Audiobook Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part 2 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

7 04 2014

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part 2 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Read by Fred Berman

Macmillan Audio

9 Hrs 35 Min

Grade: B

I’ll admit it, I was a little grumpy when I reviewed The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor PART FRIGGIN’ ONE. Maybe some of that grumpiness rubbed off or maybe it was the expected Ledger Lag that I experience after listening to the latest Joe Ledger novel, but The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor PART FRIGGIN’ TWO failed to captivate me as completely as the past entries in the series, in particular The Road to Woodbury. Not that it was bad, it wasn’t. For the most part, especially in it’s further development of the Lilly character and it’s intense battle at the jail, this was good stuff. Yet, it took a long time to develop. The bridge scenes between Part 1 and Part 2 seemed unnecessary. The early parts of the novel was full of unnecessary in your face foreshadowing that felt almost as insulting to the readers as television mood music. There was also a level of frustration that I think came from being more aware of the over all Walking Dead story arch. The authors do a good job at giving many of the Woodbury folk a heroic bent, and gave logical reasons for their hatred of Rick and Michone’s group, but I couldn’t help be feel a growing sense of frustration as these good people made obviously bad choices. At some point, you wanted someone to have an “Ah Ha” moment, but you knew it wasn’t happening. There is much unevenness to the Governor’s character in a storytelling sense. I felt his mounting instability should have been more evident to those around him, and being the brutal post apocalyptic world I struggles to see why some people would have continued following him. Heck, a simple ice pick through the other eye socket could have save a whole mess of people. On the positive side, the epic prison battle truly came alive, and the final moments of the Woodbury crew had true emotional impact. Bonansinga does the world justice, and despite some flaws delivers a solid exciting tale that should thrill fans of the series.

In this series, it has been the tale of two narrators with Fred Berman. I was less than delighted with his almost emotionless performance in The Rise of the Governor, complete with some annoying mispronunciations, but I thought he really stepped it up in The Road to Woodbury. In the overall Fall of the Governor arch, Berman does a solid job. Not as good as the second book, with a few weird pronunciations and small pacing issues, but when the book gets ramped up, Berman take in full force. His reading is worthy of the tale, and he gives the finale a much needed emotional boost. While I still don’t understand the decision to split the last book into two parts, The Walking Dead fans will definitely be pleased with the ending of the book series.





Audiobook Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part 1 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonasinga

9 10 2013

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor Part 1 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Read by Fred Berman

Macmillan Audio

Length: 7 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Through surprising deceptive marketing, this is only the first half of the promise finale of what magically is now being called “A Four Book series” instead of the original label of a trilogy. What follows is a ranty rant rant.

Grade: Incomplete

Note: This review is less of a review, and more of a rant. Of course, everybody likes a good rant, so enjoy.

There has been a lot of talk about blogger responsibilities, and how in reviews we need to “Review the book, not the author.” Well, I’m going to call bullshit on this. We, as bloggers, have a little slice of the internet in which to talk about our experiences with books, and there, we should have the right to do just that, review the experience. If something about an author affects your ability to enjoy the experience of the book, feel free to review it. It’s you slice of the internet, and I think bloggers need to be honest. I would implore people to be respectful and, well, not act like raging dicks, but again, your house, your house rules.  Yet, there is more than just the content of a book the affects your experience. Whether it be your own expectations, the cover, any interaction with the author or publisher, or even your own ignorant beliefs, if it affects your enjoyment, it does a disservice to the book not to mention it. For example, if I hate a book, because I have a strong dislike of the fact that the author once marched in the mummers parade, it’s actually benefits the book if I mention that is what affected my negative experience. Your readers will learn your peccadilloes, and adjust their expectations based on them if you are honest.

All of that is to say that despite the fact the story was pretty good, and the narration was decent, my experience with The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor Part One, was one that was akin to watching a drunk man kick a puppy, while screaming invectives at school children. The dude may be, in reality, a nice guy, but in that situation, he is an utter douchenoodle.  My experience began, when I was thinking about how the cover of this latest walking dead novel was kind lame compared to the last two. It’s all good, Lame covers rarely affect my enjoyment of a book. Yet, I flicked my finger over the audible app to get a closer look, and there, under the words “Fall of the Governor” in dark lettering on a dark background, it says “Part 1.” WHAT IS THIS PART ONE SHIT? I thought. Maybe I only downloaded half the book on audible, and needed to download Part 2? Nope. Listening to the book intro, Mr. Fred Berman, our audio guide through the series, also said, PART 1. So, my anger began to grow. I was already surprised that the finale was significantly shorter than the first two novels. With what Kirkman said we should expect in the final novel, it’s length surprised me. i expected it to be longer than the first two, not shorter. So, I reread the product description. No where on the Audible page, beyond the cover image did it say Part One. In fact, the product description contained this sentence:

“…readers will experience a terrifying finale befitting the cultural phenomenon that this great series has become.”

