BREAKING NEWS: THE GUILDED EARLOBE PURCHASED BY AMAZON

1 04 2014

I know some people have been wondering about the sporadic nature of the the content here at The Guilded Earlobe. I have given many different reasons including blogger burnout, medical and family issues and changes at work. Yet, I have been sitting on some information and only recently been given the OK to announce it.

In a deal worth 3.14 Million dollars, Amazon, owner of Audible, Inc. and Goodreads, has purchased this blog, THE GUILDED EARLOBE.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has released this statement. “As many of you know, the audiobook industry has exploded over past few years, and more and more listeners are looking for guidance in which audiobooks are worth their time and money. The Guilded Earlobe has been one of the biggest independent voices in the industry, so we decided to buy it. Bob Reiss, the operator of the blog, has in the past been a vocal critic of Amazon. His theory that the Amazon Recommendation Algorithm is an early incarnation of SKYNET and will one day utilize our vast array of delivery drones to reign fiery havoc down on humanity, in no way influenced our decision to purchase the small, independent blog for millions of dollars.”

What should long time readers of The Guilded Earlobe expect? While there will be some changes, expect the same personal style reviews, just better edited with fewer misspellings, grammatical errors and use of the word “fuckery” and it’s many iterations. Other changes:

  • The dropping of the confusing U in Guilded.

  • A more professional layout.

  • Asshat will be two words and refer not to a character’s personality but head gear worn over one’s buttocks.

  • A new rating system.

  • Reduced references to “The Coming Robot Apocalypse and the insidious links between SKYNET and AMAZON.”

  • More focus on ACX releases, Audible produced productions and the effort to kill Sarah Conners.

  • Only verified human and robotic purchasers whose credit information is available to Amazon will be able to comment on the reviews posted on The Gilded Earlobe.

To make The Gilded Earlobe more user friendly, the old alphabetic rating system will be replaced by this new system (GIFs pending.)

A ROBOT STRANGLING A KITTEN: I didn’t read your book because the ebook price was so expensive.

AN AMAZON DRONE DROPPING BOMBS ON PLAYGROUNDS: I find the author’s political views reprehensible so their book must suck.

ROBOTS GIVING THE FINGER TO ANYONE WITH THE SURNAME CONNER: I didn’t finish the book because there were no Vampires in it.

T.W.I.K.I. FRYING BACON: Although I am a friend and colleague of the author, my unbiased opinion is that this book is awesome.

TWO ROBOTS MAKING SWEET LOVE ON A BED OF ROSES: This book was written by Jonathan Maberry and narrated by Ray Porter.

ROBOT JESUS WHIPPING E! REALITY TV STARS: This book is like an orgasm in my ears, except not as moist.

I hope you will all join The Gilded Earlobe on this new adventure, and if not, your names have been noted and your persons targeted for extermination.

s7Onfa1396244558





Audiobook Review: Zom-B Underground by Darren Shan

8 05 2013

Zombob2ZAM_thumb

2013 Zombie Awareness Month

Zom-B Underground by Darren Shan (Zom-B, Bk. 2)

Read by Emma Galvin

Hachette Audio

Length: 3 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: YA Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Zom-B Underground is an interesting step in what is getting to be quite an intriguing little story. While some frustration still remains with our main character, especially for those of us who know the difference between UHF and VHS (oldies), I found the new direction of her angst much more understandable.

Grade: B

Note: Zom-B Underground is the 2nd Book in the series, and this review may contain spoilers for Book 1. You have been warned. And mocked, but mostly warned.

