outbreak of the plague. As the plague begins to lose containment, Battles follows the stories of a reporter covering the strange nature of the plague, and two boys as they try to find their way out of the Quarantine zone. I though this aspect of the novel made a nice counterbalance to the almost wooden determination of Ash’s quest. Here the characters come alive, and the real human drama of the novel takes place. Sick was lot of fun. It’s a mix of straight forward action with apocalyptic plague drama made this a truly engrossing listen.

Macleod Andrews narrates Sick, and was one of the key reasons I decided to listen to this audiobook.  I have always enjoyed his gravely delivery that gives each novel he reads a truly unique feel. Andrews again does excellent work here. He gives each character a distinct voice that actually helped develop their story. I felt his work on Chloe was key, allowing her to move from a closed off, paranoid victim, to something more by the end of the novel. I love the work he did in the outbreak zone, handling both the female reporter and the younger characters with authenticity. Every so often, when listening to an audiobook, I find myself in this strange time distorting zone where the book feels like it’s moving faster than actual time, and every time  I look down, it seems we are closer to the end then we should be. I felt this way listening to Sick. Andrews pacing moved the novel along Faster Than Light, which I’m sure may be a violation of the laws of physics, but made it one hell of a ride for this listener. I am very much looking forward to the next entry in this series, fascinated to see where Battles will take this story next.





My Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Novels: Plagues and Pandemics

24 02 2012

This week on "Welcome to the Apocalypse" we are dealing with one of my favorite Post Apocalyptic subcategories, Plagues and Pandemics. This is in honor of the release for the first time of Stephen King’s The Stand in Unabridged Audiobook Format.

"That stuff is lying around, just waiting to be picked up." The Stand

Apocalyptic Plagues are one of the most feared and most realistic potential apocalypses. Not just potential, The Black Death is estimated to have killed 45 – 50% of the European population in the 14th Century. One of the things that set Plague tales apart is that it kills off humanity, but unlike nuclear war and ecological disasters, it leaves the planet pretty well untouched. Once the plague has run its course, the survivors are left to pick up the pieces. There is no nuclear winter, or Zombie’s chasing you. The greatest threat you will face is yourself, and your fellow survivors.

The following is a list of my favorite Post Apocalyptic Plague novels. It was a hard list to make, and I was adding, cutting and revising up until I posted this list. I attempted to pick not just my favorite novels dealing with Plagues and Pandemics, but good examples of the genre. There are some that I cut, because they were far future, well past the time where the plague was an issue, or that had plagues as an issue but wasn’t the focus of the novel.  All in all, I am happy with this list.

 

 

The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand is my favorite all time novel, and really the catalyst for my love of Apocalyptic fiction. I have read it in full six times, and have a well worn paperback version of it next to my bed where I will occasionally reread some of my favorite parts. It is the story of Captain Trips, a military made Superflu that wipes out 99.4% of the population. King’s tale is full off memorable characters, and contains a classic good vs. evil plot.

Audiobook Version: Random House Audio just released an Unabridged version of The Stand narrated by Grover Gardner.

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

Earth Abides tells the story of Isherwood Williams, one of the last survivors of a plague that devastates humanity. Much of the novel is focused on nature taking back the earth, with plants tearing apart roads and domesticated animals going wild.  In some ways, it’s the story of civilization in reverse, starting with modern man, and allowing us to witness its gradual degradation.

Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version released by Audible Frontiers narrated by Jonathon Davis.

Mister Touch by Malcolm Bosse

Not a well known example of the genre, Mister Touch is definitely one of my favorites. Aids has mutated, devastating the population and leaving the survivors with multiple physical ailments, including blindness and respiratory problems. A group from New York City called The Skulls, led by a former Wall Street swindler travels across an Apocalyptic America looking for a climate more suitable to their needs. It’s full of dark humor and an almost poetic use of pop dialogue.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

Dark Advent by Brian Hodge

Brian Hodge’s Dark Advent has a similar theme to The Stand, a weaponized plague, good survivors and bad survivors, and an evil antagonist. Yet, it is definitely a darker, tighter novel than The Stand. Hodges created a nightmarish landscape and one really bad dude determined to bring about the end of the world.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

 

The Peshouse by Jim Crace

Unlike most in this list, The Pesthouse is a far future Apocalypse, taking place an unknown amount of time after a devastating plague. America is now in a new Dark Age. While the Plague was years ago, it is still a factor in the lives of the populace, and any sign of sickness will get a person sent to isolation in a pesthouse. It is a fascinating tale of survival and a road trip through a dark version of a future America. 

Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version of The Pesthouse from Books on Tape, narrated by Michael Ktamer.

 

Emergence by David R. Palmer

Candy is a young girl, yet she is seemingly stronger, smarter and faster than the typical human. After a biological weapon kills off over 99% of the earths population, Candy escapes from the bunker her father has constructed and sets out in search of other survivors. Emergence is stylistically unique, written in a short hand style similar to telegraph type.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

Survivors by Terry Nation

This is the novelization of the hit 1970’s British television series. Survivors follows a group of plague survivors as the figure out trying to relearn the old was of doing things. It is also the tale of a mother searching for her lost son in an Apocalyptic landscape. Survivors is one of the most detailed and realistic apocalyptic plague novels.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

Year Zero by Jeff Long

While full of a lot of religious and scientific subplots, the essence of Year Zero is a plague tale, and a pretty good one at that. It contains one of the most harrowing apocalyptic journeys, across Asia, as the main character tries to return to the United States amidst a global pandemic to find his daughter. There are some strange turns along the way, but overall this is a darn good read.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake alternated between the present story of Snowman, and Apocalyptic Hermit who must deel with a group of genetically changed humans, and the dystopian past that led to the eventual disaster. It’s often weird,but fascinating. It’s a dark but often humorous look at science and greed run amok.

Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version of Oryx and Crake read by Campbell Scott for Random House Audio.

‘48 by James Herbert

‘48 is a post apocalyptic alternate history where Hitler releases a devastating bioweapon as a final act of hate. It is a non-stop race through a decimated London as an immune American pilot tries to escape from a neo-nazi clan who believes there survival depends on a transfusion of his blood.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

 

As an added treat, I asked a few Post Apocalyptic experts and fans for their picks for best Plague novel. Here are their answers.

Megaton is a Post Apocalyptic blogger and founder of Post Apoc.net. You can find him moderating The Post Apocalyptic Forum or on Twitter at @Megaton_us.

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

Apocalypse by plague has always been my favorite sub-genre of post-apocalyptic fiction, and one of the books responsible for that is The Scarlet Plague by Jack London.  The Scarlet Plague might not be the absolute grand-daddy of plague stories (Mary Shelley’s The Last Man was written 75 years earlier) but it’s certainly one of the first, and it’s obviously a base on which more recent authors have built their works.  The events of the story will be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s read Stephen King’s The Stand or similar books – the plague comes on without warning, and kills within an hour, people try to sequester themselves in their homes, but once one person is infected the disease ravages entire families, and the narrator specifically mentions governments covering up the reality of how dangerous the plague is, bodies piled in the streets, violence, murder and mayhem.  All of that in a book written a full 100 years ago; it’s definitely a true pillar of the genre.

Tim aka Fear Death by Water runs the Post Apocalyptic Blog Cozy Catastophe and is an Apocalyptic superfan, whose Post Apocalyptic reading list eclipses my own. You can find him on twitter at @CosyCatastrophy

Dark Advent by Brian Hodge

The book I’d like for you to use on your list is Dark Advent by Brian Hodges. The cause of the end is a weaponized version of the bubonic plague. Unlike some books its release into the population is not an accident. It is done for the sole purpose of wiping out most of the population.

This book is most often found in the horror section and I’d bet that most people would pass on it based on the cover alone. Even the author doesn’t know what happened with it. Trust me it’s the cover that makes it a worthwhile item to track down.

As is the case with all plague novels there are survivors. Also some of them are more good and some are not so good. The guy who releases the plague is of course very bad. Also immune. As the book gets rolling, the good clump together and the bad clump together. Most books will focus on the good group. Not Dark Advent. It evil and has a tight focus on the actions of Peter Soloman, plague releaser.

If you wondered what Flagg may have been up to in Vegas while Abigail was doing her thing in Boulder, this book might give a window to it. It’s sort of a Flagcentric version of The Stand.

I’d like to thank my guests for their input. If you are interested in contributing to a future “Welcome to the Apocalypse” Favorites post, please feel free to contact me through email or twitter (@guildedearlobe). If you have a favorite Plague novel that isn’t covered on this list, feel free to leave a comment.








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