Audiobook Review: Warbound by Larry Correia

13 08 2013

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.

Quick Thoughts: 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.

Grade: A+

Warbound is the third book in Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series about an alternate 1930’s where a secret society of magical superheroes called the Knights of the Grimnoir protect humanity against the use of magically enhanced powers for evil. I’m not exactly sure what Larry Coreia’s plans are for the world he created here, but as far as overall story arcs, Warbound serves as the end of the trilogy that began with  Hard Magic. If Correia decided to never again visit the world, I would be disappointed, but in no way left hanging. It’s about as complete of a story as you can get in the series heavy environment of speculative fiction. This being so, it’s hard to simply evaluate Warbound on its own. In order to truly review it it must be examined for how it completes this trilogy. I have used a lot of hyperbole in describing this series. I have called it things like "breathtaking" and "brilliant" and felt tempted at times to chant "THIS IS AWESOME" like some rowdy fan at a wrestling match while listening. In my reviews, I called it "mind-boggling good" and reiterated a fellow reviewer’s comment that this series is "A Perfect example of how good audio can get." I even have called the narration by Bronson Pinchot "my favorite performance by a male narrator this year."  Yet, I have resisted the urge to place it in any overall context until I felt the series has reached some sort of natural conclusion, which in Warbound it has. I mean, endings are very important, and while a bad ending may not affect the fact that I got a lot of enjoyment out of the previous audiobooks, it would affect where I would put this series in my personal pantheon. Now, having listened to Warbound, I can easily declare that the Grimnoir series is high among my favorite speculative fiction series of all time. But wait, there’s more, people. The Grimnoir Chronicles may be my favorite speculative fiction audiobook series of all time. Now, I can think of books and series I may like a bit more, but I can think of no series that has combined an amazing story full of awesome characters with one of the best narration performances of all time. Larry Correia has created an amazing story, and Bronson Pinchot takes this story to a whole other level that I may not have even believed possible until i heard it for myself.

In Warbound, Jake Sullivan, a Heavy who can literally control Gravity, has put together a secret mission to hunt down the Pathfinder, and interdimenrional being that, upon gaining enough power, can lead the great enemy, a predator that eats magic, to earth. With a crew combining Grimnoir Knights and Pirates, they must take a revolutionary new airship into the heart of the Imperium under the control of an imposter Chairman to find and destroy this creature. Back in the USA, magical humans are being forced to wear marks indicating their powers, while being enticed to move into their own cities under the protection of FDR’s government. Meanwhile, Faye, believed by the Knights to be dead, must enter the Dead City of Berlin to find the animated corpse of fallen Grimnoir Knight who can predict the future, to learn the consequences of being The Spellbound. Again, Larry Correia has taken multiple speculative fiction subgenres and blended it with history to create something that is both comfortable, yet utterly unique. The stakes are now greater, and the events spread out across the globe, yet somehow Correia managed to make it feel more intimate and personal than the first two novels. While Jake and Faye are fighting for the world, they are also dealing with their own personal demons. These personal struggles are potentially even more important to their quest to save the world than any actual individual confrontation. Yet, the ultimate confrontation is looming, between the Knights and a creature so powerful that the entity that brought magic to the world and is the greatest force in human history, is the prey to this predator. I love that Correia doesn’t set up the typical good vs. evil, black vs. white scenario, but instead shows on many different scales the true grayness that is inherent in any conflict. Sometimes doing what you believe is right can lead to great atrocities and the corruption of power will often distort even the best of intentions. Every character must evaluate their own essence, and often overcome their own conflicts in preparation for the coming battle. There are so many epic moments in Warbound that they won’t all fit in this review. In any grand finale, there must be some key casualties, and while to the readers will be saddened by it, Correia knows how to make a character go out in a way that has you hollering and cheering between the tears.  Like in almost all his other books, Correia manages to make the epic finale confrontations so huge, that even the combined talents of Peter Jackson, Michael Bay and Joss Whedon couldn’t fit it on their big screens. These are beyond cinematic. Yet, while these finales are full of awesome, perfectly choreographed action, there is an intimate intelligence to it as well. In Warbound, you have a big multiplayer action sequence that is so thrilling and intense it may have sucked a few years off my life, yet you also have a brilliant one on one showdowns, a showdown so big that it quite possible may have been too big for my earthly imagination.  It’s monumentally huge, yet in its own way, quite small. With Warbound Larry Correia brings this trilogy to a natural conclusion that fans will rejoice in yet have them long for more trips to this wonderfully envisioned world. 

