Audiobook Review: Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

10 04 2017


Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

Read by Jeff Gurner

Penguin Audio

Grade: B+
So, let me give you the synopsis to every Daniel Suarez novel…
HEY GUYS! There’s this crazy new technology! It’s so cool.
Oh, here’s how it’s gonna alter everything you take for granted and probably kill you. 
Poor main character! He’s sucked into something nobody could prepare for.
CRAZY CHASE SCENE! CRAZY CHASE SCENE! 
BANG!
WHIZ!
REALLY BAD GUYS DOING BAD THINGS! HERO DOESN’T KNOW WHO TO TRUST LOOKS FOR UNCONVENTIONAL HELP! BETRAYAL! INTRIGUE!
BIG EXPLOSION!
CRAZY CHASE SCENE!
EPIC SHOWDOWN! 
WORLD CHANGED FOREVER! 
Suarez’ latest continues his trend of causing more arrhythmia’s than a Five Guys Double Bacon Cheeseburger with all those extra fries in the bottom of the bad. It makes the Fast and the Furious franchise feel like an EB White novel. Sometimes, the craziness can be overwhelming, and it takes a bit of adjustment to settle into his near future world but once you settle in you just gotta hold on to the handrails until the ride comes to a complete stop. 
Jeff Gurner must have been genetically altered with larger lung capacity because there’s huge sections of the novel where I’m not sure he ever got a chance to take a breath. Add to that the international locales and ethnically (and biogenetically) diverse cast and Gurner should get hazard pay for this novel, but, as usual, he performed the hell out of it. Suarez pushes the boundaries of what you expect a technothriller to be, and with Jeff Gurner and plenty of oxygen to prevent breathlessness, Audio is the way to experience it. 





Audiobook Review: Influx by Daniel Suarez

24 02 2014

Influx by Daniel Suarez

Read by Jeff Gurner

Penguin Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 45 Min

Genro: Technothriller

Grade: A-

Influx, the latest by the true king of the near future technothriller, is a nano-infused balls to the wall thriller that will spin your genetically enhanced brain while causing your artificial cyber heart to beat a kilometer a minute keeping the tension building like a fusion powered perpetual motion machine. Basically, take all the future tech you think we should have had by now, mix it together with some well realized characters, add in some complicated social issues, throw in a heavy dash of awesome, and you have Influx. Yeah, I kinda dug this one. The Bureau of Technology Control was founded with the goal to regulate potentially disruptive technology. Yet, when physicist Jon Grady invents functional antigravity, he finds the BTC’s power has been corrupted and it’s power hungry director hording technology for his personal gain instead of the good of humanity. Grady refuses to play along, and is locked up in a top secret prison along with other rebellious genius. Probably not the smartest plan. Suarez’s techno vision and his rock and roll pacing is the perfect blend to drive this compelling story along. While the plot borders on over the top, it’s a gleefully awesome form of excess that should delight anyone who is still waiting for the rocket packs and hovercrafts promised to them as children. Even better, Suarez adds in a fresh dose of social sciences, examining the impact that technology has on society. If I have any complaint, it’s that at times the technology overshadows the characters, but with tech this cool, you can’t really fault the author too much for that. While it may be too soon to declare any book the techno-thriller of the year, Influx has thrown its hat into the ring as an early contender, and it’s gonna take something special to knock it off it’s perch.

I always have mixed feeling when an author has a go to narrator who narrates all their books, particularly their standalones. I understand you may be a huge fan of a specific narrator, but it doesn’t mean they are right for every one of your books. Luckily for us readers, the pairing of Daniel Suarez and Jeff Gurner is a match made in Talky Book Heaven. Gurner has a very professional, almost Movie Trailer voice, with enough range to give his narrations the right amount of edge. His range of voices is solid, giving each character a distinctive feel. Yet, the true beauty of his narration is his pacing. Suarez writes at a kinetic pace, and it would be very easy for a narrator to get overwhelmed by it, but Gurner never does. He propels the book along with just the right amount of energy, yet with enough control to pull back when needed. It’s a performance that will keep you on the edge of you anti-gravity platform, utterly engrossed in every moment.

Thanks to Penguin Audio for proving me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez

31 07 2012

Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez

Read by Jeff Gurner

Penguin Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 6 Min

Genre: Techno-Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Kill Decision is a fast paced, explody orgiastic techno adventure full of over the top action, colorful characters and a twisty conspiracy laden plot that will keep the reader’s head spinning. Suarez takes current technology and pushes it out to frightening extremes, which gives the sometimes outrageous plot just enough validity to make you uncomfortable. Kill Decision is the ultimate summer read, an exciting thriller that feels like a big budget action movie for your brain.

