February Audiobook Report

4 03 2014

So, yes, the blog is starting to pick back up a bit, with fewer, more streamlined reviews, but if I have a groove, it’s slowly starting to come back. In February, I listened to 15 Audiobooks for just under 150 hours. Not too shabby for this abbreviated month full of winter’s fury. Overall, I think it was a pretty good month, with some zombies, bizarre changed lands and some of those nutty serial killing types. Here is a breakdown of what I listened to.


February Audiobooks I reviewed:

February Audiobooks With Reviews Coming Soon:

Zombie Audiobooks:

In an effort to prepare for Zombie Awareness month, I am trying to listen to some titles now to spread the zombie love over the next few months and not take on a horde of Zombie titles in one big chunk. Here of the Zombie titles I listened to in February. Expect reviews in May.


Repairman Jack:

I am currently working through F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series, and will also add in his Adversary Cycle (In Print and Audio) books as well. So far, what I have really enjoyed is that each new book despite having a shared mythology and a continuing character and storyline seems to be from different genres. You have SF, Urban Fantasy, Ghost Stories, straight thrillers, medical thrillers and horror. I listened to two in this series in February, both of which I enjoyed.

Armchair Audies Listens:

Yes, the Audies were announced and I am trying to get a jump on my favorite blog event of the year, The Armchair Audies, Since I have a lot of series to go through, I am trying to knock out the Fantasy Category as quick as possible. I listened to two audiobooks from the Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa series as a start to this, with reviews coming soon.

Other Audiobooks I listened to in February:


Disenchanted by Robert Kroese was a goofy little fantasy audiobook I listened to mostly because it was narrated by Phil Gigante. It was fun, is not a bit droll but ultimately forgettable. I looked at it as a bit of filler material, a change of pace to my typical listens and a chance to hear Phil Gigante read something funny, which he does so well.

I had absolutely no plans to listen to Indian Hill 2: The Reckoning any time soon. While I like Mark Tufo as a writer, I wasn’t a fan of the first Indian Hill novel. Yet, happenstance roared it’s head, and I found myself with a corrupted file and few choices. Indian Hill 2, despite it’s cheesy Reckoning subtitle, was an improvement from the first novel. It was a bit uneven, and I think the editing could have been tighter, since it’s timeline felt jumbled, but ultimately it was a fun alien invasion novel. 

Audiobook Review: Lycan Fallout:Rise of the Werewolf by Mark Tufo

4 10 2013

Lycan Fallout: Rise of the Werewolf by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Published by Mark Tufo

Length: 11 Hrs 23 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic with Werewolves

Quick Thoughts: Lycan Fallout offers everything you would want in a Michael Talbot adventure, with a new menace, some new allies and a whole new timeline. Tufo fills his intriguing post apocalyptic world with strange new communities, some of his most visual action scenes to date and plenty of juvenile humor. Lycan Fallout is a worthwhile addition to his weird little Talbotverse.

Grade: B+

I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant about Lycan Fallout. With all these iterations of Michael Talbot, battling aliens, zombies, ghosts, dogknappers, vampires and other such horrors, I need a flow chart, Venn diagram, Commodore 64, two shots of whiskey and a 50’s era receptionist to keep it all straight. Yet, with all things Tufo, I have learned to just sit back and enjoy the ride, even when the car careens off the road, and crashes into something twisted and maybe a bit sticky. My other issue was that out of the great monster trifecta, zombies, vampires and werewolves, stories involving lupine shape shifters tend to be my least favorite, and probably fall under lesser beloved monsters like Triffids, squid demons, cats, alien parasites, and taxes as well. I’m not sure why I never get jazzed over werewolves. Maybe it’s all the weird mythology surrounding them or the fact I can never keep the various types straight, or possibly that women are less likely to want to spend time with you if you can’t morph into some sort of animal. Yet, despite my hesitation, I thought, heck, it’s Tufo. I highly doubt his werewolves would be all that sexy and at the very least, I should get enough juvenile humor to balance the whole werewolf thing out.

