Audiobook Review: Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones

26 03 2013

Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones (Extinction Series, Bk. 1)

Read by Emily Beresford

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 36 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Extinction Point Starts with a bang and ends with a roar, but gets slightly bogged down in the middle. It’s a unique and often creepy apocalyptic tale full of human carnage, strange beasties and that disconcerting last person in the world eeriness. While I may have wished for just a bit more forward progression in the tale, Paul Antony Jones does a good job wetting my appetite for what comes next in Emily’s apocalyptic adventure.

Grade: B-

I hate shopping. OK, I know what you’re thinking…. Bob, you’re supposed to be writing a review of an audiobook, what the hell does shopping have to do with anything. It’s relevant, well, sort of, I swear, just bear with me. So, I hate shopping. Really. Part of my problem is that I just can’t focus on the task with any sort of concentration required for the task. You see, I have just read way too many apocalyptic novels to actually think of shopping as a simple task. No, people, it HAS to be an adventure. It MUST be relevant to my survival. The first time I enter any store, my first thought isn’t, "oh, where do they keep the milk?" or "I can’t forget tube socks!" No, my first though is how suitable the store is for apocalyptic scavenging. Now, this isn’t a simple exercise. You’d think, the mathematics is pretty simple, lots of stuff = good for scavenging. No, people math doesn’t work that way. As Mrs. Getz my Algebra and Computer Math teacher in high school so many years ago told me, there are always variables you must take into account. Exactly what kind of Apocalypse is it? If it’s Zombies, than perhaps a big super store with lots of potential shoppers isn’t smart. Is it a 24 hours store, or more limited hours? Here, you must factor in when exactly the apocalypse took place. Oh, the variables. I probably live in the worst state for hoarding and scavenging, Pennsylvania. You can’t find important things like alcohol or fire arms at grocery stores. Of course, neither can the small band of cannibalistic brigands that are using the K-Mart as a lure to sucker in human protein bars. And don’t forget muties, or insane asylum escapees that are going to turn the store into a death maze Thunderdome. Perhaps, with muties and robots and zombies and carnivorous walking Triffids, it’s better to stay away from large stores and concentrate on Wawa’s and Hallmark stores. Because, variables and muties and MATH! Supplies-muties/proximity to insane asylum*availability of firearms and Yuengling Lager(Hours of Operation) = I hate shopping…. shit, I forgot the milk.

It seemed like a normal day for New York City reporter Emily Baxter until the strange red rain began to fall unleashing death to the millions of inhabitants of the great city. Yet, Emily is unaffected, perhaps the last living person in a dead city. Yet, she’s not alone. Something strange is happening, and Emily must flee the city to meet up with perhaps the last remnants of humanity in the coldest reaches of the planet. I had high hopes for Extinction Point. It started off brilliantly with a creep red rain that enveloped the city, killing indiscriminately in grizzly fashion. It was just unique enough and just weird enough to catch my attention early, despite a bit of flatness to the main character early on. So, yes, I had high hopes, and while Extinction Point didn’t exactly deliver on these hopes, it at least did enough to keep me interested. I really loved the concept, and slowly the character began to grow on me. Jones does a good job creating a realistic response to an over the top scenario. It took me a while to really connect with Emily. I think part of this was due to her reporter persona. The early parts of the novel I felt like she was more of an observer than a participant in the events, and not until it actually truly affected her, did she begin to humanize in my eyes. Jones creates some real fascinating, and strange events. While Extinction point definitely pays tribute to the bigger classics of the genre like The Stand and The Road, I felt more of a Purple Cloud meets The War Against the Chtorr feel, which was actually quite refreshing. My major issue with the novel was the pacing. Extinction Point feels more like a bit too long first chapter to a much bigger novel, than a complete tale of its own. I just wanted Emily to get moving, to take the big leap forward into her journey, but instead she moves in dribs and drabs, slowly and laboriously putting together her supplies, documenting each step in detail. Now, I love a good apocalyptic scavenger hunt, but sometimes I felt like screaming "Get moving! We don’t need to know exactly which bike fits your needs best, and every single part you will need to keep it in tip top shape, just RIDE THE DAMN THING OUT OF THE DEAD CITY!” Now, while she’s doing all this, she’s witnessing some really creepy things going on, that you would think would light fire under her ass, but it’s almost like she slows down even more. While it makes sense in the plot, it was often frustrating for the listener. Luckily, when she finally does get moving, things pick up. The last hour of the audio was full of awesome and lots of fun and made me forget about all my frustrations and just want Book 2 NOW! So, Extinction Point Starts with a bang and ends with a roar, but gets slightly bogged down in the middle. It’s a unique and often creepy apocalyptic tale full of human carnage, strange beasties and that disconcerting last person in the world eeriness. While I may have wished for just a bit more forward progression in the tale, Paul Antony Jones does a good job wetting my appetite for what comes next in Emily’s apocalyptic adventure. 

