My Top 20 Audiobooks of 2013

23 01 2014

2013 was an up and down year for me. While I achieved some wonderful personal goals, I have also experienced some of the toughest trials and tribulations of my life. Some of that has been reflected on this blog and social media, where my presence is not as active as it once was. Typically, when I write this list, I give a statistical breakdown of my listening. While my overall consumption of audiobooks was up this year, my tracking, recording and reviewing of them were down. In 2013 I reviewed I posted 164 reviews of audiobooks, many of them including multiple titles. Roughly, I believe I listened to around 200 books his year, which would exceed my highest previous total.

2013 was a great year for audio. Any of the Top 5 titles in my list could have been contenders in any previous year. There were so many books that simply blew me away. It is always tough for me to choose my favorites. Instead of asking "What were the best books of 2013?" the question I asked, upon reflecting on the year is "What 2013 books affected me the most?" Whether through heart stopping action, stylistic writing or characters that stay with you, these are the books that lingered in my brain long after they finished. Some made me laugh, a few made me cry, and some made me cringe and want to grab on the closest person near me for a comforting hug.

When compiling this list, I also look for titles that truly stand out in the audio format. Scanning over this list, there is only one title I would say that the narration didn’t enhance the experience, yet that book was full of such awesomeness that the less than amazing performance couldn’t keep it off the list. For a bit of a surprise, there are no Zombie titles and only one true apocalyptic title, so those of you who have pigeon holed me as the "zombie apocalypse guy" may be a bit shocked. Don’t worry, my favorite Zombie and Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 list will be on its way.

So, thanks for sticking with me through 2013, and be sure to keep injecting stories into your brain through your earholes for the rest of 2014.

 

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Read by Kevin T. Collins, Eileen Stevens, and Ali Ahn

Hachette Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 37 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: Love Minus Eighty is one of the most engrossing science fiction novels I have read in a long time. McIntosh has created a darkly beautiful near future world and populated it with characters you truly wish were real. It is an exploration of our romantic future and an affective romance all in one wonderful novel.

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 35 Min.

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

What I Said: Brilliance is a smart blockbuster movie for your brain, with a complex and engaging main character, a stunningly created world, and so much action you should probably keep your cardiologist on Speed Dial. It’s a a straight thriller with enough science fiction elements that I want to force all my Speculative Fiction friends to read, at gun point if necessary. I absolutely loved this book.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

MALE NARRATOR PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR.

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 35 Min

Genre: Horror

What I Said: Doctor Sleep is an audiobook that will linger with me for a long time, a wonderful and moving story combined with one of the favorite narrator performances of all time. Doctor Sleep is a prime example of just how special the medium can be.

 

Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger, Bk. 5)

Read by Ray Porter

Macmillan Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Science Thriller

What I Said: Extinction Machine is like a sick blend of The X-Files and 24, amped up on meth, laced with cocaine, marinated in Jolt cola and mainlined directly into my brain through my earholes. I absolutely loved this book. It’s a novel so tailored to my likes that I briefly wondered if my 2-year-old self was correct and the world actually does revolve around me.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Read by Benjamin Percy

Hachette Audio

Length: 21 Hrs 43 Min

Genre: Literary Horror

What I Said: Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon tells the tale of the afflicted, the demagogues and the victims that this world of werewolves has created. It combines the detailed political and social alternate history of Harry Turtledove or Robert Conroy with the gut level horror of Stephen King told with a literary flair that escalates the novel beyond its influences.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Read by Fenella Woolgar

Hachette Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 34 Min

Genre: Fiction

What I Said: Life After Life is a novel that defies easy categorization. It’s a genre busting look at life in the 20th century through the eyes of a normal women given the extraordinary ability to relive her life. Life After Life is one of the most fascinating novels I have read in a long time, and while at times I felt dragged down by the melancholy of the tale, by the end, I wanted to keep experiencing the many lives of Ursula Todd.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Read by Kate Mulgrew

FEMALE NARRTOR PERERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Harper Audio

Length: 19 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Horror

What I Said: Joe Hill’s latest novel is lush vivid horror tale full of wonderful characters, and unsettling imagery. Hill manages to take the thing we love best, the innocence and joy of Christmas time, and flip it on its head, making it a representation of all that we fear. NOS4A2 is brilliantly executed, leaving a lingering affect on the reader long after it is over.

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

Length: 17 Hrs 1 Min

Genre: Alternate History Urban Fantasy/Steampunk Superheroes.

What I Said: Larry Correia brings the arc than began in Hard Magic to a natural and completely satisfying conclusion in Warbound. With a combination of amazing storytelling, wonderful characters and one of the best narrator performances I have experienced, The Grimnoir Chronicles has earned it place as perhaps my favorite all time Speculative Fiction Audiobook series.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Read by Neil Gaiman

Harper Audio

Length: 5 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Fantasy

What I Said: I loved every moment of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is the rare book that from the wonderful start to the bitter end, kept me enthralled in its words, a prisoner to the next sentence and situation. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminded me of why I read.

