Audiobook Series Review: The Infinity Ring: Books 1 & 2 by James Dashner and Carrie Ryan

3 07 2013

A Mutiny in Time: The Infinity Ring, Bk. 1 by James Dashner

Length: 4 Hrs 30 Min

Divide and Conquer: The Infinity Ring, Bk. 2 by Carrie Ryan

Length: 4 Hrs 28 Min

Read by Dion Graham

Scholastic Audio

Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Infinity Ring series is a fun science fiction adventure tale, with some likeable kid protagonists, and full of things that would have enthralled me back in my middle school days. For adults, it’s definitely a bit cutesy, and some of the twists are quite obvious, but I think the interplay between Dak and Sera’s perceived history and the realities we are taught add a bit of intriguing mystery to the tale that makes the series stand out.

Grade: B

Set in an Alternate Timeline where history is slightly altered from our own, The Infinity Ring series tells the story of two brilliant kids Dak Smyth and Sera Froste, who manage to perfect Dak’s parents’ time travel device, and are sent on a mission to restore the timeline from the manipulations of a shadowy group. As the world falls into chaos, Dak and Sera along with a surly teenage language expert Riq, must discover the inconsistencies of the time line to restore order. The Infinity Ring series is a fun action filled time travel adventure perfect for children looking to learn about history outside of what you would read in a text book. There is an almost afternoon TV feel to the story, and I think adults will be able to have some fun with the series despite some rather simple character development and well telegraphed twists. I have listened to the first two novels, the first of which takes our heroes to the time of Columbus’s voyage across the Atlantic, which in their timeline is interrupted by a successful mutiny. What I found interesting about this first story was how Dak and Sera was forced to battle against history as they know it, which painted Columbus as the villain in their history. I actually enjoyed book two even more, due to its more obscure historical epoch, dealing with the Viking Invasion. I found the second book, Divide and Conquer, full of some truly fun and funny scenes, plus, a dog. I always like a dog. All together, I found both books to be fun a science fiction adventure tale, with some likeable kid protagonists, and full of things that would have enthralled me back in my middle school days. For adults, it’s definitely a bit cutesy, and some of the twists are quite obvious, but I think the interplay between Dak and Sera’s perceived history and the realities we’re taught add a bit of intriguing mystery to the tale that makes the series stand out.

One of the big reasons I decided to check this out was that it was narrated by Dion Graham, and it’s so outside the typical Dion Graham audiobook experience I have had previously that I was intrigued to see if it would even work. Well, Graham brings such enthusiasm to the reading, infusing it with a sense of fun adventure. It’s not easy for adult narrators to voice kids, but Graham doesn’t go all squeaky and annoying, instead just puts a lot of energy into his voice, mimicking the competing enthusiasm and cynicism in children’s voices perfectly. The historical elements gives Graham a lot of opportunity to create various accents and characters which he takes full advantage of.  There is a truly cinematic feel to his reading where all the characters come alive and you find yourself more than just a bystander but fully immersed in all the action and history. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed this series as much in print, but Graham adds so much to the story, you can’t help but sit back and enjoy the ride.





Audiobook Review: The Kill Order by James Dashner

16 11 2012

The Kill Order by James Dashner (The Maze Runner Prequel)

Read by Mark Deakins

Listening Library

Length: 9 Hrs 59 Minutes

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Kill Order wasn’t a bad book, just unfocused and full of uninteresting apocalyptic clichés while neglecting the interesting themes. I’m sure fans of the series will find value in learning a bit about how the world of The Maze Runner series came to be, but for me, the few interesting moments kept me drudging through this tale. I was expecting a novel dealing with cool things like sun flares, and instead I got another apocalyptic road trip where only our heroes can save the world.