LIES! MOTHER FUCKING LIES!

Readers will experience the first half of a terrifying finale because…

THESE ASSHATS SPLIT THIS BOOK IN TWO.

So, when will there be a part two. Who the hell knows? Yet, I know when it comes out, they sure as hell won’t be charging me half price for the book. I just spent a full credit to buy a half of a book. I would be OK with this if they let me know this beyond a small little tag on the cover. I would have been happy telling fans of The Walking Dead that this was a pretty cool story, about Rick, Glenn and Michonne’s first disastrous meeting with the Governor, which is just different enough from the TV show to be enjoyable. I liked the story. Not as much as The Rise of the Governor. There was less zombie action, and more person on person cruelty, not to mention a brutal off camera rape scene. Yet, the grit was what you expect from The Walking Dead. Yet, I can’t in good conscious give this book a good rating, not based on content, but on the deceptive marketing. It affected my ability to enjoy it. As I got close to the ending, with my fears being realized, I kept getting angrier and angrier.

So, yeah. this isn’t much of a review. More like a Bob rant with cussing and mean faces. Let’s call this my review: PART ONE! Part two will come when the bastards give me the rest of the book I paid for.

So, for shit and giggles, here’s the initial imagery of the book.

Yet, the released version looks like this:

Anyone notice the difference?

EDIT: I found a statement about this from Kirkman’s editor, Brendon Deenan:

“When the draft for the third and final book of the Governor series, THE FALL OF THE GOVERNOR, came in, it was much too long to be published as one book, but we knew (Robert, Jay and I), that fans of the series would want the whole story, the Governor’s story in full, as raw as possible and as true to Robert’s vision as we could get it. And that’s the book Robert and Jay handed in, the Governor in all his glory ‘til the bitter end. So we made the tough but ultimately necessary decision to split the conclusion into two parts—the first available now, and the second picking back up in March with the terrifying, concluding pages of this series.”

I call Bullshit. If you had enough time to know that the book needed to be split in two, you had enough time to let the marketing material obviously reflect that. Sneaking a Part One onto the cover in easily overlooked lettering was not enough. This book came in under 8 hours. Even if you double it the book would have been around 15 hours, not “too long to be published.” My guess was that the book was long enough that they realized THEY COULD split it in two, not they HAD TO split it in two. So, yeah… bullshit.





Audiobook Review: Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez

29 05 2012

Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez

Read by Fred Berman

Macmillan Audio

Length: 6 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Quick Thoughts: People looking for a unique, clever and highly entertaining supernatural tale will find Gil’s All Fright Diner fits the bill. It’s a great change of pace book for when you’re stuck in a bit of a rut, and are looking for something which is simply pure entertainment to clear your palate.

Grade: B+

I think we as a society tend to stereotype our monsters. All too often our vampires are displayed as eccentric and fascinating, with more than a touch of sexiness. They are pale and mysterious, often with European roots, and a seductive tone. Also, unless they are teenage boys who sparkle, they tend to be evil. While I can accept this for the most part, sometimes I look for a bit of diversity in my monsters. We are living in a society that teaches us to embrace our different cultural heritages. We shouldn’t fear that which is not like us. So, shouldn’t we celebrate diversity in our monster fiction? While, in essence, vampires and werewolves are monsters, can they not also be heroes? I feel it’s time for us to remove the stigma from the word Monster. There are many things that may be hiding in our closets or under our beds. When we walk down a dark alley, wouldn’t running into a petty criminal or rabid raccoon be just as frightening as encountering a Wendigo or chupacabra? We like to put the label of monster on our most heinous criminals, yet wouldn’t this be like mythical creatures labeling their evil doers humans? We also place such a value on beauty, while ogres and ghouls are considered monsters, other mythological creatures like unicorns and fairies are heralded, despite their potential for devastation. Should we really be judging mythological beings based on their looks, or what they like to eat? Well, maybe if what they like to eat is us… but I digress. Monsters, maybe it’s time to rise up and… well, maybe I need to think about this a bit more.

