Audiobook Review: V Wars edited by Jonathan Maberry

11 10 2012

V Wars edited by Jonathan Maberry

With stories by Jonathan Maberry, Nancy Holder, John Everson, Yvonne Navarro, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Scott Nicholson, Gregory Frost, and James A. Moore

Read by Stefan Rudnicki, John Rubinstein, Gabrielle de Cuir, Roxanne Hernandez, Lisa Renee Pitts, Arte Johnson, Cassandra Campbell, Wil Wheaton and Grover Garner,

Blackstone Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Vampire Shared World Anthology

Quick Thoughts: V Wars is a must for all horror fans, especially those seeking Vampires that are truly monsters. Maberry creates a horrific tapestry and then sets loose some of the most twisted minds of the horror genre. Each story works both as a self contained vision of some variant of Vampire mythos, while also expanding the overall world.  I for one hope that V Wars is only the first shot in the War to reclaim the Vampire.

Grade: A-

Is there any monster more polarizing within Horror fandom than the Vampire? Personally, I don’t think so. I, like many other horror fans, went through a period where I totally wrote off Vampires. Many people point at Stephanie Meyer’s as the Antichrist of Vampires, destroying a once beloved monster, but, in all honestly, I was pretty much off Vampires well before Twilight came out. As a kid, I loved Vampires. I read and reread Salem’s Lot and I Am Legend throughout my teenage years. Yet, I think seeing Tom Cruise being interviewed, as just one in a long line of charming, Euro-Vamps began my plummeting opinion of the inhuman bloodsucking beasts. I really didn’t want my monsters to become sex symbols. I think, this is why I turned full forced into a Zombie guy. Zombies are a monster that just is simply not sexy at all. There is no need for teen angst about whether that hot new boy that showed up in school may be a Zombie. If he’s not shambling, easting your tasty insides, and moaning while smelling like month old lunch meat, well, you probably just got one of the normal boys. Yet, I think recently, for me at least, The Vampire has had a bit of a resurgence. I think there has been a concerted effort among those who love Vampires, and remember them before they became the gothy crush worthy boy toys, to bring back the monsters that lurks at night. Jonathan Maberry is a big reason for my happy return to The Vampire legend. His Pine Deep Series reminded me that the stereotypical Vampire is only one example in a huge cache of Vampire Mythology. This resurgence of the monstrous Vampire is good, because it gives authors the ability to examine the humanity that still resides in these monsters, while not forgetting what they truly are. This is why Maberry’s shared world anthology V Wars, was a must have for me.

I think, with its title, and the imagery it brings, there will be a lot of people comparing V Wars to Max Brooks hit Zombie novel World War Z. While this comparison is quite apt, I feel V Wars is more in line with George Martin’s Wildcard series. As a shared world anthology, Maberry creates the ground rules with his set piece “Junk.” In “Junk,” Global Warming leads to the melting of the ice caps. A virus long frozen into the Glaciers is released, affecting human’s on a genetic level, triggering long dormant Junk DNA that contains codes from offshoots of humanity. These offshoots are the variants of Vampires that exist in our lore and legends. With this setting, Maberry has created a smorgasbord of opportunity for some of the top horror writers working today. There are eight stories within the pages of V Wars, and while they all stand alone, they connect together creating an overall vision of the world now changed by the introduction of these monsters.  My favorite stories include John Everson’s “Love Less”, where a tabloid TV anchorwoman discovers she in now a Wurdulak, a Russian Vampire variant that can only feed off people they have a close bond with.  In James A. Moore’s  “Stalking Anna Lei” we meet a Jiangshi, or Chinese hopping Vampire who is searching for his sister who he believe was captured by a green ghoulish Vampire that has been brutally murdering it’s opponents. This is a great example of what is so good about this anthology. When we think of Vampires, we don’t picture hairy, shape shifting cat faced monsters who are forced to hop due to rigor mortis, but this is one Vampire variant that has been forgotten in the slew of emo vampire stories.  Perhaps my favorite story of the collection is “The Ballad of Big Charlie” by Keith RA DeCandido. “The Ballad of Big Charlie” explores the changing political landscape of this new world, through the eye of those involved in the campaign of a Bronx DA, who discovers he is a Lugaru. I found this story to be fascinating because it examined the human reaction to the new offshoots more so than any other story in the novel. Now, I could go on a list all the other stories, because, there really isn’t a week one on the batch, but I won’t. V Wars is a must for all horror fans, especially those seeking Vampires that are truly monsters. Maberry creates a horrific tapestry and then sets loose some of the most twisted minds of the horror genre. Each story works both as a self contained vision of some variant of Vampire mythos, while also expanding the overall world.  I for one hope that V Wars is only the first shot in the War to reclaim the Vampire.