It’s more than a century since humanity won a pyrrhic victory against the zombie hordes, and half man/half Vampire Michael Talbot is living on his family estate, detached from society. Since the last member of his family died, he’s had no purpose and marks time by when Tommy, his 500 year old Vampire creator and surrogate son would bring him food. Yet, when Tommy and the witch Azile learn of a new menace to the struggling post apocalyptic communities of mankind, they need to find a way to get Michael once again invested in society. Together they hatch a plan to bring him out of exile and into the fight against the Lycans, involving a dog, some beer and baseball. Is there anyway Micheal can resist?

Lycan Fallout is a near future post apocalyptic tale told as only Mark Tufo can, which is straight on, in your face no holds barred storytelling. Fans of Tufor’s Zombie Fallout series will find much of what they like about that series, Michael’s not quite politically correct juvenile humor, visceral scenes of gore, the comradery of brothers (and sisters) at arms, a strange hybrid mythology mixing together as many horror tropes as possible, and plenty of action. Lycan Fallout takes a while to pull you in. Readers need to adjust to the changed world, the new timeline, and a moody whiney version of Michael Talbot, yet, when things begin to move, Tufo grabs the reader by the hair, and pulls them into the story. Mark Tufo, probably unlike any other author, can do things that annoy the heck out of me in a lot of books with over used scenarios and stereotypical portrayals yet make it work by his sheer audacity. Tufo is like that strange friend who constantly tells the same damn stupid joke, but manages to make you laugh at it every time. There was so much fun, cool stuff in Lycan Fallout. I really liked his post apocalyptic world. It’s not anything I haven’t seen before, with new communities, traditions and religions formed from the wreckage of our world, but displayed in an offbeat manner. Tufo constantly keeps the reader off balanced. He has theses moments where his writing almost takes on a poetic quality, and you’re thinking "That’s kind of deep" and then he follows it up with some crude scatological joke. It’s strange and disconcerting and uneven and joyous and a whole lot of fun. I think Lycan Fallout also showed some of Tufo’s maturity as a writer (if you can use the word maturity when describing Mr. Tufo). His action scenes were crisper, less weighed down by extraneous details, and highly visual. His plotting was cleaner, and he even managed some real solid emotional writing that did justice to his characters. Plus, his werewolves were actually kind of cool and even a bit scary at times. My only warning, if you are easily frustrated by series, this is the beginning of a new series, and not a standalone. If you are going to jump of the Lycan Fallout Wagon, be prepared for a long ride. Hopefully your ass won’t get too sore along the way.

As with all of Mark Tufo’s audiobooks, the narration is handled by one Mr. Sean Runnette. I sometimes wonder, with all the time Runnette has spent voicing Michael Talbot, if he hasn’t started becoming a bit of a germaphobe with inappropriately timed humor, a penchant for violence and a high likelihood to verbally abuse inept customer service people. This is the problem; I have trouble separating the narrator with the character, because he has become just as much a part of Michael Talbot as his love of guns and dogs. As always, Runnette’s performance is perfect for this series. He captures the personality of Michael Talbot perfect. One other thing I liked is how when some descendants of Michael’s friends show up, they have vocal similarities to their predecessors, without being carbon copies of them. There was just something comfortable about this, which helped the readers get over the fact that some of our favorite characters are no longer pat of the story. If you have yet to experience a Mark Tufo tale, particularly one surrounding his main character Michael Talbot, whether you want the zombie, alien or werewolf fighting version, I highly recommend experiencing it with Talbot’s true voice, as performed by Sean Runnette.

Zombie Awareness Month Roundtable: Tantor Audio Authors and Giveaway!

30 05 2013


Can humanity survive the rising of the undead? What skills will be most important when trying to survive in the time of cannibalistic undead? Today I ask my panel of experts to chime in on all things Zombie Survival. Today’s guest all share one thing in common beyond being awesome undead bards, they have all had their books produced by the wonderful people at Tantor Audio!

So along with today’s answers, we will be having a Giveaway. Two people will receive a Zombie Audiobook pack including titles from each of the participants in today’s roundtable. To enter, just leave a comment answering the following question:

What one skill do you have that could be your saving grace in a Zombie Apocalypse?

Please make sure you include a way for me to contact you if you

The Giveaway is for the Continental US, and ends Thursday June 6th at 11:59PM. 

