February Audiobook Report

4 03 2014

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

 

February Audiobooks I reviewed:

February Audiobooks With Reviews Coming Soon:

Zombie Audiobooks:

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

 

Repairman Jack:

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

Armchair Audies Listens:

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

Other Audiobooks I listened to in February:

 

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

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

Advertisements




Bob’s Audiobook Report: January Roundup

7 02 2014

Despite surgery, preparing for a move and general life unpleasantness, I was able to listen to a respectable 11 audiobooks at just over 131 hours in January. My priority in January was to focus on some series books that have been sitting on my TBL pile for way to long. I made some good headway into F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series, completed Ian Douglas’s Heritage Trilogy and rounded that out with a Burke novel. All the books I listened to where backlist novels, except for Myke Cole’s latest Shadow Ops book, Breach Zone and the start of a new series for BV Larson.

Overall, January was tough, but now most of the hurdles have been jumped and I am starting to get the blog moving again. In February, I have a bunch of new releases on my list, including new ones by William Forstchen, Tim Dorsey Jeff VanderMeer and Daniel Suarez. I also plan on continuing my focus on series, with more books by Andrew Vachss and F. Paul Wilson. Expect quick and dirty reviews of the new releases and roundup style reviews of everything else.

Also, sometime in the next month the Audies will be announce, and Jennifer, The Literate Housewife has some fun things planned for The Armchair Audies. This blog will again be taking on the Science Fiction and Fantasy categories. I haven’t decided whether to take on the Paranormal Category. I may wait until the announcement and see how many titles I will need to tackle.

Besides reviews, look for my Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 Post and some fun Audie predictions.

Here’s the roundup of the books I listened to in the second half of January.

Luna Marine by Ian Douglas (The Heritage Trilogy, Bk. 2)

Read by Ray Chase

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Science Fiction

14 Hrs 57 Min

Grade: B

Europa Strike by Ian Douglas (The Heritage Trilog, Bk. 3)

Read by Ray Chase

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Science Fiction

14 Hrs 23 Min

Grade: B-

The Heritage Trilogy was a whole lot of fun blending high concept space exploration and exogenesis with Military Science Fiction. The book often gets bogged down in concepts, then shift to fast paced action, leaving the listener disoriented. The narration is top notch. Ray Chase is quickly becoming a personal favorite.

Choice of Evil by Andrew Vachss (Burke, Bk. 11)

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Thriller

10 Hrs 46 Min

Grade: B+

This edition to the Burke series gives more insight into Burkes past, and the mystery presence of Wesley. The Burke series is one of the more disturbing yet fascinating looks at the darkside of humanity out there. Phil Gigante is excellent as always.

Hosts by F. Paul Wilson

Read by Christopher Price

Brilliance Audio

Genre: Thriller

13 Hrs 13 Min

Grade: B+

Probably wasn’t a good idea to read this one right after surgery. Hosts was one of my favorite Repairman Jack novels so far, blending supernatural and biomedical thrillers.

Also, check out my review of Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole and my Top 20 Audiobooks of 2013.





Audiobook Review: Hair Raising by Kevin J. Anderson

9 08 2013

Hair Raising (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI, Bk. 3) by Kevin J. Anderson

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Hair Raising is another monstrously hilarious trip to the Unnatural Quarter where Bearded Ladies can find true love and Cockatrice Fights can turn you into statues. If you have yet to visit this world, Hair Raising is the perfect point to jump into the rumble, whether you are a full time monster enthusiast or just like your paranormal creatures once in a blue moon.

