Audiobook Review: The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian 

8 02 2017


The Sleepwalker by Chris Boujalian

Read by Cady McClain and Grace Experience 

Random House

Grade: B+

There is a reoccurring theme throughout Chris Bohjalian’s latest thriller. The characters often talk about how they can’t quite figure out what type of novel they are in. This is what makes The Sleepwalker so effective, yet frustrating. You never know what kind of novel you are reading, a romance, a crime thriller, a tragedy or even something slightly paranormal. So, when it all comes together, the ending resonates throughout the whole book coloring the experience. It’s rewarding for the reader, especially since getting to the ending took you on so many side trips. 
It took me a while to get into Cady McClain’s narration. She had a weird cadence I thought would find annoying but as I got more into the story i noticed it less and less. It wasn’t the perfect reading but she kept me in the story and in the end I felt satisfied. The additional narrator, Grace Experience,seemed unnecessary at first but as the story played out it added a eerie quality to the twisty tale. 





My 2015 Audies Prediction

10 02 2015

The 2015 Audies season is upon us and I for one am excited. Being that I didn’t listen to as many audiobooks in 2014 as I had in the past, I am excited to be taking part in Armchair Audies this year so I can discover some of the missed gems of last year.

In the past, I have felt critical of the Audies process, but I have come to terms with the fact that the process and criteria of an Audie nominated book may not need to exactly shadow what I believe makes a book standout. In the past, I \put much emphasis on the synergy between performance and context. I didn’t believe a title deserved to be nominated unless the content was just as “Award worthy” as the performance. This year, I am focusing more on the technical side, giving more focus to the “audio” then the “book.” Yet, since this is my predictions post, I am going to present some books in a few categories that I believe are worthy of recognition, due to both content and performance appealed to me. I have done well in the past in my predictions, so lets see how I do in 2015.

Let the Armchair Audies Games begin:

Science Fiction:

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Read by Josh Cohen

Random House Audio

Josh Cohen’s performance in The Book of Strange New Things is a pure example of what makes audiobooks so special. His transitions from English to American accents were so seamless I had to Google him to discover his true nationality. Yet, it’s the haunting voice of his alien creatures, and the emotional impact of Peter’s communications with his wife Bea that make this not just a title deserving of a nomination in Science Fiction, but should give Cohen, at the least, consideration in Solo Narration of the Year.

World of Trouble, The Last Policeman, Bk. 3

by Ben H. Winters

Read by Peter Berkrot

The Last Policeman series may be the shining star in Peter Berkrot’s luminous career as a narrator. He gives a multifaceted performance that is both funny and emotional. He ushers us through a broken society with a wink, and takes us the brink of the world’s end with a comforting hand on our shoulder. He makes this wonderful novel work on so many levels, truly a performance worthy of the book.

Fantasy:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

MacMillan Audio

Words of Radiance is so enthralling that there were moments that I forgot to breath. There is a reason why Michael Kramer and Kate Reading are THE voices of fantasy, they managed to guide me through of nearly 50 hours of audio, in a genre I often struggle with, and leave me wanting more.

Authority: The Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 2

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Blackstone Audio

Jeff Vandermeer’s series about a strange terrain known as Area X has hit a cord with many speculative fiction fans. At times, I personally struggled with the series, but what I never struggled with was Pinchot’s performance in Authority. I know Pinchot is a wonderful performer, what I forgot was how funny he could be. Authority isn’t a humorous novel, but Pinchot is able to tap into the absurdity of the main character to bring the humorous aspects to vivid life.

Paranormal:

Fear City by F. Paul Wilson

Read by Alexander Cendese

Brilliance Audio

Alexander Cendese may be the biggest hidden talent in the audiobook business. His performance in the prequel series, Repairman Jack: The Early Years series, turned me into a fan of the series that spawned the prequels. When I did listen to the Earlier Repairman Jack novels, I found myself missing Cendese, despite excellent narrators like Dick Hill handling them. Given more opportunities, I feel Cendese could become a real force to be reckoned with in the industry.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Read by Christine Lakin, Terra Deva, Sunil Mohatra, Robert Morgan Fisher, JD Jackson

Hachette Audio

Broken Monsters is not a comfortable listen. Beukes latest genre busting tale is disturbing on many levels. Yet, the material is brought to brilliant life by this mutli-cast performance. Don’t expect to sleep comfortable after this listening, but do expect to be utterly enthralled.

