Audiobook Review: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

3 06 2013

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Read by Benjamin Percy

Hachette Audio

Length: 21 Hrs 43 Min

Genre: Literary Horror

Quick Thoughts: 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.

Grade: A

I have always been fascinated by what motivates protest movements. I consider myself politically moderate, and have never felt the need to take to the streets over any issue. It’s not that I don’t have passionate beliefs, because I do. I will sign positions and write my legislatures, but I have trouble taking protest movements seriously. Maybe it’s a product of my conservative and religious upbringing where extreme political actions, even for things we cared about were looked down on. Maybe it’s a product of my age. My formative years were in the late 8o’s early 90’s. I remember the first Persian Gulf War and while people objected to it, there wasn’t the sense of outrage the second war brought about. I went to high school in the first Bush  years and college in the time of Clinton. We were more worried about the state of the economy than terrorism, human rights abuses by our government and social inequalities. Or maybe I was just lazy. Maybe I was so obsessed by my own personal struggles that I never looked outward. I’ll be honest, part of me still looks at the anti-war protests, the occupy movement and the modern social movements as a reflection on the desire of kids to have a 60’s like experience, than any true reasoned objection. It’s not that I don’t agree with them, it that I remember my politics at that age and how transformed I am now, and I can’t help but wonder if there will be some sort of reverse process for them. I have always been a “work within the system” type of guy. I think it fits my personality, and even though I have become much more liberal than the young republican college student I started out as, I still can’t see me grabbing a sign and joining the movements.

In a modern version of America where a prion infection brings about a lycanthropic change, those infected have been regulated to second class citizens, feared and hated by many aspects of the populace. When a gruesome terrorist attack leaves only one survivor, the country is up in arms letting their fear reign. The government cracks down on activist werewolves and begins to place restrictions on all lycans, while the war in the plutonian rich lycan home nation rages. 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. Percy has created a political charged narrative ripe with modem day analogues, yet tells it a well paced, accessible story that doesn’t force an agenda down your throats. Fans of alternate history will appreciate the complexities and details he built into his world. Percy explores many area with a sociological authority that allows the readers to see the many shades of an issue that is far from black and white. Horror fans will have trouble getting their blood pressure down after an opening that will suck your breath from you lungs and fans of literary fiction will appreciate the well drawn characters, the lush prose and well told story. I loved every minute of Red Moon, yet, I do have one bit of hesitation when it comes to offering recommendations. As someone who truly loves alternate history and horror, this novel was right in my wheelhouse. Fans of horror may struggle a bit with the long trips into world building, wanting to get right back into the blood and gore. Yet, I reveled in it. I enjoyed the sprawling storytelling that took us from characters to character with an almost epic flair. While the story focused on three main characters, you truly felt you got a glimpse of the greater world within Percy’s intimate story. This isn’t really a werewolf tale, but a tale of humanity living with, adapting to and using fear. Percy even creates a limited apocalyptic scenario, ripe with dark images and tales of survival that truly rounded out one of the most satisfying reads of the year for me. Red Moon is one of my favorite novels of the year, offering something for everyone, and maybe a bit of extra for readers of my proclivities.

I am often hesitant about author narrators, but from the moment Red Moon started I knew I was in for a special listening experience. Thomas Percy has a deep sonorous voice that just made my hair stand on edge. He created such an oppressive, claustrophobic mood in the opening of this novel, that I was hooked. He has the perfect voice for horror, and while he lacks some of the polish in pacing that professional narrator may have, he captures his words with a raw beauty that causes them to leap off the page. He also managed to show a wide range of character voices. I did struggle with his voice for Patrick. Percy uses his narrative voice for this character, which was so deep it didn’t totally fit with the young naive juvenile  but this flaw was soon forgotten as he swept you up in his world. Surprising, his female voices was some of his best voice work. Percy shines mostly when things are happening, the flow during the expositional moments is where sometimes the pacing failed, but then you were sucked right back into the tale. If Red Moon isn’t nominated for an Author Narrated Audie next year, then a will take up a sign and march on the mysterious mansion of those who decide such a thing.

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

Advertisements




Audiobook Review: Dust by Jacqueline Druga

24 10 2012

Dust by Jacqueline Druga

Read by Jacqueline Druga

Jacqueline Druga/ABW Voice Overs

Length: 6 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Nuclear Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Fans of Apocalyptic tales with an emphasis of realistic planning and adaptation will enjoy Dust. While Jo’s plans are the central theme of the tale, its believable characters, realistic scenarios and emotional heart separates it from other novels of the genre.

