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.





Audiobook Review: City of the Dead: Author’s Preferred Edition by Brian Keene

12 02 2018

City of the Dead

City of the Dead: Author’s Preferred Edition by Brian Keene

Narrated by Joe Hempel

Crossroad Press

Grade: B+

It’s really hard to review the audio version of a book you read originally over 10 years ago. When I first read The Rising and City of the Dead, the current wave of Zombie fic was in it’s infancy. Over a decade later, and I can now truly appreciate how truly cutting edge and influential this novel has become. Also, as I followed Brian Keene’s career, one thing that truly stuck out to me in City of the Dead was how personal this novel must have been for him. City of the Dead isn’t just a novel about inter dimensional “demons” inhabiting the bodies of the dead to eliminate life on this earth, it’s also an often heartbreaking look at a man reconnecting with his child and understanding what it means to be a father. Like most of Keenes’s book, while grounded in traditional tropes, it’s far from a traditional zombie novel. Fans of Keene will rejoice at having these new versions of The Rising and City of the Dead to embrace, and be slightly jealous of the new fans getting to experience these stories for the first time.

Joe Hempel has to take on the task of bring a world alive that is already alive in my brain. Like in most cases, Hempel’s interpretations don’t really match up with how I originally imagined them. Yet, often times, his choices were probably better. His voices for the Siqqusim were more human sounding then I imagined them, but that makes sense and actually makes the “zombies” even more creepy. Where he really excels is driving the pace of the action and building the tension, along with truly bringing to life the relationships between the characters. He has a smooth, crisp delivery style and never falls into the “deep dark horror voice” trap that is overused in this genre. While those new to the series should fully embrace Hempel’s performance, the toughest critics, those fans reliving the book, will be more than satisfied with his performance.





Audiobook Review: Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale

12 02 2018

Fender Lizards

Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale

Read by Kasey Lansdale

SkyBoat Media

Grade: B+

I had no idea what I was getting when, on a whim, I downloaded Fender Lizards by Joe R. Lansdale. Lansdale is a favorite of mine. He writes in many genres and so you never know what you are gonna get when you leap blindly into his world. And, as often is the case, what I got was something I didn’t quite expect yet fell in love with. Fender Lizards is basically a book about a roller skating waitress who decides to start a Roller Derby team. Lansdale takes this simple story and makes it come alive with witty dialogue, an engaging main character and lots of humor. Fender Lizards is like a spontaneous road trip with a fun new friend. You don’t know where exactly you’re heading but you sure as hell are enjoying the ride.

Kasey Lansdale handles the narration with simple lovable charm. Fender Lizards is a first person tale, and Kasey becomes Dot. She infuses the tale with an almost musical style, using an upbeat tempo and catchy twang to fully pull the listener into the story. It seams impossible not to like Dot, and even when she can be frustrating, she’s like cute little sister frustrating. Fender Lizards is a prime example of how fun a well told story with engaging character can be when brought to life by a talented performer.





Audiobook Review: The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

11 02 2018

The Gone World

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

Narrated by Brittany Pressley

Penguin Audio

Grade: A

Tom Sweterlitsch takes three well worn sub-genres, the procedural murder mystery, time travel adventure and apocalyptic fiction and twists them into a miasma of something truly original. Sweterlitsch has created a tale full of dark imagery. He creates settings like a visual artist, hauntingly beautiful, like a nightmare you can’t escape. Yet it’s not this dark landscapes that truly make this novel work, but the human characters he populates them with. No matter how strange the trip gets, and people, it gets pretty damn strange, you never lose the connection with the main character. It is both literary and accessible, the kind of fiction that appeals to those looking for a true work of art and those who just want to read a grand tale of adventure. It’s all topped off with a bittersweet ending that may have pulled a bit of feeling from my hardened soul.

Narrator Brittany Pressely only adds to the beauty of the tale. As our protagonist changes throughout the tale, so does our narrator but she never loses the core of the character. Pressley is like an anchor, always keeping our minds from going afloat. She reveals Sweterlitsch’s worlds with haunting beauty and makes us feel for these characters. The Gone World is the first great science fiction novel of 2018, and one that going to be hard to top.





