Audiobook Review: The World House by Guy Adams

4 02 2015

The World House by Guy Adams

Read by Paul Boehmer

Audible Studios

Length: 10Hrs 43Min

Genre: Fantasy

Grade: C-

I’m not sure what just friggin’ happened. I mean, I kinda know. There are these characters, and a weird house, and time travel, and god like people, and amnesia, and a cool game of Snakes and Ladders, and I think that one guy is also that other guy or maybe I am thinking about someone else. Oh, and that girl is like maybe autistic, which of course means she has some special ability or perception that will help save the world, or destroy it, or maybe stop the bad guy who I am not sure is really bad because that’s that’s what mentally challenged people do in fantasies… and, well, maybe I’m just an idiot who can’t follow the authors disjointed train of thought. I mean, I get this way with “high brow” stuff where I think I am supposed to get it. Like Birdman, which I guess had moments, but still, I didn’t get it. Like art or jazz or that weird class of philosophy I took…

But…

Shit…

So really, maybe Guy Adams is a genius who created this beautiful mosaic of a novel, full of complexities and layers upon layers, creating a mesmerizing tale that blends generations and genres and I am just too dumb to figure it all out. I know I feel like this when I attempt to read China Mellville and Paolo Bacigalupi, which people I respect tell me is brilliant, but turns my brains to mash, and, well, kinda bores me at the same time making me want to pull out something with explody monsters hunters or time traveling Nazis.

Or maybe Guy Adams just wrote a book that had some brilliant moments, was fun at brief intervals but was mostly a mess that barely held my interest and often left me confused about exactly what the hell just happened.

But maybe not…

I’m confused.

One thing I like about Paul Boehmer is that he has a unique narrative voice. His voice has a tone that reflects an international feel yet isn’t specific to any particular nationality. It reminds me of the subtle accents that many 1800 era American period pieces use, not really modern American or Modern British but somewhere in between. This is why I think Boehmer is excellent in historical fiction and has been underused in the fantasy genre where straight British accents seem to be the preference of audio producers. This is why I thought he was perfectly suited for a book like The World House. But, now I am not so sure he was, mostly because I really didn’t care about the book enough to figure it out. His characters were fine. I often found the perspective shifts were not distinct enough, but this may just have been because I wasn’t invested enough in the characters to realize that they had shifted.

Oh well….

Basically, The World House was a book that constantly had me on the edge of thinking,”Let’s end this and move on to something else” but that little part of me said that eventually there would be this sort of AHA! Moment that pulled it all together and made it worth it. And I guess there was something like that, but by that point I just wanted it all to be over.

Now maybe some time traveling zombies or talking unicorns or sexy dragons….

Advertisements




Audiobook Review: The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

15 08 2013

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

Read by Mikeal Naramore

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 20 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Lives of Tao is a fun filled, twisted buddy comedy between a slacker and his ancient alien parasite. Welsey Chu tells a tale full of light hearted humor, yet balances it with fascinating relationship full of hidden depths and well executed action. Listeners should expect to have a whole lot of fun with The Lives of Tao.

Grade: B+

A few months back I was watching Oz: The Great and the Powerful, and getting more and more frustrated. The Wizard of Oz was one of my first literary discoveries as a child, and along with Narnia, was the place I most dreamt of someday getting to visit. So, there I was, watching this movie about a carnival wizard who would be sucked through a tornado into the land of Oz, and all I could think of was that this guy was a total asshat. Here is this misogynistic shyster with almost no redeeming qualities, and he was going to get to visit the wonderful Land of Oz. I cry FOUL, good sirs and madams. Now, I understand that often times, stories require transformation. That for there to be a true payoff at the end the character must discover some new aspect about themselves, or find true love or some such hooey. Yet, do we have to start the transformation process at douchebag? There are some good, everyday people who don’t kick puppies, force fathers to work on Christmas day instead of being home with their sickly child, or treat women like pieces of meat that deserve adventure in magical lands with the potential to find true love with a beautiful good witch. Now, I don’t need my protagonist to be perfect, in fact, I don’t want them to be perfect. I like flawed characters. But why do we need to always have this handsome, physically fit, devilishly clever character who also happen to be incredible assholes? Can’t we find flaws in other areas to explore? This was one of the things that drew me to The Lives of Tao. Roen Tan is a slovenly, heavy set slacker, who is socially awkward and blames others for his own poor choices. He’s not what I would call hero material. Despite these flaws, I’d much rather see a transformation from lazy slacker to hero, than the typical Hollywood shitheel meets a beautiful women in a magical land so decided not to be quite as much of a total shitheel.