Grade: A-

I often hear people say, "Hey Bob, you’re a funny guy! You should be a comedian." I guess I can be funny. I like to make jokes ranging from the ridiculously corny to the highly offensive, and often said unthinkingly at socially inappropriate times. I have been know to make people snort out in laughter, or complain to an authority figure about my insensitivity, both of which I am quite proud of. I even managed to get my brother Dave to laugh so hard that my aunt thought he was crying. Unfortunately, this happened to occur right in the middle of my Grandfather’s funeral. Yet, it’s not easy to be funny. My ability to come up with a well timed quip can often seem natural, but I often give my eternal editing process a real run for its money. Yet, this doesn’t mean I should be a comedian. While it’s not easy to be truly funny, it is really, really hard to write funny. It’s tough to find something that is universally humorous, and not just funny it the right (or absolutely wrong) situation. Sometimes I try to be funny when I write my reviews. Sometimes, I think, I even succeed. But it’s not easy. For example, after reading Hair Raising, I thought the perfect way to open this review would be a hilarious zombie joke. I like jokes. I like zombies. How hard would it be to pull those two great loves of my life together and tell a really awesome zombie joke? Hell, Kevin J. Anderson has filled this series with some of the corniest and obvious zombie jokes ever, so I should be able to pull off one gut buster. Nothing. Nada. Zip. It’s not easy to think up jokes, or zombie puns, or even take popular jokes and twist them into hilarious plays of our beloved shambles. I just couldn’t pull it off.  Oh, I came up with some strange ideas. Things that resemble jokes, just lacked the one essential element. They weren’t funny. Luckily, this isn’t something that Mr. KJA suffered during the writing of Hair Raising, another joke filled entry is his fantastically fun Zombie detective series. This book, my friend, is funny.

In Hair Raising, our favorite Undead Detective finds himself embroiled in a squabble between full time Werewolves and their monthly counterparts. Both sides claim to be the TRUE werewolves, and it doesn’t help matters that someone is going around, drugging and scalping full time werewolves. Yet, despite being dead, he still needs to make a living wage, so Dan Chambeaux must also work other cases, including a mad scientist who keeps getting defective body parts for a used parts Emporium and another zombie who is being sued for Child support yet denied access to his son. This should be enough, but Dan is suddenly a celebrity when the book, Death Warmed Over, a fictional account of his cases becomes a hint. With all these distractions, can Dan, his partner and his ghost girlfriend prevent a full stage werewolf riot? Kevin J Anderson once again unrestrainedly unleashes every corny joke, monstrously bad pun, and twisted monster trope as he guides us though another adventure in the Unnatural Quarter. I really cannot think of a better way to spend 9 hours of your life. In a would crowded with over serious fiction, dealing with world altering topics, it’s nice to have a series that just lets you sit back and have a good time. Hair Raising is full of so many awesome colorful characters, from biker werewolves to a magical tattoo artist with a “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” mentality. These characters, on top of Anderson’s regular rotation of series regulars, make every moment of this book jump off your preferred listening device. One of my favorite things about Hair Raising is they very meta nature of Dan Shambles new celebrity. While I felt the case this time around was a bit weaker, and sort of obvious, the peripherals situations in this edition of the series make it highly worthwhile. Dan Shamble gets to visit the world horror convention where he is now a star. Anderson gives fandom a mild spanking, but it’s all in lighthearted fun. And despite the fact that the major twists were a bit telegraphed, there were a bunch of little bonus twists along the way to make up for it. There were so many moments to love in this book, with rumbling werewolves, simply horrid customer “service”, zombie flatulence, cockatrices and the world‘s worst hairstylist, and it all comes together in a action filled finale. Hair Raising is another monstrously hilarious trip to the Unnatural Quarter where Bearded Ladies can find true love and Cockatrice Fights can turn you into statues. If you have yet to visit this world, Hair Raising is the perfect point to jump into the rumble, whether you are a full time monster enthusiast or just like your paranormal creatures once in a blue moon.

Phil Gigante continues to do some of his best work in bringing this series to life. While it’s known that his voice can make the ladies swoon, and his pacing puts the thrills in thrillers, what originally turned me into a huge Phil Gigante fan is his sense of comic timing. He delivers the funny like the most seasoned practitioner of all things jovial. He managed to turn some of Anderson’s groaners into full bodied howlers. One thing I really loved about this edition was how descriptive Anderson is with his characters and how Gigante nails them EVERY FRACKIN’ TIME. For me, one of the highlights of this performance was a minor peripheral character describe to be like Edith Bunker. I swear it was like the man channeled Jean Stapleton. I couldn’t stop laughing. In fact, I think I would be willing to pay real American cash money to hear Gigante perform both parts of Those Were the Days by himself. And this was just one of many awesome moments, including a pretty killer mad scientist maniacal laugh, and a menagerie of otherworldly characters. This is one of those series that people just need to experience in audio. I know I could never read a Dan Shamble mystery and not hear the dulcet voice of Phil Gigante in my head, so might as well go for the real thing.

