Audiobook Review: Goslings by J.D. Beresford

12 07 2013

Goslings by J. D. Beresford

Read by Matthew Brenher

Dreamscape Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 12 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Goslings is a fascinating, if somewhat scattershot, exploration of gender roles and collectivism in post plague England. Beresford explores many social issues in his look at the necessary rise of a British matriarchy. The plot is a bit unfocused, moving characters around as a means to explore his themes, more than creating a self contained story, yet, it still manages to be quite interesting.

Grade: B

I have to admit, despite the hours and hours upon hours I spend researching Post Apocalyptic fiction I had never heard of Goslings before it showed up on Dreamscape Audios catalogue. Shocked that a book featuring a worldwide pandemic that wiped out the majority of the world’s male population would somehow escape my notice, I had to grab it post haste. Goslings is perfect novel to rekick off my Welcome to the Apocalypse feature, because one of my goals with the feature is to examine classic Post Apocalyptic novels, since it seems Audible and other producers seems to be putting them out in as fast as they can secure the rights. I was fascinated by the concepts behind Goslings because, it examines the roles of the sexes, yet being written in 1935 is also a child of it’s time. One of my issues with older fiction is I have trouble determining what is satire and what is actually  just a product of the era it was written in. For example, I always was uncomfortable with the relationship between the main character and his African American neighbors in Alas, Babylon. Yet, for the 1950’s, it was actually quite progressive. What made it harder for Goslings, is I believe much of the book is satirical. Goslings was probably quite progressive in 1935, yet the language and concepts just drip with misogyny. Gosling’s younger daughters are painted as frivolous, because they like shopping and fashion, yet when one proves to be logical she is described as having masculine qualities. Yet, conversely, one character talks about how business men prey on women by manipulating fashion so they must buy the newest, hippest thing each season, then goes on to examine his own foppish nature. There are obvious satirical elements, it was just hart to pull them out of \the pervasive mentality of the 19030’s.

In Gosling’s a plague has ravished the world, killing off the majority of men, and now the women must find a way to survive on their own. When Mr. Gosling, one of the few men immune to the disease, finds greener pastures, he leaves his troublesome wife and daughters to fend for themselves. Not prepared for the changed world, they set out in search for a safe place and discover a collective community where women, along with one strange man, work together to find a way in the new world. Goslings is a fascinating, if somewhat scattershot, exploration of gender roles and collectivism in post plague England. Beresford explores many social issues in his look at the necessary rise of a British matriarchy. The plot is a bit unfocused, moving characters around as a means to explore his themes, more than creating a self contained story, yet, it still manages to be quite interesting. There is a lot of humor in the tale, particularly at the start with surly Mr. Gosling, and his relationship with his women. Mr. Gosling is a bit of a prat, shocked at the idea that his women could ever survive without the help of a man. Yet, when the end comes, he leaves his troublesome ladies because they won’t risk their lives to head out and find him tobacco. While the set up is seems to be about gender roles, I think Beresford’s true goal is the exploring the ability of humankind to better themselves through social collectivism and fixing the mistakes of the past. While he explores interesting gender issues, the mentality of his time bleeds in. The most successful communities of women, all surround a particularly skilled male, who can direct them. In the Gosling daughter’s community, the main male is a resourceful gentleman who isn’t interested in sex. He encourages the females by explaining that they need to act like men now. It often feels like Beresford is saying that women can do just fine without men, as long as the put behind girly things like flirting, clothes and religion. He seems to believe that women may be better stewards of humanity because their malleable nature is more open to change and collectivism. Luckily, the overall story is quite fun, and while the ending seemed a bit too easy, I enjoyed the experience. Gosling’s is a fun little book, with an interesting post apocalyptic setup and some intriguing and often goofy characters along the way.