After another disappointing and pointless night drinking too much at the clubs, Roen Tan, an underachieving computer programmer, is hit with a sudden wave of nausea. A few weeks later, he begins to hear a voice in his hear encouraging him to stand up to a mugger, and questioning him on why he’s staying at a job he hates. Is Roen going crazy? Nope, it’s just a Quasing named Tao, an alien parasite that has inserted itself into his body and won’t be able to leave until Roen dies. Eventually, Roen discovers that he is now a part of an alien civil war raging among two factions of a species who have been stuck on Earth since the time of the dinosaurs. The Lives of Tao is a twisted buddy comedy between a young slacker and the alien parasite that must turn him into skilled agent. When I started The Lives of Tao, I expected a light and breezy science fiction comedy that bordered on slapstick. For the most part that is what I got. What did surprise me was that it was also a solidly written action novel with a lot of hidden depths. The first two thirds of the novel was mostly about building the relationship between Roen and Tan, developing the background on the war between the Prophus and the Genjix, and a training montage to show Roen’s transformation from out of shape desk jockey to a lean, mean fighting machine.  This segment was a lot of fun, full of funny moments, interesting characters and a great exploration of the intricacies of a human/alien parasite relationship. At times I felt it lacked a bit of depth. More often you were informed that Roen was now skinnier, better trained and really progressing as an agent, instead of actually experiencing the transformation. This caused a bit of dissonance, as you had to remind yourself that this wasn’t the lazy, whiney character that you met in the beginning. Chu peppers the novel with small tales of some Tao’s successes and failures with some of his past hosts, many of whom were influential historical figures. I found these segments to be fascinating, yet I wish these tales had also been a little more detailed. Yet, I did experience one thing that I didn’t expect. I felt a bit resentful towards our little alien friends. Sure, their war caused a lot of bad things to happen to humanity. This I could accept. Yet, the aliens seemed also to be responsible a lot of the great things humanity has accomplished. It would be one thing if this was just great leap forwards in technology or political philosophy, but when the aliens also revealed themselves to be responsible for some of the cultural and artistic achievements, I was like, DAMMIT! Can’t we have had achieve anything of value on our own, you meddling bastards!  The final third of the novel was a well orchestrated action scenario that was actually quite fun. Though the basic setup was typically action movie fare, it was well executed and full of well choreographed action. Overall, I liked The Lives of Tao a whole heck of a lot. While I wasn’t surprised by the humor that permeated the tale, what truly won me over was the relationship between Roan and Tao. Chu deftly handles this relationship, often leaving it up to the reader how much influence Tao truly had over Roen. In the end, this relationship wasn’t just about symbiosis, but how two separate entities could manage to make both themselves and the other better.

This was my first experience with Mikael Naramore as a narrator, and I was quite impressed. Naramore delivers a clean, well paced performance that easily handles the specific challenges this tale had to offer. He has a pleasant strong voice that suited this tale well. As the heart of the story is the relationship between Roen and Tao, he does a good job brining these characters to life. He gives Tao an almost dreamlike quality that almost seems like a breezy version of Roen’s own voice yet distinct enough to allow their interactions to feel natural. I also like how slowly you here the development in Roen’s character. As the novel progresses, Roen sounds more self assured. He loses a bit of the whininess of the early character which fits well with the character development. Naramore handles the action with a sharp consistent pace that allows the listener to perfectly picture the events as they unfold. The Lives of Tao is a fun audiobook experience with just the right mix of action and humor as well as a great exploration of the sometimes tumultuous relationship between a man and his alien parasite.

Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

1 08 2013

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

Read by Patrick Lawlor

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 44 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Chuck Wendig’s Blue Blazes reads like a desperately thrown haymaker, it doesn’t always need to land solidly to knock you off your feet. Luckily, more often than not, Wendig connects with a nose breaking wallop and follows up with enough gut punches to leave you reeling.