I honestly don’t know how Bronson Pinchot does it. He manages to take what is simply an amazing piece of storytelling, and make it even better. On its own, Warbound and the other novels of this series are amazing, yet Pinchot makes this a series that you absolutely need to experience in audio to truly experience it at its best. It amazes me how much depth can bring to these characters just with is voice and pacing. Each character doesn’t just get it own voice, but its own rhythms and cadence that accentuates their attributes. Pinchot proves that there is so much more to narrating than saying the words in a voice that generally matches the characters. He creates with his voice in ways that few others can. He takes a huge cast of characters and makes each one stand out in memorable ways. He brings the action to life in with a visual acuity that rivals any visual medium. The Grimnoir series is, for me, the best meeting of wonderful storytelling with transformative narration I have ever experience. If Warbound doesn’t manage to pull in yet another Audie nomination and win, I will be completely shocked.

Audiobook Review: Spellbound by Larry Correia

11 12 2012

Spellbound by Larry Correia (Book 2 of the Grimnoir Chronicles)

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

Length: 16 Hrs 25 Min

Genre: Alternate History/Steampunk/Superheroes

Quick Thoughts: Spellbound left me simply breathless. Larry Correia has taken classic fantasy tropes and blended them into something that is almost its own new genre. The Grimnoir Chronicles with its blending of Superheroes, Steampunk and Alternate History is a series you simply cannot miss.

Grade: A+

2013 Audie Nomination for Paranormal

It’s no secret that I love a good superhero tale, as long as I don’t think about it too much. I have always been one who hasn’t let inconsistencies in fiction bother me too much. I mean, honestly, I love zombie books, and other goofy science fiction type things, if I let plausibility and consistent mythology bother me too much I probably would have to resort to nonfiction. That being said, those rare occasions when my mind is working too hard, Superhero origin stories hurt my brain. Now, I’m mostly a casual superhero fan. I’ve never been a big comic book guys, so all my issues have probably been addressed multiple times by multiple people. Yet, I never understood why more people haven’t had themselves bitten by irradiated, genetically engineered spiders, or exposed to top secret gamma rays. If superheroes are a real part of your world, wouldn’t more idiots be trying to throw themselves in front of meteors? Then, there’s Superman. He is biggest, strongest superhero of them all, who somehow gets his power from a yellow sun. I’m not exactly sure how the rays of a yellow sun would allow you to fly, or shoot beams out of your eyes. I mean, maybe if we could already float or have low powered eyebeams, then sure, yellow sun, amps us up. I’m down. Plus, Superman can fly into space, through the galaxy where not all suns are yellow. What’s up with that? Wouldn’t he lose his power? So, whenever I go into a tale involving superheroes I plan to sort of roll my eyes and go with the origin story’s flow, which hopefully is dealt with then pushed into the background. Yet, Larry Correia, in his Grimnoir series, has done something I really didn’t expect. He has created a fascinating origin for the force behind the rise of magical powers and integrated it into the mythology of the series in a way that I find quite fascinating.

Spellbound is the second entry in Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles, the direct sequel to the Audie award winning Hard Magic, an audiobook that would have been in my top 20 last year, except I listened to it after making my list. After the events of Hard Magic the Grimnoir Knights find themselves is a bad position when they are framed for an assassination attempt on FDR. Now, hunted by a mysterious new government agency, the magical group must try to clear their name while preparing to battle an ancient force that could devastate the world as they know it. It’s common practice in action series that with each new edition  the hero or heroes takes on progressively worst badies. After defeating the most powerful and oldest magical human in the last book, I really wondered where Correia could take the story. Well, in Spellbound everything is amped up exponentially. Spellbound is Hard Magic on blue meth, full of inter-dimensional demons, vast conspiracies, and some of the unlikeliest of allies. Spellbound made my brain spin. I have often commented on the cinematic quality of Correia’s action scenes. Yet, in Spellbound the action scenes are still meticulously choreographed and highly visual, but they are so big that I don’t think a film screen could hold it all. Picture the big battle in The Avengers, throw in Gozer, give it a Steampunk edge, then multiply it by ten, and maybe you have an idea how the finale of this novel felt. Yet, it’s not just the action scenes that hold this book together. Correia has developed characters with amazing death and creates a complex mythology and detailed plot, yet reveals it in a way that is highly accessible. It’s easy to place a sort of sort of pulpy, gun porn label on Correia, but in all honesty, this guy can write with the best of them. Spellbound left me simply breathless. Larry Correia has taken classic fantasy tropes and blended them into something that is almost its own new genre. The Grimnoir Chronicles with its blending of Superheroes, Steampunk and Alternate History is a series you simply cannot miss.