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





Audiobook Review: Aftershock by Andrew Vachss

2 07 2013

Aftershock by Andrew Vachss

Read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross

Dreamscape Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 2 Min

Genre: Crime Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Aftershock is crime fiction at it best built around a solid cast of characters, with an intriguing mythology. Vachss covers many of his classic themes yet in a way that seems to have invigorated his writing, allowing him to explore these themes in new and fascinating ways. As always, there is a brutal reality to Vachss writing, with unapologetic characters and real human evil, yet Aftershock also contained an element that I haven’t always felt in Vachss writing, hope.

Grade: A

Over the past year or so, I have heard more and more talk about our "rape culture" and the "war on women." Now, in no way do I believe that these concepts weren’t discussed before, perhaps in just as much detail, but the past year I have become more and more attuned to this discussion. I’ll be honest, I*’m not someone who is overly qualified to discuss such issues. I had a grand total of one class in college on woman in politics, and it was more of a historical analysis, and that took place nearly 20 years ago. Yet, I do have feelings. Not many answers, but feelings. I know I have lost faith in our criminal justice system to deal with sexually based crimes. Years ago, I had a friend who was quite upset with me that I wasn’t a strident supporter of Megan’s Law, and the sexual registration of offenders. Not that I didn’t believe in what it was trying to accomplish, I just couldn’t get past the idea that if we need to set up such measures to protect ourselves from habitual sexual offenders, why were we letting them out of jail? I believed then, and I still do that no matter what laws we pass to protect people from predators, those predators will find a way not just to beat but to use it to their advantage. I find sexual predators more insidious, more harmful to our society than murderers. Sexual Crimes cause waves that rip through families, communities and history even more so than any other violent crime. I am not a supporter of the death penalty, but I would much rather see it used on those who exploit children and perform violent sexual assault then those who kill. One thing that truly bothers me is it seems that our criminal justice system is set up more to protect those who perform these acts, then the actual victims. I understand the need for this. I understand that it’s better for 100 guilty to go free than for 1 innocent man to be found guilty. Yet, how many victims of these horrific acts are we willing to accept to make sure we stay true to this founding precept. I have no answers. I just have questions.

When the star softball player, Marylou "Mighty Mary" McCoy walked into her high school with a gun, and shot and killed one boy and wounded two others, people were quick to view it as just another school shooting. Yet, Dolly, a former nurse who worked in war zones around the world, knew there was more to the story. She asks her husband Dell, a former Legionnaire in hiding with a past so mysterious even he can’t remember it all, to look into it. What Dell uncovers is an evil so insidious it has corrupted their seemingly idyllic town, putting everything he loves at risk. I have to say, Aftershock surprised me. When Vachss introduces us the Dell, and his violent back story, I expected this to be another tale of a dark vigilante exterminating a human evil. While this plays into Aftershock, it is far from its overriding theme. Vachss explores the corruption of the legal system that places more value in maintaining its reputation than is punishing evil, and how a few warriors for justice can make a difference.  Dell was a fascinating and complex character. He was unsure and awkward socially, but also able to inspire people to break away from what they believe was expected of them, and do what they believe was right. There were times when the fact that the story was filtered through Dell’s perspective that I became uncomfortable. Not with brutal yet clever solutions to problems, but in his quickness to slap labels on people based on physical and emotions shortcomings. Yet, there was a balance to this. While Dell was quick to label people he found reprehensible as things like "Pigface" he was often able to see past labels people had slapped onto others and discern their true nature, just not often in a polite socially acceptable manner.  The true beauty of this novel came in his other characters. Dell is a warrior, yet, Vachss doesn’t highlight the kind of warrior who can kill a man twenty different ways with his pinky. He highlights a woman who takes time to truly give girls a safe place to discuss issues that their teachers or parents would instantly judge them for. He shows us victims who were brutalized and humiliated, finally taking a stand against a system seemingly designed to marginalize them. He shows us warriors fighting within a corrupt system, whose exposure to violent crime can have extremely horrific affects. From psychologists and social workers, to victims and those who love them whether they are connected through DNA or not, these are the people who could win the fight. Vachss did something that I didn’t expect, he made me feel a little bit of hope that there are good people fighting the fight. On top of these themes, Aftershock is a solid legal thriller. I love legal thrillers, but I have been sick and tired of the down and out lawyer who finds redemption through a case, Here, instead, Vachss shows us a lawyer who finally discovers himself when he is willing to begin believing that he can make a difference. There is just so much I loved about Aftershock, and am quite excited that it’s the start of a new series. Dell and Dolly are two characters I really want to see more of. Aftershock is crime fiction at it best built around a solid cast of characters, with an intriguing mythology. Vachss covers many of his classic themes yet in a way that seems to have invigorated his writing, allowing him to explore these themes in new and fascinating ways. As always, there is a brutal reality to Vachss writing, with unapologetic characters and real human evil, yet Aftershock also contained an element that I haven’t always felt in Vachss writing, hope.

