Audiobook Review: Pandora: Outbreak by Eric L. Harry

16 02 2018

Outbreak Pandora

Pandora: Outbreak by Eric L. Harry

Narrated by Morgan Hallett

Recorded Books

Grade: B

For old school apocalyptic fans, a new book by the author of Arc Light, should be, well… something. I was a bit surprised when I heard that Eric L. Harry, a man who has released 4 books since his debut in 1994, was starting a series. The set up sounds a bit samesy… A deadly pathogen is released in the melting snow of Siberia that makes people turn violent and attack without fear of pain or death. It’s basically another “it’s kinda like a zombie but not” novel. When Pandora: Outbreak tries to be a apocalyptic novel, if feels like every other apocalyptic novel, but when it focuses on the science and the interesting relationship between the twin sisters, one infected and one not, it becomes a compelling read. It feels a bit bloated at times, like Harry took the long path on purpose, but despite that, as the reader, you don’t quite mind since the path is scenic enough to be interesting. For fans of apocalyptic medical thrillers, Pandora: Outbreak is a smart thriller that will keep you invested, but if your looking for a zombie shoot ‘em up or action packed survivalist story, there are other options that would better suit your taste.

This was only the second book I’ve listened to narrated by Morgan Hallett. While she won’t wow you with verbal gymnastics, her performance hit all the right notes. She took on the task of handling the twins wonderfully, managing to differentiate in ways that were true to their character. He voice and timing drew the listener in and kept them solidly implanted in the story. While Pandora: Outbreak probably won’t stand out among the glut of apocalyptic fiction it’s a solid enough entry, with fascinating science and a strong performance by the narrator, and worth the listen.

Audiobook Review: Breakers by Edward W. Robertson

30 08 2013

Breakers by Edward W. Robertson

Read by Ray Chase

Podium Publishing

Length: 12 Hrs 10 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Edward W. Robertson’s Breakers is a mish mash of classic Post Apocalyptic tales, blending a world ending pandemic and an alien invasion together to make a novel that fans of the subgenre will delight in. If you love books that embrace their comparisons to The Stand, and you love watching humans with nothing left to lose kill crab-like alien invaders with laser guns, well, get yourself a copy of Breakers post haste.

Grade: B+

(Breakers is scheduled for release September 5th, 2013. Preorder Today)

Space travel is not easy. We here on this lovely planet we call Earth have seen this. We have sent men to the moon, and rovers to Mars. We have sent probes deep into our solar system, and hopefully beyond. Yet, we have suffered catastrophes, set backs and the loss of public faith. Many people question whether it’s worth our time and money to head out into the darkness of space when we have people starving on our own planet. So, any species that can overcome these technical, social and financial burdens to actually create a mothership and sent it millions of light years across the vastness of space in order to destroy humanity and occupy earth would have to be a highly advanced species. It’s pretty much a given that any such aliens would assuredly kick our sorry asses. So, why is there so much alien invasion fiction? How can you create any tension when the balance of power is so great? This is handled by fictions writer’s greatest tool… the BUT…. In Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar series, The Race, the invading reptilian species, came to Earth during World War 2 with overwhelming force and advanced technology ready to defeat the barbarians and take over the planet BUT… they were in such a state of cultural stagnation with an inability to adapt that they were surprised to find the Earth had progressed significantly from the probes they had sent back in the 12th Century. In Larry Niven’s Footfall the elephantine Fitph traveled from Alpha Centauri intent on taking over earth BUT… their advanced technology was not their own but inherited from a former species that viewed them almost as pets. And don’t forget the alien invaders in Independence Day who were ready to lay the smack down on earth, BUT… for some reasoned designed their computer system to be compatible with Earths, and forgot to update their Norton Antivirus. Luckily for Earth, most of these species, whether they be Lizards wearing human skins, or slug creatures who bond with human hosts, always came with at least one BUT… that us pesky humans will always figure out how to exploit.

When a mysterious plague hit the earth, spreading like wildfire through the populace, Walt Lawson is devastated by the loss of his girlfriend. Now, on the verge of suicide, Walt decides to walk from New York City to Los Angeles, the city his actress girlfriend Vanessa dreamed of moving to, fully expecting to die along the way. Meanwhile, in California, Raymond James and his wife Mia, find their financial struggles are over when the majority of the world dies. They set up a haven in an idyllic home on the coast, finding happiness in their simple life. Yet, when the alien mothership appears in the horizon, and the crab like occupants begin killing or rounding up humans, the survivors find a new purpose, fighting the menace that has devastated their planet. Edward W. Robertson’s Breakers is a mish mash of classic Post Apocalyptic tales, blending a world ending pandemic and an alien invasion together to make a novel that fans of the subgenre will delight in. Instead of avoiding seeming like a retread of novels like The Stand and Footfall, Robertson embraces this, as he very well should. The Stand is a great novel which has helped create a generation of Post Apocalyptic fans, and I am often flabbergasted how some authors go out of their way to avoid looking like a copycat of it. I found Robertson’s characterizations very interesting. I started off pretty much hating both Walt and Ray. To me, they seem like two sides of the same loser coin. In many ways they were like mirror images of the other, with Ray being kind but stupid loser and Walt being a manipulative and brash loser. Yet both characters, especially Walt, grew on me. Walt’s slide into self hate may have made him the perfect survivor for the times, and by the time the book hit the alien invasion part, he was responsible for some of the most laugh out loud funny moments, despite his dark personality. The plot and action was fun, bordering on cheesy. While the guerilla tactics to fight the aliens often lacked descriptive depth, the plot moved along quickly and never left you bored. My only major complaint was I would have liked to seen a bit more diversity in the character types and greater depth in the peripheral characters, and since this is the first in a series I expect my wish will come true. The novel built up to a finale that was equal parts “that’s the corniest thing ever” and “holy hell, this is awesome.” If you’re looking for some hoity toity new exploration that defies apocalyptic tropes to create a new approach to the genre, keep looking. But, if you love books that embrace their comparison to The Stand, and love watching humans with nothing left to lose kill alien invaders with laser guns, well, get yourself a copy of Breakers post haste.

