Audiobook Review: Guardian by Jack Campbell

12 06 2013

Guardian (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, Bk 3) by Jack Campbell

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Length: 13 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Guardian continues the Lost Fleet series, giving us some cool new subplots in a relatively well contained story. Despite an overall lack of dramatic tension during the battle scenes, Campbell creates enough drama in other areas to provide us with another fun spacefaring adventure.

Grade: B+

Sometimes I wish Black Jack Geary would just die. There I said it. Yet, that is an extreme reaction. In reality, I wish he would get his butt kicked, make some stupid costly mistake, or in some way act inappropriately. I like Jack Geary. He’s a good guy. A really good guy. A REALLY REALLY good guy. He is competent and morally upstanding. He has basically won a war, discovered three new alien species, rescued countless numbers of prisoners and won’t even have sex with his wife because it may end up looking bad to the others in his fleet. He faces seemingly endless odds and comes away with all but a few smallest casualties which of course, he suffers and moans about leading his to a crisis of faith because he only saved 99 of his 100 ships against a desperate suicidal enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy him. Poor Black Jack. The Lost Fleet series is awesome. It really is. There’s a whole lot of fun, some cool physics, space exploration, aliens, government conspiracies and even some creepy ghostly stuff, but the core of the series is the battles and how Black Jack has trained his fleet to win. It no longer has become a series about whether Black Jack will pull their asses out of a fire, but just how he’s going to do it. I long for the days where the good guys may not come up with that last minute plan that saves the day. I’d like to see our heroes retreating with their proverbial tales tucked between their afterburners.  Hell, I will even take a pyrrhic victory or two. Or at least a small nose bleed. This problem of over competence in Military Science fictions bugging me. I need a series where out heroes lose nearly every battle. Where they are chipped away at, demoralized and constantly on the run. This was one of the things I loved about Battlestar Gallactica. You knew they would probably survive, you just weren’t sure how many people would die along the way. So, I now need recommendations for Military Science Fiction where out heroes get their asses kicked on a regular basis. There must be a series that meets this criteria!

Guardian is the third book in Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier series, the spin-off to the popular Lost Fleet series. Captain Black Jack Geary has successfully completed his mission to explore the space occupied by The Enigma, a strange alien species that has been manipulating The Alliance and The Syndicate Worlds during their century long war. Now, Black Jack and his fleet must return home through Syndicate Space with his new alien allies, and a priceless prize ship taken from another aggressive alien species. Yet, a strange quirk in the Hypernet Gate has the fleet traveling through one ambush after another in the hopes to get home. Guardian is another fun space bound adventure by Jack Campbell. Here he  changes it up from more traditional space battles to the fleet dealing with surprise and desperate almost guerrilla style attacks by a subtle enemy who doesn’t want him to succeed but needs to maintain deniability. This creates some interesting moments, but again, very little dramatic tension. You never really feel that the Fleet is in jeopardy, just wonder how they will overcome the latest challenge. While this is frustrating, it really doesn’t diminish the overall enjoyment of the series all that much. To balance this out, Campbell creates tension in other places, like the strange ship with it’s Ghostly defenses, an internal conspiracy against Geary within his own Alliance, a new cocky and comical new enemy and a fascinating look at Earth, which has garnished an almost religious place in the minds of the Alliance. I actually like that there are religious aspects to this series. Too often in far future SF religion is either used as a divisive force, or society has grown past such tomfoolery, Here, Jack Campbell uses a form of ancestor worship as a logical religious system that really is a part of the individuals lives but rarely affects the politics of the times. It’s an interesting look, and one skeptical people like me are comfortable with. I think that the science fiction explorations of this series are beginning to outshine the military aspects, and that is not that big of a deal, unless you are looking for balls to the wall, "once more into the breach" style hardcore Military SF. I do think that Campbell has some interesting subplots, and if played right, things could totally blow up in Black Jack’s face, forcing him to stop being such a nice guy and start unapologetically ruffling feathers and kicking ass. Am I wrong to want things to go bad for him so that I can have a little more vicarious fun? I hope not. Guardian continues the Lost Fleet series, giving us some cool new subplots in a relatively well contained story. The future of this series is a bit up in the air, but I for one am hoping for some dark times ahead for Black Jack and his crew. Yeah, I’m a dick.