Jesse Petersen author of The Living With the Dead series.


Scott Kenemore, author of Zombie, Ohio and The Zen of Zombie

Mark Tufo, author of The Zombie Fallout Series, and The Book of Riley

Wayne Simmons, author of Flu and Fever

When discussing training for Zombie Survival, many people focus on the obvious, weapons training, martial arts, wilderness survival skills and the like. What is one often neglected skill that seems useless today but may be essential in surviving the coming Zombie Apocalypse?

Jesse Petersen: I think most people would be stuck on basic survival skills. You’d figure out weapons pretty fast and hopefully it wouldn’t come to martial arts very often with zombies, but when it comes to getting potable water, making a fire, finding food once things go bad, I think a lot of people won’t have those skills. Hopefully they’ll be able to figure out libraries. LOL A good argument for making sure we fund those. ALOT.

Scott Kenemore: I’m not of the opinion that a true zombie apocalypse would be survivable in the truest sense.  Therefore, I think it’d be important to focus on having as much fun as you possibly could.  I think taking a bunch of Molotov cocktails up to a roof and then throwing them down on the zombies would be a pretty fun way to go out swinging.

Mark Tufo: CARDIO! – I think most folks over-estimate the level of their physical fitness. Now I’ll use myself as a prime example. In High School and College I was what many folks considered a jock, I played baseball, football and ran track. Even played hockey on the side. Then I joined the Marine Corps where they honed that conditioning into a fine tuned machine, which I summarily dismantled with 15 plus years sitting behind a desk. So my head says ATHLETE, my body says not so much. My only chance when the zombies come is thatthe person next to me ate an extra burrito for lunch! Man I have got to clean my treadmill off. 

Wayne Simmons: Running. Seriously, a good pair of trainers and the common sense to uproot and fly at the first sign of trouble will up your survival chances no end. We all love the have-a-go-heroes in zombie books and movies, but were the z-poc to happen for real, those guys would be the first to go. The runners and the hiders: they’re the guys who’ll last longest.

You’re on a long business trip, 1,000 miles away from home when the Zombie Outbreak begins. What do you do? Find a place to hole up and wait out the wave of undead or grab your gear and attempt the classic cross country Zombie Apocalypse Road Trip?

Jesse Petersen: Road Trip! Seriously, I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from trying to get to my husband and family. So I’d be road tripping it and I’m sure I’d pick up some crazy sidekicks (one of whom I’m sure I’d have to kill at some point).

Scott Kenemore: I think a lot would depend on the terrain.  Flat, desert areas would be the biggest challenge.  There would be nowhere to hide.  I think you want variations in terrain when fighting and hiding from zombies.

Mark Tufo: First off, that I’m a thousand miles away is bad news, my separation anxiety would be kicking into high gear by now. So yup I’m going to be that guy that treks across the country against all odds.

Wayne Simmons: The smart thing to do would be to hole up. But I’m something of a migrating man by nature so would probably go on the road trip. It’s curiosity, too. I’d want to watch the world around me going to hell rather than hide away in the arse end of nowhere, waiting for the zeds to wait for me. It would be the death of me, of course, but hell…

Stop what you are doing right now, and look around the place you currently are. What are the positive and negative aspects of your current location if undead hordes where heading your way right now?

Jesse Petersen: Well, I face a window, which is positive since I can see them coming, negative in that they can see me and if they break it, I’m screwed. I don’t really have access to weaponry here except for heavy things on my desk, but I have a few of those so I might be able to Shaun of the Dead a zombie (like they do with the records) and get to a gun if I needed to. It’s not the worst place, for sure, but it’s no bunker.

Scott Kenemore: I’m in a pretty tall building, so I think I’d be okay for a while.  Also, it has elevators.  Are zombies smart enough to operate elevators?  I’m thinking no.  Therefore, our first step is to barricade the stairwell…

Mark Tufo: My home has some decent positives in the fact that I live out in the sticks. Less people means less zombies. Defensive wise I have some holes but nothing a strategically placed Claymore mine wouldn’t take care of.