Mystery\Thriller

The Wolf In Winter by John Connolly

Read by Jeff Harding

Simon & Schuster Audio

John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series finally gets the performance it deserves, at least stateside, with Jeff Harding’s masterful handling of this genre blending novel. Harding, who has read the complete series across the pond in England, finally performs the American version as well. His gruff style manages to catch the flow of the narrative, adding to the chills of this paranormal mystery.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

Simon & Schuster Audio

In all honesty, I was not a fan of this novel. Personally, I though King’s attempt to do a straight mystery thriller fell flat in a genre filled with talented writers. Yet, Will Patton’s performance kept me in the game. Patton managed to make this boring novel interesting, and made me almost care about these characters. Based solely on performance, Mr. Mercedes is an good bet at landing an Audie nomination.

 

Well, there are my predictions. I should be tweeting my reaction to the Audies announcement tomorrow, using the hashtasg #Audies2015.





My Top 10 Audiobooks of 2014

8 01 2015

In the past, I used to offer my favorite 20 audiobooks of the year. This, of course, when I was listening to nearly 200 audiobooks a year. In 2014, I listened to maybe 80-90 audiobooks in total, and the idea of doing a top 20 seemed ridiculous. So, instead, I offer you my 10 favorite audiobooks(with a few honorable mentions thrown in for good measure.). Despite the lower number, my choices were quite hard. I think 2014 was a great year for apocalyptic fiction and my list definitely reflects that.

Choosing my favorite audiobook of the year incredibly hard. I knew it would come down to a battle between two novels. One was a simply mind blowing exploration of Post Apocalyptic fiction. For me, I thought Station Eleven was brilliant, and worked on so many levels. Mandel’s ability to blend together multiple storylines with a menagerie of complex and wonderful characters creating one of the most vivid and fascinating entries into post apocalyptic fiction I have experienced in some time easily made it perhaps the best book I listened to in 2014. Yet, I didn’t have more fun listening to any book as a did Daniel Price’s The Flight of the Silvers. I went back and forth on my decision, but in the end I decided this isn’t a “Best of”list but a favorites list, and he book I enjoyed the most this year, by a hair was The Flight of the Silvers.

Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price

Read by Rich Orlow

Recorded Books

I should note that not was it my favorite Audiobook, but perhaps my best review of the year.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Read by Kirsten Potter

Random House Audio

Code Zero (Joe Ledger, Bk. 6) by Jonathon Maberry

Read by Ray Porter

Macmillan Audio

What list would be complete without the latest entry of the Joe Ledger series. What makes Code Zero so amazing is how Maberry brings together so much of the series into one book. While it’s book 6 of the series, it is also the direct sequel to Patient Zero and proves why Maberry is the Zombie king.

My Review

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Read by Peter Kenny

Hachette Audio

I loved Harry August. I mean, this book was right in my wheelhouse, like Replay and Life After Life, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a tale of one person living their life over and over. Yet, despite the apocalyptic tone of the novel, it is full of whismy and dark British humor that makes it a unique experience. 

My Review

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Read by Cassandra Campbell

Harper Audio

Bird Box is simply the scariest book of the year. And while there be monsters, Malerman let’s the monsters in your own head fill out the details. Bird Box also benefits from the wonderful performance of Cassandra Campbell. Chilling and wicked.

 

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Read by Josh Cohen

Random House Audio

Any other year, this would have been a contended for best book of the year. It’s an emotional exploration of one man’s character, while dealing with the death of one world, and the creation of another. I loved how Faber created a unapologetic, authentic Christian character who was, while at times frustrating and naïve, a good man. Josh Cohen’s narration was my favorite performance of the year. If you have only read this book, I encourage you to take some time and be mesmerized by a simply amazing performance which is the perfect example of how a narrator can enhance the experience of a book.