Grade: C

Sometimes I make weird book reading decisions. Sometimes I think it would be better if someone just asked me my likes and dislikes and just chose my books for me, as long as the person choosing is a flesh and blood person and not some antonymous artificial intelligence bent on world domination like Skynet or Amazon’s recommendation engine.  About a year ago I attempted to listen to the first boom in James Dashner’s Maze Runner series, based on recommendations of many people. I only lasted an about an hour. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps, it just didn’t fit my mood. I know part of the reason I didn’t engage with it was I found the narration a bit flat and too old sounding for a novel featuring young adults. Usually I give flat and boring narration a little while, since often a narrator will grow into the story but, this one I cut short pretty early and moved on quickly. So, advance a good year later, and I start hearing things about a novel called The Kill Order. I read the description and it sounded like an interesting, post apocalyptic novel dealing with sun flares, plague and general apocalyptic mayhem. Since I’m a big fan of apocalyptic mayhem of all sorts, this piqued my interest. Then I discovered the novel is a prequel to The Maze Runner series. This of course, concerned me. There are two types of prequels, ones that are dependent on the source material, and ones that aren’t. So, I checked with someone who read the novel, who assured me that outside of the prologue, I really didn’t need to know anything about the series. Then, I read some reviews, most of which wee complaining that the book didn’t give them any information on what happened to certain series characters. While this was probably frustrating for fans of the series, for me this was good news. So, I said, what the hell, let’s go for it. What’s the worse that could happen?

So, I’m just going to straight out and say it, I didn’t really like The Kill Order all that much. Not that it was a bad book, just one that I never really engaged with. The annoying thing was, it had flashes of really cool moments, and these flashes kept me interested enough to keep listening. Yet, they just never seemed to play out in a way that would save the book for me. The Kill Order is a strange mix of apocalyptic fiction and young adult science fiction that never really gives enough focus to either aspect. The story is about two teenagers Mark and Trina, whose village is attacked by strange flying machines, and men in strange Hazmat style suits, who shoot strange darts at the village’s denizens. Mark and Trina, along with an aging soldier, escape the attack, and decide to travel to find the source of these attacks. Of course, they discover the darts contain a strange virus, turning those infected violent and unpredictable. Along the way, they discover a young girl who may hold the key to combating the virus. As you can see by the description I give, there are a lot of oft used apocalyptic themes in The Kill Order. It’s an apocalyptic road trip, full of deep governmental conspiracies, with our heroes gaining access to top secret information, and discovering a potential source of immunity. Add to this weird tech, plague riddled not quite zombies but sort of weird ragey, attacky humans and the discovery of immunity, this was like many other apocalyptic novels I have read. Except it wasn’t. It was weird, unfocused and sort of meh. Then, there were Mark’s dreams. Through a series of dream sequences, we get to experience Mark and Trina’s journey from the start of the Apocalyptic even that started it all. These parts I actually liked. While using some similar themes, this part was unique and actually offered some new ground in the apocalyptic subgenre. I liked the use of sun flares and melting ice caps, as opposed to the typical man made sources of the apocalypse. Yet, these moments were never fully explores, and Dashner would send us right back to the heart of the tale, a heart that barely offered an interesting murmur. The Kill Order wasn’t a bad book, just unfocused and full of uninteresting apocalyptic clichés while neglecting the interesting themes. I’m sure fans of the series will find value in learning a bit about how the world of The Maze Runner series came to be, but for me, the few interesting moments kept me drudging through this tale. I was expecting a novel dealing with cool things like sun flares, and instead I got another apocalyptic road trip where only our heroes can save the world.

After my attempt to listen to The Maze Runner series fell flat, I became hesitant to listen to any audio narrated by Mark Deakins. Then, I listened to The Dog Stars which I though Deakins performed wonderfully. In The Kill Order, Deakins continued in his low key, evenly paced style, that made me want to pull up my blanket and go nappy nap. I really like Deakin’s voice, even if I don’t think it quite fits a young adult novel. Yet, his pacing is so slow, so deliberate, that is sucked some of the life out of the story. With an introspective novel like The Dog Stars, his style can be effective, but in an action filled science fiction novel, it just didn’t work for me. I think, with a different narrator I may have liked the novel more, and with a different novel, I may have enjoyed Deakin’s narration, but then, I’m sort of strange.

This Review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse Series. For more post, click on the banner below.