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: Legion by Brandon Sanderson

5 12 2012

Legion by Brandon Sanderson

Read by Oliver Wyman

Audible Frontiers

Length: 2 Hrs 8 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Legion is the kind of story that totally defies genre. It’s simply a fascinating tale with an amazing character that should please anyone who has two spare hours and needs something fun to fill up that time. Don’t let any misconceptions of prejudices of genre writers to allow you to miss this fun little story.

Grade: A-

Note: Legion is currently Free to all Audible members until the end of 2012. Even if you are not sure you will listen to it, you should hurry up and download it anyway. You never know when you will find yourself needing two hours of quality audio to listen to.

I am usually a pretty good planner when it comes to my audiobook listening. I create a general weekly listening plan, but I build flexibility into it in case a surprise release comes out or I receive a review copy earlier than I was planning. I typically fill my MP3 Player up with about a weeks worth of audiobooks, and have a bunch of books from my backlist To-Be-Listened-To pile there just in case I really don’t like an audiobook, or my mood calls for something different than I had planned for. Because of this, I usually find myself with a lot of options. Yet, last week I planned poorly. I had just finished a longer audiobook series, which, although spread out over a few books, I planned as a single post. Because of this, I had a bunch of shorter audiobooks planned out in order to give me plenty of material to post this week. Yet, I figured the timing out poorly and was left with two hours of time to fill. I didn’t want to start a longer book, because I was really looking forward to starting the new Harry Bosch book the next day, but all the audiobooks I had on my player were all 10 hour plus. Luckily, I remembered that months ago, I had downloaded a free audiobook on Audible called Legion by Brandon Sanderson and I could pull it up on the Audible app on my phone. I had never read Sanderson before. I have heard quite a lot of good stuff about him, but he typically writes Fantasy Epics, and while I have enjoyed a few epic fantasy series in the past, it’s not my favorite subgenre. One of the problems with epic fantasy, for me, is they take a lot of commitment. For example, Sanderson’s Mistborn series is about 90 Hours of audio spread over three books and a novella. Even for me, that’s around two weeks of listening. Yet, I decided Legion was the perfect choice to fill up my two hour gap, particularly because it was narrated by the rock star of audiobook narration, Oliver Wyman.

I absolutely love Legion. I mean, a love so enthusiastic that I would give it a huge manly bear hug without bothering to take a moment to glance awkwardly around for witnesses. Legion introduces us to one of the most interesting characters I have met in a long time, Stephen Leeds. Leeds, called Legion, has a strange blending of genius with an almost pop culture mental illness that allows him to create other tangible personalities to filter his genius through. Or something like that. There really is not way to truly explain what this character does, because the character himself doesn’t truly understand it. Leeds works a as a sort problem fixer cum detective. His specific mental condition combined with what we can only label genius, allows him to approach issues that most traditional people, no matter how brilliant, wouldn’t have the mental flexibility to take on. Now, I’ll be honest, I enjoyed this character so much, I would have probably raved about a tale of Leeds solving the mystery of who was stealing food from the workplace fridge, but, instead, Sanderson creates a plot that tickles all of my speculative fiction buttons. The story takes on time travel, a missing person mystery, the potential for science to change our very existence, and even the nature of religion it self. It’s a wonderful little story, with a touch of action, a whole lot of humor and just enough of a taste of a series mythology that I may be saying a prayer everyday for a novel sized book featuring this character. Legion is the kind of story that totally defies genre. It’s simply a fascinating tale with an amazing character that should please anyone who has two spare hours and needs something fun to fill up that time. Don’t let any misconceptions or prejudices of genre writers to allow you to miss this fun little story.

Legion is the perfect little audio-novella to highlight the skills of Oliver Wyman. Let’s face it, I’m not all that sure that Oliver Wyman is entirely sane. It’s hard for me to believe that those great voices he consistently brings to his work aren’t actually self aware creatures already living somewhere within Wyman’s head. Hiring Wyman to read your audiobook is like getting 20 people for the price of one crazy, hirsute hermit. Wyman brings his own style of crazy and his vast menagerie of voices to his reading of Legion, making it a highly memorable listening experience. I have this crazy image of Wyman sitting in his small studio, with 5 empty chairs around him for all his alternate voices as he brings this tale to life. Leeds is a character who is just made for audio, and I enjoyed every darn minute of the experience. My only complaint is that it was too short. I need more. Much, much more.





Audiobook Review: The Safe Man and Mulholland Dive by Michael Connelly

29 11 2012

This is the time of year for sales. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Twofer Tuesday, and We’re Broke Wednesday, the American people are all about value. So, today, I will tap into the consumer spirit and give you two Audiobook Reviews! You can thank me later.

