Bob’s Audiobook Report: January Week 1

7 01 2014

So, I’ve been struggling with what to do with the blog. Without going into the crazy details of my life, spending the 2-3 hours a night writing detailed reviews 4-5 times a week is no longer feasible. Plus, in all honestly, I have discovered that "not blogging" can be just as rewarding "blogging" when your life fills up with stress. I have realized that I am just not a really good blogger. Being a "Blogger" began to feel like a chore, and a label I have no desire to live up to. I never had been that good at challenges, or special posts, or whatever. I just like talking about books.

So, I may try so new things this year. I definitely won’t be posting as often. I don’t plan to get too involved in bloggy type things, outside of things that are pretty much free form, and fit into my "spend less time doing this stuff" mentality. I never want the idea "I want to binge read this series over the next few weeks, but then what would I post on the blog" or even "I really want to read BOOK A but BOOK B is more relevant to the blogoverisity."

So, for now, 2014 is the year that Bob strips being a blogger. Now, Bob is just some dude who randomly post shit about books he’s been listening to.

One of the things I will try to do, is post a weekly audiobook report about what I listened to that week. It may contain some thoughts, a rating and other unstructured comments.

For the first week of January, I listened to two audiobooks. It was a partial week, so I think 2 is a pretty good number. Here they are:

January 2014 Audiobook #1

Legacies by F. Paul Wilson

Repairman Jack, Book 2.

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 29 Minute

Genre: Suspense Thriller

Grade B+

Narration: C+

One of my plans for the early part of 2014 is to binge read the Repairman Jack series. I had wanted to do this for some time, but hadn’t because I was so keen on bloggy diversity, and I just had to grab the hot new release, I never did. I had really enjoyed the "early Years" Repairman Jack novels, COLD CITY and DARK CITY, especially the wonderful narration by Alexander Cendese, but hesitated on the series, because I was never quite sure where to start since the Repairman Jack series seems to be intertwined with F. Paul Wilson’s Adversary cycle. Finally I decided to just go with the Repairman Jack Series, and then after I worked my way through a significant portion of that, depending on my enjoyment of the series, figure out what to do with the Adversary cycle.

My other issue was a lack of a consistent narrator.  Joe Barrett, reads the first in the series, while audio veteran Disk Hill reads a few of the latter. Brilliance Audio seems to be filling in the rest with a new to me narrator names Christopher Price. I listened to and enjoyed The Tomb. While it took some time to get used to the new narrator, and I didn’t like him as much as Cendese, Joe Barrett did a solid job.

Moving onto Legacies. Legacies was another solid entry in the series, balancing a straight forward thriller, with a touch a weird physics, and some hints of otherness along the way. Jack is becoming more complex of a character, and while some of the relationship back and forth stuff becomes frustrating, Wilson does a good job developing his working-class Batman-for-hire character in a believable way.

I wasn’t blown away by Christopher Price. I won’t go as far as saying I was disappointed by it, because I thing a lot of it had to do with the fact that this is the third narrator handling this character I had listened to within one month and three books. Price has potential to improve, and I hope he begins to settle into these characters, since he is reading a bunch of novels set in this world.

2014 Audiobook #2

Steel World by B.V. Larson

Undying Mercenaries, Book 1

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 45 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Grade: B

Narration: B

For Book 2, I listened to Steel World by BV Larson. Larson writes the goofy and sometimes incredible frustrating, but highly enjoyable military science fiction series, STAR FORCE. Steel World is his newest Sci-Fi series, about a troublemaking but oh, so clever Earth boy who joins the Space Legion to fight as earth’s mercenaries. The concept is both very recognizable, but with interesting twists. Steel World is popcorn Sci-Fi at its Redenbachiest. Lovable, cardboard characters, over the top action, and a young trainee soldier, who happens to find himself at the center of many important events, where he’s the only one who can save the day, and does so to the chagrin of some of his superiors.

Part of me wished that they would have cast someone other than Mark Boyett to narrate this series. Not that he doesn’t do a good job, because he does, but because he is the voice of the Star Force series, so it’s hard to separate that from his performance here. Sometimes, choosing the Fan Favorite to narrate isn’t the right choice. Someone a bit younger sounding would have been preferable, since this book was told from the POV of a starry eyed recruit, but overall it’s a solid listen, especially if you are a fan of BV Larson.

Coming Soon:

I have selected and have been working on my Top 20 Audiobooks of 2013 post, so look for that soon, and tell your friends, neighbors, and nanobots.

