Audiobook Review: Lycan Fallout:Rise of the Werewolf by Mark Tufo

4 10 2013

Lycan Fallout: Rise of the Werewolf by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Published by Mark Tufo

Length: 11 Hrs 23 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic with Werewolves

Quick Thoughts: Lycan Fallout offers everything you would want in a Michael Talbot adventure, with a new menace, some new allies and a whole new timeline. Tufo fills his intriguing post apocalyptic world with strange new communities, some of his most visual action scenes to date and plenty of juvenile humor. Lycan Fallout is a worthwhile addition to his weird little Talbotverse.

Grade: B+

I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant about Lycan Fallout. With all these iterations of Michael Talbot, battling aliens, zombies, ghosts, dogknappers, vampires and other such horrors, I need a flow chart, Venn diagram, Commodore 64, two shots of whiskey and a 50’s era receptionist to keep it all straight. Yet, with all things Tufo, I have learned to just sit back and enjoy the ride, even when the car careens off the road, and crashes into something twisted and maybe a bit sticky. My other issue was that out of the great monster trifecta, zombies, vampires and werewolves, stories involving lupine shape shifters tend to be my least favorite, and probably fall under lesser beloved monsters like Triffids, squid demons, cats, alien parasites, and taxes as well. I’m not sure why I never get jazzed over werewolves. Maybe it’s all the weird mythology surrounding them or the fact I can never keep the various types straight, or possibly that women are less likely to want to spend time with you if you can’t morph into some sort of animal. Yet, despite my hesitation, I thought, heck, it’s Tufo. I highly doubt his werewolves would be all that sexy and at the very least, I should get enough juvenile humor to balance the whole werewolf thing out.

It’s more than a century since humanity won a pyrrhic victory against the zombie hordes, and half man/half Vampire Michael Talbot is living on his family estate, detached from society. Since the last member of his family died, he’s had no purpose and marks time by when Tommy, his 500 year old Vampire creator and surrogate son would bring him food. Yet, when Tommy and the witch Azile learn of a new menace to the struggling post apocalyptic communities of mankind, they need to find a way to get Michael once again invested in society. Together they hatch a plan to bring him out of exile and into the fight against the Lycans, involving a dog, some beer and baseball. Is there anyway Micheal can resist?

Lycan Fallout is a near future post apocalyptic tale told as only Mark Tufo can, which is straight on, in your face no holds barred storytelling. Fans of Tufor’s Zombie Fallout series will find much of what they like about that series, Michael’s not quite politically correct juvenile humor, visceral scenes of gore, the comradery of brothers (and sisters) at arms, a strange hybrid mythology mixing together as many horror tropes as possible, and plenty of action. Lycan Fallout takes a while to pull you in. Readers need to adjust to the changed world, the new timeline, and a moody whiney version of Michael Talbot, yet, when things begin to move, Tufo grabs the reader by the hair, and pulls them into the story. Mark Tufo, probably unlike any other author, can do things that annoy the heck out of me in a lot of books with over used scenarios and stereotypical portrayals yet make it work by his sheer audacity. Tufo is like that strange friend who constantly tells the same damn stupid joke, but manages to make you laugh at it every time. There was so much fun, cool stuff in Lycan Fallout. I really liked his post apocalyptic world. It’s not anything I haven’t seen before, with new communities, traditions and religions formed from the wreckage of our world, but displayed in an offbeat manner. Tufo constantly keeps the reader off balanced. He has theses moments where his writing almost takes on a poetic quality, and you’re thinking "That’s kind of deep" and then he follows it up with some crude scatological joke. It’s strange and disconcerting and uneven and joyous and a whole lot of fun. I think Lycan Fallout also showed some of Tufo’s maturity as a writer (if you can use the word maturity when describing Mr. Tufo). His action scenes were crisper, less weighed down by extraneous details, and highly visual. His plotting was cleaner, and he even managed some real solid emotional writing that did justice to his characters. Plus, his werewolves were actually kind of cool and even a bit scary at times. My only warning, if you are easily frustrated by series, this is the beginning of a new series, and not a standalone. If you are going to jump of the Lycan Fallout Wagon, be prepared for a long ride. Hopefully your ass won’t get too sore along the way.