Grade: B+

As if there aren’t enough things that will one day kill me, Daniel Suarez has to add a new one to the list. Sometimes, I feel there is this evil cabal of genre authors who sit around in the mysterious smoky castle, or perhaps a local coffee shop, with the sole purpose of thinking up new monsters, technology or diseases that may very well end my existence. I have become used to the idea that someday a zombie may feast on my delicious brain, or the government which we all have such faith in will release a killer plague wiping out over 99% of the population. I can deal with a Robopocalypse or Emo-Vampires sucking my blood and forcing me to listen to Death Cab for Cuties until my ears bleed and my brain hemorrhages. Yet, now I can’t even walk my dog or orchestrate a global conspiracy to destabilize the European Futures market without worrying about whether or not some unmanned drones programmed to emulate warlike soldier ants will swoop down and kill me. I mean, sure, robots may rise and destroy humanity, and even the smart Artificial intelligent houses of the future may take us captive and enslave us to their will, but at least these were things I could see happening in the future, when I am old and have finally seen all 10 of The Hobbit movies. Yet, Suarez’s killer drones are topical and current and may be circling over my tin foil lined brain as we speak.

In Kill Decision, the latest techno-thriller by Daniel Suarez, Odin, the head of a top secret military Special Ops team, is tasked with finding the truth behind a series of unmanned drone attacks on the United States. When the shadowy group behind the drones targets Linda McKinney, a scientist studying the behavior of Weaver Ants, Odin must find out why she was targeted, and what the implications are for the world, and the way we fight wars. Kill Decision is a fast paced, explody orgiastic techno adventure full of over the top action, colorful characters and a twisty conspiracy laden plot that will keep the reader’s head spinning. Suarez takes current technology and pushes it out to frightening extremes, which gives the sometimes outrageous plot just enough validity to make you uncomfortable. On top of the crazy, breakneck plotting, Suarez fills out the tale with plenty of quirky characters, developed well enough to make you fear for their safety when the danger comes. Oh, and the danger comes, at time relentlessly and without mercy. Kill Decision wasn’t problem free. At times, the plot truly pushes the boundaries of credulity, but in fun exciting ways. You are having so much fun while experiencing Kill Decision that you are willing to let a few inconsistencies slip past. My major issue with the book was in the character of Linda McKinney. I liked her. She had a kick butt nature, and was the heart of the story. She also was infuriating at times. There were points where Suarez turned her into a shrieking liberal. Now, I had no problem with the politics in the story, either the author’s or the characters. I didn’t feel there was any pressing agenda. What I didn’t like was the fact that her political arguments with Odin transferred her from a well developed strong female lead to a caricature. There was also a bit of naiveté to the character that I felt was placed there more to serve the plot than a true reflection of the character as I had visualized her. Yet, this one issue wasn’t enough to derail an otherwise entertaining novel.  Kill Decision is one of those novels that makes you want to pull out all the well worn reviewing clichés, using terms like rollicking fun, thrills and spills and rollercoaster ride. Kill Decision is the ultimate summer read, an exciting thriller that feels like a big budget action movie for your brain.

Jeff Gurner gives an excellent performance in his reading of Kill Decision. Gurner read Suarez’s previous thrillers Daemon and Freedom TM, and was ready for the fast paced, non stop action of Kill Decision. Gurner does a solid job with the characterizations but his true talent is pacing the many action scenes in just the right way. When listening to an audiobook, action can sometimes get muddled if the pacing is off, but in Kill Decision this was never a problem. Gurner’s reading allowed the listener to easily visualize the complex action scenes. Now, like The Daemon novels, Penguin used some strange FX’s for the chapter breaks. These didn’t really interfere with the overall tale, but they were sort of weird here. It was supposed to have an almost robotic sound, but it in fact sounded a bit like someone hocking something up. This doesn’t in anyway affect the production, I just thought it was sort of strange, and thus worth mentioning. Kill Decision was another excellent pairing of Suarez and Gurner, and the thriller to watch out for this summer.





Audiobook Review: Deep Sky by Patrick Lee

5 01 2012

Deep Sky by Patrick Lee (Travis Chase, Book 3)3

Read by Jeff Gurner

Harper Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Science Fiction Action Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Deep Sky reads like 24 meets The 4400 with plenty of vast conspiracies, world saving action scenes and thought provoking science fiction themes, seamlessly merging them all into something that is truly unique. I will definitely miss these characters and the world Lee has created for them to play in.

Grade A-

Special Note: As always, I try to offer the most Spoiler Free review possible. Being that Deep Sky is the final novel in a trilogy, it was impossible to write this review without major spoilers for the first novel of the series, The Breach. You may want to avoid reading this review, if you have yet to read The Breach.

