Audiobook Review: Princess of Wands by John Ringo

21 03 2013

Princess of Wands by John Ringo (Special Circumstance, Book 1)

Read by Suzy Jackson

Audible Frontiers

Length: 11 Hrs 29 Min

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: If my role as your resident audiobook blogger was to offer you critical analysis of the writing, character development and world building of the author, then I could probably nit pick every aspect of this book. Yet, that’s not my job. My job is to say, if the idea of a Christian Soccer Mom who teams up with a Pagan Call Girl, Wiccan Practitioners and Buddhist Monks to battle evil monsters for a secret Monster Hunting agency using the power of their personal faith appeals to you, then by all means, add A Princess of Wands to your reading list.

Grade: B

2013 Audie Nomination for Fantasy

There is a popular quote that often finds its way to science fiction boards that says, "There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot’." The problem is this is hard to do. It’s getting even harder now that every author has a Twitter, a Facebook and/or a blog where they actually state their beliefs. I’ll admit, I can be an idiot. I often have a hard time when an author has a character repeatedly espouse certain beliefs to not believe the author shares at least a version of that belief. The difference for me is, I really don’t care. If a book contains things in it which I find extremely offensive to the point where it affects my ability to enjoy it, I simply won’t read it whether this belief is something the author actually believes or not. For example, I won’t read a book where the sexual exploitation of children is in any way justified. This doesn’t mean I believe an author actually believes this without further exploration, I just won’t fill my brain with stuff like that. Conversely though, I really don’t care about an author’s politics or religion. I may vehemently disagree with something an author believes, but if he tells a good story, and isn’t overtly pushing his beliefs onto people, I’m cool with that. I know this level of disconnect isn’t shared among readers, and I accept that. It’s just, I’m politically moderate. I could probably find something that I vehemently disagree with with almost every author and since I like books, well, I need that level of disconnect. I don’t want characters in my books that are simply a reflection of me. I want to read books about Right winged Christian soccer moms, who believe things that right winged Christian soccer moms believe. What I don’t want is a book about a right winged Christian soccer mom whose beliefs are tempered to reflect some sort of more comfortable world view. All this is to say, I often find John Ringo’s work uncomfortable but I still read him. Why, you ask. Because he writes books about huge battles between humans in mechanical battle suits and carnivorous centaur like aliens. He doesn’t really need to be an Obama supporter to do that.

So, Princess of Wands…. I’m not really sure where to start. OK, so there’s this mom, you see. And she’s like Blonde, and chesty, but really modest about it. She’s got these annoying bratty kids she loves, and an oafish husband who she respects as the head of her household, even though the dude really doesn’t deserve it (learn to cook something, jackass.) Oh, and she loves Jesus. A Lot… I mean, a whole frakkin’ crapload. This Jesus love is important, because, you see, she takes a little breather from said bratty kids and douche bag husband, and gets mixed up in this town full of yokels who are trying to bring about the incarnation of some weird demon lizard thing. Oh, I forgot… she knows karate or something… and she is totally bad ass with guns, although she’d never say badass out loud because Christians don’t say that. So, you’re following me right… this Christian Soccer mom becomes this totally awesome monster hunter infused by the power of Christ working for this secret organization…. when her husband let’s her. Really, this was a frustrating one for me. I liked Princess of Wands. I did. I really even liked Barbara Everette Episcopal Monster Hunter. Growing up in a Christian home, her viewpoints, from her submission to her husband, to her Pro-Life beliefs are things I understand even when I don‘t agree with them. Plus, she really was much more open minded about things than people I know. I think Ringo did a great job creating this character who was true to her beliefs, however unpopular, had actual faith, yet was for the most part non-judgmental and flexible without violating her nature. I know many people would hate her, but I really didn’t. Yet, I totally had mixed feelings. Princess of Wands is actually two novellas and a short story, all connected in an overlapping narrative. This is a style that Ringo has used before, and I’m comfortable with it. The middle story, which takes place during a Literary conference, caused me some issues. Ringo infuses this tale with so much inside baseball that part of my brain was trying to figure out who these characters may really be based on instead of actually following the plot. There is a sequence where Barbara goes around, interacting with various sorts in the conference, as they give these long professorial soliloquies on things like why women prefer fluffy fantasy over hard science fiction, and I wanted to scream, and bang my head repeated against a stack of Larry Niven Hardbacks, not because I found the annoying things his characters were saying indicative of the author’s beliefs but because I wanted to know WHO THE GODDAM DEMON INVOKING SERIAL KILLER WAS! Yet, at times, I really enjoyed this book. There was humor, and action and John Ringo’s brand of over the top writing that’s like a madassed clown on meth who crashed his tiny clown filled car into a bayou full of hybrid croco-walruses. (Wait, I think that last part may have been a dream I had, oops, sorry.) Princess of Wands was a rollercoaster ride of SHUT THE HELL UP PLEASE KEEP TALKING SHUT THE HELL UP dialogue between warring parts of my brain. If my role as your resident audiobook blogger was to offer you critical analysis of the writing, character development and world building of the author, then I could probably nit pick every aspect of this book. Yet, that’s not my job. My job is to say, if the idea of a Christian Soccer Mom who teams up with a Pagan Call Girl, Wiccan Practitioners and Buddhist Monks to battle evil monsters for a secret Monster Hunting agency using the power of their personal faith appeals to you, then by all means, add A Princess of Wands to your reading list. Hell, I may even read the next book in the series.

So, let me say this right off THIS BOOK WAS NOMINATED FOR AN AUDIE AWARD. When I first read the list of nominees, I’ll admit, I was sort of shocked. While I’m not sure I would call myself a John Ringo Fan, I am a John Ringo Reader (well, except for his Paladin of Shadows series which I just can’t stomach.) That being said, my first thought when seeing that Ringo was nominated was that Suzy Jackson must be narrator incarnation of The Wiccan Mother of something to pull this one off. Well, Suzy Jackson was good. Really good. Not blow your mind good, but solid, pleasant voiced, infused with humor professionally good.  Suzy Jackson reads this story as it should be read. I really liked her voice. It was definitely the standard soprano American style similar to Emily Bauer, but with more warmth, maturity and moments of depth. When Barbara was talking of her beliefs, her faith in God, Jackson sounded authentic. I really enjoyed her self editing, where she would start to cuss then stop herself. It just came off naturally. She handled the prayers, and church speech with the right inflections and rhythms. As someone who grew up in a conservative church, there is an almost patois to the American Church goer. A way a certain phrase is said is often just as important as the words, and Jackson’s reading of this novel had me wondering if she grew up in a similar church as well. So, yes, I am still surprised that A Princess of Wands was nominated for an Audie. Yet, the book is what it is, and delivers on what it is supposed to be, and Suzy Jackson does her job well.





Audiobook Review: The Hot Gate by John Ringo

11 05 2011

The Hot Gate by John Ringo (Troy Rising, Book 3)

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Despite some issues, The Hot Gate is an entertaining novel that most fans of John Ringo will love.

Grade: B

I am a fan of John Ringo. I stated that at the beginning of my review of Citadel and I will reiterate it at the beginning of my review of The Hot Gate, the third book in the Troy Rising Military Science Fiction series. In fact, I hold John Ringo mainly responsible for introducing me to military sci-fi. His Posleen War series was probably the first major military sci-fi series I have read, and I enjoyed it so much that I began searching out more and more similar types of books. That is one of the things I enjoy about reading, sometimes you take a chance on something different, or maybe pick up something that has elements you like, but elements you have never really tried before, and it opens the door to so many new authors and works. I originally read A Hymn Before Dying mostly because it had some Post Apocalyptic elements and it was recommended on some PA boards. At that point the majority of my science fiction readings were within that subgenre, now, my sci-fi base has greatly expanded. I have John Ringo partly to thank for that.

I enjoyed The Hot Gate. I say that with some reservation. The majority of the book was from the POV of Engineer’s Mate Dana “Comet” Parker. Parker is truly a great character. She’s well grounded, principled and utterly likeable. The first two-thirds of the book, for the most part, dealt with the culture clash between her, and Latin American members of the Alliance. Parker is sent to the battle Station Thermopylae where the majority of the personnel are from South American countries. While I enjoyed the interplay and cultural differences, at some points I felt uncomfortable with caricatures of the South Americans in the story. Ringo may be dead on with how they behave especially the upper class of the Argentinean society, but, not being knowledgeable about that subject it felt a bit, well, politically incorrect.  Yet, as a fan of Ringo, you come to expect him to never let political correctness get in the way of a good story. The last third of the book mainly dealt with the battle between the Alliance forces and the Alien baddies determined to control the Terra System and Alliance space. Unlike most of Ringo’s battle scenes I found this one a bit cluttered and hard to follow. There were some fun moments, and some tragic moments, but it was hard to keep the overall battle straight in my head. My biggest problem with the novel came from my expectations. From the beginning the Troy Rising series was advertised as a book in three parts, and I expected this third book to tie all the lose ends together and gives us the big finale. Yet, I only discovered after reading it, that Ringo has decided to expand the series beyond the trilogy, and The Hot Gate felt more like a segue book than a finale.

Mark Boyett handles the narration and does a fine job. He’s a solid narrator and does an excellent job with some characterizations. That being said, I think some of my confusion in listening to the battle scenes is that his alien voices don’t really come off all that alien, and I tended to have a hard time remembering which individual character was an alien baddie, and which was a human good guy. Other than that small issue, the audiobook production was pretty solid. Being that the book was told mostly from a female POV, it was a good thing that Boyett handles female voices pretty well. While I had my issues with The Hot Gate, it was still an entertaining novel that most fans of John Ringo are sure to love.





Audiobook Review: Citadel (Troy Rising, Book 2) by John Ringo

7 01 2011

 

Citadel (Troy Rising, Book 2) by John Ringo

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

 

I am a fan of John Ringos. Not because he is the greatest writer in the world, or puts out great literature that will live on through out the generations. I am a fan of John Ringo because he writes what I want to read, rip roaring space adventures about first contact.

Citadel is the second book in the Troy Rising series, the first being Live Free or Die, and it falls right into Ringo’s breadbasket. First contact is made through a gate that opens into our solar system, allowing for expanded trade, relationships with alien species, and of course, opening up Earth to attack from evil alien species who either want to make us their slaves, or just exterminate us like pests.

A surface explanation of Citadel would make it seem quite boring. At it’s simplest, Citadel is the story of the further construction and day to day activities of Troy, the defensive system for Terra, built into a huge asteroid. Add to that some politics, a touch of xenology, and a few space battles, and you have Citadel in a nutshell. Yet, to take such a limited look would be a mistake. Here we definitely have a case of the sum being greater that the whole of its parts. Full of great characters, crafty aliens, and internal power struggles among humans and aliens a like Citadel is a great listen.

Mark Boyett is an excellent choice for narrator of this series. He brings strong characterizations to a large group cast of players, and leaves the listeners with a sense of familiarity with crew of the Battle Station Troy. Luckily for Boyett, the alien names are full of any pops, grunts or whistles like in some of Ringo’s novels, but what confusing names there are, Boyett is able to help build the personalities through his voices.

 

Grade: B