As with all of Mark Tufo’s audiobooks, the narration is handled by one Mr. Sean Runnette. I sometimes wonder, with all the time Runnette has spent voicing Michael Talbot, if he hasn’t started becoming a bit of a germaphobe with inappropriately timed humor, a penchant for violence and a high likelihood to verbally abuse inept customer service people. This is the problem; I have trouble separating the narrator with the character, because he has become just as much a part of Michael Talbot as his love of guns and dogs. As always, Runnette’s performance is perfect for this series. He captures the personality of Michael Talbot perfect. One other thing I liked is how when some descendants of Michael’s friends show up, they have vocal similarities to their predecessors, without being carbon copies of them. There was just something comfortable about this, which helped the readers get over the fact that some of our favorite characters are no longer pat of the story. If you have yet to experience a Mark Tufo tale, particularly one surrounding his main character Michael Talbot, whether you want the zombie, alien or werewolf fighting version, I highly recommend experiencing it with Talbot’s true voice, as performed by Sean Runnette.

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Guest Audiobook Review: The Book of Riley, Part 2 by Mark Tufo

20 05 2013

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2013 Zombie Awareness Month

The Book of Riley 2: A Zombie Tale by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse with Talking Animals

Quick Thoughts: Today my dog Munch stops by with a guest review of this action packed Zombie Apocalypse novella featuring Riley, Patches and Ben Ben. This time, the pack passes through Vegas where some humans are up to no good. Another fun entry to the series.

Grade: B+

Munchaudio

Today’s Special Guest Reviewer

Hello people who read this. My Name is Munch, Ace dog detective and 20 lb ball of ravenous fury that intimidate all who walk past my patio window. Many of you may know my human Bob. For some reason he likes to sit in front of this box and make annoying sounds with his fingers instead of taking me for walks and sniffing things. He never sniffs things. When he does take me for walks, he always picks up this thing that makes noises into his earholes. Not sure what it’s called, but I like it because it means he’s going to take me out for a walk, except for when it means he’s going to take leave me alone with my cat sister. Now, I’m an ace detective and keen observer and I’m unsure why he actually needs to shove things into his ears, but I tend to pick up some of the human words that come out. Bunch of stupid stuff. Talk about zombies, robots and angry people yelling objection and hiding out in buildings with a bunch of kibble. Why he doesn’t just pay attention to the scent stories floating around in the air, I don’t know.

Recently I noticed he was listening to another one about the dead humans eating live humans again, but there was lots of talk bout this Riley bitch…. a dog. This caught my attention. This dog was an American Bulldog, so they say, but we dog’s don’t really care about the color and shape of other dogs as much as you humans do. I hear humans even get mad over who is sniffing who. Whatever. One day when Bob left, my Cat sister Cali, who can read human words told me that Bob wrote about this Riley bitch and the human word stories she was telling. What shocked me was that Bob told all the others who read from boxes that I’m wouldn’t be a good zombie dog, just because I choose to be a bit picky since I have the luxury to. Human’s make no sense. Us dogs adapt to any situation, and if I need to, I can take down any human living or dead that I need to, even if they make sudden moves or walk strangely. As a professional detective and intimidating watch dog, I’d be the perfect zombie dog.

Munch on the Case

So, the next time Bob listened to his human word stories about this Riley bitch, I paid attention. It seems this Riley, his pack mate Ben Ben and his cat sister Patches had two herd two of their humans to a place called Collar Rado and on the way they have to pass through Vegas. Vegas is a big human place full of lots of lights and noise and bad people. I liked Riley, but I was often confused why she though of her humans as Alphas. Maybe it’s a bitch thing. I, myself am an Alpha, and my humans and cat sister cater to my every whim. Well, maybe not the cat.