In her review, one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Kat Hooper of Fantasy Literature, said that Spellbound is “A Perfect example of how good audio can get.” She is absolutely right. Bronson Pinchot’s performance in Spellbound is easily my favorite performance by a narrator this year. It really is mind boggling how good this book is in audio. Pinchot delivers a master class in pacing of a multiple POV novel. Most good narrators create a pace for each characters inner and external dialogue, yet with each perspective shift, Pinchot tailors his reading to the pace and tone of each character. There is never any question when you are looking at something from Faye’s kinetically paced point of view, or when things slow down to the ponderous pace of the underestimated Heavy Jake Sullivan. Pinchot is one of the few narrators that can actually enhance the author’s character development with his voice. His handling of the international cast was flawless, and tailored each voice to its character’s origin, personality and magical skill. Let’s face it, I listen to lots of audiobooks, and I have listened to more than a few books narrated by Pinchot, but what he does with Spellbound just amazed me. Each character comes alive, each scene jumps from the page to my ears in a masterful way, and it was one of the most engaging and pulse pounding audiobook experiences I have ever had. I have said this before, but I truly believe Correia must have sacrifice some goats or something to the gods of audiobooks to be given two of the best in the business to read his words. In Spellbound he must have gone the extra step and sacrificed an ancient polka dotted virgin goat or something, it was just that good.

Audiobook Review: Red, White and Blood by Christopher Farnsworth

7 06 2012

Red, White and Blood by Christopher Farnsworth (Nathanial Cade Series, Bk. 3)

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Penguin Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 16 Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: Red, White and Blood is a thrill a minute supernatural horror tale that is only made scarier by the author’s ability to make it feel authentic. With fully realized characters, high tension scenarios and deeply rooted conspiracies, Farnsworth hasn’t just written an exciting book but has created a truly frightening world whose true horror comes from how much it resembles our own.

Grade: A-

Very few things go together as well as politics and horror. Horror movies foster a sense of futility, characters trapped in situations they cannot escape, knowing no matter what they do the monster in the room will eventually destroy them. Horror character’s stupid mistakes and past indiscretions come back to haunt them. They think they are prepared, think they will stay true to themselves, protect those they are sworn to protect, yet when the reality of the situation presents itself, in full, they find that they may not be as strong as they believed themselves to be. Yes, horror characters and politicians have a lot in common. I used to be a political junkie, back in the days when CNN was the only 24-hour news station, and I didn’t have cable. My news came to me through reading newspapers and local broadcasts at 6 and11 PM. Yet, as I got older, and the sources of news grew, displaying all the inherent flaws of out political system, I began to hate what I was watching. So, instead I turned to horror movies. Yet, politics is still an old love, and every election season, I find the campaigning, mud smearing and machinations of the process slowly begin to revitalize that interest, despite the horror I feel at its actual execution. I can’t say I ever thought about just how horrific that process would be if added to the down and dirty political brawling was a battle between an ancient spirit, the patron saint of serial killers, and a vampire. This is why I’m a reviewer instead of a writer.

