Audiobook Review: Only Human (Themis Files, Bk. 3) by Sylvain Neuvel

1 05 2018

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

Narrated by William Hope, Charlie Anson, Laurence Bouvard, Adan Sablylich and a Full Cast

Random House Audio

Grade: A+

Only Human is the third novel in Sylvain Neuvel’s Themis Files series. It’s hard for me to objectively write about the series, since it’s probably my favorite current science fiction series. Typically, my thoughts are akin to a GIF of Homer Simpson’s Head with his brain replaced but a couple of rockem’ sockem’ robots.

So far, Only Human is probably my least favorite of the series, which means instead of an A followed by an infinite string of +’s, like their first two in the series, Only Human is simply a A followed by a string of pluses that terminate but so far down the path it might as well be infinite. Part of this is due to the fact that this is the third book in a series that has consistently brought the awesome, that the expectations for awesome bringing may actually be unachievable. The pacing is a little slower, more focused on relationships than on big ass robots fighting and potential world doom and destruction. It’s a more intimate tale of one family, than a global struggle. Adds to it a teenager who acts like a teenager, basically, a bratty, potential egomaniacal narcissist, and a father who humbly attempts to control her, and the struggles of this interplanetary drama are more terrestrial, no matter which planet it takes place on. Yet, none of this middling criticism negates that Only Human is still full on awesome, and fans of the first two books should devour this with glee.

Once again, Penguin Random House produces a brilliant audio version worth wonderful performances. Only Human is as close to a radio drama without all annoying bells and whistles that tend to bother traditional audiobook fans. The Narrators are full on acting the scenes, not just reading them, with screams and raised voices. It’s affective for the material, not quite the traditional narration style. The production really brings the world and characters to life in wonderful ways.

Advertisements




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.





Audiobook Review: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

18 04 2018

Unbury Carol

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Read by Dan Jon Miller

Random House Audio

Grade: A-

This book wasn’t what I expected at all. It was a unique weird western. While pretty much it played it straight, there was enough weirdness simmering at the edges to keep you constantly guessing. The characters were vivid, and the settings stunning. Malerman kept me invested throughout the journey with an ending that unexpectedly paid off. Malerman plays with the tropes of the western in wonderful ways that turns the genre on his head.

Dan John Miller’s narration was pitch perfect all the way. His reading of the prose was like a warm cup of hot chocolate that someone helpfully slipped a shot of brandy into. He voice was so welcome and warm that at points it created a mood of unease as it conflicted with some of the happenings of the novel, adding to the feeling of weirdness simmering at the edge.  His characterizations at times bordered at over the top, never quite reaching that level but making them stand out enough in ways that played well into the plotting of the novel. In the end, I felt his performance was well planned, enhancing the experience of the novel.





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.





Ebook Reviews: Return to the Lost Level and School’s Out by Brian Keene

5 03 2018

Return-to-the-Lost-Level-Generic_776x

Return to the Lost Level by Brian Keene

Apex Publishing

Grade: A

In the second book in the series, Brian Keene cranks up the pulpy goodness to 11. Return to the Lost Levels offers a quest, some “new” characters, death defying (and not-quite-defying) action and just enough interdimensial weirdness to through me into full on squee mode. The Lost Level series is the perfect blend of modern science fiction concepts, classic pulpiness and Keene’s own special mythology. Yet must importantly, it’s pure joy to read. While I love the novel as a whole, the little side peeks into some of the alternate realities was the highlight for me, as well as the cool little short story attached to the end. The Lost Level series is the most fun I have had reading a print novel since Joe Lansdale’s Drive In series, and I can’t wait to see which roads Keene takes us down next.

 

schools out

School’s Out by Brian Keene

Grade: B

In School’s Out, Keene doesn’t break much new ground in the post apocalyptic world. Yet, where this novella stands out is in the voice of it’s main character and the pure visceralness of the writing. Inspired by his sons view of the apocalypse, Keene doesn’t cute it up. This isn’t some cozy apocalypse, but a brutal landscape seen through the eyes of a child. Keene doesn’t attempt to make his main character anything more than he is, a normal kid dealing with a situation that most adults would have trouble grasping. Keene delivers the tale in a way that brutally honest to kids, yet never gratuitously so. There is no agenda or attempts to teach moral lessons, just revealing a potential world as realistically as possible. I think this would be a good tale to read with a child, and may lead to some interesting conversations.





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.