What can I say about Christian Rummel that I haven’t already said in my reviews of like the 20 or 100 of his other books I have listened to? Well, I’m sure he’s a snazzy dresser and probably has some kick ass dance moves that make all the ladies swoon, but as a narrator, he pretty much has us all swooning. I enjoy listening to Christian Rummel narrations. You simply know what you will get. Strong characters, razor sharp pacing, and the ability to get a laugh when appropriate, as well as ripping a tear yelling and screaming out of my manliest of eyes. In Guardian, again Campbell provided him with a plethora of characters to play with. It’s funny, there really is not much detailed background on these characters. Who really knows how someone from some future planet is supposed to sound, yet Rummel brings them all to life in a way that just feels right. The Lost Fleet series is a whole lot of fun, and a great series for audio. Fans of military SF who haven’t yet taken the leap, why the hell not?

Audiobook Review: Appalachian Overthrow by E. E. Knight

11 04 2013

Appalachian Overthrow by E. E. Knight (The Vampire Earth, Bk. 10)

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs 33 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Appalachian Overthrow is a deliberately paced look at Kurian Occupied Earth through the outsider eyes of the Golden One Ahn-Kha.   I think some fans of the series will be frustrated with the slower paced style, but I wasn’t one. I enjoyed this opportunity to get to know one of my favorite character a bit better, while also getting to see a different side to the world Knight has created.

Grade: B+

David Valentine is one heck of a compelling character. I first encountered David Valentine over 10 years ago when I discovered a series called The Vampire Earth while browsing my local Borders Book and Music. This was back when I was very skeptical of Vampires and having the word Vampire on your book did more harm than good, in my eyes. Through 9 books I have followed the adventures of this character, as he battles the Kurian Overlords, kills reapers, deals with the often tricky politics of the Free Zones and often seems to single-handedly save the day. Yet, this isn’t wholly true. While Valentine has had to deal with a lot of tough situations and often take on dangerous, almost suicidal missions, he is not always alone. Along the way, he has picked up plenty of friends. These peripheral characters have added a lot of color to Valentine’s world. It’s a motley crew he has put together, including a devious and beautiful provocateur, an older Haitian Cook, a Reaper raised outside of the Kurian influence, a former Quisling, and most notably a Golden Haired alien brought to this planet as a work force for the new overloads. So, for nine volumes, Valentine has done most of the heavy lifting, but now it was time for someone else to pick up the load. Not that the series has become totally stagnant. I enjoyed the last entry of this series, and was interested in seeing what would happen next. Yet, sometimes a bit of change is good. Sometimes, the world you have grown to love could use another perspective. When I discovered that the newest edition of this story would be told from the perspective of Valentine’s closest friend, the Golden One Ahn-Kha himself, I was excited. Here was an opportunity to get a fresh perspective on this compelling world from one of my favorite peripheral characters.

Appalachian Overthrow tells the story of Ahn-Kha, an alien transported to Earth by the brutal Kurian, stripped of everything he loved, and looked at by most humans as barely more than a beast. Yet, thanks to David Valentine, he had found a place in the resistance, fighting against the Alien Oppressors who use Vampire like Avatars to suck the life force from their human cattle. When a dangerous mission leaves him captured behind enemy lines, he must attempt to survive, hide his true nature until he can find a way to escape. Sent to work in the mines of coal country, Ahn-Kha finds himself a key figure in an uprising that could forever alter the balance of power in the region. EE Knight has taken a big risk with Appalachian Overthrow. This novel isn’t just a change in perspective, but a whole different style of story with an entirely new voice. Appalachian Overthrow is a less focused novel, with less of an emphasis of key battles or single missions. Instead, it tells the story of a slow boiling disquiet among the people and Quislings of the Coal Country through the non-human eyes of Ahn-Kha. The first person perspective is much more idiosyncratic than the earlier novels. This isn’t truly the Ahn-Kha we have grown to love, seen through the eyes of Valentine, but a more rich, yet intimate version where we get a peek into his mind. The novel has a lot more exposition than the previous novels, giving us a much more detailed look at the inner workings of a Kurian controlled zone than we had seen previously. In many ways, it feels more like a future history/memoir than the typical post apocalyptic adventure style that the previous novels have utilized. Yet, did it work? For me, it totally did. I loved the change in voice, the slower pace and more intimate style. It felt like Knight really gave us a chance to see his world before he started to let his characters start blowing it up. There were moments where the story began to drag a bit, and the details became a bit overwhelming, but usually these were quickly followed by some quick burst of action. One of the most noticeable differences of this novel was that the action came in quick bursts, rather than long detailed battles. Knight still managed to get in a lot of his staples, with some great Reaper fights, some smart guerilla style battles and some skirmishes with the zombie like Ravies, yet there was a much more unfocused, oral tradition style storytelling involved. While I typically preach the idea that series should always be read in order, despite what the author or other fans may say, Appalachian Overthrow serves well as a standalone, not dependent on the past events of the previous nine novels. Appalachian Overthrow is a deliberately paced look at Kurian Occupied Earth through the outsider eyes of the Golden One Ahn-Kha.   I think some fans of the series will be frustrated with the slower paced style, but I wasn’t one. I enjoyed this opportunity to get to know one of my favorite character a bit better, while also getting to see a different side to the world Knight has created.