Gil’s All Fright Diner introduces us to two weary travelers named Duke and Earl who are just looking for a quick bite to eat before heading back on the road. Yet, they are not surprised while eating some of Loretta’s pie to find themselves under attack by zombies. You see, according to Earl, they live under the Law of Anomalous Phenomena Attraction where supernatural events are drawn so supernatural creatures, and Earl is a Vampire and Duke a werewolf. Gil’s All Fright Diner reads like a southern fried comedic version of Being Human. Duke and Earl are instantly likeable and the antitheses to the mysterious emo-monsters that all too often occupy our supernatural horror tales. These two everyman stay on to help the robust Loretta solve her zombie problem, as well as the other strange events plaguing the town of Rockwood, before the local Sherriff, Marshall Kopp is forced to close down Loretta’s business. So, quick aside, I totally had one of those embarrassing, "is he crazy" audiobook moments when snorting out loud when discovering the local Sheriff’s name was Marshall Cop. In fact, Gil’s All Fright Diner is full of clever comedic gems, as well as lots of action, a touch of romance, and zombie cows. It’s sometimes hard to remember the dark Lovecraftian, potentially apocalyptic danger the Rockwell is in, because of all the great characters and hilarious moments the book is full of. Yet, Martinez pulls it all together with world bending, unconventional ending that doesn’t fail to thrill. People looking for a unique, clever and highly entertaining supernatural tale will find Gil’s All Fright Diner fits the bill. It’s a great change of pace book for when you’re stuck in a bit of a rut, and are looking for something which is simply pure entertainment to clear your palate.

I really enjoyed Fred Barman’s performance in Gil’s All Fright Diner, and this was definitely a performance. Berman hit’s all the right notes and you can tell he just goes all out in bringing this tale to life. In fact, I would say that it is worth the price of admission just to hear Berman’s Zombie Cow moan. It is an audiobook highlight for me that I won’t soon forget. Berman handles all the characters well, bringing about the distinctiveness in their personalities in the voices he crafts for them. He paces the narrative crisply, bringing the weird and wild aspects of Rockwood to light. This is the third audiobook I’ve listened to from A. Lee Martinez, and it won’t be my last. Each of his novels has such a distinctive tone and unique, wonderfully drawn characters that translate so well into the audio format with the right narrator, and here, Berman was definitely an excellent choice.





Audiobook Review: The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

13 10 2011

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Read by Fred Berman

Macmillan Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor is a must read for lovers of tales of the zombie apocalypse, whether a fan of The Walking Dead series or not.  It is the perfect Halloween listen full of zombie action, a touch of gore, and some intriguing characters trying to survive in a changed world.

Grade: A-

If you’re wondering why I would choose The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor as my latest audiobook for Murder, Monsters and Mayhem, you’ve either never read my blog or clueless about The Walking Dead phenomena. It’s all about the zombies. The Walking Dead franchise has been one of the forces pushing zombies into the mainstream, with the popular series of graphic novels, and the hit AMC series.  Yet, I have a bit of a confession to make. Despite being obsessed with the whole Zombie Apocalypse genre, watching any movie I can find, and reading and listening to countless books within the genre, I have never read The Walking Dead graphic novel series. This huge oversight in my dedication to zombie lore comes from one simple fact, I never really was into graphic novels. I’ve always read. In fact, I can’t remember a point in my life where I wasn’t reading anything I could get my hands on. Yet, I never was into comic books as a kid, or manga or graphic novels as I grew older. So, when I discovered that there was to be a trilogy of novels based on The Walking Dead, and specifically a beloved villain of the graphic novel series, I was both excited and a bit trepidations. My concern about jumping into the story was that I really know very little of the overall Walking Dead back story. Would I find myself meeting characters that it would be assumed I already knew as a fan of the series? Would I become lost trying to figure out the relationships between the characters? Would I miss a bunch of inside jokes, and Easter egg references? Yet despite these worries, I was excited to begin the audiobook.