 

California by Edan Lepucki

Read by Emma Galvin

Hachette Audio

On the surface, California seems like your typical Young Adult Dystopian set up, but Lepucki strips away all the clichés and creates a disturbing yet enthralling look at societal breakdown and counter culture movements. California explores the nature of humanity, yet also manages to tell a darn good story.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Read by Finty Williams

Hachette Audio

So, you don’t like zombies? The Girl with All the Gifts may cure you of that unfortunate ailment. Carey once again shows that the undead are not simply the bloated corpse of a one trick pony, but a medium that offers much potential exploration. While good zombie tales are about delicious brains and entrails, great ones are about what it means to be human.

The Three by Sarah Lotz

Read by Andrew Wincott and Melanie McHugh

Hachette Audio

The Three was a novel that often managed to mesmerize me and frustrate me at the same time. Like Bird Box, The Three worked by using your own brain against you. Lotz asks open ended questions, and allowed the twisted brains of her readers to fill in the blanks. This made The Three fascinating to me, because each reader brings their own nightmares into the tale making the experience unique to them.

The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman

Read by Christopher Buehlman

Blackstone Audio

I almost didn’t listen to The Lesser Dead, because, well, meh vampires… and it was read by the author. Well, fucking A Vampires and perhaps the best Author narration I have ever hear. The main character, Joey Peacock, was one of my favorite characters of the year, and if the book ended with your typical horror story bloodbath ending I still would have loved it. But it didn’t and well… wow. Great surprising novel.

My 2014 Honorable Mentions

 

Defenders by Will McIntosh

The only reason Defenders didn’t make my top 10 Audiobooks, is because it’s not available in audio, which is a travesty. Defenders was easily my favorite print read of the year. McIntosh took pulp fiction to a new level. His economy of word created stunning imagery that defies logic.

Favorite Binge Listen:

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive , Bk. 2) by Brandon Sanderson

Read by Michael Kramer & Kate Reading

Macmillan Audio

So, for someone who is a bit hesitant to take on Epic Fantasies, binge listening to 100 hours of epic fantasy was a daunting task. But Dammit, The Stormlight Archives are everything I love about fantasy including stuff I didn’t realize I loved about fantasy.

Here are some of my other favorites of the year.





Audiobook Series Review: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

25 04 2014

For my reviews of the first two in this series, click on the images above

Hammered by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 3)

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B

Tricked by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 4)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 41 Min

Genre:Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Trapped by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 5)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 2 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Hunted by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 6)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: A-

People seem to love The Iron Druid series. In fact, they love it so much that upon discovering that someone may be like two… or four books behind in the series, that person’s status as a blogger and perhaps even their masculinity is called into question. As someone who cares greatly about his image as the manliest of all audiobook bloggers, it was my secret shame to be woefully behind in the various adventures of the titular Iron Druid, Atticus and his canine cohort Oberon. Now, I had, some time ago, listened to and enjoyed the first two books of this series. I even reviewed those books pretty positively, so OBVIOUSLY I should have quickly moved on to the rest of the series.

Yet, I didn’t. I got all sorts of distracted by other pretties. Hot new releases, other series, covers with alien crab walkers on it. I said to myself, Hey, you need to get back to that Druidy thing with the funny dog, and I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah… but this book has cyborg robots in love with Unicorns. Maybe after this book about a small boy and his talking chimp who survive global economic chaos through pluck and bad cockney accents.

Basically, there is too many goddam books for me to listen to them all, and dammit, I listen to a lot of frakkin’ books.

I know, excuses, excuses.

Since 2014, so far, has been the year of the audiobook series binge listen, and since I knew that in the relatively near future, due to a change at work, my listening time may decrease, I decided that if I was ever to catch up on this series, I needed to do it now. Hence, the Iron Druid Binge Listen. I have always been a fan of the binge listen. In fact, it’s my favorite kind of binging, since binge eating leads to health issues, and binge drinking eventually leads to me vomiting next to a merry-go-round in a elementary school playground. Yet, I find that certain types of book series, particularly Urban Fantasy and Horror series are well suited to the binge listen.

