Audiobook Review: Hair Raising by Kevin J. Anderson

9 08 2013

Hair Raising (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI, Bk. 3) by Kevin J. Anderson

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Hair Raising is another monstrously hilarious trip to the Unnatural Quarter where Bearded Ladies can find true love and Cockatrice Fights can turn you into statues. If you have yet to visit this world, Hair Raising is the perfect point to jump into the rumble, whether you are a full time monster enthusiast or just like your paranormal creatures once in a blue moon.

Grade: A-

I often hear people say, "Hey Bob, you’re a funny guy! You should be a comedian." I guess I can be funny. I like to make jokes ranging from the ridiculously corny to the highly offensive, and often said unthinkingly at socially inappropriate times. I have been know to make people snort out in laughter, or complain to an authority figure about my insensitivity, both of which I am quite proud of. I even managed to get my brother Dave to laugh so hard that my aunt thought he was crying. Unfortunately, this happened to occur right in the middle of my Grandfather’s funeral. Yet, it’s not easy to be funny. My ability to come up with a well timed quip can often seem natural, but I often give my eternal editing process a real run for its money. Yet, this doesn’t mean I should be a comedian. While it’s not easy to be truly funny, it is really, really hard to write funny. It’s tough to find something that is universally humorous, and not just funny it the right (or absolutely wrong) situation. Sometimes I try to be funny when I write my reviews. Sometimes, I think, I even succeed. But it’s not easy. For example, after reading Hair Raising, I thought the perfect way to open this review would be a hilarious zombie joke. I like jokes. I like zombies. How hard would it be to pull those two great loves of my life together and tell a really awesome zombie joke? Hell, Kevin J. Anderson has filled this series with some of the corniest and obvious zombie jokes ever, so I should be able to pull off one gut buster. Nothing. Nada. Zip. It’s not easy to think up jokes, or zombie puns, or even take popular jokes and twist them into hilarious plays of our beloved shambles. I just couldn’t pull it off.  Oh, I came up with some strange ideas. Things that resemble jokes, just lacked the one essential element. They weren’t funny. Luckily, this isn’t something that Mr. KJA suffered during the writing of Hair Raising, another joke filled entry is his fantastically fun Zombie detective series. This book, my friend, is funny.

In Hair Raising, our favorite Undead Detective finds himself embroiled in a squabble between full time Werewolves and their monthly counterparts. Both sides claim to be the TRUE werewolves, and it doesn’t help matters that someone is going around, drugging and scalping full time werewolves. Yet, despite being dead, he still needs to make a living wage, so Dan Chambeaux must also work other cases, including a mad scientist who keeps getting defective body parts for a used parts Emporium and another zombie who is being sued for Child support yet denied access to his son. This should be enough, but Dan is suddenly a celebrity when the book, Death Warmed Over, a fictional account of his cases becomes a hint. With all these distractions, can Dan, his partner and his ghost girlfriend prevent a full stage werewolf riot? Kevin J Anderson once again unrestrainedly unleashes every corny joke, monstrously bad pun, and twisted monster trope as he guides us though another adventure in the Unnatural Quarter. I really cannot think of a better way to spend 9 hours of your life. In a would crowded with over serious fiction, dealing with world altering topics, it’s nice to have a series that just lets you sit back and have a good time. Hair Raising is full of so many awesome colorful characters, from biker werewolves to a magical tattoo artist with a “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” mentality. These characters, on top of Anderson’s regular rotation of series regulars, make every moment of this book jump off your preferred listening device. One of my favorite things about Hair Raising is they very meta nature of Dan Shambles new celebrity. While I felt the case this time around was a bit weaker, and sort of obvious, the peripherals situations in this edition of the series make it highly worthwhile. Dan Shamble gets to visit the world horror convention where he is now a star. Anderson gives fandom a mild spanking, but it’s all in lighthearted fun. And despite the fact that the major twists were a bit telegraphed, there were a bunch of little bonus twists along the way to make up for it. There were so many moments to love in this book, with rumbling werewolves, simply horrid customer “service”, zombie flatulence, cockatrices and the world‘s worst hairstylist, and it all comes together in a action filled finale. Hair Raising is another monstrously hilarious trip to the Unnatural Quarter where Bearded Ladies can find true love and Cockatrice Fights can turn you into statues. If you have yet to visit this world, Hair Raising is the perfect point to jump into the rumble, whether you are a full time monster enthusiast or just like your paranormal creatures once in a blue moon.

