Audiobook Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part 2 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

7 04 2014

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part 2 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Read by Fred Berman

Macmillan Audio

9 Hrs 35 Min

Grade: B

I’ll admit it, I was a little grumpy when I reviewed The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor PART FRIGGIN’ ONE. Maybe some of that grumpiness rubbed off or maybe it was the expected Ledger Lag that I experience after listening to the latest Joe Ledger novel, but The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor PART FRIGGIN’ TWO failed to captivate me as completely as the past entries in the series, in particular The Road to Woodbury. Not that it was bad, it wasn’t. For the most part, especially in it’s further development of the Lilly character and it’s intense battle at the jail, this was good stuff. Yet, it took a long time to develop. The bridge scenes between Part 1 and Part 2 seemed unnecessary. The early parts of the novel was full of unnecessary in your face foreshadowing that felt almost as insulting to the readers as television mood music. There was also a level of frustration that I think came from being more aware of the over all Walking Dead story arch. The authors do a good job at giving many of the Woodbury folk a heroic bent, and gave logical reasons for their hatred of Rick and Michone’s group, but I couldn’t help be feel a growing sense of frustration as these good people made obviously bad choices. At some point, you wanted someone to have an “Ah Ha” moment, but you knew it wasn’t happening. There is much unevenness to the Governor’s character in a storytelling sense. I felt his mounting instability should have been more evident to those around him, and being the brutal post apocalyptic world I struggles to see why some people would have continued following him. Heck, a simple ice pick through the other eye socket could have save a whole mess of people. On the positive side, the epic prison battle truly came alive, and the final moments of the Woodbury crew had true emotional impact. Bonansinga does the world justice, and despite some flaws delivers a solid exciting tale that should thrill fans of the series.

In this series, it has been the tale of two narrators with Fred Berman. I was less than delighted with his almost emotionless performance in The Rise of the Governor, complete with some annoying mispronunciations, but I thought he really stepped it up in The Road to Woodbury. In the overall Fall of the Governor arch, Berman does a solid job. Not as good as the second book, with a few weird pronunciations and small pacing issues, but when the book gets ramped up, Berman take in full force. His reading is worthy of the tale, and he gives the finale a much needed emotional boost. While I still don’t understand the decision to split the last book into two parts, The Walking Dead fans will definitely be pleased with the ending of the book series.





Audiobook Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

6 03 2014

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (The Southern Reach Trilogy, Bk, 1)

Read by Carolyn McCormick

Blackstone Audio

Length: 6 Hrs

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: B

There seemed to be a lot of excitement among people I respect about Annihilation, the newest book by Jeff VanderMeer. In fact, some of my favorite have been pushing me to give VanderMeer a go for awhile, and I have been hesitant. Yet, Annihilation sounded fascinating and something that was right up my particularly strange alley. Annihilation follows an expedition into a strange, mysterious land known as Area X. This excursion, by 4 unnamed scientists, is the latest in a series that all have ended in mystery or tragedy. Annihilation is beautifully written. It has a almost stream of consciousness feel and an extremely untrustworthy narrator, making everything feel just a little dreamlike and malleable. The novel is narrated by The Biologist, who jumps in time between the current excursion, and her experiences with her husband who had gone on the previous mission. Because of her personal ties to the experience, she holds back key details and commits many lies by omission, and her story is even more influenced by her personal experiences in Area X. While this added multiple layers and fascinating details to the tale, it also created a barrier between the narrator and the reader which I struggled to overcome. I never felt fully connected with her tale, and the constant shift between her running narrative, and her filling in details that she left out previously created an artificial feel to the story and the information being revealed. This sense of disconnect prevented me from fully buying into Annihilation, making it a book I admired more than actually enjoyed.

