Audiobook Review: Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

29 04 2014

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

Read by Tavia Gilbert

Audible Studios

Length: 10 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: A

In Afterparty, Daryl Gregory has created one of the more unique near future thrillers I have experienced in a while, a psychotropic chase novel across a recognizable future landscape full of strange characters, new tech and enough twists to keep you not even sure if you should even try to keep on guessing. Yet, if this was all that Afterparty was, I’d write a nice little review, talking about the above mentioned topics and try to keep it sounding all professional and shit.

Except I can’t because Afterparty punched me in the head. Repeatedly. With lingering effects.

Now, it wasn’t the story per se. The story was like a really good road trip to someplace you never been before with little side trips you never quite expected. Except, this road trip was laced with landmines. One second you’d be driving along, pointing to an all glass Tabernacle and Hoagie shop, or stopping to get your picture at the world’s largest ball of Already Been Chewed bubble gum in the Midwest, then bam, something goes boom and your brain matter gets sprayed all over your upholstery.

Afterparty tells the tale of a group of scientists who invented a drug that had the unfortunate side effect of manifesting a deity directly into your brain. After one scientist purposely overdoses the group with the drug, the group each gains their own version of god along with various levels of self destructive behavior. Years later, Lyda Rose, one of the scientist is now sequestered in her latest mental institute and discovers the drug has now hit the streets and she, along with the Angel who lives in her head, must discover which former colleague is responsible.

So, it’s pretty damn cool on it’s own. Yet, Gregory has laced his tales with reflections of the true nature of God, faith, the delusion of free will, humanity’s biological imperatives, along with other sociological, psychological, religious and scientific mindfucks. I’m probably missing a few ogicals and istics along the way. As someone who grew up in a religious family, raised in a fundamentalist Baptist Church I have spent years trying to come to terms with my spiritual inadequacy in the face of those who find real joy in religion. I rarely come across an interpretation of the Bible that I haven’t in some level explored. Gregory somehow made me look at some things in a whole new light. In fact, it’s something I’m still thinking about and if you get a few beers in me, as some friends were loathe to discover, I will spew it all over you. It’s rare that a book affects me on such a personal level, not based on a character I came to love or some scenario I could relate to, but with issues of self, and faith explored in brilliant new ways. The thing I especially liked about Afterparty is that I think each person who reads it will more than likely have a similar mindfuck moment, yet with a different topic. This is the fun part of driving through a cerebral minefield, you never know which one is going to blow your brains out of the back of your head.

Sadly, I don’t listen to enough Tavia Gilbert. This is only the third time I have had the privilege to listen to her narrate a book, and it was definitely my favorite. How often does a narrator get to take on religious schizophrenics, delusional deities and bizarre cowboys? For some this may be daunting, but for Tavia Gilbert it came off as great fun. She deftly guided us through an strangely familiar world, while giving the intricately laced dialogue an organic feel. Gilbert never gave anything away, just allowed you to discover the various psychosis of the characters as well as their foibles and secret intentions in a manner worthy of the text. It’s a performance that is both nuanced and just a little bit goofy, and simply fun to listen to.

My Top 20 Audiobooks of 2011

15 12 2011

It’s that time of year. I know every year you anxiously wait to find out what The Guilded Earlobe has chosen as his favorite audiobooks of the year, with your audible credits and library’s Overdrive website ready to go.

A few things to note. This is a list of my favorite audiobooks that were produced in the calendar year 2011. Some of the books may be older, but their audio versions appeared in 2011. I am in no way a literary expert. This list is judged solely on how much I enjoyed the novel and its narration. This list is heavy on Genre and speculative fiction titles, because that is what I read most of. At the time this list had been written I was just about to finish my 165th audiobook of the year.  While I did receive some of these titles for free as review copies, that in no way impacted their rank, nor have I been compensated in any way to promote any of these titles.

In 2011 I began actively blogging and reviewing audiobooks. This definitely affected my reading habits, since I was more aware of trends and the hype of the publishing industry. In 2010 I spent a lot of time listening to complete series, where as in 2011 I listen mostly to standalone novels and took more risks in my overall selection of books. I think that change has helped make more well rounded list. I hope you find something on this list that tickles your interest.

1. I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
Read by Kirby Heyborne
Tantor Audio

I really struggled with what audiobook to pick as my number one of the year. Dan Well’s John Cleaver series is a wonderful look at a young man who fights against his dark nature. In many ways John Cleaver is an anti-Dexter, a character with a “dark passenger” that doesn’t give into its control. I Don’t Want to Kill You is the finale of the series, and may be the best finale of a series I have read in a long time. The ending of I Don’t ant to Kill You affected me more than any other book this year and still haunts me every time I think about it. Kirby Heyborne deserves a lot of credit for the work he does narrating this novel. I suggest if you haven’t read this series that you take on the first novel in print, then the final two in audio.