Part of me is really glad that I listened to Vachss’ anthology Mortal Lock before I listed to Aftershock, because it prepared me for the dual narration style of Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross. What I didn’t expect is how effective it would be in Aftershock. Phil was brilliant as always, and his interplay with Natalie was natural and flowing that I didn’t experience any of the dissonance this type of narration often gives me. What truly amazed me was Phil’s handling of the French scenes, which he spoke as if he was fluent in that language. I’m not sure if he is or not, but anyone listening to Aftershock will be more than ready to call him Le Gigante. Ross brought so much to this production, that for those small stretches where she wasn’t contributing I truly missed her. There are so many strong female characters in Aftershock, including Dolly, MaryLou, and a social worker who contributed highly to the defense, and Ross brings them all alive in vivid fashion. Yet, my favorite of her performances was that of Danielle, MaryLou’s sister. Ross helped create a character that simply gave me chills, for many reasons. Aftershock was a brilliant production and one of my favorite listens so far this year. If you have yet to experience the work of Andrew Vachss, Aftershock is a great place to start.

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





Audiobook Review: Mortal Lock by Andrew Vachss

26 06 2013

Mortal Lock by Andrew Vachss

Read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross

Dreamscape Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 12 Min

Genre: Short Story Collection (Multiple Genres)

Quick Thoughts: A solid short story Anthology featuring the Vachss signature noir style, fascinating if unlikeable characters and an authenticity you rarely find in the pages of books. Fans of Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard will be excited to see this duo show up for a great story, as well as a few other of Vachss characters. The anthology ended with a high concept screenplay that may not suit even hardcore Vachss fan’s tastes, but has moments of hidden gems.

Grade: B

There are two kinds of experts in our world. There are the kinds that study something, that break it down to its intricate details, who speculate, postulate and theorize. They use this knowledge to develop opinions, join think tanks, become talking heads on TV news programs and teach courses. Then there is the kind of expert who simply lives something. They may not know why something work, or develop their theories based on intangible concepts of instinct, and heart, but while the studios expert is working on the textbook, they are out applying their knowledge, living and dying by their expertise. Andrew Vachss often writes about that second type of experts. One of the reasons I enjoy single author short story collections is to see how an author takes the central themes of their writing, and explores them through different situations and even genres. Mortal Lock is no different. Vachss inhabits his stories with his signature characters. Vachss’ characters are truly what sets him apart. They are never loveable, and often lot even close to likeable, but they bring a perspective that it seems even the most research oriented author often misses. There is something authentic in their reality, even when they are in situations the push plausibility. In Mortal Lock, Vachss’ applies his themes and characters to 20 different stories, some quite short, while others more detailed, giving us a glimpse into worlds that us everyday tourist rarely ever see.

