Audiobook Review: Six Years by Harlan Coben

4 06 2013

Six Years by Harlan Coben

Read by Scott Brick

Brilliance Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 37 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Six Years is another fun standalone Thriller from Harlan Coben that will have you turning the pages (or audio tracks) so fast that you won’t bother to stop and think about the many inconsistencies until the thrilling finale when you shout, “Aha! I was right all along!” With a bit of action, a likeable if not a bit dim main  character and nauseating melodrama, Six Years is a Coben tale for Coben fans.

Grade: B-

I think one of the major problems for Thriller characters is that they don’t know that they are in a Thriller novel. Sure, there are those who do, and are overly competent, ready to kick some ass, bring down a complex conspiracy and treat the opposite sex character in the novel to some life changing nookie. These Thriller characters have names like Brad Puncher or Ash Butcher and when the shit hits the fan, they take the fan out with a grenade launcher. Yet, not every Thriller character has the opportunity to be a highly skilled operative in a secret government agency, nor do they all have a tragic past that forced them into a life of exile training under that tutelage of a long retired master. Some of them are just Dudes. Guys or gals who find themselves caught up in the shenanigans of others. These poor oafs don’t even realize that have made it into the pages of a thriller novel yet are too stubborn to let things go like a normal everyday lazy person. Their investigative skills are laughable. They will make long elaborate trips to try to get one small bit of information, yet, never think to do things like, let’s say, Google the dude central to their investigation. Yet, when they finally do realize they may just be Thriller characters, they become caught up in stupid thriller tropes, like how to switch out their license plate, instead of focusing on the task at hand. And of course, they never think to call the cops or higher an investigator, because the first rule in goofball thriller club is you don’t tell anyone else anything so that if you die, all the bad guys problems are solved. Yet, I often feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I will listen to a thriller, and bitch and moan about how the main character is some “do no wrong” borderline superhero, then in the next breath I will scream to the heavens about the ineptitudes of the everyman character. Yet, I accept this hypocrisy, and fully admit on some level, I love both these characters, especially the norms fumbling through investigations. I just wish they wouldn’t wait until two thirds of the way into the novel to utilize THE GOOGLE.

In Six years, a normal everyday guy gets involved in an over the top conspiracy that he manages to bumble his way through until he eventually forces the bad guys hands placing his life in jeopardy. Basically, this is the shit that Harlan Coben fans love, myself included. This time, our everyman is college professor Jake Fisher. Six Years ago, Jake Fisher’s dream girl Natalie suddenly decides to marry an old boyfriend, leaving Jake heartbroken yet promising to leave the happy couple alone. That is until he discovers her husband’s obituary, and finds out that the loving wife he left behind wasn’t his lost girl. As Jake investigates, more lies and deceptions pile up and Jake finds himself in the crosshairs of some dangerous men. I have to be honest, there were some moments in Six Years that just had me shaking my head. I think most Thriller fans will figure out the general vicinity of the main mystery pretty early but the ludicrousness of Jake and Natalie’s brief passionate courtship just makes you feel like you had to be missing something. From a critical perspective, I found Six Years to just be too full of inconsistencies, weird side trips, flawed reasoning and stupid characters on all sides of the good guy/bad guy spectrum. Yet, I could help by like Jake Fisher, and because of that, enjoy the story despite the plots many flaws. I think there needs to be something congruous to the “A Wizard Did It” loophole in Fantasy for Thrillers. If both Criminals and Heroes don’t act in incredibly stupid ways, then most thrillers would be about 20 pages, so in some ways this stupidity serves the plot. Sure, if Fisher spent less time reading Hobbes and Locke and more time reading Connelly and Grisham, he probably would have figured half the plot by just reading the dead husband’s bio, but let’s face it, we don’t read Coben for his brilliant protagonists. We read him because he books are so damn fun. Six Years is another fun standalone Thriller from Harlan Coben that will have you turning the pages (or audio tracks) so fast that you won’t bother to stop and think about the many inconsistencies until the thrilling finale when you shout, “Aha! I was right all along!” With a bit of action, a likeable if not a bit dim main  character and nauseating melodrama, Six Years is a Coben tale for Coben fans. What more could you want?

