Audiobook Review: Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham

1 06 2012

Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham (The Disappearance Trilogy, Bk. 3)

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 17 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Angels of Vengeance is an excellent finale to the trilogy, satisfactorily closing the majority of the threads started in the initial volume, and leaving enough there for future trips into this world. Full of action, personal vendettas and world changing conflict, Birmingham once again proves his ability take fascinating scenarios and turn them into entertaining reads.

Grade: B+

Sometimes a books concept just grabs me from the first moment I hear about it. Readers of this blog know I have a not to hidden obsession with Post Apocalyptic literature. I have read all sorts of novels in this vein, with all sorts of scenarios. Everything from man eating plants, asteroid strikes, neutrinos from the sun, evil zombie making cell phones and Elephantoid Alien invaders has brought about the destruction of the world as we know it. Yet, to be honest, one of my favorite culprits are those “Alien Space Bats.” If you are unfamiliar with the term, it began as a criticism, mainly for poorly plotted alternate history. Basically, the idea was that something, a key battle or other historical instance, could not have come out differently unless it was through the intercession of Alien Space Bats. Eventually, this has morphed into a term for an unexplainable phenomenon that changes the course of history.  S.M. Stirling used it in his Nantucket and Dies The Fire series to explain the circumstances that altered the history of those worlds. In John Birmingham’s Without Warning, those theoretical Alien Space Bats strike again, this time with a mysterious energy wave that settles over the bulk of the continental United States killing everyone inside the it, right at the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I had been a fan of Birmingham’s Axis of Time series, but the concept of Without Warning just blew me away. How different would the world be, in the majority of The United States was wiped off the map in an instance?

Angels of Vengeance is the final installment of Birmingham’s Disappearance trilogy that started with Without Warning. In many ways it is different in scope and vision from the first two installments of the series. While the still struggling United States Government, located in a spared Seattle, is battling for control of its territory, and trying to regain some of the prestige it had before the Wave, Birmingham finale is a much more intimate tale of revenge, and settling personal scores. While much of international importance is happening in the tale, the weapons are not masses of armies, or destructive hardware, but the individual characters you have grown to love. Birmingham has managed to create one of the most badass characters in alternate history, on par with the likes of Jack Reacher, and Jack Bauer, yet, no one would ever mistaken Caitlain Monroe for a guy named Jack. What I like most about Caitlin, is she isn’t some male character they saddle with a female name. She a fully realized, unmistakable female character, who just happens to kick some ass. Another positive is Birmingham gives us more visions into how the rest of the planet is adapting to the altered politics Post Wave, which was something I thought was lacking in the second novel of the trilogy. Lovers of Alternate History who like to nit pick authors and question all their political and historical extrapolations will probably find plenty of fodder here, yet, for those of us who like a good action tale, with likeable yet complex characters, Birmingham’s vision is believable enough to satisfy the casual skeptic.  Angels of Vengeance is an excellent finale to the trilogy, satisfactorily closing the majority of the threads started in the initial volume, and leaving enough there for future trips into this world. Full of action, personal vendettas and world changing conflict, Birmingham once again proves his ability take fascinating scenarios and turn them into entertaining reads.

I have listened to quite a few of Tom Weiner’s narrations, and while he’s not my favorite all time narrator, he’s in many ways like that character actor on TV shows who you don’t really know their name, but always like when they show up with a guest spot on your favorite show. Weiner narrated the first book in this series, and did a good job bringing the characters and world to life. I found the change of narrators to Kevin Foley in the second book a bit harder to take, particularly his voicing of President Kipper, so I was happy to have Weiner return for book 3. While his narration was solid again, and his characterizations pretty spot on, I wish they would have gone with a female narrator instead this time. Of the Four main threads of the novel, three were from a female perspective. I think a narrator like Hilary Huber, with her mature vocal style and ability to handle an international cast may have brought more to the reading then Weiner did. This in no way is a criticism of Weiner, whose performance is top notch. Angels of Vengeance is a fitting end to this trilogy, and I am anxiously waiting for whatever Birmingham has in store for us in the future.

Note: A special thanks to the good people of Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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