Audiobook Review: The Last Tribe by Brad Manuel

16 03 2017

The Last Tribe by Brad Manuel

Read by Scott Brick

Podium Publishing

Grade: B+

The Last Tribe is a rare bird of a novel, a book I enjoyed immensely but not sure I would recommend to anyone but the most hardcore of post apocalyptic fans. The Last Tribe is The Stand without the good vs. evil paranormal subplot. It’s devoid of any narrative tension or conflict driven plot. It’s simply a story about normal decent people surviving a nearly complete pandemic without any ideological agenda. It’s is so vanilla it’s nearly translucent. It’s the anti-Walking Dead. You want action… sorry. You need conflict… look elsewhere. You love tales of anti-governmental libertarian preppers whose predictions of the collapsing civilization come true allowing them to play out their survivalist fantasies in an orgy of gunfire, well, maybe keep browsing. Manuel’s take is a bare bones examination of the genre’s roots more in line with Earth Abides and Alas, Babylon  than today’s testosterone drenched hero fantasies. Manuel even jokes on the biggest flaw on much of survival fiction, the almost ridiculous amount of luck survivors would need to actually thrive post apocalypse. The Last Tribe is the coziest of cozy catastrophe’s and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

The Last Tribe was nominated for Best Male Performance Audie, so I go into this asking myself if this is one of the best performances of the year. Simple answer, no. Scott Brick, with the right material, can make poetry out of mush. He’s brilliant in guiding a listener through esoteric prose, and capturing the rhythms of a novel whether it be high concept science fiction or action packed thriller. Yet, multi character epics require multiple regional dialects and tons of character differentiation isn’t typically where he shines. Brick gives a great performance and definitely makes some of the boring moments shine, but this is far from one of the best, in fact, I can think of two or three Brick narrations that are more worthy, particularly Robert Charles Wilson’s Last Year or Justin Cronin’s City of Mirrors. With those novels, I fail to see any other narrator improving on his performance but I can think of a few that may be better suited to a novel like The Last Tribe. 





Audiobook Review: The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons

7 03 2017

The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons

Read by James Patrick Cronin

Brilliance Audio

Grade: B

I think it’s telling that before I sat down to review this book I had to reread the summary to remind myself what the story was about. The Short Drop wasn’t a bad book, it’s an entirely serviceable thriller that I enjoyed listening to but in the end it was forgettable. Gibson Vaugh is a likeable enough character but it’s another case of an author telling you they’re some brilliant progeny of social engineering but shows you him acting pretty dumb throughout the novel. The mystery plays out on the clever side of paint by numbers and the ultimate show down offers enough ingenuity to leave the reader satisfied that it was worth the effort before happily moving onto their next book.

This book was nominated for an Audie so my expectation of being blown away by the narration may have weighed down my opinion. James Patrick Cronin is a good narrator. Early on in the novel his cadence seemed a bit to staccato, nor matching the rhythm of the book but that became less noticeable as you became a little more invested in the novel. His dialogue is strong and his characters distinct but all in all, nothing about his reading makes it stand out in the genre. 





Audiobook Review: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Ellison

3 03 2017

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Read by Angela Dawes 

 Brilliance Audio

Grade: A

Around 10 years ago, before the Hunger Games, before the glut of self publishing,  before the sociological unease brought the  psychic foreshadowing of a Trump administration, before whatever triggered this saturation of dystopian literature to flood the world, any time I saw a new apocalyptic novel I squeeled with childish glee. Since I was 13 and I found a battered copy of the original version of The Stand at the Grundy Memorial library, I loved this genre of fiction. To me, despite there being many great classics, the genre was always defined by my experience with three novels, The Stand, Robert McCammon’s Swan Song and A Gift Upon the Shore by MK Wren. These books filled me with hope and dread, and showed me I can love and hate the same character. I can’t help but judge books in this genre by the standard created by these experiences. Very few novels have even come close. 

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife once again reminded me why I loved these books. Full of human characters thrown into a inhuman world, this novel showed us the best and worst of humanity. I loved that the main character was unique and complicated in her humanity and not just some uber prepper living out some childish fantasy. Elison made me uncomfortable, made me question my own preconceptions and presented not an escapist fantasy but a stark and compelling vision of a potentially dark future. Yet despite the darkness, there was enough of a glimmer of light in the distance that I couldn’t help but willingly trek my way down that tunnel. At moments I was reminded of The Stand and A Gift Upon the Shore but The Book of the Unnamed Midwife didn’t just build on ashes of the genre classics but forged its own new path. 

I’ve always thought that there were narrators skilled at the youthfulness of YA novel while others had the maturity to handle more adult literature yet Angela Dawes is the exception that excels at both. One of the biggest areas of critique for any narrator his their ability to voice the opposite sex but here Dawes must voice a female character pretending to be male and she does it perfectly. She captured the nuance of this novel revealing aspects I may have missed reading it and turned the potentially awkward epistolary aspects of the narrative into an almost rhythmic poetry. She had me enthralled from the beginning and kept me anxiously waiting for each new leg of the journey. 