My Review

My Interview with Author Dan Wells

2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Read by Wil Wheaton
Random House Audio

Ready Player One will be on many Best of lists, maybe even topping a few. It’s a fun ride through 80’s nostalgia and a sci-fi dystopian near future. In my opinion, the audiobook version, narrated perfectly by Wil Wheaton is the best way to experience this novel. Wheaton’s grasp on geek culture allows his to not only voice the characters of the novel, but capture all it’s bells, beeps and whistles.

My Review

My Interview with author Ernest Cline

3. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Read by Kevin Kenerly
Blackstone Audio

In the year of the Zombie audiobook, Isaac Marion’s zombified reimagining of Romeo and Juliet is the best Zombie audiobook of the year. Kevin Kenerly is brilliant in his reading, giving the novel a breezy flow that underscores the themes of the novel so well. Warm Bodies is currently in production for a movie version, so listen to the audiobook to prepare yourself for this event.

My Review

4, Children of Paranoia by Trevor Shane
Read by Stephen Boyer and Emma Galvin
Penguin Audio

Children of Paranoia is a story of a secret war between two anonymous groups that is raging on our streets. I have heard many people list this novel of dystopian. It is not and it is not science fiction. What makes this novel so effective is that it is taking place in our world, behind our backs. Despite the deep secrets of the war, that even the participants don’t understand, Shane gives it such a feel or reality that it’s frightening. Children of Paranoia was the biggest surprise novel of the year, and Stephen Boyer and Emma Galvin adds a lot of depth to it with their reading.

My Review

5. The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Read by Mark Bramhall
Penguin Audio

If any novel gives Ready Player One a run for tickling my nostalgia bone, it’s The Magician King by Lev Grossman. The Magician King and its predecessor The Magicians is a twisted adult and often brutal version of the fantasy novels I loved as a kid, particularly The Chronicles of Narnia. Mark Bramhall takes on the role of storyteller as he leads us through the dark sides of our world as well as the magical land of Fillory.

My Review

6. The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly
Read by Peter Giles
Hachette Audio

I have always loved legal thrillers, yet I feel the best years of the genre were the 1990’s and since then, the novels have moved from solid Courtroom procedurals to basically detectives with a bar card mysteries. It’s been nearly 20 years since some of my favorite legal thrillers, like Philip Friedman’s Inadmissible Evidence, and Turow’s Presumed Innocent. Then Michael Connelly, a non-lawyer, but arguably the best procedural writer in the business, comes out with the Mickey Haller series. The Fifth Witness is my favorite legal thriller in over a decade, and wonderfully delivered by narrator Peter Giles.

My Review

7. Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory
Read by David Marantz
Audible Frontiers

Raising Stony Mayhall is a book the reminded me in many ways of Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump, in that it’s the tale of a young boy, whose somewhat different, who goes on to live an amazing life that affects many people. The major difference is that Stony is a zombie. Raising Stony Mayhill hasn’t received the hype it deserves. It is a really good book, and should be able to reach past its genre and pull in fans of types. With all the hype of the blending of literary and genre titles, this book succeeds where so many other have failed. David Marantz does a wonderful job bringing this story to life, and is a narrator to look out for in the future.

My Review

8. The Ridge by Michael Koryta
Read by Robert Petkoff
Hachette Audio

The truly supernatural aspect of Michael Koryta’s novels is they somehow when you think he’s put out a novel that cannot be bettered, he betters it. The Ridge starts with an unsettling image of a lighthouse built in the hills of Kentucky far away from any body of water. In The Ridge Koryta blends a gothic history with modern day thriller to present one of the more unsettling novels of the year.  Robert Petkoff continues his streak of enhancing Koryta’s novels with his wonderful narration.

My Review

9. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill
Read by Holter Graham
Neil Gaiman Presents

If you would have told me that one of the most engaging characters of the year would have been a half-bull/half man who speaks in grunts and short gruff sentences, I probably would have told you, “Yep. Sounds about right.” Thanks to Neil Gaiman, whose audiobook line is now bringing us some of his favorite novels into audio, audiobook fans are finally meeting this wonderful character. Holter Graham does a wonderful job narrating this slice of life tale of a mythological creature in a very real American south.

My Review

10. The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry
Read by Ray Porter
Blackstone Audio

Jonathon Maberry has been my author revelation of the year. I have listened to more Maberry audiobooks (9) this year than any other author by far. Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is on of the tightest, well plotted action series around. Ledger is such a wonderful engaging character that you become totally invested in his actions. Ray Porter seemingly becomes Joe Ledger in his reading of this novel. He utilizes heavy sighs, a cracking voice, and flushes of emotion to really bring Ledger to life.

