Audiobook Review: Year One by Nora Roberts

21 03 2018

Year One Chronicles of The One, Book 1 (Unabridged)

Year One (Chronicles of the One) by Nora Roberts

Narrated by Julia Whelan

Brilliance Audio

Grade: B+

It seems every other week or so some book comes out that’s accused of being a blatant rip off of Stephen King’s classic The Stand yet when I sit down to read or move around while listening the book is either not really a rip off, or just not blatant enough. Being a blatant ripoff of a great novel isn’t a sin, but not pulling it off well can be a disappointment to fans of that novel who maybe want just a little taste of that experience again. Year One is the latest in a line of books to come tagged with this accusation. Luckily, Roberts actually kinda pulls it off. Year One is a book that has enough echoes of the classic to please to less assholey fans of The Stand, with enough differences to make it stand out on it’s own. Like The Stand, it’s not a perfect novel, but it follows the classic post apocalyptic formula of bringing groups of survivors together to face a big threat well. It’s not a perfect novel and it’s just the start of a series, so there is a lot of unfinished business when you reach the end, but for fans of the genre, it can hold it’s head up their with some of the classics.

Julia Whelan is an audiobook veteran and gives a strong steady performance. This book didn’t need a lot of bells and whistles, and the publishers made a good choice using one strong consistent voice to drive the narrative. Whelan handles the large cast with ease, and keeps the pace moving forward. Overall, Whelan serves the novel well, keeping you fully engaged in the story.

 

Advertisements




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: The Last Tribe by Brad Manuel

16 03 2017

The Last Tribe by Brad Manuel

Read by Scott Brick

Podium Publishing

Grade: B+

The Last Tribe is a rare bird of a novel, a book I enjoyed immensely but not sure I would recommend to anyone but the most hardcore of post apocalyptic fans. The Last Tribe is The Stand without the good vs. evil paranormal subplot. It’s devoid of any narrative tension or conflict driven plot. It’s simply a story about normal decent people surviving a nearly complete pandemic without any ideological agenda. It’s is so vanilla it’s nearly translucent. It’s the anti-Walking Dead. You want action… sorry. You need conflict… look elsewhere. You love tales of anti-governmental libertarian preppers whose predictions of the collapsing civilization come true allowing them to play out their survivalist fantasies in an orgy of gunfire, well, maybe keep browsing. Manuel’s take is a bare bones examination of the genre’s roots more in line with Earth Abides and Alas, Babylon  than today’s testosterone drenched hero fantasies. Manuel even jokes on the biggest flaw on much of survival fiction, the almost ridiculous amount of luck survivors would need to actually thrive post apocalypse. The Last Tribe is the coziest of cozy catastrophe’s and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

The Last Tribe was nominated for Best Male Performance Audie, so I go into this asking myself if this is one of the best performances of the year. Simple answer, no. Scott Brick, with the right material, can make poetry out of mush. He’s brilliant in guiding a listener through esoteric prose, and capturing the rhythms of a novel whether it be high concept science fiction or action packed thriller. Yet, multi character epics require multiple regional dialects and tons of character differentiation isn’t typically where he shines. Brick gives a great performance and definitely makes some of the boring moments shine, but this is far from one of the best, in fact, I can think of two or three Brick narrations that are more worthy, particularly Robert Charles Wilson’s Last Year or Justin Cronin’s City of Mirrors. With those novels, I fail to see any other narrator improving on his performance but I can think of a few that may be better suited to a novel like The Last Tribe. 





Audiobook Review: The Burning World (Warm Bodies Series) by Isaac Marion

8 03 2017

The Burning World by Isaac Marion

Read by Jacques Roy

Simon & Schuster Audio

Grade: B+

When Isaac Marion published Warm Bodies authors were just beginning to truly explore what they can do with the Zombie genre beyond the typical Romero style outbreak scenario. Warm Bodies was a game changing novel that threw out all the rules. Marion blended dark comedy with classic themes right out of Shakespeare and Austin to spin the genre into a whole new direction. Over 6 years later Marion picks up the story where he left off, in a genre saturated with classic examinations and new twists and continues the story of R and Julia. Yet, now Marion doesn’t try to flip the genre on its head but instead takes on the classic Post Apocalytic road trip and resistance story using that to examine  the priorities of humanness and community. Marions writing fluctuates seemlessky between crisp and breezy, and his dark humor takes center stage. Throughout the novel he pokes fun at his own book and the “Love will conquer all” theme. The story it self is clever and full of intriguing possibilities. His slow reveal on R’s past is effective but almost anticlimactic. The Burning World doesn’t break the zombie sub genre or ever pervert it all that much but Marion tells a damn good story that left me wanting more.

Part of me wanted not to like Jacques Roy because he wasn’t Kevin Kenerly but my old curmudgeonly ways were won over in the end. He was less stylistic than Kenerly but this suited Marion’s broader scope and more traditional storytelling. I loved Roy’s portrayal of the creepy antagonists. He had a strong grasp of the humor of the tale knowing when not to take it too seriously. His pacing was strong, particularly in the rapid fire dialogue that took place during the crew’s cross county adventure. The Burning World is simply a good apocalyptic tale told in a unique style with characters you’ve grown to love, performed well. 