Wayne Simmons: Positive: I’m at home. I live in a ground floor apartment, situated at the back of the block. The garden’s secure and surrounded by a high wall.

Negative: We haven’t got much food in the cupboards. Almost no tinned stuff. Bugger…


In all the books and movies about Zombies that you have read, what one Zombie scenario do you feel is the least survivable?

Jesse Petersen: The faster the outbreak moves and the larger the population that is transformed at once, the worse it is. If it moves to animals, that’s it. We’re an extinct species and our planet goes back to the trees, I guess.

Scott Kenemore: Zombies on a sumbarine or airplane would be pretty terrifying.

Mark Tufo: Well with all the zombie movies and books I’ve devoured doesn’t seem to be any of them where folks do particularly well. Least survivable? I’d have to go with the countries that have banned or limited access to firearms. Sure you can kill zombies a hundred different ways, me personally, I don’t want to be swinging a hammer.

Wayne Simmons: The police station hole-up. Sure, you’ve got all the guns and ammo you need. But those doughnuts are gonna go stale real soon

What is the one quality that the characters of your books seem to share that has helped them to avoid joining the Zombie Smorgasbord?

Jesse Petersen: I think Dave and Sarah and everyone who works closely with them all share the quality of hope. They continue to TRY whether it’s try to get to a certain place, try to make life livable or try to get a cure. They don’t give up because they cling to the hope that things could be okay again. If you don’t keep that, you lie down and die.

Scott Kenemore: I think you have to be innately curious about zombies.  It’s not enough just to be terrified and run in the other direction.  People survive when they take a moment to figure out what they’re up against.  This means studying the undead and figuring out– to whatever extent this is possible– what makes them tick.  What do they want?  How do they try to get it?  Understanding these things is the first step to longer-term survival.

Mark Tufo: The main characters in my books seem to share strong bonds of family and friendship. The want and drive to protect everyone else even at the expense of themselves, I think that above all other reasons is why at least some of them have survived.

Wayne Simmons: They wear GREAT trainers…

Thanks to these great authors for their answers. Make sure to click the audio images above for my reviews of their books.

Audiobook Series Review: Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo

22 05 2013

It’s no secret that I have become a fan of Mark Tufo. The experience of being a Mark Tufo fan is a unique on, one that needs its own clever name, like Tufooties or Tofunguys. Being a fan of Mark Tufo is like being a fan of your friend’s band. They may be raw and do things that mainstream rock bands would scoff at, but they are having so much fun doing it that it’s infective. I haven’t loved every moment. I found the novella that comes between the two man arcs of the series a bit on the head shakingly dumb side, but this is because Tufo is a risk taker, and isn’t bound by convention. This is a man whose main character, Mike Talbot, appears as a main character or some iteration of his exists in almost every series he has created. It’s a strange sort of multiverse that that I find fascinating.

The Zombie Fallout series has been a strange, wild ride. The original Zombie Fallout was a funny, disgusting, politically incorrect, horrifying relatively traditional initial Zombie Outbreak story, with only hints of things to come. The first three novels of the series started to flesh out the underlying mythology of the novel while Michael and his assortment of friends and allies attempt a cross country journey from Colorado to Maine, with some stops along the way. Along for the ride is Tommy, a strange boy that could be labeled special, who is more special than any of them can imagine.  In the initial book, Mike meets a strange, almost aware Zombie woman, and something about her just doesn’t sit right. He decided to not to kill her, and will regret that decision for the rest of the series. This woman is more than just a zombie, and more than just human and becomes the main nemesis of the series, focusing on and desiring the utter elimination of Michael and everything he holds dear.

The central theme of the first three books is Michael’s love for his family, and the loyalty to those in his inner circle. It’s not a clean apocalypse for the Talbot clan, the lose people along the way, suffer grievous injuries and even supernatural style psychic attacks. They lose a member of their group to Eliza, thus beginning the second arch of the series where the group goes on the offensive and takes the fight to Eliza. 

Last year, I listened to and reviewed all the first Three Zombie Fallout novels and the bridge novella. You can Click on the cover images below for my reviews. This year for Zombie Awareness Month, I decided to listen to a review the next three novels all in one series post.

