Audiobook Review: Remains of the Dead by Iain McKinnon

3 05 2012

Remains of the Dead by Iain McKinnon

Read by Karl Miller

Audible Frontiers

Length: 7 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick thoughts: Remains of the Dead is a devastating Zombie novel which leaves the reader no place to hide, and no shelter in the storm. It is a true sign of the relentless nature of this book that I have run out of euphemisms to use to describe it. For hard core Zombie enthusiasts, Remains of the Dead is a must have addition to your library. 

Grade: B+

There seems to be a real push recently to reinvent the Zombie. This is totally not a bad thing. Genres should be pushed to the edges, experimented on, mixed up, mashed together and turned on their head. Yet, there is nothing wrong with the traditional zombie tale. So many tales today use Zombies as a sort of vehicle to push the Survivors to some sort of stronghold where they are forced to stay. These tales use the zombie as a catalyst, but are essentially about the Survivors. While they wait for the flesh eating monsters to break in, they live and they love, they let their strange ways and beliefs influence their changed world. These stories are about respite. A break from the brutality that has changed their world. Yet, in some novels, there is no break. You are in the midst of things, surrounded on all sides by the ravenous undead. If you stop, hesitate for just a moment, you will become dinner for the hordes. While these tales are about the chase, they also give a glimpse into the survivors. The Zombies here are not set pieces, but an ever present danger, and this sort of constant stress brings out the best and worst in humans. For these survivors, the ultimate goal is escape, whether it be to a safe haven, or from the barrel of a gun. This is the world of Iain McKinnon’s Remains of the Dead.

While Remains of the Day is the follow up to McKinnon’s Domain of the Dead, it is a novel that stands very well on its own. Remains follows a group of soldiers and civilians after they are left behind during the rescue attempt that removed the characters of the first book to safety. These survivors must find a safe place to hole up until the helicopter can return to save them. Sadly, for them, so such place exists. Remains of the Dead is one of the fastest paced zombie novels I have experienced. It is the definition of non-stop zombie action. In fact, the pacing was so relentless I was scared to even pause my MP3 player for a second in fear that I may miss a key moment in the story. Throughout the story, no character is safe, no refuge truly secure and there is seemingly no end to the action on the remotest of horizons. Of all the novelist writing Zombie fiction today, McKinnon is the closest in my opinion to the feel and traditions of classic Romero. The Zombies are a force by their sheer numbers. Any slightest pause and the survivors would be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of carnivorous cannibalistic undead. There is a saying that quantity has a quality of its own, and this is spelled out in spades in Remains of the Dead. As the characters move from place to place you can feel their stress building. McKinnon is so relentless in his onslaught that you as the reader/listener feel like you are losing it along with the characters. In fact, if I had any complaint, it’s that I felt the ending was more of a pause in the action that an actual resolution. I still had that on edge feeling as the novel wrapped up, unsure of what was in store for the few surviving characters. Remains of the Dead is a devastating Zombie novel which leaves the reader no place to hide, and no shelter in the storm. It is a true sign of the relentless nature of this book that I have run out of euphemisms to use to describe it. For hard core Zombie enthusiasts, Remains of the Dead is a must have addition to your library. 

I was quite critical of Karl Miller’s narration in the first novel of this series. I felt it was someone lifeless with bland characterizations. Well, Miller impressed me in his reading of Remains of the Dead. I truly think this book, whose characters are a bit better defined and easier to visualize than the first novel, was a better fit for Miller’s strengths as a narrator. His characterizations weren’t world changing, but appropriate and easily delineated. Miller managed the breakneck pace of this novel perfectly, allowing for the action to flow naturally. Nothing seemed forced or rushed, and the action was read in a manner that allowed the listeners to easily follow what was going on. The highlight of his reading for me was his ability to display the emotional turmoil of the characters as the book progressed. You could just feel them breaking down as things just piled on top of them. Remains of the Dead is another exciting audiobook from Iain McKinnon, and one that can be enjoyed whether you’ve listened to Domain of the Dead or not.





Audiobook Review: Acheron by Bryon Morrigan

3 02 2012

Acheron by Bryon Morrigan

Read by Joe Barrett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 8 Hrs 4 Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: Acheron should appeal to fans of Brian Keene and others who cleverly twist the Zombie subgenre making it more than just cannibalism corpses preying on small groups of survivors. While it has some flaws, it makes up for it with an engaging first person protagonist.

Grade: B-

We all have done that mental exercise were we decide things that we would do differently if we could go back to our high school days with the knowledge we have now. Well, I think we all have, unless I am more of a freak of nature than my sister insisted I was back in those same days. One thing I would change is I would choose to study more cool thinks in my high school and college curriculum than I did. I spent so much time in classes that I "should" take, and not enough time learning things that actually interests me. I wish I would have taken more history classes, and classes on mythology and the like, because, when it comes to the mythology of ancient civilizations, I really don’t know all that much. When I read books that are full of mythological creatures, I am fascinated by the variety of belief we as a species have had. Growing up in a pretty strict evangelical family, religion was pretty much set in stone. There really wasn’t much comparative religion going on, besides ridiculing other belief systems for their crazy superstitions. Even in my public high school we briefly touched on Egyptian mythology and Greek mythology, and it basically ended there. While I highly doubt that my increased knowledge in mythology would have given me any real world advantage, at least I would have some cool stories to tell at parties.

I downloaded Bryon Morrigan’s Acheron a few months back, but for some reason, no fault of its own, it kept on getting pushed back in my "to be listened to" pile. Yet, last weekend seemed a good time for some zombie killing action. Acheron piqued my interest because it didn’t seem like the typical zombie tale, and for someone who consumes as much zombie fiction as I do, I like to find something a bit different from time to time. I mean, honestly, how many brains can one lifeless corpse devourer before it’s tempted to try some entrails? Acheron is a first person tale of Army Captain Nate Leathers in Iraq, who after being captured by the enemy and held in a dungeon like cell for a while, escapes to find himself in a strangely changed world enshrouded in a green fog. As Leathers travels the dessert, he encounters monsters and the living dead. Acheron is non-stop action, full of monsters both human and mythological. It’s an interesting twist on the zombie genre, but when really makes it stand out is its protagonist. Captain Leathers is a fascinating character and not you’re typical military scifi or Zombie survivalist hero. I like how Morrigan used the mythological aspects of the story, but to be honest, during the major mythological sequence, specifically dealing with the underworld inherent in the title Acheron, I become a little lost. It was an evil that just didn’t resonant with me the same way his evil human characters did. Leather’s dealing with the rogue, fundamentalist mercenaries was the heart of this story, and the other aspects the flavoring. Morrigan’s Acheron is an intimate Apocalyptic tale taking place around Basra, yet giving only speculation on what may be going on in the rest of the world. Acheron should appeal to fans of Brian Keene and others who cleverly twist the Zombie subgenre making it more than just cannibalism corpses preying on small groups of survivors. While it has some flaws, it makes up for it with an engaging first person protagonist.

Joe Barrett has always been a mixed bag for me. Some of his narrations have been excellent, while others are sort of “meh.” Here Barrett finds the perfect voice for Captain Leathers, and his narration goes a long way to what makes this character so engaging. Barrett’s pacing was a little off at times, I felt that his action scenes came off a bit rushed, and I found myself having to rewind at times because I felt I missed something. Yet, overall, due mostly to the soft southern accent he used for the main character as well as the voices for the peripheral characters, I enjoyed his performance. Acheron may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but for me, it was a fun quick listen that was perfect for a busy weekend.