Audiobook Review: Spellbound by Larry Correia

11 12 2012

Spellbound by Larry Correia (Book 2 of the Grimnoir Chronicles)

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

Length: 16 Hrs 25 Min

Genre: Alternate History/Steampunk/Superheroes

Quick Thoughts: Spellbound left me simply breathless. Larry Correia has taken classic fantasy tropes and blended them into something that is almost its own new genre. The Grimnoir Chronicles with its blending of Superheroes, Steampunk and Alternate History is a series you simply cannot miss.

Grade: A+

2013 Audie Nomination for Paranormal

It’s no secret that I love a good superhero tale, as long as I don’t think about it too much. I have always been one who hasn’t let inconsistencies in fiction bother me too much. I mean, honestly, I love zombie books, and other goofy science fiction type things, if I let plausibility and consistent mythology bother me too much I probably would have to resort to nonfiction. That being said, those rare occasions when my mind is working too hard, Superhero origin stories hurt my brain. Now, I’m mostly a casual superhero fan. I’ve never been a big comic book guys, so all my issues have probably been addressed multiple times by multiple people. Yet, I never understood why more people haven’t had themselves bitten by irradiated, genetically engineered spiders, or exposed to top secret gamma rays. If superheroes are a real part of your world, wouldn’t more idiots be trying to throw themselves in front of meteors? Then, there’s Superman. He is biggest, strongest superhero of them all, who somehow gets his power from a yellow sun. I’m not exactly sure how the rays of a yellow sun would allow you to fly, or shoot beams out of your eyes. I mean, maybe if we could already float or have low powered eyebeams, then sure, yellow sun, amps us up. I’m down. Plus, Superman can fly into space, through the galaxy where not all suns are yellow. What’s up with that? Wouldn’t he lose his power? So, whenever I go into a tale involving superheroes I plan to sort of roll my eyes and go with the origin story’s flow, which hopefully is dealt with then pushed into the background. Yet, Larry Correia, in his Grimnoir series, has done something I really didn’t expect. He has created a fascinating origin for the force behind the rise of magical powers and integrated it into the mythology of the series in a way that I find quite fascinating.

Spellbound is the second entry in Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles, the direct sequel to the Audie award winning Hard Magic, an audiobook that would have been in my top 20 last year, except I listened to it after making my list. After the events of Hard Magic the Grimnoir Knights find themselves is a bad position when they are framed for an assassination attempt on FDR. Now, hunted by a mysterious new government agency, the magical group must try to clear their name while preparing to battle an ancient force that could devastate the world as they know it. It’s common practice in action series that with each new edition  the hero or heroes takes on progressively worst badies. After defeating the most powerful and oldest magical human in the last book, I really wondered where Correia could take the story. Well, in Spellbound everything is amped up exponentially. Spellbound is Hard Magic on blue meth, full of inter-dimensional demons, vast conspiracies, and some of the unlikeliest of allies. Spellbound made my brain spin. I have often commented on the cinematic quality of Correia’s action scenes. Yet, in Spellbound the action scenes are still meticulously choreographed and highly visual, but they are so big that I don’t think a film screen could hold it all. Picture the big battle in The Avengers, throw in Gozer, give it a Steampunk edge, then multiply it by ten, and maybe you have an idea how the finale of this novel felt. Yet, it’s not just the action scenes that hold this book together. Correia has developed characters with amazing death and creates a complex mythology and detailed plot, yet reveals it in a way that is highly accessible. It’s easy to place a sort of sort of pulpy, gun porn label on Correia, but in all honesty, this guy can write with the best of them. Spellbound left me simply breathless. Larry Correia has taken classic fantasy tropes and blended them into something that is almost its own new genre. The Grimnoir Chronicles with its blending of Superheroes, Steampunk and Alternate History is a series you simply cannot miss.