In the early part of the novel, I struggled a bit differentiating Walt from Ray. While I liked Ray Chase’s voice, the voices between these two characters were very similar, and caused some early dissonance. Luckily, once things got rolling and the author began to flesh out these characters, and they began to transform into what they would become by the end of the book, this no longer became an issue.  Once this issue was resolved I was more than happy to fall into the capable voice of Ray Chase. He has a deep voice, bordering on gruff, but softens it with a rhythmic style that is reminiscent of Scott Brick. His reading style added levels to the prose that I feel elevated it, giving Walt’s journey across a devastated America an almost stream of consciences feel, and Ray and Mia’s time in their dream home an overwhelming sense of contentment.  This was my first time listening to Ray Chase, and I really liked him. I think some of the struggles he had with some of the characterizations came more from the fact that some of the characters were a bit cardboard, but he did what he could to bring them to life. When the author gave a character depth, you could feel it in the narrator’s performance. Based on this performance, Ray Chase is a narrator to be on the lookout for. Hopefully, we will see more audio versions of this series, with Chase acting as our guide in the fight against the alien crab things.

Thanks to Podium Publish for proving me with a copy of the title for review.

This review is part of my weekly “Welcome to the Apocalypse” theme. Click on the image below for links to more posts.

Audiobook Review: The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

23 08 2013

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

Read by Drew Ariana

Dreamscape Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 12 Min

Genre: Classic Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: The Scarlett Plague is a classic post apocalyptic tale of one man’s survival during a global pandemic, that is fascinating more because of it’s vision of our future, then any special aspects of the tale. If read as a satire on a possibly classist future America, it is actually full of some funny absurdist moments, I’m just not quite sure that is what the author intended.

Grade: B-

One of the reasons I like reading classic science fiction is I am always fascinated by people from another time’s view of the future. I think you can tell a lot about a person and their culture by seeing how they imagine the future to be. I first read Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague about 12 years ago, when I was obsessed with reading all the classic examples of Post Apocalyptic fiction I could get my hands on. Listening to it now, I paid more attention to its vision of out future. The Scarlett Plague was written just over 100 years ago, and Jack London’s titular plague struck humanity in 2013. So, I was quite interested in seeing how this man view our future to be, before 2 world wars, the rise of the US to being perhaps The Superpower and the technological leaps we have taken.  London’s take on 2013 America is, well, kind of weird. I was first impressed with his population tabulations, putting Earth’s 2013 population at around 8 Bullion. Yet, his sociology was simply strange to me. London imagines 2013 is a very class based society, with what seems like an almost American aristocracy, and a subjugated working class. Before you start going all political, yes, I do believe elitism and classism exist in America, but it’s much more subtle, and perhaps more insidious, than appears in The Scarlett Plague. I think if you walk up to an American, rich or poor and ask them directly whether or not someone is a better person based on their economic and social class, most people would scoff at you and answer no, despite what they may actually think. In London’s 2013 America, I think you would get the opposite reaction. What fascinates me is what aspects of 1912 culture caused London to believe this was were we were heading. I can understand why he believed we would travel by airships, but this social aristocracy aspect fascinates me.