Here’s the thing about Scott Brick. I think sometimes he may be too good. I know he has his detractors, and I haven’t loved everything he’s read, but there is no better narrator at pulling out the poetry of the prose, and giving a novel an almost lyrical feel. That is, of course, if there is any poetry to find in the book. I think that Brick’s narration, if this makes sense, made me wish that Six Years was a better book. Part of me wonders if some of the flatter moments would have been easier to take if a less stylistic narrator had read the novel. Now, I know I may be sounding overly critical, and maybe even a bit snarky. I really enjoyed Six Years. I do not in anyway think it is a great book, or even close to Coben’s best, but I am happy I spent the 10 hours listening to Scott Brick read this novel, and I am not quite sure if this was more due to the narrator’s skills, or the actual book. I’m going to go the safe was and say a little of both, but probably mostly Brick. Now, that I’ve listened to Six Years, I’m ready for some more Myron and Winn.

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





Audiobook Review: 21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology edited by Christopher Golden

6 05 2013

Zombob2ZAM

2013 Zombie Awareness Month

21st Century Dead edited by Christopher Golden (Check out the Full Story Listing After the Review)

Read by Scott Brick, Cassandra Campbell, Bernadette Dunne, Paul Michael Garcia, Kirby Heyborne, Malcolm Hillgartner, Chris Patton, John Pruden, Renée Raudman, Stefan Rudnicki, Sean Runnette, Simon Vance, and Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 40 Min

Genre: Zombie Anthology

Quick Thoughts: 21st Century Dead is a zombie anthology full of wonderful, bizarre and diverse stories involving zombies and other iterations of the undead in such variety it would make both Baskin and Robbins jealous. Some of the top tales come from new to me authors like Mark Morris and Amber Benson with a special shout out to Chelsea Cain. If you are looking for a wide variety of unique tales about zombies of all shapes, colors and tastes, 21st Century Dead is a worthwhile buffet of zombie shorts

Grade: B+

So, I was thinking about a good way to explain an excellent and diverse Zombie anthology, because I know the concept is so complex that it needs explaining, and the phrase that popped into my head was “Zombie Smorgasbord.” Oh, boy. When I was in high school, back in what some people refer to as “the 90’s” or what many of my fellow bloggers may call “before I was born” I worked for a now defunct Buffet restaurant. I started as a dishwasher, worked my way up to pots and eventually became a skilled line cook. I never made it out of the kitchen of course because, as my boss at the time explained it, “You have a face for back of the kitchen work.” Back then, I really wasn’t that into Zombie lit. It would be about another 12 years until I read Brian Keene’s The Rising and became a huge Zombie fan. Yet, it was about the time I was working my way through The Stand, and Swan Song for like the third time each, and I totally thought that working at this Buffet would give me a leg up when it came time to load up on supplies for that cross country apocalyptic road trip. So, where was I… oh yeah…? Zombie Smorgasbord. So, when this phrase popped into my mind, so too did wonderful variety of images. I pictured a bunch of Zombies shuffling past a serving table full of entrails, brains and a variety of limbs. I see a plainly decorated establishment where a zombie works the carving station, carving [insert grotesque image here]. I see stalls full of zombies available for the choosing, carefully managed by the FIFO system where the nastiest maggot infested zombies are at the front and the fresher, nearly human looking zombies are in the back. You see, this illustrates my point, a good Zombie anthology is full of a variety of awesome and disturbing, but mostly awesomely disturbing stories for our twisted flavorful brains.

