Audiobook Review: Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna

5 10 2012

Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna

Read by Ralph Lister

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 5 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Breakdown is a novel I highly recommend to fans of post apocalyptic fiction. While it may frustrate you at times, it is a realistic look at the psychological effects that the choices a survivor may need to make will have long term. Full of wonderful characters and a well drawn world, Breakdown is a good change of pace novel for apocalyptic fans looking for something slower and more introspective.

Grade: B

While so many Post Apocalyptic novels have focused on the brutality and adventure of surviving the Apocalypse, few have taken on the traumatic psychological effects that an apocalyptic survivor may suffer from. So often in the apocalyptic novels, the main goal is to find safety, a defensible place where you and your group are able to thrive. Yet, what happens when you find that place, when you finally can spend moments in safety reflecting on just what you did to survive this harsh new reality. When I first started Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna, I expected it to be your typical post plague apocalypse, but it wasn’t. I think fans of the subgenre often forget how much of a toll having so much stripped away, having loved ones die, and seeing everything that kept your society secure disappear. Just these aspects can be trying enough for a survivor. I’m sure that for many people, living without the niceties they have grown accustomed to in itself would have harsh psychological consequences. Add to this loss of life, and the actions you may need to take, and such a burden could become unbearable. How would this change you as a person? Would you be more open to others, realizing that the single loner is at a disadvantage in such a world, or would you close yourself off to new people, knowing they may be torn away from you at any moment?

Chris Price is a British ex-pat living in New York when the pandemic struck. With all that he holds dear to him torn away, Chris must find a way to travel back to England in search of what family he may have left. Six years later, he is psychologically ravaged, but home. With the brutality of his choices a constant burden, Chris tries to see if he can put it all behind him and perhaps find a life once again. I really have a lot of mixed feelings about Breakdown. I was fully engaged with the story, enjoying what it was. I liked the characters, and found the world that Hanna created to be interesting, if not just a bit pat. Yet, for me, what was left out of this tale affected me more than what made it in. Hanna created a detailed back story to Chris’s journey that included roving gangs, time at a monastery, a brutal see voyage, and dark days in London, yet all these stories were mere mentions as background and not explored with any sort of depth. Breakdown had the feel of a sequel to a novel never written, and sadly a lesser one. There were many interesting aspects of the novel, yet its focus was in repairing a broken man, and not about exactly what broke him. As a lover of good characters this was well done, as a fan of apocalyptic survival tales, this was frustrating. It seemed as if Hanna was balancing a much better tale in front of us, but making us settle down with the simply good one. Now, my frustration shouldn’t keep you away from Breakdown. It is an interesting look at the impact people in horrible situation have to endure. If this was a sequel, I would be unquestionably raving about the follow up. Hanna definitely has valuable insights into the human mind, and, for those of you who like this sort of thing, throws in a bit of realistic romance to boot. Hopefully some day we may see a prequel to Breakdown, outlining Chris’s journey in more detail. She already has it pretty well outlined in Breakdown. Breakdown is a novel I highly recommend to fans of post apocalyptic fiction. While it may frustrate you at times, it is a realistic look at the psychological effects that the choices a survivor may need to make will have long term. Full of wonderful characters and a well drawn world, Breakdown is a good change of pace novel for apocalyptic fans looking for something slower and more introspective.

I was quite interested to give Ralph Lister a listen in this audiobook. I have experienced Lister’s narration a few times before, but mostly in Fantasy tales. He seems to have a penchant for over the top sarcastic hero types but Breakdown would require another skill all together. Luckily, this is a skill that Lister seems to have also mastered. Lister brings Chris Price to life in vivid detail. His subtle voicing of the main character brought forth the pain and frustration with excellent results. You could feel, at times, Chris hovering over the edge with Lister’s nuanced performance. Lister also handles the other characters well, including female and children characters.  Breakdown is a less action oriented tale than I have experienced in the past with Lister, and he brings that to bear in his pacing. Lister allows the characters to develop in a solemn pace, dealing out the insights in bits and chucks. It’s a wonderfully fitting performance that enhances the experience of this novel.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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

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2 responses

5 10 2012
russell1200

Yes. A sequel without a prequel. Uses a different mechanism, but it is a little like Oryx and Crake that way. You know the end result, but you want to see how it all got that way.

It is one of my favorites.

5 10 2012
Katy Hanna

Thanks so much for your lovely review. The prequel you want is contracted and in the works. Should be released before the end of 2013.

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