Grade: B+

I have always been more of a fan of brute force methods. It’s not that I am some big strong bruiser, because I am not, nor do I lack the intelligence for cleverness, it’s just I believe that sometimes the simple solution is often the best. Today’s books are full of complicated heroes who use their wits and resourcefulness to outsmart ruthless criminals. This is always fun, seeing some badie get their comeuppance based solely on the wit and resourcefulness of our everyday heroes. Yet, the literary world is also full of brilliant evil geniuses. These brilliant brainiacs come up with these overly complex plans that require everything to fall into place in just the right way in order for our heroes to fall into their perfect trap. They have big goals, and these goals are achieved through their almost balletic machinations. These plans are so perfect, that they ensnare our smart heroes in such a way that they can’t even think their ways out. This is why I like brute force heroes. There is a sort of cleverness to simplicity. Sometimes, all it takes is to punch the smarmy bastard in the kisser then run like hell. Sometimes, a randomly tossed Molotov cocktail in the chaos of a fight is more effective than the most intricately placed block of C4. I think so many times heroes over think thing. They spend so much time coming up with complex plans to battle the villain’s complex plans, that the best solution escapes them. Let’s face it, sometimes the best way to bring down a ballet, is to just push over one of the dancers. I like to apply these principles to all aspects of my life. I’m no writer. Put me in a war of words with those who sling words for a living, and I will lose. I won’t tell you about sentence structure, or narrative flow or any of that stuff. I like the brute force, Chris Farley method… "Remember that time when the big dude just punched the bag guy right in the face…. THAT WAS AWESOME!"

Mookie Pearl is a thug. Honest, with a name like Mookie Pearl, how could he not be? Mookie is a connected man with THE organization, an organized crime syndicate in New York City. For the most part Mookie is muscle, a big leg breaker, the kind of intimidating force you send in when the best solution is the punching kind. Yet, Mookie is also connected with his army of mole men, underground dwellers who have knowledge of the Down Deep, the subterranean cities of goblins, the dead and old gods, with access to mysterious drugs that open users up to various supernatural abilities. Mookie has always been loyal, but when a shuffle in management leaves him on the outs, and with his reckless vindictive daughter stirring things up, Mookie may finally have found a situation he can’t punch his way out of.  Chuck Wendig’s Blue Blazes reads like a desperately thrown haymaker, it doesn’t always need to land solidly to knock you off your feet. Luckily, more often than not, Wendig connects with a nose breaking wallop and follows up with enough gut punches to leave you reeling. I love the Blue Blazes. I loved that Wendig did things that really should have come of corny or contrived, yet through a sort of literary self awareness, actually seemed fresh. There is a sort of retro feel to The Blue Blazes, with characters just a bit too colorful surrounding a man who is a dark chunk of granite. Mookie, by being Mookie, makes all the other characters around him glow just a bit brighter. Mookie isn’t a good guy. He’s a criminal, a neglectful father, and really, not all that clever. Yet, he has a solid core that he doesn’t violate, and a penchant to get things done. With so many of today’s anti-heroes being unrepentant douchebags who use their own complicated lives and self doubt as excuses for their horrible behavior, it was nice to have a character with self awareness enough to realize what type of person he is, and not try to excuse it. Then there is Nora, his petulant, bratty little hellhound of a daughter, who is playing well over her head to rectify her daddy issues. Oh, how I wanted to hate Nora. I just couldn’t. She was delightfully misguided, a bad ass chick held back by her own inability to deal with her issues. The interactions between Mookie and Nora were frustratingly fun. At times The Blue Blazes felt like a stew of all the things that Chuck Wendig wanted to fit into a novel, but had to cut out. An orgasmic romp through a twisted authors most bizarre imaginings. Part horror, part fantasy, with of strange creatures, rolled girl gangs, colorful criminals, and a dead stunt drivers with a souped up quad, The Blue Blazes is a freakish tour through a weird alternate New York City, and one really messed up family.