I was actually a bit surprised that Matthew Brenher, a male, was cast to read this novel where most of the males die. Yet, Brenher may have been the perfect choice for Goslings. He reads the book as if it was a true satire, capturing the often absurd moments with a tongue in cheek smirk that seemed to say, “Ah… these people. Can you believe them?” He actually was quite skilled at female voices, creating a slew of believable female characters of all ages. Despite the dated language, he gave the book a modern accessible feel the is often lacking in audio versions of older books. He had a crisp, sure reading style that made the book a lot of fun to listen to. While the book itself was a bit all over the place, Brenher’s reading never was, and his performance made any problems with the overall book seem trivial.

Thanks to Dreamscape Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

Note: This review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse series. Click on the banner below for more posts.

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Audiobook Review: The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information

31 12 2012

The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information

Read by Avery Sandford and June Bunt

Hachette Audio

Length: 3 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: All Knowledge That Exists

Quick Thoughts: If like me, you are looking for the definitive collection of all of the universe’s information in an easy to use, 4 hour long audiobook, in order to impress the ladies, The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information may be a disappointment. The Onion, known for its comprehensive style, vigorous fact checking, and inexpensive newspaper printed on tasty jerky style paper, may just have dropped the ball here. If you are looking for laughs due to the sheer audacity and incompetence of some of the entries, well, you might have something here.

Grade: Incomplete

As a connoisseur of audiobooks I only have about 50-60 hours in any given week for listening purposes, so I must be conscientious of what I stick into my earholes. Because of this, I spend a good portion of every day carefully considering what I will listen to, weighing in my personal preferences, what I feel the reader(s) of my blog would like me to review, and what pretentious titles I can brag about to impress the ladies, just incase I am ever invited to one of those high society parties I occasionally read about in said pretentious titles. So, despite the fact that I almost only read fictional titles, I decided to take a chance at a nonfiction title, The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information, for two reasons. First off, I used to be a total news junky, reading the newspaper, magazines, watching the daily local broadcasts and waiting patiently for the town crier.  Yet, I became disheartened by the unethical behavior of the modern news source, whether it be the political slants of nation news outlets, the influence of prominent local businessmen on the local news, or the vendetta of the local town crier due to one unfortunate case of food poisoning. Then I discovered The Onion who offered news that no one else would carry without the hampering of political slant or adherence to governmental fairness doctrines. The Onion brought me straightforward commentary on the rise of witchcraft among Harry Potter Fans as well as the often misinformed, potentially racist ramblings of the everyman who has the right to have their thoughts shared with the world simply for walking in the general vicinity of an Onion reporter. The second reason I decided on this title is simple, one of my life goals has always been to know everything. I consider myself knowledgeable and well read, yet occasionally, at parties and such, I find someone who knows something that I don’t. This really is unacceptable. If someone knows something, I should know something. I mean, I am not going to get lucky with the ladies based on my looks or charming personality, so all I have left are the facts. I believed that The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information would be just the thing that would give me an edge up with the ladies who don’t judge a potential mate on good looks or charm. Or Money. Or a pleasant singing voice. Well, I digress. Or focus.

I must admit, despite my love for The Onion and desire to be accepted by this fine enterprise as a peer, I came away disappointed with The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information. When I first began, I was so excited that all of the world’s knowledge would be delivered to me in less than 4 hours in audiobook form. Yet, I was surprised that this supposedly Unabridged Version skipped over some very important topics, like The Netherlands, Cheese (Fondue or Not Fondue), Unitarianism, and Flatulence. I also felt many of their entries were less that complete. For instance, the entry on John Wilkes Booth went on and on about his career as an actor and his performances, but never mentioned the most important fact about him, that he appeared this season as a character on the BBC America TV series Copper. This definitive book of Knowledge often broke away from its role as an Encyclopaedia, and offered values judgments, even comparing the assholes of Philadelphia, my home and brothers in assholery, to the assholes in Boston. Any Philadelphia knows we are more akin to Midwestern assholes from cities like Cleveland and Detroit to those jackholes from Boston who can’t pronounce a simple r sound. I also had to look with some levels of skepticism at their claims for the origins of many of the letters. Well, more like boredom. Why didn’t they just shut up about R and get onto the important topics like The Rapture, its date and just how Christian I have to be to actually not get left down here on earth with the losers? Now, there were come excellent moments to the audiobook. Their handling of the Literature entries and giving each of the three categories Fiction, Non-Fiction and Stephen King comprehensive focus was refreshing. Also, their appreciation for the fine work of The America Folk Art Museum was moving. Yet, too many problems just saturated the text. Their tactful attempts to handle religion led to offending people who believe that their religion is the right one and everyone else is doomed to eternal torment in a fiery pit with demons and thusly alienating a key demographic. Also, their obvious distain for other sources of information like Almanacs, dictionaries and informational pamphlets just came off petty. So, if like me, you are looking for the definitive collection of all of the universe’s information in an easy to use, 4 hour long audiobook, in order to impress the ladies, The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information may be a disappointment. The Onion, known for its comprehensive style, vigorous fact checking, and inexpensive newspaper printed on tasty jerky style paper, may just have dropped the ball here. If you are looking for laughs due to the sheer audacity and incompetence of some of the entries, well, you might have something here.

