Read by Sean Runnette
Length: 11 Hrs 13 Min
Genre: Science Fiction
Quick Thoughts: While Indian Hill is often uneven, scattershot, full of disturbing situations, immature writing and cardboard action, Tufo’s engaging story telling style ultimately saves the day.
Sometimes, when I read a book, I wonder if something may just be a bit off about me and a large percentage of the world as well. We often will read a book where people are put in horrible situations, forced to do horrible things, and call it entertainment. We often scoff with disgust at the mindless masses who cheer for the death and dismemberments in such books as The Hunger Games, yet, we too are getting entertainment from these stories. I often wonder, if there was ever an American Gladiators program, where the Gladiator’s fought to the death, how many of these people who are shocked by the events in Battle Royale, or The Running Man, would be tuning in. I read a review of The Hunger Games movie where the reviewer talked about her discomfort with the cheering of the audience when children, even though they weren’t Katniss, were killed. She wondered how closely the audience of the movie matched that of those cheering in the capital, all as pawns of the game. This made me think. Does the fact that I enjoy books where characters are forced to kill each other mean I lack some sort of empathy, or are on some level a hypocrite? I am also big fans of the TV show Survivor, where people lie, cheat and betray their closest allies all in the name of a big check and an arbitrary title. So, does this make me like one of the screaming fans, cheering for the young men walking to their death in The Long Walk? I don’t know if, in a future dystopia, I would be one of the brainless hordes, and I’m glad that it’s not a decision I have to make. Yet.
I really wasn’t sure what to think of Indian Hill, Mark Tufo’s Gladiatorial style science fiction tale featuring one of the alternate world versions of his stock character Michael Talbot. I am familiar with Michael Talbot through Tufo’s Zombie Fallout series and wasn’t sure if this Michael Talbot was supposed to be the same character from that series. Well, it wasn’t. I assume Tufo has created this character, and placed versions of him in many parallel worlds, often becoming the centerpiece in a fight for humanity. In Indian Hill Michael Talbot is just a typical, every day beer drinking, skirt chasing college student, in a stormy relationship with the girl of his dreams. One day, on a "just friends" date to Red Rocks, he and the entire audience are taken aboard an alien space ship where the men are forced to battle each other in gruesome gladiatorial style fights to the death. While Indian Hill is often uneven, scattershot, full of disturbing situations, immature writing and cardboard action, Tufo’s engaging story telling style ultimately saves the day. As I said in my less than glowing review of his Zombie Fallout novella Dr. Hugh Mann, Tufo is a no hold barred writer, who tells stories he believes fans want to read, without worrying about arbitrary things like editorial acceptance and literary value. So, for each book, he has just as much opportunity to write a fan pleasing winner as writing a head shaker. I had a lot of problems with Indian Hill. The novel is told in two parts, and the beginning was a solid, Stephen King style coming of age story with the latter part the science fiction, alien story. While both parts were interesting, it created an uneven feeling to the book in whole. I found the actions scenes to lack Tufo’s typically detailed choreography giving them a muddy, depthless feel. Some of the big fights came off rushed, leaving me under whelmed. I also was a bit disturbed by both the sexual violence towards women, although for the most part off camera, as well as the reward system harems. I understand what Tufo was doing, but it still left me uncomfortable. I felt like he was trying to use these situations to create strong women characters, yet it never was fully realized, missing an opportunity. Yet, despite these many issues, I ended up enjoying the raw style of the tale. Tufo is a storyteller, and this aspect of his writing never fails, just can often be muted by other issues. As a fan, you can’t help but to be drawn into this version of Michael Talbot. I like that here, Talbot wasn’t some badass former marine, but just some dumb ass kid who discovered a sort of cunning he never expected. I am quite interested to see where Tufo takes this tale, and how his evolution as a writer will progress. No matter what issues I may have had, I’m a fan of Mark Tufo and his twisted alter ego Michael Talbot.
Sean Runnette is the voice of Mark Tufo and Michael Talbot. In Indian Hill Runnette gives another strong performance delivering the quirky characters that jump off of Tufo’s page. Now, I have to admit, it’s a little strange at times, remembering that this isn’t the Michael Talbot from Zombie Fallout and having Sean Runnette makes that struggle all the more hard. Yet, Runnette really shines in the early part of the novel, with a younger, more naive Michael, and capturing the complex emotions hiding behind all the snark and bluster. Runnette helps smooth out some of the pacing issues, delivering a solid science fiction tale, with lots of humor. Fans of Mark Tufo’s previous audiobooks will know they are in the solid hands of a gifted reader.
Note: Thanks to Tantor Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.