It is really hard to evaluate and recommend a short story anthology, without going into detail about every story. Like in most anthologies, there is a hit and miss quality. There were some stories that were simply quick slices of life, that seemed to serves as buffers between larger tales. This is something I haven’t seen as often in anthologies, and for the most part I liked it. While I didn’t LOVE every story, three of the larger tales truly make this anthology worth the time and money of any Andrew Vachss Fan. For me the highlight of this short story collection was Veil’s Visit, which Vachss cowrote with Joe Lansdale featuring one of my favorite literary dues Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. Add to this the fact that the story was a Courtroom tale where Leonard is on trial for burning down his neighborhood crackhouse, and the legal theory used by the Defense was priceless. The two other stories that I thought were exceptional were As The Crow Flies, which features the protagonists from his upcoming novel Aftershocks and Profile, which has another of Vachss characters, Cross, hunting an online predator. Yet, these stories were far from the only gems. Vachss starts it off with Ghostwriter, featuring a brilliant writer who was completely unlikeable and sociopathic and did whatever it took to see his works come to print. One of my other favorites was A Piece of the City where rival gangs come to blows over and incident that may be more that it seems. Along the way, Vachss gives his twisted take on Crime Fiction staples like spurned husbands and serial killers. Vachss even breaks away from his typical crime noir to expand into other genres, most notably a tale of a Hit Man searching for a cure for AIDS for his dying sister, who encounters monsters of legends. The only downside of the collection comes in the form of the long screenplay that is the finale. Not that it wasn’t interesting and full of some excellent themes and fascinating explorations. I have never been much of a screenplay reader, and experiencing one in audio was interesting. The tales is definitely high concept, extremely visual and very avante guard. It is more of a series of intertwined vignettes told in a Dystopian World were society is now underground. Vachss creates a disturbing system where the establishment allows many types of evils to flourish, the family structure to break down, and truths told through graffiti painted on walls. If such a movie was ever made, it would be more at home next to the subtitled foreign films at The Ritz than at your local Movie Hut. I think Underground is something I enjoyed more considering the aspects he explored later than during the actual exercise of listening. There were some moments where the story was truly fascinating, some hidden gems in the screenplay, but at times it was hard to stay focused on it.

I am typically not a fan of multi-narrator productions where the male narrator reads the male lines and the majority of the prose, than a female narrator pops in for the female dialogue lines. It just never seems to feel natural for me. This process was used often in Mortal Lock, and while effective, I often cringed when it happened. Luckily, the two narrators had an obvious rhythm down, and made it as natural as possible. That really isn’t a surprise, since the narrators were Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross. Phil handled the majority of the work, and was wonderful as usual. In fact, when Veil’s Visit began, I had a huge idiot grin on my face as the familiar voice of Hap Collins filled the cavern within my skull. Gigante has a knack for knowing when to go low key, and when a bit of over-the-top is appropriate. He is the perfect narrator for Vachss, able to capture the dark humor and noir stylings of Vachss writing, while giving his characters a realism that just feels right. This was my first time listening to Natalie Ross, and I enjoyed her work. Surprisingly, I think some of her best work was done during the screenplay, as well as one particularly creepy serial killer tale. She offered a nice counterbalance to Gigante. Overall, Mortal Lock is a must listen for fans of Andrew Vachss. For those interested in getting a taste of Vachss style, Mortal Lock gives a nice spectrum of indulge in.

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





Audiobook Review: SecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson

20 02 2013

SecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 2o Min

Genre: Science Fiction Thriller

Quick Thoughts: While SecondWorld probably won’t be nominated for a Booker Award, it’s about an Ex-Navy Seal who violently ends the malfeasance of resuscitated cryogenic Nazis, and well, that’s pretty badass. Second World is a literary violent videogame, full of crazy action, cool gadgets, apocalyptic conspiracies and some fun characters. It’s like a huge smorgasbord for fans of cool crazy shit.

Grade: B

I think more and more readers want nuanced interpretations of antagonists. We won’t simply accept a writer’s word that a character is a bad person, we expect them to prove it to us. While a character may be a criminal, some sort of monster, or even a serial killer, we like to look for the redeeming factor in them, some ounce of humanity that makes them, flawed but relatable. Author’s can no longer rely on a sort of caricature villain, where we accept that his black hat or goatee makes him evil. No one is simply evil. Well, accept for Nazi’s. Nazi’s are simply evil.  Place the label of a Nazi on a character, and no amount of buts can redeem them. He may love his kids, commit random acts of kindness, treat his wife with respect, feed stray dogs and sing in his church choir, but if he’s an Nazi, he’s a sick twisted freak that needs to be destroyed, Sure, there are occasional freak wackjobs who try to defend Nazi’s through specious arguments of misunderstandings or by mentioning atrocities that rival the statistics of the holocaust, but, really these people are dangerous racists assholes who should be laughed at uproariously. Nazi’s are evil  Nazi’s committed almost any sort of evil act you can think of, rape, torture, child abuse, scientific experimentation, ethnic genocide, dabbling in the occult, and attempts at world domination. There is no worse insult then calling someone a Nazi, because in fact, it contains almost all other insults within it. Almost every evil supervillian we see in popular culture is in some way, based on a Nazi. So, writers, please create believably nuanced antagonist, or if you can’t do that, make them Nazis.