There has been a recent trend with me in my Young Adult Scifi and horror reads where a protagonist will totally annoy the craphole out of me in Book 1 and when I reluctantly pick up Book 2, I find that they have actually grown on me for some reason. I find this odd, because in adult fiction, I tend to find second books in series and trilogies less satisfying then their prequels. So, I was trying to figure out if this was something in the nature of Young Adult novels that has me react this way. Now, I’m a man who’s closer to 40 than 14 so my perspectives are different than that of most of the target audience of these books. I think at the core of Young Adult novels, particularly the types I read which tend to be Apocalyptic or Dystopian tales, there is an element of rebellion.  I think, often in YA debuts, the rebellion is either internal or intimate, striking out against the established beliefs of your close circle or family, and when we move away from the first novel, the rebellion becomes more external, and broader. I think, due to my place in this world, I find  that the initial rebellion against parents or guardians tends to come off bratty, based on some misconception of the world but when they strike out against the establishment, whether it be a corrupt government or just the overall world view, they become more reasonable. In Zom-B, there was an added elements, B just seemed to want to strike out against anything, because she was unable to strike out against her father. In a way, her anger was reflecting her establishment, buying into the world view of a racist father. Her rebellion was selfish based in weakness and she became more of a bully projecting the abuse of her father onto those beneath her. In Zom-B I found her not just unlikable, but reprehensible, almost bordering or irredeemable at a gut level. I find this is rare in YA because much of the development is based on the fact that these younger characters can break away from their upbringing and their mistakes can be redeemed. Now, despite my reaction to B, or maybe because of this reaction I was quite interested in where the author was taking the series.

After the turbulent ending of Zom-B, B is now a Zombie. Yet, something about her is different. During an encounter with a group of Zombie fighting teens, she has an awakening, no longer a moaning shambling zombie, but aware. She finds she is part of a strange experiment involving an anomalous group of aware walking dead. Yet, information is sparse and freedom a pipe dream, and B finds herself at the mercy of people she doesn’t trust. So, I found Zom-B Underground a much more enjoyable listen. Here, B is still a flawed character, but now her hatred and vitriol is turned towards more deserving people. I like that Shan is showing a reasonable transformation in B. She hasn’t instantly become a better person, but you get the feeling she is honestly trying. It’s definitely a help that she’s away from her father, but I doubt we’ve seen the last of him. I actually found the story itself quite original. While I felt its predecessor had more gut punch shocks and twists, Zom B Underground had enough small, well executed twists that despite the obviousness of some of them, there were enough to keep the reader on their toes. As far as down right creepiness, Underground wins by a land side. Its crazy finale is filled with some twisted, Acid Trip style horror images that really, I didn’t need in my brain. Let’s just say their may have been spiders involved. And a clown. Well, all sorts of creepy. Shan continues to build a nice little mythology, giving small reveals here are there, but not even coming close to filling out the whole picture. Where Zom-B left me thinking "Hmmmm…" Underground pushed me more into the "What the holy hell is going on and what exactly is wrong with this man for putting these images in my tidy little brain?" category. Did I mention the clown and his twisted accessories? *shivers* My only complaint is that each small book so far in this series feels more like a chapter in a larger novel than a complete work able to stand on it’s own. There is an almost serial feel to the Zom-B series and if that is something that frustrates you as a reader you may want to wait until a few of the books are available before jumping into the pool. Zom-B Underground is an interesting step in what is getting to be quite an intriguing little story. While some frustration still remains with our main character, especially for those of us who know the difference between UHF and VHS (oldies), I found the new direction of her angst much more understandable. I was sorta interested in seeing where Shan was going to take us in Zom-B Underground, now WANT BRAINS THEN ZOM-B CITY NOW!

Emma Galvin is just a fun narrator, whether she’s using an American or English accent. Here she’s busting out the English accent to bring this story to life. Here accent is relatively soft, but authentic sounding. She brings the wide array or characters to life. She really manages to capture both the brash, in-your-your face external Becky, while also showing her insecurities in her internal dialogue. This struggle is really the essences of the first two Zom-B novels and Galvin delivers it beautifully. She also really ups the pacing, alternating between some dreamlike horror sequences with some fast paced action without missing a beat. Some of the issues with the prequel, where twists that come into play in print just couldn’t be delivered affectively in audio, are no longer and issue, making audio an ideal medium for this story. Zom-B Underground was a quick, fun, and all sorts of creepy listen that had enough thrills for adults, both young and well, not so young.

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





Audiobook Review: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

15 08 2012

Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Read by Greg Wise

AudioGo

Length: 5 Hrs 55 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Planet of the Apes is such wonderful escapism, that the pure joy of the story takes what could be overbearing social satire and just makes it feel like simple fun. Those who have only experienced the movie should definitely consider taking the time to experience the novel. In so many ways, it’s like being given a new perspective to a much beloved tale made better when you realize it is its origin.