The First Arc

The Second Arc

Zombie Fallout 4: The End Has Come and Gone by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 11 Min

Grade: B+

Zombie Fallout 4 got the second arc rolling on the right foot. Mike and his friends and family are on the offensive looking to end Eliza and rescue one of their own. Along the way we reunite with some old friends and make some new. This had a lot of the feel of the early novels, yet told from multiple points of view, eventually all coming together for an amazing heart stopping finale. While the pacing at times was uneven, the ending was thrilling and brilliant and opened up a whole new avenue of exploration for this series. We even get to see some more in the evolutionary process of the zombies, which doesn’t bode well for out survivors. Long time fans of the series will find a lot of payoffs here, including the final resolution of one characters story. The End Has Come and Gone was a furiously fun novel with all the perfect Mike Talbot touches.

Zombie Fallout 5: Alive in a Dead World by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 9 MIn.

Grade: B-

I found Zombie Fallout 5: Alive in a Dead World a bit disappointing. Now, it was still a lot of fun, but it did little to move the overall story forward, and focused a lot on some really annoying characters, particularly an old surly woman who for a moment I almost started to like until she turned into the spawn of Satan’s Evil Twin and another women who helps out Mike and his group, but has some of her own issues. Mostly, I felt Michael being away from his family and somewhat socially isolated in this tale contributed a lot to it’s disappointing tone. Michael is at his best when surrounded by his family, and here there were times where he just didn’t seem himself, for good reason. There were some especially gruesome moments, particularly one involving some cats, and some real emotional scenes, but I found the darker tone, lack of forward progress and focus on unlikable characters to hurt the book over all. I should add, the epilogues, while important to the mythology of the book just didn’t work for me as well this time.

Zombie Fallout 6: ‘Til Death Do Us Part by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 51 Min

Grade: B+

Whatever issue I had with Book 5 was more than made up for in Zombie Fallout 6: ‘Til Death Do Us Part. Mark Tufo pulls it all together in the excellent completion of this arc of the series. The highlight of this novel was the fleshing out of Eliza’s History leading up to her final confrontation with Michael. Along the way, we meet an interesting new character names Azile, and have a fun Zombie Road Trip and Zombie siege all in preparation for a kick ass finale that pays off for the listener as well as sets up the series for some new explorations. While there may have been a few bumps along the way, Tufo more than justifies the trust his fans put in him to create a fun yet nauseating Zombie apocalypse tale with characters you grow to love. I look forward to seeing where the series goes next, with so many tantalizing possibilities.


Sean Runnette may possible be Mark Tufo’s alternate universe twin, I’m just not sure which is the goateed evil version. It’s almost scary how well Runnette captures Michael Talbot and his band of family and friends. I have not listened to Runnette in other books, and it always takes me a moment to convince myself that Michael Talbot hasn’t become a narrator. I will always remember my first reaction when I started the first Zombie Fallout. I was totally, Who the hell is this guy? He sounds like Ray Romano with a head injury. It only took me a little while to realize just how perfect that was. Runnette seems to have truly grown into this world, bringing each character alive in special ways. Where he truly shines is capturing Tufor’s sarcastic and often corny sense of humor, making it feel authentic. For me, Zombie Fallout wouldn’t have been the same without Sean Runnette.


2013 Zombie Awareness Month

Guest Audiobook Review: The Book of Riley, Part 2 by Mark Tufo

20 05 2013


2013 Zombie Awareness Month

The Book of Riley 2: A Zombie Tale by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse with Talking Animals

Quick Thoughts: Today my dog Munch stops by with a guest review of this action packed Zombie Apocalypse novella featuring Riley, Patches and Ben Ben. This time, the pack passes through Vegas where some humans are up to no good. Another fun entry to the series.