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Audiobook Series Review: Star Force by B. V. Larson

28 01 2013

Back when I first started to listen to audiobooks, one of my favorite things to do was to discover a series, particularly a long running or completed series, and listen to them from start to finish. Yet, when I began blogging more, I sort of fell away from this practice. Part of the reason was that I had listened to so many series, that I was at the point where much of my listening was grabbing the newest edition of a series I already loved. I also found, becoming more active on social networks and following publishers and bloggers more directly, I would become excited about the new releases. Another issue I have is that I find that writing reviews for the 13th edition and keeping it fresh and interesting is a challenge. Yet, I miss the series listen. Last year, audible released the complete Chronicles of Amber Series and I decided that instead of listening to each one and reviewing it, I would listen to both 5 book Cycles and review them as complete works. I quite enjoyed the act of listening to five books within the series back to back, then writing about them as a complete work. Going through my To Be Read Pile I have quite a few series that I would like to finish up, and scanning through Audible’s backlists I have discovered series I would like to take on. So, one of my blogger resolutions this year was to complete a few series I am only about halfway through, and take on some new series, giving them the “Series Review” treatment. While this may mean a few less reviews on the blog and maybe some longer gaps between posts, I know I have plenty of content on this blog to keep people happy.

The Star Force Series

The Star Force series is a military science fiction series that centers on one man, Kyle Riggs, a former Computer Science Professor who gets swept up in an intergalactic struggle between biotic and robotic entities. As a founding member of earth’s Star Force, a military political entity, Kyle Riggs uses his ability to communicate in the language of computers and his knack for problem solving to utilize alien technology to battle a race of super robots bent on the extinction of all organic creatures. Along the way he interacts with various new alien species, some as enemies and some as allies, while attempting to keep Earth safe.

There are a lot of things I loved about the Star Force serious, and a lot of things I hated. One of my major issues with Military Science Fiction, is I tend to like the build up more then the payoff. I love the logistical elements of this series, as Kyle Riggs comes up with newer forms of weaponry. It’s fascinating how he uses the technology in interesting new ways. I also like the diplomatic elements, despite some problematic issues. Along the way, Riggs must deal with his counterpart in Star Force, a piratical egomaniacal Fleet Commander named Crowe, who only keeps Riggs around because he needs him. This constant struggle between two bigger than life characters is interesting, but frustratingly repetitive. The real fascinating ideas comes from Riggs dealing with the alien societies, all of whom have their own biological imperatives. From the warrior worm race who speak in pictographs, to the herd like centaurs, who value honor above all things, Riggs must manipulate each species to get them to do what he wants. He also must deal with Robotic entities, like the enemy Macros, the Nanos, who goal is to defeat the Macros whatever the cost, and Marvin, a robotic ally that often does more harm than good, when he isn’t saving all their lives.

Yet, this series is ripe with frustrations for the reader. The entire series is told from the perception of one character, Kyle Riggs. And while he’s a well conceived character, those around him tend to become annoyances or caricatures, there only to serve his needs. Riggs is the type of leader who simply cannot get the best out of those around him, except by throwing himself into the fire. It’s a frustrating personality trait that sole purpose is to give the reader a front row perspective on everything. There is absolutely no delegation on any level, and it makes the narrative suffer. I think Larson would have been better off splitting the Riggs characters into other perspectives, creating close allies, perhaps one who deals with science and technology and another a ground level military leader why Riggs serves as a command figure. The way this series is set up just lacks any feel of plausibility.

Another issues for me is his female characters. There are two main female characters, one who is boning Kyle Riggs, and one who wants to bone Kyle Riggs. Both of these characters started out as competent women, who have been relegated to whiny bitches either jealous of Kyle’s relationship with the other, or resentful of the fact they aren’t getting a piece of his lovin’. While I actually like both of these characters, I tend to enjoy the series more when they are out of the picture. Lastly, the payoff action scenes. Larson writes action well. The strategies of the battles are well thought out. Yet, I find myself losing interest quicker during the action scenes. Part of it is due to the fact that, once again, it’s Kyle Riggs in the mix of things. When not negotiating with aliens, coming up with new scientific developments and devising military strategy, he’s fighting hand to hand against crustaceans, worms and robotic warriors. Also, I must admit, that often my least favorite part of military scifi is the battles. It’s just how I roll I guess.