Christian Rummel returns as narrator for this latest edition of The Vampire Earth series. I think a lot of the idiosyncratic feel of the narrative voice of this novel came from the delivery of Christian Rummel. He read Ahn-Kha as someone comfortable with the language, but not native born to it. There was definitely an alien feel to the reading that gave this novel just the right touch. Rummel uses a rich deep tone, yet doesn’t hesitate to pull out all the stops for his character. Appalachian Overthrow is full of a nice mix of characters, allowing Rummel to use a full range of accents, as well as giving voice to some non-human characters. It would have been easy for Rummel to fall into the rapid fire pacing of the previous novels, but instead, there is an almost languishing reflective rhythm to his reading, as if he’s a tour guide, carefully showing you all the key areas of the tale. While Appalachian Overthrow may not be the best entry of the series, it offers a chance to see The Vampire Earth from a whole new perspective.

Audiobook Review: The Becoming: Ground Zero by Jessica Meigs

7 08 2012

The Becoming: Ground Zero by Jessica Meigs

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers/Permuted Press

Length: 9 Hrs 5 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Becoming: Ground Zero succeeds where many follow ups fail, by changing the tone and slowing down the pace, Meigs actually manages to create even more tension than the original. It’s not an easy ride, with devastating emotion and heartbreak as we become more and more attach to these characters in an extremely unpredictable world. Full of mystery, intrigue and even some romance, The Becoming is a series I want to devour like a lone weaponless survivor in a horde of the undead.

Grade: B+

There is a rising axiom among fans of zombie apocalypse fiction that it’s not about the zombies, it’s about the survivors. Sure, we love the rising of the undead, the friends and loved one turning into insatiable eaters of human flesh, many of us even enjoy the gore and mayhem that comes with the ravaging hordes, yet, tales simply about walking corpses seeking out the flesh of the living isn’t enough to make a compelling story. We need to get to know the survivors, to feel their pain. A good Zombie outbreak novel asks the question, “What would you be willing to do to survive?” Yet, as Zombie fiction becomes more and more saturated into our culture, other questions are starting to be asked. One major theme that is really beginning to get examined in Zombie fiction is, “Is survival enough?” So much of Zombie fiction centers on surviving, yet, when the first wave is over, and the survivors begging to adapt to a new way of life, the obvious question is “What’s Next?” Should our survivors be happy with simply surviving, finding a way to live day to day with the constant threat of the living dead ending everything you have been fighting for? Often, our survivors find themselves with some sort of mission, find a cure, save a loved one, search out as location where you can make a life that serves as their new purpose. Yet, these types of decisions come many side effects, the greatest of which is conflict. In a group of survivors, how do you choose to take on a mission when it reduced the safety of the group? How much safety are you willing to sell in order to gain a sense of purpose? These issues are key points for any surviving group, and the driving theme of Jessica Meigs second novel of her zombie Apocalypse series, The Becoming: Ground Zero.