Red, White and Blood is the third entry in Christopher Farnsworth’s Nathan Cade aka The President’s Vampire series, and it’s easily my favorite. In some ways, Farnsworth series reminds me of a really well done Comic Book movie series. Each edition offers new characters and old vendettas but the true driving force is a new enemy who pushes our hero in new directions. Yet, unlike less well executed movie series, Nathaniel Cade’s new enemies are fresh and inventive, and completely break away from what we expect from our baddies in terms of actions and motivations. In Red, White and Blood, the new baddie is The Boogeyman, who is like your deepest childhood fears and hundreds of urban legends rolled up into one seemingly invincible package. To add to the tension, the conflict between The Boogeyman and Cade is set within the high stress situation of a struggling Presidential Campaign, with the ever-present Press hanging like Vultures, waiting for one fatal misstep in order to leap on the carcass. Farnsworth continues to develop his characters in interesting ways. It was great to see Cade, while not truly vulnerable or weak, but fallible. Also, by infusing more political elements in the story, we got to see more of a glimpse into the person who Zach was before his disgrace, and assignment to serve as Cades keeper. Farnsworth moved Zach in some interesting directions, highlighting who he was, using that as a contrast to truly show us what he is becoming. One of my favorite aspects of this series is the author’s creating of a secret history of the United States, using news articles, true crime, and writings to show the supernatural influences on the counties growth. Red, White and Blood is a thrill a minute supernatural horror tale that is only made scarier by the author’s ability to make it feel authentic. With fully realized characters, high tension scenarios and deeply rooted conspiracies, Farnsworth hasn’t just written an exciting book but has created a truly frightening world whose true horror comes from how much it resembles our own.

Listening to Bronson Pinchot’s narration of Red, White and Blood highlights how much choices by a narrator can affect the overall mood of a novel. Pinchot reads this novel with a slow, deliberate pace that increases the tension of the plot. Pinchot creates aurally what the best horror movies create with music and images, an atmospheric mood that keeps the listener on edge, never knowing what will be around corner. His characterization of Cade is perfect, using an economy of inflection in the same way Cade uses an economy of emotional display. When Cade does show fear or doubt, and you can hear the slight evidence of it in his tone, it becomes doubly effective because it is so unexpected. Bronson’s choices are always well reasoned and affective, and his performance in Red, White and Blood proves again that the right narrator can bring a novel to life in so many unexpected ways.

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

Armchair Audie Roundup: Paranormal

30 05 2012


This Week, along with my normal reviews, I will be presenting my roundup posts for The Armchair Audies. If this is the first time you’ve heard of the Armchair Audies, the process is pretty simple. Myself, and a bunch of other bloggers have decided to listen to audiobooks nominated for the Audio Publishers Association prestigious Audie Award. The categories I have listened to and reviewed were Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal.

For each category, I will post the list of nominees, with a link to my review. Then I will offer evaluation of category overall. I will be picking which title was my favorite, which title I would vote for if I was a judge, and which title I feel will win. Also, I will include titles for each category that I feel were overlooked. Make sure you check out The Armchair Audies home page at The Literate Housewife.

Today’s Category: Paranormal


Hard Magic by Larry Correia

Narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Audible, Inc.

My Review

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Narrated by Oliver Wyman

Audible, Inc.

My Review

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Narrated by Sophia Westlake

Tantor Audio

My Review

The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

Narrated by Robert Petkoff

Hachette Audio

My Review

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Narrated by Lorelei King

Macmillan Audio

My Review


For me, Paranormal is a strange category that I have trouble defining. By the strictest of definitions it should be about topics beyond normalcy, for this I imagine Paranormal Romance, Supernatural Thrillers, and Urban Fantasy. In some ways, I figure it’s the catch all category for speculative fiction that doesn’t easily fit into the Fantasy and Science Fiction Categories. There is an interesting assortment of titles that received nominations in this category. We have two Paranormal Romances, one with sexy dragons and the other with sexy ghosts. We also have a moody, dark character driven Supernatural thriller, an ultraviolent Monster mayhem novel just this side of gun porn, and an alternate history Steampunk superpowers tale. As I have admitted in my reviews, I am not a Paranormal Romance fan, and while the two examples achieve their purposes and offer entertaining stories, they really aren’t something I typically enjoy. Yet, I absolutely love the other three audiobooks in this category. To make matters worse, four of the five narrators in this category I consider some of the tops in the industry. I often credit Oliver Wyman for transforming me from an audiobook listener to an audiobook enthusiast. Bronson Pinchot is constantly amazing me with what he brings to an audiobook. Robert Petkoff seems to capture the essence of every book he performs, and while I haven’t listen to many Lorelei King narrations, she is highly respected among many people I trust. Yet, with all these facts in play, one title simply dominated, and was easily my choice for this category.