Grade: B+


Today’s Special Guest Reviewer

Hello people who read this. My Name is Munch, Ace dog detective and 20 lb ball of ravenous fury that intimidate all who walk past my patio window. Many of you may know my human Bob. For some reason he likes to sit in front of this box and make annoying sounds with his fingers instead of taking me for walks and sniffing things. He never sniffs things. When he does take me for walks, he always picks up this thing that makes noises into his earholes. Not sure what it’s called, but I like it because it means he’s going to take me out for a walk, except for when it means he’s going to take leave me alone with my cat sister. Now, I’m an ace detective and keen observer and I’m unsure why he actually needs to shove things into his ears, but I tend to pick up some of the human words that come out. Bunch of stupid stuff. Talk about zombies, robots and angry people yelling objection and hiding out in buildings with a bunch of kibble. Why he doesn’t just pay attention to the scent stories floating around in the air, I don’t know.

Recently I noticed he was listening to another one about the dead humans eating live humans again, but there was lots of talk bout this Riley bitch…. a dog. This caught my attention. This dog was an American Bulldog, so they say, but we dog’s don’t really care about the color and shape of other dogs as much as you humans do. I hear humans even get mad over who is sniffing who. Whatever. One day when Bob left, my Cat sister Cali, who can read human words told me that Bob wrote about this Riley bitch and the human word stories she was telling. What shocked me was that Bob told all the others who read from boxes that I’m wouldn’t be a good zombie dog, just because I choose to be a bit picky since I have the luxury to. Human’s make no sense. Us dogs adapt to any situation, and if I need to, I can take down any human living or dead that I need to, even if they make sudden moves or walk strangely. As a professional detective and intimidating watch dog, I’d be the perfect zombie dog.

Munch on the Case

So, the next time Bob listened to his human word stories about this Riley bitch, I paid attention. It seems this Riley, his pack mate Ben Ben and his cat sister Patches had two herd two of their humans to a place called Collar Rado and on the way they have to pass through Vegas. Vegas is a big human place full of lots of lights and noise and bad people. I liked Riley, but I was often confused why she though of her humans as Alphas. Maybe it’s a bitch thing. I, myself am an Alpha, and my humans and cat sister cater to my every whim. Well, maybe not the cat.

Riley and Ben Ben made a strong team. Riley was put into a bad situation and the humans made her fight another dog, a Dober Man Pincher. I am part Miniature Pincher, whatever that means (I think the miniature refers to my stoic nature), but not a Dober Man. It sucked that Riley had to fight another dog because humans made her. I am always up for a fight, but I prefer using techniques like intimidating sniffing, tail bristling and sent marking to establish my dominance. Oh, and occasionally humping, in emergency situations. Riley was a smart dog. While she didn’t understand things like Eight and some human words, she knew her duty and did it, with the help of her Cat sister.

I found the relationship between Riley and her cat sister quite interesting. I like my cat sister. She’s one of the good ones. She gives me advice and helps me figure out human things, and in return, I eat her food when the humans try to give her medicine. Riley’s relationship with his cat sister was more contentious. (Cali says that means they fought a lot.) It was funny though. I had a couple good sniffs over their antics. I also like Ben Ben, who always found a way to get treats, even in the Pocco Lips, whatever that is. The story was full of lots of stuff that humans like, like large bangs, fast moving human coaches and the true heroic nature of dogs. No mating or face smooching, though, thank the rainbow bridge.

Munch’s Cat Sister Cali

The human talking guy, Sean Runnette was interesting. Bob seemed to like him since I heard him bark once or twice while listening. Humans are strange though, he was obviously a human male and Riley was a bitch. He definitely made Ben Ben interesting using human words. Also, Patches the cat sister was a smooth talker. I could see Riley falling under her catty spells. My human seemed to really like this talking word story. We actually took longer walks why he was listening, allowing me to sniff and mark things to I ran out of my sweet juices. I’m sure looking forward to more of these talking dog zombie Poco Lips tales, since I can get some more walks out of it. And some of my favorite meat sticks. Plus, I’m intrigued by this Bacon thing. Need to ask the cat about that.

Note: Thanks to Tantor Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for Review.

Audiobook Review: Indian Hill by Mark Tufo

2 01 2013

Indian Hill by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 13 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: While Indian Hill is often uneven, scattershot, full of disturbing situations, immature writing and cardboard action, Tufo’s engaging story telling style ultimately saves the day.