Sixty years after over 99% of the world was wiped out by a fast acting disease called, The Red Death, and old man bemoans’ the survivor’s fall into savagery as he tells the story of his survival to a group of his tribes crude young adults.  The Scarlett Plague is a classic post apocalyptic tale of one man’s survival during a global pandemic that is fascinating more because of its vision of our future, then any special aspects of the tale. It was really strange to revisit this tale. When I first read it, I took it very seriously. London does a good job telling a tale of a society falling into ruins, then finding a way to reconnect. It, at times, reads like an outline to a novel like Earth Abides, with a barebones approach, telling mostly the bullet points. Yet, on my second run through, perhaps due to the performance of the narrator, it turned into an almost absurdist comedy. I’m not sure if London wrote this as a bit of satire, or if it just comes across this way due to how it has aged, but I found laughing. The main character was such an unlikable, cantankerous old bastard that he reminded me of a racist grandfather who makes ridiculously socially awkward statements that he seems more like a really bad caricature instead of a toxic bundle of hate. I found myself laughing as he described the brutishness of the working class that provided them with everything they need in an interesting style them resembled economic blackmail. His love lorn talk about the high society woman who was lowered to the status of a brutalized wife of a former "service industry" person was balanced by his absurd attempt to purchase her from this brutal man. The old geezer took every opportunity to degrade the boys he was talking to commenting on their lack of civility and their reliance on strange new superstitions.  It was all a bit disconcerting, but also interesting. It’s funny, because in many of the descriptions The Scarlet Plague is said to be about an older man sharing his wisdom to his grandsons. What isn’t revealed is how ridiculous his wisdom is, and how much utter contempt he has for his grandsons. One interesting aspect is the evolution of language. While not as drastic a change as you would see in Hoban’s Riddley Walker, London still gives his post apocalyptic survivors their own patois of mish-mashed words. It gives the story a little bit extra, and also adds for some interesting examinations of just how far society has regressed. Overall, this is a story that hardcore post apocalyptic fans should read, since is serves as a blueprint for a lot of classic and modern novels exploring pandemic survival, for anyone else, there are much better examples of the genre to check out. 

I really have mixed feelings Drew Ariana’s performance in The Scarlet Plague. My initial reaction was basic cringing at his voices, particularly those of the kids. I find that narrators voicing kids is very tough, and often they sound like cartoon characters instead of actually children. I also wasn’t a fan of his old man voice, which was too bad since the book was mostly an old man telling his tale. I though maybe a narrator with a gruffer voice would have been better suited for the narration. Then I began to think. My initial annoyance with his old man voice was based on my thought of the character as an old survivor of an apocalyptic pandemic. Yet, as I began to think of it as a satirical novel, and the old man as a former professor who was on the fringe levels of a modern aristocracy chagrined at his new station in life, I found the voicing a bit more appropriate. In fact, it made me laugh.  I really think that, despite his annoying kid voices, Drew Ariana’s is a pretty good narrator. I think his impression of the character probably ended up mirroring my own, and this was reflected in his performance. Other aspects, his pacing, and strength of voice were quite good. This is why I have a mixed feeling. I ended up enjoying listening to Ariana and he probably highlighted the satirical elements of this novel. I’m just not totally sure what London’s true intentions were.

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

Audiobook Review: Sick by Brett Battles

17 04 2013

Sick by Brett Battles (Project Eden, Book 1)

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible, Inc.

Length: 9 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Plague Thriller

Quick Thoughts: I was in search of a fun filled, explody, chasy , blood pressure escalating listen and Sick totally hit that spot. It combines elements of Apocalyptic Plague tales, like The Stand, with the fast paced thinking man’s action similar to the Jack Reacher series. Narrator MacLeod Andrews narrate this tale with Faster Than Light pacing which I’m sure may be a violation of the laws of physics, but made it one hell of a ride for this listener.

Grade: B+

I understand the life of a character in a thriller novel can be tough. You usually have some background story that makes you wary of things to begin with, whether it be time in the military or law enforcement, or personal tragedy, you rarely come into the start of your time as a book character full of naive innocence. To make matters worse, you find yourself at the start of a Thriller novel, which means death and mayhem is coming your way. You wake up to find a fast acting plague has struck the newly established military base you are working at. As you try to save your family, you are swept up by a team in hazmat suits and taken to a secret base, where you are informed by a shady doctor that your family has all dies. You are told that it’s your duty to cooperate, but they refuse to give you any more information, or to see the bodies of your children. You are kept locked in a room with no contact from the outside world until a secret cryptic message is sent to you through your meal. Then you are rescued by another secret group, transported through across the country by intricate means being chased by shadowy types in black helicopters, until you arrive at a out of the way ranch full of secretive types with lots of high tech equipment. All of this is confusing but you’ve managed to keep it together, with an open mind, despite reeling from the loss of your family. When you finally get a chance for some answers, you find that the people who rescued you believe that this is all so sort of conspiracy? I know, what the hell? A conspiracy?!?! Haven’t these people ever hear of Occam’s Razor, where the simplest explanations of you being exposed to a deadly quick acting plague and kidnapped by a shadowy group are the simplest. Like terrorists or accidentally spill. It’s obvious the secret shadowy types and black helicopters are probably FEMA or something.  I mean, a global conspiracy, yeah right. Next they will try to tell you that NASA faked the moon landing. Conspiracy! What a bunch of highly funded, well trained and seemingly reasonable whackjobs.