Grade: A

I always think that one of the cool things about being an author is the possibility that your story will live well beyond your death. Writing has the potential to allow you to live, while maybe not forever, for a long time past your expiration date through your work. Yet, I think there is a sort of bittersweet angle in that for French Author Pierre Boulle. Boulle’s work will be remembered for years to come, but mostly due to the movie adaptations. Boulle wrote novels that eventually became the movies The Bridge Over River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. While both these works of fiction have become part of the mass culture of this planet, I think that many people would be surprised that these movies started out as books, and I also believe that many people just wouldn’t really care. While Boulle can be proud to contribute to our cultural lexicon, I think it must be a bit bittersweet that his original story was in some ways co-opted by the movie, and now this is all that most people remember.   I have personally seen all the movie adaptations that spawned from Planet of the Apes. I also know I have seen The Planet of the Apes TV show, but it was at such a young age I barely remember anything about it. I had always wanted to read the novel, Planet of the Apes. As someone who has always been fascinated with the concept, yet only experienced it in it’s film versions, I was quite interested to finally experience the source material. Finally having achieved my wish, I have to say it was worth the experience. The Planet of the Apes is a gripping science fiction thriller that, while containing elements that made its way into both of the film versions, is it own unique animal.

Ulysses Merou is a journalist traveling on a scientific expedition to an Earth like planet in a ship capable of near lightspeed travel. While the trip only takes two years, hundreds of real time years pass due to time dilation of near lightspeed travel. When arriving on the planet they name Soror, they discover that the humans there are nothing more than mindless beasts, yet a race of simians have obtained sentience and now dominate the planet. While there are many elements that differ from the film, I want to point out two that I found specifically interesting. In both of the film versions, the Simians are descendents, in some way of Earth’s Apes. While this isn’t entirely written off in Boulle’s novel, it is also not specifically addressed, leading to some interesting concepts of congruent evolution and precursor societies. The second one I found interesting on a sociological level. In both film versions, while the simian culture is advanced, they were not up to the level of humanity, with modern tech, like cars and airplanes. I sometimes wonder if the producers thought that presenting a Simian culture on par with modern human tech would just have been too unbelievable. While the human’s of Boulle’s novel were advanced past the apes, the Simian culture had progressed to the point that at least equaled the tech at the time the novel was written in the 1960’s. Boulle makes some interesting sociological observations about the differing ways that humans and apes learn that provide perspective on the development of both species. Boulle’s novel definitely tackles issues like racism, class, elitism, scientific stagnation, nature vs., nurture and other social extrapolations yet, does it with a darkly humorous satirical bent.  It would almost seem mind-blowing the depth of the plot Boulle has developed, but it is covered in an accessible science fiction yarn that allows you to process the implications, and twists and turns of the plot without being overwhelmed. In fact, Planet of the Apes is such wonderful escapism, that the pure joy of the story takes what could be overbearing social satire and just makes it feel like simple fun. Those who have only experienced the movie should definitely consider taking the time to experience the novel. In so many ways, it’s like being given a new perspective to a much beloved tale made better when you realize it is its origin. My only real complaint is that the original title, Monkey Planet, was replaced. Just because I love the idea of a Monkey Planet.

Greg Wise did a wonderful job bringing this tale to life. I did find it interesting that a British narrator was chosen for a title with a French Main character, but in no way did this fact take away from the production. Wise reads the novel is a simplistic fashion that allowed the story to shine. I found much of his characterizations to be enjoyable. I not exactly sure why he made some of the choices he did, but, I couldn’t help but laugh sometimes at the voices he chose. While Zira, the female chimpanzee that champions Ulysses cause, is given a light English accent, most of the male Simians are performed like Goombah Americans. It often made me laugh. I think, in retrospect, I may have enjoyed a bit of delineation between the three sects of Simians, Chimpanzees, Gorillas and Orangutans, but I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t even think about it until after I was completed. Planet of the Apes is a thrilling science fiction joyride, full of fascinating scientific and sociological concepts, and really was just a joy to listen to.

