Audiobook Review: Zombie: A Love Story by Patricia Lee Macomber

30 05 2013


2013 Zombie Awareness Month

Zombie: A Love Story by Patricia Lee Macomber

Read by Chet Williamson

Crossroad Press

Length: 3 Hrs 54 Min

Genre: Zombie Romantic Comedy

Quick Thoughts: Zombie: a Love Story gives new meaning to the term Zombie Road Trip. It is what a good romantic comedy should be, a tale of epic love with a few surprises and plenty of laughs.

Grade: B

The great urban poet, Meatloaf once declared, "I will do anything for love, but I won’t do that." Now, I am not exactly sure what THAT is or why a man would willingly choose to be called Meatloaf, but this concept always leads to an interesting moment of self evaluation…. What exactly would I do for love, and what is MY that. Honest answer, I have no friggin’ clue. Despite the fact that I am quite clever, write excellent Facebook statuses, and am slightly lumpy and awkward looking but not a total train wreck, I am still single. In fact, I scoff at romance novels and movies mostly due to a total inability to buy into them due to an egregious lack of similar life experiences. Sure, I have people who I love, and women who I thought maybe someday I could quite possibly feel an increased level of affection for, but shockingly, I am not much of a romantic.  Now, I am willing to do many things for people I care about. I put up with family members eccentricities and neurosis and act supportive. I spend my weekends when I could be out boozing and whoring with people who I feel deserves my time. I slip my dog an extra meat stick when he looks cute and scratches my leg as I am attempting to write reviews. Yet, a love that defies death, I am not so sure about that. In all likelihood, if I become a Zombie, no matter how much I believe I care about you, I will probably care more about sampling your tasty innards, than professing my undying love in a final grand gesture. Maybe I’m a pragmatist, or maybe I have just yet to meet the right undead girl.

After an accidental exposure to a toxic substance at his job in the New York City subway, Paul Trembley died, only to wake up hours later in the morgue. Now, with his flesh rotting, and unable to properly communicate, Paul must attempt a cross country drive as his mental faculties begin to deteriorate, in order to express his love for his girlfriend and women of his dreams, Linda. This is if he can avoid car jackers, cops and his desire for raw meat. Zombie: a Love Story gives new meaning to the term Zombie Road Trip. It’s a funny undead trip across the country, all in the name of love. Patricia Lee Macomber has created an epic love story that may border on the edge of saccharin sweet, yet the aftertaste is more than covered up by the human flesh. Paul and Linda are the kind of couple that you groan to be around, full of inside jokes, special songs and shared memories, yet, on some level, deep in that secret spot in your soul where you admit to maybe tearing up a bit during the Forrest and Jenny scenes during Forrest Gump, you envy. While the story pushed the edges of slapstick, the humor comes in retrained waves instead of flung into you face. I think my favorite moments came with the outsider perspectives, with Paul’s best friend Matt attempting to explain to the cops about his dead best friend, or the police attempting to justify the image of good guy Paul with that of a cannibalistic killer. It all should be over the top, but it’s not. it’s just a good dose of fun, with some lovey dovey moments. I especially like that Macomber didn’t go for the straight out of Hollywood, romcom ending, but had some moments of emotionally brutality that you just didn’t expect. While everything is wrapped up in a cutesy manner, it still worked, and matched the tone of the book. Zombie: A Love Story is what a good romantic comedy should be, a tale of epic love with a few surprises and plenty of laughs.

Chet Williamson handles the narration for Zombie: A Love Story and gives it just the right feel. His deep voice takes on a whimsical feel that managed to make Paul’s earnestness and Linda’s positivity shine through. He does a good job showing Paul’s mental decline, allowing us to follow his increasingly scattershot thought process. Williamson allows the humor to shine through without trying to sell it, but just letting it come naturally. Matt’s slow surfer dude draw at times seemed a bit like a stereotypical Cali dimwit, but, being that Matt was a bit of a stoner, it fit well enough. There was one moment, where a character was referred to by the wrong name, yet, it’s hard to say whether this was a narrator mistake, or an editing slip in the script. Outside of that, the production was excellent, and made for an enjoyable listening experience.  

Note: This title was provided for me for review by Audiobook Jukebox’s Sold Gold Reviewers Program.