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Read by Graham Winton

Recorded Books

Length: 22 Hrs 23 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: Robert Jackson Bennett takes on the American Dream, and twists it in so many bizarre ways it becomes a kaleidoscope of what-the-fuckery. An engaging plot full of wonderful characters, that Bennett sends on one of the weirdest, wildest sciency fiction adventures my poor brain has ever had to process. Some narration issues may have held back some of it’s overall potential, but it’s still one heck of a good listen.

The Doll by Taylor Stevens (Vanessa Michael Monroe, Bk. 3)

Read by Hillary Huber

Random House Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Thriller

What I Said: In The Doll, Taylor strips away the trappings of her writing and presents a balls to the wall fast paced action thriller that will leave the reader awash in adrenaline soaked bliss. While her normal touches are still there, her vivid international setting, her complicated character’s unique skill set and her spin on typical action hero motivations, the action in The Doll is crisp and mean which makes it the most satisfying entry in an already excellent series.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Read by RC Bray

Podium Publishing

Length: 10 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: The Martian is probably my biggest surprise awesome audiobook this year. If you like realistic space travel tales, with cursing, 70′s pop culture references, laugh out loud one lines and plenty of fascinating creative science and engineering problem solving, download this sucker now. It’s really good.

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett (The Demon Cycle, Bk. 3)

Read by Pete Bradbury

Recorded Books

Length:  26 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Fantasy

What I Said: The Daylight War is not just a wonderful edition in perhaps my favorite fantasy series, but the proof of the validity of the trust I have put in Brett as a unique storyteller. The Daylight War continues with the characters and themes we loved in the first two novels, yet also manages to take the story in a whole new direction. While the clash of cultures is brilliantly done, and the increased menace of the demonic enemy even scarier, it’s the intricate relationships that Brett has built that is the true beauty of this novel.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Read by Kate Rudd

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 9 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: : The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a melancholy near future tale of love, family and robots, told on a canvas of a fascinating post disaster world. She fills her world with fully realized, flawed characters that filled me with joy as they were pissing me off. Clarke has managed to create a wonderful science fiction tale with a romantic tilt that I totally bought into. which isn’t the easiest of feats.

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller, Bk. 5)

Read by Peter Giles

Hachette Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 49 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Why I Chose It: Connelly continues to prove he is a master of both plotting and characterization as he guides his broken creation, criminal defense lawyer Mickey Haller, along a bumpy road to redemption. Connelly redefines the concepts of innocence here, both legally and morally, while creating a compelling procedural tale. Giles continues to give a masterfully subtle performance that captures the nuances of Connelly’s writing.

The Thicket by Joe Lansdale

Read by Will Collyer

Hachette Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 19 Min

Genre: Historical Western/Thriller

Why I Chose It: I tend not to be a huge fan of historical/western tales, but The Thicket simply blew me away. Lansdale’s writing has a way of sneaking up on you. There are no bells and whistles, just straight forward storytelling, that surprises you with it’s emotional depth, colorful characters and dark humor. Collyer is quickly becoming a go to narrator for me. His performance of 16 year old Jack Parker manages to balance the naiveté and maturity of a young man forced to grown up due to tragedy.

The City of Devi by Manil Suri

Read by Vikas Adam and Priya Ayyar

Blackstone Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Literary Post Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The City of Devi was never an easy tale for me, I often felt uncomfortable with not just the action but my reaction, yet, it was also a lot of crazy fun. For me, this tale worked on so many levels, creating a sort of beautiful mosaic of apocalyptic themes, strange love, and over the top absurdity.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Read by Michael Beck

Random House Audio

Length: 20 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Why I Chose It: Grisham returns to Clanton and his Jake Brigance character in a tale that rivals the A Time To Kill. Honestly, if you told me that Grisham would appear on my Top 20 list, I would have yelled OBJECTION! but Sycamore Row manages to be a effective legal thriller as well as a socially poignant tale. What makes matters even better is Michael Beck’s narration which is emotionally charged and pitch perfect. His performance enhances this novel, giving it a bump over a few other stellar legal thrillers this year, like Sheehan’s A Lawyer’s Lawyer and Ellis’s The Last Alibi.

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Audiobook Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

22 08 2013

The Martian by Andy Weir

Read by RC Bray

Podium Publishing

Length: 10 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts:The Martian is probably my biggest surprise awesome audiobook this year. If you like realistic space travel tales, with cursing, 70’s pop culture references, laugh out loud one lines and plenty of fascinating creative science and engineering problem solving, download this sucker now. It’s really good.