Carolyn McCormick was a wonderful choice to narrate this title. I always thought she was a bit miscast in the Hunger Games, but here she delivers a reading perfectly suited to the narrative. Somehow she manages to both be distant and engaging, delivering her reports with a clinical detachment, while capturing the complicated emotions of a introverted women unsure of how to handle the deteriorating relationship between her and her extroverted husband. I found myself relating much more with pre-expedition Biologist, that the one you meet inside the boundaries of Area X. While Annihilation didn’t always work for me, the brilliance of the writing and McCormick’s performance made it a worthwhile use of my time.

 

I reviewed this book as part of Audiobook Jukebox’s Solid Gold Reviewer program.





February Audiobook Report

4 03 2014

So, yes, the blog is starting to pick back up a bit, with fewer, more streamlined reviews, but if I have a groove, it’s slowly starting to come back. In February, I listened to 15 Audiobooks for just under 150 hours. Not too shabby for this abbreviated month full of winter’s fury. Overall, I think it was a pretty good month, with some zombies, bizarre changed lands and some of those nutty serial killing types. Here is a breakdown of what I listened to.

 

February Audiobooks I reviewed:

February Audiobooks With Reviews Coming Soon:

Zombie Audiobooks:

In an effort to prepare for Zombie Awareness month, I am trying to listen to some titles now to spread the zombie love over the next few months and not take on a horde of Zombie titles in one big chunk. Here of the Zombie titles I listened to in February. Expect reviews in May.

 

Repairman Jack:

I am currently working through F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series, and will also add in his Adversary Cycle (In Print and Audio) books as well. So far, what I have really enjoyed is that each new book despite having a shared mythology and a continuing character and storyline seems to be from different genres. You have SF, Urban Fantasy, Ghost Stories, straight thrillers, medical thrillers and horror. I listened to two in this series in February, both of which I enjoyed.

Armchair Audies Listens:

Yes, the Audies were announced and I am trying to get a jump on my favorite blog event of the year, The Armchair Audies, Since I have a lot of series to go through, I am trying to knock out the Fantasy Category as quick as possible. I listened to two audiobooks from the Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa series as a start to this, with reviews coming soon.

Other Audiobooks I listened to in February:

 

Disenchanted by Robert Kroese was a goofy little fantasy audiobook I listened to mostly because it was narrated by Phil Gigante. It was fun, is not a bit droll but ultimately forgettable. I looked at it as a bit of filler material, a change of pace to my typical listens and a chance to hear Phil Gigante read something funny, which he does so well.

I had absolutely no plans to listen to Indian Hill 2: The Reckoning any time soon. While I like Mark Tufo as a writer, I wasn’t a fan of the first Indian Hill novel. Yet, happenstance roared it’s head, and I found myself with a corrupted file and few choices. Indian Hill 2, despite it’s cheesy Reckoning subtitle, was an improvement from the first novel. It was a bit uneven, and I think the editing could have been tighter, since it’s timeline felt jumbled, but ultimately it was a fun alien invasion novel. 





Audiobook Review: Runner by Patrick Lee

3 03 2014

Runner by Patrick Lee (Sam Dryden, Bk. 1)

Read by Raul Esparza

Macmillan Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Thriller

Grade: A

I am a real sucker for tales that don’t let themselves be defined by easy genre labels and this is one of the biggest reasons I have become such a big fan of Patrick Lee. His first series, The Breach/Travis Chase Trilogy is a favorite of mine, and I waited with grand anticipation for Runner, the first book in his new series staring Sam Dryden. Well, the anticipation was far from the greatest pleasure of this experience. Runner is super sonic thriller with a science fiction edge that is sure to please fans of multiple genres. Sam Dryden is a complicated but likeable character. In fact, he starts of almost as a cliché, the broken hero, yet builds up into something so much more. He finds his redemption in a strange little girl who is being chased my merciless killers for reasons she doesn’t fully understand. If the book starts off a bit rote, that roteness is redeemed with a series of well choreographed reveals that have you reexamining any assumptions made early on. Runner examines complex issues as diverse as childhood development, the true nature of evil, governmental influence and the potential for science to disrupt society, yet these exploration take a back street to the relationship at the heart of this tale. One of my biggest pet peeves in fiction is how much could be simply resolves if characters fully communicate with each other, and Lee manages to laugh at this notion, creating secrets between characters who have no secrets. Lee is no slouch in the action department either. How Lee manages to fully develop these character amidst big screen style elaborate chase sequences amazes me. If you are like me and are becoming a bit hesitant when every new book is part of a series, don’t worry here. Runner can absolutely serve as a standalone, with a fully resolved plot line, yet with enough underlining mythology to increase your desire to have the next Sam Dryden novel in your hands or ears as soon as possible.