Sick is the first novel in Brett Battle’s Project Eden series, about an everyday military man, Daniel Ash, who finds himself mixed up in a global conspiracy by a shadowy group.  Recently, I have been listening to a lot of high concept speculative fiction novels, and I was in search of a fun filled, explody, chasy , blood pressure escalating thriller listen for a bit of a change of pace and Sick totally hit that spot. Sick is a fun fast thriller that combines elements of Apocalyptic Plague tales, like The Stand, with the fast paced thinking man’s action similar to the Jack Reacher series. Battles starts this novel with a brutal punch, when Daniel Ash wakes up to find his wife dead, and his daughter deathly ill from a mysterious plague which infects his entire town, leaving only him and his son free of symptoms. After being held after his exposure, he is rescued by a group, who informs him that in fact, his children are still alive. Now, Ash has one goal, save his children. From the very beginning, Battles had me enthralled in his tale, and lever let me go. I really liked the Daniel Ash character, and found his story quite compelling but he also is a bit wooden throughout the novel, which makes some sense due to his shock. Along the way, he meets a variety of other characters, members of a group who are fighting a secret war against a powerful enemy. Most of these characters are colorful, on a surface level way, and hopefully will get further developed as the series continues. Daniel Ash eventually teams up with a mysterious and broken woman, Chloe, who was a victim of the Project Eden group. I found Chloe a little better developed as a character, with Battles allowing us to see true progress in her character. Yet, the fact that Ash‘s mission drove the plot, I though the true fun of this tale was the story of those dealing with the outbreak of the plague. As the plague begins to lose containment, Battles follows the stories of a reporter covering the strange nature of the plague, and two boys as they try to find their way out of the Quarantine zone. I though this aspect of the novel made a nice counterbalance to the almost wooden determination of Ash’s quest. Here the characters come alive, and the real human drama of the novel takes place. Sick was lot of fun. It’s a mix of straight forward action with apocalyptic plague drama made this a truly engrossing listen.

Macleod Andrews narrates Sick, and was one of the key reasons I decided to listen to this audiobook.  I have always enjoyed his gravely delivery that gives each novel he reads a truly unique feel. Andrews again does excellent work here. He gives each character a distinct voice that actually helped develop their story. I felt his work on Chloe was key, allowing her to move from a closed off, paranoid victim, to something more by the end of the novel. I love the work he did in the outbreak zone, handling both the female reporter and the younger characters with authenticity. Every so often, when listening to an audiobook, I find myself in this strange time distorting zone where the book feels like it’s moving faster than actual time, and every time  I look down, it seems we are closer to the end then we should be. I felt this way listening to Sick. Andrews pacing moved the novel along Faster Than Light, which I’m sure may be a violation of the laws of physics, but made it one hell of a ride for this listener. I am very much looking forward to the next entry in this series, fascinated to see where Battles will take this story next.

My Top 10 Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian Audiobooks of 2012 (Non-Zombie)

4 01 2013

2012 has been another great year for Post Apocalyptic Fiction. I think, not since the release of The Road, has this subgenre received this much critical acceptance. With Post Apocalyptic titles topping Best of Lists, classics of the genre finally being released as audiobooks and the surge of independently produced Audiobooks, the number of Post Apocalyptic audiobooks choices can be staggering. In 2012, I listened to 43 audiobooks that could be classified as Post Apocalyptic or Dystopian not including titles dealing with Zombies. Of that number, 40 of them were produced in 2012 as audiobooks. Narrowing down my list was brutal. To make things a bit easier, I attempted to stick with books that you could just sit down and grab without having read others in the series. While a few of these books were released in print for before 2012, they all were produced as audiobooks this year.

Click on the Cover Images for my original review.


A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren

Read by Gabra Zackman

Audible Frontiers

Type of Apocalypse: Nuclear War

A Gift upon the Shore is one of my all time favorite novels which was finally brought to audiobook format from Audible. Experiencing this novel again, with the wonderful narration by Gabra Zackman, was one of the most emotional and memorable moments in 2012.

The Stand by Stephen King

Read by Grover Gardner

Random House Audio

Type of Apocalypse: Pandemic

The Stand is my favorite novel of all time, and everytime I read it I feel like I’m returning home. Grover Gardner brings these characters that feel like family to me, alive in perfect detail. For me Grover, and not Molly Ringwold, will always be Franny. The only reason this is in the #2 spot, was that I have read this novel so many times that experiencing it again didn’t have as much of an emotional impact on me as A Gift Upon the Shore.

White Horse by Alex Adams

Read by Emily Durante

Blackstone Audio

Type of Apocalypse: Pandemic

White Horse was one of the more unique and creepy Post Apocalyptic novels I have read in a long, long time. White Horse is written with a literary flair, yet full of disturbing images and a compelling main character.

Wool Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey

Read by Minnie Goode

Broad Reach Publishing

Type of Apocalypse: Unspecified, possibly Chemical/Biological/Environmental

Wool was one of a handful of ACX, independently produced audiobooks that found its way onto my MP3 and into my brain, and I am quite glad it did. A near future apocalypse about people who live inside an underground bunker, protected from the toxic air outside. The world Howey creates is vivid and troubling, just the way a Post Apocalyptic world should be.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

Read by Fiona Hardingham

Blackstone Audio

Type of Apocalypse: Infertility/Dystopia

The Testament of Jessie Lamb often left me troubled and disturbed. With it’s frustrating main character and complicated issues, even now I’m not totally sure what I think about the scenarios found within this novel. Yet, that I’m still thinking and struggling with it says something about this novel. Also, the narration is pitch perfect.

