Audiobook Review: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

23 04 2018

Space Opera (Unabridged)

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Read by Heath Miller

Highbridge Audio

Grade: B+

One thing I love about science fiction, is that it can be timely and poignant, examining cultural, political and scientific changes and their potential impact on modern existence. Also, it can be fun. Space Opera manages to be all this is one delicious gooey package. It’s a roller coaster ride of exobiology where the twist come in not what a character does, but in what a character is. At times it feels like it can be plummet into saccharine triteness, but then Valente suddenly veers off in another direction, causing the reader to want to throw their appendages up in the air and ululate in glee. It’s a testament to a novel when the author seemed to have just as much fun writing it as the reader does consuming it and Space Opera is a prime example of this symbiotic literary experience. Space Opera tackles some important topics, examining the ridiculous nature of some of our human hangups and prejudices, but does it in a style that less preaching but more drunken conversation with your crazy friends at the local pub,

If the value if an audiobook narrator was based in the number of times you chortled, snickered, or guffawed in inappropriate public forums than Heath Miller would be raking in the lols like a teenage girl with her first snapchat account. His reading hit all the right notes. It easy, when reading novels it a comedic element to veer off into the cartoonish. Miller is obviously having a good time with the material but never lets it become whatever the British version of Daffy Duck is. He has an endless array of character voices. It’s like each time Valente tries to outdo him with some crazy alien character, Miller was all “Yeah. I got this.”  In the end, the best compliment I think I can give this audiobook was that good fun was had by all.

Advertisements




Audiobook Review: Year One by Nora Roberts

21 03 2018

Year One Chronicles of The One, Book 1 (Unabridged)

Year One (Chronicles of the One) by Nora Roberts

Narrated by Julia Whelan

Brilliance Audio

Grade: B+

It seems every other week or so some book comes out that’s accused of being a blatant rip off of Stephen King’s classic The Stand yet when I sit down to read or move around while listening the book is either not really a rip off, or just not blatant enough. Being a blatant ripoff of a great novel isn’t a sin, but not pulling it off well can be a disappointment to fans of that novel who maybe want just a little taste of that experience again. Year One is the latest in a line of books to come tagged with this accusation. Luckily, Roberts actually kinda pulls it off. Year One is a book that has enough echoes of the classic to please to less assholey fans of The Stand, with enough differences to make it stand out on it’s own. Like The Stand, it’s not a perfect novel, but it follows the classic post apocalyptic formula of bringing groups of survivors together to face a big threat well. It’s not a perfect novel and it’s just the start of a series, so there is a lot of unfinished business when you reach the end, but for fans of the genre, it can hold it’s head up their with some of the classics.

Julia Whelan is an audiobook veteran and gives a strong steady performance. This book didn’t need a lot of bells and whistles, and the publishers made a good choice using one strong consistent voice to drive the narrative. Whelan handles the large cast with ease, and keeps the pace moving forward. Overall, Whelan serves the novel well, keeping you fully engaged in the story.

 





Audiobook Review: The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

6 03 2018

Armored Saint

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

Series: The Sacred Throne, Book 1

Narrated by Michi Barall

Recorded Books

Grade: B

I’ll be honest, I am hesitant to start any new Epic Fantasy series, even by authors I love. I tend to enjoy the occasional fantasy but they take a lot of commitment and I tend to be more of a contemporary science fiction guy. That being said, I have heard Myke Cole talk about this series for a while and I was intrigued about it. So, I started The Armored Saint with some hopeful optimism. At first, I was a bit disappointed. Not that it wasn’t good, it’s just what I heard Myke talk so passionately about wasn’t there yet. It was definitely a well envisioned world and there was moments it almost felt like a companion piece to Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle. So much of the book is about creating the world and letting us meet the characters, there was a bit of a “been there” feel to it. It wasn’t until perhaps the latter third of the novel that I began to get a feel that this trip would be something entirely unique, and that Myke just needed to get the ball rolling. Finally, with a confrontation and a twist Myke’s passion finally came to life for me. In the end Myke gave me what I was looking for, and a bit of a surprise on top of that. This is just the first chapter of this tale, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Early going, I wasn’t a fan of Michi Barall’s narration. In the early going, the pace felt forced. In a strange bit of a twist, she seemed to handle the male character voices much better than the female ones. As the book progressed I eases into her style a little more. As more action and conflict arose, her pacing picked up and she delivered. While not a perfect performance, it was strong enough in the end to keep me in the game.





Audiobook Review: The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

5 03 2018

Elena

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

Read by Candace Thaxton

Simon & Schuster Audio

Grade: A

Typically, I put a lot of research into what books I am planning on reading yet The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza was one of the rare incidents where I took a head long flyer into a book without knowing anything about the it or author other than the cover image and a brief description. This time it paid off. Almost instantly I fell in love with this book. When it truly dawned on me that this may fall into the weird “YA dystopian” category that is often misapplied, I was wary, but each time Hutchinson seemed to be going down the well worn paths, he would take a jarring turn. Typically in YA books, I endure the romance and school politics while getting to the underlining plot, here the characters and their interactions were what made me love the book. In this book, the pat adult solutions to kids problems never worked and the complex emotions of the young adult years were actually respected. In many ways, The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza reminded me of one of my favorite TV shows, Wonderfalls, and I loved it for that.