The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information was narrated by two skilled voice artists, Avery Sanford who handled the masculine entries and June Bunt who handled the feminine entries. While they both had strong voices I had mixed feelings about their performances. Avery and June blended a strong matter of fact new style reminiscent of the greats of American broadcasting with whiney douchebaggery. While I can appreciate whiney douchbaggery in a fictional literary title about Trust Fund kids whose parents cut them off after they discover them with an once of weed, or even in a cutting edge nonfiction title about Dallas Cowboy fans who have never even been to Texas, but when reading Encyclopaedia Entries it makes me want to bludgeon them with a baseball bat autographed by Phillies Hall of Fame Third Baseman Mike Schmidt. Yet, despite the fact that they could seem like douchebags, and may have been hopped up on pharmaceuticals, there were also some touching moments, like Avery’s emotional reading of the classic poem “Lonely” to June’s…. well, I’m sure June did something good as well. Overall, I listened to almost four hours of their clapptrappery and by the time I finished my eardrums were not ruptured, and what more can you ask for from two audiobook narrators?





Audiobook Review: Swarm by B. V. Larson

28 12 2012

Swarm (Star Force, Book 1) by B. V. Larson

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Swarm is simple, escapist military science fiction fun. Larson writes with a "what the hell, let’s go for it" style that’s reminiscent of a train hopping a track and running into a truck full of fireworks in front of a car full of clowns. Don’t expect lots of depth, but do expect plenty of huge robotic sandworms killing off tons of enhanced super soldiers.

Grade: B

So, some things you should know about me. I have never been abducted by aliens. I have never been taken aboard any sort of ship, whether terrestrial or extraterrestrial and had my anus probed to learn important things about our species. I ha’ve seen the images that come from colonoscopies, and I’m not sure exactly how that helps, and have to wonder why the aliens don’t just hack into a doctor’s system and download intra-anal images, and not worry about getting their hands dirty. I have seen plenty of UFO’s, but, let’s face it, there are plenty of flying objects out there that I just can’t identify either because of ignorance, or just my poor vision. Now, I believe that there very well may be aliens out there, but I can’t help but wonder why they would bother to even come to Earth. Now, the biggest reason used among science fiction novels has been the mysterious collection of "resources." Now, I am not fancy smancy asteroid physics sciencey guy, but that sort of seems to me like flying to Turkey for a pack of Camels in a world full of 7-11’s. What resources does Earth have, that the thousands of planetary flotsam and jetsam along the way don’t? And if earth is full of these awesome natural resources, can they only be detected through the anuses of drunk rural bumpkins? Why not just use the kinetic force of a really big rock, smash earth to pieces then collect what’s there? Yet, despite all these issues, I love alien invasion stories, whether they are lizard men, little gray dudes, or robot collectives. This is mostly due to the one reason I think would give a valid explanation for inter planetary contact, curiosity, even if it did kill the psychic tree cat.

