Audiobook Review: The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith

25 03 2013

The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith (Vampire Empire, Book 2)

Read by James Marsters

Buzzy Multimedia

Length: 13 Hrs 35 Min

Genre: Fantasy Adventure

Quick Thoughts: The Rift Walker is a grand adventure so fun and fast you almost forget about the depths and detail that the authors built into the world. It not just a worthy follow-up to the first novel, but an exponential expansion of what made that novel work. The Rift Walker should please fans of work as diverse as Game of Thrones and The Scarlet Pimpernel or just anyone who loves a strong Princess and the masked hero at her side.

Grade: A

Today, I want to talk about a specific literary type that has been increasingly driving me crazy and that is the douchebag. It seems every book nowadays has to have a douchebag in it. Now, for those of you who aren’t as accomplished in the vagaries of literary terminology, a douchebag is a character that is on the same side as our hero, tends to be skilled and useful and has a great potential to become a true leader, yet ruins it all by acting like a complete assnozzle. This person often has earned the respect of a key group, yet manages put all that respect in jeopardy by acting like a pretentious shitbird. This person is typically, but not always, a male character of an adult level who instead of taking valuable information provided by someone who was placed in a specific situation to gain such information chooses not to utilize or believe it because it comes from someone who they just can’t find it in their heart to believe because they are a women, or a teenager, or someone from a lower class or differing ethnicity, but in reality it’s simply because it conflicts with their own beliefs and may prevent them from taking an action, no matter how potentially disastrous, that they have already decided to take. Basically, they are a condescending bigoted asshat wasting their potential because their minds are just too small to consider anyone else’s opinion valuable particularly by those who they have simply decided are unworthy for arbitrary reasons. I hate douchebags. I seethe with a righteous anger every time they make their totally despicable bombastic and ultimately stupid pronouncements. What’s worse is, often times, the douchebag has the potential to redeem themselves, but then continue in their own douchebaggy ways, and when this way leads to disaster for them, they are shocked. They are amazed that this person they discounted doesn’t wilt before them, giving into their bullying ways. What makes it worse is, this person could have everything, if they just treated people with a bit of respect, and when they don’t they blame it on the person they bullies, badgered mistreated and overlooked. This is why, often when the truly evil character gives it to the douchebag, you sort of end up cheering for the bad guy, because everyone likes to see the douchebag get got.

The Rift Walker is the follow up to the Audie nominated The Greyfriar, the first book of the Vampire Empire trilogy. As The Rift Walker begins, Princess Adele, still longing for The Greyfriar, is set to marry Senator Clark to cement the alliance between Equatoria and America for the upcoming war with the Vampires of the British clans. Clarke, who is, well, a bit of an arrogant jerk, is frustrated with her delays, and pushes for a quick wedding. When The Greyfriar learns Vampires are planning to attack the wedding, he must act thus setting off more potential for adventure, and daring do. The Rift Walker is another rip roaring action packed novel that blends modern day fantasy with the classics, creating one of the grandest adventure tales today. Honestly, The Rift Walker is just pure fun. Sure, there’s drama and intrigue and a little bit of that kissy kissy romance stuff and I often found myself frustrated by character’s actions or enraged at another shocking betrayal, but the underlining feel of the entire novel is fun. As I followed The Greyfriar and Adele on their adventures, I couldn’t help but reminisce on those days watching movies staring actors like Errol Flynn where our heroes threw themselves into every adventure, but with just a bit of style that you don’t seem to find anymore. Add to that political maneuverings like a Game of Thrones-Lite, yet still full of brutality and twisted evil. The Rift Walker moved us away from the savagery of the Vampire Courts and showed us that the remnants of humanity can have just as much animalistic brutality. The action took us from the cities of Equatoria to the mountains of Africa, with individual daring, large scaled epic battles and unleashed magic galore.  We met new clans of both humans and Vampires expanding the already fascinating world the Griffiths had created. If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved listening to this audiobook. There were moments I simply wanted to cheer as if I was in a packed movie house, forgetting I was simply an audience of one. One of the things I love is how it turns the whole masked hero and damsel in distress trope on its head, even poking fun at it at times. Adele does just as much rescuing as her supposed champion, and is full of a power even greater than any man within these pages. She is the true hero of this tale, and any man who dismisses her, does it at his own peril. The Rift Walker is a grand adventure so fun and fast you almost forget about the depths and detail that the authors built into the world. It not just a worthy follow-up to the first novel, but an exponential expansion of what made that novel work. The Rift Walker should please fans of work as diverse as Game of Thrones and The Scarlet Pimpernel or just anyone who loves a strong Princess and the masked hero at her side.