V Wars contains a virtual Dream Team of Rock Star narrators, who wondrously bring this tale to life. I was so excited to see some of my favorite horror authors finally get a chance to have their stories finally brought to audio. I practically geek squealed when I discovered one of my favorite horror authors, James A. Moore, was going to have his story read by one of my favorite audiobook narrators, Wil Wheaton. Stefan Rudnicki was the perfect choice to narrate Maberry’s Junk. Rudnicki sets the bar for each narrator high, and they all seem to rally around their leader and give wonderful performances. Gabrielle Du Cuir brings just the right amount of cold bitchiness to her reading of “Love Less” creating one of the more memorable characters of the anthology. Cassandra Campbell once again shows off her talent at accents and characterization in her reading of Gregory Frost’s “Vulpes.” V Wars also contained a new discovery for me in Lisa Renee Pitts, who gave a flavor filled performance of “The Ballad of Big Charlie” that had me scanning audiobook sites to see what else she has narrated. Add to this the excellent work of Roxanne Hernandez, John Rubinstein, Arte Johnson and even a brief appearance by Grover Gardner, and V Wars should be the audiobook event of the Halloween season.

Note: Thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. V Wars is currently available at Blackstone’s new download site, Downpour.



3 responses

11 10 2012
Jenn Lawrence (@jennbookshelves)

I’ll be featuring this one as well, either in print or in audio. Haven’t quite decided yet! I’m really excited to get to it, either way!

17 10 2012

Interesting. I was going to say that I hadn’t heard of this one, but now I see that it was only released a few days ago. It sounds like something I might try out. I haven’t read many anthologies in my life, but I recently decided that I ought to try them out.

4 01 2013
Sam’s listening report: October 2012 | The AudioBookaneers

[…] V Wars edited by Jonathan Maberry, with stories by Maberry, Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, James A. Moore, Gregory Frost, John Everson, Keith R. A. DeCandido, and Scott Nicholson, read by Cassandra Campbell, Gabrielle de Cuir,  Roxanne Hernadez, Arte Johnson, Lisa Reneé Pitts, John Rubinstein, Stefan Rudnicki, and Wil Wheaton for Blackstone Audio (review copy) — V Wars is a woven shared world anthology which chronicles the opening chapters of an outbreak of vampirism. It opens with a police procedural, a throughline story by Maberry which re-appears throughout theanthology, read by Stefan Rudnicki. Then Nancy Holder’s story opens well outside of town, a “biker gang with an undercover officer story” I really liked. I think that post-apoc desert kind of works for me for vampire stories, where more regular urban settings which are mostly undisturbed just don’t make sense to me. THERE ARE FREAKING VAMPIRES, SOCIETY DOESN’T WORK. Anyway. By the time the first chapter of Holder’s story is in the books and you’ve poked at the table of contents, a few things are already apparent. First, this is a gorgeous production, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Second, these authors have gone to the mattresses and really come through with depth of character and setting. In all, it reminds me more of the first two of GRRM’s Wild Cards anthologies, which interleaving stories and recurring, well-tied-together storylines coming back and forth, a cadre of authors on their A-game and on the same page under a demanding editor, produced fantastically into the audiobook format — though for the Wild Cards anthologies, narrator Luke Daniels is on his own, and here, Rudnicki has quite a few friends. Also, it has begun to become apparent that, like Justin Cronin’s The Passage and The Twelve, Maberry is taking a more serious (from a literary perspective) and fresh look at vampire mythology in terms of characterization and development. We don’t have shallow or archetypal characters or simple situations. The threaded Maberry story, “Junk” (for “junk” DNA) story continues, followed by a new story’s kick-off, a talk show host named Danica fairly obviously turning into a vampire. Let me interrupt this for another aside… Note: there are vampires, some kind of virus type thing. You or someone you know having strange symptoms, and dreaming of rare meat? CLUE STICK. Still, this turns out interesting, as Danica uses her talk show connections to bring on vampire experts and get questions answered. Then: More “Junk” read by Rudnicki; here we see the vampire expert and an imprisoned vampire patient zero, both mentioned in the Talk Show story. Another key stories which come and go and return are ”The Ballad of Big Charlie” which covers a (new) racially charged political campaign and ”Vulpus” by Gregory Frost, which sees its characters going glacier climbing and taking samples, giving more specific climate change / arctic ice melt origins for the virus outbreak, and sets up the age-old werewolves vs. vampires mythology. The most fun story — the one written with the brightest, boldest, most exotic colors — might be “Stalking Anna Lei” by James A. Moore, read by Wil Wheaton. From the first person perspective of John Lei, a fourth generation American from San Francisco, and also a vampire. Wheaton has a great voice for the “giant green ogre” who is brutally mutilating its kills and has kidnapped John’s sister and set John up for the murder of the leader of a rival Triad gang. Naturally John must track down this ogre, and more than one high-action confrontation between supernaturals ensues. Meanwhile the Maberry/Rudnicki storylines have evolved from “Junk” to “Escalation” and “Embedded”, and finally “Last Bites” which has vampire anthropologist Swan speculating that there are many, many more vampires in hiding, due to the over-reacting war started by the US government. More shades of Wild Cards here, with themes of citizen rights, protests, etc. The inter-leaving narratives work best (at least for me…) if you keep notes about storylines and characters, and give yourself a chance to refresh from those notes when the storyline changes, particularly for remembering “Roadkill” (Nancy Holder’s biker gang story) characters across half the audiobook. Very well produced, directed by Gabrielle de Cuir, with well-cast narrators across the storylines. It can read very much like a threaded novel, and is quite a success from the standpoints of excellent narration, production, and setting up this shared world, though we don’t see too much of these “Wars” promised by the title, at least not at scale. Maybe that’s to come. (Also check out The Guilded Earlobe’s review.) […]

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