Grade: A-

I grew up in a house with a very strict TV policy. Yet, I also lucked out, since my parents were divorced and my father was less interested in watching over what I fed into my brain. One of the reasons I liked my weekends over my fathers was not my attempts to gain the attentions of my dad, but my opportunity to play Atari and watch stupid 70’s movies all day without my mother checking to see it it’s *appropriate* for children. I remember watching some great old movies that I wish I knew their titles so I could revisit them  today to discover just how godawful they really were. I remember one horror movie that ended with a women being chased by bad evil people, then being buried alive, only to discover it was all a dream. Then, in the stunning climax, her real day begins exactly as her dream day did, and she screams… fade to black. To my 7 year old mind, this was the BEST TWIST EVER! I also remember watching another space based horror movie, where astronauts on a space station were being hunted by something or whatnot. There was a scene where a few of the astronauts were exposed to vacuum causing their eyes to explode is gory detail. Also, pretty awesome to my 7 year old brain. Yet, also kind of scary. My sister, clearly traumatized for some reason by exploding eyeballs, made me and my brother promise her that we would never become astronauts, because it was really, really dangerous. I think this was the first time it hit me. You don’t need aliens and space monsters to kill you in space, it can do a damn good job on its own. Space travel isn’t about boldly going anywhere on a cushy space vessel with gravity and air and hot communication officers, but a dangerous exercise for crazy people. I love the idea of space travel. I cheered when we landed the rover on Mars, and think that in order for humanity to survive it must find a way to fling ourselves off this rock, and start putting people onto a new one. But, as important as space travel is, I’m damn well not going out there myself. I like my eyeballs just a bit too much, and I learned at an early age never to break a promise to my sisters. She can kill me quicker than being exposed to vacuum ever could.

Six days into their mission on Mars, the crew of Ares 3 encounters a storm, forcing them to evacuate the planet, and leaving one astronaut behind, dead when a piece of equipment impales his suit. Except, unbeknownst to his crewmates, Mark Watney isn’t dead… just royally fucked. Left behind on Mars, with no hope to escape, little air, food or supplies, Mark Watney must find a way to survive, reestablish communication with NASA, and not go crazy when his only entertainment is bad 70’s TV, Hercule Poirot novels and Disco. Yep… disco. The Martian was a fantastic read. I mean, really. It was good. I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this gem of a little novel. Told mostly from the first person, it was equal parts hilarious and tense, with Watney’s very survival depending on his ingenuity. Watney is a wonderful character. He balances between sarcastically hilarious, and almost delusional, but very, very engaging. He’s a character you can’t help cheer for. Weir’s humor bordered on heavy handed at times, in a good way. The book has a style like the best comedians, you can see the set up coming from a mile away, yet still glow in the execution of the punch line. Weir also makes science fun. I love that this book is science fiction in the way that it is fiction about science. There’s no aliens or FTL travel, or the like, it’s one man, with limited equipment and plenty of duct tape trying to survive on a planet’s that is dangerous enough without the crimson court trying to kill him. If Weir’s creation of Mark Watney wasn’t enough, he fills in the story with some pretty cool and realistic secondary characters. I also like that nothing in this book goes smoothly. Both Watney and NASA screw things up royally on multiple occasions making them have to adapt, and this adaptation is the driving force of the novel. The plot was filled with creative problem solving that often went like “Your rover only goes 20mph with a 3 hour battery charge, and you need to travel 3000 miles across the face of Mars, well, let’s try this crazy plan. Oops, almost killed myself.” Of course, all the plans culminate is a well orchestrated, death defying, everything going wrong  at the same time rescue that if this was a movie would have me jumping out of my chair cheering like a friggin’ moron who things the actors can actually hear him.  The Martian is probably my biggest surprise awesome audiobook this year. If you like realistic space travel tales, with cursing, 70’s pop culture references, laugh out loud one lines and plenty of fascinating creative science and engineering problem solving, download this sucker now. It’s really good.

This is my first time listening to RC Bray narrate, and he does one hell of a good job. Bray does what you want from a first person narrator, he totally becomes the character. Bray channels Mark Watney, bringing him alive with all his faults and foibles, delivering his lines with a killer wit and impeccable timing. Bray had me laughing out loud with his delivery of some of Watney’s many one liners, nitpicking Aquaman’s skills or praising the miracle that is duct tape. Except for one strange pronunciation of the acronym “ASCII” he delivered the use of technobabble wonderfully, giving it a rhythmic feel that integrated Watney’s personal dictionary with established technical terms. Bray also handled a diverse cast well, giving them just enough of a little spin to keep them interested. The Martian is an audiobook you should totally listen to. I mean, really. Listen to it. Since the book has been picked up by Random House there is no print version available right now, but the audio is very, very good. If you are in anyway interested in NASA and space travel, and if you are not, I don’t want to know, then really, give this one a go. You are guaranteed 10 hours of good listening.