21st Century Dead is a zombie anthology edited by Christopher Golden full of wonderful, bizarre and diverse stories involving zombies and other iterations of the undead in such variety it would make both Baskin and Robbins jealous. This anthology is packed full of some of my favorite authors including Brian Keene, Jonathon Maberry and Thomas E. Sniegoski, some authors I have always wanted to read including SG Browne, Amber Benson and Duane Swierczynski and new to me authors that I must now check out like Ken Bruen, Mark Morris and Stephen Susco. So, now onto the stories. The anthology started out with an intriguing tale of a society adapting to a world with zombies called Biters by Mark Morris. It was a wonderful start to the anthology and put me in the right mind. Then it hit me in the head with a creepy and a bit sardonic poem by Chelsea Cain which, along with the performance of the narrator Cassandra Campbell was one of the highlights of this audiobook. Since there were about 20 tales in all, I won’t mention them all, but for there’s something here from all zombie fans. There are more traditional Zombie Outbreak tales like Jack and Jill by Jonathan Maberry, Couch Potato by Brian Keene and The Dead of Dromore by Ken Bruen, some interesting twists on the undead like Devil Dust by Caitlin Kittredge, Ghost Dog & Pup: Stay by Thomas E. Sniegoski and Tender as Teeth by Stephanie Crawford and Duane Swierczynsk, and some really bizarre tales like The Drop by Stephen Susco, Antiparallelogram by Amber Benson and Carousel by Orson Scott Card.  Sadly, not all the tales were winners. Two of bigger draws for this anthology, Kirt Sutter and Daniel H. Wilson were a bit of a disappointment. I thought Sutter’s tale was simply bizarre, and not in a good way, and while Wilson’s tale, which takes place in the world he created in Robopocalypse, started off well, it lost its way. Yet, most of these tales were a lot of fun. If you are looking for a wide variety of unique tales about zombies of all shapes, colors and tastes, 21st Century Dead is a worthwhile buffet of zombie shorts.

Like the author list, 21st Century Dead was a mix of narrators, many of whom I am familiar with, while others I have wanted to experience for a while. As I said earlier, Cassandra Campbell’s reading of “Why Mothers Let Their Babies Watch Television: A Just-So Horror Story” was delightful and my favorite moment along the way. Scott Brick’s reading of The Drop creeped me out, making a strange story just a bit stranger. It was nice to once again listen to Tom Weiner read a Jonathan Maberry tale. Really, this anthology was just full of excellent performances, including tales read by Chris Patton, Bernadette Dunne, Simon Vance and Paul Michael Garcia. It was a little interesting to hear Sean Runnette reading a non-Tufo Zombie tale, but the story was perfect for his sense of humor. The biggest kudos for this production must go to whoever cast the audiobook. Blackstone did an excellent job placing just the right narrator with the right story.

FULL STORY LISTING

Zombies are good for you: an introduction by Christopher Golden
Biters by Mark Morris
Why mothers let their babies watch television : a just-so horror story by Chelsea Cain
Carousel by Orson Scott Card
Reality bites by S.G. Browne
Drop by Stephen Susco
Antiparallelogram by Amber Benson
How we escaped our certain fate by Dan Chaon
Mother’s love by John McIlveen
Down and out in dead town by Simon R. Green
Devil dust by Caitlin Kittredge
Dead of Dromore by Ken Bruen
All the comforts of home : a beacon story by John Skipp, Cody Goodfellow
Ghost dog & pup : stay by Thomas E. Sniegoski
Tic boom : a slice of love by Kurt Sutter
Jack and Jill by Jonathan Maberry
Tender as teeth by Stephanie Crawford, Duane Swierczynski
Couch potato by Brian Keene
Happy bird and other tales by Rio Youers
Parasite by Daniel H. Wilson

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





Audiobook Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

15 10 2012

The Twelve (Book 2 of The Passage Trilogy) by Justin Cronin

Read by Scott Brick

Random House Audio

Length: 26 Hrs 24 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Twelve is a giant step in moving The Passage Trilogy forward to its eventual place as one of the top Post Apocalyptic series of all time. Cronin’s writing is hauntingly beautiful and his plotting precise, making The Twelve a novel that feels comfortable on anyone’s shelves. The worst part of The Twelve is knowing you have another lengthy wait until the final chapter is released.

Grade: A-

Two years ago, the hype machine introduced us to Justin Cronin and his novel, The Passage. As a long time book nut, rarely had I seen a book given so much press, almost to major motion picture level. I, of course, being human and easily manipulated by well produced press segments was quite intrigued. Justin Cronin, who before this, it seems was a mid level literary writer, has produced a masterpiece of post apocalyptic horror. People all over where comparing it to Stephen King’s The Stand and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which to me is like comparing anything edible to peanut butter and chocolate. Yet, it also made me a tad bit skeptical. As a huge Post Apocalyptic geek, every time there is a relatively popular novel in the genre released it is compared to either The Stand, or The Road, or both and almost never lived up to these comparisons. Yet, Stephen King himself had endorsed it as a great novel, even surprising Cronin on a morning show, praising him directly. So, I got swept up in the hype machine. The Passage was one of the few novels in the past 5 years or so that I purchased both as a hard copy and an audiobook. I spent over 40 hours in the midst of its story sometimes moved, sometimes horrified, and sometimes a bit annoyed, but always engaged. In no way was I disappointed by its rich use of language, its complex and rewarding plot and its wonderful characters. Yet, it wasn’t the same life changing experience I had with novels like The Stand and The Road. There are a lot of reasons for this, its focus, its jumping in time and mood, but mostly, because it wasn’t complete. The Passage may end up being one of the top tier Post Apocalyptic epics of all time, yet it entirely depends on the rest of the story. That is why the arrival of Book 2, The Twelve was one of the most anticipated novels of the year for me.