Partials by Dan Wells

Read by Julia Whelan

Harper Audio

I was a bit surprised that this was the only Young Adult title to make this list. Partials is just the kind of science fiction based Apocalyptic novel that I love. Full of complicated characters, dark imagery and tons of adventure, Partials is the start of a series you should watch out for.

Exogene by TC McCarthy (The Subterene Trilogy, Book 2)

Read by Bahni Turpin

Blackstone Audio

Type of Apocalypse: Conventional/Limited Nuclear War/Dystopian

While Exogene is the second novel in TC McCarthy’s Subterrene War series, it is a novel you can pick up without having read the first novel in the series. McCarthy has created one of the most visceral worlds blending Apocalyptic and Dystopian elements together into a subgenre all its own.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Read by Mark Deakins

Random House Audio

Type of Apocalypse: Pandemic

The Dog Stars is a melancholy look as social isolation and the need for interaction during the apocalypse, Told in a breezy, almost poetic style The Dog Stars is less about the action of survivor than the ability to mentally cope with the changed world.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Read by Peter Berkrot

Brilliance Audio

Type of Apocalypse: Pre-Apocalypse/Asteroid Strike

The Last Policeman is a unique blending of noir detective novels and apocalyptic fiction. With Earth about to be struck by a world killing asteroid, who cares about one murder within the chaos of social upheaval and mass suicides. Winter’s approach breathes fresh air into both subgenres.

Immobility by Brian Evenson

Read by Mauro Hantman


Type of Apocalypse: Nuclear War

I went back and forth on my final entry into this list, but ended up choosing Immobility for one reason, it’s world shifty gut punch of an ending. While the road to the ending isn’t always smooth, it’s full of beautiful dark imagery, flawed characters and intriguing scenarios.

Welcome to the Apocalypse: 10 Hard to Find Novels or Series: Gift Ideas For Obsessed Post Apocalyptic Fans

21 12 2012

So, the Apocalypse has come and gone, and you’re still here. Yet, there’s a problem. One of your family members told you not to get them a present due to the end of the world but, since the Mayan’s was a bit off, now you got to run out and get that obsessive Post Apocalyptic a gift. Since, they are probably already stocked up on current popular fiction, MRE’s and water purification tablets, what can you get your hoarding, end of the world laving potential hermit of a loved one for either a Christmas, or simply a We Survived the Apocalypse gift. Well, here are 10 unsung, under appreciated and potential pout of print classics of the genre.

Now, part of any gift is the act of acquisitions. Some of these novels will be quite hard to locate, so either roll up your sleeves and dive into the stacks at your local used bookstore, or visit a site like Abebooks and grab one of these novels.

Also, I must admit, I totally love these covers.

Through Darkest America\Dawns Uncertain Light by Neal Barrett, Jr.

One of my favorite novel series. Neal Barrett blends Apocalyptic fiction with an almost Western fell and one of the most unique set ups I have ever read.

A Secret History of Time to Come by Robie Macauley

A wonderful apocalyptic tale that takes place generations after racial unrest leads to a civil war. A classic worth seeking out.

Mister Touch by Malcolm Bosse

A unique plague tale that combines an almost hippy communal feel with a perilous journey across post apocalyptic America.

Winter’s Daughter: The Saying of Signe Ragnhilds-datter by Charles Whitmore

The history of one women’s plight during the Apocalypse told in an Fable style by a future generation. Full of unexpected dark humor.

Happy Policeman by Patricia Anthony

A small town is saved from Nuclear war by strange aliens. While investigating a murder, a policeman searches for the secrets the aliens are keeping from the town.

Down to A Sunless Sea by David Graham

Halfway through a flight, the world erupts into a Nuclear Holocaust. Now the plane’s pilots must find a safe place to take his passengers.

Heiro’ Journey\The Unforsaken Hiero by Sterling E, Lanier

The world was devastated by nuclear fire. Now, generations later, a young priest and his moose must travel the land, dealing with monstrous mutated animals along the way.

Wolf and Iron/Time Storms by Gordon R. Dickson

Two very different visions of the apocalypse by one of science fictions greatest visionaries.

The Quiet Place by Richard Maynard

After misjudging the time dilation of near light speed travel, a group of astronauts return to earth to discover that society has regressed into clans of hunter/gatherers.

Airship Nine by Thomas H. Block

Admits a nuclear war, an new Airship must travel south towards Anartica to escape the nuclear fallout.

Audiobook Review: Fever by Wayne Simmons

23 10 2012

Fever by Wayne Simmons (Flu Series, Bk. 2)

Read by Michael Kramer

Tantor Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse/Pandemic

Quick Thoughts: Fever is a brutal, frightening, kinetically paced apocalyptic thriller that takes it cues from some of the greatest works of the genre, yet Simmons keeps it feeling fresh and new. Combined with Flu, Fever is one of the notable entries of Zombie literature of 2012, and very well may find itself achieving classic status among fans of the genre. If Flu left you unsure of Simmon’s world, Fever will eradicate any doubts.