OK, confession time. Often times when I start the next book in a series, after the required year long wait, I am totally lost. I don’t know if it’s just the limit of my brains, or the affects of reading 150-200 books a year, but I tend to lose much of the details of a book over time. Even with my most favorite series ever there are characters who I know I should know, and foreshadowing events I should absolutely remember, but instead the details take a long time coming. More than once, I will get like two thirds of the way into a book, and have an “ah ha” moment saying, “Holy shit, that’s who that dude is.” I think this is one of the reasons I’m hesitant about epic fantasy, since by the time book 3 comes out I forgot who 758 of the 760 perspective characters where. This, my friends, is why Cthulhu created the series binge listen.

So, I started the binge listen with Hammered, book 3 of the series. Honestly, throughout most of Hammered, I was kinda “ho… hummm…. this is nice.” I definitively was suffering some of the dissonance of jumping back into the story, and the core part that always stuck out to me in this series was the relationship between Atticus and Oberon, which wasn’t as prevalent in Hammered. It seemed to me that Hammered was that essential book in every Urban Fantasy series where the protagonist goes off to do something incredibly stupid, which they know is stupid, and everyone they trust tells them it’s stupid but they continue to do it for some sort of arbitrary “pride” or “honor” reason and you the reader just knows it’s basically going to unleash the shit storm that they will be dealing with in upcoming books. You know you have to get through the “protagonist acting like a complete nit” book, in order to get to the more awesome “protagonist dealing with the shit storm that acting like a nit unleashed” books. There were two scenes that made Hammered worth it. Atticus’s interaction with Jesus, and the “bonding” sequence where each of the questers told their stories. So while I was less than thrilled with Hammered, I believed there was good things to come.

Thank God I was right!

After the events of Hammered, Atticus has a lot on his plate. Gods want to kill him, Religious whackjobs still don’t trust him, he has an apprentice to train, and Oberon still needs sausages. Tricked benefited a lot from a scenery change, and a whole new mythology to explore. I often cringe when books bring in Native American mythology, because it often comes off as derivative, but Hearne has a way of exploring mythology in creative ways while not diminishing the traditions. Tricked was a fun change of pace, and gave the characters a bit of a breather before the chaos begins, well, if you can consider dealing with evil skinwalkers a breather.

I was both surprised and relieved with the 12 year time jump in Trapped. When Atticus discussed the prophesy of the word burning in 13 years, I was like “Shit, now Hearne is going to write 12 novels each spanned out over a year until we get to the global apocalypse we all are waiting for. WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY WORLD BURING NOW!!!!” Now, maybe he still plans on string out 12 more novels, but at least Ragnarok is looming closer and closer, and this absolutely builds the tension. I really, really enjoyed both Trapped and Hunted. First off, I love that Hearne ended the sexual tension between Atticus and Granuaile with a choice, and not some clumsy fumbling moment where they both finally give into their long repressed passions. I love the interplay between Atticus and the various Gods. Hearne never gives into the Hollywood dulling of the natures of the gods but embraces their utter despicableness. Hunted is a brilliant otherworldly chase novel, that cleverly included some new perspectives, and lots of cool twists and turns that kept me enthralled until the end.

Yet, everyone, let’s be honest. We’d all probably like a Iron Druid novel if the plot was an unadventurous trip to the Laundromat, as long as their were plenty of interactions between Atticus and his hound Oberon. Sure, life and death struggles, battles with the gods, hot druid sex are all fine and good, but without Oberon bartering for sausages and bitches, what’s the point? Oberon makes this more than just another Urban Fantasy series. He imbibes it with soul, acting as Atticus’ insatiable moral compass. I mean, he’s a friggin’ dog and he’s awesome. What else do you want?

Now, I like to keep my personal feelings about a performer out of my evaluations of their performances, so I will not let my jealousy of the fact the ladies swoon at the mere mention of Luke Daniels name influence my thoughts on that rotten bastards narration of The Iron Druid Chronicles. I have listened to Daniel’s narrate a lot of thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary science fiction novels, and I am always impressed with his ability to tell a good story. He handles characters well, making each one distinct and creating dialogue that feels natural. Yet, I often forget just how wide of a range he truly has. Books like The Iron Druid Chronicles and Martin’s shared world anthology Wild Cards show that Daniels can take on any character, no matter what sex, nationality, genetic mutation, planet of origin, or any other goddam weirdo thing a screwed up author throws at him with ease. I honestly at times thought, “Now, Kevin Hearne is just fucking with him, right?” with some of the voices he had to pull off, but pull them off he did. I truly can’t imagine experiencing this series in any other manner besides audio without a significant decrease in awesomeness, and really, people, we want more awesomeness, not less. So get with it. So, if you have yet to listen to this series, maybe you too should partake in an Iron Druid binge listen.