Candice Thaxton was perfect for this audiobook. Her performance was quirky and fluid, capturing the humor of the novel without ever making it feel cartoony. How often can someone organically deliver a conversation between a girl, her best friend and a stuffed baby cthulhu and have it feel natural. She achieved the rare feat of actually making me laugh while listening to a book. The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza is simply a book I’m glad I read.

 





Audiobook Review: Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

22 02 2018

Down the River Unto the Sea

Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

Narrated by Dion Graham

Hachette Audio

Grade: A

In Down the River Unto the Sea Walter Mosley does something thoroughly impressive, he manages to put together a book that is both timely and timeless, a classic detective story written for a troubled time. The set up is classic noir, Joe King Oliver is a flawed man but a good cop. When his personal flaws allow him to be set up for a crime he didn’t commit, he finds himself floating between the world of cop and criminal, no longer comfortable in either world. Now, a disgraced detective, he’s tasked with preventing an injustice all to close to his own. Mosley excels at creating an uncomfortable but real world, and populating it with strong, memorable characters. In a world where we often see things as black and white, Mosley thrives in the gray. Joe Oliver’s complexities as an African American cop betrayed by those he trusted and thrust into a community that often sees him as the enemy, adds layers to a well tailored mystery. His transformation parallels the story brilliantly, moving him towards a surprising climax. Yet, strip away all these complexities and at it’s core Mosley tells a hell of a story, with exhilarating action, some well choreographed twists and populated with a slew of memorable characters.

Dion Graham handles the narration like a master musician who knows just the right instrument for the right moment. At times, smooth like a saxophone, at others, driving the pace like a bass guitar, Graham uses his voice like he’s scoring a film, creating a mood while bringing Mosley’s well conceived characters to life. With some books, I feel like narrators struggle to find the right voice to fit the author’s intent, but here Mosley and Graham seem to be workings like a team, Mosley creating them and Graham revealing their vibrancy. Down the River Unto the Sea succeeds where other tales have failed, to tell a truly human story that doesn’t exploit current events but lives firmly within our world’s new realities.





Audiobook Review: Pandora: Outbreak by Eric L. Harry

16 02 2018

Outbreak Pandora

Pandora: Outbreak by Eric L. Harry

Narrated by Morgan Hallett

Recorded Books

Grade: B

For old school apocalyptic fans, a new book by the author of Arc Light, should be, well… something. I was a bit surprised when I heard that Eric L. Harry, a man who has released 4 books since his debut in 1994, was starting a series. The set up sounds a bit samesy… A deadly pathogen is released in the melting snow of Siberia that makes people turn violent and attack without fear of pain or death. It’s basically another “it’s kinda like a zombie but not” novel. When Pandora: Outbreak tries to be a apocalyptic novel, if feels like every other apocalyptic novel, but when it focuses on the science and the interesting relationship between the twin sisters, one infected and one not, it becomes a compelling read. It feels a bit bloated at times, like Harry took the long path on purpose, but despite that, as the reader, you don’t quite mind since the path is scenic enough to be interesting. For fans of apocalyptic medical thrillers, Pandora: Outbreak is a smart thriller that will keep you invested, but if your looking for a zombie shoot ‘em up or action packed survivalist story, there are other options that would better suit your taste.

This was only the second book I’ve listened to narrated by Morgan Hallett. While she won’t wow you with verbal gymnastics, her performance hit all the right notes. She took on the task of handling the twins wonderfully, managing to differentiate in ways that were true to their character. He voice and timing drew the listener in and kept them solidly implanted in the story. While Pandora: Outbreak probably won’t stand out among the glut of apocalyptic fiction it’s a solid enough entry, with fascinating science and a strong performance by the narrator, and worth the listen.





Audiobook Review: Killer Choice by Tom Hunt

15 02 2018

Killer Choice

Killer Choice by Tom Hunt

Narrated by Ray Porter

Penguin Audio

Grade: D

Tom Hunt’s debut thriller Killer Choice asks an intriguing question, could you kill someone bad to save the life of someone you loved? What if this choice was complicated by the fact that you are the stupidest, most boring suburban white dude ever? Hunt newest spin on the classic “Desperate Man” scenario pits his vanilla hero against some of the scariest things facing the boring suburban white guy, like having to go to the “bad neighborhoods,” not being treated deferentially by people in positions of authority and having to choose between lying to your wife, ignoring her, or mansplaining things that she just isn’t smart enough to get. Luckily, our man character has a slightly less boring brother, who probably has a cooler haircut who he can ask for help. But, of course, dudes don’t ask for help. All together, Killer Choice is a mess of a novel, that may find a following among people who never even accidentally rubbed up against a James Patterson novel. Unless your idea of a great twist is “Just when I thought he did something like, totally dumb he gets even dumberer,” I’d probably avoid this one.

So, yeah, I know the next question. Hey Bob, as a guy who has no problem tossing a book that’s not working for you why did you finish this novel if it was giving you brain herpes. Basically, the answer was Ray Porter. Although, part of me was literally tempted to call up Ray and ask him to simply read the phone book to me, I was so enjoying hearing him read to me that I forgot I actually hated the book. I really wanted to just nudge Ray and say, “Really dude. Is this guy an idiot?” I feel like this may have been one of those situations where a bad movie is better with a good friend. Sometimes, the best way to enjoy a bad book is with a good narrator.