Audiobook narration isn’t always about having a wonderful, pitch perfect voice. It’s about finding the right feel for a book. This is exactly what Patrick Lawlor does in The Blue Blazes. Lawlor doesn’t read the book, as much as sneer it, flinging it from the page into the reader’s general direction. There is a brutal gruffness to his reading, and almost anti-poetry. Lawlor captures Wendig’s brute force descriptive language perfectly. In The Blue Blazes, a flower is a flower, and a stone is a stone, and Mookie is a big, thug. There is no need to flowery metaphors. Lawlor just goes at the prose, reading is with a machine gun pacing, firing each moment at you with a staccato burst. It was the perfect delivery for this novel. Lawlor’s voicings were not often very distinctive from one character to the next. He uses a few, traditional New York thug voices for the characters, yet, he manages to make each of the feel right. He did a good job with the singsongy nature of Skelly, the leader of the roller girl gang’s retro diction, and capturing Nora’s petulance. All together it was a lot of fun to listen to. The Blue Blazes won’t win any prizes for elegance, but it was the right narrator paired with the right novel, making it a really fun listen.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm

12 11 2012

The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm (The Collector, Bk. 2)

Read by Brian Vander Ark

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 54 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: The Wrong Goodbye comes at you like a slow boil, building in tension as the pieces fall into place, resulting in a well executed mad rush of a "should have seen it coming" ending. This series is breathing fresh new life into an Urban Fantasy Trope that I never even realized it desperately needed. If you were a fan of the wild, action filled Dead Harvest, then you will delight in the next steps the story takes in The Wrong Goodbye.

Grade: A-

Sam Thornton, the protagonist of Chris F. Holm’s Urban Fantasy series, is a Collector. It’s quite easy to mistake him for a Grim Reaper, but his job is much different. Within the mythos of The Collector series, a Collector gathers two very specific types of souls. One type is those whose actions are so heinous, so evil that Hell claims their soul right away. The others is the souls of those who struck a deal with some demonic force, selling their soul for some temporary earth bound advantage. Now, I know what you are thinking, what sort of idiot would risk eternal damnation for some temporal reward. What gift would be worth having now that would make up for years of torment at the hands of the denizens of hell? For those of you who are thinking, nothing…. nothing is worth giving up my soul, well, I’m with you. Except, that I know myself too well. Intellectually, I know that 10, or 20 or 100 years of health, wealth and happiness would not make up for an eternity of suffering. Of course, intellectually, I also know that blowing $50 at the bookstore when I have rent, and a crap load of bills coming in doesn’t make sense. Yet, for some reason, my bookcases keep getting fuller. I’ve never been great at delayed gratification.  Growing up poor, portly and pretty much unlucky with the ladies makes me tend to grab on to whatever luxuries I can manage, often times knowing it will come with a price in the future. As I have grown, I have learned more discipline, but it’s been an uphill battle. I am lucky that the younger me never came across that strange man in the crossroads offering me a taste of the good life for the mere pittance of my soul. I’d like to think I would have turned down that deal just as I’d like to thigh my frugality and good decisions have created a comfortable little nest egg. Unfortunately, I probably blew all that for some nice pretties for my nest, and plenty of eggs.

While tracking a particularly evil drug dealer through the South American jungle, Collector Sam Thornton comes upon a grisly scene. His quarry is found ripped apart, soul missing, with a message for Sam carved into his body.  There is only one being who could pull this off, another Collector, and one that Sam shares a complex history with. In The Wrong Goodbye, Chris F Holm again offers a look into the otherworldly domain of the collectors. While there are many urban fantasies out their today dealing with angels and demons, very few are as unique and fascinating as the world Holm has created. Holm shrugs off everything you think you know about the afterlife, stripping away the Sunday School mythology and offering you a well conceived world that makes its own rules. In The Wrong Goodbye, Holm gives you a slower more complicated plot than in Dead Harvest. While the action is there, it does not come at quite the breakneck speed as the first novel of the series. Instead Holm concentrates on creating a clever plot, expanding his mythology in creative new directions and presenting us with some of the best characters that I have met in an urban fantasy. What I really liked about The Goodbye was how Holm flips the traditional hero roles. None of his characters are what you would consider good guys. They are drawn from the dregs of society, mafia goombahs, con men and the like, yet they have more heart, and more potential for heroism than the nearest Boy Scout. Many of these characters know they are destined for an eternity of torment, but they step up and surprise you. The Wrong Goodbye comes at you like a slow boil, building in tension as the pieces fall into place, resulting in a well executed mad rush of a "should have seen it coming" ending. This series is breathing fresh new life into an Urban Fantasy Trope that I never even realized it desperately needed. If you were a fan of the wild, action filled Dead Harvest, then you will delight in the next steps the story takes in The Wrong Goodbye.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m not yet sure I’m 100% sold on Brian Vander Ark as a narrator. Now, I think he does a great job here in The Wrong Goodbye. As a first person narrative, Vander Ark really captures the essence of Sam Thornton. There is a certain hesitant gruffness in his reading that really enhances Sam Thornton as a character, capturing the often "deer in the headlights" noir feel that the narrative creates for Sam. The rawness gives the reading authenticity, but it also offers some negatives. Vander Arks pacing is uneven at times. As the action speeds up, Vander Ark does a good job conveying the urgency of each scene, but there is often an awkward feel to the slower, more contemplative scenes. There are also some distracting noises throughout the reading. I’m not sure if they were lip smacking or other mouth sounds, but there were noticeable at times throughout the production. Yet, I think that in a way, the rawness and awkward pacing sort of worked for this novel, but I’m not quite sure it would work in something else. I would be quite interested to hear Vander Ark taking on a third person POV or multi POV story to see if some of the flaws that worked here where a conscious choice or just the limits of his skill. No matter my complaints, I really enjoyed the audiobook production and encourage people to give it a listen.