Audiobook Review: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Ellison

3 03 2017

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Read by Angela Dawes 

 Brilliance Audio

Grade: A

Around 10 years ago, before the Hunger Games, before the glut of self publishing,  before the sociological unease brought the  psychic foreshadowing of a Trump administration, before whatever triggered this saturation of dystopian literature to flood the world, any time I saw a new apocalyptic novel I squeeled with childish glee. Since I was 13 and I found a battered copy of the original version of The Stand at the Grundy Memorial library, I loved this genre of fiction. To me, despite there being many great classics, the genre was always defined by my experience with three novels, The Stand, Robert McCammon’s Swan Song and A Gift Upon the Shore by MK Wren. These books filled me with hope and dread, and showed me I can love and hate the same character. I can’t help but judge books in this genre by the standard created by these experiences. Very few novels have even come close. 

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife once again reminded me why I loved these books. Full of human characters thrown into a inhuman world, this novel showed us the best and worst of humanity. I loved that the main character was unique and complicated in her humanity and not just some uber prepper living out some childish fantasy. Elison made me uncomfortable, made me question my own preconceptions and presented not an escapist fantasy but a stark and compelling vision of a potentially dark future. Yet despite the darkness, there was enough of a glimmer of light in the distance that I couldn’t help but willingly trek my way down that tunnel. At moments I was reminded of The Stand and A Gift Upon the Shore but The Book of the Unnamed Midwife didn’t just build on ashes of the genre classics but forged its own new path. 

I’ve always thought that there were narrators skilled at the youthfulness of YA novel while others had the maturity to handle more adult literature yet Angela Dawes is the exception that excels at both. One of the biggest areas of critique for any narrator his their ability to voice the opposite sex but here Dawes must voice a female character pretending to be male and she does it perfectly. She captured the nuance of this novel revealing aspects I may have missed reading it and turned the potentially awkward epistolary aspects of the narrative into an almost rhythmic poetry. She had me enthralled from the beginning and kept me anxiously waiting for each new leg of the journey. 





Audiobook Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part 2 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

7 04 2014

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part 2 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Read by Fred Berman

Macmillan Audio

9 Hrs 35 Min

Grade: B

I’ll admit it, I was a little grumpy when I reviewed The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor PART FRIGGIN’ ONE. Maybe some of that grumpiness rubbed off or maybe it was the expected Ledger Lag that I experience after listening to the latest Joe Ledger novel, but The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor PART FRIGGIN’ TWO failed to captivate me as completely as the past entries in the series, in particular The Road to Woodbury. Not that it was bad, it wasn’t. For the most part, especially in it’s further development of the Lilly character and it’s intense battle at the jail, this was good stuff. Yet, it took a long time to develop. The bridge scenes between Part 1 and Part 2 seemed unnecessary. The early parts of the novel was full of unnecessary in your face foreshadowing that felt almost as insulting to the readers as television mood music. There was also a level of frustration that I think came from being more aware of the over all Walking Dead story arch. The authors do a good job at giving many of the Woodbury folk a heroic bent, and gave logical reasons for their hatred of Rick and Michone’s group, but I couldn’t help be feel a growing sense of frustration as these good people made obviously bad choices. At some point, you wanted someone to have an “Ah Ha” moment, but you knew it wasn’t happening. There is much unevenness to the Governor’s character in a storytelling sense. I felt his mounting instability should have been more evident to those around him, and being the brutal post apocalyptic world I struggles to see why some people would have continued following him. Heck, a simple ice pick through the other eye socket could have save a whole mess of people. On the positive side, the epic prison battle truly came alive, and the final moments of the Woodbury crew had true emotional impact. Bonansinga does the world justice, and despite some flaws delivers a solid exciting tale that should thrill fans of the series.

In this series, it has been the tale of two narrators with Fred Berman. I was less than delighted with his almost emotionless performance in The Rise of the Governor, complete with some annoying mispronunciations, but I thought he really stepped it up in The Road to Woodbury. In the overall Fall of the Governor arch, Berman does a solid job. Not as good as the second book, with a few weird pronunciations and small pacing issues, but when the book gets ramped up, Berman take in full force. His reading is worthy of the tale, and he gives the finale a much needed emotional boost. While I still don’t understand the decision to split the last book into two parts, The Walking Dead fans will definitely be pleased with the ending of the book series.





My Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 (Non-Zombie)

21 02 2014

2013 was another great year for post apocalyptic novels. Where 2013 truly stood out was the diversity of it’s offerings. From straight forward apocalyptic tales, to absurdist comedies, last years apocalyptic audiobooks showed just how much ground there is to cover in the genre. It was tough for me to pick just 10 Apocalyptic audiobooks, partially with the glut of continuing series putting out even better entries this year. Yet, after much contemplation and hair pulling, I came up with my list. So, if you are like me, and one of your favorite, most relaxing activities is to listen to the world go up in flames, here is my list of the best 2013 had to offer.

Expect my Zombie based Top 10 to appear soon.