Yet, it’s not all bad people. Let’s face it, there is a reason I listened to all six audiobooks, nearly 70 hours of audio, within a month’s time. The Star Force series is the ultimate example of popcorn fiction. It’s like a tasty snack that once you eat one, you just need to finish the bag, even if they start to burn your mouth with their excess flavor. Each novel has a set up that just pulls you in. These books are full of crazy aliens, killer robots, mechanical battles stations, teleportation rings, mechanical marine suits, space skateboards, hover tanks and backstabbery, betrayal and paranoia galore. It’s like a big salad full of cheesy science fiction tropes and covered in bacon. I had a heck of a fun time listening to these books. Even with all the problems, and all my frustrations, I can’t wait until the next book of this series comes out.

Narration:

Mark Boyett’s narration is akin to a SyFy television movie. While easy to follow, it’s a bit over the top with clichéd characters and rock ’em sock ’em pacing. Basically, it suits the style of the tale. I wouldn’t want Boyett narrating a touching multigenerational family saga, but a battle between mechanized troops and hover tanks. Well, let em rip. There were some small production issues. Bad pickups that didn’t quite fit in, some volume drops at times, and other little snafus, but for the most part it worked. I found myself enjoying the dialogue intensive moments, and Boyett’s delivery on the robotic and alien characters, but I found the pacing pf the action to be somewhat mind numbing at times. His non-American accents were cartoonish, but, the whole series had a cartoonish feel so that’s not really a complaint. All in all, it was the right narrator for the project, not my favorite but one who can do the job.

 

 

Swarm by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 1)

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Swarm is simple, escapist military science fiction fun. Larson writes with a “what the hell, let’s go for it” style that’s reminiscent of a train hopping a track and running into a truck full of fireworks in front of a car full of clowns. Don’t expect lots of depth, but do expect plenty of huge robotic sandworms killing off tons of enhanced super soldiers.

I have previously reviewed this title. Click here for my review.

Grade: B

 

Extinction by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 2)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 52 Min

Quick Thoughts: Extinction moves the focus away from Earth, as Kyle and his marines become the pawns of the Macros, fighting against other biotics in order to assure Earth survival. It is full of some of the most brutal action of the series. It’s keeps the intimate feel the first novel had, while expanding the scope of universe. Definitely moves the series in interesting directions.

Grade: B

 

Rebellion by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 3)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 27 Min

Quick Thoughts: Rebellion may have been my favorite book in the series. Riggs now knows he is fighting a losing battle as allies of the Macros, and that fighting other biotic species only plays into the hands of the true enemies. Riggs must figure out how to take the fight to the Macros, bring the biotic species together and keep earth safe. While still full of actions, questions of strategy and morality take center stage in this transitional novel.

Grade B+

 

Conquest by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 4)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 30 Min

Quick Thoughts: After moving the series in the right direction, Conquest takes a step back and loses a lot of the key elements that I was loving in the earlier books. Now back on Earth, Riggs must figure out a way to keep his home world safe from the Robots retribution. While full of action and hover tanks, Conquest loses the interaction with other species, and the bigger questions of the series. Easily my least favorite Star Force novel.

Grade: C+

 

Battle Station by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 5)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 43 Min

Quick Thoughts: After the lull in forward progression in Conquest, the series takes off again in Battle Station. Now, Riggs comes to the aid of his new alien allies, fighting a ground war on new planets, and attempting to throw the Macros out of the Eden system. Yet, not everyone is happy with him expending Star Force resources in the aid on aliens. Riggs must deal with internal pressure as he takes the fight to the enemy. Battle Station gets the series back on the right track in a big way.

Grade: B+

Empire by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 6)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 13 Hrs 15 Min

Quick Thoughts: After his victories battling the Macros in distant planets, Kyle Riggs becomes increasingly concerned about what is going on back on Earth. When he didn’t expect is Earth to be a new Empire under the control of an egomaniacal leader. Stuck between two huge Fleets, one full of Robots and the other his fellow humans, Riggs must use the resources and allies he has to keep what he has won safe, without wasting biotic lives needed in the struggles against the macros. Empire keeps the series moving in the right direction and creates an excitement for what is yet to come.

Grade: B+

What Other’s Have Said:

Check out DelicioSciPhi’s Review of the series. who created the excellent cover image!

 

 





Audiobook Review: Swarm by B. V. Larson

28 12 2012

Swarm (Star Force, Book 1) by B. V. Larson

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Swarm is simple, escapist military science fiction fun. Larson writes with a "what the hell, let’s go for it" style that’s reminiscent of a train hopping a track and running into a truck full of fireworks in front of a car full of clowns. Don’t expect lots of depth, but do expect plenty of huge robotic sandworms killing off tons of enhanced super soldiers.

