Audiobook Review: The Infects by Sean Beaudoin

29 05 2013

Zombob2ZAM_thumb

2013 Zombie Awareness Month

The Infects by Sean Beaudoin

Read by Nick Podehl

Candlewick on Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 47 Min

Genre: Young Adult Zombie Outbreak

Quick Thoughts: Infects is an often bizarre, Pop-punk rock infused outbreak tale told at a kinetic, almost MTV Pop Up Video style that leans to the absurd. Author Sean Beaudoin offers a refreshing change of pace Zombie tale that somehow injected life into a subgenre looking to keep itself alive. Love it or hate it, The Infects is one heck of a rockem’ sockem’ audiobook experience.

Grade: B+

I have never really put much thought into what I eat beyond does it taste good, and how much of it can I jam into my facehole. Not surprising, I have spent my life firmly on the larger side. I would say that I have been battling my weight most of my life, but really, I haven’t put any significant effort into the battle until recently. Yet, I still eat mostly prepared and processed food stuffs, in between my fresh fruits and vegetables. As a single guy, I much prefer soup in a can or food in a box, than the elaborate preparations of home cook meals. I’ve never thought much about what these foods could do to me. Sure, I understood blood pressure and weight and the like, but what about the preservatives and taste enhancers they include. Could this food actually be changing me on a genetic level, pickling my insides, or injecting brain consuming prions into my gray matter?  Probably. Yet, now, maybe I have to worry about it changing me into a ravenous zombie. Damn. I know a well balanced meal included Cheerios, toast, milk, juice and bacon, but do I also need to ask for a side order of melee weapons? This is why I have begun to avoid fast food. Not because of the artery clogging goodness, or water retaining salty deep fried potato sticks, I mean, honestly, if we are going out, might as well do it with the leftover remnants of a Baconator hanging off my beard. My issues is, when the delicious fast food does send a chemical into out brain stems, turning us into cannibalistic monsters, I really don’t want to start off by snacking on the lean veal of a small child gripping onto their Rug Rats Crappy Meal toy, nor do I want awkward pre-tweens, getting their retainers lodged into my hindquarters as the bite into my quarter pounder with cheese.

Ever since being abandoned by his mother at the mall with his sister, Nick has decided its better just not to care about anything. He spends his days at school or raising his sister and often impaired father, and his nights working at the local chicken processing plant, pining for the attention of Petal his punk perfect wannabe girlfriend. Yet, when a destructive incident in the mysterious blue room at the chicken plant has him sentenced to a juvenile camp, Nick believes he has lost it. Now, on a nature hike with a bunch of delinquents, and hearing the voice of The Rock in his head, Nick finds himself in the midst of a strange outbreak of chicken borne illness that when infected, leads to some quite zombie like behavior. The Infects is an often bizarre, Pop punk-rock infused outbreak tale told at a kinetic, almost MTV Pop Up Video style that leans to the absurd. Full of commentary by The Rock, delinquent profiles, Zompocalypse rules and other almost bonus material segments, The Infects is a Quentin Tarantino meets Simon Clark hybrid that readers will either love, or totally despise. Luckily, I fell in on the love side of things. The Infects was nothing like I imagined it would be. In fact, the opening segments dealing with the bizarre Blue Room and the chicken plant was maybe just a bit beyond me, feeling at times as if it was written by Chuck Palahnuik with a head injury. I thought Nick was a great character, and my favorite part of the story was his relationship with his possibly autistic sister. The story itself was a bit scattershot at times. I think there were things Beaudion did that came more from his love of the genre tropes, his desire to be different, and due to his twisted sense of the absurd that were funny, fresh and added much to the experience, but maybe didn’t always serve the narrative. Personally, I didn’t mind that, but I think others may nitpick plot holes, get frustrated with side tangents, and get so caught up with some internal inconsistencies in the story, that they miss the broader appeal of the novel. In fact, at times listening to The Infects was closer to watching an episode of Robot Chicken than The Walking Dead. Yet, there were so many times I laughed, or reveled in a twisted Zombie Trope, strangely dated reference made hip and bizarre alternate history spin on pop culture, that any weakness in the plot was more than willingly overlooked. The Infects was a refreshing change of pace Zombie tale that somehow injected life into a subgenre looking to keep itself alive. Love it or hate it, The Infects was never boring.