Riley and Ben Ben made a strong team. Riley was put into a bad situation and the humans made her fight another dog, a Dober Man Pincher. I am part Miniature Pincher, whatever that means (I think the miniature refers to my stoic nature), but not a Dober Man. It sucked that Riley had to fight another dog because humans made her. I am always up for a fight, but I prefer using techniques like intimidating sniffing, tail bristling and sent marking to establish my dominance. Oh, and occasionally humping, in emergency situations. Riley was a smart dog. While she didn’t understand things like Eight and some human words, she knew her duty and did it, with the help of her Cat sister.

I found the relationship between Riley and her cat sister quite interesting. I like my cat sister. She’s one of the good ones. She gives me advice and helps me figure out human things, and in return, I eat her food when the humans try to give her medicine. Riley’s relationship with his cat sister was more contentious. (Cali says that means they fought a lot.) It was funny though. I had a couple good sniffs over their antics. I also like Ben Ben, who always found a way to get treats, even in the Pocco Lips, whatever that is. The story was full of lots of stuff that humans like, like large bangs, fast moving human coaches and the true heroic nature of dogs. No mating or face smooching, though, thank the rainbow bridge.

Munch’s Cat Sister Cali

The human talking guy, Sean Runnette was interesting. Bob seemed to like him since I heard him bark once or twice while listening. Humans are strange though, he was obviously a human male and Riley was a bitch. He definitely made Ben Ben interesting using human words. Also, Patches the cat sister was a smooth talker. I could see Riley falling under her catty spells. My human seemed to really like this talking word story. We actually took longer walks why he was listening, allowing me to sniff and mark things to I ran out of my sweet juices. I’m sure looking forward to more of these talking dog zombie Poco Lips tales, since I can get some more walks out of it. And some of my favorite meat sticks. Plus, I’m intrigued by this Bacon thing. Need to ask the cat about that.

Note: Thanks to Tantor Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for Review.





Audiobook Review: The Book of Riley by Mark Tufo

9 05 2013

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2013 Zombie Awareness Month

The Book of Riley by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Dog POV Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Book of Riley is a doggedly good yarn that should perk you up like a high pitched whistle. Riley’s pack is packed full of great characters who persevere when life chains them up and throws dirt in their water bowl, even the cat. Lovers of dogs will give a howl of cheer and Zombie fans who love gore and mayhem will definitely be wagging their tails as Tufo continues to mark the Zombie genre as his territory.

Grade: B+

I love my dog. I really do. He’s a cute little guy, is often happy to see me, and always does his business outside. When I decided to get a dog, I knew it needed to be smaller, due to the rules of the apartment complex I lived in, but I really didn’t want any poofy, designer dog. Munch, who is named after the detective from Homicide and about 10 other shows, fit that bill. He’s 20 lbs. of attitude, with a short curly tale and a smooth coat. Yet, despite my love of Munch, he’s no zombie killer. In fact, he probably will get me killed when the zombies do come. While he’s not yappy, he doesn’t like people shambling near my apartment and lets them know. He spends a lot of time sniffing every square inch of green grass before finding just the right place to leave his little present, and then huffs at me indignantly when I dare remove it from where he left it. He turns his nose up to any type of food other than his brand, which is, of course, top shelf dog food. Basically, he’s spoiled and he knows it. When the Zombies come, the dog of leisure act will be up, and he’s have to buck it up, eat what’s provided, poo whenever we can find a spare minute and even find a way to sleep without his comfy assortment of dog and human beds.. He won’t accept this. He will bark at whoever he damned well pleases, even if it brings hordes of carnivorous undead down upon us. Will he attack those hordes? Oh, no, that would be beneath him. Heck, he’s just a little guy who’s willing to snip at the bigger dogs when they are safely being restrained by their owner, but actual protection for humans, not part of his job. Of course, despite his deficiencies as a zombie killer, he totally makes up for it by cleaning dropped food up off the floor.