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





Audiobook Review: The Knowledge of Good & Evil by Glenn Kleier

11 07 2012

The Knowledge of Good and Evil by Glenn Kleier

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Produced by Glenn Kleier (Print from Tor Books)

Length: 16 Hrs and 21 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The Knowledge of Good & Evil is part Dan Brown, part Dante Alighieri with a dash of Flatliners thrown in for flavor. It is a fun religious based thriller that asks interesting questions while providing enough open ended answers to allow readers to make up their own minds about what is real and what is delusion.

Grade: B+

When I was a kid, I was a part of my church’s AWANA club, and a big part of that club was memorizing scripture. I have a lot of biblical tidbits stuck in my head. One of my favorites comes from Hebrew "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I have always appreciated this idea. I believe that I am a person of faith, but it’s a faith I have struggled with and battled against and eventual come to a sort of uncomfortable detente with. Yet, the passage from Hebrews was always important to me, because it convinced me that arguing points of faith is a fool’s game. I love talking theology, but arguing with someone trying to prove to me their faith based position defies the definition of the word. I work with a lot of religious people who enjoy engaging in religious debate. Often, when I have expressed my beliefs about evolution, it triggers the response, "If humans evolved from monkeys, why aren’t monkeys turning into people now" often accompanied by a chorus of "Yeahs" and high fives from friends. Now, I could applaud this persons understanding of how evolution works, or point out that indeed, things are evolving on earth everyday, but again, I remind myself that his faith based belief is by definition improvable, and arguing about it is pointless. I highly doubt God and his Angles yell "Booyah" and do taunting endzone dances pointing at Darwin and his science cronies every time someone in a religious debate scores a point. Yeas ago, Glenn Kleier wrote an interesting novel about how the world would react to a new Messiah, called The Last Days. Now he’s back with another interesting thought experiment. How would the world react if you could prove to a scientific certainty that the afterlife existed?

Ian Barringer has had a missing part in his life ever since his parents died in a tragic accident when he was a child. He spends much of his life trying to heal himself through faith, and the church even becoming a priest. Yet, his faith is fragile and betrayed and eventually he begins to put his life back together with the help of his girlfriend Angela Weber. When a brutal reminder of his parent’s death sends him on a downward spiral, he begins to follow the path of a controversial priest who believed he traveled to the afterlife and discovered God’s ultimate reality. Yet this path puts his life in danger, both physically and from a secret element of The Church whose roots go all the way to the papacy. The Knowledge of Good & Evil is a hard novel to truly evaluate. Religion is always a sticky and personal subject, and for this novel you need some level of fascination with religion, yet the ability to keep an open mind on the subject. For me, I was fascinated with the concepts that Glenn Kleier was tackling. Kleier examines Christian mythology and church history in an accessible way that combines pop culture elements along with the rich history of faith. The Knowledge of Good & Evil is part Dan Brown, part Dante Alighieri with a dash of Flatliners thrown in for flavor. On top of this, The Knowledge of Good & Evil is a competent international chase thriller. Sure, Ian and Angela make some frustrating decisions for a couple trying to evade a far reaching shadowy organization, but this is more of a reflection of me having read too many thrillers than a breach of realism. The Knowledge of Good & Evil is full of good set ups and fascinating reveals, although one major reveal, for me at lest, wasn’t as earth chattering as I was being set up to believe it would be. Part of this is due to the fact that many of the characters in this book were defined by their religion and anything that shakes their belief structure would seem earth shattering to them. Luckily, Angele played a sort of Scully to Ian’s Mulder giving the book a necessary skeptical grounding. Where The Knowledge of Good & Evil really excels is in Ian’s travels through the afterlife, both as visually stunning fiction, as well as a compelling thought experiment. I have a weakness for hell based fiction ever since reading Dante’s Inferno and Kleier creates one of the more devastatingly brutal and darkly beautiful visions of the afterlife that I have read in a while. Not everything in The Knowledge of Good & Evil works, and there are some stutter steps along the way, but overall it is a fun, religious based thriller that asks interesting questions while providing open ended answers. Kleier allows the reader to do the grunt work of deciding what was real and what was delusion without forcing any sort of agenda on the reader.  For those who enjoy complex religious themes as well as good thriller full of international settings and hidden secrets will have a good time with this novel.