Grade: A-

I have to admit, I was a little unsure about Fever by Wayne Simmons. I enjoyed Flu, the first book of the series but I also said that my overall impression and its place in the pantheon of great zombie literature was highly dependent on where Simmons moves the series. Then, of course, I made the rookie mistake of browsing some reviews and summaries of the book before listening. Nothing specific in the critical analysis of the novels had me worried, in fact most were positive. What concerned me was that people were calling Fever a prequel to Flu. Now, I have nothing against prequels, but my concern was that I was interested in seeing where Simmons was taking the tale, and not how it began. Sure, I love a good zombie outbreak and pandemic novel, but Simmons already had me pretty well sold on the characters and left us with a significant cliffhanger. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Second novels in series are already problematic to begin with. Typically, it involves the expansion of the world, and is often a bridge novel to further entries in the series or setting up a conclusion. It is rare for a second novel to be better than the first. It has a role to play, but either some of the shine is stripped from the original, or it is so preoccupied with its role that it neglects any sort of congruent story telling. Yet, when people were calling Fever a prequel, it really did have me concerned. Luckily, I discovered that Fever isn’t a prequel novel, in the strictest sense, but an all encompassing tale that bookends the occurrences of Flu, giving us more back story on the world, introducing us to new characters all while picking up the ends of Flu tying all the pieces together seamlessly.

Fever is a novel told in three main parts. The first story gives us a glimpse at the original outbreak within a shadowy government lab in Ireland. This part is a claustrophobic, yet moody psychological zombie thriller full of danger and betrayal. On its own devices, the opening works as a short story, while creating more depth to the world Simmons is building. Then Simmons moves is into a pandemic tale reminiscent of the opening sequences of Stephen King’s The Stand. Here Simmons introduces us to a bunch of new players, struggling in a world or paranoia and obligation. The strength of this part of the story is the relationships between the characters. Simmons relationships are always complicated, creating tension that only explodes within the high stress environment of an apocalyptic event. While many of these relationships are untraditional, like a deaf man dealing with his unfaithful wife and her overbearing father, and a homosexual man trying to find safety for himself and his ex-wife who still feels betrayed by his coming out, there is at essence a recognizable humanity to all these characters that isn’t always easy to watch. As we move into the thirds part of the novel, where Simmons begins to blend the new characters in with the retuning players from Flu, we are thrust into a violent zombie apocalypse that bears a likeness to Brian Keene’s The Rising, one of the classics of the genre. It’s fast and furious, and no characters is safe as the one group tries to keep themselves safe from zombies and a corrupt government agency, all while trying to untangle the secrets to the outbreak. Simmons offers a lot of game changing revelations in this part, yet never allows the pace to slow in order for you to contemplate the implications until the novel comes to its brutal conclusion. What Simmons does is highly impressive. He not only expands his world, but takes the potential of Flu and increases it exponentially. Fever is a brutal, frightening, kinetically paced apocalyptic thriller that takes it cues from some of the greatest works of the genre, yet Simmons keeps it feeling fresh and new. Combined with Flu, Fever is one of the notable entries of Zombie literature of 2012, and very well may find itself achieving classic status among fans of the genre. If Flu left you unsure of Simmon’s world, Fever will eradicate any doubts.

Like Flu, I am still not 100% sold on Michael Kramer’s narration, but it is professional, well paced reading and his signature voice adds a tone of creepiness to the overall tale. While Kramer doesn’t really enhance the experience of the novel, neither does he distract, which is saying a lot because Fever definitely has its challenges for a narrator. One of the biggest challenges is bringing Shaun’s voice to life. Shaun is a deaf Irish man whose voice often was something others either ridiculed or used as an excuse to diminish or simply dismiss the character. At first, I found Kramer’s interpretation a bit robotic. While I struggled with the chosen voice for Shaun early, I thing as the character began to crack under the pressure, Kramer did a great job presenting the emotional turmoil of the character while staying true to his chosen voice. While I still feel I would have liked an Irish narrator, or at least one who could give the prose an Irish lilt, Kramer did a good job with the challenges presented.

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

Audiobook Review: Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna

5 10 2012

Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna

Read by Ralph Lister

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 5 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Breakdown is a novel I highly recommend to fans of post apocalyptic fiction. While it may frustrate you at times, it is a realistic look at the psychological effects that the choices a survivor may need to make will have long term. Full of wonderful characters and a well drawn world, Breakdown is a good change of pace novel for apocalyptic fans looking for something slower and more introspective.

Grade: B

While so many Post Apocalyptic novels have focused on the brutality and adventure of surviving the Apocalypse, few have taken on the traumatic psychological effects that an apocalyptic survivor may suffer from. So often in the apocalyptic novels, the main goal is to find safety, a defensible place where you and your group are able to thrive. Yet, what happens when you find that place, when you finally can spend moments in safety reflecting on just what you did to survive this harsh new reality. When I first started Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna, I expected it to be your typical post plague apocalypse, but it wasn’t. I think fans of the subgenre often forget how much of a toll having so much stripped away, having loved ones die, and seeing everything that kept your society secure disappear. Just these aspects can be trying enough for a survivor. I’m sure that for many people, living without the niceties they have grown accustomed to in itself would have harsh psychological consequences. Add to this loss of life, and the actions you may need to take, and such a burden could become unbearable. How would this change you as a person? Would you be more open to others, realizing that the single loner is at a disadvantage in such a world, or would you close yourself off to new people, knowing they may be torn away from you at any moment?