Audiobook Review: Embedded by Dan Abnett

8 11 2012

Embedded by Dan Abnett

Read by Eric G. Dove

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Embedded is a cleverly plotted, often times darkly humorous military science fiction tale whose brilliant concept is only bolstered by the authors competent execution. Abnett begins with a strong world and well conceived characters, and finished with breakneck action scenes that will leave the reader breathless.

Grade: B+

One of the things I love most about science fiction is its ability to take recognizable situations and give it a "what if" feel. I especially like this within the boundaries of military science fiction. I have read a few straight forward military novels but rarely do I seek them out. Yet, take the same overall scenarios and add alien space lizards to the mix, and I’m there. Within Military Science fiction we can explore ground wars with crazy new weaponry and naval battles taking place in multi-dimensional space.  As war seems to be becoming not just military struggles but televised events, the embedded reporter has become a new iconic hero of the modern age. These reporters, who haven’t had the same level of training as military personnel, put themselves into harms way to bring us the stories of war in ways that we have never seen before. I think this is what attracted me to Dan Abnett’s Embedded. The basic plot revolves around a seasoned reporter who, while trying to discover the secrets behind a military operation on a colony planet, meets up with a group who has developed a new technology to embed someone into the mind of a soldier. The process allows the reporter to act as a sort of passenger, experiencing what the soldier sees, hears and feels during their mission. Of course, since this is science fiction, something goes terribly wrong.

I have to admit, I was quite surprised by Embedded. It’s undeniable that Abnett has come up with an excellent concept. Not being familiar with Abnett’s work previously I was still a bit skeptical. I have been a witness far too often to excellent science fiction concepts being massacred in execution. There is a tendency for science fiction novelist to spend so much time setting up their concept through endless exposition and techno babble that it just sucks the life out of the story. Happily, Embedded is an excellent example of science fiction done right. Abnett cleverly sets up his world and develops his characters, creating an engaging science fiction experience before we even get to the nuts and bolts of the plot. I really enjoyed how he extrapolated current fads and trends pushing them to a realistic end in his world. He ads these little tidbits, like corporate sponsorship of language censoring, that just seem like cute little bits of world building, then actually surprises you by making them important plot points later on in the novel. Abnett starts off measured and meticulous, yet, when the action does start, it never really lets up. The second half of this novel moves as a breakneck speed, putting our characters in an ever escalating state of mortal danger. If I had any complaint about the novel, it would be the ending. I think the ending accomplished what the author set out to do, but I felt there were certain plot points left floating in the air that I really wanted resolved. I know that this is, of course, set up for the sequel, but for me, I was left unsatisfied. Embedded is a cleverly plotted, often times darkly humorous military science fiction tale whose brilliant concept is only bolstered by the authors competent execution. Abnett begins with a strong world and well conceived characters, and finished with breakneck action scenes that will leave the reader breathless.

I was really impressed with the overall production quality of the Embedded Audiobook. Narrator Eric G. Dove gives a strong reading of the novel, capturing the voice of Lex Fault, the main perspective character, well, He has a strong, pleasant voice, and captures the tone and timber of the novel perfectly. He really excelled at reading the action in this novel, giving it a crisp pace, yet allowing the reader to follow along with the events of the tale. The production uses quite a few interesting tricks that pay off well, particularly with the censored swearing.  This was one of those few times where a novel needed to have special effect utilized, and the production teem pulled it off seamlessly. This was my first experience with Eric G. Dove’s narration, and hopefully, it won’t be my last.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: The Giant Thief by David Tallerman

13 06 2012

The Giant Thief by David Tallerman

Read by James Langton

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 18 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts:  The Giant Thief was a light, fun Fantasy novel, with a likeable, yet roguish lead. Easie Damasco has enough of a journey, both physically and morally to keep you interested, yet there is still plenty of room for future tales showing his transformation from villain to hero.