My Review

11. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Read by Tom Stechschulte
Audible Frontiers

While Swan Song is nearly 25 years old, it has finally been given the audiobook treatment. Swan Song is one of my all time favorite novels. It is the tale of America after a full nuclear exchange. It is a book I have read at least 5 times, and I was looking forward to reentering a world I knew so well in audiobook form. What I wasn’t expecting was to discover a hidden poetic beauty in its prose that was brought to life by Tom Stechshulte.

My Review

12. Aloha From Hell by Richard Kadrey
Read by MacLeod Andrews
Brilliance Audio

Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is quite entertaining, but Aloha From Hell takes a giant leap forward in quality. Kadrey really outdid himself with this twist on Dante’s Inferno told from the perspective of his punk rock protagonist. MacLeod Andrews continues to blow me away with his characterizations, as he really gets into the heads of these characters bringing them to life in a scarily realistic way.

My Review

My Interview with Narrator MacLeod Andrews

13. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
Read by Wil Wheaton
Audible Frontiers

John Scalzi takes a risk that pays off in his reimagining of H. Beam Piper’s classic scifi story Little Fuzzy. It’s a nice quick tale of a prospector on an alien planet who meets some cute, Fuzzy creatures. The question is, are these cute little animals, or sentient beings? John Scalzi’s tale of what it means to be human is delivered smoothly in Wil Wheaton’s direct narrative style. My only complaint was that the novel ended a bit too quickly.

My Review

14. The Infernals by John Connolly
Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Simon & Schuster Audio

This is quite a year for novels set in hell. Irish Author gives his own hilarious slant to Dante’s Inferno in this endearing sequel to The Gates. It’s full of wonderful characters, otherworldly adventure, and a series of laugh out loud footnotes that truly enhances the overall story. Tim Gerald Reynolds gives what is perhaps my favorite narrator performance of the year. It was simply a joy to listen to and a book that should appeal to everyone from children to adults.

My Review

15. Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry
Read by William Dufris
Macmillan Audio

Despite my love of Zombies, Dead of Night is probably the only zombie novel this year to actually scare me. Maberry uses the essence of his zombies to horrifying effects. William Dufris adds to the chills with his wonderful characterizations.

My Review

16. Deadline by Mira Grant
Read by Chris Patton and Nell Geisslinger
Hachette Audio

The fourth and final Zombie book of my top twenty. As the second book in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy, we find ourselves in the midst of a world that has adapted to living with zombies, and the ever present dangers of the Kellis-Amberlee Virus. In Deadline, the science takes center sage and Grant handles it with loving detail. Chris Patton does an excellent job capturing the brokenness of Shaun Mason. All that and an amazing ending that makes Blackout one of my most anticipated releases of 2012.

My Review

17. The Cut by George Pelecanos
Read by Dion Graham
Hachette Audio

Pelecanos introduces a new series character, Spero Lucas, an Iraq war vet who works as an unlicensed Investigator. While Spero is fascinating in his own right, it’s Pelecanos rhythmic urban prose that wins me over every time. Dion Graham turns Pelecanos’ prose into poetry making this audio a joy to listen to.

My Review

18. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Narrated by Nick Podehl
Brilliance Audio

The long awaited sequel to Rothfuss’ debut Fantasy novel The Name of the Wind was well worth every minute of the wait. The Wise Man’s Fear is a series of moments in the life of a young man who will grow to be a legend. Rothfuss brilliantly shows us how tales are altered to become legends, yet still maintaining a feel of truth. Nick Podehl handles a novel full of poetry and unique communication styles perfectly.

My Review

19. Germline by T.C. McCarthy
Narrated by Donald Corren
Blackstone Audio

While Germline is considered a military science fiction novel, it is unlike any Military scifi novel I have read. This isn’t a grand tale of space adventure, but a gritty realistic look at a future on our own planet. Germline is more akin to Matterhorn then Honor Harrington. It’s characters are flawed, and their orders murky and inconsistent. Donald Corren allows the nature of the narrative to affect his reading in just the right way, allowing us to hear the transformation of the characters as they move through each phase of the story.

My Review

20. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Narrated by Jim Dale
Random House Audio

While the story may be about two magicians manipulated into a secret contest by their mentors, the real hero of this tale is Morgenstern’s lush, gorgeous prose. The story is full of beautiful moments, but it is the underlying sense of a mysterious darkness that separates it from many of the other novels people have attempted to compare this one to. Jim Dale adds a truly magical feel to the reading of this novel.