My Favorite: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

My Vote: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

Who Will Win: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

I have both practical and fanboyish reasons why I feel Hard Magic will dominate this category. First, the fanboyish. Hard Magic is frakkin’ brilliant. Larry Correia has created one of the more fascinating world’s I encountered, bringing together some of the most overused current tropes of the Fantasy genre in a way that makes it all fresh. It is an alternate history, Steampunk novel about people with supernatural powers. Nothing about this novel is pat. Its characters are well drawn, the magical powers unique and the alternate history setting compelling. To make things even better, Bronson Pinchot’s reading was superb. He managed to take an already excellent tale, and make it even better. Pinchot is also nominated for Best Solo Narration for this performance. Hard Magic is the right blend of content and narration which these Awards should recognize.

Some Overlooked Titles:

Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Aloha From Hell by Richard Kadrey

Zoo City from Lauren Buekes

King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

Audiobook Review: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

10 04 2012

Hard Magic by Larry Correia (Book 1 of the Gimnoir Chronicles)

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

Length: 15 Hrs 59 Min

Genre: Alternate History/Fantasy/Super Powers Saga (heck, throw in a bit of everything)

Quick Thoughts: Hard Magic is a blend of science fiction, fantasy, superhero tales, Steampunk and alternate history told with a Noir flair that makes it greater than the sum of its parts. Full of intensely visual action and set in a well researched and intriguing altered America, Correia has created something that will resonate with listeners long after the adventure is over. Bronson Pinchot’s narration is proof that a well performed and produced audiobooks can sometimes take a novel beyond the written word better than almost any other kind of medium.

Grade: A

Hard Magic is nominated for two 2012 Audie Awards in the Paranormal and Solo Narration – Male categories.

I have to admit, sometimes I can be a moody listener. This occurs mostly when I’m stressed with work, or everyday life or actually ill. There are a few audiobooks I have listened to that seems like something I would love, yet, for one reason or another, the listen conflicts with my mood, and I end up switching it up for something else. This happens with music as well, sometimes I want something folksy, while other times I just want to band my head and scream. Matching your listens with your moods can be a challenge. The problem for me comes when I choose something that doesn’t reflect my mood and end up putting it aside, I rarely ever go back to it. Like most book addicts, I have a huge pile of books both past, present and future that I want to listen to, and a limited amount of time to listen, so I find it hard to restart an audiobook. This is something that occurred to me with Larry Correia’s Hard Magic. I am a big fan of his Monster Hunter International series, and I remembered the first book started with this huge, hard knuckled violent altercation between an accountant and a werewolf. About 6 months ago or so, I was having a particularly stressful time at work, and needed some major carnage. I downloaded Larry Correia’s Hard Magic without really doing much research. Instead of starting off with a bloody, face ripping, limb rending bang, the book started with things like complex world building and character development. About an hour or so into it, I knew I just wasn’t in the right mindset for it, and turned to something involving cannibalistic undead hordes. One of the reasons I was excited about the Armchair Audies was that I knew that Hard Magic would be in one of the categories I selected and it would give me the motivation to pick up this title that I had neglected, due to no fault of its own. I have to say, I am really glad I did.

