Audiobook Review: Pavlov’s Dogs by Thom Brannan and D. L. Snell

8 05 2012

Pavlov’s Dogs by Thom Brannan and D. L. Snell

Read by Jonathan Davis

Audible Frontiers

Length: 10 Hrs 3 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse with Werewolves

Quick Thoughts: Pavlov’s Dogs has a lot of good things going for it. It’s a unique story with a fascinating scientific tint that does a good job assigning a pack mentality to genetically altered Soldier-wolves. Yet, uneven character development and plotting had me struggling to become fully engaged in the tale. Yet, if you are looking for a different take on the Zombie Apocalypse, with tons of action and werewolves, well, let loose the Dogs of War.

Grade: B-

I’m a huge fan of the versus. Throw one little word between two awesome things, and somehow it makes it even better. Peter Clines did it with his Ex series, placing the versus between Zombies and Superheroes. Marvel has done it especially well, particularly when placing that word between Wolverine and The Hulk. This is the reason I was instantly interested in Thomas Brannan and D.L. Snell’s Pavlov’s Dogs. It’s no secret that I love zombie literature. Heck, I am dedicating an entire month to in honor of Zombie Awareness Month. Yet, my fandom of Werewolves is much more tenuous and unknown. I have enjoyed stories involving werewolves. I enjoyed Al Sarrantonio’s Moonbane, where apocalyptic wolf creatures fall from the moon, and Glenn Duncan’s gritty, often disturbing The Last Werewolf was brilliant. Heck, George is my favorite character in the original Being Human, and I love the werewolf aspects of that series. Yet, beyond that, I haven’t explored the Lycanthrope mythos in fiction much beyond the occasional appearance in some urban fantasy series, like The Dresden Files. So, a novel where we have Zombies, werewolves, and that word versus thrown in between these two killer monstrous staples, well, I believe I may have been legally required to check this one out.

On his Island Compound, possibly unstable Dr. Crispin has developed genetically altered werewolves with cyber controls that may just change the way we wage war. Then the apocalypse comes in the form of the ravaging undead. While safe in their island bunker, Dr. Crispin butts heads with Donavan, the new head Neurotechnician over whether to use the "Dogs of War" to save any survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse. While they fight, two friends, Ken and Jorge must try to lead a band of Survivors to safety while fighting off the infected. Brannan and Snell do a lot of thing well in Pavlov’s Dogs. The science behind the Werewolves, as well as the social structure of the pack is fascinating, and the author’s ability to shift and change the narrative often had me surprised and impressed with the story. Their ability to set up often overused literary stereotypes, manipulating the reader into engaging their preconceived notions, then smashing them created some interesting twists and turns throughout the tale. Yet, sadly, I had trouble fully engaging in the tale. There are a few reasons for this. I feel that a few of the characters were developed well, yet, many are underdeveloped, and then suddenly are thrust onto you as a major player in the tale. This was often problematic because there is no true main character in this tale, and I never felt I fully got to grasp onto any of the key players. Sure, I liked them, and often cheered for or jeered against them, but I never truly understood their motivations, or could truly justify their actions with the type of people I believed them to be. Also, while the focus on the Werewolves, and the internal power struggles of the island was well done, the other aspects of the stories, from Ken and Jorge’s travels, and the actual Zombie Apocalypse, felt a bit glossed over. There were things hinted at and implied about these aspects of the story, that I was hoping would get further explored, yet never were. Pavlov’s Dogs has a lot of good things going for it. It’s a unique story with a fascinating scientific tint that does a good job assigning a pack mentality to genetically altered Soldier-wolves. Yet, uneven character development, and plotting had me struggling to become fully engaged in the tale. Yet, if you are looking for a different take on the Zombie Apocalypse, with tons of action and werewolves, well, let loose the Dogs of War.

Jonathan Davis is a veteran narrator who I have listened to plenty of times in the past. I have found his narration to be hit and miss and Pavlov’s Dogs is definitely a hit. I think one of the tougher things for a narrator to do is to take on a novel with a diverse ensemble cast, and Davis pulls it off here with ease. I loved his interpretations of many of the characters, particularly to more defined one like Dr. Crispin or Jorge. In fact, I found his performance of Jorge to be a highlight of the reading, balancing the characters emotional journey with his biting wit in a way that caused me to wish the authors gave this character a bit more screen time. As with any tale full of action, pacing is key, and Davis found just the right rhythm to deliver the action scenes in a crisp visual manner. If you decide to check out Pavlov’s Dogs, I highly recommend you do it in audio. While I had some issues with the book, the audio production was top rate and highly listenable.

Audiobook Review: Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando

27 03 2011

Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando (Jack Swyteck, Book 9)

Read by Jonathan Davis

Harper Audio

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thought: Afraid of the Dark is a well done thriller, comfortably narrated by Jonathan Davis, but, sadly, it wasn’t the thriller I was hoping for.

Grade: B

A few years ago I was at a concert listening to one of my favorite musical artists. During the concert, you could see the performer becoming frustrated at all the calls for older songs by members of the audience. At one point, he stopped and looked out at the audience, in a response to yet another call for an older favorite and said, “You guys need to let me grow as an artist.” Now, despite my desire to hear him perform his older material as well, I could understand his frustration. As a performer, he wants to build on his work, not just continue to same old thing. Yet, I also understood the paying audience’s frustration, while we enjoyed the newer stuff, we as long time fans, want to be reminded of why we became fans in the first place. This is the same feeling I had while listening to Afraid of the Dark, the ninth Jack Swyteck legal thriller by James Grippando.

In Afraid of the Dark, Grippando has developed a complicated, yet compelling international conspiracy thriller, dealing with such issues as black detention sites, private militaries, the use of torture, child pornography and the loss of privacy due to computer data mining. What he hasn’t done, is given us the type of legal thriller that fans of the Jack Swyteck series hope for. This is why I am in a tough corner. The plot is detailed and well executed. Yes, there are times where it seems to be overly complicated and at other times goes off in unnecessary tangents, but usually Grippando pulls it all back together before it goes too off track. Yet, we don’t see much of the legal side of this thriller. Swyteck only makes one true court appearance in this whole book, a bail hearing, before a major twist about a third of the way into the book sends it in an unforeseen direction. Even Theo Knight, Swyteck’s, best friend and investigator, is dialed down to a very minor role in this novel, which was another disappointment.  So, my major problem with the novel isn’t that there was anything particularly wrong with the story, it is that, as a fan, it wasn’t what I was hoping for. If you are a fan of novels dealing with vast international conspiracies, shadowy operatives and government cover-ups, then you probably will love Afraid of the Dark. If you are looking for a courtroom thriller, you will be, like I was, disappointed.

Jonathon Davis has narrated most of the more recent Jack Swyteck thrillers, and handles the duty again here. Davis has a strong solid voice and handles these characters well. He will not blow you away as a narrator, but neither will he get in the way of the story. You can tell he is comfortable in the roles of the reoccurring characters of the series, and handles them as you would expect. When the story moves to London, he falters a bit with some of the trickier voices, particularly those of the Somalian characters, and some of his British characters come off as stereotypical, but the problems are not glaring enough to distract you from the story. Afraid of the Dark is a well done thriller, just, sadly, not the thriller I was hoping for.