I really like when a book throws me for a loop. Not, so much with a big twist within a thriller or mystery book, since, well those types of books often go for big twists. You look for them, almost expect them. I like when a book turns out to be something quite different from what I expected. When books that you thought you had a grasp on based on its labeling and synopsis, then out of left field comes something that is a total game changer. The Wells brothers both seem to be able to pull this off well, with Dan Wells I Am Not a Serial Killer and Robison Wells Variant both having transformational moments at some point in the book. Yet for some reason, many readers don’t like this. They cry foul. The scream, "I thought I had this book pigeonholed, and I was wrong and I blame you Mr. or Mrs. Author Person." Another book that did this extremely well was Patrick Lee’s The Breach, the first of his Travis Chase novels. I went into it expecting a typical thriller, and come out with something more, and in my personal opinion, better. Yet, listening to the third novel, Deep Sky, I started to get an inkling of a feeling of disappointment that I confirmed with a bit of research. When I started, I believed his Travis Chase novels where a series without a set ending, even with the underlying mystery of The Breach. Yet, I discovered that the series was a trilogy and this would be perhaps my final adventure with Travis Chase and the often unlucky people of Tangent.

Deep Sky starts off with a literal bang. A missile from a secret site within the US hits the Whitehouse killing the president. The only information left behind leads to a highly secret Tangent investigation from well before Travis Chase, and Tangent leader Paige Campbell’s time. Paige and Travis must uncover the secrets of the investigation, while facing off with some of the countries most powerful and dangerous men. While Deep Sky’s lightning quick nearly real time pace is flawlessly executed and the characters are surprisingly well developed for a book which is basically non-stop action, it’s the uses of Breach technology, Gadgets sent from the far future through a sort of portal, which is the organization Tangents job to control, that makes this novel excel, Lee has thought up an extremely clever devise that is used wonderfully to drive the pace and save the book from being bogged down is exposition like many thrillers can be. Being the end of the trilogy, Lee does an excellent job answering the many underline questions, and tying up many loose ends, yet, leaving just enough wiggle room where a return to this world is quite possible. Deep Sky reads like 24 meets the 4400 with plenty of vast conspiracies, world saving action scenes and thought provoking science fiction themes, seamlessly merging them all into something that is truly unique. I will definitely miss these characters and the world Lee has created for them to play in.

Jeff Gurner continues his narration of this series, and does it well, especially considering the blistering pace of the novel does not offer him many chances to breathe. He voices Travis Chase is a crisp, clear no nonsense manner, and allows the action to build on its own, never needing to push it. Gurner seems to have a strong grasp on these types of thriller, and does a good job presenting the action is an understandable way. With the end of this series, I am quite interested to know what Patrick Lee has planned for us next. He has definitely created a fan in me.





Audiobook Review: Ghost Country by Patrick Lee

6 02 2011

Ghost Country by Patrick Lee

Read by Jeff Gurner

Harper Audio

Genre: Science Fiction Thriller

Quick Thought: A fast paced, action packed science fiction thriller, with a touch of Apocalyptic tone and excellent narration makes for another winner for Patrick Lee.

Grade: B+

 

Last year, when Patrick Lee’s The Breach came out, I was expecting an action adventure, “lone man takes on bad guys” Jack Reacher type novel.   I guess I had misread the Publisher summary or something, because what I got was something more. The Breach had its kick ass hero, in ex-cop, ex-con Travis Chase, but instead of just a fast paced action story, we also got a complex science fiction tale. The Breach was a surprise of a novel, and Travis Chase and excellent new character. It was sort of like someone in entertainment heaven decided to mix together two things that Bob really likes, to make a Reese’s Peanut butter Cup of the literary world.

In Ghost Country, the sequel to The Breach, someone found a few more ingredients to add to the pot. Ghost Country reads like a science fiction version of 24, and Travis Chase Jack Bauer’s his way through two realities, taking out scores of badies, and getting out of seemingly impossible predicaments. To add to the fun, Ghost Country has a highly inventive apocalyptic scenario, which is well thought out and developed at just the right pace to fit into the action. The bad guys are the best kind, those who think they are doing the right thing for the world, and not just a bunch of psychos and self obsessed freaks. Mix this all together and Patrick Lee has concocted one hell of a great stew.

Jeff Gurner, who handled the narration for The Breach, and the excellent Freedom™, once again is outstanding in Ghost Country. He reads at a break neck pace, which is totally appropriate to the novel. If anything, the action comes so fast, and so hard, it’s hard to multitask while listening. All in all, this is another winner for Patrick Lee and Harper Audio.