Audiobook Review: Niceville by Carsten Stroud

18 09 2013

Niceville by Carsten Stroud

Read by Ann Marie Lee

Random House Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Gothic Horror/Crime Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Niceville is Stephen King meets Carl Hiaasen, a dark fantasy meet absurdist crime thriller told in multiple subplots that come together in a phantasm of gothic horror, dark comedy, and long buried family secrets.  Stroud creates his story in layers, slowly blending many storylines, weaving them together in an intricate pattern that isn’t fully revealed until the stunning conclusion.

Grade: A-

As a horror fan I learned early on not to trust the seemingly idyllic. Monsters and killers and the like are scary sure, but in a smack you in the face obvious sort of way. When I read a book, or watch a movie where some monster eviscerated a couple of stupid kids who decided to experiment sexually in their car in the woods, I am more annoyed by how these kids became a cliché, and feel they probably deserve to be gutted with a hook. It’s disgusting and bothersome, but not truly scary. So much of what goes for horror these days is really gore, set to be nauseatingly disgusting, but not something that will linger nibbling around your soul for years to come. What I truly find scary is the idyllic small town. You can have your monsters and demons sucking souls and torturing virgins. I’ll take my white picket fences and well maintained lawns. No matter how you dress it up, these seemingly idyllic towns are a simmering cauldron of witchcraft, interdimensional portals and dark secrets of gothic import.  You can make it all nice and pretty, with a throwback morality and small town charm, but I know that when you name your town Pleasant Gardens or Happy Valley, the only thing truly happy is the ancient being that lives beneath the surface of the town that subtly changes and influences its denizens to commit atrocities. I’m no fool. I’m from Philly, a city where brotherly love is typically the last thing on the table, so I know the more innocuous the town name, the greater the secret horrors that lie beneath it are.  Give me a town called Hell’s Gates or Cthulhu Hills, I will expect a strong community full of upstanding citizens who mind their own business unless a neighbor needs help, than they are quick with a kind word and a strong back. Yet, if your town sign says, "Welcome to Happy Town" I’m turning my ass around as quickly as friggin’ possible, you sick, sick bastards.

When a young boy goes missing, only to turn up comatose in an impossible place, CID officer Nick Kavanaugh is unsettled and begins to look into the high number of strange abductins that occur in the town of Niceville. A year later, a daring bank robbery and brutal slaughter of State Policemen sets off a series of events that shakes, Nick, his wife Kate and the citizens of Niceville to their core, events that have their roots in Niceville’s dark secret history. Niceville is Stephen King meets Carl Hiaasen, a dark fantasy meet absurdist crime thriller told in multiple subplots that come together in a phantasm of gothic horror, dark comedy, and long buried family secrets.  Stroud creates his story in layers, slowly blending many storylines, weaving them together in an intricate pattern that isn’t fully revealed until the stunning conclusion. It’s wonderfully done, full of so many fully realized despicable characters it was hard to pick which one you most wanted to get their due. While Niceville has plenty of likeable characters to cheer for, it’s the lowlifes and scumbags that steal the show. From the embittered women hating loser to the calm, cool and collected sociopath, each complicated scheme of one character finds a way to interact and derail the complicated scheme of another. While all this scheming, backstabbing and craziness is taking place, Stroud adds in a whole other level, a dark fantasy, both gothic and historic that is full on creepy to its core. Niceville has echoes of Stephen King’s Derry, but with a unique mythology all it’s own.  With all these balls in the air, you would think eventually the author would drop one, allowing it to all unravel into a messy clump of yarn, but he never does. Stroud manages to keep all his balls in the air, like a maniacal juggler laughing at you while you think he’s laughing with you.  Even though much of the story reveals itself slowly, I was never bored. While I was intrigued by what was happening in one area, I was equally fascinated by what could be happening in another. I was amazed that Stroud never lost me. Once I warmed to his story telling style, he had me enthralled and fascinated no matter what turn the story took, and I never once felt lost or confused, just filled with anticipation of what could happen next. Niceville was the rare story that managed to creep me out and make me laugh. Stroud creates some of the most memorable characters, and puts them through a a dark twisted wringer, yet still managing to pull out one heck of a multifaceted story.