It’s been a year since the Michaluk Virus changed the world, and Ethan, Cade and their small group have found a way to survive despite the constant threat of the undead. Yet, when a mysterious woman shows up, and asks for their help to travel to Atlanta, to the CDC headquarters where the virus began, some see the opportunity as a chance for purpose, while others see it simply as a Suicide mission. And for Brandt Evans, the stoic former marine who barely escaped Atlanta after the initial outbreak, it’s a trip back into his greatest nightmare. The Becoming: Ground Zero is the sequel to Meigs excellent debut novel The Becoming, yet, instead of sticking with the tried and true it makes a big change in tone and focus. While The Becoming was a fast paced Zombie Outbreak novel that focused on surviving and adaptation, Meigs slows down the pace and focuses more on the interplay between the characters in Ground Zero. Now, I am never one who gets excited by romance in Zombie novels, usually it seems forced and uncomfortable. While there is a touch of heavy handed romanticism in Ground Zero, for the most part it comes off organically, and actually serves the plot. Meigs has a knack for straight forward characterization that never glamorizes, but portrays realistic reactions to a devastating world. Almost every one of the main characters frustrated me at some point, but in a way that only proved how engaged I was in their struggle. Plus, I like that Meigs characters actually make mistakes, often stupid ones, but manage to learn from them. Unlike many sequels which are just ramped up versions of the original, Meigs actually ramps down the violence through most of the book, yet made it feel somewhat more ominous. And all the character development, mysterious situations, and mood creation pays off in a killer ending that had me wanting the next edition right now. The Becoming: Ground Zero succeeds where many follow ups fail, by changing the tone and slowing down the pace, Meigs actually manages to create even more tension than the original. It’s not an easy ride, with devastating emotion and heartbreak as we become more and more attach to these characters in an extremely unpredictable world. Full of mystery, intrigue and even some romance, The Becoming is a series I want to devour like a lone weaponless survivor in a horde of the undead.

Christian Rummel again brings his talents for characterizations and plotting to the world of The Becoming. One thing that Rummel really managed to do well in his performance of The Becoming: Ground Zero was to really find the dark humor that Meigs has infused this tale with. Meigs snappy dialogue and clever turns of phrase are really brought to life by Rummel’s reading, evoking plenty of audible laughs from me. Rummel also masterfully handles some really devastatingly emotional moments that I can’t go deeper into without spoiling some key moments in this tale. I will say though, I didn’t cry. I am a big, manly man, who doesn’t cry, especially as he’s driving home late at nigh on a particularly curvy road that follows Neshaminy Creek. Tears would have been far too reckless.   I did have one small quibbling complaint, and that was in the opening of the book. Meigs used a diary entry by a new character to remind us of the world she created, Rummel read this in his narrative voice, and not in the character’s voice. It really doesn’t change much for the performance, just a little personal quibble of mine that most readers probably wouldn’t even notice. The Becoming: Ground Zero is a wonderful expansion of Meigs world, expertly delivered by Christian Rummel.

Narrative Overtones: My Interview with Christian Rummel

27 06 2012

Christian Rummel has narrated over 120 Audiobooks, for companies such as Audible and Random House Audio. Among his many works are two of my all time favorite science fiction series, E.E. Knight’s Vampire Earth series, and Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series. One of the hardest things for an audiobook fan is to transition from print to audio for a beloved series, and luckily there are narrators like Christian Rummel that help make that transition smooth. Christian was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for Audiobook Week.

First question is an easy one. Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you got started in the audiobook industry?

Christian Rummel: I grew up in an area of Pennsylvania renowned for its peppermint patties, Harley Davidson factory, and the near-meltdown at  Three-Mile Island, a local nuclear power plant.

I studied acting in college, joined the union after graduation and became a stage actor.  A few years ago, I got my Masters in classical theatre at a Shakespeare training conservatory.

Got involved in audio books because an old friend from the same PA town wrote a medical thriller called ISOLATION WARD. That friend, Josh Spanogle, also hooked me up with an audition for Random House, who was recording an audio version of the book. I got the gig, and that was the start of my career in audio books.

What steps do you take when prepping a book for recording?

Christian Rummel: I’m very low prep. I’ll (usually) read the book first, maybe think  about some character voices, but that’s about it. I’m not one of those narrators who use fifty different highlighters to mark character changes. I don’t like to mark my script at all; I like a clean page…

Walk us through a typical recording session. Do you typically work with a director or technician when recording?

Christian Rummel: I don’t have a home studio, so all of my recording is done with someone else in the room, usually a sound engineer, though some companies do like to hire directors as well. All the directors I’ve worked with have been pretty hands off, mostly just there as an outside ear and to sort of gently guide the process along.  Mostly, I just roll into the studio, grab a cup of tea and a bottle of water and get to work.