Unbeknownst to humanity, there is a vast war going on between large Macro Machines, and an alien species that uses a swarm of nanomachines to fight them. These nanomachines called Micros are in search of flesh and blood operators to help fight the machines, whether they want to or not. Now, the Macros are heading towards Earth, and the Swarm has arrived kidnapping people off the face of the planet, and putting them through a series of test, which if failed, those tested are discarded to lethal affects. Kyle Riggs has passed their test, and now must battle the coming Enemy while trying to keep their mysterious new allies from destroying humanity.  Swarm is a fun filled action pack military science fiction thriller full of high stake battles, over the top characters and plenty of humor. Now, I’ll be honest, looking back at Swarm, there are just tons of head shakily inconsistent moments in the story, but the story is so damned fun, you don’t even think about them while in the midst of all the action. Kyle Riggs is a totally cool character, if you discount his flawed persona, ability to shrug off things like the murder of his children and his total superhero, Mary Sue-ishness. Larson writes with a "what the hell, let’s go for it" style that’s reminiscent of a train hopping a track and running into a truck full of fireworks in front of a car full of clowns. It’s just too over the top to be realistic, but crazy enough that I just didn’t really care if it made sense. Larson does a great job of making things explode, developing bad ass ways for robots to kill us and for us to kill robots, and filling his characters with a blend of testosterone, bravado and paranoia. Swarm reminded me of a less nuanced version of John Ringo’s Posleen War series, which is like saying a bunker buster bomb is a less nuanced version of a tactical nuke. Moving forward, I hope to see more character development, a deeper look into the enemies and allies Earth makes, a bit more tactical reason to the battle scenes beyond a "kill them all" attitude and female characters that serve as more than just the sexy conscious of the men.  Yet, I have no doubt I will be moving forward with this series.  Swarm is simple, escapist military science fiction fun. Don’t expect lots of depth, but do expect plenty of huge robotic sandworms killing off tons of enhanced super soldiers.

The positive thing about Mark Boyett’s performance is his no hold barred approach to reading Swarm. The negative thing about Mark Boyett’s performance is his no holds barred approach to reading Swarm. Boyett takes on these characters with an abandon which adds a sense of excitement to the production, but also forces a bad caricature feel onto many of the characters. In many ways, Boyett gave the novel a graphic novel feel, with his over the top accents and rapid fire pacing. I think his reading totally fit the book. There is no need to tone it down as Riggs and his boys are dropping nukes and fighting killer robots in the Amazon Basin. Yet, sometimes, particularly during the moments that were supposed to be Rigg’s introspective and emotional moments, Boyett’s style muted the emotional impact. Yet, those moments are pretty sparse, so we get quickly back to the fighting which Boyett delivers wonderfully. Swarm is a great audiobook for those moments when you just want to lean back, and listen to something explody and violent. Or, what I like to call, Thursday.





Audiobook Review: Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey

24 12 2012

Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey (Book 2 of The Expanse)

Read by Jefferson Mays

Recorded Books

Length: 19 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: From the very first page, Caliban’s Wake had me enthralled. It’s a second novel that doesn’t suffer from the tradition second novel’s fate. It’s has a fully contained story, new characters that actually enhance the story and true emotional impact through a realistic portrayal of broken characters. Fans of Leviathan Wakes should not hesitate to jump into this latest tale of the Expanse, and for those new to the world, what are you waiting for?

Grade: A-

Leviathan Wakes was a novel last year that I listened to mostly because it was nominated for ALL THE AWARDS, most particularly in the science fiction category of the Audies. Well, that, and because the novel had Vomit Zombies. Honestly, if it wasn’t nominated for an Audie, and wasn’t on my list as a participant in the Armchair Audies event, I’m not sure I would have listened to the novel. While I love science fiction, the description of the novel didn’t really capture me. I’m actually less of a Hard Scifi guy that most fans, and tend to like more explody, almost pulpish scifi, over intricate space operas and wasn’t sure where Leviathan Wakes fell within the genre. Yet, I ended up listening to it, and liked it. Liked it, not loved it. It took me a while to engage with the story, to get a handle on the characters and become invested in the world. Simply put, I found the beginning kinda meh, and the ending pretty kickass. So, when Caliban’s Wake first came out, I was excited for it, yet, there was a delay between when the print version came out, and all my favorite Speculative fiction bloggers were raving about it, and when the audio version came out. In that two month delay, my enthusiasm began to wane. I think I started to realize that rarely does a second novel improve over the first. In fact, far too often a first novel holds a pretty self contained story, and then the second novel serves almost as a set up novel for the trilogies conclusion, leaving us with some sort of cliffhanger, and not offering a satisfying conclusion. So, although I snatched up the audio pretty quickly, it took a while to go from recent purchase to an active place on my listening schedule.

Caliban’s War finds the crew of the Rocinante working for The Outer Planet’s Alliance hunting Space Pirates. Yet, when a strange incident on Ganymede leads Jim Holden to believe his boss has broken his trust and released a violent pathogen, the crew must find a way to uncover what happens, and search for a missing girl who may hold the keys to the conflict. Caliban’s War is the rare second book in a trilogy that actually improves over its predecessor in every way. While Leviathan Wakes spent a great deal of time intricately developing the complicated politics of Corey’s near future world, Caliban’s War jumps right into the action and never slows down. Yet, Caliban’s Wake isn’t just about Space Monsters, large scale battles and thrilling rescues, Corey gives us a glimpse of the changed Earth and its culture without dragging down the pace. Corey introduces a new character to the mix, Mar’s Marine Bobbi Draper that helps provide deeper incite into both Mars and Earth. Some of my favorite scenes were when Bobbi encounters the culture of Earth, trying to figure out how much of what she has been told about Earth is true and how much is just Martian propaganda. Filtering these scenes through Bobbie’s perspective gave us an outsider’s perspective, seamlessly integrating this bit of world building into the plot. Along the way Bobbi meets up with a powerful Earth politician, another new POV character Chrisjen Avasarala, whose political machinations only enhanced the story. So often when new characters are added to a series, I find myself longing to get back to those who I have already developed a relationship with, and this was often the case with the third new character, Prax, but with Bobbi and Avasarala, I was totally enthralled. Corey also does a good job showing how the horrific events that Holden experienced in Leviathan Wake changed him, and how it affected his crew and his relationship with Naomi. In fact, there is a lot of emotional resonances to be found within the pages of breakneck action. These are not cardboard characters that can shake of death and devastation with a wink and a nod, and each member of the crew, as well as the new characters, bring their own issues to the story, giving it more depth that your typical space opera or military science fiction tale. From the very first page, Caliban’s Wake had me enthralled. It’s a second novel that doesn’t suffer from the tradition second novel’s fate. It’s has a fully contained story, new characters that actually enhance the story and true emotional impact through a realistic portrayal of broken characters. Fans of Leviathan Wakes should not hesitate to jump into this latest tale of the Expanse, and for those new to the world, what are you waiting for?

I’m not sure if it was just the fact that Caliban’s War was simply a more engaging tale, or some improvement by the narrator, but any reservations I had about Jefferson Mays performance in Leviathan Wakes was eliminated in Caliban’s War. Mays shows a total command over these characters. Mays particularly shines in his performance of new POV character Chrisjen Avasarala. Mays adds the right flavor to her voice, showing her strong character and acerbic wit. It is truly a highlight of the production. Mays pacing was pristine, he managed to make an almost 20 Hour audiobook feel too short. Yet, it wasn’t a perfect performance. There were a few scenes where his delivery didn’t match certain descriptive tags written into the story. For example, there were a few scenes a character is described as having “yelled” something, and it surprised me because Mays didn’t add anything, either in volume or urgency to those scenes. Mays uses a quiet confidence in his reading that usually worked, but at some moments his measured delivery muted key scenes. Yet, this minor complaint didn’t affect the overall feel of the book. Caliban’s War took a series I was interested in, and excited me enough to make the concluding novel Abaddon’s Gate one of my most anticipated science fiction novels of 2013.





Audiobook Review: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

21 12 2012

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Read by Todd Haberkorn

Brilliance Audio

Length: 6 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Monument 14 is a whole lot of fun. It’s an Apocalyptic Breakfast Club, the end of the world as appears on The CW. You may not find a whole lot of hidden depths to the tale, but what you will find is a teenage apocalyptic fantasy that could be this generation’s version of Z for Zachariah.