In her review, one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Kat Hooper of Fantasy Literature, said that Spellbound is “A Perfect example of how good audio can get.” She is absolutely right. Bronson Pinchot’s performance in Spellbound is easily my favorite performance by a narrator this year. It really is mind boggling how good this book is in audio. Pinchot delivers a master class in pacing of a multiple POV novel. Most good narrators create a pace for each characters inner and external dialogue, yet with each perspective shift, Pinchot tailors his reading to the pace and tone of each character. There is never any question when you are looking at something from Faye’s kinetically paced point of view, or when things slow down to the ponderous pace of the underestimated Heavy Jake Sullivan. Pinchot is one of the few narrators that can actually enhance the author’s character development with his voice. His handling of the international cast was flawless, and tailored each voice to its character’s origin, personality and magical skill. Let’s face it, I listen to lots of audiobooks, and I have listened to more than a few books narrated by Pinchot, but what he does with Spellbound just amazed me. Each character comes alive, each scene jumps from the page to my ears in a masterful way, and it was one of the most engaging and pulse pounding audiobook experiences I have ever had. I have said this before, but I truly believe Correia must have sacrifice some goats or something to the gods of audiobooks to be given two of the best in the business to read his words. In Spellbound he must have gone the extra step and sacrificed an ancient polka dotted virgin goat or something, it was just that good.





Audiobook Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

27 07 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Read by Emily Janice Card

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs and 3 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: The Age of Miracles isn’t an easy ride. Karen Thompson Walker’s slow boil apocalypse is a melancholy, almost anti-coming of age tale that is equal parts gripping and frustrating. While it left me ultimately unsatisfied and uneasy, the path to this final destination was lavishly and intricately created.

Grade: B-

2013 Audie Nomination for Science Fiction

When it comes to the end of the world, sometimes I prefer the whimper. So much of the Post Apocalyptic fiction I read in my younger years where all about the bang. A plague, bomb, alien invasion or killer asteroid comes along and instantly wipes out billions upon billions of our fellow inhabitance of Earth. I think with the invention of nuclear bombs, the idea of instant annihilation seemed more probable. Yet, as more and more we begin to realize that gradual causes are more of a threat to ending us as a species then a sudden jolt, it’s being reflected in our fiction. With ecological, political, social, economic and scientific issues cropping up in our newspapers on a daily basis, there is almost a feeling that we are amidst a slow boil apocalypse, only waiting for the last catalyst to drop. I think handling this idea properly is one of the toughest tasks of the apocalyptic author. When the apocalypse is cut and dry, we can get right to the roving bandits, looting and rise of demagogues. Yet, when the issues are murky, it’s tough to find the line between a normal regression of society and an apocalypse. When do the people really begin to realize that this is the end? When the prices of gas skyrocket? When food and electricity become uncertain commodities? At some point there has to be a point of no return, and it’s important for an author taking on a slow boil apocalypse to define that moment for the characters of their tale.

In Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles, the earth’s rotation begins to slow, incrementally extending the day. For 11 year old Julia, the announcement of The Slowing is met with an almost restrained excitement. Yet, as her world begins to transform to the changing planet, Julia begins to see how the new world will affect her directly. As society begins to shift, Julia’s quiet observations serves as our guide, giving us an intimate tour through the evolution of mankind as they deal with their potential demise. Walker has created a fascinating tableau for her often moody tale of the end of the world. There is definite melancholy tone and our preteen protagonist displays her life in a series of lasts. With many coming of age tales, which The Age of Miracles echoes, we see a series of firsts, the first kiss, the first job, the first taste of independence, yet with Julia, despite experiencing firsts, her story focuses on her lasts, the last time seeing a friend, the last time eating a grape. This contrast is striking and heartbreaking, and makes the reader want to really feel for the character. Yet, for me, it was hard at times to really place Julia’s voice. I think part of this was due to the fact it was future Julia telling the tale of 11 year old Julia, and this makes it hard to translate between her initial perspectives, and those filtered through times. This gives Julia an ageless quality that blunts some of the effectiveness of her tale of loneliness, young love, and naive innocence.  Also, Walker has a tendency for foreshadowing that never really pays off. She mentions certain initiatives and alludes to actions being taken, yet they seem to fall to the wayside, never to be explored again. While his makes some sense on a sociological level, in a society where many people just seem to give up, on a plotting level, it often became frustrating for me as a reader. Yet, despite these problems, Walker managed to keep me mesmerized with her lush prose, and melancholy tone. While I didn’t totally connect with Julia, I felt connected to her world and much of my frustration came from wanting to know more. The Age of Miracles isn’t an easy ride. Karen Thompson Walker’s slow boil apocalypse is a melancholy, almost anti-coming of age tale that is equal parts gripping and frustrating. While it left me ultimately unsatisfied and uneasy, the path to this final destination was lavishly and intricately created.