My first audiobook experience with you as a narrator was Valentine’s Resolve, the sixth book of the Vampire Earth Series by E.E. Knight. I was a little worries, because I had read the first 5 books of the series, and I was worried about a disconnect between how I imagined character’s sounding, and the narrator’s performance. Personally, I think you nailed it for David Valentine, and Smoke, as well as the peripheral characters. When reading a novel in preparation for recording, what do you look for in helping you decide on what you are going to do with a character?

Christian Rummel: This relates to the previous question regarding prepping a book.  Honestly, there’s only so much I can do with my instrument, so in choosing a voice for a particular character, I think mostly about whether I can sustain it for an entire book (or series.)  I also just try to go for variety, which is a lot easier for males. I really only have one voice for females, so it’s a matter of dressing it up with accents or different speech patterns

Have you ever received hate mail or crazy ranting reviews from irate fans of a series who didn’t like the way you voiced a character? I know some fans, particularly genre fans, can be brutal.

Christian Rummel: I’ve never gotten any crazy hate mail from irate fans. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who may be unhappy with the way I’ve voiced particularly beloved characters, but if so, they tend to keep it to themselves or their blogging audience. None of them have contacted me personally. I think I would be more amused than annoyed if they did…

The other day, E.E. Knight posted a picture of the next Vampire Earth novel, Appalachian Overthrow. I sort of geeked out about it because it features my favorite character, Ahn-Kha, Now, I’m not sure about when and if the audiobook version of this novel will come out, but hopefully you will be recording it. Being that you seem to record a lot of series, do you ever go back and listen to you work of a past book to prepare for an upcoming title?

Christian Rummel: I never listen to any of my work, period. Can’t stand it! Even when I’m trying to put a demo together I will always ask somebody with a fresh ear to help me. I’m far too self-critical to listen to my own stuff.  I actually don’t own much of my own work. The books I record for Hachette or Random House come out in CD form; some of those I have, but not much digital stuff.

Another favorite series of mine is the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. What amazes me about your performance in these numbers is the sheer number of characters you have to deal with. How do you manage to keep them all straight?

Christian Rummel: This sort of relates to the last question… working on a series like LOST FLEET, it’s like hanging out with your family. They’re all pretty distinct to me, so I don’t have much trouble keeping them straight. If you’ll notice, a writer like Jack Campbell doesn’t physically describe his characters at all. We have no idea if Black Jack Geary is 6’5” or 5’2” or what color eyes or hair he has. When I first started the series, I decided to have fun with the nationalities of the various characters, mostly so I could keep them straight and give them some variety. I thought about shows like STAR TREK, which boasted sort of a ‘United Nations in space’ cast, and gave the characters accents or dialects based on what nationality their last names evoked.

I would be remiss if I don’t talk about zombies. I am a huge Zombie fiction fan, and with the Permuted Press/Audible deal, there has been a flood of undead audiobooks. One of my favorites was Jessica Meig’s, The Becoming. Cade is a kick ass character, and you did a great job bringing her to life. She has a complicated vocal story, being a former Israeli Defense Force sniper, living in the American south. How challenging is it for you when you are performing women voices, particularly ones with specific accents? What was the strangest character voice, as for as regional and ethnic ties, that you had to come up with?

Christian Rummel: I’ll be honest: I’m not really all that pleased with what I did with Cade on that book. I have several Israeli friends who learned to speak English from British tutors and so have taken on a bit of the Queen’s, so to speak. That’s the accent I gave Cade, but I’m not sure it was really right for her background. I did my best to keep it as subtle as possible, so the listener can focus more on the attributes of the character as written, and less about whether her dialect was authentic.

I just finished a six-book series by Anne Emery, which had all kinds of crazy voicings in it, including a three-page monologue by a female Italian opera diva. That was a bit of a challenge… As far as the strangest, that’s a tough one. The Joseph Wambaugh HOLLYWOOD series have a lot of interesting characters: junkies and winos and drag queens; there’s a lot of crazy ones in there!

Do you have an all time favorite character? Is there a character, whether specific or just a general type, that you haven’t yet had the chance to voice, but would like to?

Christian Rummel: I don’t really have a favorite all-time character, but I do enjoy the         dudes who have what I call the ‘Badass’ voice: Black Jack Geary, Titus Quinn, Ray Lilley. Ironically, men of action, rather than words

I’m sure you have had moments where you’ve messed up, either misreading a text, reading a line in the wrong voice, or mispronounced a word. Is there any especially funny or embarrassing in studio moments that stand out?