Grade: B

So, some things you should know about me. I have never been abducted by aliens. I have never been taken aboard any sort of ship, whether terrestrial or extraterrestrial and had my anus probed to learn important things about our species. I ha’ve seen the images that come from colonoscopies, and I’m not sure exactly how that helps, and have to wonder why the aliens don’t just hack into a doctor’s system and download intra-anal images, and not worry about getting their hands dirty. I have seen plenty of UFO’s, but, let’s face it, there are plenty of flying objects out there that I just can’t identify either because of ignorance, or just my poor vision. Now, I believe that there very well may be aliens out there, but I can’t help but wonder why they would bother to even come to Earth. Now, the biggest reason used among science fiction novels has been the mysterious collection of "resources." Now, I am not fancy smancy asteroid physics sciencey guy, but that sort of seems to me like flying to Turkey for a pack of Camels in a world full of 7-11’s. What resources does Earth have, that the thousands of planetary flotsam and jetsam along the way don’t? And if earth is full of these awesome natural resources, can they only be detected through the anuses of drunk rural bumpkins? Why not just use the kinetic force of a really big rock, smash earth to pieces then collect what’s there? Yet, despite all these issues, I love alien invasion stories, whether they are lizard men, little gray dudes, or robot collectives. This is mostly due to the one reason I think would give a valid explanation for inter planetary contact, curiosity, even if it did kill the psychic tree cat.

Unbeknownst to humanity, there is a vast war going on between large Macro Machines, and an alien species that uses a swarm of nanomachines to fight them. These nanomachines called Micros are in search of flesh and blood operators to help fight the machines, whether they want to or not. Now, the Macros are heading towards Earth, and the Swarm has arrived kidnapping people off the face of the planet, and putting them through a series of test, which if failed, those tested are discarded to lethal affects. Kyle Riggs has passed their test, and now must battle the coming Enemy while trying to keep their mysterious new allies from destroying humanity.  Swarm is a fun filled action pack military science fiction thriller full of high stake battles, over the top characters and plenty of humor. Now, I’ll be honest, looking back at Swarm, there are just tons of head shakily inconsistent moments in the story, but the story is so damned fun, you don’t even think about them while in the midst of all the action. Kyle Riggs is a totally cool character, if you discount his flawed persona, ability to shrug off things like the murder of his children and his total superhero, Mary Sue-ishness. Larson writes with a "what the hell, let’s go for it" style that’s reminiscent of a train hopping a track and running into a truck full of fireworks in front of a car full of clowns. It’s just too over the top to be realistic, but crazy enough that I just didn’t really care if it made sense. Larson does a great job of making things explode, developing bad ass ways for robots to kill us and for us to kill robots, and filling his characters with a blend of testosterone, bravado and paranoia. Swarm reminded me of a less nuanced version of John Ringo’s Posleen War series, which is like saying a bunker buster bomb is a less nuanced version of a tactical nuke. Moving forward, I hope to see more character development, a deeper look into the enemies and allies Earth makes, a bit more tactical reason to the battle scenes beyond a "kill them all" attitude and female characters that serve as more than just the sexy conscious of the men.  Yet, I have no doubt I will be moving forward with this series.  Swarm is simple, escapist military science fiction fun. Don’t expect lots of depth, but do expect plenty of huge robotic sandworms killing off tons of enhanced super soldiers.

The positive thing about Mark Boyett’s performance is his no hold barred approach to reading Swarm. The negative thing about Mark Boyett’s performance is his no holds barred approach to reading Swarm. Boyett takes on these characters with an abandon which adds a sense of excitement to the production, but also forces a bad caricature feel onto many of the characters. In many ways, Boyett gave the novel a graphic novel feel, with his over the top accents and rapid fire pacing. I think his reading totally fit the book. There is no need to tone it down as Riggs and his boys are dropping nukes and fighting killer robots in the Amazon Basin. Yet, sometimes, particularly during the moments that were supposed to be Rigg’s introspective and emotional moments, Boyett’s style muted the emotional impact. Yet, those moments are pretty sparse, so we get quickly back to the fighting which Boyett delivers wonderfully. Swarm is a great audiobook for those moments when you just want to lean back, and listen to something explody and violent. Or, what I like to call, Thursday.