Audiobook Review: Ghost Walk by Brian Keene

30 04 2017

Ghost Walk

Ghost Walk by Brian Keene

Read by Chet Williamson

Crossroad Press

Grade: B

I have had a very sporadic love affair with Brian Keene. Well, at least his books. I’ve loved many of his books, particularly is apocalyptic novels, but have only read a few of his more traditional horror novels. Now that he has a deal with Crossroads Press to release his books into audio, I plan to flesh out my collection. My first foray into this is Ghost Walk, the loose follow up to his novel Dark Hollow. Ghost Walk is a serviceable one-off horror tale of a Halloween Attraction gone tragically awry due to supernatural interventions. Yet, where it truly excels in it’s place in Brian Keene’s larger mythos and in particular, the introduction of one of his reoccurring character, Levi Stoltzfus. One thing you learn quickly in Brian Keene’s scarred from their encounters with the entities from the labyrinth, and the implications of these scars ripple out beyond the ending of any particular book. Ghost Walk is old school horror that truly is horrific.

Chet Williamson is one of those narrators that isn’t always my cup of tea. He has more of the old school style akin to many of the originals big voices of audiobook Narration like George Guidall or Richard Ferrone. I’m not typically a fan of this style yet occasionally, with the right book it works. I though his performance in Keene’s The Complex was outstanding. I wasn’t as enamored here, but as the book played out, and things seemed to get more bizarre and crazy I fell under his spell. Williamson is strongest in this genre, and he delivers a solid performance that is suited to this book.





Audiobook Review: In the Darkness, That’s Where I’ll Know You: The Complete Black Room Story by Luke Smitherd

19 04 2017


In the Darkness, That’s Where I’ll Know You: The Complete Black Room Story by Luke Smitherd

Read by Luke Smitherd

Flying Body Press

Grade: B

I was in a bit of a rut. I had started two very smart, clever science fiction novels and found myself in awe of the writing and impressed with the concepts but not actually enjoying the experience. So I said, screw it, give me something fun. I had downloaded In the Darkness, That’s Where I’ll Know You a while back after thoroughly enjoying Luke Smitherd’s The Stone Man and than forgot about it. I started it as a desperation move, hoping to get my groove back and I’m glad I did. This novel, the complete version of his Black Room was truly a Bob novel, a weird physic novel full of likable everyday characters and awkward romance. Smitherd tells a tale with dark themes balanced out by goofy humor. It was both smart and good fun, never taking itself too seriously just delivering an entertaining read. 
One of the reasons I hesitated on listening to this was that it was narrated by the author. Smitherd has a nice voice but as us rabid audiophiles know, a nice voice isn’t enough. There were plenty of flaws with his reading. His pacing in the beginning was a bit awkward. The biggest issue was with the perspective transitions, they were often too fluid, not allowing you to realize you moved from one POV to another, which lead to a dissonant feeling pulling you momentarily out of the story. Yet besides these issues, I found myself enjoying the narration. He manages the tongue in cheek humor with a British subtlety that perfectly suited the story and his enthusiasm for the story was infectious. While a professional narrator could have enhanced the experience, don’t let the fact that the author narrated the tale scare you off. 





Audiobook Review: The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore

13 04 2017


The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore

Read by David Colacci

Highbridge Audio

Grade B
The Dark Room, Jonathan Moore’s loosely related follow up to The Poison Artist, was not the book I expected. Crime fiction is full of the twisted antihero. Police Procedurals tend to focus on gruff, lone wolf, self destructive detectives who push the boundaries of the law to get justice. So, when I slowly began to realize that the main character of this novel, Gavin Cain was a competent, well adjusted and likeable police detective, I was like… What the hell! The Dark Room is a solid mystery full of noir atmosphere that should delight hard core crime fiction fans. It was well written, full of dark twists, hidden secrets and memorable characters. Yet, like The Poison Artist, I think I respected the writing and appreciated the storytelling more than I actually enjoyed it. It was one of those experiences where I wanted to race to the end partly because I wanted to know what happened, but mostly because I was ready to move on to the next book in my queue. 
So, David Colacci narrated this book. I’m not so sure what else to say. You basically know what you’re gonna get when Colacci reads a book. Typically solid, easily listenable but rarely will you be blown away by his performance. His pacing is solid but his characters are pretty exchangeable and his British accent was at best, dull. Overall, I’d put The Dark Room in the upper tier of crime fiction but I also don’t see it as a book that will linger in my mind for any significant amount of time.