Grade: B-

Sometimes, when I read a book, I wonder if something may just be a bit off about me and a large percentage of the world as well. We often will read a book where people are put in horrible situations, forced to do horrible things, and call it entertainment. We often scoff with disgust at the mindless masses who cheer for the death and dismemberments in such books as The Hunger Games, yet, we too are getting entertainment from these stories. I often wonder, if there was ever an American Gladiators program, where the Gladiator’s fought to the death, how many of these people who are shocked by the events in Battle Royale, or The Running Man, would be tuning in. I read a review of The Hunger Games movie where the reviewer talked about her discomfort with the cheering of the audience when children, even though they weren’t Katniss, were killed. She wondered how closely the audience of the movie matched that of those cheering in the capital, all as pawns of the game. This made me think. Does the fact that I enjoy books where characters are forced to kill each other mean I lack some sort of empathy, or are on some level a hypocrite? I am also big fans of the TV show Survivor, where people lie, cheat and betray their closest allies all in the name of a big check and an arbitrary title. So, does this make me like one of the screaming fans, cheering for the young men walking to their death in The Long Walk? I don’t know if, in a future dystopia, I would be one of the brainless hordes, and I’m glad that it’s not a decision I have to make. Yet.

I really wasn’t sure what to think of Indian Hill, Mark Tufo’s Gladiatorial style science fiction tale featuring one of the alternate world versions of his stock character Michael Talbot. I am familiar with Michael Talbot through Tufo’s Zombie Fallout series and wasn’t sure if this Michael Talbot was supposed to be the same character from that series. Well, it wasn’t. I assume Tufo has created this character, and placed versions of him in many parallel worlds, often becoming the centerpiece in a fight for humanity. In Indian Hill Michael Talbot is just a typical, every day beer drinking, skirt chasing college student, in a stormy relationship with the girl of his dreams. One day, on a "just friends" date to Red Rocks, he and the entire audience are taken aboard an alien space ship where the men are forced to battle each other in gruesome gladiatorial style fights to the death. While Indian Hill is often uneven, scattershot, full of disturbing situations, immature writing and cardboard action, Tufo’s engaging story telling style ultimately saves the day. As I said in my less than glowing review of his Zombie Fallout novella Dr. Hugh Mann, Tufo is a no hold barred writer, who tells stories he believes fans want to read, without worrying about arbitrary things like editorial acceptance and literary value. So, for each book, he has just as much opportunity to write a fan pleasing winner as writing a head shaker. I had a lot of problems with Indian Hill. The novel is told in two parts, and the beginning was a solid, Stephen King style coming of age story with the latter part the science fiction, alien story. While both parts were interesting, it created an uneven feeling to the book in whole. I found the actions scenes to lack Tufo’s typically detailed choreography giving them a muddy, depthless feel. Some of the big fights came off rushed, leaving me under whelmed. I also was a bit disturbed by both the sexual violence towards women, although for the most part off camera, as well as the reward system harems. I understand what Tufo was doing, but it still left me uncomfortable. I felt like he was trying to use these situations to create strong women characters, yet it never was fully realized, missing an opportunity. Yet, despite these many issues, I ended up enjoying the raw style of the tale. Tufo is a storyteller, and this aspect of his writing never fails, just can often be muted by other issues. As a fan, you can’t help but to be drawn into this version of Michael Talbot. I like that here, Talbot wasn’t some badass former marine, but just some dumb ass kid who discovered a sort of cunning he never expected. I am quite interested to see where Tufo takes this tale, and how his evolution as a writer will progress. No matter what issues I may have had, I’m a fan of Mark Tufo and his twisted alter ego Michael Talbot.

Sean Runnette is the voice of Mark Tufo and Michael Talbot. In Indian Hill Runnette gives another strong performance delivering the quirky characters that jump off of Tufo’s page. Now, I have to admit, it’s a little strange at times, remembering that this isn’t the Michael Talbot from Zombie Fallout and having Sean Runnette makes that struggle all the more hard. Yet, Runnette really shines in the early part of the novel, with a younger, more naive Michael, and capturing the complex emotions hiding behind all the snark and bluster. Runnette helps smooth out some of the pacing issues, delivering a solid science fiction tale, with lots of humor. Fans of Mark Tufo’s previous audiobooks will know they are in the solid hands of a gifted reader.