One of the big reasons I choose The Age of Miracles was to experience a solo narration by Emily Janice Card. To be quite honest, Card’s vocal style isn’t especially unique. Her voice and tone are similar to many narrators doing fine work today, Yet, Cards understanding of the material and ability to make smart choices in her narration really sets her apart. Card reads The Age of Miracles with a slow, deliberate tone the echoes the gradual breakdown of Walker’s word. Card manages to make you feel for the characters she voices. You can hear Julia’s loneliness and despair, as well as the brief moments of uplift she experiences throughout the novel. Card’s reading contributes to the melancholy mood, at times giving the prose an almost dream like quality. Her performance was quite affecting. I found my mood echoing that of the characters of the novel, which is good for the novel but wasn’t necessarily good for my overall attitude. It would be hard for me to say that I loved The Age of Miracles, or even that I really enjoyed the experience, but I did find it to be a fascinating, but emotionally draining listen.

 

Note: This review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse Series.





Audiobook Review: 14 by Peter Clines

3 07 2012

14 by Peter Clines

Read by Ray Porter

Audible Frontiers/Permuted Press

Length: 12 Hrs 42 Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: Peter Clines novels are always highly visual, with intricately detailed action that comes across splendidly in audio. If there is any justice in the world, 14 is a novel that should make Peter Clines a household name among not just horror fans, but fans of good stories, expertly told. Clines has created a novel with characters to cheer for, twists to be honestly shocked by and stunningly vivid horrors that will make your dreams  uncomfortable.

Grade: A

2013 Audie Nomination for Science Fiction

One of the hardest aspects of writing book  reviews is trying to provide enough background information on a book so that a reader, even if they are unfamiliar with the book you are reviewing, can decide if it is something they may be interested in, yet doing it in a way that doesn’t ruin the experience. For many books, a detailed summarily, which provides the basic plot elements and genre categories, is appropriate, and this basic background information will actually assist the reader in getting into the right mindset to enjoy the story. Yet, sometimes a book is best experienced cold. It’s tough, because there are so many books available today, and a reader has to consider their time and money when choosing what to read. So, if you have come to this blog today, looking for a detailed synopsis of Peter Cline’s latest, 14, I’m sorry to say I am going to disappoint you. Any attempt by me to describe this book would only lessen the impact of the novel. 14 is the anti-NBC Public Service announcement, “The More You Know…” because the less you know going in, the better. What I will do is attempt to describe my experience in as general a way as possible, with a sort of wink, and a nod asking simply that you trust me. I know that you people don’t really know me, but please trust me, because this one is pretty darn good.