In The Passage, a government experiment goes wrong, releasing a group of 12 Death Row inmates changed into vampire like creatures into the world. Yet, along with these twelve, two others are released, The Zero, and Amy. As the world falls into chaos and The Twelve spread the vampire curse turning normal humans into viral monsters, Amy joins up with the last bastions of humanity to try to hunt down and bring an end to The Twelve. Once again, Cronin tells parallel stories, one taking place during the initial outbreak and the other in year 97 AV among many of the players introduced in The Passage. The early portions of this novel where simply amazing. From Cronin’s biblical opening, to his exploration of characters attempting to survive the virals as well as the government’s attempts to contain the outbreak, this was truly Post Apocalyptic fiction at its best. It was full of haunting images and disturbing situations, particularly in the tale of Survivors traveling on a bus driven by an autistic man across the country looking for a place of safety.  Cronin is one of the best writers at giving his prose a feeling of poetry, pulling out the beauty in the darkest situations. The latter third of the novel, where the character’s battles in a strange Vampire controlled city to take out The Twelve comes to a thrilling conclusion, was also quite strong. It’s the middle part of the novel that suffers just a bit. Cronin’s use of mysticism and his tying together of character’s past sometime stretched credulity, even though it was very well plotted. This is where Cronin’s poetic flair may have done his a bit of disservice, giving a dreamy quality that created a strange lull in the pacing. There are some wonderful scenes in this segment, particularly a tale of a massacre within a field, and Cronin sets up a lot that pays off later in the book, but the stylistic nature of his writing makes it just a bit of a slog to get through. Yet, when through, Cronin pulls off a wonderful, intricately plotted ending that completes the tale, while setting us up for the final chapter. The Twelve is a giant step in moving The Passage Trilogy forward to its eventual place as one of the top Post Apocalyptic series of all time. Cronin’s writing is hauntingly beautiful and his plotting precise, making The Twelve a novel that feels comfortable on anyone’s shelves. The worst part of The Twelve is knowing you have another lengthy wait until the final chapter is released.

I am a huge fan of Scott Brick’s work, but I have to admit, after listening to Brick’s performance of the over 36 hour long audiobook version of The Passage, I definitely had Brick fatigue. Brick has a very specific style that works well with Cronin’s writing. Brick is one of the better narrators at finding the poetic rhythms within straight prose and accentuating it in his reading. While this is often beautiful to listen to, it also can have an almost lullaby like feel. I sometimes find my self almost hypnotized by Brick’s style, and have to force myself to go back and relisten to a passage I may have missed. This fact, along with the way that The Passage ended, in an almost dreamlike sequence, had me needing to take a break from Brick’s reading for a few months. With The Twelve, there were moments, particularly during the more mystical stream of consciousness segments, that I felt lulled again by Brick’s voice, but for the most part, Brick’s reading had me fully engaged.  I have to say, the opening segment, with Brick reading a Biblical style recap of Book 1 was maybe one of the best individual audiobook segments I have ever listened to. I could do a whole book written in that style, being narrated by Brick. Upon completing The Twelve, I have no residual Brick fatigue, I could very easily grab another Brick narration right now. Brick is the perfect narrator for Cronin’s style, combining poetic stylings with crisp pacing and wonderful characterizations. Fans of The Passage will not be disappointed in The Twelve, and should be energized for the final chapter of this trilogy.

Note: Thanks to Random House Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. The Twelve will be released Tuesday, October 16th.





