Audiobook Review: Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz

31 08 2012

Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas Series, Bk. 5)

Read by David Aaron Baker

Brilliance Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Odd Apocalypse is just further proof to me that Koontz can no longer write a novel with a strong character whose voice  doesn’t end up turning into Koontz‘s own. Odd Thomas now feels too old, and the plotting of the novel is overly complex, pulling the character along the way instead of allowing his to challenge the fates. I still hold out hope that Koontz will wow me again the way he did with novels like Watchers and The Bad Place, but novel by novel that hope is fading fast.

Grade: D

Many years ago, when the first Odd Thomas novel came out, I had high hopes. Dean Koontz had been a favorite author of mine for a long time, and despite his more recent work not resonating with me as much as his earlier novels, I always looked at a Dean Koontz novel release as a big event. Koontz’s work has been almost entirely stand alones, yet Odd Thomas was set to be the start of a series. Yet, even better, Odd Thomas broke away from his norm. Koontz’s novels tended to be from an older, male perspective, typically someone who lives on the edges of society, bustling up against some evil force or governmental conspiracy. Koontz often allowed his libertarian vies to influence his writing, pitting the individual against the bureaucratic machine. Sometimes Koontz pulled this off with great affect, yet sometimes, not so much. With Odd Thomas, Koontz was giving us a younger, almost hipper character. Sure, Odd was a bit of a loner, working as a fry cook, and living on the edges of his Pico Mundo town, yet, this was explainable by his gift. Odd Thomas could see dead people, Sure, OK, this has been done to death, but there was something fresh and exciting about Odd Thomas. Gone was the tired voice of the typical Koontzian protagonist. Odd actually, despite all that stood against him, had hope. The plot of Odd Thomas held up, was actually quite timely and relevant. I had high hopes for this series. Yet, somewhere it went off the rails. Somehow Odd lost his voice, Koontz’s plots became too involved and strange, and the original story, of Odd using his supernatural powers to fight real evil, became ploys increasingly reliant of supernatural weirdness, with Koontz bleeding more and more into his character. Yet, each time an Odd Thomas novel comes out, I need to grab it, hoping to rediscover the character I used to know.

In Odd Apocalypse, Odd Thomas, and the strange pregnant women Annamaria, which he meat in Odd Hours, have been invited to stay at Roseland, the former estate of a Hollywood mogul. Odd isn’t exactly sure why they were invited. The residents of the estate are openly hostile, and constantly warn him from straying from his room. Yet, Odd knows that someone there needs his help, and as he tries to discover just why he is there, he encounters strange creatures, people who should not be there, and ghosts who don’t act like the ghost he usually deals with. Odd must discover the dark secrets of Roseland, and figure out just who needs his help. Like much of Koontz’s work, Odd Apocalypse is a blend of genres. Koontz manages to fit elements of horror, science fiction, and even a bit of Steampunk into this tale. Yet, instead of pulling this off seamlessly, the plot becomes weighed down by its constant change in tone and feel. Koontz never really builds the mysterious mood that needs to settle over Roseland, but hits you in the head repeatedly with it. In reality, the plot is a hot mess, with Odd constantly being pushed by so many gods in the machine they could have made their own pantheon. Worst of all, Odd has totally gone from a fresh young voice, to an old man in a young man pants. Koontz’s humor falls flat coming from Odd. His jokes are about those horrible cell phones, pop music and reality TV, basically the trifecta of curmudgeonly horrors. I enjoyed the relationship that Odd developed with Elvis in the first book, but each celebrity ghost he meets tends to be not just from before Odd’s time, but before mine and my father’s time. He’s a twenty something fry cook, who hangs out with Elvis and Sinatra. Why not River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, or Curt Cobain? Probably because old man Koontz’s “kids these days” attitude has so infected Odd, that next book we should be seeing him sitting on his porch yelling at the ghosts of younger pop culture icons to get off his lawn. Now, to balance this review, I have to say that the majority of Odd Thomas fans seem to like this latest edition. It’s gotten wonderful customer reviews, so perhaps I will be in the minority for me. Yet, Odd Apocalypse is just further proof to me that Koontz can no longer write a novel with a strong character whose voice  doesn’t end up turning into Koontz‘s own. Odd Thomas now feels too old, and the plotting of the novel is overly complex, pulling the character along the way instead of allowing his to challenge the fates. I still hold out hope that Koontz will wow me again the way he did with novels like Watchers and The Bad Place, but novel by novel that hope is fading fast.