In 14 Peter Clines has created a frightening vision that blends genres, manipulates tropes and flips conventions on its head. It is old school horror pushed into a pop culture age, it is a mystery without a crime, and an adventure that remains stationary for much of the tale. This tale defies easy categorization. It is a darkly comic horror story that borrows just as much from Office Space and Saturday Morning cartoons as it does from HP Lovecraft, Richard Matheson and Phillip Jose Farmer. Like a good JJ Abrams series Clines combines aspects of mystery, horror, alternate history, science fiction, Steampunk, and dark fantasy, yet unlike these series, the story stays on track and actually delivers a solid ending. Yet, what surprised me was at times, particularly the final third of the novel, it actually sort of freaked me out a bit. Now, I read plenty of horror and rarely, if ever does it actually frighten me. It may appall me, or shake my sensibilities, but rarely do I actually get scared reading it. Yet, Peter Clines manages to tap into some of our deepest archetypical fears, and left me, at times, feeling quite unsettled. On the basic mechanics of the tale, 14 does a lot of things right. Clines created a lot of interesting characters, some which were instantly likeable. The main plot was in many ways a mystery tale, with a group of characters coming together to solve a riddle. As with all good mysteries, part of the solving the riddle is solving the characters, and each main character has a bit of a mystery to them, some secrets that become quite relevant to the plot, and others that serve as sort of a red herring. 14 has many twist, some of these twists you see from a mile away, some that you kick yourself for not figuring out earlier, and some that just totally floor you. The plot is intricately   and expertly built and while a bit out there, Clines grounds the far fetched nature of the tale with a likeable, everyman/woman cast. These are regular people in a decidedly irregular situation and filtering this tale through these character’s perspectives helps the reader buy into the rather bizarre nature of the story. If there is any justice in the world, 14 is a novel that should make Peter Clines a household name among not just horror fans, but fans of good stories, expertly told. Clines has created a novel with characters to cheer for, twists to be honestly shocked by and stunningly vivid horrors that will make your dreams uncomfortable.

I have become quite a big fan of Ray Porter’s narration style, and his rich voice. Porter is one of my favorite first person narrators. He understands that speech isn’t always fluid and flawless, but includes affectations, and inconstant pacing. Porter can do more with a pause and a sigh, than many narrators can do with poetry. Yet, this was the first time I have listened to Porter read a novel written in the third person. I wondered if his style would be as good of a fit with this type of tale as it is with his first person narration. Thankfully, I can report that it totally was.  Porter perfectly captures all of Clines strange collection of characters. It was interesting to see Porter, who I know best as the voice of Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger, bring to life a character that is basically soft spoken and unsure of himself. Yet, Porter does more than capture the main character Nate well, but allows the soft voice he creates for him to grow stronger as the book moves on, highlighting the transformation of the character. One of Porter’s other strong suits is voicing exotic women, and that serves him well with the lead female character Veek. In fact, each character is given a voice that highlights their personalities and place in this story, which was very helpful with such a large cast of important characters. And I can’t talk about the ending. Really, what Porter does with the final third of the book is just nightmare inducing. It seriously freaked me out, people. Peter Clines novels are always highly visual, with intricately detailed action that comes across splendidly in audio. 14 is one of those books where even if you already read the print version, experiencing the audio version will bring it own rewards.





Audiobook Review: Invincible by Jack Campbell

3 06 2012

Invincible (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, Bk. 2) by Jack Campbell

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera

Quick Thoughts: Invincible is a rollicking good listen, full of action, and a touch of humor. By creating some interesting new angles Campbell breathesnew life into a series that really wasn’t even close to death. The Lost Fleet is easily my current favorite continuing science fiction series, and one of the few that seems to just keep getting better.