Christian Rummel: I make so many mistakes every session that they’re impossible to recall. However, sometimes the script itself is so riddled with editorial errors that it can be hilarious. I just recorded an audio version of the 33 1/3 series about Slayer’s REIGN IN BLOOD (a personal fave) and the manuscript was full of typos. My favorite was the mention of Motley Crue’s first album: TOO FART FOR LOVE. It’s juvenile, but the engineer and I laughed a lot over that one!

Finally, if someone were to write the story of you life, who would you want to record the audiobook version?

Christian Rummel: Interesting question. As much as I dislike this actor, I’ll have to go with Christian Slater, because (sigh) his is the voice to which mine is most often compared. Sadly…

Thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions!

You can find Christian’s work at

Audiobook Review: Invincible by Jack Campbell

3 06 2012

Invincible (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, Bk. 2) by Jack Campbell

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera

Quick Thoughts: Invincible is a rollicking good listen, full of action, and a touch of humor. By creating some interesting new angles Campbell breathesnew life into a series that really wasn’t even close to death. The Lost Fleet is easily my current favorite continuing science fiction series, and one of the few that seems to just keep getting better.

Grade: A-

2013 Audie Nomination for Science Fiction

Invincible is the 8th novel written in Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet universe. When I first discovered this series, I went on a listening spree of Jack Campbell and John G. Hemry, Campbell’s true identity, audiobooks. I listened to the four JAG in space novels, and the first six Lost Fleet novels within a span of two months. Yet, after listening to book 7, Dauntless, I wondered how hard it was to keep a series like this fresh. I liked Dauntless, yet, I felt like it was just another Lost Fleet novel, despite it bearing a new sub title called Beyond the Frontier. I struggled with myself. I loved the characters that Campbell created, and the basic formula of the story, which was bits of Galactic and Fleet wide politics mixed in around grand schemed space-based Naval battles. I love these stories, particularly the melding of space and interpersonal politics. I always looked forward to his Black Jack Geary briefings, where he had to employ just as much strategic cunning around the virtual conference table, as he did when planning a military operation. So, how much of the aspects of this series was I willing to give up in order to have something fresh. Luckily, this question never really had to be answered. With Invincible, Jack Campbell manages to keep the tried and true aspects of his Lost Fleet series intact, while creating new angles and potential implications that manages to revitalize this series with a fresh new perspective.

Invincible begins right where Dauntless left off. As Geary moves his fleet deeper into unknown territory, he finds himself trapped in by an unknown enemy. Campbell has left us off at an interesting place, and I was interested to see how he would resolve the situation. I had expected some initial discussion, followed by some trademark, kick ass battle scenes, yet Campbell surprised me. While Invincible is full of some awesome battle scenes, what really made the novel for me was the exegesis of the fleet’s unknown enemies.  Invincible does what the best space bound Military Science fiction, should do, it examines the new life encountered by the characters, and attempts to understand them, not just thinking of interesting ways to kill them, but actually trying to figure them out. Campbell has created some interesting new Alien species for Geary and the Fleet to deal with, and this adds a new freshness of perspective to this series. Another aspect of this novel that surprised me was the humor. There are some genuinely funny moments in Invincible, moments that actually made me laugh out loud. These moments were perfect tension breakers as the Fleet deals with internal problems coming from many directions as well as a sense of unease about what awaits them at home. Invincible is a rollicking good listen, with Campbell breathing some new life in a series that really wasn’t even close to death. The Lost Fleet is easily my current favorite continuing science fiction series, and one of the few that seems to just keep getting better.

Christian Rummel again impresses in his reading of Invincible.  Invincible has tons of characters and this is not an exaggeration. How Rummel manages to keep every character straight, I don’t know. Yet, he does more than keep them straight, but makes them all memorable. Each character has been given an authentic sounding voice that perfectly fits their personalities. His voicing of one minor character, Master Chief Gioninni, is the highlight of the novel for me, and I always look forward to him making an appearance. Rummel handles the complicated military maneuvers of the novel with a crisp, direct reading style that makes following the potentially confusing action easy for the reader.  For those who have yet to experience The Lost Fleet series, I highly recommend the audiobook versions where Campbell’s excellent, fast paced story telling is only enhanced by the narration of Christian Rummel.