Hard Magic is the first book of Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series. It is an alternate history of our world in which magical talents begin developing sometime in the 1800s. The novel takes place during the Great Depression, when J. Edgar Hoover was just beginning to exert his power, and thousands of Okies where escaping the Dust Bowl and heading to California. Hard Magic focuses on two main characters, Jake Sullivan, a Heavy who can seemingly control gravity, and a young, naive teenager name Faye, who is just beginning to understand her powers of teleportation. As one may expect, these two get mixed up in an international conspiracy involving secret magical institution, a powerful hidden weapon and some twisted Eugenics. It’s hard not to sound pat describing Hard Magic, because Correia fully embraces the tropes of superheroes sagas, and alternate history, but he blends and butchers them as he sees fits creating something that feels unique and exciting. Correia writes some of the meanest action sequences around, and the second half of this novel is a never ending ever escalating action sequence that manages to keep you enthralled the entire time. But, it is the first half of this novel that had me realizing I had underestimated Correia as a writer. Correia builds a brilliant world and fills it with fully realized characters. It was as if Harry Turtledove actually finally began meeting actually people, and writing about them, besides just having cardboard cutouts interacting with historical figures. I really think that is one of the hardest parts of alternate history, creating a world that stays true to the history, but populating it with fresh, real characters, and Correia pulls it off. By the time the action really takes off, I feel like I actually know those in jeopardy, and care about what happens to them. Hard Magic is a blend of science fiction, fantasy, superhero tales, Steampunk and alternate history told with a Noir flair that makes it greater than the sum of its parts. Full of intensely visual action and set in a well researched and intriguing altered America, Correia has created something that will resonate with listeners long after the adventure is over.

So, about the narration. It’s Bronson Pinchot. Bronson friggin’ Pinchot. Come on, do I really need to say more. I have now listened to a bunch of his narrations, and somehow each time he manages to surprise and amaze me. I mean, he takes this novel, from a writer with a reputation for pulp filled action tales, and gets it nominated for the an Audie Award not just within its genre, but for Male Solo Narration up against authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, James Baldwin, Joseph Conrad, and the novel that inspired an Academy Award winning movie. No disrespect to Larry Correia, but Pinchot transforms this novel. He creates a voice for each character as lovingly as the novelist who breathed life into them. He gives the soft, underestimated Jake Sullivan such a true authentic voice, that it allows the violence that Jake is forced to resort to, seem that much more jarring. He captures the impulsiveness, and naiveté of Faye perfectly, allowing for some genuinely touching and funny moments, making you want to protect her while she’s out there unrepentantly kicking ass. And just thinking of the Pale Horse gives me the willies. Everything about this reading is proof that a well performed and produced audiobooks can sometimes take a novel beyond the written word better than almost any other kind of medium. The only complaint I had is that my listening schedule is so full right now, I won’t be able to get to the next book in the series, Spellbound, until sometime this summer.

Audiobook Review: Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers

16 03 2012

Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures: A Novel in Two Books by Walter Moers

Translated by John Brownjohn

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Blackstone Audio

Length: 24 Hrs 4 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: This novel reads like Shel Silversteins cleverest poems, and it will remind readers of my generation of classics like The Phantom Tollbooth. While every situation and every character doesn’t always work, taking the story together in it’s entirety Rumo & his Miraculous Adventure offers everything a good fantasy should, a heroic quest, a touch of romance, an unlikely hero, bizarre but wonderful characters, and outrageous moments that will have you on the edge of the seat laughing uproariously.

Grade: B+

This title is a 2012 Audie Award Nominee in the Fantasy Category.

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, I am participating in an event called The Armchair Audies. A Group of bloggers will be taking on the task of listening to the nominees for categories of The Audie Awards, which recognized the best in Audiobooks. I will be listening to the nominees in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal categories. One thing I’m excited about is the opportunity to listen to some Audiobooks that were never really on my radar. I spend a lot of time searching through Audiobooks companies and publications trying to find a good variety to listen to and review, yet I know I miss out on many wonderful audiobooks. Rumo & and His Miraculous Adventures was never on my radar. If it wasn’t for The Armchair Audies, I would have never even considered listening to this tale. In fact, despite the amount of time I spend on Blackstone Audio’s website, I had never even heard of this or any of Walter Moer’s Zamonian tales. Yet, now I can honestly say that, when I get the chance, I will be checking out the other audiobooks in this series. For that, I most thank the Armchair Audies.

