Audiobook Review: Devil’s Wake by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

11 09 2012

Devil’s Wake by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

Read by Emily Bauer

Audible Frontiers

Length: 8 Hrs 19 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Devil’s Wake is a fast paced, often terrifying Zombie tale with Young Adult elements, but strong enough to keep an Adult Zombie enthusiast interested. While not a groundbreaking novel of the genre, the author’s do add some interesting twists to the end that make the series potential great. The true strength of the novel is its characters, and I look forward to seeing where they go in the future.

Grade: B

I was recently involved in a friendly debate over at Kristilyn’s Blog called Reading In Winter. Kristilyn was taken part in Zombie week, but in her feature discussed how she preferred Vampires to Zombies. Now, followers of this blog know, I am a avid supporter of Zombie fiction. This year alone I have listened to close to 30 Zombie novels. As a supporter of the undead I felt a need to come in on the side of rotting shamblers. Yet, I feel what the issue came down to was a fundamental difference in what people want from their monsters. I am an old school horror guy. I want to be scared by my monsters. Alone in the dark alley, late at night, when I encounter a monster, my impulse will to be run screaming into the night, or at least take up arms are destroy that which wants to devour me. I want no distractions. Specifically, I don’t want to pause for a moment and considerer the romantic possibilities that I might have with the monster. Kristilyn is quite right when she says that zombies are rotting, smelly, ugly creatures with decaying limbs, and that this makes them utterly undatable. Yet, for her this is a negative. For me, it’s a matter of survival. I am a typical male who is highly influenced by the attractiveness of the opposite sex. If zombies were not the putrid, disgusting bags of human waste they are, I may be momentarily distracted by their physical attributes, and end up locked in an embrace, with said zombie pulling out my entrails for a tasty hors d’oeuvre. It seems that monsters are no longer evaluated by their menace to our personal safety, but whether or not they are sexy. Vampires, werewolves, merman, and fallen angels definitely seem to achieve sexiness. Zombies, well, not so much. Yet, when the dead began to rise, with their putrid smell and decaying limbs, we may very well be happy that they have lost the sexy.

Kendra has lead a pretty sheltered life. Her parents have protected her from most of the nasty experiences in her life. Yet, when a freak interaction between the flu shot and a new weight loss gimmick leads to a devastating disease, and when those who die from that disease begin to rise up and attack the living, Kendra is no longer protected. Eventually, Kendra is on her own, until she meets up with a group of juvenile offenders who served there sentences working as camp counselors. Together they travel a nightmare journey through a changed world looking for a rumored safe haven in California. I went into my reading of Devil’s Wake pretty cold, based more on the reputation and past works of the authors then the synopsis of the story.  It really wasn’t what I expected. First off, Devil’s Wake was definitely more Young Adultish then I had expected. I don’t mean this as a criticism, just a note on the style and theme of the novel. The focus of Devil’s Wake is on the young characters, and even has a bit of that teen-angsty romance. This is something I enjoy, when done well, but some people may find this aspect frustrating. Luckily, Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, do this pretty well. The highlight of this tale for me was the characters. The authors bring together a strong cast of diverse characters, unlike what you see on most Zombie novels. I found it refreshing to have authentic portrayals of characters of color, yet, without the authors needing to beat you over the head with it. These were simply real characters in a horrible situation. Barnes and Due’s zombie outbreak scenario was pretty boilerplate for the genre. Long time zombie apocalypse fans won’t find to much groundbreaking in this area of the book. Yet, the authors throw in some interesting twists in the evolution of the zombies that while only briefly explored in this novel, offers a lot of potential for future editions in this series. Yet, this is a series. My major criticism of the novel is that I felt no sense of closure with the plot. I expect novels in a series to have an open ended ending, but I always like some loop closed in each book. Here, the book simply ends, with not much accomplished. If this is something that frustrates you, you may consider waiting until future editions of the series are released. Luckily, the next book in the series is released early winter 2013, so no need to wait too long. Overall, Devil’s Wake is a fast paced, often terrifying Zombie tale with Young Adult elements, but strong enough to keep an Adult Zombie enthusiast interested. While not a groundbreaking novel of the genre, the author’s do add some interesting twists to the end that make the series potential great. The true strength of the novel is its characters, and I look forward to seeing where they go in the future.

If there is any narrator that frustrates me more than Emily Bauer, I’m not sure who it is. I really like Bauer’s narrations. I have experienced some excellent work by her, and find her pacing to always be spot on. It’s just, she is often miscast in novels. She has a perky, soprano voice that is quite appropriate for novels from a younger teenage POV. In Devil’s Wake, I thought her voice was simply OK for Kendra. Kendra is described as "Disney Channel Black" and Bauer’s voice was fitting, but I thought there could have been better choices. I would have loved a narrator with a little more grit in their voice. While Bauer was OK for Kendra, the other characters just weren’t as effective. I felt the older characters, especially Kendra’s grandfather came off too plain. The teenage boys had a bland quality as well, not as jarring as the adults, but I would have loved more edge to their voices as well. For the average audiobook fan, I think Bauer’s precise pacing and listenability will work well. Yet, for those of us looking for more that just a pleasant voice, but for authentic characters and tones that match the tale, Bauer’s performance won’t be quite as appreciated. 

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6 responses

11 09 2012
Laurie C

Hmmm. I’ve been wanting to read something by Tananarive Due, but not sure if this is the one to start with. I’ve been listening to a lot of YA audiobooks lately, and think I will go with FEED by Mira Grant, an earlier recommendation from you, for now.

11 09 2012
tananarivedue

Laura, you might want to start with “My Soul to Keep,” which Stephen King said “bears favorable comparison to INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE.” But it’s definitely not a vampire novel. Thanks for the review!

11 09 2012
Laurie C

OK, thanks! Added it to the TBR list already!

11 09 2012
Chinoiseries

So, if you weigh your chances, vampires definitely lose, especially if they are of the hot-looking female kind? Yes, I can see how a moment of hesitation can cost you your life there. While a shuffling zombie would’ve been shot in the head without a moment of hesitation. You really cracked me up with your argumentation! I haven’t yet left the vampire camp yet… but I’m a woman, so hey, there you have it.

11 09 2012
Kristilyn (@ReadingInWinter)

Glad my discussion provided some inspiration. 🙂 I can’t believe you’ve listened to close to 30 zombie novels this year! I’ve read *maybe* a handful, which is probably why I still prefer vampires.

ANYWAY … this book looks interesting! I like that it’s still in the YA camp AND it’s a perfect length for me. Might have to check it out. Not sure about the audio version — I hate it when a narrator frustrates me. Especially when they just don’t seem to fit the characters.

Thanks for sharing, Bob! 🙂

29 12 2012
montsamu

I keep wanting to pick up this audiobook (Barnes and Due) but the narration sample just doesn’t sit right at all to me, even “Disney Channel Black” isn’t what I’m hearing.

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