Grade: A-

2013 Audie Nomination for Science Fiction

Invincible is the 8th novel written in Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet universe. When I first discovered this series, I went on a listening spree of Jack Campbell and John G. Hemry, Campbell’s true identity, audiobooks. I listened to the four JAG in space novels, and the first six Lost Fleet novels within a span of two months. Yet, after listening to book 7, Dauntless, I wondered how hard it was to keep a series like this fresh. I liked Dauntless, yet, I felt like it was just another Lost Fleet novel, despite it bearing a new sub title called Beyond the Frontier. I struggled with myself. I loved the characters that Campbell created, and the basic formula of the story, which was bits of Galactic and Fleet wide politics mixed in around grand schemed space-based Naval battles. I love these stories, particularly the melding of space and interpersonal politics. I always looked forward to his Black Jack Geary briefings, where he had to employ just as much strategic cunning around the virtual conference table, as he did when planning a military operation. So, how much of the aspects of this series was I willing to give up in order to have something fresh. Luckily, this question never really had to be answered. With Invincible, Jack Campbell manages to keep the tried and true aspects of his Lost Fleet series intact, while creating new angles and potential implications that manages to revitalize this series with a fresh new perspective.

Invincible begins right where Dauntless left off. As Geary moves his fleet deeper into unknown territory, he finds himself trapped in by an unknown enemy. Campbell has left us off at an interesting place, and I was interested to see how he would resolve the situation. I had expected some initial discussion, followed by some trademark, kick ass battle scenes, yet Campbell surprised me. While Invincible is full of some awesome battle scenes, what really made the novel for me was the exegesis of the fleet’s unknown enemies.  Invincible does what the best space bound Military Science fiction, should do, it examines the new life encountered by the characters, and attempts to understand them, not just thinking of interesting ways to kill them, but actually trying to figure them out. Campbell has created some interesting new Alien species for Geary and the Fleet to deal with, and this adds a new freshness of perspective to this series. Another aspect of this novel that surprised me was the humor. There are some genuinely funny moments in Invincible, moments that actually made me laugh out loud. These moments were perfect tension breakers as the Fleet deals with internal problems coming from many directions as well as a sense of unease about what awaits them at home. Invincible is a rollicking good listen, with Campbell breathing some new life in a series that really wasn’t even close to death. The Lost Fleet is easily my current favorite continuing science fiction series, and one of the few that seems to just keep getting better.

Christian Rummel again impresses in his reading of Invincible.  Invincible has tons of characters and this is not an exaggeration. How Rummel manages to keep every character straight, I don’t know. Yet, he does more than keep them straight, but makes them all memorable. Each character has been given an authentic sounding voice that perfectly fits their personalities. His voicing of one minor character, Master Chief Gioninni, is the highlight of the novel for me, and I always look forward to him making an appearance. Rummel handles the complicated military maneuvers of the novel with a crisp, direct reading style that makes following the potentially confusing action easy for the reader.  For those who have yet to experience The Lost Fleet series, I highly recommend the audiobook versions where Campbell’s excellent, fast paced story telling is only enhanced by the narration of Christian Rummel.





Audiobook Review: The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book One by Clay and Susan Griffith

20 03 2012

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book One) by Clay and Susan Griffith

Read by James Marsters

Buzzy Multimedia

Length: 10 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Alternate History Steampunk Vampires

Quick Thoughts: The Greyfriar is a rollicking fun start to a series with great potential. With a lot of vicious Vampires and adventurous derring-do, the first installment of the Vampire Empire lives defies expectations and breaths new life into the Vampire subgenre. Marsters’ narration combined with the fun feel of this novel makes its translation to audiobook seamless, and should win the authors whole new slew of loyal fans.