Audiobook Review: Lamentations by Ken Scholes

28 06 2012

Lamentations (Psalms of Isaac, Bk. 1) by Ken Scholes

Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Scott Brick, William Dufris and Maggi-Meg Reed

Macmillan Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 49 Min

Genre: Science Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Lamentations is an exciting start to a series that blends science fiction and fantasy in a fun way. I think some hard core fantasy fans will find aspects of this novel derivative of the genre, yet,  for those who like vast conspiracies, political maneuverings, battles, romance and robots, and are willing to accept some plotting that can be a tab bit overly complex, you are sure to have a fun time following these characters on their adventures.

Grade: B+

Back when I first began listening to Audiobooks, I never truly understood the importance of narrators. One of the biggest complains about audiobooks is that the narrator creates another layer between the text and the listener and doesn’t allow for the pure, unfiltered consumption of literature that reading print does. Before becoming an audiobook enthusiast, this was something I feared. Yet, what I didn’t realize is that with audiobooks, a sort of relationship is formed between the listener and the narrator. The human animal likes to be told stories, and some of our earliest heroes, whether it is a beloved teacher or simply your parent, are those who read to us. This is why many audiobook fans view their favorite narrators as almost celebrity like, yet with a bond stronger than a favorite movie star or television personality. These are the people who tell us the stories we love. They sit down beside us and whisper tales of magic, intrigue, romance and adventure. There is a level of intimacy there that other performance mediums just can’t match, As an audiobook fan, I love when an author gets that. I love hearing stories about authors reaching out to their narrators, assisting them, making sure the story is being told how it is supposed to be told. One of the first series I ever listened to was Orson Scott Card’s Enderverse series, which introduced me to many of my favorite narrators, including Stefan Rudnicki, Scott Brick, Harlan Ellison, Kirby Heyborne, Gabrielle De Cuir, Emily Janice Card, and John Rubinstein, among others. I was always thrilled later when I heard a voice I recognized from that series appear in other audiobooks. I liked that Orson Scott Card would often record a foreword or afterward talking about how, in his opinion, audiobooks where the best way to experience his work, and praise the narrators who worked on his tails. It had been a while since I listened to a science fantasy reminiscent of these Ender novels, with their multi-narrator approach. When I read Scott Brick’s Audiobook Month entry of Ken Schole’s The Psalms of Isaak series, a series I had been interested in but never took the leap into actually listening, I decided that Lamentations, the first novel in this series, should be included in my audiobook week lineup,

Lamentations begins with the utter destruction of the city of Windwir, the most powerful city of the named world, leaving behind a vacuum of power, and a mystery that may shake the world to its core. Let’s face it, this is how all fantasies should start. In Lamentations, Ken Scholes doesn’t allow you to ease your way into the story, but forces you to jump in head first. With the world in chaos, and two armies converging on the devastated city, Scholes introduces you to a series of players that will shape the course of this changed world. Scholes has created an interesting world, melding magic and science, and placing it upon the ruins of a  culture that already brought about an apocalypse. This is the type of fantasy I have always enjoyed. It blends classic political epics like Game of Thrones with science based fantasy like Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming Series.  There is something familiar to this world. Its magic may be mythical, or it may be an artifact of a past scientific culture that was so advanced its science only seemed like magic. Scholes prose isn’t as crisp as Martin’s and his language tends to become a bit too flowery at times, full of language that almost feels biblical, yet where he really excels is creating complex characters and placing them in intricately plotted scenarios. Plus, there are robots. I mean, if I would have realized this was a fantasy novel with robots I may have jumped on the train much earlier, because I always like me some robots. Scholes has peppered this tale of political maneuvering with an age’s old conspiracy that requires just a bit of a well honed suspension of disbelief, but if you are willing enough to by in to the overly complex machinations of true power, well, then, it really is a whole lot of fun. Lamentations is an exciting start to a series that blends science fiction and fantasy in a fun way. I think many hard core fantasy fans will find some aspects of this novel derivative of the genre, yet,  for those who like vast conspiracies, political maneuverings, battles, romance and robots, and are willing to accept some plotting that can be a tab bit overly complex, you are sure to have a fun time following these characters on their adventures. Oh, and did I mention robots? Yeah, I guess I did.