Audiobook Review: The Becoming by Jessica Meigs

6 01 2012

The Becoming by Jessica Meigs

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs and 4 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Becoming is a fantastic set up for the future installments of the trilogy, a novel that focuses intimately on the Survivors of a zombie plague and yet is full of subtle hints of something more in the nature of the Michaluk Virus and its consequences.  Fans of the Undead will enjoy the well orchestrated Zombie action scenes but for the true connoisseur of zombie fiction it is the speculation of what is to come that is the true joy of this novel.

Grade: B+

I know it may not be cool to admit anymore, if it ever really was, but I am a big fan of the CBS reality competition show Survivor. One of the aspects of the show I like is that it takes a look at what people will do when all of the niceties of civilized life are stripped away from them. These people are taken away from comfy beds, air-conditioned apartments, and even readily available food. They are exhausted and starving, forced to engage in strenuous activities, and make strategic and social decisions. Let’s just say, these decisions tend not to make much sense to those sitting at home on their fluffy sofas. In many ways, my love of post apocalyptic fiction really influenced my enjoyment of this series. Every time I read a review of an apocalyptic book, where some “know-it-all” survivalist wannabe declares a book to be unrealistic because the characters make seemingly idiotic decisions that a true survivalist never would, I just have to shake my head. The truly unrealistic thing is to assume anyone, no matter how well prepared for the coming end of all civilization, will be acting at peak performance. Starvation, depravation and hyper-violence isn’t the optimal situation to develop a thorough thought experiment. I always look at books where the characters just make these wonderful well thought out and reasoned decisions as they are being chased by a ravenous horde of flesh eating undead to be insane wish fulfillment.

The Becoming is the first chapter in Jessica Meigs zombie apocalypse trilogy and while it is not going to be looked at as a groundbreaking view of a world ravaged by zombies, it does many things extremely well, one of these things being a realistic look at how extreme situations affect Survivors. While Meigs characters overall seem better prepared than most to survive in a zombie apocalypse, they also demonstrate realistic, shocked reactions to what is going on around them. Their reactions and lack of reactions seem much more human then the typical gung ho "lets go kill us some zeds" caricatures that often show up in zombie lit. I also like that Meigs takes us form the initial breakout to the start of the zombie apocalypse. It shows the characters transitional responses from the early rumors of rioting, to being forced to deal with the fact that their loved one have risen and are trying to eat them, to eventually determining ways to survive in a changed world. I enjoyed the premise set up by Meigs, that a virus called the Michaluk Virus escapes from the CDC starting the outbreak in Atlanta. Her zombies are not something that we haven’t read of seen before, but there is this undercurrent of potential permeating through the book. You feel Meigs leading you towards an unexpected path, and while you just can’t put your finger on what it exactly is, you can’t help but feel excitement for the upcoming trip. The Becoming is a fantastic set up for the future installments of the trilogy, a novel that focuses intimately on the Survivors of a zombie plague and yet is full of subtle hints of something more in the nature of the Michaluk Virus and its consequences.  Fans of the Undead will enjoy the well orchestrated Zombie action scenes but for the true connoisseur of zombie fiction it is the speculation of what is to come that is the true joy of this novel.

Christian Rummel performance of The Becoming is simply spot on. I love the way he handles the character of Cade. I cannot say his accents was truly authentic for a women who lived in Israel and serves as a IDF sniper but now resides in the American South, but it felt authentic to my untrained ear. Every time I listen to an audiobook narrated by Rummel I am reminded that he is one of the few male narrators who excels at voicing female characters. Rummel leads the listener through this fast paced tale with the gifts of a true storyteller. The action here is fast, but Rummel never rushes the listener through it, instead describing the action with a measured pace that allows the listener to get good visual images of just what is happening. The Becoming is a great start to this trilogy, and the author and narrator both left me wanting more.

Audiobook Review: Dreadnaught: The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier

5 05 2011

Dreadnaught: The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier by Jack Campbell

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: While not the best book of the Lost Fleet series, still a fun novel full of political maneuverings and spacefaring action.