I remember the first time I listened to an Odd Thomas novel, I thought that David Aaron Baker’s voice had enough youth and vitality to pull off the character. Now, I’m not sure if it’s the author or the narrator’s fault, but I just didn’t feel it this time. I think that I was just so frustrated with the character and plot of the novel that I couldn’t gel with the narration as well. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. He performed the characters well, giving them appropriate voices, and his pacing was strong. I just didn’t feel Odd. I think, if Baker had infused the same levels of vitality he did in the earlier novels, that maybe Odd’s crotchety voice wouldn’t have felt so wrong. Maybe the narrator is becoming just as frustrated with the character as I am, or maybe I was just allowing my frustration to color my perception of Barker’s performance. Not sure. All I know was that I left Odd Apocalypse feeling entirely blah.  There is so many fresh exciting voices working in the Supernatural genre today, and sadly, Koontz no longer is one of them.





Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Novels: Alien Invasion

20 04 2012

This Week on Welcome to the Apocalypse, we take a look at a topic that may turn your little men green.

“In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” – President Ronald Reagan in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

You’ve all seen that scene. It’s early morning, you wake up, throw on your robe, and head outside to grab the newspaper. All around you, the street is bustling with activity. You look up. There is a huge cloud, unnaturally shaped. Slowly a something emerges from the cloud, and it’s not natural. The Alien Invasion has begun.

The Arrival of Alien beings to Earth, whether with good intentions, or ill will, will drastically change the Earth forever. Today’s list focuses on books, or series, where the Earth, after an alien species arrives is changed in a cataclysmic way. Alien Invasions is one of my favorite Post Apocalyptic subgenres, particularly with movies. Despite the cheesiness factor, I loved Independence Day. V was one of my favorite all time TV shows. Other movies include multiple versions of War of the Worlds, Battle: LA, Skyline, District 9 and many others. The following is a list of some of my favorite all time Post Apocalyptic Books featuring Alien Invasion.

 

Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

In Niven And Pournelle’s classic alien invasion novel, Earth is invaded by a Elephantine race of aliens. While there is a whole lot of alien invasion style action and battles, my favorite part of the novel is the examination of the differences of the two species, and how understanding the invading enemy is key to formulating a way to fight them.

Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version of Footfall from Audible Frontiers narrated by Macleod Andrews,

 

The Vampire Earth Series by E. E. Knight

EE Knight’s Vampire Earth series is one of my favorite Post Apocalyptic series out there. Unlike most Alien Invasion novels, The Kurian’s arrive through an interdimensional portal. While the Kurian’s strive to turn Earth into their fiefdom, populating it with a vast array of alternate life forms, and using Vampire like avatars to drain the life forces of those under their thumb, a rival group is attempting to help mankind by giving their warriors enhanced skills. The series follows the career of David Valentine as he attempts to fight the alien forces as well as deal with the bureaucracies of the resistance as well as the human collaborators.

Audiobook Version: The Entire Vampire Earth series is available in audiobook format through Audible Frontiers and Brilliance Audio and is narrated by Christian Rummel.

My Review of Book 9 in the series, March In Country.

 

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

The War of the World’s is the classic tale of the Martian’s Invading London and the rest of the planet. It is one of the earliest tales of conflict between human kind and aliens. While the book is a gripping first person narrative, it has also inspired a multitude of adaptations, from books, movies, radio dramas and television series. War of the Worlds is one of the most iconic science fiction tales of all time.

Audiobook Version: There are a many versions of this tale in audio format. Blackstone Audio’s version is narrated by Christopher Hurt.

 

The Legacy of Aldenata Series (The Posleen War) by John Ringo

John Ringo is known for his fast paced military science fiction, and many of his novels deal with Alien Invasion. The Legacy of Aldenata series involves Earth’s interaction with a series of Alien species. One species, The Posleen, are an animalistic, voracious species that invade planets, devour their resources, and divvy out plantations. The species are like horses with Alligator heads, and the majority are borderline sentient, with only a few “God Kings” who are smart enough to lead their hoards. While the series involves galactic politics, and technological development, the first four novels portray a decimated earth, where cities are ravaged by the Posleen hordes, and humans are forced to live in underground shelters. It’s fast paced, violent and a whole lotta fun.

Audiobook Version: Audible Frontiers has produced the entire series in Audiiobook format, narrated by Marc Vietor.

 

Out of the Dark by David Weber

The Shongairi arrive, and within minutes, Earth is ravaged, its cities in utterly destroyed and half the population is dead. David Weber’s Out of the Dark is a classic Alien Invasion tale that shows you the action across the Earth. From rural America, to Eastern Europe, Human’s take on guerilla campaigns to fight the alien invaders. It’s a lot of fun, with a bug twist that will leave you either loving or hating the novel.

Audiobook Version: Macmillan Audio has produced and audio version narrated by Charles Keating.

 

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndam

The Kraken Wakes is a sort of slow burning alien invasion where a series of weird events witnessed by a British journalist is in actually escalating stages of an alien invasion. The Kraken Wakes is equal parts horrific and humorous. It a unique look at an alien invasion where the aliens remain unseen, but their strange vehicles of war reek havoc to the populace.

Audiobook Version: The is no full Audiobook version of this title. 