While vacationing in an underwater oceanic research facility, Ex-Navy Seal Lincoln Miller is forced into a struggle for his life when strange red snow begins to suck the oxygen out of the atmosphere. After a harrowing fight to save himself and a young girl, Miller is tasked by the President to find out just what is going on. He discovers an evil from our past has resurfaced, looking to cleanse those not genetically pure from the earth, and there are only a few days left to stop them. As always, I strive to give a reasoned analytical look at the books I review, so, it’s without hesitation that I say, “THIS BOOK IS FULL OF CRAZY SHIT!!!! (Extra exclamation points added for emphasis.) I mean, frozen Nazis, hover mech, Apocalyptic red snow, killer roombas, secret Antartican bases, vast government conspiracies, scientific hooziwhatness, horrible surprising betrayal, and a studly hero and gorgeous heroine who race around the world and never stop in order to have crazy monkey sex, not even in a storm drain. Hell, our hero’s name is Lincoln Miller, that’s like Chuck Norris on steroids. And he’s battling Nazis. Shit, Robinson should have just called it Lincoln Miller versus Frozen Nazis: Now With More Killer Roombas and he would have sold like, a million copies or something. Seriously, SecondWorld was lots of fun. Now, it was full of plot holes, including one really big one which the author made even worse by trying to explain it when he should have just winked at the reader and said “A Wizard did it.” ‘Cause, then we’d all be “Wizards… cool.” So, there were these moments that totally frustrated me causing my easily malleable sense of credulity to pull a hamstring. Yet, just as I started to get annoyed, Robinson would go “Hey, look. This Mechanical Battle Suit… it hovers” and I’d start drooling the drool of mech nerds. I really think Robinson is on to a winning formula… if all else fails, just start killing a bunch of Nazis with robots. I mean, screw nuance, Nazis with Robots. So, while SecondWorld probably won’t be nominated for a Booker Award, it’s about an Ex-Navy Seal who violently ends the malfeasance of resuscitate cryogenic Nazis, and well, that’s pretty badass. Second World is a literary violent videogame, full of crazy action, cool gadgets, apocalyptic conspiracies and some fun characters. It’s like a huge smorgasbord for fans of cool crazy shit.

Phil Gigante… wait, what? I need to say more. OK, Well, Phil Gigante narrated SecondWorld, which really was the reason I gave this book a listen. Anything that smells even slightly like I may like it, instantly shoots up the list if it’s narrated by Phil Gigante. Here, Phil get’s to go all crazy like, practicing his German accent, his pretentious Nazi sneer and his ability to deftly narrate sequences involving crazy robots, aerial gas bombs, shark battles (oh, did I forget to mention the shark), Neo-Nazi Electric Car chases, and Slavik Cowboy wannabes. Gigante is an expert at finding the right rhythm for a novel and with SecondWorld, he’s totally rock and roll. Gigante never lets the listener take a breath, just keeps throwing one situation after another until they very breath gets sucked out of them. His vocalizations, as always, are spot on, and full of authenticity. I only have one complaint about the audio production. Who the heck chose the transitional disc break music? I’d be in the middle of some crazy action scene, and then suddenly this bad 70’s era Carney Movie music starts playing? I was all, hey, did Lincoln Miller just start fighting bad disco clowns with bellbottoms…. nope, still Nazis. Other than that, this audiobook was a lot of fun.

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





Audiobook Review: Dead Aim by Joe Lansdale

30 01 2013

Dead Aim by Joe Lansdale (Hap Collins & Leonard Pine, Bk. 10)

Read by Phil Gigante

Dreamscape Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 2 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Dead Aim is the glorious return of Hap and Leonard to audio. I listened to the audiobook with a shit eating grin plastered to my face, laughing out loud at inappropriate times and not caring one bit about the nervous glances I was given. Anyone looking for a fun mystery full of action, some inappropriate humor and two of the best characters in fiction today, run and nab yourself a copy of Dead Aim, then when you’re hooked on these two smartasses, grab the rest of the series.