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

Audiobook Review: Zombie Fallout 3.5: Dr. Hugh Mann by Mark Tufo

20 12 2012

Zombie Fallout 3.5: Dr Hugh Man by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 42 Min

Genre: Zombie/Plague

Quick Thoughts: I really didn’t like Zombie 3.5, but luckily it is more of a background piece, creating a frame of reference for the history of the virus in the Zombie Fallout series. Plus, it’s short. So, even though I didn’t really like it, I say, if you are a fan of the series, go ahead and give it a listen. You may like it more than me and it does provide some interesting backstory on the virus and some of the characters.

Grade: C

So, I’m about to take a risk with my life, but, I have to be honest, I don’t think of Mark Tufo as a great writer. I think Mark is a great storyteller with an enthusiasm that bleeds into every word. I also believe that Mark is willing to take more risks than many other writers. One of the reasons Mark’s fans love him so much is that he writes for them, to tell them stories that he as a fan of the genres he works would love to read. He doesn’t hold back at all. If he decides that a brain sucking alien would simply just be awesome at this point in the story, then, some slimy green thing with brain sucking appendages will show up, damn the critics. This is something I like about Mark Tufo, but I also knew that it’s something that would eventually lead me to writing a less than stellar review of one of his works, because, in many ways, I like to think I’m a little like Tufo, and willing to write what I want despite knowing that it could lead to his legion of fans hunting me down and dismembering me. I think there is a great freedom with independent authors to simply write what they want to write. Those that do it well, and truly embrace their fans, dealing with them honestly and not just shilling at them, will find that genre fans are some of the most loyal people in the world. Yet, most writers will also tell you that not all ideas work, and more specifically, not all ideas work with all people. Sadly, this was the case for me with Mark Tufo’s Zombie Fallout Novella, Dr. Hugh Mann.

Zombie Fallout 3.5 tells the story of an early 20th century obsessive research scientist, who makes a discovery that captures the imagination of the public as well are the interest of shadowy governmental figures. Yet, when Dr. Hugh Mann realizes this this discovery could lead to tragic consequences, he must break out of his social awkwardness and figure away to keep a new deadly new weapon out of the hands of those who may use it. I totally appreciate what Mark Tufo was attempting to do with this story, but for me, it just came off kind of silly. Tufo’s patented humor and gift for the absurd is pushed to the extreme here, and some may enjoy it, but for some reason I was just unable to keep my head from shaking and my eyes from rolling. Listening to Dr. Hugh Mann reminded me of when your best friend finally meets your new friends and attempts to tell a really corny joke that just falls flats. You want to laugh to make it seem better than it was, but what you really want to do is hide in the bathroom and curl up like a baby. I also think that while the novella is positioned between Zombie Fallout 3 and 4, that people who have read book 4 probably would enjoy it more. I have yet to listen to Zombie Fallout 4, and some of the things that happen in this novella seems to play into a new plot thread that should be starting in that book. On the positive side, the middle of the novella, where the focus moves from Dr. Hugh Mann to his daughter, is much better and definitely provides a little more heart to the tale. Then, it sort of falls apart in the end with a segment at Area 51, but, that’s OK. Luckily, Dr, Hugh Mann is more of a background piece, creating a frame of reference for the history of the virus in the Zombie Fallout series. Plus, it’s short. So, even though I didn’t really like it, I say, if you are a fan of the series, go ahead and give it a listen. You may like it more than me and it does provide some interesting backstory on the virus and some of the characters.

So, Sean Runnette. He’s this guy that I know almost solely as the voice of Mark Tufo’s work. I see Runnette a bit like Michael Talbot, a bit goofy, a bit awkward, but he seems to get the job done. Runnette is best when he is bringing Michael Talbot to life, and since Michael isn’t a character in this isn’t the best way to experience Runnette’s work. Yet, he still manages to do a pretty good job with it. It’s obvious that Runnette knows and appreciates the world created by Tufo, and is able to consistently portray the characters, reminding you of their history. This is important for a background piece like this. Runnette manages to keep it feeling like a novel within this world, despite some of the overall weirdness of the story.