Audiobook Review: The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens

20 02 2017

The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens 

Read by R.C. Bray, David Colacci and Amy McFadden 

Tantor Audio

Grade: B+

2017 Audie Nominee in Mystery

There’s something special about a mystery where you think you basically have it pretty much figured out and the author still manages to pull it all together in a surprising way even though what you suspected turned out to be true. This was my experience with The Heavens May Fall, a truly effective and well constructed mystery and legal thriller that was simply a whole lot of fun to listen too. 

Being this is an Audie nominee, I hold it to a higher standard than most books. Bray and Colacci have both given Audie caliber performances in the past and while this isn’t the greatest example of their work, it’s still pretty strong. I tend to believe that Bray is an excellent first person narrator but in third person POVs he’s simply very good. His cadence is excellent during courtroom scenes and moments of heavy dialogue but can become a little distracting during quieter scenes. Colacci’s voice has a bit more quirk to it but it matches well with Bray’s style. McFadden’s role was sadly limited but I’d love to hear her take on Lila is a bigger role I the future since I love the character. Overall, this was a good mystery take with solid performances that could be a dark horse among the Mystery category. 





My 2015 Audies Prediction

10 02 2015

The 2015 Audies season is upon us and I for one am excited. Being that I didn’t listen to as many audiobooks in 2014 as I had in the past, I am excited to be taking part in Armchair Audies this year so I can discover some of the missed gems of last year.

In the past, I have felt critical of the Audies process, but I have come to terms with the fact that the process and criteria of an Audie nominated book may not need to exactly shadow what I believe makes a book standout. In the past, I \put much emphasis on the synergy between performance and context. I didn’t believe a title deserved to be nominated unless the content was just as “Award worthy” as the performance. This year, I am focusing more on the technical side, giving more focus to the “audio” then the “book.” Yet, since this is my predictions post, I am going to present some books in a few categories that I believe are worthy of recognition, due to both content and performance appealed to me. I have done well in the past in my predictions, so lets see how I do in 2015.

Let the Armchair Audies Games begin:

Science Fiction:

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Read by Josh Cohen

Random House Audio

Josh Cohen’s performance in The Book of Strange New Things is a pure example of what makes audiobooks so special. His transitions from English to American accents were so seamless I had to Google him to discover his true nationality. Yet, it’s the haunting voice of his alien creatures, and the emotional impact of Peter’s communications with his wife Bea that make this not just a title deserving of a nomination in Science Fiction, but should give Cohen, at the least, consideration in Solo Narration of the Year.

World of Trouble, The Last Policeman, Bk. 3

by Ben H. Winters

Read by Peter Berkrot

The Last Policeman series may be the shining star in Peter Berkrot’s luminous career as a narrator. He gives a multifaceted performance that is both funny and emotional. He ushers us through a broken society with a wink, and takes us the brink of the world’s end with a comforting hand on our shoulder. He makes this wonderful novel work on so many levels, truly a performance worthy of the book.

Fantasy:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

MacMillan Audio

Words of Radiance is so enthralling that there were moments that I forgot to breath. There is a reason why Michael Kramer and Kate Reading are THE voices of fantasy, they managed to guide me through of nearly 50 hours of audio, in a genre I often struggle with, and leave me wanting more.

Authority: The Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 2

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Blackstone Audio

Jeff Vandermeer’s series about a strange terrain known as Area X has hit a cord with many speculative fiction fans. At times, I personally struggled with the series, but what I never struggled with was Pinchot’s performance in Authority. I know Pinchot is a wonderful performer, what I forgot was how funny he could be. Authority isn’t a humorous novel, but Pinchot is able to tap into the absurdity of the main character to bring the humorous aspects to vivid life.

Paranormal:

Fear City by F. Paul Wilson

Read by Alexander Cendese

Brilliance Audio

Alexander Cendese may be the biggest hidden talent in the audiobook business. His performance in the prequel series, Repairman Jack: The Early Years series, turned me into a fan of the series that spawned the prequels. When I did listen to the Earlier Repairman Jack novels, I found myself missing Cendese, despite excellent narrators like Dick Hill handling them. Given more opportunities, I feel Cendese could become a real force to be reckoned with in the industry.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Read by Christine Lakin, Terra Deva, Sunil Mohatra, Robert Morgan Fisher, JD Jackson

Hachette Audio

Broken Monsters is not a comfortable listen. Beukes latest genre busting tale is disturbing on many levels. Yet, the material is brought to brilliant life by this mutli-cast performance. Don’t expect to sleep comfortable after this listening, but do expect to be utterly enthralled.