Grade: B

When I was a kid I developed a lot of Post Apocalyptic Fantasies. For the most part, these fantasies revolved around what I would do when The Rapture came, and little sinful pre-teen Bob was left behind as his more godly family members went to heaven to be with Jesus. My first plan was to go to New Life Island, a Christian camp I spent many summers at as a kid. I thought it would be the perfect place to hole up during the Great Tribulation. First off, being a Christian Camp, it should be totally abandoned. There would be plenty of unused buildings and leftover canned supplies to keep me going for 7 years. Secondly, I knew a lot of great hiding places. So when the Antichrist and his legions showed up to put his mark on my right hand or forehead, I’d know where to hide. My second plan was basically to lock myself into a huge mall or department store. Now, as an adult I see the folly of this plan, but as a kid, particularly a poor kid, the mall, or Kmart was like an elicit heaven of things other kids had that we didn’t. The ability to gorge on non-generic brand cookies, or spend hours playing the high tech Atari 2600 game system would make the Apocalypse just fly by. I mean, hell, it’s the Apocalypse. Armageddon is at hand when Christ and his army will take it to the Devil. So, while Gog and Magog are being destroyed, and the Abomination of Desolation was taking place, I might as well have a bit of fun before being called before God to answer for all my youthful lusting and occasional swear word.

Dean was just a normal, quiet, unimposing kid who had a crush on the popular girl, was occasionally bullied, and spent much of his time writing in his journal. Then, one day on the bus heading to school, huge hail rains down, causing the bus to crash. Now, a group of kids hole up in a department store, locked in, as they watch the world start to come apart around them. Monument 14 was a fun, surface level Young Adult Apocalyptic novel that the 15 year old version of me would have absolutely loved. The older more mature version didn’t find it half bad. Emmy Laybourne writes in a pretty straight forward accessible style relying heavily of classic teenage caricatures. Amongst the cast of characters you have the popular girl, the jock, the mysterious new kid, the bully, and the young rebellious girl who wants all the older boys to find her sexy and while some of the characters are a bit underdeveloped, you can’t help but recognize them. The disaster set up is actually pretty well done and interesting. Along with natural disasters resulting from a huge Volcanic event, an accidentally release of a biological agent adds a unique spin to the tale. Another unique aspect is the inclusion of a group of elementary school kids that the older kids must care for. This provided a lot of humor and "oh so sweet" moments to the story as well as a bit of tension building annoyance. The story is told through the perspective of bookish Dean who serves as the perfect narrator for the tale, combining his teenage angst with the observational detail of a writer. You can’t help but want to cheer for the unassuming kid, while he pines for the girl, deals with the bully and just tries to survive and do the right thing. Monument 14 is a whole lot of fun. It’s an Apocalyptic Breakfast Club, the end of the world as appears on The CW. You may not find a whole lot of hidden depths to the tale, but what you will find is a teenage apocalyptic fantasy that could be this generation’s version of Z for Zachariah.

Until listening to the audiobook I had never heard of Todd Haberkorn. After listening, I discovered he is a rock star Anime Voice Over artist with a huge following. One of the hardest things for an audiobook narrator is to authentically portray children, particularly a large range of them. In Monument 14, Todd Haberkorn totally nails it. He brings the kids to life in a way that I think enhances the book. Haberkorn’s narration actually helps the book by assisting in the development of these characters. Each child comes alive, from the young twins to the Spanish speaking Ulysses, each one is voiced with authentic detail. Haberkorn gives the novel and almost cinematic feel. I swear there were times I forgot I was listening to an audiobook, and began expecting a musical montage scene of the group of kids cleaning the store, stocking shelves, and building up their sleeping areas. Yet, it wasn’t all fun and games, there were some tough, emotionally moments in this novel that Haberkorn handled with care. I had a lot of fun listening to Monument 14 and look forward to the sequel.