Like many classic Fantasy tales, Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures is about the rise of an unlikely hero. Yet, while Rumo shares many characteristic with the traditional orphaned farm boy trope, he has one great difference. Rumo is a Wolperting, an intelligent dog/deer hybrid. Wolpertings are known throughout Moer’s fantasy world of Zamonia as fierce warriors, who are skilled fighters, but never really heroes. The tale of Rumo is told in a middle grade, almost Mother Goose like fashion, yet is rich in sardonic adult humor, and with witty word play and twisting of genre rules, this is a novel that adults will not only appreciate, but grow to love. As I began to listen to Rumo, I was instantly taken by the world. It felt like I was being told a story by someone who knew how to spin a yarn as only those raised on the oral tradition can do. Yet, this is quite a long tale, and the novelty of the world begins to lose some of it’s glamour as the story progresses.  Rumo’s saving grace is its plethora of amusing, unique and wonderful characters. Rumo himself is sort of bland, and if the tale stayed strictly on him you would have been left feeling cold, but the variety of wonderful characters, from major players like The Shark Grub Volzotan Smyke and chief nemesis General Tick-Tock, to smaller characters like a witch who can only predict the past, and a king who mixes up his syllables when speaking bring heart, humor and a feeling of wonder to the tale. In many ways, the story reads like Shel Silverstein’s cleverest poems, and it will remind readers of my generation of classics like The Phantom Tollbooth. While every situation and every character doesn’t always work, taking the story together in it’s entirety Rumo & his Miraculous Adventure offers everything a good fantasy should, a heroic quest, a touch of romance, an unlikely hero, bizarre but wonderful characters, and outrageous moments that will have you on the edge of the seat laughing uproariously.

Listening to Bronson Pinchot’s narration of Rumo will instantly show you why he is one of the best narrators out there. Pinchot does one thing in the reading of Rumo that only the best narrators can pull off, each time the perspective shifts to a new character, Pinchot alters his delivery of the Prose to match that of the character. So when we are hearing from Professor Ostafan Kolibri, the pace picks up with an almost frantic cadence, but when the story shifts to General Tick-Tock Pinchot’s reading becomes almost mechanical. Listeners will truly be amazed at some of the things that Pinchot pulls off in this tale, and it’s obvious why it’s nominated for an Audie Award. Yet there are some issues with the overall production. Pinchot delivers the many characters brilliantly. The sheer numbers of character, many with weird verbal quirks, must have been daunting. The problem was though, that the reading may have been too true to some of the characters, particularly that of Dandelion, Rumo‘s talking sword. Dandelion is the Jar Jar Binks of this tale, he is an annoying character with an annoying voice that seems to serve no real purpose other than to give Rumo someone to talk to when he is alone. Pinchot captures him perfectly, which is to say his voice is high, squeaking and especially grating. This would be OK, if Dandelion was a minor character, but he appears for a significant portion of the story. I found myself lowering the volume and, like Rumo, praying that Dandelion would just shut the heck up. Yet, this is my only real complaint. There are some clever tricks used by both Pinchot and the production staff that really bring this tale to life and does it justice. If you can get past the annoying Dandelion, you will really enjoy this tale.

Note: A Special Thanks to the good people of Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

Audiobook Review: Meeting Evil by Thomas Berger

10 10 2011

Meeting Evil by Thomas Berger

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Blackstone Audio

Length 7 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Thriller, Dark Comedy

Quick Thoughts: Meeting Evil is a dark comedy that, for me, fell flat due to the utterly unlikable main character, but still managed to be an enjoyable listening experience mostly due to the strength of the narration

Grade: B-

While planning books I wanted to include in my listening list for October’s Murder, Monsters and Mayhem event I wanted to add at least one dark comedy, particularly one where the driving force of the book was not monsters, or supernatural elements but human mayhem. I have always been a big fan of dark comedies, as a teenager, my favorite two movies were Heathers and Better Off Dead. Nowadays, I tend to be the first person in line to see the latest Cohen Brother’s movie, and to pick up the latest Tim Dorsey novel. I love the fact that writers can take a subject that seems quite serious, school killings, teenage suicides, serial killers, child abductions, and murder of all flavors, yet do it in a manner that can make us laugh. For me, it doesn’t really mitigate the seriousness of the issues, but highlights our human perceptions. The reason I decided on Thomas Berger’s Meeting Evil as my Black Comedy selection came down to an external factor. Meeting Evil is being turned into a movie staring Samuel Jackson and Luke Wilson, and I am always a big believer in reading or listening to a book before seeing the movie.