Audiobook Review: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

9 04 2013

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Read by Kate Rudd

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 9 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a melancholy near future tale of love, family and robots, told on a canvas of a fascinating post disaster world. She fills her world with fully realized, flawed characters that filled me with joy as they were pissing me off. Clarke has managed to create a wonderful science fiction tale with a romantic tilt that I totally bought into. which isn’t the easiest of feats.

Grade: A-

It’s no secret I love robots That being said, I have never LOVED a robot, although I have on occasion imagined my roomba giving me longing glances. Yet, despite this lack of any erotic robot experience, something lured me to Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Mad Scientist Daughter. Sure, part of it was the excellent review by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings, but mostly it was the book tagline "A Tale of Love, Loss and Robots." Honestly, if you know anything about me, you know that if it has robots, I’ll probably be reading it. Yet, that other part, the Love part, is problematic. I don’t have the best history with Romance, either personal or literary. Sure, I have occasionally read tales of sexy dragons or lovelorn Cemetery Restorers, but just never really connect with the romance of the tale and often find the sexy times sort of, well, awkward, particularly when listening around others. I think the problem is that I understand the romance, yet never really feel it. I think this is the essential characteristic needed to enjoy romantic oriented novels, the ability to emotionally embrace the romance. The problem for me is I can simply never relate to the characters. I can never put myself into the role. Maybe, it’s that I find myself unbelievable as a romantic lead, or maybe it’s that romantic leads tend to be people I can’t relate with. In fact, i often become resentful or mocking towards these Alpha male characters. Yet, here is where I think that I may really have issues. Occasionally… rarely but occasionally, I do get emotionally invested in a romance. Last time I shed a tear due to a romantic entanglement was during the movie Forrest Gump, particularly when he tells Jenny, "I may not be a smart man, but I do know what love is." I found myself enthralled with Lydia Netzer’s novel Shine, Shine, Shine, particularly in the non-Traditional romantic elements. It seems that when the male character is emotionally distant, or in someway outside of societal norms to the point where they are considered handicapped in some way, then grab the tissues, it’s time to fake some allergies. I really don’t know what this says about me, though it really may explain why I am still single.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter tells the life story of Cat Novak, the daughter of a famous cyberneticist. One day, when she is six, she is introduced to her new tutor, Finn, a man so pale, she believes him to be a ghost. Yet, he is not a ghost, but a one-of-a-kind android made to be nearly human. As Cat grows, Finn becomes more and more essential to her life, moving from tutor, to friend, to something even more. Yet, is Finn capable to return her love? So, before we get to what you all want to know about, which is the hot steamy robot kissy sexy lovey stuff, I want to examine the other aspects of this novel. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is set in a fascinating near future, post disaster world where robots and Artificial Intelligence are becoming more important to humanity, to the chagrin of many. I both loved and was frustrated by the world Clarke created. It was a beautiful tragic world, perfect for the tale being told. Yet, the tale itself was so intimate, so limited in perspective that you felt there was so much brimming around the surface of the tale that was worth being explored, particularly, as a post apocalyptic fan, the history that lead up to the changed world. Yet, despite my longing to know more, Clarke brilliantly hands out tempting tidbits along the way, allowing us to get small glimpses of a greater piece. She creates a permeating sense of melancholy with her words, with the broken world an almost too perfect reflection of the somewhat broken protagonist. Cat herself was equally frustrating, making decisions that simply boggled my mind. I sometimes wonder why authors will create theses wonderfully complex and compelling female characters, the saddle them with this condescending douchebags, and offering us just enough foreshadowing of the doomed nature of their relationship to keep us wanting to scream at this woman to runaway as fast as she can. Here again, I wonder if it’s just a matter of translation, that my romance deficient brain wants to analyze these relationships logically. So, now, the robot love. Guys… totally bought into it. It seems that yes, I need to add androids to my accepted list of romantic leads I can become engaged with. Now, part of me was happy to see that even robot man can be incredibly inept when it comes to women, so there’s that. Yet, Clarke had me hook, line and robotic immersion device.  I think with many romantic plots there is a sort of feeling of inevitability. That you simply know that the star crossed lovers will eventually both grab on to the correct navigational chart and find there way together, despite this, I was fascinated by this romance through every step. Even the uncomfortable sexy parts were done well, and never felt superfluous to the plot. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a melancholy near future tale of love, family and robots, told on a canvas of a fascinating post disaster world. She fills her world with fully realized, flawed characters that filled me with joy as they were pissing me off. Clarke has managed to create a wonderful science fiction tale with a romantic tilt that I totally bought into. which isn’t the easiest of feats.