The War with the Chtorr Series by David Gerrold

David Gerrold’s yet unfinished work takes a totally different tact than most alien invasion tales. Instead of direct attacks, the Aliens have begun terraforming Earth by introducing bizarre flora and fauna to our ecosystem as well as unleashing a plague that kills off over half of the populations. The creatures range from terrifying to mysterious and almost sort of cute. There is some controversy about this series, as some editions were edited to remove homosexual content, but recent editions have had the cut segments restored. Despite any issues, it is one of the more unique and compelling alien invasion series, and ripe with well developed and interesting characters.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this series.

The Alien Years by Robert Silverberg

The Entities land on earth, put up walled cities, and plunge the rest of Earth into a new Dark Age, without electricity. The Alien Years is about the Carmichael Family as they adapt to the new order, and eventually begin to resist against the invaders. Their goal being to invade a city, and kill the Prime Entity. The Alien Years is a fun, complex alien invasion tale by one of science fictions masters.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

 

The WorldWar Series by Harry Turtledove

In the WorldWar series, Lizard like Aliens invade The Earth, right smack dab in the middle of World War II. Now the warring nations mist find a way to work together to take on aliens, who have totally underestimated their opponents. Full of real life historic figures, and a fascinating and fully realized look at the invading aliens, this series takes readers on quite an interesting adventure.

Audiobook Version: The entire Worldwar series is available in audio format from Tantor Audio narrated by Todd McLaren.

The Taking by Dean Koontz

I really went back and forth on my final selection, because there are a lot of options that may fit the category of Alien Invasion better than The Taking, yet none I enjoyed more. The Taking deals with a unexplained phenomena, which included weird terraforming plants, strange shining lights, zombies, and a whole mess of other bad things. It fits the motif of an alien invasion novel while not exactly fitting the strict definition. Yet, it’s worth the ambiguity to experience this novel which is creepy, strange and apocalyptic to the core.

Audiobook Version: The Taking is available as an audiobook from Random House Audio and is narrated by Ari Mayers.

 

Welcome to the Apocalypse Panel Choices

As always, I have asked others for their picks to be included into this list.

Tim aka Fear Death by Water runs the Post Apocalyptic Blog Cozy Catastophe and is an Apocalyptic superfan whose Post Apocalyptic reading list eclipses my own. You can find him on twitter at @CosyCatastrophy. For his Alien Invasion choice, he brings you a classic from Scifi Legend L. Ron Hubbard.

Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard

Right around the year 2000 a race of aliens descends on the Earth. Their weapons are far more advanced than any weapon humanity can bring to bare. As a result the Earth is quickly conquered and most of the human race is exterminated. Those that are left live in small pockets in rugged areas of the worlds and are ignored by the alien race because they are deemed to be no threat.

After a thousand years under the heel of The Psychlos humanity begins to flex it muscle. A hero by the name of Jonnie Tyler rises and using a weakness of The Psychlos to his advantage, he begins to wage a guerrilla war.

This book has been mocked as being Scientology rhetoric. Not being a scientologist I couldn’t see it. What I did see was ruins of the cities of Earth. I enjoyed the descriptions given of things Jonnie found from our time. Things he had no idea of the use but from the description was clear to the reader. I guess I just saw it as great story. I’ve read it almost as many times as I have read The Stand.

This is also the third apocalyptic book I read. For me it will always hold a special place … even if the movie was a terrible flop.





Audiobook Review: What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

4 01 2011

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

Read by Steven Weber

Brilliance Audio

As a teenager Dean Koontz was my favorite author. In the late 80’s and early 90’s he published some of my favorite supernatural thrillers. From Watchers to the Bad Place, from Strangers to Mr. Murder, I just couldn’t get enough. Then, something changed, maybe is was me growing up, or maybe Mr. Koontz’s novels just began to grow stale and repetitive. Yet, with each new addition to his library, I became less excited and more disappointed. During the 2000’s I can’t think of one of his novels that just blew me away. Oh, the Odd Thomas series had its moments, but mostly is was just a lot of interesting concept novels that never really went anywhere.

So, with that in mind, I strapped the old earphones on and began to listen to his latest, What the Night Knows read by Steven Weber. Within minutes, I was fully engaged. By the end of the first hours, I remembered why I loved Koontz when I was younger. Koontz tells a great story.  In What the Night Knows, we have a modern day Ghost story, creepy and at points seemingly hopeless. It has all the great Koontz themes, tragic past, redemption, true evil, respect for life in all its forms and of course (yet not on such a big scale as others) the benefits of a good dog.

Steven Weber was a great choice to narrate this tale.  His voice is simple, and he just allows the story to flow instead of forcing it. He doesn’t overdo the character voices, allowing Koontz’s dialogue rhythms to indicate characters voices, more so that squeaky falsettos, and octave gymnastics.

Grade: B+