Raul Esparza gives a strong performance in his reading of Runner. While his characterizations often lean to the subtle side, they are affective and memorable. He gives an offbeat delivery to the narrative, often emphasizing sentences in places you wouldn’t expect, and altering the tradition cadence with a well times pause. It keeps the listener on their toes, examining each word and where it fits into the narrative. In fast paced action thrillers, it’s easy to become lost in the action, but Esparza never let’s you get comfortable, causing you to hanging on every word, breathlessly waiting for the next twist in the road. Runner is a treat for both fans of thrillers and Science Fiction, or those like me, who like them swirled.





Audiobook Review: Pillar to the Sky by William R. Forstchen

27 02 2014

Pillar to the Sky by William Forstchen

Read by Grover Gardner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: B+

More and more I’m convinced that without a concerted push into space, humanity’s time is numbered. For this reason, William Forstchen was totally preaching to a choir of 1 in his latest novel, Pillar to the Sky, a fictional history of the people who came together to build the first Space Elevator. I was quite impressed with Pillar to the Sky, a total change of pace from his post Apocalyptic EMP novel One Second After and his quirky military portal fantasy Lost Regiment series. Here, Forstchen describe big, world changing events through the intimate perspective of four major characters. It’s slow developing and uneven at times, so if you are looking for a rip roaring SF adventure, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a careful constructed character study built on top of the political machinations of disruptive technologies. While reading this novel, these characters truly came alive for me. I was often frustrated with the necessary big leaps in time, because I wanted to know what was going on with the characters. In many ways, the trials, missteps and small victories within the process of building the Space Elevator became a character in its own. Unlike the utterly dark mood of One Second After, Pillar to the Sky left me with a feeling of hope for humanity. While I am in no way an engineer, and have no idea of the feasibility of the project, I felt like Forstchen was writing a love letter to the American and human ingenuity. That, if there is a way for something to be done, and the proper motivation for people to do it, that despite the many pitfalls along the way, it will get done. Pillar to the Sky will not thrill and titillate you, but it will capture your imagination is your mind is open to the experience.

Grover Gardner will always have a special place in my heart for his wonderful reading of The Stand. While his performance of Pillar to the Sky doesn’t reach that level of awesomeness, I think he for the most part hits the right notes. Pillar to the Sky is filled with lots of technical jargon, and an international cast. Gardner gives a comfortable performance. Instead of trying to wow you with stunning voices, he brings an almost professorial tone, walking you through the intricate landscape with a friendly feel. He brought the characters to life, without pushing them on you, just letting them grow naturally. For a book that could easily get bogged down in the minutiae of detail, Gardner guides you through it with a veteran’s touch.

This Audiobook was reviewed as part of Audio Jukebox’s Solid Gold Reviewer’s program. Thanks to Blackstone Audio for participating.





