Audiobook Review: Mutated by Joe McKinney

19 12 2012

Mutated by Joe McKinney (Dead World, Bk. 4)

Read by Todd McLaren

Tantor Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 56 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Mutated is a great example of how a series can come together. For fans of this series, it’s like each previous novel was the wrappings and Mutated is the reward. A fun, furious Zombie tale with hidden depths and wonderfully flawed characters that Zombie and Apocalyptic fans shouldn’t miss.

Grade: A-

As we all know, the world is ending. You see, years ago, the Mayans had a crack team of astrophysicists, and experts on all sorts of sciencey whosumwhatsit, and used their vast stores of knowledge, with plenty of help from other worldly or extraterrestrial temporal drifters to make a calendar. Now, the Mayan’s were a frugal bunch, and didn’t believe in wasting anything from stone tablets to the entrails and marrow of their fallen enemies, and knowing through their calculations and hints from inter-dimensional Lizard Men exactly when the earth would be destroyed they saw no point in expanding the calendar past this date, Also, being stingy with their information, they decided not to actually write down how the world would end, knowing that exiled Nordic gods from Ragnarok would use that information to tip the balance between order and chaos. Now, we can only speculate to how the world will be thrown into chaos. Perhaps a global shifting of tectonic plates causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Maybe a freakish alignment of bodies within our solar system will force the shifting of our polar axis leading to a reversal of gravity briefly flushing humanity into space. Or, just maybe, the Lizard Men will open a portal to an alternate dimension, allowing Cthulhu and the Great Old One into our dimension to snack on our souls. The only thing I am sure of is that it won’t be Zombies. That would just be ridiculous. Zombies are made up creatures, and authors have full license to do with them as they please, whether they walk or run, moan or speak, shamble or even drive a car, Zombies basically just need to be sort of deadish and it’s all good. Because, Zombie, unlike Lizard Men, only exist in fiction and won’t be responsible for the Mayan Apocalypse.

Mutated is the latest entry in Joe McKinney’s Dead World series, which, in my book, is one of the more comprehensive and unique look at a Zombie Apocalypse. McKinney examines his changed world through a series of interconnected Zombie novels and novellas, that, while each entry in the series stands well on it’s own, all come together to create McKinney’s true vision. In Mutated, McKinney takes us past the initial breakout, and the collapse of society, to give us the first true Post Apocalyptic look at his world. While some communities have managed to create strongholds, an army lead by a mysterious Red Man is ravaging the landscape, using the undead as weapons against the living. Ben Richardson has spent the years since the initial outbreak traveling the country collecting stories for the definitive book on the Zombie outbreak, acting as a passive observer. Yet, when he comes upon an old acquaintance in jeopardy, he gets involved. He discovers that this group, along with an immature young man they meet along the way, may hold the key to finding a solution to the zombie scourge. While Mutated works well on its own, it pulls together many tangents from the past books in a way that really pays off for readers of the series. The Dead World really stands out with it’s depiction of the evolution of zombies. Many books have tackled this angle, but few have explored it with such depth as McKinney. McKinney creates a brilliant parallel between the devastated land, with its abandoned buildings and empty cities and the very nature of the Zombies themselves. Also, the characters in Mutated are better fleshed out than in his other entries to the series. McKinney gets us right into the head of his characters, exploring their motivations and base natures of these people. His group of unlikely heroes are flawed and frustrating, yet together as a group, become greater than themselves. McKinney does a great job here with his action scenes, including a finale that will leave you breathless. McKinney pulls back for these scenes, giving us multiple perspectives, intricately choreographed so that these scenes aren’t just a record of what happened, but an experience you share with the characters. It’s wonderfully done, and a whole lot of fun. Mutated is a great example of how a series can come together. For fans of this series, it’s like each previous novel was the wrappings and Mutated is the reward. A fun, furious Zombie tale with hidden depths and wonderfully flawed characters that Zombie and Apocalyptic fans shouldn’t miss.

Todd McLaren continues his solid work on this series. He brings the right amount of saltiness to a wide range of characters, from militia members and older smugglers to the undead themselves. His performance of the Red Man is spot on, with a slurred mumbling voice that still manages to drip with venom. Yet, the best part of McLaren’s performance is his handling the grand choreographed scenes of battle against both human and zombie hordes. McLaren careful pacing and cadence brings the right amount of tension to the scenes, while still keeping them from getting muddled. McLaren shifts focus like McKinney, capturing the kinetic pace within the hordes, while describing the scenes from the outsider perspective with deliberate pace. Mutated and The Dead World series stands out in the crowded sea of Zombie Audiobooks, and the pairing of McLaren and McKinney once again proves to be an excellent team.

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

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18 01 2013

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