Emily Beresford was the perfect choice to narrate this tale. She has a unique voice in the industry, a sort of authentic realness where she never sounds like an actor portraying a role, but a person within a story.  She did an excellent job capturing the shock and emotional turmoil of the main character. I really like how she’s willing to add in more affectations, whether a sigh or a raised voice, or emotional outburst to bring out the humanity of the character. She manages to keep the pace going pretty smooth, despite some pacing issues in the writing. She takes what could be a monotonous, almost grocery list style detailed depiction of events, and gives it a rhythmic flow that fits well into the observational style of the story. There are some moments where the story lulls, but Beresford does a good job keeping us in it, so when the crazy goodness does come, we’re not asleep at the wheel. Extinction Point is a solid apocalyptic audiobook that has the potential to become the start of a darn good series.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

20 09 2012

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (Miriam Black, Book 2)

Read by Emily Beresford

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 4 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Mockingbird is the rare sequel that truly elevates a series.  It’s a visceral trip through the gutters of human evil, with a character walking the fine lines between righteousness and damnation.  Mockingbird expands the mythology of Blackbirds, and continues to build on it with exciting potentiality. It’s a dark journey, but one definitely worth taking.

Grade: A-

Chuck Wendig is one of a very few authors that I have followed on twitter before ever reading a word they had written in fictional form. The thing was, so many people that I followed would retweet his crazy, bizarre and often profane tweets that I decided I may just as well follow this strange, strange man and get my crazy directly from the source. Now, as a faithful follower of Mr. Wendig I have grown to enjoy his specific blend of reasonableness and insanity. One thing I enjoy is that when he discovers a new review of one of his pieces of fiction, he doesn’t just retweet the reviewer, or link to the review, but provides a favorite quote of his. This says to the reviewer, not only do I appreciate that you took the time to write a review, but I actually read it. So Hoo Zah! Yet, it also places a bit of pressure on the reviewer to come up with a Wendig worthy quote for him to tweet. I mean, do you really want the King of Cockwaffles to tweet some bland, roller-coaster ride, stayed up all night reviewing cliché? As a reviewer, you need to find a way to say, BANG! I liked this book, and I am also a twisted, socially questionable, mind freak like the author. So, I needed to play around with my blurb. Originally, I thought I wanted something sort of visceral and borderline pornographic, like "Mockingbird penetrates your mind like a uranium tipped dildo." But, I never had my mind penetrated like a uranium tipped dido, and I doubt most people could relate to that. Plus, it didn’t sound pleasant. So, then maybe pleasurable, yet pop culture infused would be good, so I was going to go with "Like taking a bubble bath in a hot tub full of Seanan McGuire’s cats." But then, I thought, if Seanan McGuire’s cats are anything like mine, they would have no desire to jump into a hot tub with any human, let alone the type that would read Mr. Wendig’s work. Plus, maybe my readers have pet allergies. So finally, I thought, embrace the cliché and go with, "I stayed up all night on the edge of my roller coaster’s seat reading this action packed thrill ride." Then I remembered I’m an audiobook blogger, who probably listened to this awake, walking and driving around without the help of any seat’s edge. So, in the end, I decided, maybe I should listen to the book first before coming up with a blurb. So that’s what I did.