Grade: B+

2013 Audie Nomination for Paranormal

I’ll admit, I never heard of The Vampire Empire series or of Clay and Susan Griffith until last summer when it was announced that James Marsters was going to narrate the trilogy. I had just been coming off the 7 stages of grief due to Marsters scheduling conflict that left him unable to narrate the latest Dresden Files audiobook, finally accepting that John Glover’s performance wasn’t a sign of the apocalypse, I gasped aloud when I read the words Marsters and audiobook in the same sentence. When I read the description, discovering that the first novel The Greyfriar was an alternate history Steampunk Vampire novel, I was all “meh.” Not that there is anything wrong with alternate history Steampunk Vampire novels. I am a big fan of alternate history, especially the works of SM Stirling and Harry turtledove. While Steampunk isn’t my favorite, I have read and enjoyed works by Cherie Priest and Theodore Judson. It’s the Vampire thing that holds me up. I don’t hate Vampires, one of my all time favorite novels, I am Legend is about Vampires, and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot was a novel I read multiple times as a teenage. In fact, there are plenty of books where Vampires play a supporting role in that I love. Yet, recently books featuring Vampires have disappointed me. Sure, everyone cam complain about those sparkly vampires, and if it was just those I would be cool, but it seems like every time I get excited by a novel about vampires I get let down. I found Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s Strain trilogy to be ho hum. I enjoyed The Passage, but they are about as far away from Vampires as you can get in fiction. Even Stirling, who can typically do no wrong in my opinion, put out an Urban Fantasy Vampire novel that I found just dreadful. So, despite my excitement of a new series narrated by Marsters, I went into my listening of The Greyfriar with many reservations.

In 1870, Vampires, believed to be only figures of myth and Legend, rose up in mass to slaughter the majority of the world’s civilization. The surviving humans are driven South to the tropical climates where the Vampires aversion to heat keeps them from going. Now, 150 years later, as the two Human Great Empires of Equatoria and America begin contemplating an alliance to bring War to the clans of Vampires occupying the great lost cities, an ill-fated mission to the borderlands leaves the Princess Adele in the hands of the most vicious of Vampire rulers. Yet, the legendary Greyfriar, the champion of the free humans will risk his life, and secrets to rescue the Princess and bring her to safety. The Greyfriar was not what I expected in the least. For some reason I had expected an intricately detailed political saga, with the major players maneuvering themselves for an upcoming war. Instead, The Greyfriar is an exciting, almost pulpish action thriller full of wonderful characters and harrowing adventure. The Greyfriar is not A Game of Thrones with Vampires, but instead has an old time feel of classics such as The Scarlet Pimpernel, the Zorro pulps and Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. To make things better, Clay and Susan Griffith have breathed new life into Vampires. These are not the undead Euro-Vamps you see too much of in fiction. These Vampires are a living, breathing subspecies of humanity. In stripping away much of the mythos of Vampires, the authors make them even more monstrous. Even the exception, the one Vampire who is fascinated by humanity and sympathetic to their plight, only highlights the brutality of his kind.  Some of the characters fall victim to a bit of cardboard stereotyping, with the pompous American blowhard, and the priggish bureaucrat, yet even those characters have potential for interesting development in the upcoming sequels. The main character of the story Adele is a fun update to the classic damsel in distress trope. She is a strong, yet often frustrating woman full of secrets even she is unaware of. The Greyfriar is a rollicking fun start to a series with great potential. With a lot of vicious Vampires and adventurous derring-do, the first installment of the Vampire Empire lives defies expectations and breaths new life into the Vampire subgenre.

I was quite interested in how James Marsters narration would play out in a third person, multi-character novel. For me, he has become the signature first person voice of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden character. His ability to become an engaging first person voice was what impressed me most about his narration, and kept me listening to a series with some rough spots. Marsters’ performance in The Greyfriar truly displays his growth as a narrator. He reads the prose with a confidence voice, handling the early world-building exposition smoothly, guiding us quickly into the meat of the novel. His pacing on the many action scenes is crisp, and never rushed, allowing us to fully envision the scenarios the authors had set up. He handles the multiple accents well, giving Princess Adele an exotic flavor and filling the bombastic of Senator Clarke with an almost sardonic humor. Marsters narration combined with the fun feel of this novel makes its translation to audiobook seamless, and should win the authors whole new slew of loyal fans, including me.

Note: A special thanks to Buzzy Multimedia for providing me with a copy of this title for review. This Audiobook will be released March 22, 2012.