Audiobook Review: Influx by Daniel Suarez

24 02 2014

Influx by Daniel Suarez

Read by Jeff Gurner

Penguin Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 45 Min

Genro: Technothriller

Grade: A-

Influx, the latest by the true king of the near future technothriller, is a nano-infused balls to the wall thriller that will spin your genetically enhanced brain while causing your artificial cyber heart to beat a kilometer a minute keeping the tension building like a fusion powered perpetual motion machine. Basically, take all the future tech you think we should have had by now, mix it together with some well realized characters, add in some complicated social issues, throw in a heavy dash of awesome, and you have Influx. Yeah, I kinda dug this one. The Bureau of Technology Control was founded with the goal to regulate potentially disruptive technology. Yet, when physicist Jon Grady invents functional antigravity, he finds the BTC’s power has been corrupted and it’s power hungry director hording technology for his personal gain instead of the good of humanity. Grady refuses to play along, and is locked up in a top secret prison along with other rebellious genius. Probably not the smartest plan. Suarez’s techno vision and his rock and roll pacing is the perfect blend to drive this compelling story along. While the plot borders on over the top, it’s a gleefully awesome form of excess that should delight anyone who is still waiting for the rocket packs and hovercrafts promised to them as children. Even better, Suarez adds in a fresh dose of social sciences, examining the impact that technology has on society. If I have any complaint, it’s that at times the technology overshadows the characters, but with tech this cool, you can’t really fault the author too much for that. While it may be too soon to declare any book the techno-thriller of the year, Influx has thrown its hat into the ring as an early contender, and it’s gonna take something special to knock it off it’s perch.

I always have mixed feeling when an author has a go to narrator who narrates all their books, particularly their standalones. I understand you may be a huge fan of a specific narrator, but it doesn’t mean they are right for every one of your books. Luckily for us readers, the pairing of Daniel Suarez and Jeff Gurner is a match made in Talky Book Heaven. Gurner has a very professional, almost Movie Trailer voice, with enough range to give his narrations the right amount of edge. His range of voices is solid, giving each character a distinctive feel. Yet, the true beauty of his narration is his pacing. Suarez writes at a kinetic pace, and it would be very easy for a narrator to get overwhelmed by it, but Gurner never does. He propels the book along with just the right amount of energy, yet with enough control to pull back when needed. It’s a performance that will keep you on the edge of you anti-gravity platform, utterly engrossed in every moment.

Thanks to Penguin Audio for proving me with a copy of this title for review.





My Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 (Non-Zombie)

21 02 2014

2013 was another great year for post apocalyptic novels. Where 2013 truly stood out was the diversity of it’s offerings. From straight forward apocalyptic tales, to absurdist comedies, last years apocalyptic audiobooks showed just how much ground there is to cover in the genre. It was tough for me to pick just 10 Apocalyptic audiobooks, partially with the glut of continuing series putting out even better entries this year. Yet, after much contemplation and hair pulling, I came up with my list. So, if you are like me, and one of your favorite, most relaxing activities is to listen to the world go up in flames, here is my list of the best 2013 had to offer.

Expect my Zombie based Top 10 to appear soon.

Yesterday’s Gone by Sean Platt and David Wright

Read by RC BRay, Chris Patton, Brian Holsopple, Ray Chase, Maxwell Glick, and Tamara Marston

Podium Publishing

Yesterday’s Gone truly borders on the goofy at times, and I think in some ways this was the authors’ intention. Maybe not goofy per se, but the twists are so over the top, the plot so derivative of the classics and the characters so bizarre that you can’t help but shake your head at it. Yet, somehow it all works brilliantly. Yesterday’s Gone is a post apocalyptic fan’s somewhat inappropriate, at times shamefully wonderful dream. Yet, what truly sets this one apart is the brilliant production and wonderful narration. Ray Chase gives one of my favorite performances of the year, and add that to the excellent work the other narrators included notable performances by RC Bray and Chris Patton, and Yesterday’s Gone can crown itself my favorite Post Apocalyptic Audiobook of 2013. And, lucky for us, this is just Season One.

Countdown City (The Last Detective, Bk. 2)

Read by Peter Berkrot

Brilliance Audio

Countdown City picks up were The Last Detective leaves off, bettering the series by leaps and bounds. Book 2 offers a unique apocalypse of anticipation, where the wait for the world killer asteroid is an apocalyptic event all it’s own. Winter’s fascinating world is brought to life expertly by Peter Berkrot. Berkrot’s performance still sticks with me months after I finished listening to it.

Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

Read by Kirby Heybourne

Tantor Audio

Arguably, Odds Against Tomorrow is more of a disaster tale than a typical Post Apocalyptic novel, but really, there is nothing typical about this one. Apocalypose fans looking for something utterly unique should check out this tale of a brilliant disaster analyst who finds himself immersed in the “perfect storm” that he predicted. Equally moving and hilarious this tale is brought to life wonderfully by Kirby Heybourne who manages just the right tone for this tricky tale.

 

Breakers by Edward W. Robinson

Read by Ray Chase

Podium Publishing

Breakers is The Stand meets Lucifer’s Hammer with weird crab creatures. Podium Publishing is quickly making a name for itself with unique audiobook offerings excellently produced and Breaker’s is no exception. Ray Chase masterly guides us through this strange new world helping create one of the freshest looks at alien invasion since Gerrold’s Chtorr series.

Ashes by Brett Battles (Project Eden, Bk. 4)

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible, Inc.

I have always been one of those people who get a bit annoyed when the good guys stop the global  conspiracy top release a world killing pathogen. Luckily, in The Project Eden series, the competent good guys are facing impossible odds, and well, aren’t able to do the impossible. This series starts with a straight forward pathogen thriller and progresses to a The Stand-like pandemic tale, and I loved every second of it. Plus, MacLeod Andrew’s. The man can bring it.

There was a fifth book in this series, released in 2013 as well, but I have yet to read it. Once I free me up an Audible credit, I plan to jump right back into this dangerous world.

The City of Devi by Manil Suril

Read by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar

Blackstone Audio

So, who doesn’t like absurdist comedy, heartbreaking romantic entanglements, strange embodiments of deities, Bollywood musicals, and gonzo sex in their Mumbai based apocalyptic tales? The City of Devis is a wonderful, and at times awkward tale, beautifully narrated by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar.

Fuse by Julianna Baggot (Pure, Bk. 2)

Read by Khristine Hvam, Casey Holloway, Kevin T. Collins, Pierce Cravens

Hachette Audio

This may have been the year for Book 2’s in Post apocalyptic trilogies, and Fuse is proof that often the followup can better something already pretty darn good. Baggot’s world is darkly beautiful and her characters wonderfully tragic. Plus, the performances, particularly that of Kevin T. Collin’s made me feel things. Like emotional things. I’d rather not talk about it.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy

Read by Brandon Espinoza and Phoebe Strole

Penguin Audio

More Alien Invasions? Yes Please. Despite one annoying plot twist that I may have over emphasized in my review, Phillip Yancey’s YA novel is a heck of a good tale. His alien’s are different, and the plot well constructed. The performances by two new to me narrators also enhance this already quality tale.

Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey

Read by Simon Vance

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

While I tend to like my Post Apocalyptic tales more scifi, there is definitely a place in the genre for a good Fantasy, one that Joseph D’Lacey provides for us in Black Feathers. With shades of The Dark Tower, D’Lacey balances dual timelines with ease to create a fascinating apocalyptic world where everything you believe gets twisted in wonderful ways. And truly, if you are going to go the Fantasy route, you might as well call on one of the best voices for Fantasy, Simon Vance, whose voice gives the context almost instant creditability.

Fragments by Dan Wells (Partials, Bk. 2)

Read by Julian Whelan

Harper Audio

One of the reasons I think I enjoy book 2’s in apocalyptic series, is because they often involve getting away from the static setting of book one and embarking on everyone’s favorite jaunt, the apocalyptic road trip. In Fragment’s Dan Well’s offer’s one of the best, a cross country trip through a devastated wasteland that used to be America. Julian Whelan continues to infuse the tale with heart and personality, the perfect voice to bring the tale’s wonderful protagonist to life.