There is only one thing that is keeping me from grabbing the print version of the third book of this series, The Kingermakers, which is currently available in print and that’s the excellent narration of James Marsters. Really people, I want to know what happens next, but I must wait until the tale is in the more than capable hands of Marsters. Marsters makes the action of this novel simply leap off the page, and right into my brain. He has a way of bringing the story alive, making me feel as if I was flying through the air with the vampires, or slogging my way through the dangerous mountain overpasses with the human armies. One of the things I find interesting about this world is how all the traditional ethnic understanding is thrown for a loop. Due to the migration after the Great Killing, where the great kingdoms of humanity moved into the tropical regions to escape the vampires, Equatoria becomes a hodgepodge of ethnic groups, of European, African, Middle Eastern and South Asian descents. This gives Marsters a bit of freedom and creativity in the blending of accents and he makes great use of it. Each locale is given its own bit of flavor, with Indian, Middle Eastern and African tilts as well as the traditional European standards. Marsters creates so much out of the canvas the author’s provide, creating a beautiful and unique twist to this fantasy world. His true gift is in his pacing, creating a cinematic feel for this story. The Rift Walker is a wonderful production, a great blending of content and performance and definitely one of my top listens of this year.

Note: Thanks to Buzzy Multimedia for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: Stranded by Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts

11 03 2013

Stranded by Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts

Read by Charles Carroll

AudioGO

Length: 2 Hrs 56 Min

Genre: Middle Grade Adventure

Quick Thoughts: Stranded is a nice start to a series that I think kids will enjoy with the potential for better things to come. While I would have liked to see a bit more happen overall, I think this serves as bait for the hook, and it’s enough to snare a decent sized fish. Survivor fans may get a bit of a chuckle at how Probst’s experience as the host of the hit show comes into play in the tale, then happily hand the book off to their kids.

Grade: B

I know many of you are asking, why is Bob, a mid to late 30ish guy with no kids who has a penchant for dark horror, apocalyptic fiction and violent thrillers, reviewing a Middle Grade adventure novel? Let me assure it is simply because, despite having no children of my own, I am an uncle known for purchasing books as gifts for his sibling’s progeny and as a conscientious consumer I feel it’s important to get a good handle on books you may give to children and not due to my unhealthy obsessions with Jeff Probst and the show Survivor. Stranded intrigued me because it reminded me of the days I would stay up way too late reading adventure tales like Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island and watching movies like Swiss Family Robinson and not the hours I spent arguing each move made by the Survivor contestants on chat rooms and Instant messaging, blogging about the show and playing online Survivor RPG’s. As a child I dreamed about writing tales of pirates and deserted islands and this passion has always stayed with me, even if I did end up putting together and writing two seasons of my own online RPG about a Survivor tournament taking place in Post Apocalyptic America. So yea, I may be a bit of a fan of the show, and I may have argued more than once that Probst is the best reality host on TV and sure, maybe I once tipped a bartender twenty dollars to put on Survivor in a Casino in Biloxi because I was too drunk to walk to my hotel across the street before the show started, but hell, my love of adventure tales as a kid was the true catalyst to me listening to this book. Heck, I probably would have listened to it even if it was written by someone else, perhaps Phil Keoghan.

Stranded follows four children Carter, Buzz, Jane and Vanessa who have recently become a family when Carter and Jane’s mom married Vanessa and Buzz’s father. Of course, there’s a bit of tension and while the parents are away on their honeymoon their uncle takes them on a boat trip in the Pacific as a bionding exercise. A storm hits, and the kids are separated from the adults, left stranded on a deserted island. Now, they must find a way to work together in order to survive until help can come. So, Stranded isn’t going to blow anyone away. It’s a lightweight, but fun adventure tale with some relatable characters and just a touch of danger. I think that the writers do a good job setting up the scenario and developing the characters, but that takes up the majority of the tale, with maybe the last hour for just a bit of family drama, searching the island, and some daring do. Fans of Survivor will pick up some of the classic themes of the show, like prioritizing water over shelter, a mishap leading to drama, and personality conflicts exasperated by the tense situation. I like how the writers created realistic positive and negative aspects of each child, giving them all a role to play in their survival yet making it necessary for them all to work together. It creates a nice message while also building the drama. The major problems with the tale come in its depth. The reader doesn’t yet feel the true desperate nature of the situation, because the group is relatively well stocked at the moment, and sort of oblivious to the dangers of their situation. Being the first in a series, Probst ends the episode with a smack in the face for the kids that should up the ante for the next installment. Overall, it’s a nice start to a series that I think kids will enjoy with the potential for better things to come. While I would have liked to see a bit more happen overall, I think this serves as bait for the hook, and it’s enough to snare a decent sized fish. Survivor fans may get a bit of a chuckle at how Probst’s experience as the host of the hit show comes into play in the tale, then happily hand the book off to their kids maybe creating the next generation of obsessed Probst fans.

Charles Carroll brings a lot of youthfulness to his reading of Stranded. Carroll’s characterizations are well though out and age appropriate, without becoming caricatures of children. He gives each child a distinct voice fitting to the personalities the author develops. I particularly liked the segments where Jane is recoding a video blog of her adventures, he gives Jane a light femininity with a studious cadence to her speech. He did a good job capturing both Carter’s frustration and Buzz’s self doubt, while showing Vanessa’s struggles as the oldest sibling. His pacing was a bit slow, which probably works well for younger listeners who haven’t really developed their active listening skills yet, but can be a little frustrating for seasoned audiobook listeners. I think this audiobook would work well for a group listen, especially for a family car trip or morning carpool. There is just enough fun and adventure and a good diversity of characters to please all types of listeners, even moms and dads.

Book 2: Stranded: Trial by Fire will be out in June!