The Infects offered a lot of challenges for its translation to audiobook form and luckily they had a narrator with the skills to pull it off. Nick Podehl really impressed me here. At the start, I thought maybe this production would be a bit too absurd for even Nick Podehl to save. I initially hated his voice for Amanda, feeling she felts a little too much like a man trying to do a young girl’s voice. Yet, by the end, that was my favorite part of his performance. Podehl nailed the rhythms of Amanda’s broken awkward speech. I have to say, I was a bit fearful that Amanda would turn into the magical autistic kid who saved the day through some quirky skill, but I thought both Beaudoin and Podehl perfectly captured the malleability of an autistic diagnosis. Then there was The Rock. At first, I didn’t think Podehl sounded like The Rock at all, but when I accepted it as The Rock as he appears in Nicks’ head, I loved it. In fact, The Rock consistently made me laugh more than anything else in this book. Podehl handled all the side trips, strange additions and added materials perfectly, turning what could have been a total disaster of a production into something truly fun to listen to. The Infects, despite it’s challenges, was a heck of a rockem’ sockem’ audiobook experience.

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





Audiobook Review: Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Loureiro

18 12 2012

Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Louriero

Read by Nick Podehl

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 31 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: I think Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End has enough going for it that those who take infrequent forays into the zombie subgenre may enjoy it, but for those of is who true obsessive zombiephiles, it will seem like a pale copy of better tales of the undead.

Grade: C+

Despite what some may think, I don’t consider myself a Zombie expert. What I do think is that, comparatively, I am pretty well read within the Zombie genre, particularly within the Zombie Apocalypse aspect of the genre. This year, I have listened to 34 audiobooks where Zombies are the major theme, which make up a bit over 15% of my total reading. This doesn’t include a book like Leviathan Wakes, which has brief scenes involving vomit zombies, but is basically a space epic, or books like Gil’s All Fright Diner or Death Warmed over, where zombies is one of a pantheon of mythical creatures. The reason I bring this up, is right now, I am at the stage where I am sort of balancing my love of the subgenre, with the fact that I may have over indulged. With 2012 coming to an end, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any really good Zombie and Post Apocalyptic novels before I started compile all my year end lists. Yet, I wanted something a bit different than the typical Zombie fare. I had a few Zombie novels coming up from series I enjoy, so the typical Zombie Apocalypse feel was covered. Scanning the many Zombie novels available on Audible, I ended up selecting two that I thought seemed unique. The first was The Reanimation of Edward Schuett, which I reviewed earlier and loved. The second was Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End. I choose Apocalypse Z for one reason. It was written by Spanish author Manel Loureiro and takes place in Spain. Ever since listening to Zombiestan earlier this year, I’ve been looking for Zombie novels with international settings. I truly hoped this would give the book an interesting twist over the everyday Zombie tale.

It starts with rumors of a strange disease in Russia, and then spreads into global panic. One man, a lawyer in a small coastal Spanish town, documents his struggles from the first days of the rumor, until the discovery that the dead are rising and attacking the living. Now this lawyer, along with his cat must travel through a devastated land looking for a place of safety.  Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End is a fast paced, Zombie journal style novel that fails to stand out amongst the wide field of the genre. There is nothing blaringly wrong with the story but for a writer declared a best seller in three countries, and the Spanish Stephen King, Apocalypse Z was a basic by the number zombie tale. I was hoping for something more with this tale. Despite its international setting, this novel both stylistically and thematically has a been there, done better feel to it. Its style is reminiscent of JL Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon without the military themes. There were things I did like. I like that the main character survived pretty much by luck, and maybe a touch of ingenuity. I like that that main character wasn’t some stoic Alpha male, but showed that the situation was devastating him emotionally. I like that the main character had a cat, and risked his life repeatedly to keep it safe. Yet, none of the things that I likes made up for the cookie cutter plot, or lifeless feel of the overall narrative. The Zombie mythology was pretty standard, the Post Apocalyptic situations uninspired, and while full of action, it came in dull waves instead of a consistent storm. While I appreciate the desperation that Louriero built into his main character, his thought process was often to scattershot and inconsistent to provide any sort of driving force to the book. Being that it was written in an almost blog like style, this internal inconsistence really hurt the voice of the character. Our main character couldn’t even decide what to call the zombies often switching his chosen name for them within the same paragraph. I think Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End has enough going for it that those who take infrequent forays into the zombie subgenre may enjoy it, but for those of is who true obsessive zombiephiles, it will seem like a pale copy of better tales of the undead.