Miriam Black was never built for the straight life. If working retail wasn’t hard enough, living in a trailer park with the assorted examples of humanity trailer parks tend to collect just has her on edge. Yet, she was willing to try for her trucker boyfriend Louis, willing to keep her hands gloved so to not experience the death visions that is her curse. So, when Louis finds her work using her skills, she jumps at it, to his chagrin. Yet, what seems like a simple case of predicting a teacher at a private girls school’s demise, turns to something different when she envisions a gruesome death of one of the girls by a twisted serial killer. I was a big fan of the first Miriam Black thriller, Blackbirds, yet, honestly, something about it just didn’t totally resonate with me. Originally, I thought it was simply the fact that I totally despised most of the characters. Yet, reading Mockingbird, I think I realized what it was. Miriam Black is such a dark character, and the majority of the tale takes place in gritty locales with less than respectable characters. It felt like painting Ravens onto a black canvas, no contrast. Yet, in Mockingbird, Miriam is set against a tapestry of quiet rural Pennsylvania, at a seemingly idyllic school for troubled girls. The contrast between Miriam and the setting really brought the story to a whole new level. The undercurrents of darkness that Miriam discovers, and her attempts to combat it seemed more vivid, and the stakes much higher. Mockingbird is the rare sequel that truly elevates a series. The plotting is tighter, and the mystery has a much bigger payoff. I love the journey that Wendig has taken Miriam on. Miriam confronts not just evil, but her own darkness. She faces horrific acts, yet, she is also confronted with the fact that the motives behind them are a mirrored reflection of her own. My only frustration with Mockingbird is with Louis. God save us from the righteous disappointment of good men. Louis is the kind of man who acts how you wish you would, but when placed in similar situations, most wouldn’t. He knows Miriam, and what she can do, yet attempts to restrain her, to force her into a normalcy that just will never suit her.  It’s frustrating to see this as a man, and as a reader. One word of warning, Wendig infuses this tale with not just darkness, but the incessant uses of profanity, politically incorrect musings, and in your face sarcasm. Wendig will find your trigger, the one thing that just grates on you, with his shotgun approach. This makes Miriam hard to like, but compelling to follow. Mockingbird reminded me again of why I love supernatural horror tales, why I was willing to risk groundings and other such punishments smuggling books by King and Koontz into my Fundamentalist home as a teenager. It’s a visceral trip through the gutters of human evil, with a character walking the fine lines between righteousness and damnation.  Mockingbird expands the mythology of Blackbirds, and continues to build on it with exciting potentiality. It’s a dark journey, but one definitely worth taking.

While I enjoyed Emily Beresford reading of Blackbirds, I felt there it took her a while to get comfortable with the character’s voice. In Mockingbird, any such reservations were gone. Beresford give a strong, consistently solid reading, capturing Miriam’s voice effortlessly. Gone were the hesitations that hampered Blackbirds. Beresford seemed to really just channel her inner Miriam and let her rip. Her pacing was markedly improved, particularly in the books finale, where she kept the action moving briskly. There were a few moments early where she seemed to over annunciate some words, which sort of tripped up the smoothness of the reading, but as you got deeper into the plot, this disappeared. I have to particularly point out her creepy performance of the Bad Polly song sung by the serial killer. There had to be some temptation to pull out her American Idol skills and give a good performance, but instead she performed it as described, with fluctuating registers. It was perfect for the mood, and contributed to the flavor of the audiobook. Mockingbird improves itself on every level over Blackbirds, which was a pretty good audiobook to begin with. This one is a true winner.