The only area that left me a bit confused was the audio production. There was nothing truly wrong with Ann Marie Lee’s performance. I thought she had a strong grasp on the characters, and was quite pleasant to listen to. She moved the story along nicely, and never let anything drag. Her character voices were well delineated, which was quite a feat with so many characters. There wasn’t a single moment where I was confused to what character was speaking, nor did I need to be told by the author which POV I was in. Overall, I thought she did a good job with the Omniscient POV, where in many ways it felt like the true narrator was the town of Niceville. BUT… yeah, there’s a but. First off, I don’t think she was quite the right narrator for this novel. I am not sure why they cast a female narrator for a book where the majority of the characters where male, and snarky male scumbags at that. She did an amazing job with these male voices, but sometimes I felt the dark humor of the tale was muted by her performance. A narrator can alter the very feel of a novel by how they turn a phrase, and I think Niceville was full of a dark comedy that didn’t shine through Lee’s performance as much as it could have. I thought she had the creepy aspects down pat, but some of the absurdity of the tale lost its effectiveness. Overall, I came away thinking that Ann Marie Lee was an amazing narrator, just maybe not quite the right narrator for this story.





Audiobook Review: Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

9 09 2013

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

Read by John Lee

Random House Audio

Length 24 Hrs 5 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Perdido Street Station is a brilliant but at times overly complex fantasy tale that twists, meshes and redefines many of the standards of what fantasy is. Most importantly, if you are a big fan of giant empathic man eating killer moths and enjoy listening to them gaining carnal knowledge of each other before heading out to suck the life essence from a human being, this book is for you, you sick twisted excuse of a human being.

Grade: B

I really should learn my lessons. The other day I was scanning through my reviews this year, and realized I have actually listened to very little traditional second world fantasy. I’ve listened to plenty of Urban Fantasy, and other such genre off shoots, but not much tales of worlds other than ours, with magic, and unicorns and elves, and the like. This really isn’t too surprising. Of all my genre faves, second world fantasy is the genre I am probably most hesitant about. Typically, when I jump into a new fantasy reality, it’s part of a series, and I fall in love with the world in book 1, get intrigued my the story progression but dismayed by the lack of any true closure in book 2, and then totally ignore book three. I can probably name 5 series which I have read the first two books in, and still haven’t finished. So, the obvious solution to my fantasy drought would have been to pick up one of this final books in a trilogy, but this would require that awkward adjustment period when you jump back into a fantasy world you haven’t been in for years, but are expected to remember. So, instead, I put out a call on twitter for a stand alone second world fantasy novel. This first thing I learned is there is almost no goddam standalone fantasy novels out there. There are plenty of books that “standalone but exist in the same world” which I know I would be crazily trying to figure out the missing subtext and those little character relationships that are thrown in as Easter Eggs to the series fans. Finally, after receiving a few recommendations for series, or fantasy series that weren’t second world, I finally decided that it was going to come down to two names, China Mieville and Guy Gavriel Kay, fantasist that I believe met my criteria, but I have always been a bit intimidated by. This off course, lead me to my major issue. Upon talking about China Mieville, I suddenly got slammed with PERDIO STREET STATION! PERDIDO STREET STATION! recommendations. So, I chose to, well, take my initial voyage into the world of China Mieville with Perdido Street Station. I guess this is what I get for asking for book recommendations on Twitter.