It’s no secret that I am a fan of MacLeod Andrew’s work as a narrator. One thing I love about his work is his voice isn’t the typical narrator voice. It’s not a deep, booming testosterone rich bass voice, nor is it a silky smooth tenor. Andrew’s voice is full of gravel and grit, and he manages to take his voice and make it suit the text he is reading just right. Here, Andrews brings the story alive, able to take on a cast full of international accents as well and otherworldly beings. Andrews manages to bring a true authenticity to his characters whether they are a Slavic priest, or a denizen of the deepest pits of hell. Andrews moves the plot along well with his crisp pacing that smoothed out any of the roughness of the story. His pacing is fast enough to create tension, while not so fast that it muddles the action. The true highlight for me was Andrews handling of heaven and hell, managing to make Angels sound Angelic while making the demons totally creepy. Really, it was a lot of fun taking a journey like this with a talented narrator.





Audiobook Week 2012: Listen Up!

29 06 2012

Today is the last day of Audiobook Week, and that is sadmaking. Yet, today’s discussion topic is a lot of fun.

Where do you learn about great audiobook titles? Find reviews? Buy your audiobooks? Share your secrets with the rest of us!

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I am not a rich, reclusive millionaire who has an unlimited budget for purchasing audiobooks and the time to listen. Nope, I work for a living, in an industry not well know for its exorbitant wages. Audiobooks are expensive, and my budget is limited, so I have to be creative in order to keep on listening to 15-20 Audiobooks a month. If I was going to purchase all my audiobooks through Audible I would probably spend close to $200 dollars a month. This doesn’t fit nicely into my budget.

My biggest source of Audiobooks is my Public Library and their Overdrive System. Years ago, I also used NetLibrary, but I’m not sure if it even exists anymore since I haven’t used it in well over a year. Here is my trick for Overdrive. I am lucky to live in a major Metropolitan area, with 5 major counties within a drivable distance. At some point in my life I have lived or worked in these counties and have the Library cards to prove it. Also, due to Access PA, many Pennsylvania libraries open membership up to any Pennsylvania resident. This makes the number of titles available to me much greater. Now, part of me wonders if I am gaming the system, so each year I make a donation to all the libraries that I actively use. It’s not a major donation, and in the end it’s much less that if I purchased these titles, but I think it’s a good gesture in an economy where places like Libraries are often the first to experience cuts.

So, the point of this is, get to know your library system. Talk to your librarians. Find out what is available and ask how you can help. Many libraries accept book and audiobook donations, which is a good place to send the books that are cluttering your house.

Now, many book bloggers are used to getting review copies sent to them almost willy nilly. For Audiobooks, it’s a much more careful and deliberate process. Each month I visit all the major Audiobook Publishes and figure out which of their new releases I am interested in. I also have signed up for their newsletters in case I missed something. For many Publishers I have been able to develop a contact person for requesting titles. Some of them have actually contacted me, and others I worked to discover. Yet, I try and work to maintain the relationship, however it gets started. There are a few Publishers, like Penguin Audio, Harper Audio and Simon & Schuster Audio that send out occasionally emails letting bloggers know what titles are available for review. Throughout my efforts I have developed relationship with all but two of the major Audiobook publishers. These relationships have been rewarding in more ways than just free audiobooks, but encouragement, recommendations and promotion as well.

Some tips for dealing with publishers. Only ask for titles that you are truly interested in, and will be able to review in a timely manner.  When you do review a title, send a link to your review. Publishers prefer honest reviews over fake positive ones, and I never have had an issue with a negative review affecting my relationship with a publisher. Lastly, for new release titles, try to have your review as close to release date as possible. There is nothing wrong with asking a publisher for advice on when to publish a review to increase buzz. I know I have a few times.