Mystery\Thriller

The Wolf In Winter by John Connolly

Read by Jeff Harding

Simon & Schuster Audio

John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series finally gets the performance it deserves, at least stateside, with Jeff Harding’s masterful handling of this genre blending novel. Harding, who has read the complete series across the pond in England, finally performs the American version as well. His gruff style manages to catch the flow of the narrative, adding to the chills of this paranormal mystery.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

Simon & Schuster Audio

In all honesty, I was not a fan of this novel. Personally, I though King’s attempt to do a straight mystery thriller fell flat in a genre filled with talented writers. Yet, Will Patton’s performance kept me in the game. Patton managed to make this boring novel interesting, and made me almost care about these characters. Based solely on performance, Mr. Mercedes is an good bet at landing an Audie nomination.

 

Well, there are my predictions. I should be tweeting my reaction to the Audies announcement tomorrow, using the hashtasg #Audies2015.





2014 Armchair Audies: Fearless Prediction Post

14 02 2014

So, it’s Armchair Audies time (almost!)

Any day now, the APA will announce the nominees for their 2013 Audie Awards. This has been another great year for Audiobooks, and I feel more and more public scrutiny of the Audies may have interesting affects. Last year, I felt the whole thing was a bit of a fiasco, with one particular company and it’s offshoots almost monopolizing the nominees and an audiobook of the year category made up mostly of celbriturd narrators and productions that were more about hype then the best the industry has to offer. Yet, I’m not totally soured on the whole shebang. I think that we may see some changes to the process in the near future, as the industry changes, so must the awards and I’m quite interested in seeing how these changes take play out.

This year, for Armchair Audies, I will be taking on the Science Fiction and Fantasy categories again. I will probably pick up a third category, after I get a look at the nominees, either Paranormal or Thriller/Suspense.

Today, I will be prediction the nominees in these 4 categories. I am using an intricate formula of my favorites, industry trends, past nominees, hype and WAGs (Wild Ass Guesses) to come up with these nominees. I am also playing a bit with the Genres because, even if a book is decidedly Science Fiction, it very well may be nominated in the Fantasy Category. Also, no once has quite explained exactly what encompasses Paranormal.

So, here are my predictions for The Audies.

SCIENCE FICTION

The Human Division by  John Scalzi

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible Frontiers

Lexicon by Max Barry

Read by Heather Corrigan and Zach Appelman

Penguin Audio

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Read by Kevin T. Collins, Eileen Stevens, and Ali Ahn

Hachette Audio

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Read by Kate Rudd

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

FANTASY

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Read by Neil Gaiman

Harper Audio

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Read by Alana Kerr

Audible for Bloomsbury

Cold Days by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files, Bk. 14)

Read by James Marsters

Penguin Audio

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Read by Kate Mulgrew

Harper Audio

Helen & Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez

Read by Khristine Hvam

Audible, Inc.

PARANORMAL

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

Simon & Schuster Audio

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith (Vampire Empire, Book 2)

Read by James Marsters

Buzzy Multimedia

World War Z: The Complete Edition: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Read by A Full Cast

Random House Audio

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Read by Khristine Hvam, Peter Ganim, Jay Snyder, Joshua Boone, Dani Cervone, Jenna Hellmuth

Hachette Audio

THRILLER/SUSPENCE

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Read by Reg E. Cathey

Hachette Audio

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Read by Jeremy Bobb

Simon & Schuster Audio

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Read by Michael Beck

Random House Audio

The Lawyer’s Lawyer by James Sheehan

Read by Rick Zieff

Hachette Audio





Armchair Audies 2013 Wrap Up Post: Science Fiction

21 05 2013

2013 Armchair Audies Category Wrap up: Science Fiction

This years Science Fiction nominees offered an interesting dilemma, except for one title, I had already listed to them. The Science Fiction Category offers a lot of wonderful audiobooks this year from a wide selection of subgenres. I was truly amazed by the diversity of the titles. All of them offer wonderful performances by their narrators and there’s not one title here that I would be disappointed if it won. Here are the nominees.

Click on the Cover Image for My Review:

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Read by Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins and Casey Holloway

Hachette Audio

Length: 14 Hrs and 9 Min

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Read by Emily Janice Card

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs and 3 Min

Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio (A Girl Genius Novel, Bk. 2)

Read by Angela Dawe

Brilliance Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 35 Min

14 by Peter Clines

Read by Ray Porter

Audible Frontiers/Permuted Press

Length: 12 Hrs 42 Min

Invincible (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, Bk. 2) by Jack Campbell

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 46 Min

My Picks

I really struggled picking a winner out of such a strong category. I think Emily Janice Card’s performance of Age of Miracles was mesmerizing, and I couldn’t help but be happy that one of my favorite series, The Lost Fleet and it’s excellent narrator Christian Rummel received a nod. Julianna Baggot’s brilliant world in Pure came alive through the work of four excellent narrators. Angela Dawe gave one of the most fascinating and funniest performances in her reading of Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess   Yet, when it came time to chose who I thought would win, and which title I wanted to win, I came up with two distinctively different titles. Peter Clines 14 was one of my overall favorite audiobooks of 2012 and Ray Porter is a breathtaking narrator. Yet, the slow burning Apocalypse in The Age of Miracles and spot on narration of Card I feel may sway more judges.

Who Will Win:

My Pick: