Audiobook Review: Feedback by Robison Wells

29 10 2012

Feedback by Robison Wells (Benson Fisher, Bk. 2)

Read by Michael Goldstrom

Harper Audio

Length: 7 Hs 13 Min

Genre: Young Adult Thriller

Quick Thoughts:Feedback is an effective follow up to Variant, bringing it all together with an ending that works. Even if you struggle with the ending, the journey there is impressive, full of great characters, disturbing situations and an overall feeling that you never know what’s behind the next turn. There will be people out there who may nitpick it to death, but, for me, I just enjoyed the heck out of this fun story.

Grade: B+

I have mixed feelings about cliffhangers. I understand why they are used so often. They create not just a sense of anticipation, but a need for the next book to come out so that some plot point can be resolved. Yet, in my opinion, I find most cliffhanger endings to be frustrating. I think it’s because, as the name suggest, most cliffhangers end in the manner of some character hanging from a cliff. The characters are left in a situation that is dire, or one character may possibly be dead. Often time, cliffhanger endings are more of a sense of suspense for the characters within a book. The fate of a character is left up in air, but often times, the reader is pretty well sure that the character is alive, or will survive. It’s more just a matter of how. Yet, occasionally, there are just some really good cliffhangers. I think a good cliffhanger changes the very nature of the book. An affective cliffhanger will not just leave you questioning about where the story is going, but has you reevaluating the current book. It doesn’t take some life threatening situation, but often just a subtle occurrence. For example, despite how it turned out, I thought that the Hatch cliffhanger at the end of season one of Lost was great. It left you not just anticipating the next season, but wondering about the very nature of the island itself. One of my favorite cliffhanger endings of last year was in Robison Well’s Variant. It was a wonderful reveal, leaving many questions not just about what will happen in Feedback, but challenging any assumptions you may have made about Variant. Of course, no matter how skilled the cliffhanger ending, the writer still needs to make it payoff.

I always hate when an author will create an open ended situation at the end of one novel, then pussy foot around before getting us back where they left us off. Well, luckily, Robison Wells doesn’t waste any time in Feedback, he throws us right back into the story where he left us off. I really don’t want to get too much into the plot of Feedback, because Variant is a novel you should experience fresh, and I don’t want to risk any spoilers, however minor. That being said, there is a markedly different tone in Feedback. Wells moves us from the school setting, to an almost frontier town feel. While the Lord of the Flies feel of the tale still exists, it obviously has moved in a new direction, adding an almost budding rebellion element that you can experience in dystopian novels. While neither Variant nor Feedback is a true dystopic tale, there are common elements that exist, and fans of dystopian novels will find a lot to love in this series. Fans of Variant may struggle with the new setting. I for one loved it. It gave the story a new angle instead of repeating the old themes, yet it used elements of Variant skewed in an interesting new way. There is an almost dissonant feel to Feedback. It feels like a new pair of shoes, comfortable, but maybe just a bit off. Many of the characters you knew in Variant return, but in a slightly altered way, that leads to a sense of uncertainty that permeates the whole story. This was something I loved about Feedback. You could never be comfortable, and even when you feel you have it all figured out, you just know you can’t trust your instincts. Now, the ending. I feel the ending itself will be controversial. It requires a bit of open mindedness and suspension of disbelief, but I feel that the twists in Variant prepped the reader for this well. While I didn’t love the ending, I did like it. It felt to me like the only way the book could really end. It answered all my nagging questions, at least in a way that you can argue a way around any inconsistencies. In fact, there was a point where I said to my self, "Really, the only thing it could be is _______," then talked myself out of it. Feedback is an effective follow up to Variant, bringing it all together with an ending that works. Even if you struggle with the ending, the journey there is impressive, full of great characters, disturbing situations and an overall feeling that you never know what’s behind the next turn. There will be people out there who may nitpick it to death, but, for me, I just enjoyed the heck out of this fun story.

Narrator Michael Goldstrom has a great narrative voice, and uses it to effectively bring Robison Well’s world to life in vivid detail. It’s strange, sometimes I find the narrators with the “Golden Voice” or whatever you want to call it, can sometimes give a novel a cold feeling. I like a narrator to have a pleasant voice, but I don’t want to feel like I am just being read to by a professional voice over actor. With Feedback, I never felt like I was simply being told a story, but experiencing a world. Goldstrom perfectly voices a cast full of young adult characters with authenticity. There is a large cast here, yet it seems like each character’s voice came through. The reading was also well paced, especially one frantically paced disturbing scene that still leaves me with chills. While I was happy that Wells offered us a completed series, with a satisfying ending, I really think I will miss these characters that Wells and Goldstrom have brought to life over the course of these two entertaining books.

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

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