First off, my worries were quite unfounded. The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor is a parallel story to The Walking Dead, not requiring the listener to have any knowledge of the graphic novel or television series. It is the story of Phillip Blake, a survivor of the zombie apocalypse, before he became a character in The Walking Dead series. It follows him, along with his daughter Penny, his brother Brian and two childhood friends as they attempt to find safety in a world where the dead walked the streets looking for a taste of live flesh. The story itself starts off a bit slow, developing the characters, and giving insights into the relationships. The first half of the novel seemed to be a pretty predictable boilerplate zombie survival tale, with looting, and holing up various places as they deal with the undead. Yet, after the halfway point, the book really takes off, giving the listener an exciting and emotionally charged tale that exceeded my expectations. I almost felt as if the first half lulled me into a comfortable sense of security about what to expect, then the second half devastated that sense of security, smashing it to little pieces. By the time I reached the end of the audiobook, I was stunned, not having expected the emotional rollercoaster that I had been taken on. I was surprised how much I came to care about the characters, despite the fact that these were not good guys. I actually felt saddened and a bit betrayed by some of the actions of Phillip Blake, even knowing beforehand that he was destined for villainy. The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor is a must read for lovers of tales of the zombie apocalypse, whether a fan of The Walking Dead series or not. 

While Fred Berman, overall did a solid job reading The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, I felt a bit underwhelmed by his performance. He has a nice voice, and handled the various characters well, but I felt his performance was a bit too lowkey compared to the material. I also was pulled out of the story by various mispronunciations, particularly the word chassis. Yet, overall his performance was good enough to keep me engrossed in the tale. The story itself is dynamic enough where even a simply decent performance by the narrator was enough to make the overall production a winner.  The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor is the perfect Halloween listen full of zombie action, a touch of gore, and some intriguing characters trying to survive in a changed world.

 

Note: A special thanks to the good people at Macmillan Audio for providing me with a copy of this title to review.





Audiobook Review: 7th Sigma by Steven Gould

27 07 2011

7th Sigma by Steven Gould

Read by Fred Berman

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: 7th Sigma is a excellent genre-blending accessible tale that has something to offer most any reader looking for a quick adventure filled listening experience.

Grade: B+

I have always enjoyed novels that have blended genres like a gifted musician, presenting us with something fresh and unique, while still offering us a glimpse of the familiar. Some of my favorite science fiction and fantasy novels, particularly those with an apocalyptic theme, have a bit of a western taste to them. Notable works, like Stephen King’s The Dark Tower and David Gemmell’s Jerusalem Man series come to mind as well as lesser know Post Apocalyptic books like Neal Barrett Jr.’s Through Darkest America and Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow. The Western motif fits well in novels about a regressed society, because it presents us with a recognizable cultural archetype that is full of the possibility of grand adventure. Steven Gould’s 7th Sigma isn’t Post Apocalyptic on the worldwide scale, but is a look at a regional area that is forced to regress upon being infested with bug-like creatures that eat metal, and react to any type of electromagnetic field. The infestation is geographically specific, leaving the rest of the world relatively unchanged but allowing a territory for runaway teenagers and people looking to escape. The story centers on a character named Kimble Monroe, a young boy loosely based on the protagonist of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. Kimble has been taking care of himself in the territory ever since his mother died and his abusive father was transported out for medical reasons. When Kimble meets Ruth, a marital arts expert escaping a bad divorce who is looking to start a Dojo in the territories, Kimble joins up as her “inside student.”

7th Sigma is a fictional coming of age adventure story with bits of sci-fi and western elements. There isn’t a single all encompassing plot arch, but a series of tales about Ruth and Kimble establishing themselves in a new town. Eventually, Kimble is recruited by a local intelligence Ranger and, in exchange for college tuition, engages in a series of undercover assignment. Kimble is a fascinating character, street wise beyond his years, yet impulsive, often making decisions that get him into trouble.  He has a sense of moral outrage that you can’t help but respect and just enough teenage brashness to act on it. Gould has created a wonderful character, and an intriguing world. Unlike most Apocalyptic stories, the “regular” world lies just beyond the borders of the territory, and you often wonder what keeps the characters tied to this other world. You see the world not just through the eyes of its inhabitants, but its visitors and refugees as well. The science fiction elements are there like a mysterious subtext. The bugs are an ever present danger to those in the territories, but they almost blend into the background, with the residents adapting to the new style of life, yet never really to the bugs themselves. 7th Sigma is also unique because it works well as an adult tale, yet also should appeal to younger readers as well. I know that I would have loved this book as a teenager. Overall, 7th Sigma is a excellent genre blending accessible tale that has something to offer most any reader looking for a quick adventure filled listening experience.