There are a few tools I use to find upcoming audiobooks beyond Publisher Websites. Audiofile puts out a list of New Releases that usually cover a two or three month period that is searchable by genre and Publisher. Be careful with this because sometimes the info is not totally accurate. It helps to double check any info with the individual publishers. I love Overdrives classic search. Its new search sucks, but the classic search is still available at this link. Finally, Fantastic Fiction has an Audiobook New Release search filter that I use often. Just remember that this information is for releases in the UK, and it’s not always accurate for the US.

Finally, I want to thank Jen from Devourer of Books for hosting this event. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the passion for audiobooks taking hold. Thanks to everyone who has participated. Feel free to hit me up on twitter, or send me an email or Facebook Message if you ever have any questions about Audiobooks, or just want to chat.

Also Today:

An Interview with Audiobook Narrator Michael Goldstrom

A Review of Leviathan By Scott Westerfeld read by Alan Cummings





Armchair Audie Roundup: Paranormal

30 05 2012

Introduction:

This Week, along with my normal reviews, I will be presenting my roundup posts for The Armchair Audies. If this is the first time you’ve heard of the Armchair Audies, the process is pretty simple. Myself, and a bunch of other bloggers have decided to listen to audiobooks nominated for the Audio Publishers Association prestigious Audie Award. The categories I have listened to and reviewed were Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal.

For each category, I will post the list of nominees, with a link to my review. Then I will offer evaluation of category overall. I will be picking which title was my favorite, which title I would vote for if I was a judge, and which title I feel will win. Also, I will include titles for each category that I feel were overlooked. Make sure you check out The Armchair Audies home page at The Literate Housewife.

Today’s Category: Paranormal

Nominees:

Hard Magic by Larry Correia

Narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Audible, Inc.

My Review

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Narrated by Oliver Wyman

Audible, Inc.

My Review

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Narrated by Sophia Westlake

Tantor Audio

My Review

The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

Narrated by Robert Petkoff

Hachette Audio

My Review

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Narrated by Lorelei King

Macmillan Audio

My Review

Overview:

For me, Paranormal is a strange category that I have trouble defining. By the strictest of definitions it should be about topics beyond normalcy, for this I imagine Paranormal Romance, Supernatural Thrillers, and Urban Fantasy. In some ways, I figure it’s the catch all category for speculative fiction that doesn’t easily fit into the Fantasy and Science Fiction Categories. There is an interesting assortment of titles that received nominations in this category. We have two Paranormal Romances, one with sexy dragons and the other with sexy ghosts. We also have a moody, dark character driven Supernatural thriller, an ultraviolent Monster mayhem novel just this side of gun porn, and an alternate history Steampunk superpowers tale. As I have admitted in my reviews, I am not a Paranormal Romance fan, and while the two examples achieve their purposes and offer entertaining stories, they really aren’t something I typically enjoy. Yet, I absolutely love the other three audiobooks in this category. To make matters worse, four of the five narrators in this category I consider some of the tops in the industry. I often credit Oliver Wyman for transforming me from an audiobook listener to an audiobook enthusiast. Bronson Pinchot is constantly amazing me with what he brings to an audiobook. Robert Petkoff seems to capture the essence of every book he performs, and while I haven’t listen to many Lorelei King narrations, she is highly respected among many people I trust. Yet, with all these facts in play, one title simply dominated, and was easily my choice for this category.

My Favorite: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

My Vote: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

Who Will Win: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

I have both practical and fanboyish reasons why I feel Hard Magic will dominate this category. First, the fanboyish. Hard Magic is frakkin’ brilliant. Larry Correia has created one of the more fascinating world’s I encountered, bringing together some of the most overused current tropes of the Fantasy genre in a way that makes it all fresh. It is an alternate history, Steampunk novel about people with supernatural powers. Nothing about this novel is pat. Its characters are well drawn, the magical powers unique and the alternate history setting compelling. To make things even better, Bronson Pinchot’s reading was superb. He managed to take an already excellent tale, and make it even better. Pinchot is also nominated for Best Solo Narration for this performance. Hard Magic is the right blend of content and narration which these Awards should recognize.