The Audiobook edition of Lamentations featured three iconic audiobook narrators who, for me at least, have instantly recognizable voices and styles and one other narrator who I have had less experience with, but truly gave an excellent performance. Scott Brick, Stefan Rudnicki and William Dufris are all narrators I am comfortable with, and have listened to them tell many tales in single and multi-narrator productions. Maggie-Meg Reed I had heard before in David Baldacci’s Camel Club series, but, in all honesty, I didn’t remember anything about my past experiences with her work as I started this audiobook.  One of the great things about this production is all four of these narrators are excellent story tellers, and helped to immerse the listener in the story from the very beginning. Many Fantasy novels tend to have a lot of set up before the core action begins, but there isn’t that luxury of development with Lamentations. Yet, Rudnick, Brick and Dufris allowed me to instantly engage the characters they portrayed allowing the character development to hold  pace with the plot. Yet, Reed’s performance was the one that truly stood out for me in retrospect. She brought a sort of bravado to her character, Jin Li Tan, making her probably the most intriguing character of the novel. Reed doesn’t do sugary sweet, but gives her character a mature edge that truly highlighted her importance to the plot. Lamentations is a great example of novel whose audiobook version adds to the experience through  the thoughtful performances of the narrators. 





Audiobook Review: John Carter in ‘A Princess of Mars’ by Edgar Rice Burroughs

7 03 2012

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Barsoom Series, Book1)

Read by Scott Brick

Tantor Audio

Length: 6 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: John Carter is the original action hero, and A Princess of Mars is a fun, action filled pulpy thriller that has blockbuster written all over it. With a lovingly created alien world it is easy to see how this classic influenced science fiction’s grand masters, as well as many modern scifi series.

Grade: B+

As someone who came into his science fiction fandom later in life than most, I have to admit I have neglected many a classic. One such classic is Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp science fiction novel A Princess of Mars. Strange thing is, as a kid, I loved Tarzan movies and books. I remember as an elementary school kid borrowing Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes multiple times from my school’s small library. Yet, for some reason this never branched into his scifi novels. Eventually Burroughs fell off my radar, and even when I became a solid fan of science fiction, I never even considered the Barsoom series. Then a few years ago I read SM Stirling’s Lords of Creation series. In this series, Stirling creates an alternate History where our travels to the other planets in our solar system lead us to discover that Venus and Mars are in reality almost exactly as Burroughs had envisioned. The imagery of these books were so lush and the settings so fascinating, for the first time I considered going back and reading Burroughs classic novels. Yet, it wasn’t until I began hearing the buzz about the upcoming John Carter movie and learned that Tantor was releasing a new version narrated by Scott Brick that I took the plunge.

It is quite easy to see why the exploits of Jon Carter, the hero of A Princess of Mar is finally coming to the big screen. John Carter is the original action hero, and A Princess of Mars is a fun, action filled pulpy thriller that has blockbuster written all over it. John Carter is a retired Confederate Officer who, while hiding out from Apaches in a strange, sacred cave is transported to Mars. Due to the lower gravitation of Mars, Carter is able leap long distances and has strength and speed beyond Mar’s average inhabitants, which are put to good use when captured by a brutal warrior race of Green Martians.  A Princess of Mars is non-stop action as Carter goes from one death defying situation to the next, meeting the beautiful Princess Dejah Thoris along the way, and of course, winning her heart. A Princess of Mars is as much a portal fantasy as it is science fiction, just replacing a fantasy setting with the dying planet Mars. Jon Carter himself tells the story in an almost apologetic gentlemanly way, quick to point out that his heroism and bravery was simply him doing what he felt needed to be done in situations using the special skills the environment offers him. The cultural clash between the Barsoom and Carter leads to many misunderstandings, relationship stumbles and lots of dark humor. Despite the pulpy nature, Burroughs puts a lot of loving detail into his world, building a complex and wonderfully vivid setting with a pair of fascinating cultures. Mars is full of conflicting images, from the technological advanced Red Martians, to the Green Martians living in the ruins of long dead civilizations that are lovingly detailed for the reader. Full of pulpy action, complex cultures and vivid settings, it is easy to see how Burroughs’s classic influenced many of the genre’s masters along with modern series like Stirling’s Lords of Creation and William Forstchen’s Lost Regiment series.

Scott Brink brings his signature voice and style to the reading of the classic. Brick’s idiosyncratic cadence gives Burroughs’s post civil war Gentlemanly language an almost poetic flair. I was a little surprised by Brick’s decision not to give the character more of a southern flair to his voice, being that Carter often invokes his Virginian background in the tale, but this is more of an intellectual observation than a complaint. In fact, in the long run, it was probably better for the overall production to allow Bricks skills at storytelling not to be hampered by using something other than his natural voice.  There are many audio versions of A Princess of Mars, including one narrated by William Dufris, but I think Scott Brick’s narration and the timeliness of this production should make it the go to audiobook version of this classic. So, before piling the kids into the minivan to head out to see the new John Carter movie, take the time to experience A Princess of Mars in Burroughs’s own words.

Note: A special thanks to the good people of Tantor Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. This title is available for Digital Download through Audioble, or the Tantor Audio Website.





Audiobook Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

6 02 2012

Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) by Philip K. Dick

Read by Scott Brick

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 12 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is an effective book deftly capturing many of Philip K. Dick’s themes, and taking the reader on an unsettling futuristic ride. Dick asks the ultimate question inherent in science fiction, what does it mean to be truly human, yet the answers are never clear or comfortable. Fans of the Blade Runner movie will find some similarities with the book, but a different experience overall.

Grade: B+

I watched the movie Blade Runner back in my high school days and I remember that I was blown away by it. Yet, that’s the crux of the problem, I remember more the feeling of awe then the actual movie. There are some great movies that stick with you forever, that you can vividly recall scenes, moments, lines and little intricacies years after viewing. Yet, for me, Blade Runner wasn’t one of those movies. I have nothing but a vague remembrance of Daryl Hannah, Indiana Jones and the skinjobs. Oh, and flying cars, I sort of remember that to. Of course, Blade Runner is based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 futuristic novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I have read a bunch of Dick’s novels over the years, but nowhere near all of them. I have some I’ve loved, like Dr. Bloodmoney, and quite a few that I have had mixed feeling about. Books and movies have quite a weird relationship. I really struggle to think of any movie I loved more than the book, although there have been a few that we pretty on par. When a movie is coming out that is based on a popular novel, I will often go and track down the novel to read it, yet, if I have already seen a movie based on a novel, I rarely seek out the book. It’s weird since I tend to like books more, but typically I enjoy books most going into them fresh. Since I saw Blade Runner, I had never read or listened to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, until now.

For a book written in 1968, I found Dick’s vision of a post  "World War Terminus" earth to be pretty fresh. Earth has been ravaged by radioactive dust from the war, and healthy childbearing people are encouraged to emigrate to one of Earth’s colony planets for the good of humanities genetic future. As enticement people are offered a free android upon emigration.  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the story of a bounty hunter named Rick Decker, whose job it is to hunt down rogue Androids who escape from the colonies to Earth. Rick takes a businessman like approached to his job, which he dials into his mood organ every morning. Yet, what Decker really wants is a real animal, now a rare, expensive commodity on Earth, to replace his electric sheep. One of my favorite moments of the book is the opening scene between Decker and his wife arguing about the moods they will dial into that morning. It is full of some of Dick’s signature dark humor which is sadly missing from the rest of the novel. Yet, many of the classic Dickian elements are there. The dystopian setting, a strange new religion called Mercerism, and seemingly game changing moments that really aren’t what they seem. One of my favorite classic Dick themes is brought to life in the character of J. R. Isidore. Isidore is a "special," a human who has been rendered less intelligent due to the radioactive dust and branded with the derogative term "chicken head.". Yet, of all the characters, Isidore’s inner dialogue is the most complex, bordering on philosophically poetic. Dick has often uses characters with disabilities in this way, presenting them as more than they actually are on the surface. The overriding theme of Do Androids Dream… is empathy. I found his use of empathy both as a theme and as an actual plot device interesting. I also was unprepared for the range of feelings you had for the plight of the androids. Dick never allows you to get comfortable in your feelings for them, pushing you into a range of emotions from sympathy to anger. This pays off well in one scene in the end of the book involving the androids and a spider. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is an effective book deftly capturing many of Philip K. Dick’s themes, and taking the reader on an unsettling futuristic ride. Dick asks the ultimate question inherent in science fiction, what does it mean to be truly human, yet the answers are never clear or comfortable. Fans of the Blade Runner movie will find some similarities with the book, but a different experience overall.