Grade: B+

As someone who reads a lot of apocalyptic fiction and enjoys speculating on just how our world must end, people often ask me exactly what I am doing to prepare for the apocalypse. After asking this question I often get an incredulous stare when I tell them that I’m doing absolutely nothing. Yet, it’s true. If the apocalypse was to happen today, I’m pretty much screwed. I think I have a few cans of soup and some black beans in the cabinet, and that’s about it.  There are many reasons why I am not stockpiling food, taking weapons training and radiation proofing my house. One of the biggest is financial. I am not a rich guy. In fact, I often flirt with the edges of lower middle classdom, and I’m probably one major breakdown away from street corner begging. Secondly, I have space issues. I live in a decent size apartment, but not decent enough where hundreds of cans of Split Pea soup wouldn’t get in the way. Yet mostly, I am not sure which Apocalypse to prepare for. There is a mark difference in how someone prepares for differing types of an apocalyptic event. If we were attacked by nuclear bombs, I would need to stock up on supplies and hunker down. Living in the suburbs of a major target city, Philadelphia, it wouldn’t make sense to try and outrun the nuclear fallout. Yet, if the Zombies begin to walk, all those denizens of The City of Brotherly love may very well be heading my way for a brotherly snack. So, with the Zombies, I am not going to take my time to gather supplies. I will grab my loved one and try to find a more desolate and defendable place to hold up. If we are hit by some superflu style pandemic and I manage to hit the genetic lottery of immunity from the disease, supplies won’t be my first concern, since, well, it’s all just sitting around waiting to be picked up. Lastly, with an Alien Invasion, I will simply practice welcoming our new Alien overlords. So, for these reasons, I am not much of a prepper type. I just hope my neighbors are, so I can steal their stuff.

Jo believed she was prepared for Nuclear War. She has spent years gathering supplies and coming up with plans for her and her loved ones. Then the bombs hit Pittsburgh and nine other US cities, and Jo realizes that you can’t prepare everything. In her basement with her 15 year old son and a 3 year old nephew, Jo compiles a list of those she hopes will survive the blast, and meet up with her as planned. Dust is an often frightening, sometimes brutal, but also heartwarming tale of hope amidst the fires of nuclear war. It is a very intimate tale, getting you right into the head of the main character. You experience the emotional turmoil of the events right along with Jo, feeling joy when she connects with a loved one, yet, being devastated as another tragedy hits. I have read quite a few prepper style stories about people or groups who prepared for the apocalypse, and the steps they take when such an event strikes. There is often a feeling of superiority and contempt for man in these stories. They tend to scoff upon those who aren’t as prepared, or who never expected such an occurrence. I was quite happy that this tone never made it into Dust. Druga paints a harsh, realistic picture in her depiction of the events of the novel, but there is never that feeling of reveling in the destruction of the country that permeates some apocalyptic novels. Jo makes some tough choices, and is selfish in her protection other family as she should be, but she is never cruel or heartless. I think what truly set Dust apart from others in this genre is the personal feel Druga gives to the characters. While Dust is absolutely fictional, it has a realistic autobiographical feel, as if these characters truly existed. You really felt that this was a group of people that exists, and this made their struggles feel even more real. You couldn’t help but feel the emotion that Druga seeped into every word of this tale. It is definitely not a perfect novel. There were some frustrating moments, and you really only get brief glimpses of the world outside of Jo’s basement, and its immediate vicinity, but any desire for a greater look at the world was counterbalances by the intimate setting. Fans of Apocalyptic tales, with an emphasis of realistic planning and adaptation will enjoy Dust. While Jo’s plans are the central theme of the tale, its believable characters, realistic scenarios and emotional heart separates it from other novels of the genre.

The audiobook version was read by the author herself. Now, I know this may cause an instant groan among hardcore audiobook fans like myself, but here I think it works. I think people’s reception to the narration will come down to whether or not they like the author’s voice. Dust isn’t read like a professional voice over artist just happened to survive a nuclear bomb, and is recording about it. Druga’s voice has a sort of day old whiskey sour after a pack of Marlboros sound to it. It’s raw and real and fits the first person narrative of the tale well. For her first reading, I though she nailed the mechanics of the reading. The pacing is good, and her voice is natural, but crisp and understandable. There are a few muffled words in the reading, but very few, and they actually add authenticity to the reading. Being an independently produced audiobook, you can be concerned about the production values, but I thought it came together well. There were no noticeable problems that some audiobooks have, breath sounds, poor edits, or the like. It had the feel of a professionally produced audiobook, with a gruff but realistic narrator. Druga’s reading is full of emotion, and added to the authentic feel of the story.

Note: Thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this title for review.