Grade: B+

There is something just plain comfortable about returning to a favorite, multi-book series. It’s like visiting your childhood home. You know the best hiding places, which steps creak and just how to jiggle the shower nozzle to get the best flow. Sure, there may be some new accouterments, furniture, pictures on the wall, but, the structure is there solid and sure and full of memories. That’s how I felt diving into Dreadnaught, the latest Lost Fleet novel, and the start of a new series of Adventures for “Black Jack” Geary and his crew beyond the frontier. The series is full of characters you have grown to love, acting how you would expect. The Politics, both interpersonal, and intergalactic are consistent. Secrets are being kept, and conspiracies are being hatched, and the lines of who you can trust are still a bit blurry. Yet, despite the comfort of the return, there are new issues as well. A Destabilized Syndic Government, a Post War Alliance footing, and the Enigma race, a race of non-human sentiments, that are pretty much unknown to humans, yet have been meddling in their affairs. Yep, the Lost Fleet may have come home, but adventure is afoot.

Dreadnaught: The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, besides being a hell of a title, is Jack Campbell’s (John G. Hemry) latest space epic in the Lost Fleet series. It is not the best entry in the series, yet, it would have been hard to pull that off for the author. Dreadnaught is the start of a new series of Lost Fleet novels, and Campbell spends a lot of time cleaning up the loose ends of the last series and setting up the premise for the new one. Those readers who are hoping for nonstop spacefaring action will be disappointed. The first half of the book is full of the political maneuverings and intrigue of the new Alliance government, as it moves from a Wartime Power to Peace time. For someone like me, who loved the political aspects of the series, then this novel is a blast. One of the things I like about Hembry’s work is it’s a different perspective on science fiction. His JAG in Space series is one of my favorite science fiction series, combining two of my favorite genres science fiction and legal thrillers. The Lost Fleet is brilliant because it brings so many aspects into the mix, political, the physics of space flight and battle, drastic social change and it’s affect on tradition based institutions, and good old fashion space action, into an accessible and exciting series of novels. Dreadnaught may not be the best of the series, but it’s a good example of the quality of the series, and leaves the reader wanting a whole lot more.

There are a few issues I had with the audiobook version. At points, there seemed to be sudden jumps in the story, which made you feel like you were missing something. With the written versions page breaks are used to show you are moving from subject matter, to subject matter. In the audiobook, these page breaks are run together, which can cause a feeling of disorientation for the listener. Christian Rummel, the narrator does his usually excellent job. He handles the multitude of characters splendidly. If I had any criticism of his performance, it would be that it was hard to differentiate between Geary’s external and internal dialogue, until the qualifier “he thought to himself” or “he said” was said, causing the listener to have to reevaluate what they just heard. Yet these concerns where pretty minor distractions to the overall excellent production. Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of “Black Jack” Geary and his crew, and having his story told to us by the excellent Christian Rummel.

Audiobook Review: March in Country by E. E. Knight

18 01 2011

March In Country: The Vampire Earth (Book 9) by E. E. Knight

Read by Christian Rummell

Audible Frontiers


In Vampire Earth, there are three main categories of baddies. First there are the alien Kurian’s and their Reapers, who feast of the vital aura’s of humanity. Then there are the servants of the Kurians, whether it is the human Quislings or the alien Grogs, these groups do most of the dirty work for the evil overlords.  Finally, there or the supposed good guys, the bureaucrats and functionaries of Southern Command, who are supposed to be supporting the fight against the Kurian’s but let their prejudices and desire to maintain their own status quo to hamper those doing the actual fighting. In March in Country, the ninth book in the Vampire Earth series, and the third of a three book Arc about the founding of a new Freehold, David Valentine must deal with all three.

Like David Valentine’s career, the Vampire Earth series has had its hills and valleys. Well, March in Country is a hill, if not a mountain of a book. It again reminds us why we fell in love with this series. Valentine is again accompanied by his strange assortment of friends, Ahn-Kah, Valentine’s Golden One companion, the elusive Cat Duvalier, and all his loyal soldiers both Grog and human. And this is what truly makes Vampire Earth a winner, the characters that grow on you. This is how we get to see past Valentines exterior, and learn what this heavy hearted hero truly is, by the way he interacts with a tableau of unique characters.

March in Country is only made better by the excellent reading by Christian Rummel. Rummel has a smooth voice, and handles the narration beautifully. Yet, what makes him stand out here is the way he deals with the characters in the book. His voices aren’t overdone. Aliens sound alien, but not cartoonish.  He handles the female characters, not with a weird falsetto like many readers, but with just enough of a subtle change in tone. The team of EE Knight and Christian Rummel makes this one of the best Science Fiction audiobook series being produced today.

Grade: A-