If you are anything like me, and this is an arbiter of good taste, then you anxiously await each new edition in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. Connelly is one of the few thriller authors that has me hooked into more than one of his series, the other being that infamous Lincoln loving lawyer Mickey Haller. So, whenever a fresh new book with Connelly’s name attached to it comes out, I just have to have it. The latest Harry Bosch just hit the digital and physical shelves, and to get into the mood last week, I listened to two of his recently released audiobooks, a novella called The Safe Man, and a short story collection called Mulholland Dive.

The Safe Man by Michael Connelly

Read by David W. Collins

Hachette Audio

Length: 1 Hr 33 Min

Genre: Supernatural Suspense

Grade: B+

I love when authors break away from what you expect and explore areas that they typically don’t. From what I have read, this novella was originally published anonymously, yet, despite it being a break away from his typically straight forward Detective thrillers, it has a lot of the signature style of Michael Connelly. Connelly creates a haunting, moody atmosphere in this tale of a Safe Man who is hired to open a strange safe, which leaves him feeling uneasy. While its essence is that of a ghost story, and a unique one at that, also is a fascinating look at a man unjustly accused of a crime, and how easily people can lose faith in someone. I really enjoyed this story, and would love to see Connelly do more work in this genre. With his talent for setting mood and creating flawed by engaging characters, Connelly can definitely spin quite a Supernatural yarn.

 

Mulholland Dive: Three Stories by Michael Connelly

Read by David W. Collins

Hachette Audio

Length: 1 Hr 51 Min

Genre: Crime Fiction/Thriller

Grade: B

In Mulholland Dive Connelly tackles what he does best, Crime Fiction and Procedurals. He spins three stories, each dealing with a different perspective on Crime. In “Cahoots” he examines the criminal mindset through a twisted poker game among criminals, where the only way to win is to stack the decks. In “Mulholland Dive” he makes accident reconstruction actually interesting as a Police analyst investigates the death of a high profile victim. In the best story of the collection “Two Bagger“, Connelly follows two cops, a hardened veteran detective and his rookie partner, as they follow a recently released prisoner who may have been hired to kill someone on the outside. “Two Bagger” is a wonderful example of what makes Connelly such a great writer. Connelly gives emotional connection to the mundane, turning a baseball game into a metaphor for life. It’s a stunning story with a killer ending, and, personally, I think would make a brilliant movie. While many short story anthologies are sort of like a snack before the meal, Mulholland Dive, and the story “Two Bagger” in particular, is hearty enough for the hungriest of eaters.

Narration

This is my first experience with David W. Collins and I really enjoyed his reading of both audiobooks. Collins has a pretty straight forward reading style. While there weren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles to his reading, I was impressed with his versatility in character voices. Collins did a wonderful job creating the mood in The Safe Man, giving the story a haunting presence while properly progressing the main character from meticulous technician, to a man frustrated by the circumstances. In Mulholland Dive, he gives each story its proper feel, from the old time noir feel of “Cahoots” to the rhythms of urban LA in “Two Bagger.” Connelly’s work never needs a narrator who performs vocal gymnastic, just one who understands the natural rhythms of his writing, and Collins fit the bill. 

Note: Thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with copies of these titles for review.





Novella Review: The Becoming: Brothers in Arms by Jessica Meigs

15 05 2012

The Becoming: Brothers in Arms by Jessica Meigs

Pages: 111

Format: EBook

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Becoming: Brothers in Arms is a short, but fully realized tale of undead mayhem and two brother’s fight to survive. It is a must read for fans of The Becoming, as well as a good introduction to Meigs world for those who have yet to experience it.

 

Jessica Meig’s The Becoming was the first audiobook I finished listening to in 2012, by a slim margin. I was listening to it on my way home from a friends house, were I was celebrating New Years Eve. It was around 3AM and I was driving down the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia, riveted to Meigs characters as they dealt with the undead. It was a great way to bring in the New Year. What I really liked about The Becoming was its characters and their realistic response to a world turned onto its head.  About half way through The Becoming, our main characters meet up with two new characters, Theo, a paramedic and his brother Gray.  These two characters become and integral part of the narrative and added a new dynamic to the overall tale. Yet, they just show up in the midst of the chaos of the zombie apocalypse and we never really get too much of a back-story on these two brothers and how they survived until that point. Luckily, Meigs remedies this with a supplemental novella called The Becoming: Brothers in Arms, which tells you the story of how these two brothers were able to survive the initial outbreak, and eventually hook up with the characters of the original novel.