Chris Price is a British ex-pat living in New York when the pandemic struck. With all that he holds dear to him torn away, Chris must find a way to travel back to England in search of what family he may have left. Six years later, he is psychologically ravaged, but home. With the brutality of his choices a constant burden, Chris tries to see if he can put it all behind him and perhaps find a life once again. I really have a lot of mixed feelings about Breakdown. I was fully engaged with the story, enjoying what it was. I liked the characters, and found the world that Hanna created to be interesting, if not just a bit pat. Yet, for me, what was left out of this tale affected me more than what made it in. Hanna created a detailed back story to Chris’s journey that included roving gangs, time at a monastery, a brutal see voyage, and dark days in London, yet all these stories were mere mentions as background and not explored with any sort of depth. Breakdown had the feel of a sequel to a novel never written, and sadly a lesser one. There were many interesting aspects of the novel, yet its focus was in repairing a broken man, and not about exactly what broke him. As a lover of good characters this was well done, as a fan of apocalyptic survival tales, this was frustrating. It seemed as if Hanna was balancing a much better tale in front of us, but making us settle down with the simply good one. Now, my frustration shouldn’t keep you away from Breakdown. It is an interesting look at the impact people in horrible situation have to endure. If this was a sequel, I would be unquestionably raving about the follow up. Hanna definitely has valuable insights into the human mind, and, for those of you who like this sort of thing, throws in a bit of realistic romance to boot. Hopefully some day we may see a prequel to Breakdown, outlining Chris’s journey in more detail. She already has it pretty well outlined in Breakdown. Breakdown is a novel I highly recommend to fans of post apocalyptic fiction. While it may frustrate you at times, it is a realistic look at the psychological effects that the choices a survivor may need to make will have long term. Full of wonderful characters and a well drawn world, Breakdown is a good change of pace novel for apocalyptic fans looking for something slower and more introspective.

I was quite interested to give Ralph Lister a listen in this audiobook. I have experienced Lister’s narration a few times before, but mostly in Fantasy tales. He seems to have a penchant for over the top sarcastic hero types but Breakdown would require another skill all together. Luckily, this is a skill that Lister seems to have also mastered. Lister brings Chris Price to life in vivid detail. His subtle voicing of the main character brought forth the pain and frustration with excellent results. You could feel, at times, Chris hovering over the edge with Lister’s nuanced performance. Lister also handles the other characters well, including female and children characters.  Breakdown is a less action oriented tale than I have experienced in the past with Lister, and he brings that to bear in his pacing. Lister allows the characters to develop in a solemn pace, dealing out the insights in bits and chucks. It’s a wonderfully fitting performance that enhances the experience of this novel.

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

This review is part of my weekly “Welcome to the Apocalypse” theme. Click on the image below for more:

My Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Novels: Plagues and Pandemics

24 02 2012

This week on "Welcome to the Apocalypse" we are dealing with one of my favorite Post Apocalyptic subcategories, Plagues and Pandemics. This is in honor of the release for the first time of Stephen King’s The Stand in Unabridged Audiobook Format.

"That stuff is lying around, just waiting to be picked up." The Stand

Apocalyptic Plagues are one of the most feared and most realistic potential apocalypses. Not just potential, The Black Death is estimated to have killed 45 – 50% of the European population in the 14th Century. One of the things that set Plague tales apart is that it kills off humanity, but unlike nuclear war and ecological disasters, it leaves the planet pretty well untouched. Once the plague has run its course, the survivors are left to pick up the pieces. There is no nuclear winter, or Zombie’s chasing you. The greatest threat you will face is yourself, and your fellow survivors.

The following is a list of my favorite Post Apocalyptic Plague novels. It was a hard list to make, and I was adding, cutting and revising up until I posted this list. I attempted to pick not just my favorite novels dealing with Plagues and Pandemics, but good examples of the genre. There are some that I cut, because they were far future, well past the time where the plague was an issue, or that had plagues as an issue but wasn’t the focus of the novel.  All in all, I am happy with this list.



The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand is my favorite all time novel, and really the catalyst for my love of Apocalyptic fiction. I have read it in full six times, and have a well worn paperback version of it next to my bed where I will occasionally reread some of my favorite parts. It is the story of Captain Trips, a military made Superflu that wipes out 99.4% of the population. King’s tale is full off memorable characters, and contains a classic good vs. evil plot.

Audiobook Version: Random House Audio just released an Unabridged version of The Stand narrated by Grover Gardner.

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

Earth Abides tells the story of Isherwood Williams, one of the last survivors of a plague that devastates humanity. Much of the novel is focused on nature taking back the earth, with plants tearing apart roads and domesticated animals going wild.  In some ways, it’s the story of civilization in reverse, starting with modern man, and allowing us to witness its gradual degradation.

Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version released by Audible Frontiers narrated by Jonathon Davis.