Fred Berman brings his smooth, steady tone to the reading of 7th Sigma. His voice fits well with the novel, handling teenage and adult voices well. Berman’s reading isn’t going to blow you away. His performance is restrained and his voices pretty standard. While this style is going to allow the listener to fully engage in the story without distraction, it is not going to enhance the experience like some narrators have the ability to do.  I would have liked a little more emphasis on creating unique character voices, and embracing the regional accents. Yet, overall Berman’s reading is solid, and the world fascinating enough that you won’t be worrying about any flaws in the reading while listening. With solid narration, an excellent main character, a fascinating world, and just enough lingering questions Steven Gould has created in 7th Sigma a setting and experience that I would love to revisit someday through a sequel, yet also left me feeling satisfied with the tale told. 





Audiobook Review: Horns by Joe Hill

22 07 2011

Horns by Joe Hill

Read by Fred Berman

Harper Audio

Genre: Horror

Quick Thought: Despite its overall unevenness, Horns is a highly entertaining tale of tragedy and revenge by a gifted young writer. The narrator’s characterizations and sense of comic timing enhances the overall listening experience.

Grade: B

I decided upon reading Horns by Joe Hill, my first Joe Hill novel, to avoid the obvious temptation, which is of course, the overuse of Devil puns and clichés. Yet, then I decided to embrace the dark side and give the Devil his due. You see, I grew up in a very religious family, and my mother was hell bent on keeping me from reading any questionable material, which Horns would be in Spades.  Because of that, I now have a devil may care attitude towards such thing, in fact, I seem almost drawn to books like this, Sometimes I think the best way to get kids reading is to tell them they can’t read certain books or styles. Now for me, I have a strange inclination to cheer for the devil in movies and books, and just enough guilt about it to give me a jolt of pleasure. So, of course, a book about someone growing horns and slowly transforming into a devil was right down my ally.  Horns is about a young man named Ig Parrish, who is shunned by his friends and family after the untimely rape and murder of his girlfriend, of which he is the prime suspect. One day, after a bender, Ig wakes up with horns, and the strange ability to get people to tell him their darkest secrets.

Horns was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me. Not in the twists and turns sort of way, but more in its ups and downs. The book started off amazingly. The first few hours are full of the type of dark humor I enjoy, reminding me of authors like Christopher Moore and Chuck Palahniuk. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments as people reveal to Ig their darkest desires. Then, the book took a turn, with some brilliant flashback moments of Ig’s childhood, and his developing relationship with his friend Lee Tourneau and his girlfriend Merrin. Yet between these scenes we returned to modern day Ig with Horns, who is slowly embracing his devil side as revelations about Merrin’s murder come to light. I found a lot of these scenes a bit muddled and conflicting with the mood set earlier in the novel. It was hard to go from dark humor to Ig’s perpetual sullenness. Yet, as we get closer to the end of the book, there is another mood shift. The book takes a melancholy yet moving turn, with the multiple looks at the last days of Merrin’s life. This is the high point of the novel for me. Hill presents some beautiful scenes between Merrin and Ig, full of life and hope. Hill has developed some great characters, and has done it so well. While this development hits some bumps in the middle of the book, his understanding to the link between romance and tragedy is brilliant. Yet, with all that, I found the ending less than satisfying. With the well done set up, and moving the characters into the proper positions, I felt the end payoff just wasn’t there. Not that it wasn’t well executed, I just feel like I didn’t get the closure I wanted for the characters. Despite its overall unevenness, Horns is a highly entertaining tale of tragedy and revenge by a gifted young writer.

This was also my first experience with narrator Fred Berman’s work, and I was impressed. Berman has a smooth reading style that fit well with the overall feel of the novel. Berman totally embraces the Ig character, performing the hell out of him. Except for his ear splitting scream, Berman allows Ig’s fractured emotions to slowly boil. Berman was also quite believable in his other characters, bringing life to the many screwed up town folks, and Ig’s family. My favorite part of his performance was his sense of comic timing. Berman never tries to sell the humor, but allows it to build on its own, the way it should. Horns lent itself well to an audio version and Berman was and excellent choice to narrate it.