Audiobook Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

23 04 2012

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Read by Emily Beresford

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 10 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Blackbirds reminds me of a novel Dean Koontz would write if he was high on ecstasy and learned how to swear properly. It is a ripping yarn that is equal parts bittersweet, and profane. Forcefully paced and darkly humorous, Chuck Wendig doesn’t just establish himself as the new voice of horror, but jumps on top of the genre and does a little dance to prove his point.

Grade: A-

I hate spoilers. It is one of my ultimate pet peeves. Screw global warming, inflation and international crises, I will vote for the candidate who promises to outlaw spoilers and make the death penalty an option for habitual offenders. You spoil a book, movie or TV show for me, and I will no longer be your Facebook friend. (I’m looking at you mom.) For this reason, I don’t want to know how I will die. Sure, I can see that there may be a bit of freedom in knowing the exact moment and cause of your death. No longer would you need to look both ways before crossing the street, or bother with wearing your seatbelt. You could take up cigarettes, red meat and high-risk sexual behavior without a worry that it will lead to your demise.  But, is the added feeling of security and freedom worth it? Not to me. I want the adventure of crossing the street without knowing ahead of time whether or not a secret CIA black helicopter will fall out of the sky and land on my head. I want to experience the twists and turns in my life without knowing how it all is going to end. I want to believe that I may not end up sad, lonely and struggling to get that last breath out of my disease riddled lungs. I want life to be full of surprises, and just enough risk to make it interesting.

In Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig has created a character who should be wearing a T-Shirt that says, “Spoiler Warning.” With a simple skin to skin touch, Miriam Black can see how you will die. Estranged from her overbearing mother, she travels around the country like a vulture, bearing witness to the deaths of strangers, and stealing from their corpses. Despite how much she tries, she is a slave to fate, unable to prevent the deaths that she witnesses. Then one day she meets a kindly truck driver, envisions his brutal murder, and hears his last words, her name. Check Wendig invigorates my love of supernatural horror with this visceral, fast moving thriller. While typically I feel like just an anonymous observer in most tales I read, Wendig managed to put me right in the story, eliciting gut level responses to his characters. I found myself equally compelled and frustrated by Miriam, wanting to connect with her, wanting to understand the world she lives in, but often becoming frustrated by the choices she makes. I utterly hated Ashley wishing death and dismemberment in horrific fashion upon his person. These types of reactions only come when you are totally immersed in a tale, and from the earliest moments of this novel Wendig had me hooked. One of my pet peeves in horror is the often heavy handed foreshadowing that many author’s use, but Wendig uses the talents of his main character to foreshadow events in a natural way bringing greater depth to the narrative. To make things even better, I totally loved the ending, it creates so much potential for Miriam’s character that I already am looking forward to Mockingbirds, Wendig’s follow-up to Blackbirds.  Blackbirds reminds me of a novel Dean Koontz would write if he was high on ecstasy and learned how to swear properly. It is a ripping yarn that is equal parts bittersweet, and profane. Forcefully paced and darkly humorous, Chuck Wendig doesn’t just establish himself as the new voice of horror, but jumps on top of the genre and does a little dance to prove his point.

I have mixed feelings about Emily Beresford’s narration of Blackbirds. This seems to be her first foray into audiobook narration, and I feel she has a lot of potential. Yet, I also feel she may have been miscast for this production. Miriam Black is an edgy, irreverent character who swears like a sailor, and even had me blushing a few times with the things that come out of her mouth. Beresford’s interpretation of her sounded a bit like a suburban mother who takes a secret naughty pleasure in saying a bad word, but is uncomfortable with it. The beginning of the novel, her pacing seemed a bit forced. Yet, as the novel played out, I felt Beresford got more comfortable in the tale. She definitely handled some of the more vocally defined characters well. Her handling of accents was excellent and she made some interesting choices for characters that I feel paid off in the end. While my feelings are mixed overall, I came away with a generally positive view of this production, and hope the Beresford continues with Mockingbird, just with maybe a bit more edge added to Miriam’s voice.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. Blackbirds will be available in paperback, E-Book, Digital Audio and Compact Disc on Tuesday, April 24th.