Yesterday’s Gone by Sean Platt and David Wright

Read by RC BRay, Chris Patton, Brian Holsopple, Ray Chase, Maxwell Glick, and Tamara Marston

Podium Publishing

Yesterday’s Gone truly borders on the goofy at times, and I think in some ways this was the authors’ intention. Maybe not goofy per se, but the twists are so over the top, the plot so derivative of the classics and the characters so bizarre that you can’t help but shake your head at it. Yet, somehow it all works brilliantly. Yesterday’s Gone is a post apocalyptic fan’s somewhat inappropriate, at times shamefully wonderful dream. Yet, what truly sets this one apart is the brilliant production and wonderful narration. Ray Chase gives one of my favorite performances of the year, and add that to the excellent work the other narrators included notable performances by RC Bray and Chris Patton, and Yesterday’s Gone can crown itself my favorite Post Apocalyptic Audiobook of 2013. And, lucky for us, this is just Season One.

Countdown City (The Last Detective, Bk. 2)

Read by Peter Berkrot

Brilliance Audio

Countdown City picks up were The Last Detective leaves off, bettering the series by leaps and bounds. Book 2 offers a unique apocalypse of anticipation, where the wait for the world killer asteroid is an apocalyptic event all it’s own. Winter’s fascinating world is brought to life expertly by Peter Berkrot. Berkrot’s performance still sticks with me months after I finished listening to it.

Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

Read by Kirby Heybourne

Tantor Audio

Arguably, Odds Against Tomorrow is more of a disaster tale than a typical Post Apocalyptic novel, but really, there is nothing typical about this one. Apocalypose fans looking for something utterly unique should check out this tale of a brilliant disaster analyst who finds himself immersed in the “perfect storm” that he predicted. Equally moving and hilarious this tale is brought to life wonderfully by Kirby Heybourne who manages just the right tone for this tricky tale.

 

Breakers by Edward W. Robinson

Read by Ray Chase

Podium Publishing

Breakers is The Stand meets Lucifer’s Hammer with weird crab creatures. Podium Publishing is quickly making a name for itself with unique audiobook offerings excellently produced and Breaker’s is no exception. Ray Chase masterly guides us through this strange new world helping create one of the freshest looks at alien invasion since Gerrold’s Chtorr series.

Ashes by Brett Battles (Project Eden, Bk. 4)

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible, Inc.

I have always been one of those people who get a bit annoyed when the good guys stop the global  conspiracy top release a world killing pathogen. Luckily, in The Project Eden series, the competent good guys are facing impossible odds, and well, aren’t able to do the impossible. This series starts with a straight forward pathogen thriller and progresses to a The Stand-like pandemic tale, and I loved every second of it. Plus, MacLeod Andrew’s. The man can bring it.

There was a fifth book in this series, released in 2013 as well, but I have yet to read it. Once I free me up an Audible credit, I plan to jump right back into this dangerous world.

The City of Devi by Manil Suril

Read by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar

Blackstone Audio

So, who doesn’t like absurdist comedy, heartbreaking romantic entanglements, strange embodiments of deities, Bollywood musicals, and gonzo sex in their Mumbai based apocalyptic tales? The City of Devis is a wonderful, and at times awkward tale, beautifully narrated by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar.

Fuse by Julianna Baggot (Pure, Bk. 2)

Read by Khristine Hvam, Casey Holloway, Kevin T. Collins, Pierce Cravens

Hachette Audio

This may have been the year for Book 2’s in Post apocalyptic trilogies, and Fuse is proof that often the followup can better something already pretty darn good. Baggot’s world is darkly beautiful and her characters wonderfully tragic. Plus, the performances, particularly that of Kevin T. Collin’s made me feel things. Like emotional things. I’d rather not talk about it.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy

Read by Brandon Espinoza and Phoebe Strole

Penguin Audio

More Alien Invasions? Yes Please. Despite one annoying plot twist that I may have over emphasized in my review, Phillip Yancey’s YA novel is a heck of a good tale. His alien’s are different, and the plot well constructed. The performances by two new to me narrators also enhance this already quality tale.

Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey

Read by Simon Vance

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

While I tend to like my Post Apocalyptic tales more scifi, there is definitely a place in the genre for a good Fantasy, one that Joseph D’Lacey provides for us in Black Feathers. With shades of The Dark Tower, D’Lacey balances dual timelines with ease to create a fascinating apocalyptic world where everything you believe gets twisted in wonderful ways. And truly, if you are going to go the Fantasy route, you might as well call on one of the best voices for Fantasy, Simon Vance, whose voice gives the context almost instant creditability.

Fragments by Dan Wells (Partials, Bk. 2)

Read by Julian Whelan

Harper Audio

One of the reasons I think I enjoy book 2’s in apocalyptic series, is because they often involve getting away from the static setting of book one and embarking on everyone’s favorite jaunt, the apocalyptic road trip. In Fragment’s Dan Well’s offer’s one of the best, a cross country trip through a devastated wasteland that used to be America. Julian Whelan continues to infuse the tale with heart and personality, the perfect voice to bring the tale’s wonderful protagonist to life.