Kate Rudd narrates this tale and does so wonderfully.  The first thing that jumps out to me is the flavor of her characters. She reads the prose with a poetic tilt, capturing the mood of the tale with proficient ease. Yet, when she moved to her characters, and the dialogue, there is just something extra there, a touch of something unique and flavorful that came out in every voice she created. As someone who listens to so many audiobooks, you begin to recognize stock voices, traditional go to vocalizations that narrators use for characters. Maybe it’s just my limited experience with Rudd, this being only my second audiobook experience with he, but none of these characters felt rote in anyway. Each off them came off real. Of course, there were also her robot voices. I loved how she changed cadence when delivering an artificial voice, but still managed to inflect something new into each robotic character. Her voice of Cat’s Artificial Intelligent house was especially creepy. Rudd’s excellent performance truly enhanced my experience of this already excellent tale.

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

Audiobook Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

28 05 2012

Dreadfully Ever After (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Bk. 3) by Steve Hockensmith

Read by Katherine Kellgren

Audible, Inc.

Length: 9 Hrs 9 Min

Genre: Romantic Zombie Parody

Quick Thoughts: If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I am sure Dreadfully Ever After will be a hit. For others, it is a decent adventure comedy that suffers only a bit from being the extrapolation of one long running joke. I actually had some fun with it, although I have no plans to run back and consume the novels prequels.

Grade: B-

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After is nominated for a 2012 Audie Award in the Fantasy Category.

My first experience with Jane Austen was all the way back in 8th grade English class. To be perfectly honest, I remember almost nothing of the experience. In fact, until recently, I couldn’t remember if it was Pride and Prejudice I read, or Sense and Sensibility. I was a 15 year old boy, just busting through puberty who had just discovered Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I wanted to read about genetically engineered dogs, and insane supernatural clowns, not manners and marriage among the landed gentry of 1800’s England. Of course, that was over 20 years ago. I am older and more mature. I have experienced the stumbles and pitfalls of romance. My reading materials are much more diverse. This more mature, more open-minded version of myself still has no desire to read about the manners and marriage of the landed gentry of 1800’s England. Perhaps id Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came out back when the fifteen year old version of me was still developing his tastes as a reading I wound now be an Austen enthusiast, and married to a landed English noblewoman with a predilection for violence and mayhem in the face of an undead swarm.

I listened to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After as part of the 2012 Armchair Audies. Dreadfully Ever After was nominated for an Audie Award in the Fantasy Category. Now, being a huge fan of Zombie fiction, I was a bit surprised that the one title I dreaded most out of the 16 titles in the categories I was covering was a Zombie novel. Yet, being simply being based on Jane Austen, of whom I have established I’m not a fan of, it was also the third in a series. So, I had to decide, should I listen to the first two in a series I’m not interested in or just jump right into the book. I jumped… or perhaps leaped into it. Dreadfully Ever After takes place after the events of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Now, Elizabeth has retired from her Zombie killing days and settled down as wife to Mr. Darcy. Returning home from a visit, they are attacked by a zombie, leading Mr. Darcy to be bitten, and perhaps doomed. Calling on the manipulative Aunt Catherine, and unbeknownst to Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth and her family take on a mission to procure a possible cure to the deadly virus. Dreadfully Ever After is an often amusing adventure tale with parodic hints to mission impossible. It is more an absurdist caper that a comedic comedy of manners. While it took me a while to get a good grasp on the characters, I found the absurdist stretches to the source material to be quite well executed. In particular, Kitty Bennett, Elizabeth Darcy’s young sister, often viewed as silly, was the perfect honey trap for a vapid English Dandy, and provided the best moments of the book. Of course, being based on Pride and Prejudice there were romantic elements, yet they were offbeat, funny and in some ways quite touching. If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I am sure Dreadfully Ever After will be a hit. For others, it is a decent adventure comedy that suffers only a bit from being the extrapolation of one long running joke. I actually had some fun with it, although I have no plans to run back and consume the novels prequels.