Grade: A

I am a person who places a high value on friendship. I don’t make a lot of friends. I can be social, and spend time interacting with lots of people on a surface level, but the true commitment of friendship is something that it takes me much longer to develop. I definitely never insta-friend, nor have I ever fallen in love at first sight. One of the saddest things for me is when someone I truly value as a friend moves away and we lose contact. As I get older, this happens much more often, yet, recently a few of my dear friends that moved to the farthest comers of the earth, have moved back to my area, and for me, this is a big cause for joy. As someone who also values books, when characters I love leave, when a series ends or a character dies, I feel a sense of loss. Yet, I find this to be even greater when these characters are within the digital pages of an audiobook. One of the biggest complaints about audiobooks is that a narrator creates another level between the reader and the character. Yet, with the perfect narrator, this is also one benefit of audiobooks. When I read, I often merge with a character, attributing aspects of myself to them, and comparing them to me. They become me, or a friend, or someone in my life, on a subconscious level. Reading can become an almost egotistic act where you become the hero. When a narrator becomes a character, adds a new dimension to these characters, reflects emotion that you may not when reading, characters can become more real, independent creations. More like friends that compliment you, than reflections of you. One of my favorite series that I have experience totally in audiobook form is Joe Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard series. Through the voice of Phil Gigante, these characters became real to me. When this series was no longer made in audio, I read the novels, which were still great, but in someway, it was like my friends had changed a bit. This is why I was so excited to hear Phil would be back narrating the latest Hap & Leonard novella, Dead Aim. In many ways, it was like reconnecting with lost friends.

In Dead Aim, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine are hired to protect a woman and “gently” persuade her soon to be ex-husband from harassing her and beating up her dates. Hap and Leonard are experts at gentle persuasion, especially when it involves their trusty axe handle. But when things go sideways, as often happens with out heroes, and bodies begin to drop, Hap and Leonard find that what they were told may not be the whole truth. Dead Aim is a classic Hap and Leonard tale. Lansdale melds together folksy wisdom, locker room humor and fast violence into something that is pure joy to experience. The heart of this series is the relationship between Hap and Leonard, a more than family bond that transcends race, and sexual orientation. Lansdale creates some of the most realistic, natural, yet uproariously funny dialogue that I have ever read. In all honesty, if Lansdale wrote a short story of Hap and Leonard waiting in a Dentist office, I would be thrilled. Yet, throw in a well conceived plot and some fast and furious action, and you get more bang for your buck in this novella than in the typical full length novel. Lansdale writes with an economy of words that it’s almost magical how fully fleshed out his stories are, and how highly visual the final confrontation is. Lansdale is a master at the turn of phrase, creating metaphors that would seem ridiculously corny, but comes natural to the characters he creates. Lansdale can summon a belly laugh out of what typically would only elicit a polite chuckle, then surprise you with the depth of the seemingly simple wisdom he’s sharing  If you are new to Hap and Leonard, Dead Aim would be a great way to meet these characters. While you may miss out on some of the back story, this novella stands well on its own and would totally wet your whistle, enticing you to go back to the beginning of the series.

If I was a poet, I would find a much better way to sing the praises of Phil Gigante in iambic pentameter but I’m not, so you’ll just have to bear with me. Gigante infuses this novella with Southern charm and wit, capturing these two characters perfectly. The Hap and Leonard series, along with his readings of Andrew Vachss Burke series, and the Stainless Steel Rat series are what made Gigante my all time favorite narrator. What’s great about Gigante is how he captures the flavor of each title he works on. There is almost a lackadaisical pace to his reading of Dead Aim, like a good friend telling a story after a couple or six beers. It makes the reader feel comfortable, allowing them to be just as ready for a dirty joke as a moment full of emotional resonance. Somewhere in heaven, the audiobook gods were singing a particularly special song the day Phil and Joe were placed together as a team, and every time I get to experience it, I sacrifice something to honor it. Dead Aim is the glorious return of Hap and Leonard to audio. I listened to the audiobook with a shit eating grin plastered to my face, laughing out loud at inappropriate times and not caring one bit about the nervous glances I was given. Anyone looking for a fun mystery full of action, some inappropriate humor and two of the best characters in fiction today, run and nab yourself a copy of Dead Aim, then when you’re hooked on these two smartasses, grab the rest of the series.

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