The Becoming: Brothers in Arms is a fast pace, tightly drawn Zombie outbreak novel that highlights the characters craftiness and ingenuity over any special skills or training. Theo and Gray are not highly trained military operatives, or survivalists who have been planning for this day, but two regular brothers who must use the tools at their hands in order to survive the violence and mayhem of a zombie outbreak. Meigs does a good job putting these two relatively normal guys in situations where they must use their natural born intelligence to find a way out of a highly unusual situation. In particular, Theo, the paramedic’s tale, is full of dark humor, and it’s obvious the author draws on her experience as a paramedic to create a realistic and tragic series of events for Theo to find ways to deal with. Meigs gives you interesting glimpses into both brothers thought processes, as they take in the evidence of the strange going ons, each coming to terms with the reality of the situations in their own ways. One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the author’s realistic portraits of sibling’s complicated relationships. While these brothers are willing to travel through a nightmare landscape to make sure the other is safe, the resentments and miscommunications of the sibling relationship simmer underneath. While the initial part of this story is a full of fast paced zombie action, when the action slows, the complex relationship easily takes its place creating tension, and driving the story forward.  The Becoming: Brothers in Arms is a short, but fully realized tale of undead mayhem and two brother’s fight to survive. It is a must read for fans of The Becoming, as well as a good introduction to Meigs world for those who have yet to experience it.





Audiobook Review: Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella by Mira Grant

25 10 2011

Countdown by Mira Grant (A Newsflesh Novella)

Read by Brian Bascle

Hachette Audio

Length: 2Hrs 15 Mins

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse/ Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Countdown is Mira Grant’s gift to the fans of The Newsflesh World, a prequel that isn’t wooden of forced, but gives us a new perspective to look at the world she created.

Grade: A-

2011 was one of the best years ever for Zombie fiction on audiobook. In 2011 I have listened to 24 Zombie novels, a significant upgrade over 2010, where I listened to 6. The first zombie novel I listened to this year, back in January was Mira Grant’s zombie/political conspiracy thriller, Feed. Since reading Feed I have become an utter Mira Grant fanboy and evangelist, constantly recommending her Newsflesh series to everyone from hardcore zombie fans to those tentative about the genre. The Newsflesh Series has some of the most fascinating zombie apocalypse world building I have ever experienced, full of great characters, and intriguing concepts. So, of course, discovering that Mira Grant has a new novella available for download on Audible, that this novella was a part of the Newsflesh world, and it was on sale, well, after the paramedics revived me, I ran right to my computer and downloaded it.

Countdown is the story of the events leading up to The Rising, and acts as a prequel to the series. It tracks the scientists working on cures for cancer and the common cold, and the events that lead to these two seemingly wonder cures being released into the world, merging and becoming the Kellis-Amberlee virus, which upon full amplification, revives the dead into zombies. Countdown is full of characters only briefly mentioned in Feed and Deadline, and fills in much of the back story that sets the stage for these novels. You also see a few peripheral characters from the series, and get a glimpse of what they were like before the tragic day that changed the world forever. Yet, none of these characters are the true stars of this tale. The true star is the science of the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Unlike much hard science fiction that presents the science as hard theorem and datum, Mira Grant does what she does best by presenting the science in a beautiful, almost poetic way that allows the reader to do more than simply understand, but to experience it. Grant turns the actual viruses into characters, allowing us to see the transformation from helpful to world destructive in a vivid fashion. Yet, despite being a cautionary tale, Grant never demonizes the science or those involved in the development of the viruses. Instead she just allows us to see them for who they are and what they were hoping to accomplish. Countdown is Mora Grant’s gift to the fans of The Newsflesh World, a prequel that isn’t wooden of forced, but gives us a new perspective to look at the world she created.

This was my first experience listening to Brian Bascle and thought he did a good job. For the most part, he just allowed me to enter into the story and stay there, presenting Grant’s words as they lead me where I needed to go. He has a nice narrative voice, and handled most of the characterizations well. The only characters he struggled with were adolescent girls, which is not strange for male narrators. My only real complaint about the audio production was that the transitions were presented with no real pause letting us know we were moving to another point of view. This would pull me out of the story a bit, when I realized we had switched characters or story arcs.  This small complaint wasn’t enough to really detract from a wonderful listening experience.





Audiobook Mini-Review: The God Engine by John Scalzi

23 04 2011

The God Engine by John Scalzi

Read by Christoper Lane

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Thoroughly demented.

Grade: B

I think John Scalzi must have issues. Really, to go from a humorous sci-fi comedy about squishy aliens, to a military sci-fi series about enhanced soldiers, to The God Engine, well, I am not even sure how he made that trip. To me, the God Engines reads like my nightmares after spending a day reading Lovecraft, eating skittles, watching a Star Trek marathon, and drinking that skunk Lager that had rolled behind my beer fridge. I mean, it’s freaky. Well imagined, brilliantly told, scary as hell, and oh, so freaky. This works well as a three hour audio-novella, read evilly by Christopher Lane. A longer, fully fleshed out version of this novella would probably lead me to ingest a cocktail of xanax and robitussin, just to keep me from wanting to burn down churches to prevent such a future. Scalzi does a great job creating a universal where Faith is a weapon and the gods are not our friends. I cannot say this was the most entertaining audio experience of my life, and Scalzi fans won’t find any of his patented light hearted moments, but it’s definitely thought provoking. If his goal was to freak me out, well, good job Scalzi, consider me freaked.