Extracted (Extracted Trilogy, Bk. 1) by RR Haywood
Read by Carl Prekopp
So first the positives…
I loved the premise of this novel, Haywood isn’t the first to use the idea historical extractions, hell, Bill and Ted did it to help pass a high school class, but Haywood adds enough of his own little touches to make it work. I like that he didn’t use existing historical figures but created his own characters from different timelines and created them well. His characters may have been built on existing action hero tropes, but those tropes exist for a reason. Haywood’s action scenes were crisp, well choreographed and highly visual. The scenes just popped in your head and kept your heart pounding. Yet, my favorite aspect of the book was the wry, subtle humor. Haywood didn’t go for the easy joke, but used tricks of timing and dialogue. It lightened some of the dark moments of the book, and endeared the characters to the listener.
The biggest positive of the audiobook for me was the brilliant performance of narrator Carl Prekopp. Where other narrators would have muddled the humor of the novel, Prekopp enhanced it. His comic timing and ability to seamlessly switch from dark moodiness, intense action and witty banter kept the listener engaged even when the story itself sagged. As an American I sometimes struggle with British narrators differentiating characters but with Prekopp his characters were so vivid that this was never an issue. His pacing was fast and furious when needed to be, guiding the listener through intense actions, keeping them invested to the final resolution. It was one of my favorite performances in a while and proof that the right narrator can transform a book from ok to kick ass.
Now the negatives…
This 12 hour audiobook was 8 hours of awesome broken up by a 4 hour chunk of frustrating. I tend to love those montage scenes of units training together, bonding, becoming a cohesive group yet in Extracted the author made an interesting choice with one of the characters that while understandable and perhaps even, if executed properly, unique enough push the book beyond the typical sci-fi actioner, here it just didn’t work. A large chunk of the book revolved around a character falling into a state of self doubt and depression. While the author did a good job explaining why this happened, it just seemed to get the story bogged down in the mire. I went from feeling emphathy for the character to wanting to punch him repeatedly in the face to get him to stop whining. It felt like the emotional rollercoaster that caregivers go through, symphathy followed by frustration followed by shame. This could have been effective if done differently but it seemed to just drag on, almost making me want to fling the audiobook away and spend the rest of the day listening to Korean pop music.
My other negative, and part of this is my fault. I should have known this was the first book in a trilogy, but I didn’t and as I got to about hour 10 and realized we were no where close to even thinking about the ultimate resolution of the tale my heart began to sink. There are two kinds of trilogies, a large book cut into three smaller books, and three interlocking tales that have internal plot resolutions but feed into an overarching mythology. Sadly, this was more of the first kind of tale. By the end of the book, there’s no true resolution and you feel no closer to understanding or resolving the underlying issue of the novel. Sure, there were resolutions between the characters, and some anticlimactic reveals but the book was mostly a 12 hour introduction to the players. Despite my issues though, I’m invested enough in these players to be willing to continue the ride.