Audiobook Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

16 02 2012

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Read by Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins and Casey Holloway

Hachette Audio

Length: 14 Hrs and 9 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Pure is full of tragic beauty, and Baggott does a great job setting up the theme of finding pride in our scars, both real and metaphorically. While there were moments where I found myself enjoying the settings more than the plot, the novel comes together well with a satisfying ending.

2013 Audie Nomination for Science Fiction

Grade: B

There is a sort of visual beauty in destruction that is hard to define. One of the things that I have always liked about the Post Apocalyptic novels is the images of desolation, of the earth taking back the land, of skeleton cities and empty highways. The first time I read George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, I was mesmerized with his meticulous descriptions of Nature reclaiming the land after a pandemic plague. This visual image has stuck with me for a long time. Yet, much of the time, these images are of landscape, of setting and not of people. Reading Justin Cronin’s interview with Julianna Baggott about the release of her new novel, Pure, he describe the visual of a young girl with a doll head fused to one hand. I found this image itself both stunning and a bit disturbing. Here is the same beauty that I often find is the descriptions of landscapes twisted by the ravaging of the earth, or the decimating of the earths population yet applied to an innocent young girl. I was quite fascinated with this, and wondered not just about the hows and whys of the circumstance that lead to this tragedy, but how it would play out over a whole novel.

Pure is the story of the world after the “detonations” when a series of nanotech enhanced bombs decimated America, causing the victims to merge with items they were in contact with. Pressia is a young girl with a dollhead merged to her hand being raised in an ash filled devastated world by her grandfather, with a fan lodged into his throat. In the distance stand The Dome, where those untouched by the bomb, called Pures lived is a clean, sterile and safe environment, promising to one day return and set things rights. Then, one day, Partridge, a Pure from the Done, escapes to find his lost mother. Pure is a visually stunning Post Apocalyptic tale which successfully straddles the line between Adult and Young Adult fiction. Baggott melds classic dystopian tropes of the haves and the have nots, sexual politics and social and physical stigmata into this story with Post Apocalyptic themes of survival and adaptation to a decimated landscape. While this tale is definitely science fiction, with nanotechnology, robotic insects and genetic engineering it often feels almost like a fairy tale style fantasy, with technology in place of magic. While I was amazed with the visuals, and intrigued by the future history Baggott presented, I had a hard time engaging with the actually plot for the first half of the novel. I felt so much emphasis was placed on the world building and setting up the basic mystery of the tale, that the characters felt a little flat early on. Yet, once the pieces were all put in place and things set into motion, I became more and more engrossed in the tale. The ending offered a few nice touches, and did a good job completing the tale, while setting up the next novel of the series. Pure is full of tragic beauty, and Baggott does a great job setting up the theme of finding pride in our scars, both real and metaphorically. While there were moments where I found myself enjoying the settings more than the plot, the novel comes together well with a satisfying ending.

Pire utilized the talents of four excellent narrators to bring about this tale with each narrator handling a different POV character. While the four narrators, Khristine Hvam, Joshua Swanson, Kevin T. Collins and Casey Holloway all did excellent work, I think the women stole the show on this production. Hvam did a wonderful job bringing Pressia to life, giving her a strong, confident voice, yet also capturing the fact that she was a teenager full of self doubts and conflicting emotions. Holloway voiced the POV of Lyda, who gets the least airtime, but may have been my favorite character. In some ways, she is almost the opposite of Pressia, yet, may have had the most significant overall transformation, and Holloway captures this aspect of Lyda well. While the women’s performances stand out, both Kevin T. Collins and Joshua Swanson bring a unique flavor to this production giving their characters distinctive voices. One of the problems with using multiple narrators is the voicing of peripheral characters that appear in multiple POVs. There are some small issues of this kinds of discontinuity that pull you out of the story, but these moments are rare, and mostly occur when switching from a female to male narrator in the midst of an extended scenes. Overall, the production was excellent, and all of the narrators contributed to bringing this striking vision to life.

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