Katherine Kellgren once again proves her masters grasp on accents and diverse characterizations in her performance in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After. During the moments where I was not connecting totally with the text, especially in the beginning of the book, Kellgren’s command of the narrative kept my ears glued to the auditory page. With such an over the top comedic novel, I’m glad that Kellgren’s narration, for the most part, stayed clear of over the top characterization. There were moments, particularly when voicing Sir Agnus MacFarquhar that she pushed up against that line but she never breaks it. What truly impressed me, and was a side of Kellgren I haven’t seen before was her sense of comic timing. She displayed the absurdity of the situation wonderfully, capturing just the right wry tone and easily eliciting laughs at the proper moments. This is clearly an instance where the narration of an audiobook enhances the experience of the novel.

Audiobook Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

20 05 2011

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Read by Kevin Kenerly

Blackstone Audio

Genre: Zombie Romance

Quick Thoughts: A beautiful, mesmerizing tale that will delight both fans of zombies, and lovers of compelling literature. Narrator Kevin Kenerly breathes life into the lifeless with a haunting performance that will stick with you for a long time. One of the best audiobooks of the year.

Grade: A

There is a scene in George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead that has always stuck with me. A character is bitten while fighting a zombie. His pal offers him the traditional choice of a bullet to the brain. The character hesitates for a moment, the smirks, saying, “Nah, I always wanted to see how the other half lives.” Now, this of course, goes against the traditional Zombie movie response. Typically, the view is that Zombies are so inhuman, and their acts of eating humans is so despicable, that it is a kindness to blow a comrades grey matter out of their head before allowing them to turn zombie. Yet, I have always wondered, how does the other half live? Inside the zombie, is their still a touch of our soul left, a bit part that remembers what it is to be human? Beyond that, when not chasing humans or giving siege to their malls, what is the life of a zombie like. Does is experience pleasure? Does it want community? While it may be something less than human, is it something more than a brainless eating machine? When I first heard of Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. Although fascinated by the concept, I was worried that the execution would be, well slapstick. Ummm… me zombie…. Eat brains… oh, pretty girt…groan…. Brains…. I heard the novel had been praised for its humor, so I was expecting some sort of lighthearted shallow comic zombie love story.

Luckily, I was quite wrong. Warm Bodies is many things, disturbing, creepy, moving, poetic, but never, ever slapstick. Isaac Marion has truly created a character in R, our Zombie hero, which transcends the zombie genre, and will stick with you for a long time. R can’t read, and can barely talk. He enjoys the simple things, groaning, riding the escalators, listening to music, and of course, eating the brains of the living which allows him to experience their memories. Yet, this outwardly simple existence is a mask for a vast and beautiful inner dialogue. When he meets the girlfriend of one of his victims, Julie, something changes inside him, leading him to save her life. At its essence this novel is about this relationship.  Yes, there are some great moments of action that you expect in a zombie apocalypse, and a surprising amount of humor, yet, all these extras just highlight the developing relationship. If you are not affected by Warm Bodies, than I can’t see how anything can affect you. For a book about the undead, you cannot help but feel the glory of life, the potential that living can bring. Conversely, there is an overwhelming darkness that has filtered through the whole world that Marion has created. In the end, the epic battle isn’t between the armies of good and evil, but in the spark of life versus the darkness of despair.

This is my first experience with Kevin Kenerly as a narrator and I was impressed. The novel relies heavily on the inner dialogue of R, and Kenerly reads it with this mesmerizing breathy quality. The narrative flows seamlessly, breathing life into the lifeless. His voices, for both the living and the not so living, merge well with the overall tone of the novel. I was especially impressed with his zombie vocalizations. Kennerly never goes over the top, but neither does he makes the zombies sound like more than they are. He finds the perfect median, allowing us to stay immersed in the tale without being dragged out by kitschy zombie moans. This marriage between writer and narrator works perfectly creating on of the best and most unique zombie tales I have experienced, and I have experienced quite a few. This novel is a winner not just for fans of zombies, but for lovers of compelling and moving literature and is one of the best audiobooks of the year.