So, I am going to forgo writing a synopsis about this book, because it is so weird, and really, what same person would believe me. Perdido Street Station is at its core, a love story between a woman who has a human body, but her head is, well, not so much insectile but an actual full bodied insect and a mad scientist, who is really quite sensible. It is also a tale of government corruption, organized crime, and a fantasy exogenous anthropological tour through a fantasy city which is both recognizable and entirely alien. Mieville’s city of New Crobuzon is brilliantly conceived and surprisingly vivid. Each moment he spends showing us around this city is breathtakingly physical. In many ways you feel the heat, smell the stench and find yourself a bit uneasy as you enter each new district, and meet it’s strange other than human denizens. Yet, it’s not just a thought exercise, but a interesting story of a scientist who let his zeal to find a way to give a bird like being restored flight after his wings had been removed due to a crime, lead to a danger that may destroy the entire city. Herein lies the problem. It’s wonderfully done, full of complex action scenarios, strange diverse characters including robots, demons and large spidery things and a fascinating revenge tale involving a disturbing crime boss, but the menace was HUGE EMPATHIC KILLER MOTHS. This is what I get for asking for recommendations on twitter, monstrous moths having sex and eating people’s essence. I have been quite open about my mottephobia. I have an irrational fear and disgust of moths which I trace back to the days when my sister would hide at the bottom of the attic steps and throw dead moths at me when I came down. If a moth lands on me, I feel dirty the rest of the day. And now I have images of giant moths fucking in my brain that can’t be removed without targeted radiation or some PDK-like superdrug. Perdido Street Station was a challenging book for many reasons. Mievelle’s world is so foreign that it takes time to adjust to. In many ways, his world building is the antithesis to much of the fantasy I have read in the past. There were moments I really enjoyed this book, particularly the wonderful city and some of the most fascinating characters I have encountered in fiction, but for the most part my brain was so involved in understanding the book, it forgot to enjoy it. Plus, KILLER MOTHS! I mean, really. One last note, I only later discovered that Perdido Street Station is in fact, listed as part of a series. I know… I know… it’s not a traditional series, but moths and a series. What’s next, finding out that New Crobuzon is actually located in Idaho? Geez…

So, John Lee reads Perdido Street Station, and this makes me angry. I love John Lee. I think he’s one of the best narrators out there particularly when it comes to fantasy. He has a lush voice that can be both simple and complex at the same time. He manages to bring New Crobuzon alive in such beautiful ways.  One day, I would love to interview him for the blog. Of course then I would absolutely have to ask him about moth sex. MOTH SEX. If I ever meet the man in person, the first thing that will pop into my head won’t be his performance in Pillars of the Earth, which I consider one of the greatest narrator performances of all times, or his handling of the wonderful works of Graham Joyce, or even the odd but brilliant choice to have him narrate Brian Hodge’s Prototype… nope, it will be “Here’s the man who voiced killer empathic moth sex.” DAMMITT! Yet, this shouldn’t take away from the fact that once again Lee gives a wonderful performance. Perdido Street Station is a brilliant but at times overly complex fantasy tale that twists, meshes and redefines many of the standards of what fantasy is. Most importantly, if you are a big fan of giant empathic man eating killer moths, and enjoy listening to them gaining carnal knowledge of each other before heading out to suck the life essence from a human being, this book is for you, you sick twisted excuse of a human being.





Audiobook Review: Never Go Back by Lee Child

4 09 2013

Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, Bk. 18) by Lee Child

Read by Dick Hill

Random House Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 43 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Despite some small disappointments along the way, Child creates another memorable Reacher tale, and adds some new little twists that should make even the most hardcore, surly Reacher fan break out into at least a contented smirk. Never Go Back is classic Jack Reacher, full of conspiracy, quick sudden violence, an idiosyncratic investigatory process and some surprising moments of heart.