Grade: B

For those of you who may not know, it’s June, and June just happens to be Audiobook Month. I have been a huge, unabashed audiobook fan for nearly six years now. One thing that audiobooks have really done is help me expand my listening base. There are numerous authors and series that I probably would never have read if it wasn’t for audiobooks. My love of certain narrators has led me to books that never would have even been on my radar. The one genre that has benefited mostly from my audiobook love has been fantasy. I think of all genres, a well told fantasy tale is best suited to the oral tradition. Some of our earliest tales, like The Iliad and The Epic of Gilgamesh, were fantasies told orally. Before audiobooks, I was a reluctant Fantasy reader. The Dark Tower was my first real foray into epic fantasy that wasn’t Tolkien, and really, calling Stephen King’s genre bending series Epic Fantasy is a real stretch. I did decide to take on Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series, mostly because of an article written by Stephen King himself. This is where I developed my love of giants, which was not a small factor in choosing The Giant Thief as a listen. After that, eventually I was cajoled by friends into reading Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and enjoyed it, although I was often frustrated and confused by what Martin was doing. Yet, when I became an audiobook fan, I found with the right narrator, Fantasy can come alive better than almost any other genre.

In David Tallerman’s The Giant Thief we are introduced to Easie Damasco, thief and all around scoundrel, just as he is about to be hung for his thieving and scoundrelous ways. Saved at the last minute by a warlord looking to overthrow the King of the realm and willing to use Easie for fodder, Easie repays this kindness by stealing Saltlick, one of the warlords Giants, as well as some precious stones. Yet, his escape from the warlord’s army only manages to get him entangled even deeper in the growing conflict, and puts him in place as an unwitting pawn in an intricate political plot. The Giant Thief won’t distinguish itself as a modern classic of the Fantasy genre, but it’s a fun, clever adventure tale full of reluctant heroes and outrageous situations. Easie Damasco is a true antihero, he neither has the skills or desire for heroic feats. Yet, he is likeable in the way that only single-mindedly selfish men can be. One thing that contributes to his likeability as a character is the utter distain he is treated with by heroes and villains alike. His tendencies to look out for himself make his bad actions worse than those who kill, main and plot in the service of their own ideals, well, at least in their minds it does. One thing I enjoyed about The Giant Thief was that Tallerman didn’t need magic or wizards to ground his story, whatever power his stones had, came more from ceremony than sorcery.  Also, Tallerman used the tendencies of people to underestimate others as a major story element that played into the complexities of the tale rather nicely. I would like to have seen a bit more of the world Tallerman has created. Other than it being not our world, the exploration of his fantasy setting was pretty surface level. Hopefully, in future entries into the series, Tallerman will expand the scope of his creation, and give us a broader glimpse into the foundations that make his world work. The Giant Thief was a light, fun Fantasy novel, with a likeable, yet roguish lead. Easie Damasco has enough of a journey, both physically and morally to keep you interested, yet there is still plenty of room for future tales showing his transformation from villain to hero. 

James Langton does a wonderful job bringing this tale to life. He has a crisp, accessible English accent that fits the feel of the novel well.  The Giant Thief is a first person tale, and Langton does a great job creating a wry sardonic tone for Easie Damasco. While his other characterizations won’t blow you away, they all are appropriate to the characters he is portraying. One of the reasons I choose The Giant Thief was that I was interested in seeing how the narrator would portray the Giants of this tale. Langton does a good enough job with Saltlick, yet, there really isn’t much to work with. Saltlick is the only significant Giant character in this tale, and rarely speaks beyond some short one word grunts. Yet, Langton did do good work with those grunts, and here’s to hoping Tallerman delves deeper into Giant culture so he can give the narrator a bit more in the future. While this was my first time listening to Langton, I felt instantly comfortable with him, and I think he handled the characters and pacing of this novel just right.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy if this title for review.