Phil Gigante continues to do some of his best work in bringing this series to life. While it’s known that his voice can make the ladies swoon, and his pacing puts the thrills in thrillers, what originally turned me into a huge Phil Gigante fan is his sense of comic timing. He delivers the funny like the most seasoned practitioner of all things jovial. He managed to turn some of Anderson’s groaners into full bodied howlers. One thing I really loved about this edition was how descriptive Anderson is with his characters and how Gigante nails them EVERY FRACKIN’ TIME. For me, one of the highlights of this performance was a minor peripheral character describe to be like Edith Bunker. I swear it was like the man channeled Jean Stapleton. I couldn’t stop laughing. In fact, I think I would be willing to pay real American cash money to hear Gigante perform both parts of Those Were the Days by himself. And this was just one of many awesome moments, including a pretty killer mad scientist maniacal laugh, and a menagerie of otherworldly characters. This is one of those series that people just need to experience in audio. I know I could never read a Dan Shamble mystery and not hear the dulcet voice of Phil Gigante in my head, so might as well go for the real thing.

Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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Audiobook Review: Unnatural Acts by Kevin J. Anderson

24 01 2013

Unnatural Acts by Kevin J. Anderson (Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., Bk. 2)

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 7 Min

Genre: Paranormal Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Author Kevin J Anderson leaves no pun unturned as he masterfully blends tropes, satirizes pop culture and demonizes bigotry in this uproarious edition to his Supernatural Noir series. It’s like someone took everything I like in a good book, Noir detectives, legal quandaries, slapstick humor, and Zombies, and blended it together in a tasty treat that is also quite filling. After the amazing Death Warmed Over, Unnatural Act proves that Dan Shamble isn’t just some one trick Zombie

Grade: A

Sometimes when I watch the news I am reminded of just how simply ridiculous our world is. What makes it even more insane is how we like to broadcast out ridiculousness out into the universe for all of creation to see. This is why I have enjoyed satire for most of my life, because without it, I may fall into a heap of fleshy goo and spend all my days crying, trying to rip the sounds of some talking head’s latest comment out of my ears. Satire reminds me that it is OK to laugh at the ridiculousness of our culture, despite there being some serious issues. I recently read a review of the first Dan Shamble novel, Death Warmed Over, where the reviewer lambasted the novel for its PC sentiments of turning the white males into monsters, while singing the praise of diversity of monsters of all stripes, obviously representing ethnic minorities. After repeatedly hitting my head against the wall in existential angst, I got right back to listening to Unnatural Acts, and laughing as a douchey Senator tries to regulate the sexual activities of the Unnatural citizens of this great series. Because, all we can really do is laugh anyway. People will either choose to be bothered by the basic tenants of acceptance and make an issue of it and if I allow these types of people to affect my ability to enjoy my day than maybe I’m the ridiculous one. Because, these novels aren’t full of any agenda, just simple tales of acceptance in the guise of monsters and creatures of legends told with some great characters that make me happy. Plus, it’s full of jokes like, "What does a zombie vegetarian say? Graaaaaaaiiiiiinnnnsss…. Come on people, laugh a little. Grains….

The Offices of Chambeaux & Deyer is a beacon to the many monstrous citizens of the Unnatural Quarter, so it was the perfect place for escaped Golem Bill to seek help to bring down a sweatshop using unpaid Golem labor. Thus begins another adventure of Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. Author Kevin J Anderson leaves no pun unturned as he masterfully blends tropes, satirizes pop culture and demonizes bigotry in this uproarious edition to his Supernatural Noir series. The Dan Shamble series breathes a breathe of fresh air into the bloated corpse of urban paranormal fantasies. One of the things I love about this series is that although being a zombie with a ghost girlfriend has many issues, Dan Shamble is an uncomplicated character. He and his lawyer cohort exude a sort of innocent empathy and desire to help the oppressed in the increasingly murky world after the Big Uneasy. Dan is just instantly likable, a zombie boyscout without pretension and all his cohorts, from a Vampire bodyguard and wanna be comedian to the lowly Golem’s looking for a break, are so full of life even when they are not quite living. The lighthearted nature of the storytelling, full of cheesy jokes, breezy camaraderie and goofy dialogue never mutes the emotional outrage you feel when these likable monsters are being mistreated. Anderson fills this tale with social commentary, but in such a way that you really don’t think about it, until you realize how much these stories parallel the ridiculousness of modern culture. I love that there isn’t one single underlining plot, but a series of interlinking events that Anderson pulls together for an effective finale. These are all recognizable Noir storylines, blending with the paranormal, and filled with satire that allows Unnatural Acts comes off both comfortable, yet edgy. I had such a good time listening to Unnatural Acts. It’s like someone took everything I like in a good book, Noir detectives, legal quandaries, slapstick humor, and Zombies, and blended it together in a tasty treat that is also quite filling. After the amazing Death Warmed Over, Unnatural Act proves that Dan Shamble isn’t just some one trick Zombie.

Phil Gigante populates this tale with such a menagerie of wonderful character voices that I barely contain my fanboyish squeals. Like Anderson, Gigante calls upon his library of monstrous tropes to create characters that are both recognizable yet unique. At times I heard everything from Count Von Count to Bub the Zombie lend their voice to this tale. Gigante adds his soft southern charm, peppering it with a gothic Cajun feel, to the character of Dan Shamble. It’s almost like a Noir Forrest Gump with just a bit of Clark Kent added for good measure. The soft spoken Zombie is balanced by his sexy astral girlfriend and his pious crusading partner. Gigante manages to take all these characters and against all odds, make their dialogue flow naturally. His pacing is slow and steady, allowing the natural storytelling skills of Anderson to shine through. He does all this with the vocal equivalent of a wink, making it obvious to the listener that he is enjoying every moment of narrating this tale. There is a reason that Death Warmed Over was one of my Top Audiobooks of 2012, and these reasons prove just as true in Unnatural Acts. Unnatural Acts was simply a joy to listen to, full of humor, a wonderful story, endearing characters, and even some emotional payoff.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson

4 10 2012

Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI, Bk. 1)

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 45 Min

Genre: Paranormal

Quick Thoughts: Death Warmed Over is a haunted Halloween treat that pulls from The Police Squad as much as classic monster tales. Kevin J. Anderson has created a tableau for storytelling that should please a wide plethora of fans across many genres. Death Warmed Over is a tragic yet beautiful romance, an action filled buddy comedy, and a unique legal thriller all rolled into a tasty noir zombie shell and readers will want to take a big bite out of it.

Grade: A

I know right now it’s maybe not the coolest thing in the world to admit, but I do believe in God, or at the very least, a mystical Santa like figure who sits somewhere over us granting us little niceties to allow our miserable existences a little bit of pleasure, I see this God figure in the little things in life, a cool breeze on a hot day, a kind word when your feeling down, and a clutch hit in the bottom of the ninth when all seems lost. I know that there is a benevolent powerful figure because books like Death Warmed Over exists. Yeah, I know what many people are thinking, if there is a God why waste his time on creating awesome pieces of fiction tailored to my likes. To that I say, BAH! this is my God figure, and I will allow him what priorities I see fit. One of those powers is taking my divergent likes, and mashing them into one book, and throwing in my favorite audiobook narrator as icing on the awesome cake. While I tend to review a lot of fiction within specific genres, I never really feel comfortable calling myself a true fan of the genre, on the level we assign fandom these days. I don’t automatically geek out if you tell me there is a new horror novel being released. I like specific types of horror, specific authors, but there is also a lot within the genre I don’t like. The same goes for science fiction, fantasy, mysteries and thrillers. I consider myself fans of certain subgenres more so than any genre as a whole. I love noir mysteries, legal thrillers and zombie novels. I love monster mashups, and slapstick comedies featuring genre blending characters. Yet, if you told me there was a genre bending novel that combines noir mysteries, legal thrillers, monster mashups, and zombies and told in a slapstick comedic style with pun filled hilarity I would tell you to stop drinking my brain juice. But there is, and it’s called Death Warmed Over. And you say there is no God.

Private Investigator Dan Chambeaux, the top investigator in The Unnatural Quarter, was investigating his girlfriend’s murder when someone shot him in the back of the head. Two weeks later, he wakes up, dusts the dirt off his good suit, and got right back to work. Ever since The Big Uneasy, when a weird set of coincidences involving a Virgin, a paper cut and the Necromonicom changed the fabric of the world, Zombies, ghosts, Vampires and other monsters entered the world. Yet, these everyday monsters just want to do their jobs, and be left alone. Teamed up with his girlfriend’s ghost, and a vigilant Pro-Unnatural lawyer, Dan takes on a series of cases, and one real mission…. find out who murdered him. To be perfectly honest, Kevin J. Anderson is not an author who is typically on my radar. Years ago I read a book that he cowrote called Ill Wind which I enjoyed. I know him mostly as a science fiction author.  If it wasn’t for the insistence of narrator Phil Gigante, who compared Death Warmed Over to one of my favorite series, Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series, I may have missed out on one of my favorite listens of the year. So, no surprise, I loved every moment of Death Warmed Over. For me, it may be the perfect Halloween tale for those who grew up on movies like The Monster Squad. On the surface it’s a mystery. Now, the mystery itself isn’t mind-blowing. Seasoned mystery readers should be able to piece most of it together even before our undead detective, but this is one of those rare moments where the plot itself doesn’t matter nearly as much as how it was told. Dan Chambeaux is a great lead. Tragically romantic, doggedly competent, and just full of corny puns, one liners and clever turns of phrase delivered in an awshucks, I’m serious manner that you can’t help but love.  The plot is full of clever legal scenarios that are both humorous, and yet intriguing, applying today’s laws to unnatural situations. For example, do property rights revert back to the reawakened dead? What legal rights do people have when being stalked by the ghost of a relative? These scenarios more than make up for any holes in the plot. Death Warmed Over is a haunted Halloween treat that pulls from The Police Squad as much as classic monster tales. Kevin J. Anderson has created a tableau for storytelling that should please a wide plethora of fans across many genres. Death Warmed Over is a tragic yet beautiful romance, an action filled buddy comedy, and a unique legal thriller all rolled into a tasty noir zombie shell and readers will want to take a big bite out of it.

So, yes, Phil Gigante is my favorite narrator, and so, I’m biased. I listened to this based on his recommendation, so again…. biased. That being said, if you have any interest in this book at all, you must experience it at the hands of Phil Gigante. Phil narrates three of my favorite series. The fast, funny and furious buddy action tales that are Joe Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard series, the dark, tragic noir styling’s of Andrew Vachss’ Burke series, and the over the top outrageous adventures of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steele Rat. In Death Warmed Over Gigante blends the best of these three series together to deliver one of his finest performances. The key to pulling off good slapstick comedy is mastering the straight delivery. Your puns and corny phrases must be delivered as if you actually mean them, and this is exactly what Gigante does. With a tale so outrageous, there would be the temptation to ham it up, and this is a trap Gigante never falls into. He gives Dan Chambleaux’s undead voice heart, and flawlessly captures his true nature. Add to that all the sexy sirens, lonely vampires, righteous activists. dirty dealers, and hirsute lycanthropes and Gigante has a narrating playground to apply his many skills to, and he doesn’t skimp., Now, I want to be clear, Death Warmed Over is uncannily targeted to my tastes, and that makes it very hard to objectively recommend it to others whose taste may diverge from mine, but screw objectivity. Death Warmed Over is easily one of my favorite listens of the year, and, well, I listen to a heck of a lot of audiobooks. If you are looking for one Halloween themed audiobook to take a chance on this season, give Death Warmed over a shot. Not only will you get a great story, and meet a wonderful character, but you will have the opportunity to listen to one of the best narrators in the business. *end fanboygasm*

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.