Meeting Evil starts with a simple knock on the door, and spirals out of control from that moment becoming the worst day of John Felton’s life. Opening the door, John meets Richie, a young man who needs a simple favor, he’s having car trouble and just needs a push.  Little does John know that this simple act of neighborly kindness will lead to a day full of murder, kidnapping, home invasions, and other sorts of criminal mischief. John Felton is quite a boring character, a middle class family man who drives the speed limit, respects the police, and works hard at a struggling real estate business. Richie on the other hand, is an over the top sociopath, with extreme misogynistic tendencies, and has just decided that John is his new best friend. Now, on the surface this should lead to lots of laugh out loud moments of dark comedy, and there are those moments, but, for me, much of it fell flat. I think my main issue with the novel is instead of playing off the odd couple elements, I felt that despite Richie’s outlandish nature, John in many ways agreed with Richie. John seemed to be a simmering cauldron of disillusionment, who embraced some of Richie’s anti-women ranting, at least internally, yet rejected other aspects of his personality. While, in many ways John is presented as the reluctant hero of the piece, I could never garner enough respect for him to give him that label. John never truly acted against Richie, until it directly affected him, or his family. Now, I believe much of this was intentional by author, but I found myself loathing the character too much to even want to attempt to justify his actions and inactions. At least the story was interesting and moved at a fast paced, but I just didn’t get out of it what I wanted.

Now for the saving grace of the listening experience. Bronson Pinchot was simply hilarious in his reading  particularly the sing songy way he read Richie. Whatever laugh out loud moments did come, was mostly because Pinchot’s comic timing was dead on, and his character voices just over the top enough to be funny without becoming cartoonish.  I would say that if you choose to take on this book, you absolutely have to listen to the audio version just to hear Pinchot’s performance. I think one of the reasons I really enjoyed it was most of my experience with Pinchot as a narrator, books like Matterhorn, and The President’s Vampire, didn’t highlight his comedic skills, and for some reason, I found myself amazed at just how well he could read comedy. Meeting Evil is a dark comedy that, for me, fell flat due to the utterly unlikable main character, but still managed to be an enjoyable listening experience mostly due to the strength of the narration.

Note: A Special Thanks to the good people at Blackstone Audio for providing me with a review copy of this title.

Audiobook Review: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

14 02 2011

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Blackstone Audio

Genre: Military Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Great storytelling and excellent narration make for a listening experience that you won’t forget anytime soon.

Grade: A-

I do not read a lot of military fiction and while I am fascinated by history, I don’t read a lot of Military History in general. I am in no way an expert on things military, or even versed enough in iit to know when things are authentic. I decided to listen to Matterhorn based mostly on the heaps of praise it has received both in print and audio form. Also, I have always been interested in Vietnam, since my father served as a Marine there, yet, conversely I am a bit tentative to spend my entertainment time on a realist portrayal of the Vietnam war, partly because my father served there as a marine. Sort of confusing, like, well, a poorly planned war. So, when I plunged into this novel, I wasn’t sure how it was going to affect me. I believe that it would be an experience, but would it be an experience I enjoyed?

While I don’t read a lot of Military Fiction, I have read quite a bit of Military Science Fiction, like John Ringo and David Weber. I have learned that there is an easily discernable difference between good military sci-fi and bad military sci-fi. In bad Military Science fiction, the author tries to impress you by how much they know about tactics, how cleverly they can place the chess pieces on the board to get the best military result. Good Military sci-fi is about the soldiers. While tactics are important, it is truly the story of the grunt on the ground, or the young officers trying to motivate, follow orders, and stay alive that make a story ring true. Matterhorn is truly a story about soldiers. In whatever way we can, Marlantes allows us to become part of the company. To see its soldiers for their positives and negatives. To feel the losses with them, both of their comrades and, in many cases, of their sanity. While those of us that were not truly there cannot ever really understand what it was like, Matterhorn gives us a glimpse.

Audiobooks can often be quite tricky. I personally believe a bad performance by the narrator would have devastated this novel. Luckily, Bronson Pinchot pulls off an excellent performance. He reads the soldiers like real people, and allows us to become attached to them. His authentic handling of the material enhances what I believe the author was trying to achieve in this novel. The combination of great storytelling, characters that stay with you and an excellent performance by the narrator make this a listening experience I won’t soon forget.