Grade: B+

A few years ago (ahem, like maybe 15 or so) a coworker explained to me why he enjoyed the television show, Walker: Texas Ranger. Now, before this, I was a bit skeptical of the appeal of this show, and while I never became a fan, after this conversation I begun to understand why this show could garnish a solid fan base. My coworker explained that someone usually got their assed kicked in the first five minutes and last five minutes of every episode. Thinking about this, I found the formula to be pretty much solid. As I thought about it, any show staring Chuck Norris, and opening with a very strange country western diddy sung by the star itself, wouldn’t be bring in the audience searching for nuanced plots and clever dialogue. This is not a criticism in the least bit. I personally enjoy a action for action sake book, movie or TV show on occasion, as long as the show gives me plenty of what I am looking for, I am happy. While a Jack Reacher novel is often actually quite clever, with Reacher’s pedantic nature, obsession with numbers and strange way of thinking just as much a weapon in his arsenal as his brutish strength and well honed killer instincts, whenever I start a Reacher novel, I rarely think, "I can’t wait to see how Reacher’s love of numbers helps him solve his case." Now, I enjoy Reacher’s quirks, but my initial thoughts tend to be, "Hey, Can’t wait until Reacher kicks some douchebags ass." This is why in the last Reacher novel, I felt myself becoming more and more frustrated as the story progressed. At one point, I checked the time, and I realized it was 5 hours into the audiobook, and still Reacher hadn’t performed any of his patented asskickery. 5 HOURS! I mean, the book was interesting, and the set up unique, but Reacher not kicking someone’s ass in the first 5 hours seemed a bit wrong.  So, when I started Never Go Back, I was acutely aware of the asskicking clock…. which this time maxed out at 5 Minutes, before some asskicking was delivered, and all was right with the world. 

After traveling from North Dakota for about three or four books, to Washington DC, in order to meet Major Turner, the intriguing new CO of Reacher’s old command, based solely on the fact that he liked her voice, Reacher has finally arrived. Yet, when he shows up, he finds things amiss. Turner is missing, replaced by a cocky Lieutenant Colonel who uses a technicality to conscript Reacher back into the Army in order to force him to face charges for an alleged assault 16 years ago that Reacher doesn’t even remember. Yet, when Reacher discovers that Major Turner is in fact arrested, and some local soldiers attempt to intimidate him into running, he does what his current batch of enemies least want him to do, he sticks around stirring up trouble. Never Goes Back starts off with a bang, sucking me right into this latest tale with a wonderful set up, some over the top Reacher moments, and a complex conspiracy that only a person willing to do exactly what is least expected can crack open. Reacher, of course, is exactly this type of person. Honestly, you’d think the bad guys would finally realize that Reacher may be the worse guy to mess with, whether it’s a physical assault or a complicated frame job, pulling him into your shady business will never end well. Never Go Back combines Reacher’s typically brawler physical style and his intricate planning and investigatory style, telling a tale that puts it right up there with some of this series best. As always, the scenarios flirts with the edges of unbelievably and Reacher is either the luckiest bastard in the world, or just really THAT good. To make matters even more interesting, Child adds a new, personal element as a twist to Never Go Back that shows us a new side of Reacher, while filling the story with humor and heart. It’s nice to see a lighter side to a Reacher tale, while still filled with dark violence. Yet, it’s not all perfect. The pacing of this tale was a bit off balanced. It started out pretty explosive, and the first 5 hours are non-stop awesome, but there is a long stretch in the middle that is interesting, but drags a bit. Also, I felt the ending was a bit anticlimactic, without the big payoff in both revelation and violent confrontation that you want in a Reacher novel. I think this has to do with the fact that his powerful enemies, with seemingly unlimited resources were not much of a match in the end for a man with good walking boots and a toothbrush. Overall, I loved Never Go Back. I think moments of this tale will rival some of the most memorable of the series. Despite some small disappointments along the way, Child creates another memorable Reacher tale, and adds some new little twists that should make even the most hardcore, surly Reacher fan break out into at least a contented smirk.

I have to say that I am happy that Reacher’s injuries have healed up enough from A Wanted Man, that we can get back to classic Dick Hill Reacher and not the nasally version the previous audiobook required. Dick Hill is back in his classic Reacher form, bringing his meticulous, should I even say, pedantic wording, and sudden violent outburst alive for all us to revel in.  Listening to Dick Hill read a Jack Reacher novel is, for audiobook fans, like returning home, even if your home is walking down the long stretches of American Highways and byways. Never Go Back finds Dick Hill in fine Reacher form. This time there are no awkward train related sex scenes, or nasal issues, just Reacher and enough interesting peripheral characters for Hill to sink his larynx into. Hill’s inflection and cadence brings as much to the tale as Child’s writing does, allowing us to know just what kind of nothing Reacher is saying. As always, the bit of melancholy at the ending of the tale leaves just enough for me to long for the next Reacher novel the moment I complete the current one. Who knows what is next for out lone hero?

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