Scott Brisk is a prolific audiobook narrator whose signature style of narration has won many fans, and quite of few detractors. With the right book, Scott Brick can elevate the text, adding levels not noticed by simple reading. His reading of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is deliberate and mesmerizing. He often chops long sentences off with poignant pauses that some listeners may find annoying. Personally, I found his reading style to fit with the hazy atmosphere that Dick creates in this novel. He gives the action an almost dreamy quality that hits the mark like a stone to Mercer’s head. If you’re the type of listener that wants a narrator to simply read, you may have issues with Brick’s reading, but if you are like me, looking for a reader with an understanding of the text who tailors his reading to that understanding, you will enjoy Brick’s mesmerizing style.

 

This review is part of Curiosity Kills the Bookworm’s 2012 Science Fiction Challenge’s February read along.

This review will also be included in Presenting Lenore’s Dystopian February.





Audiobook Review: You’re Next by Gregg Hurwitz

23 12 2011

You’re Next by Gregg Hurwitz

Read by Scott Brick

Brilliance Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 1 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: You’re Next is a taunt, well paced thriller which is not just full of harrowing action and surprising twists, but some truly heart breaking emotional moments. I enjoyed You’re next so much, don’t be surprised if I start binging of Gregg Hurwitz titles in the near future.

Grade: B+

I have actually taken a bit of a break from the sciency fictiony type audiobooks I have been listening to recently and decided to read some thrillers. Thrillers used to dominate my reading lists, but over the past few years my reading has begun to become much more speculative fiction heavy. I used to find an author I like, and then go on a binge, reading everything they have out. This is a little harder to do with audiobooks because of the inconsistency of older titles being available in unabridged audio form. Yet, I still like taking frequent trips into this genre. I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to thrillers. I basically want three things, an interesting premise, well drawn characters and an underlying mystery for me to speculate on. If a writer manages to put these three things together, I’m game. If they can throw in some character depth, non clichéd action, and some truly surprising twists, then they have created a fan. Last year, I listened to The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz, and really enjoyed it. Hurwitz did a great job setting the hook, yet even better, executed the rest of the story well. So, earlier this summer when You’re Next came out, I grabbed the audiobook, but, for some reason it fell to the side, and out of my mind. Luckily, I was reminded of the book by my favorite crime fiction blog, Jen’s Book Thoughts and quickly added it to my To Be Listened To digital pile. I am really glad I did.

One of the more interesting things about You’re Next, was the opening hook. You’re Next opens with the main character, Michael as a four year old child, being driven by his obviously distressed father, offering rambling apologies before abandoning him at a playground. This opening had me hooked into the main character of the story almost instantly. I needed to know why Michael was being abandoned, by a father who seemed to love him, yet more so, I wanted to know how being abandoned so early in life would affect him in the future.  Although it took me a while to really get into the overall story, I was totally invested in the main character from the start. Hurwitz definitely fulfilled my requirements of a good thriller, in those first moments. The premise, characters and mystery was presented even before the main arch of the story began. Yet, You’re Next is more than just a satisfying thriller, it’s a truly unique look how far someone will go to protect their family. OK, yes, this seems like a typical thriller trope, but here, it’s anything but typical. Hurwitz does a great job using Michael’s rough past and tough upbringing to guide his actions against a seemingly unstoppable foe. I love that Hurwitz explores familial bonds beyond the normal, allowing Michael to not just be a father and husband looking to save his family, but also part of a "stronger than brother" pact with his foster brother Shep. You’re Next is a taunt, well paced thriller which is not just full of harrowing action and surprising twists, but some truly heart breaking emotional moments. I enjoyed You’re next so much, don’t be surprised if I start binging of Gregg Hurwitz titles in the near future.

If you are an audiobook fan, more than likely you have listened to a title narrated by Scott Brick. Brick is a solid professional who handles everything from Thrillers, to Science Fiction to High Fantasy well. Brick’s reads You’re Next with his normal flair. Brick’s signature rhythm and vocal style adds depth to Hurwitz’s action scenes. I really enjoyed Brick’s reading of Shep, he captures the characters outward slowness while at the same time displaying his moments of profundity well. You’re Next has many truly emotionally devastating scenes, and Brick never tries to force them on you, allowing Hurwitz’s words to do what they are meant to. You’re Next, with its focus on family and its fascinating characters offers much to thriller fans of all types. While initially a summer read, it’s themes also work well during the Holiday season, and, would definitely make a wonderful gift for those thriller fans in your family.