Audiobook Review: Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm

12 06 2012

Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm

Read by Brian Vander Ark

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 33 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Chris F. Holm manages to bring a believable noir feel to his urban fantasy, by creating a truly compelling character whose struggles with his very nature only adds to the  tension. While things go boom, and the stakes are world changing, Holm keeps the story centered by focusing on his character’s inner struggles.  Dead Harvest is a wonderful blending of the supernatural with urban crime fiction and an exciting start to a new series.

Grade: B+

I have only recently become a fan of Urban Fantasy, in fact, I only recently discovered that it was a genre. I had probably heard the terms, and I’m sure I may have read a book or two that fell within the genre’s definition, but I never was truly cognizant of it being a specific category until I began actively blogging and reading other book bloggers work. The first urban fantasy series that I recall reading is Thomas Sniegoski’s Remy Chandler series. After that I took on the Harry Dresden series, and I became more and more enamored with the concept. The major reason I was never more than a peripheral Fantasy fan, is that I preferred modern, relatable characters. Early on the majority of the Fantasy I read was portal fantasy, and I shied away from elves, dragons and the like. This is why I think I got drawn into the whole subgenre. The core of any good urban fantasy is the main character’s struggle with their humanity in a world where humanity isn’t the top of the food chain.  In a world full of magic, beings of power and the temptations these things bring, how does one maintain their soul? Urban Fantasy is wonderful escapism, but done correctly, it also shines a light on the human condition by displaying the conflict that those who have the opportunity to step outside it must undergo. It gives us a chance to ask the uncomfortable questions.   For us in the mundane, 40 hours a week, wage slave world, how much would we be willing to sacrifice for just a glimpse of something more?

In Dead Harvest, we meet Sam Thornton, collector of Souls. Existing in a sort of purgatory between life and death, Sam collects the essence of the damned, sending them to their final destination. Yet, when Sam is sent to collect the soul of Kate, a young women who was caught in the act of butchering her family, things go wrong and instead of taking her soul, he breaks her from prison, convinced she is innocent. Now Sam is being pursued by the cops, and even worse, creatures of heaven and hell, some of whom are ready to start a devastating war that could very easily destroy the world. In many ways, Dead Harvest is a chase novel in the form of an urban Fantasy. The novel moves at a relentlessly break neck pace as Sam and Kate barely manage to escape from the human and supernatural forces allied against them. Holm creates some stunningly complex yet vivid action sequences with near misses and skin of their teeth escapes galore. One of the frustration elements of the story is Sam, whose supernatural abilities could often aid in his escapes, chooses not to use the powers given to him as a collector. While I found it frustrating, it was also true to Sam’s character. Holm walks us through Sam’s regret filled past to show us a man struggling to keep hold of some semblance of his humanity. Unlike the majority of Urban Fantasy protagonists, Sam sees the powers he is given and his supernatural role as a curse, and has created a strict moral code to live by despite his belief that he is irredeemable. It’s a true testament to Holm’s skills as a writer that he can fully develop Sam as a character, while maintaining the run away rollercoaster pace of the narrative. Holm manages to bring a believable noir feel to his urban fantasy, by creating a truly compelling character whose struggles with his very nature only adds to the tension. While things go boom, and the stakes are world changing, Holm keeps the story centered by focusing on his character’s inner struggles.  Dead Harvest is a wonderful blending of the supernatural with urban crime fiction and an exciting start to a new series.

While Brian Vander Ark is no stranger to the recording studio, this is his debut as an audiobook narrator. Dead Harvest is a first person tale and Vander Ark gives Sam Thornton a gravelly voice that is an excellent fit for this character. Vander Ark manages to give the book the Hard Boiled feel of a Dashiell Hammond novel, while keeping up with Holm’s rapid fire pacing and elaborate action sequences. Vander Ark’s characterizations of the peripheral characters are a mixed bag. He is brilliant with the various lowlifes and demons that pepper this tale, yet, he struggles early on with Kate, and his gritty tones don’t always fit some of the smoother characters, particularly those of the angelic form. Yet, as the novel progressed, Vander Ark managed to get a hold on his characterization of Kate, smoothing her out and giving her a younger feel than originally portrayed. It’s not easy for male narrator’s to capture teenage girls authentically, but he manages a happy median with the character. While his performance wasn’t free of flaws I enjoyed Vander Ark’s narration and sincerely hope to hear him reading the next entry in this series.

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