Nick Podehl is a wonderful narrator, and as always brings the text alive with his voice. I have no complaints with his technical performance and I feel he did a great job capturing the emotional fragility of the main character. That being said, there was an obvious directorial decision that seemed to bleed the international flavor from the audiobook. While listening, I posed a question on Twitter about whether or not a narrator should attempt a Spanish accent for a Spanish character in a first person tale set in Spain. I got two interesting responses. While narrators and industry people seemed to believe that no accent is better than a bad accent, most novice listeners seemed to believe some accent should have been attempted. I believe there could have been a middle ground. First off, I have listened to plenty of Nick Podehl narrations and I believe he could have pulled off a consistent accented narrative voice that would have given the audiobook an international feel without being annoying. Also, there where other things he could have done, with the rhythms and cadence of his voice that could have captured that flavor even if he chose not to go with an accent. The way the novel was read, its setting was more Akron, Ohio than coastal Spain. The fact is, this novel was a journal written in the first person by a Spanish character, and Brilliance is a big enough company that I believe that if they didn’t think Podehl was able to give it this feel, then they could have brought in someone who did. This is why I don’t blame the narrator. I believe it was a directorial choice by the company. I believe someone thought that a Zombie fans wouldn’t embrace an audiobook read in a non-American accent.  And maybe, they are right. I hope not, but it’s a possibility I can’t ignore. Yet, I was disappointed. I found that my hopes for a Zombie novel with international flavor was instead just another zombie tale that could just as easily been set in the next town over from me.

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





Audiobook Review: The Work of the Devil by Katherine Amt Hanna

10 12 2012

The Work of the Devil by Katherine Amt Hanna

Read by Nick Podehl

Brilliance Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 13 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: For obsessive Post Apocalyptic fans like myself, The Work of the Devil should be added to your must read list. For everybody else, it’s a fun little apocalyptic science fiction quest tale with a western edge that is definitely worth the time.

Grade: B+

There is definitely a strong kinship between the classic Western genre and Post Apocalyptic fiction. Any novel that focuses on the regression of society is sure to pick up some of the obvious tropes of the Western novel, yet, I think the themes of are even more closely intertwined. It’s not just a matter that society has moved away from the convenience of cars and a reliance on electricity, but post apocalyptic fiction is often about a new wild lawlessness and exploration of new territory. In Post Apocalyptic fictions, the lawless bandit and looter has just as much opportunity to become the hero as those enforcing order. In fact, since war and plague tend to devastate population centers and breed distrust of government, those associated with the old way tend to become the villain in apocalyptic tales. Two of my favorite Apocalyptic Fantasy characters, Roland The Gunslinger in Stephen King’s and David Gemmell’s Jerusalem Man really play well into these classic Western Themes. Yet, what I really like about apocalyptic novels with western themes is the blending of technology, myth and the apocalypse. Often times, technology becomes religions icons, often on the side of evil. Anti Luddite movements blend into a new intermingling of religion and technology where technology becomes the sin that the people were judged for, or the tool the angry gods used to punish the fallen.

In Katherine Amt Hanna’s Post Apocalyptic novella The Work of the Devil, she incorporates a sort of weird western feel with an interesting tilt on the Anti-Luddite theme. Here, the offending technology isn’t fully explored, and given an almost alien feel. It’s not clear whether the technology that lead to the disaster had a terrestrial basis or if it came form an other worldly source, as the tales of it‘s origin are given various unreliable sources. In the tale, Aaron, a young man on the verge of marriage, goes on a quest to find the strange technology that may be the cause of the cancer that cuts the life spans of those in his village short. This technology may be the work of the devil and attempts to get near to it is met with a strange force that repels and confuses. Yet, Aaron and his companions are determined to face the evil and perhaps make things better for their small village. I really enjoyed this quick little story. Hanna uses classic apocalyptic themes, yet also takes a lot of interesting turns along the way. I was quite fascinated by this world Hanna created. I had a very similar reaction here that I did with her longer work, Breakdown, I felt like this was just a teaser, an intimate taste of a grandly envisioned world. I wanted to know more about it. I really liked the compare and contrast between the world views of the isolated villagers and the more well traveled traders. For a short novel, I though she did an excellent job developing Aaron, but his companions could have used just a bit more depth. What really intrigued me was the strange devilish technology that was the goal of the quest. Hanna created a great series of events as the group gets closer to, and eventually does battle against this tech. The fight was well choreographed, and the wreckage of the battle blended seamlessly into the tale. For obsessive Post Apocalyptic fans like myself, The Work of the Devil should be added to your must read list. For everybody else, it’s a fun little apocalyptic science fiction quest tale with a western edge that is definitely worth the time.

Nick Podehl is a wonderful narrator and again does excellent work here. Podehl has an excellent grasp on his character voices, and offers a nice range of accents to the mix. I like how Podehl helps guide the listener through the character’s development in the tale, showing how the experience changed them. He adeptly displays the cost of the quest on each character, showing how some are shaken by shame and regret while others are hardened by the experience. While the tale is pretty dark and grisly at times, Podehl manages to capture the dark humor of some of the moments, which really pays off for the listener. The Work of the Devil is a quick listen, just over two hours, but a memorable one, full of great characters, some intense action and even a few touching moments.