Mister Touch by Malcolm Bosse

Not a well known example of the genre, Mister Touch is definitely one of my favorites. Aids has mutated, devastating the population and leaving the survivors with multiple physical ailments, including blindness and respiratory problems. A group from New York City called The Skulls, led by a former Wall Street swindler travels across an Apocalyptic America looking for a climate more suitable to their needs. It’s full of dark humor and an almost poetic use of pop dialogue.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

Dark Advent by Brian Hodge

Brian Hodge’s Dark Advent has a similar theme to The Stand, a weaponized plague, good survivors and bad survivors, and an evil antagonist. Yet, it is definitely a darker, tighter novel than The Stand. Hodges created a nightmarish landscape and one really bad dude determined to bring about the end of the world.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.


The Peshouse by Jim Crace

Unlike most in this list, The Pesthouse is a far future Apocalypse, taking place an unknown amount of time after a devastating plague. America is now in a new Dark Age. While the Plague was years ago, it is still a factor in the lives of the populace, and any sign of sickness will get a person sent to isolation in a pesthouse. It is a fascinating tale of survival and a road trip through a dark version of a future America. 

Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version of The Pesthouse from Books on Tape, narrated by Michael Ktamer.


Emergence by David R. Palmer

Candy is a young girl, yet she is seemingly stronger, smarter and faster than the typical human. After a biological weapon kills off over 99% of the earths population, Candy escapes from the bunker her father has constructed and sets out in search of other survivors. Emergence is stylistically unique, written in a short hand style similar to telegraph type.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

Survivors by Terry Nation

This is the novelization of the hit 1970’s British television series. Survivors follows a group of plague survivors as the figure out trying to relearn the old was of doing things. It is also the tale of a mother searching for her lost son in an Apocalyptic landscape. Survivors is one of the most detailed and realistic apocalyptic plague novels.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

Year Zero by Jeff Long

While full of a lot of religious and scientific subplots, the essence of Year Zero is a plague tale, and a pretty good one at that. It contains one of the most harrowing apocalyptic journeys, across Asia, as the main character tries to return to the United States amidst a global pandemic to find his daughter. There are some strange turns along the way, but overall this is a darn good read.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake alternated between the present story of Snowman, and Apocalyptic Hermit who must deel with a group of genetically changed humans, and the dystopian past that led to the eventual disaster. It’s often weird,but fascinating. It’s a dark but often humorous look at science and greed run amok.

Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version of Oryx and Crake read by Campbell Scott for Random House Audio.

‘48 by James Herbert

‘48 is a post apocalyptic alternate history where Hitler releases a devastating bioweapon as a final act of hate. It is a non-stop race through a decimated London as an immune American pilot tries to escape from a neo-nazi clan who believes there survival depends on a transfusion of his blood.

Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of this novel.


As an added treat, I asked a few Post Apocalyptic experts and fans for their picks for best Plague novel. Here are their answers.

Megaton is a Post Apocalyptic blogger and founder of Post You can find him moderating The Post Apocalyptic Forum or on Twitter at @Megaton_us.

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

Apocalypse by plague has always been my favorite sub-genre of post-apocalyptic fiction, and one of the books responsible for that is The Scarlet Plague by Jack London.  The Scarlet Plague might not be the absolute grand-daddy of plague stories (Mary Shelley’s The Last Man was written 75 years earlier) but it’s certainly one of the first, and it’s obviously a base on which more recent authors have built their works.  The events of the story will be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s read Stephen King’s The Stand or similar books – the plague comes on without warning, and kills within an hour, people try to sequester themselves in their homes, but once one person is infected the disease ravages entire families, and the narrator specifically mentions governments covering up the reality of how dangerous the plague is, bodies piled in the streets, violence, murder and mayhem.  All of that in a book written a full 100 years ago; it’s definitely a true pillar of the genre.

Tim aka Fear Death by Water runs the Post Apocalyptic Blog Cozy Catastophe and is an Apocalyptic superfan, whose Post Apocalyptic reading list eclipses my own. You can find him on twitter at @CosyCatastrophy

Dark Advent by Brian Hodge

The book I’d like for you to use on your list is Dark Advent by Brian Hodges. The cause of the end is a weaponized version of the bubonic plague. Unlike some books its release into the population is not an accident. It is done for the sole purpose of wiping out most of the population.

This book is most often found in the horror section and I’d bet that most people would pass on it based on the cover alone. Even the author doesn’t know what happened with it. Trust me it’s the cover that makes it a worthwhile item to track down.

As is the case with all plague novels there are survivors. Also some of them are more good and some are not so good. The guy who releases the plague is of course very bad. Also immune. As the book gets rolling, the good clump together and the bad clump together. Most books will focus on the good group. Not Dark Advent. It evil and has a tight focus on the actions of Peter Soloman, plague releaser.

If you wondered what Flagg may have been up to in Vegas while Abigail was doing her thing in Boulder, this book might give a window to it. It’s sort of a Flagcentric version of The Stand.

I’d like to thank my guests for their input. If you are interested in contributing to a future “Welcome to the Apocalypse” Favorites post, please feel free to contact me through email or twitter (@guildedearlobe). If you have a favorite Plague novel that isn’t covered on this list, feel free to leave a comment.