Some Overlooked Titles:

Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Aloha From Hell by Richard Kadrey

Zoo City from Lauren Buekes

King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry





Armchair Audies Roundup: Science Fiction

29 05 2012

Introduction:

This Week, along with my normal reviews, I will be presenting my roundup posts for The Armchair Audies. If this is the first time you’ve heard of the Armchair Audies, the process is pretty simple. Myself, and a bunch of other bloggers have decided to listen to audiobooks nominated for the Audio Publishers Association prestigious Audie Award. The categories I have listened to and reviewed were Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal.

For each category, I will post the list of nominees, with a link to my review. Then I will offer evaluation of category overall. I will be picking which title was my favorite, which title I would vote for if I was a judge, and which title I feel will win. Also, I will include titles for each category that I feel were overlooked. Make sure you check out The Armchair Audies home page at The Literate Housewife.

Today’s Category: Science Fiction

Nominees:

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Narrated by Wil Wheaton

Audible Frontiers

My Review (Stroll Down to Entry #5)

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Narrated by Jefferson Mays

Recorded Books

My Review

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

Narrated by Wil Wheaton

Audible Frontiers

My Review

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

Narrated by Simon Vance

Tantor Audio

My Review

The Tears of the Sun by S. M. Stirling

Narrated by Todd McLaren

Tantor Audio

My Review

Solaris: The Definitive Edition by Stanislaw Lem

Narrated by Allesandro Juliani

Audible, Inc.

My Review

Overview

While I probably shouldn’t have been shocked, I found the Science Fiction category a bit strange. First off, it’s the only category with six nominees, which I am assuming is because one author/narrator team received two nominations. Also, two of the nominees were mid series entries, and arguably actually Fantasies, although they did have some small science fiction elements to them. What stands out for me in those titles, The Tears of the Sun and The Cold Commands is that they are both rather mediocre entries in their respective series, yet both have excellent performances by their narrators. I think the battle in this category is between titles which content is mediocre, yet with excellent narration versus titles which are excellent science fiction yet the narration doesn’t particularly stand out.

My Favorite: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Agent to the Stars is a wonderfully little story, and so different from all the other titles. It is the only Earth based, modern set entry and has an almost pulpish quality that I feel is a whole lot of fun. It is also significant because it is the first pairing of Author John Scalzi with narrator Wil Wheaton, a match made in audio heaven. I think of all the titles, Agent to the Stars is the most accessible, easily enjoyed by listeners whether they are science fiction fans or not. It is also the most surprising entry of the list. If I had to compile a list of the most likely scifi audiobooks to get a nomination, I don’t think Agent to the Stars would have been anywhere near the top. Yet, I think its good natured skewing of celebrity culture makes it something that many people can enjoy.

My Vote: Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

While I love Agent to the Stars, I feel the second Scalzi/Wheaton nominated book Fuzzy Nation would be more deserved of a vote because Wil’s narration here is better, more nuanced and well paced. When compared to the rest of the entries in this category, it achieves the best balance between the content of the tale, and the performance of the narrator. Yet, Fuzzy Nation will not blow anyone away. It’s a solid, fun science fiction story, but isn’t as expansive and world bending as some of the other entries, and probably won’t achieve classic status like Solaris already has, and Leviathan Wakes is destined to. This is why, despite the fact I would vote for Fuzzy Nation, I don’t think it is really in contention to win the category.

Who Will Win: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A, Corey

So, I have to admit, I’m taking a bit of a risk on this pick, but I have my reasons. On paper, I think Solaris has the edge. It’s a science fiction classic which Audible actually commissioned a new translation of for this audiobook production. For this alone I feel it could easily take this award, and I feel that there will be a temptation by the judges to go in this direction. But, in my opinion, Leviathan Wakes is just a better novel. It has been nominated for both a Hugo and Locus award this year and I think that science fiction credibility will help it in the end. It is also an excellent story, and while I was under whelmed by Jefferson May’s performance when compared to some of the other narrators in this category, his reading is solid and enjoyable and does just enough to make me comfortable predicting its win.

Some Overlooked Titles:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Deadline by Mira Grant

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Germline by T.C. McCarthy

Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson