Audiobook Series Review: Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (Frontlines Series)

26 01 2015

The Frontlines Series by Marko Kloos

Terms of Enlistment

Length: 9Hrs 40Min

Lines of Departure

Length: 9Hrs 7Min

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Grade: B

I am a sucker for End of Year lists. I always find new and interesting books by pursuing the Best of… lists put out by Industry people and bloggers. While checking out the Goodreads and Audible lists, I saw a title I was aware of, but was surprised to see on such lists. At first glance, Marko Kloos Frontlines series, with books Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure seemed like pretty much by the numbers Military Science Fiction in the vein of John Scalzi and Jack Campbell, so I was surprised to see getting such high praise. Yet, then I realize, Old Man’s War and the Black Jack Geary military SF series are some of my favorites, so why not give it a go. The Frontline series is basically just what I expected, solid military science fiction with a likable main character. The writing is solid, with much less of the pulpy cheese factor of series like BV Larson’s Star Force yet with just as much fun. While at times I got a little lost in the extended action scenes, Kloos does a good job, especially on Lines of Departure, setting up intriguing scenarios reminiscent of classic Military science fiction, yet spins it just enough to give it it’s own flavor. One of the highlights of the book is the unique nature of its alien enemy, but the true heart of the novel explores the murkiness of domestic life, with some well drawn internal sociopolitical conflicts giving the tale a multilayered approach. Fans of classic Military science fiction will find this series a step up from much of the current offerings available in terms quality and enjoyment.

Often times the term workhorse is applied to a mediocre position player who always seems to find himself in the game. Well, Luke Daniels is a workhorse in the Audiobook Industry, with one glaring exception, his performances are never mediocre. Daniels seems to be able to handle any genre at the drop of the hat, giving the performance of an expert. In Kloos’ series, Daniel shows off his ability to keep the action at a brisk pace while bringing the characters to life in intriguing ways. There is a reason why we see Luke Daniels as the narrator of so many audiobooks, his performances always manages to bring the most out of the books he is reading.

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Audiobook Series Review: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

25 04 2014

For my reviews of the first two in this series, click on the images above

Hammered by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 3)

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B

Tricked by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 4)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 41 Min

Genre:Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Trapped by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 5)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 2 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Hunted by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 6)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: A-

People seem to love The Iron Druid series. In fact, they love it so much that upon discovering that someone may be like two… or four books behind in the series, that person’s status as a blogger and perhaps even their masculinity is called into question. As someone who cares greatly about his image as the manliest of all audiobook bloggers, it was my secret shame to be woefully behind in the various adventures of the titular Iron Druid, Atticus and his canine cohort Oberon. Now, I had, some time ago, listened to and enjoyed the first two books of this series. I even reviewed those books pretty positively, so OBVIOUSLY I should have quickly moved on to the rest of the series.

Yet, I didn’t. I got all sorts of distracted by other pretties. Hot new releases, other series, covers with alien crab walkers on it. I said to myself, Hey, you need to get back to that Druidy thing with the funny dog, and I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah… but this book has cyborg robots in love with Unicorns. Maybe after this book about a small boy and his talking chimp who survive global economic chaos through pluck and bad cockney accents.

Basically, there is too many goddam books for me to listen to them all, and dammit, I listen to a lot of frakkin’ books.

I know, excuses, excuses.

Since 2014, so far, has been the year of the audiobook series binge listen, and since I knew that in the relatively near future, due to a change at work, my listening time may decrease, I decided that if I was ever to catch up on this series, I needed to do it now. Hence, the Iron Druid Binge Listen. I have always been a fan of the binge listen. In fact, it’s my favorite kind of binging, since binge eating leads to health issues, and binge drinking eventually leads to me vomiting next to a merry-go-round in a elementary school playground. Yet, I find that certain types of book series, particularly Urban Fantasy and Horror series are well suited to the binge listen.

OK, confession time. Often times when I start the next book in a series, after the required year long wait, I am totally lost. I don’t know if it’s just the limit of my brains, or the affects of reading 150-200 books a year, but I tend to lose much of the details of a book over time. Even with my most favorite series ever there are characters who I know I should know, and foreshadowing events I should absolutely remember, but instead the details take a long time coming. More than once, I will get like two thirds of the way into a book, and have an “ah ha” moment saying, “Holy shit, that’s who that dude is.” I think this is one of the reasons I’m hesitant about epic fantasy, since by the time book 3 comes out I forgot who 758 of the 760 perspective characters where. This, my friends, is why Cthulhu created the series binge listen.

So, I started the binge listen with Hammered, book 3 of the series. Honestly, throughout most of Hammered, I was kinda “ho… hummm…. this is nice.” I definitively was suffering some of the dissonance of jumping back into the story, and the core part that always stuck out to me in this series was the relationship between Atticus and Oberon, which wasn’t as prevalent in Hammered. It seemed to me that Hammered was that essential book in every Urban Fantasy series where the protagonist goes off to do something incredibly stupid, which they know is stupid, and everyone they trust tells them it’s stupid but they continue to do it for some sort of arbitrary “pride” or “honor” reason and you the reader just knows it’s basically going to unleash the shit storm that they will be dealing with in upcoming books. You know you have to get through the “protagonist acting like a complete nit” book, in order to get to the more awesome “protagonist dealing with the shit storm that acting like a nit unleashed” books. There were two scenes that made Hammered worth it. Atticus’s interaction with Jesus, and the “bonding” sequence where each of the questers told their stories. So while I was less than thrilled with Hammered, I believed there was good things to come.

Thank God I was right!

After the events of Hammered, Atticus has a lot on his plate. Gods want to kill him, Religious whackjobs still don’t trust him, he has an apprentice to train, and Oberon still needs sausages. Tricked benefited a lot from a scenery change, and a whole new mythology to explore. I often cringe when books bring in Native American mythology, because it often comes off as derivative, but Hearne has a way of exploring mythology in creative ways while not diminishing the traditions. Tricked was a fun change of pace, and gave the characters a bit of a breather before the chaos begins, well, if you can consider dealing with evil skinwalkers a breather.

I was both surprised and relieved with the 12 year time jump in Trapped. When Atticus discussed the prophesy of the word burning in 13 years, I was like “Shit, now Hearne is going to write 12 novels each spanned out over a year until we get to the global apocalypse we all are waiting for. WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY WORLD BURING NOW!!!!” Now, maybe he still plans on string out 12 more novels, but at least Ragnarok is looming closer and closer, and this absolutely builds the tension. I really, really enjoyed both Trapped and Hunted. First off, I love that Hearne ended the sexual tension between Atticus and Granuaile with a choice, and not some clumsy fumbling moment where they both finally give into their long repressed passions. I love the interplay between Atticus and the various Gods. Hearne never gives into the Hollywood dulling of the natures of the gods but embraces their utter despicableness. Hunted is a brilliant otherworldly chase novel, that cleverly included some new perspectives, and lots of cool twists and turns that kept me enthralled until the end.

Yet, everyone, let’s be honest. We’d all probably like a Iron Druid novel if the plot was an unadventurous trip to the Laundromat, as long as their were plenty of interactions between Atticus and his hound Oberon. Sure, life and death struggles, battles with the gods, hot druid sex are all fine and good, but without Oberon bartering for sausages and bitches, what’s the point? Oberon makes this more than just another Urban Fantasy series. He imbibes it with soul, acting as Atticus’ insatiable moral compass. I mean, he’s a friggin’ dog and he’s awesome. What else do you want?

Now, I like to keep my personal feelings about a performer out of my evaluations of their performances, so I will not let my jealousy of the fact the ladies swoon at the mere mention of Luke Daniels name influence my thoughts on that rotten bastards narration of The Iron Druid Chronicles. I have listened to Daniel’s narrate a lot of thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary science fiction novels, and I am always impressed with his ability to tell a good story. He handles characters well, making each one distinct and creating dialogue that feels natural. Yet, I often forget just how wide of a range he truly has. Books like The Iron Druid Chronicles and Martin’s shared world anthology Wild Cards show that Daniels can take on any character, no matter what sex, nationality, genetic mutation, planet of origin, or any other goddam weirdo thing a screwed up author throws at him with ease. I honestly at times thought, “Now, Kevin Hearne is just fucking with him, right?” with some of the voices he had to pull off, but pull them off he did. I truly can’t imagine experiencing this series in any other manner besides audio without a significant decrease in awesomeness, and really, people, we want more awesomeness, not less. So get with it. So, if you have yet to listen to this series, maybe you too should partake in an Iron Druid binge listen.





My Top 20 Audiobooks of 2013

23 01 2014

2013 was an up and down year for me. While I achieved some wonderful personal goals, I have also experienced some of the toughest trials and tribulations of my life. Some of that has been reflected on this blog and social media, where my presence is not as active as it once was. Typically, when I write this list, I give a statistical breakdown of my listening. While my overall consumption of audiobooks was up this year, my tracking, recording and reviewing of them were down. In 2013 I reviewed I posted 164 reviews of audiobooks, many of them including multiple titles. Roughly, I believe I listened to around 200 books his year, which would exceed my highest previous total.

2013 was a great year for audio. Any of the Top 5 titles in my list could have been contenders in any previous year. There were so many books that simply blew me away. It is always tough for me to choose my favorites. Instead of asking "What were the best books of 2013?" the question I asked, upon reflecting on the year is "What 2013 books affected me the most?" Whether through heart stopping action, stylistic writing or characters that stay with you, these are the books that lingered in my brain long after they finished. Some made me laugh, a few made me cry, and some made me cringe and want to grab on the closest person near me for a comforting hug.

When compiling this list, I also look for titles that truly stand out in the audio format. Scanning over this list, there is only one title I would say that the narration didn’t enhance the experience, yet that book was full of such awesomeness that the less than amazing performance couldn’t keep it off the list. For a bit of a surprise, there are no Zombie titles and only one true apocalyptic title, so those of you who have pigeon holed me as the "zombie apocalypse guy" may be a bit shocked. Don’t worry, my favorite Zombie and Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 list will be on its way.

So, thanks for sticking with me through 2013, and be sure to keep injecting stories into your brain through your earholes for the rest of 2014.

 

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Read by Kevin T. Collins, Eileen Stevens, and Ali Ahn

Hachette Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 37 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: Love Minus Eighty is one of the most engrossing science fiction novels I have read in a long time. McIntosh has created a darkly beautiful near future world and populated it with characters you truly wish were real. It is an exploration of our romantic future and an affective romance all in one wonderful novel.

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 35 Min.

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

What I Said: Brilliance is a smart blockbuster movie for your brain, with a complex and engaging main character, a stunningly created world, and so much action you should probably keep your cardiologist on Speed Dial. It’s a a straight thriller with enough science fiction elements that I want to force all my Speculative Fiction friends to read, at gun point if necessary. I absolutely loved this book.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

MALE NARRATOR PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR.

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 35 Min

Genre: Horror

What I Said: Doctor Sleep is an audiobook that will linger with me for a long time, a wonderful and moving story combined with one of the favorite narrator performances of all time. Doctor Sleep is a prime example of just how special the medium can be.

 

Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger, Bk. 5)

Read by Ray Porter

Macmillan Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Science Thriller

What I Said: Extinction Machine is like a sick blend of The X-Files and 24, amped up on meth, laced with cocaine, marinated in Jolt cola and mainlined directly into my brain through my earholes. I absolutely loved this book. It’s a novel so tailored to my likes that I briefly wondered if my 2-year-old self was correct and the world actually does revolve around me.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Read by Benjamin Percy

Hachette Audio

Length: 21 Hrs 43 Min

Genre: Literary Horror

What I Said: Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon tells the tale of the afflicted, the demagogues and the victims that this world of werewolves has created. It combines the detailed political and social alternate history of Harry Turtledove or Robert Conroy with the gut level horror of Stephen King told with a literary flair that escalates the novel beyond its influences.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Read by Fenella Woolgar

Hachette Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 34 Min

Genre: Fiction

What I Said: Life After Life is a novel that defies easy categorization. It’s a genre busting look at life in the 20th century through the eyes of a normal women given the extraordinary ability to relive her life. Life After Life is one of the most fascinating novels I have read in a long time, and while at times I felt dragged down by the melancholy of the tale, by the end, I wanted to keep experiencing the many lives of Ursula Todd.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Read by Kate Mulgrew

FEMALE NARRTOR PERERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Harper Audio

Length: 19 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Horror

What I Said: Joe Hill’s latest novel is lush vivid horror tale full of wonderful characters, and unsettling imagery. Hill manages to take the thing we love best, the innocence and joy of Christmas time, and flip it on its head, making it a representation of all that we fear. NOS4A2 is brilliantly executed, leaving a lingering affect on the reader long after it is over.

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

Length: 17 Hrs 1 Min

Genre: Alternate History Urban Fantasy/Steampunk Superheroes.

What I Said: Larry Correia brings the arc than began in Hard Magic to a natural and completely satisfying conclusion in Warbound. With a combination of amazing storytelling, wonderful characters and one of the best narrator performances I have experienced, The Grimnoir Chronicles has earned it place as perhaps my favorite all time Speculative Fiction Audiobook series.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Read by Neil Gaiman

Harper Audio

Length: 5 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Fantasy

What I Said: I loved every moment of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is the rare book that from the wonderful start to the bitter end, kept me enthralled in its words, a prisoner to the next sentence and situation. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminded me of why I read.

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Read by Graham Winton

Recorded Books

Length: 22 Hrs 23 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: Robert Jackson Bennett takes on the American Dream, and twists it in so many bizarre ways it becomes a kaleidoscope of what-the-fuckery. An engaging plot full of wonderful characters, that Bennett sends on one of the weirdest, wildest sciency fiction adventures my poor brain has ever had to process. Some narration issues may have held back some of it’s overall potential, but it’s still one heck of a good listen.

The Doll by Taylor Stevens (Vanessa Michael Monroe, Bk. 3)

Read by Hillary Huber

Random House Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Thriller

What I Said: In The Doll, Taylor strips away the trappings of her writing and presents a balls to the wall fast paced action thriller that will leave the reader awash in adrenaline soaked bliss. While her normal touches are still there, her vivid international setting, her complicated character’s unique skill set and her spin on typical action hero motivations, the action in The Doll is crisp and mean which makes it the most satisfying entry in an already excellent series.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Read by RC Bray

Podium Publishing

Length: 10 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: The Martian is probably my biggest surprise awesome audiobook this year. If you like realistic space travel tales, with cursing, 70′s pop culture references, laugh out loud one lines and plenty of fascinating creative science and engineering problem solving, download this sucker now. It’s really good.

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett (The Demon Cycle, Bk. 3)

Read by Pete Bradbury

Recorded Books

Length:  26 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Fantasy

What I Said: The Daylight War is not just a wonderful edition in perhaps my favorite fantasy series, but the proof of the validity of the trust I have put in Brett as a unique storyteller. The Daylight War continues with the characters and themes we loved in the first two novels, yet also manages to take the story in a whole new direction. While the clash of cultures is brilliantly done, and the increased menace of the demonic enemy even scarier, it’s the intricate relationships that Brett has built that is the true beauty of this novel.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Read by Kate Rudd

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 9 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: : The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a melancholy near future tale of love, family and robots, told on a canvas of a fascinating post disaster world. She fills her world with fully realized, flawed characters that filled me with joy as they were pissing me off. Clarke has managed to create a wonderful science fiction tale with a romantic tilt that I totally bought into. which isn’t the easiest of feats.

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller, Bk. 5)

Read by Peter Giles

Hachette Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 49 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Why I Chose It: Connelly continues to prove he is a master of both plotting and characterization as he guides his broken creation, criminal defense lawyer Mickey Haller, along a bumpy road to redemption. Connelly redefines the concepts of innocence here, both legally and morally, while creating a compelling procedural tale. Giles continues to give a masterfully subtle performance that captures the nuances of Connelly’s writing.

The Thicket by Joe Lansdale

Read by Will Collyer

Hachette Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 19 Min

Genre: Historical Western/Thriller

Why I Chose It: I tend not to be a huge fan of historical/western tales, but The Thicket simply blew me away. Lansdale’s writing has a way of sneaking up on you. There are no bells and whistles, just straight forward storytelling, that surprises you with it’s emotional depth, colorful characters and dark humor. Collyer is quickly becoming a go to narrator for me. His performance of 16 year old Jack Parker manages to balance the naiveté and maturity of a young man forced to grown up due to tragedy.

The City of Devi by Manil Suri

Read by Vikas Adam and Priya Ayyar

Blackstone Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Literary Post Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The City of Devi was never an easy tale for me, I often felt uncomfortable with not just the action but my reaction, yet, it was also a lot of crazy fun. For me, this tale worked on so many levels, creating a sort of beautiful mosaic of apocalyptic themes, strange love, and over the top absurdity.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Read by Michael Beck

Random House Audio

Length: 20 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Why I Chose It: Grisham returns to Clanton and his Jake Brigance character in a tale that rivals the A Time To Kill. Honestly, if you told me that Grisham would appear on my Top 20 list, I would have yelled OBJECTION! but Sycamore Row manages to be a effective legal thriller as well as a socially poignant tale. What makes matters even better is Michael Beck’s narration which is emotionally charged and pitch perfect. His performance enhances this novel, giving it a bump over a few other stellar legal thrillers this year, like Sheehan’s A Lawyer’s Lawyer and Ellis’s The Last Alibi.





Audiobook Review: The Last Alibi by David Ellis

17 09 2013

The Last Alibi by David Ellis (Jason Kolarich, Bk. 4)

Read by Luke Daniels and Tanya Eby

Brilliance Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Ellis tales a lot of risks with The Last Alibi, transforming his series and it’s signature character while adding a much needed different perspective. It’s an intricately plotted, unique legal thriller reestablishing David Ellis as one of the most innovated writers working in the genre today.

Grade: A-

As I huge Legal Thriller fan, I have to admit that so far, 2013 has been kind of a bust. After 2012, which gave us excellent Legal Thrillers like William Landay’s Defending Jacob and Adam Mitzner’s A Conflict of Interest, I found my love of the subgenre to be renewed. Yet, so far, outside of James Sheehan’s The Lawyer’s Lawyer, I have been under whelmed by the genre this year. Honestly, I really didn’t expect David Ellis to pull me out of my legal thriller funk. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to give the latest Jason Kolarich novel a go. When I first discovered David Ellis I thought he was one of the most innovative Legal Thriller authors out there. His debut Line of Vision was so outside the norm for legal thrillers that I couldn’t wait to see what he did next. His thriller, In the Company of Liars proved he could take on an incredibly complicated plot, told in a unique manner, and make it accessible and exciting. Even when he started his series staring Jason Kolarich, it was fresh and exciting. Yet, slowly, Kolarich went from complicated lawyer, to traditional thriller star, and I just lost interest. It is the typically road many Legal Thriller authors take their series character’s on, pushing them more and more to the forefront of the tale, the action star, cop, detective all wrapped into one complicated bundle, and honestly, it started to bore me. I can understand why so many people like it. Why keep our character behind the scenes, when he can do the legal maneuvering, and become the gun toting savior as well? Yet, I love legal thrillers, because I like the action of a courtroom and the behind the scenes players. I don’t need them running around gunning down baddies and rescuing innocents. Yet, some people I respect and trust, including a trusted blogger and the series narrator Luke Daniels encouraged me to give it ago. So, ago was given. Let’s see how it all turned out.

Jason Kolarich is in a downward spiral. After a severe knee injury, he has become addicted to painkillers, which he is hiding from his best friend and law partner Shauna Tasker. He no longer gets the surge from courtroom battles he once did, and his new girlfriend is lavishing him with sex, ego boosting and oxycotin. When his new client, James Drinker, informs him he thinks he is being set up for a series of brutal killings, and asks Jason just how someone would frame someone for murder, Jason never expected that he would be the one set up. Now, on trial for murder, his secrets exposed, Jason must find a way to get his life back on track and prove his innocence. David Ellis returns to his roots, by totally shaking up his series. Jason Kolarich is no longer the smooth as silk, can do no wrong action star lawyer, but a broken man with questionable judgment. Ellis blends multiple storylines, Kolarich’s strange relationship with his clingy girlfriend, his addiction to pain killers and his dealings with the strange James Drinker, with the POV of Shauna, who handles Jason’s defense. Ellis tells the story nonlinearly, juxtaposing each storyline with  Jason’s trial, allowing us to see how each moment influences another, and giving us multiple looks at it from differing perspectives. This is exactly the kind of intricate plotting and unique storytelling that excited me about Ellis’s early work, and again he pulls it off splendidly. Fans of the series may be frustrated. Ellis takes lots of chances with his character, taking him from someone you respect, to someone you pity and are more than slightly disgusted by. This is a very risky move with a series character. Many will want Jason to remain the hero, but in The Last Alibi, the hero role is decidedly Shauna’s and she is quite the engaging, but utterly reluctant hero. Ellis manages to humanize his characters is ways that I found brilliant. While the courtroom scenes lacked a bit of the intensity that you can find in other examples of the genre, the plot is displayed in such a complex and surprising way, that the tension lingering on the borders of the trial more than make up for it. Ellis’s final reveal is surprising and satisfying. There is a moment where it all just clicks together, leaving you shaking your head in the throws of the “I should have figured it out” moment. The Last Alibi restored my belief that David Ellis is one of the most innovated plotters working in the Legal Thriller subgenre today. 

You would think I would be upset that parts of this tale were taken away from narrator fave Luke Daniels but really I wasn‘t…. I swear. Luke Daniels once again brings his skills to David Ellis’s characters, but the addition of Tanya Eby handling the Shauna perspectives only added to the production. As always, in these kinds of productions, you have to get used to two different voices bringing the same characters to life, yet the dissonance in this style were muted by the excellent performances. Both narrators were able to tap into the complicated emotional turmoil of both perspective characters, humanizing them, and accentuating their struggles. I have always though that audio, with the right narrator, does better with cha1racters that are flawed and struggling, and this is proven true in The Last Alibi. Jason’s fight with addiction and Shauna’s dealing with Jason’s instability and betrayals become even more real through the work of both narrators. The pacing of the audio production is solid, keeping the tension alive. This is more of a heady novel than an action thriller, yet the narrators manage to keep the suspense burning throughout the entire book. The Last Alibi is one of the top legal thrillers of the year, and a welcome reemergence of David Ellis as a unique practitioner of the genre.

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





Audiobook Review: The God Patent by Ransom Stephens

19 08 2013

The God Patent by Ransom Stephens

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The God Patent is a novel that almost assuredly will piss you off at some point, no matter where you stand on the issues of God and science. While I expected to be intrigued by the concepts, I never expected to feel so much for the characters. The characters will enrage you, the debate will polarize you, but if you are like me, you will enjoy every minute of it.

Grade: B+

I have never been a guy comfortable talking about things in terms of Black and White, instead, I tend to wallow in all the grays. This is why I have never been good at science or religion. I love science and religion. I am fascinated by both topics. There is something in my brain that just wants to understand the universe, whether it is through physical or spiritual means. Yet, I often find myself frustratingly arguing with both sides. People on one side who tell me that the Bible is 100% the word of god, who make fun of me because, according to them, I believe men came from monkeys, and let me know that I am going to hell because I don’t believe in their flavor of god. Yet, much to the chagrin of my logical sciency friends, I do believe in god, if by god you mean something beyond the universally accepted laws of physics. I’m not sure there is a god who wants to punish us because we failed to follow a book which tells us who to sleep with, what kinds of food to eat, and how to react when we find mold in our bathroom,  but I do believe in something more. I choose to manifest this belief more in the lines of the Judeo Christian ethics, but I basically consider myself a Universalist. So, when my friends scoff at me, and say that there is no proof that god exists, I say, "Exactly!" This is my frustration. Religion is an exercise in faith, and people who attempt to prove it are violating its basic concept. If God would come down to our neighborhood, change his sweater and shoes, and comfortingly tell us stories (yeah, my god happens to look like Mr. Rogers) than it wouldn’t require faith to believe in him. There is evidence of things out there, of the creation of the universe, of matter and entropy and thermodynamics, and the fossil record. Those things are tangible proof of something that I’m really not smart enough to know exactly what it is but its something that doesn‘t fit so nicely into the 7 days of creation describe in Genesis. God doesn’t require evidence. I have faith that there is a god. Also, I have faith that there are multiple dimensions, and that one day we will be able to fold space and time in such a way that it will open up the universe to our explorations. Because, Faith, as they say, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And, while I have never seen a three eyed, saurian robo-alien, I have faith that they are out there, somewhere.

When engineer Ryan McNear wrote a program to emulate the human soul he believed it to be just a lark in order to gets some money for him and his buddy to buy a boat. Years later, recovering from a meth addiction and looking for a way to get out from under the mountains of back child support he owed, Ryan discover’s that his patent is being used by a new religious base college to attempt to tap into the very energy God used to create the universe. Teamed with a shady lawyer, a teenage math prodigy, and a beautiful physic professor, Ryan attempts to sue the university, either forcing a settlement by disproving their idea or benefiting from its plausibility. When I started The God Patent, I expected a concept driven science fiction novel taking on issues of religion and science. In some ways, this is what I got. Yet, surprising, The God Patent is less driven by the fascinating and often brain numbing concepts that author Ransom Stephens explores than by his brilliant but flawed characters who could be at time, very, very frustrating, yet still became very real to me. For every character in this book there were moments that I utterly hated them, and other times when I totally loved them. I wanted to hate Ryan McNear. A brilliant man, who became a neglectful drug addicted father, who blames everyone else for his mistakes, and who placed his child in a very dangerous situation, but, I just couldn’t. The relationship between him and 13 year old, troubled by brilliant Katarina was one of the more rewarding, complicated and heartbreaking relationships I have read in a long time. I though Stephen’s gave a really even handed approach to very complicated issues. He showed both ideological and moral flaws in characters on both sides of the issues, showing that they are more alike than many people may think. Stephen’s allowed the readers to make up their own minds on the broader questions, yet never shied away from acknowledging the accepted truths. In many ways, I think The God Patent will encourage and enrage people on both sides of the issue. It is not really a book about black and whites, but about people who are blinded to the grays. I was entirely fascinated with this book from beginning to one of the hardest endings I have experienced in a while. I expected to be intrigued by the concepts, but never expected to feel so much for the characters.  The God Patent is a novel that almost assuredly will piss you off at some point, no matter where you stand on the issues of God and science. The characters will enrage you, the debate will polarize you, but if you are like me, you will enjoy every minute of it.

Look, I know Luke Daniel’s is pretty much excellent. It’s expected. But, if there was another notch on which to be stepped up to, I think Daniel’s has recently been doing just that. I simply loved his performance in The Gad Patent. It was engaging, just a bit different, and really made me fall for these often douchey characters. I think there is a real, tangible separation point between good narrators, and great one. Good narrates have good strong voices, and know how to tell a story, but often utilize the same bag of tricks. No matter how wonderful these tricks are, they tend to bleed into each other once in a while. Great narrators throw out that bag of tricks and create a whole new one for each book. Too often, the main character becomes the narrator’s default voice, yet Daniel’s gives each protagonist their own spin, allowing each book to have their own feel. For The God Patent, Daniels makes smart intriguing choices for his character’s and handles the sciency stuff like that one teacher in school that actually made you give a crap about stuff you typically didn’t even try to understand. While there wasn’t any gun battles, or car chase, Daniel’s still allowed you to feel the tension of the novel, getting your heart racing through your connection with the characters. All together, it was a very engaging listen with Luke Daniel’s further proving that he may indeed be one of the great ones. 

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





Audiobook Review: Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

7 08 2013

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 35 Min.

Genre:Thriller with Science Fiction Elements

Quick Thoughts: Brilliance is a smart blockbuster movie for your brain, with a complex and engaging main character, a stunningly created world, and so much action you should probably keep your cardiologist on Speed Dial. It’s a a straight thriller with enough science fiction elements that I want to force all my Speculative Fiction friends to read, at gun point if necessary. I absolutely loved this book.

Grade: A+

Being that I grew up on a steady dose of shows like The SuperFriends, The Greatest American Hero and a plethora of superhero movies, I have always had a soft spot for tales about humans with super powers. To me, the gaining of superpowers is one of the greatest fantasy staples today. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if one day you woke up and you could shoot fire out of your eyes, or produce a temporal bubble allowing you to shift through time out your ass. The great thing about Superpower tales is they didn’t have to make sense, that the color of the son could allow you to violate all sorts of physical laws so you can fly, see through walls and wipe a women’s memory out with a kiss. To me this embodies the awesomeness of fantasy. Tales of super humans also create a wonderful tool to look at an alternate history, or tackle current issues. Myke Coles Shadow Ops and Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series both do these things wonderfully, examining the social, historical, military and political changes that would happen if suddenly some humans become more than human. Yet, these stories have always been fantasies for me, because, well, the stories aren’t really plausible. They require some sort of magical force to be the catalyst for these powers. Even something like The X-Men which cites the cause to be genetic mutations have powers so beyond reality that it’s hard to translate them into any true physical reality. Yet, then I read Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance, and well, simply stated, the concept blew my mind. In many ways Sakey applies Clarke’s Law to superpowers. What if there were humans so advanced that their abilities were practically indistinguishable from superpowers. What if their natural abilities to recognize patterns, to read body language, to pick up on empathic tells or to write code, perform mathematical equations or things like that where so advanced that they revolutionized the world. These abilities are not unnatural, just supernatural in the truest definition of the word. We have had savants in our culture who have pushed us towards great leaps in our development, yet what if something happens to increase the percentage of these brilliant world changing people, who in every other way are normal. This is the world that Marcus Sakey creates, and it’s is a really doozy.

Since 1980, a marked increase in humans with savant like abilities began. Now, nearly one in every hundred people born are Brilliants. Nick Cooper is the top agent with a Federal Agency given extreme powers to hunt down Brilliants who actively disrupt the functioning of the Government. Cooper himself is a brilliant, with the ability to read people’s body language with an almost psychic like prescience. Now Cooper is on the hunt for John Smith, a mastermind Brilliant terrorist responsible for mass atrocities. Brilliance is perhaps the ultimate genre bending novel. It is a thriller that Speculative Fiction readers will love, and accessible science fiction for thriller fans. In many ways, it is the collision of everything I love in books, bringing together a true thrilling ride full of car chases, shadowy government agencies and cinema quality fight scenes, with world building that would be the envy of any speculative fiction author. The world that Sakey creates is astounding. He doesn’t just go and say, “Hey, here’s a book with superheroes in our world” but pushes the technological, social and political extrapolations to logical and fascinating places. I loved how Sakey flipped the current political war on terror on its head, showing a world very different from the one we currently inhabit, but with many of the same issues. Sakey doesn’t shy away from the dirty side of the equations, showing how the government’s treatment of the Brilliants, particularly in the schools they create for the most dangerous Brilliants discovered through mandatory testing, yet also doesn’t shirk off the potential for havoc the Brilliants can have on society. Sakey uses his world to ask lots of questions, but never force feeds the reader the answers.  Sakey gives his characterizations just as much loving detail as his world. Nick Cooper is a wonderfully complex character, someone who takes his patriotism and loyalty seriously. Though he is using extreme means to fight the potential for chaos that some Brilliants could cause, he believes he is doing it for the right reasons. Yet when things become not as cut and dry and he believed, and when his loyalty puts him in conflict with his ability to protect his family Cooper truly suffers a sort of psychic dissonance. I like how Sakey doesn’t every step away from the core of Cooper’s character, even when his whole world is sent reeling. Yet, the true beauty of Brilliance is the way Sakey brings together his world, and characters and creates some extremely stunning action scenes. There is a reason Brilliance is labeled a thriller, the action drives the pace, leaving the reader struggling to find the next opportunity to safely take a breath.  Not since Trevor Shane’s Children of Paranoia have I found a thriller that I wanted to force all my science fiction friends to read, at gun point if necessary. I absolutely loved this book. It was a smart blockbuster movie for your brain, with a complex and engaging main character, a stunningly created world, and so much action you should probably keep your cardiologist on Speed Dial. Brilliance is not just my favorite thriller of the year, but it’s destined to find a place near the top of my year end Favorites.

I have listened to a lot of Luke Daniel’s narrations. He takes on quite a few series I follow, of many different genres. I am quite comfortable with his narrations, to the point where he rarely surprises me. Yet, he did with Brilliance. It’s not just his precise pacing, or impeccable characterizations. This is something I come to expect with any of Daniel’s performances. Sometimes, there is just some intangible extra in a narrator’s performance that comes when they know they are narrating something special, and that is evident in Daniel’s reading of this novel. I tend not to be a very visual in my listening. I have a general concept of character physical types and a rough layout of the action, yet, typically that is all I need. Yet, Brilliance was like a movie in my head. I didn’t just hear the characters, but saw them. I didn’t just listen as two characters held onto a speeding train, but stood there with them feeling the wind in my hair. Daniels performance was truly cinematic. From the moment I hit play, I was enthralled, risking physical harm and dereliction in my work duties, as I walked around in body, but never in mind, because my mind was totally absorbed in this world. Brilliance is one of those great audiobook moments that make me thankful that I have embraced this medium, and fair warning, is a book I will be force recommending to anyone who asks.

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





Audiobook Review: The Wrong Man by David Ellis

5 07 2012

The Wrong Man by David Ellis (Jason Kolarich, Bk. 3)

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The Wrong Man isn’t David Ellis’ best work, with too many incongruent subplots muddling the story. Yet, legal thriller fans should have fun with some complex issues and the legal gymnastics of this tale, as well as getting a better grip on just who this Jason Kolarich fellow is.

Grade: B-

As someone who reads a lot of legal thrillers I often define an author by his main series character. These authors have created this character, with friends and love interests, moral codes and legal styles and builds cases around them. You have sometimes naive do-gooders like William Berhardt’s Ben Kincaid or James Grippando’s Jack Swyteck. You have ethically flexible practitioners like William Lashner’s Victor Carl or Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller. Andy Carpenter loves dogs, Dismas Hardy loves his frying pan and Nina Reilly love Lake Tahoe. I have read a ton of these series and each time I pick up a book, I have a pretty vivid picture of the series star in my head, and know the author will create interesting cases that fit these characters right. Yet, this isn’t the experience I have had with Jason Kolarich, the protagonist of three Legal Thrillers by David Ellis.  I have been a big fan of Ellis since his first novel, Line of Vision and I think he is one of the more compelling legal thriller authors out there. Only recently has he begun to write novels with a continuing protagonist, and while the books have been good, I haven’t yet really gelled to the series star. I think this is because in part, the cases have seemed to outshine the character. Kolarich has been through a lot in these three books, yet, right before starting The Wrong Man, I realized I remembered almost nothing about him. I remember the cases well, yet the man has never really stuck in my head. Not ever have I heard of a case, and thought, "that would be a case for Jason Kolarich" like I have with other legal thriller characters. I think this is because Ellis has created a malleable character that he pushes into shape for the case, instead of allowing the character to define the book.

In The Wrong Man, a young paralegal is found shot dead in a alley, and Mike Stoller, a homeless Iraqi war vet is discovered with her purse and the murder weapon. Arrested and interrogated, Stoller seemingly confesses to killing her in a PSTD flashback, but is deemed fit to stand trial and given a Public Defender. Yet, after witnessing Kolarich in a trial, Stoller’s aunt gets the lawyer to agree to look into her nephew’s case. This is seemingly just the case for Jason Kolarich. The Wrong Man was a decent legal thriller with some interesting courtroom strategy that gets a bit bogged down in cliché and distractions.  Ellis tries to combine a typical courtroom thriller with a vast domestic terrorism conspiracy subplot that while doesn’t totally fit together well, at least makes things interesting. Yet, added on top of that is a mafia hitman angle that just totally goes off the rails, with a telegraphed twist I could see coming for miles even without my glasses on. The end result was quite muddled, but there was enough that did work to allow me to have some fun with it. Ellis does spend more time here developing Kolarich as a character, putting enough ethical and legal conflicts into place and forcing him to make tough decisions that you start to get a true sense of the man. Ellis also writes some very crisp trial scenes where our hero’s brilliant machinations aren’t as brilliant as he things. I like the fact that as a lawyer, Kolarich wasn’t infallible, although he did fall into traps even this lay reader could see coming. The Wrong Man isn’t David Ellis’ best work, with too many incongruent subplots muddling the story. Yet, legal thriller fans should have fun with some complex issues and the legal gymnastics of this tale, as well as getting a better grip on just who this Jason Kolarich fellow is.

Luke Daniels continues his work on this series and does a fine job. While this audiobook, like most legal thrillers, doesn’t present too many challenges to this seasoned narrator, he does a good job with some of the more colorful characters showing up in the tale. He handles the pacing of the legal proceedings well, capturing a courtroom rhythm that comes off crisp and precise while maintaining a realistic organic feel. The strange part is, that my least favorite part of the book, which was the mafia angle, was where Daniel’s does his best work. This section was filled with the more oddball characters, and actually provided the rare moments of humor in this tale, and when Daniels has something to really work with, he totally shines. The Wrong Man definitely has its moments and the skills of the narrator helps smooth over some of the rougher patches making it a decent and entertaining listen.