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





Audiobook Review: Zombie Fallout 3.5: Dr. Hugh Mann by Mark Tufo

20 12 2012

Zombie Fallout 3.5: Dr Hugh Man by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 42 Min

Genre: Zombie/Plague

Quick Thoughts: I really didn’t like Zombie 3.5, but luckily it is more of a background piece, creating a frame of reference for the history of the virus in the Zombie Fallout series. Plus, it’s short. So, even though I didn’t really like it, I say, if you are a fan of the series, go ahead and give it a listen. You may like it more than me and it does provide some interesting backstory on the virus and some of the characters.

Grade: C

So, I’m about to take a risk with my life, but, I have to be honest, I don’t think of Mark Tufo as a great writer. I think Mark is a great storyteller with an enthusiasm that bleeds into every word. I also believe that Mark is willing to take more risks than many other writers. One of the reasons Mark’s fans love him so much is that he writes for them, to tell them stories that he as a fan of the genres he works would love to read. He doesn’t hold back at all. If he decides that a brain sucking alien would simply just be awesome at this point in the story, then, some slimy green thing with brain sucking appendages will show up, damn the critics. This is something I like about Mark Tufo, but I also knew that it’s something that would eventually lead me to writing a less than stellar review of one of his works, because, in many ways, I like to think I’m a little like Tufo, and willing to write what I want despite knowing that it could lead to his legion of fans hunting me down and dismembering me. I think there is a great freedom with independent authors to simply write what they want to write. Those that do it well, and truly embrace their fans, dealing with them honestly and not just shilling at them, will find that genre fans are some of the most loyal people in the world. Yet, most writers will also tell you that not all ideas work, and more specifically, not all ideas work with all people. Sadly, this was the case for me with Mark Tufo’s Zombie Fallout Novella, Dr. Hugh Mann.

Zombie Fallout 3.5 tells the story of an early 20th century obsessive research scientist, who makes a discovery that captures the imagination of the public as well are the interest of shadowy governmental figures. Yet, when Dr. Hugh Mann realizes this this discovery could lead to tragic consequences, he must break out of his social awkwardness and figure away to keep a new deadly new weapon out of the hands of those who may use it. I totally appreciate what Mark Tufo was attempting to do with this story, but for me, it just came off kind of silly. Tufo’s patented humor and gift for the absurd is pushed to the extreme here, and some may enjoy it, but for some reason I was just unable to keep my head from shaking and my eyes from rolling. Listening to Dr. Hugh Mann reminded me of when your best friend finally meets your new friends and attempts to tell a really corny joke that just falls flats. You want to laugh to make it seem better than it was, but what you really want to do is hide in the bathroom and curl up like a baby. I also think that while the novella is positioned between Zombie Fallout 3 and 4, that people who have read book 4 probably would enjoy it more. I have yet to listen to Zombie Fallout 4, and some of the things that happen in this novella seems to play into a new plot thread that should be starting in that book. On the positive side, the middle of the novella, where the focus moves from Dr. Hugh Mann to his daughter, is much better and definitely provides a little more heart to the tale. Then, it sort of falls apart in the end with a segment at Area 51, but, that’s OK. Luckily, Dr, Hugh Mann is more of a background piece, creating a frame of reference for the history of the virus in the Zombie Fallout series. Plus, it’s short. So, even though I didn’t really like it, I say, if you are a fan of the series, go ahead and give it a listen. You may like it more than me and it does provide some interesting backstory on the virus and some of the characters.

So, Sean Runnette. He’s this guy that I know almost solely as the voice of Mark Tufo’s work. I see Runnette a bit like Michael Talbot, a bit goofy, a bit awkward, but he seems to get the job done. Runnette is best when he is bringing Michael Talbot to life, and since Michael isn’t a character in this isn’t the best way to experience Runnette’s work. Yet, he still manages to do a pretty good job with it. It’s obvious that Runnette knows and appreciates the world created by Tufo, and is able to consistently portray the characters, reminding you of their history. This is important for a background piece like this. Runnette manages to keep it feeling like a novel within this world, despite some of the overall weirdness of the story.





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.