My Review

Honorable Mentions

I have two honorable mentions. Both of these titles totally blew me away. The only reason they didn’t make the list was that they were not released in 2011.

Honorable Mention #1: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor Read by Anne Flosnik

Honorable Mention #2: A Quiet Belief In Angels by RK Ellory Read by Mark Bramhall

Audiobook Review: Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory

5 12 2011

Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory

Read by David Marantz

Audible Frontiers

Length: 12 Hrs 18 Min

Genre: Zombie Lit

Quick Thoughts: . Raising Stony Mayhall isn’t just a great zombie novel, it’s a great novel. People who want a book with a main character that you can really cheer for and told in a unique and engaging way should give it a chance. Don’t let your prejudice against non-breathers keep you from experiencing one of my favorite books of the year.

Grade: A+

I’m a big fan of Diversity. To paraphrase the famous idiom, diversity is the spice of life. Now, if you know me, you know I really love living my life according to the repeated sayings of anyone who can get their hands on a chicken soup book. Yet, the whole diversity thing is something I truly respect. I like to try different flavors of ice cream, as long as they have peanut butter in it. I enjoy differing toppings for my pizza, whether they be vegetable, animal or fungi. Heck, I’ll even drink my Dt. Dr. Pepper with cherry flavoring in it. Most importantly I try to achieve diversity in what I choose to read. I mean, who wants to read the same old stories, over and over again. So I take chances. I’ll read novels about slow shambling zombies, as well as novels that feature fast running zombies. The zombie plague could be caused by an released bio-weapon, demons from an alternate dimension, or even voodoo. I’m open to talking zombies, zombies with crushes on pretty young girls, or even zombies that can use tools and drive cars. I’m willing to take on a Zombie novel by a debut author from a small press, as well as one by a literary author slumming it in the horror genre. Sometimes my zombie novels are about an outbreak that is eventually quelled by the authorities, and other times it’s a full blown zombie apocalypse. As I said, I’m open to it all. Heck, occasionally I may even read an apocalyptic novel, which isn’t cause by zombies, but maybe the zombies are just an after affect, later on down the road. Who knows? So, when I heard that Daryl Gregory’s Raising Stony Mayhall was a different kind of zombie novel, I was all, “Bring it on!” (Oh, zombie cheerleaders, that’s an idea!)

Raising Stony Mayhall is the biography of John “Stony” Mayhall, It starts when a family discovers a dead woman in the road, and upon examination, finds a small baby with her. The family takes the baby home, and despite its coos and caws, they find no pulse or signs of breath. Quickly, the women of the Mayhall family realize that Stony is a zombie from the 1968 outbreak and must be hidden from the townspeople. Thus begins one of the most unique, touching and entertaining zombie tales I have read. Gregory does wondrous things with this tale that takes the tropes of the genre and smashes them apart, yet creating something even better with the pieces. In some ways, it’s an alternate history of the world if the outbreak featured in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead actually happened, yet the zombies recovered from their initial cannibalistic rage, and lived normal lives in hiding. The first thing readers should pick up on is the narrative tone of the book. This isn’t some piece of literature you are being presented, but a story that is being told. The anonymous narrator seemingly interacts with the reader, adding texture and intimacy to the tale. In particular, his description of the apocalyptic zombie outbreak, which should be horrific, is told in in a hilarious manner, yet without becoming slapstick and cheesy. Stony is a wonderful character that leads a fascinating life in an almost Forrest Gumpian fashion. Every time you think you have a handle on  where the story is headed, Gregory throws a curve ball, and the whole complexion of the novel changes. Yet, with all the trips, diversions and interactions of Stony’s life, in the end, it all comes down to family. The relationship between Stony and his family drives this novel, and gives life to a tale of an impossible member of the living dead. Raising Stony Mayhall isn’t just a great zombie novel, it’s a great novel. People who want a book with a main character that you can really cheer for and told in a unique and engaging way should give it a chance. Don’t let your prejudice against non-breathers keep you from experiencing one of my favorite books of the year.

Raising Stony Mayhall is a novel that is a perfect example of what makes a great audiobook. The way the story is told comes off like is a new form of an oral tradition, modern stories that are just made to be aloud. This was David Marantz first audiobook narration, and the casting agent should be proud since he was perfect for this tale. His reading was so full of energy, and captured the tone of the novel just right. His characterizations were spot on. There are so many unique and wonderful characters in this novel, and Marantz brought them all to life, even the differently living individuals. I was very impressed at Marantz’ performance and will definitely be looking for future audiobook projects of his. Its been a long time since I thought this of any novel, audiobook or print but Raising Stony Mayhall was one of those book that once completed, I was very tempted to go back to the beginning and start it all over again. I really can’t think of better praise for a novel.