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





Audiobook Review: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

11 03 2011

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2)

Read By Nick Podehl

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Brilliant storytelling and a narrator able to handle the rhythms of the tale makes this one of the best listening experiences of the year.

Grade: A+

I am not too sure how time works in the world created by Patrick Rothfuss in The Kingkiller Chronicles, but I am sure it’s a bit screwy. Like the first book in the trilogy, The Name of the Wind, Kvothe, now living as a simple Inn Keeper, is telling his life story to Chronicler, a famous biographer. The Wise Man’s Fear is the second day of the tale, where Kvothe tells more about his young life at the University, and his travels during a hiatus. Kvothe is a very versatile young hero, as we can see by the fact that he can battle wits with his nemesis Ambrose, go drinking with his friends, search for his beloved Denna, go to class, work in the Artificery, play Lute at Anchors, chat with Ari, work at the Physicers, save damsels in distress, trade quips with the masters, scour the Archives, and battle dark forces all in a single day. This amazed me, until I realized something. Time must be screwy there, because despite breaks, the need for sleep and encounters with bandits, Kvothe spends 43 hours talking to Chronicler on Day 2. Yep, the audiobook version of this one days telling is 43 hours. In order for a person to be able to stand listening to the same audiobook for 43 hours, it better be one hell of a story.

Trust me, it is. The Wise Man’s Fear easily proves The Name of the Wind was no fluke. Rothfuss brings another beautifully told story to us eager readers and listeners. The Wise Man’s Fear is not just the tale of a young man, but a series of moments. Each moment in it self is fulfilling. There are so many times in the book where I laughed out loud, was moved nearly to tears, became angry, frustrated, excited and giddy that it was tough to concentrate on anything other than the book. Rothfuss has brilliant timing as well, each time I was beginning to feel that the tale may start to become stagnant, that Kvothe was in one place too long, Rothfuss would open a new unexpected path for us to follow Kvothe down. As with the first book, this is the type of Fantasy novel that offers so many things to all different types of fantasy fans. No matter how easy it is for people to lump together the fantasy geeks of this world, there is a lot of variety among the geekdom, and The Kingkiller Chronicles is one of the few series I have read or listened to that would appeal to all.

Again Nick Podehl handles the narration. In the first novel, I thought he took some time to get into the flow of things, but in The Wise Man’s Fear, Podehl hits his stride fast and never lets it go. The Wise Man’s Fear is not an easy read for a narrator, full of verse and rhythm, of songs and fairy tales and Podehl does it all justice. His voice handles the young eager narrator as well as the older Masters and nobles with ease. Podehl natural rhythm fits so well with Rothfuss’ world it was like they were made for each other. It is tough for such an eagerly awaited book to fulfill its promise, yet The Wise Man’s Fear eclipses it, easily offering us one of the best listening experiences of the year.

 

My Reviews of The Name of the Wind:

Text Version

Audio Version





Audiobook Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

21 02 2011

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Read by Nick Podehl

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: One of my favorite Fantasy Novels of all times holds up well in its audio version.

Grade: A

 

So, for the second time since I started listening to audiobooks, I decided to listen to a book I had already read. The first book I did that with was World War Z by Max Brooks, because I had heard the audiobook was excellent. Well, this time, in preparation for the release of Wise Man’s Fear, I decided it may be a good idea to go back and listen to its prequel, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  If interested, here is my review of the novel after I first read it. It was an interesting experience listening to a novel I had already read. One of the things I always consider when listening to a book is how much a narrator may influence the overall perception of the book. It’s pretty obvious that a bad narrator can ruin even a good book, but I also feel a truly extraordinary narrator can enhance a book,

This was my first experience with Nick Podehl as a narrator. I think he had a tough job. One of the hardest things I think narrators have to do is reading for children. Kvothe, the main character of the novel, ranges from the age of 12 to 16. I think Podehl made the right choice of reading Kvothe with his natural voice, instead of trying to “kid it up.” At points it was a bit distracting, having Kvothe sounding more adult than he was, but Podehl’s voice has a nice tone to it, that was able to overcame that difficulty. All together, I thing Podehl did a fine job with the reading. While I don’t think he added much to the overall experience, he handled it with an appropriate style that let the natural excellence of the novel shine through.

Listening to The Name of the Wind reminded me why I love this novel. Fantasy is very much hit and miss with me. The Name of the Wind is easily one of the most accessible fantasy novels I have ever read. Fans of everyone from JK Rowling to George RR Martin will find something to love in this novel. Fans of Orson Scott Card will love the characters as much as fans of Stephen R. Donaldson will enjoy the world building. It’s a rare novel that can appeal to so many differing fantasy fans, but Rothfuss pulls it off. Luckily for us fans, the wait for Wise Man’s Fear is almost over.