The Book of Riley tells the tale of Riley, an American Bulldog, who must protect his pack from carnivorous two leggers. His pack includes two two leggers (a teenage girl and her infant brother), a nervous Yorky and a reluctant and smug cat. In this strange new world, full of new dangers and smells Riley must guide his humans to safety. I think there is an almost inherent need to label books featuring animal characters as either children, or semimetal life affirming tales. The Book of Riley is a zombie novel. A visceral, bloody gore filled zombie novel with death, decay and drama, and of course, talking animals. Riley serves as our guide, as she reveals the truth behind dog motivation, corrects our bad assumptions about dogs, tries to figure exactly what is happening in her own language, gets frustrated by any mathematical concept beyond 7 and of course, has to deal with a hoity toity cat questioning her every decision. Basically, it’s a lot of fun, but not for the weak of heart. I like how Tufo just goes straight for jugular, killing characters off in the initial zombie onslaught, letting you know that nobody is really safe, and that this isn’t some heartwarming made for TV dog movie. The zombie story itself is pretty straight forward zombie apocalypse not dissimilar to his earlier Zombie Fallout novels. So far, no talking zombies, hybrid Vampires, or strange death cults, just animals and their people trying to find some peace in a world turned on its head. Really, this book is about the animals and it’s a heck of a lot of fun because of it. Riley interactions with Patches the cat are hilarious and makes a good book even stronger. Even little Ben-Ben, the nervous Yorkie had some real hero moments. This is a quick tale that ends pretty abruptly, but have no fear, Book 2 is out as well. Now, I wanted to avoid any dog puns, and I think I did well, so I’ll wrap it up. The Book of Riley is a doggedly good yarn that should perk you up like a high pitched whistle. Riley’s pack is packed full of great characters who persevere when life chains them up and throws dirt in their water bowl, even the cat. Lovers of dogs will give a howl of cheer and Zombie fans who love gore and mayhem will definitely be wagging their tails as Tufo continues to mark the Zombie genre as his territory. Anyone who can’t get some joy out of this zombie slaughtering tale must be a cat person.

Some times I wish I could go back in time and let Sean Runnette know that one day he will be voicing a zombie killing American Bulldog bitch and his cat nemesis and wait to see his reaction. For some reason, I think he’d simply accept it. Runnette’s reading of The Book of Riley was simply fun. Each animal character came alive as if somehow Runnette was channeling his inner spirit animal. I loved Ben-Ben’s hyper pacing, and Patches almost super villainy smoothness. And of course, Riley, the all American hero of the tale whose dignity flowed out of each word, Of course, Riley may have been a bit perturbed to be voiced by a male two legger, when she was obviously a beautiful bitch, but she accepts that humans have their foibles. Fans of Tufo’s Zombie Fallout series will have no problem adjusting to Runnette’s narration, and even welcome it. Those new to the world of Tufo will find an engaging narrator, comfortable with the material and totally in synch with the author’s humor. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy this tail. OK, now I’m done with the puns.

 

Note: Thanks to Tantor 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: Indian Hill by Mark Tufo

2 01 2013

Indian Hill by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 13 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: While Indian Hill is often uneven, scattershot, full of disturbing situations, immature writing and cardboard action, Tufo’s engaging story telling style ultimately saves the day.

Grade: B-

Sometimes, when I read a book, I wonder if something may just be a bit off about me and a large percentage of the world as well. We often will read a book where people are put in horrible situations, forced to do horrible things, and call it entertainment. We often scoff with disgust at the mindless masses who cheer for the death and dismemberments in such books as The Hunger Games, yet, we too are getting entertainment from these stories. I often wonder, if there was ever an American Gladiators program, where the Gladiator’s fought to the death, how many of these people who are shocked by the events in Battle Royale, or The Running Man, would be tuning in. I read a review of The Hunger Games movie where the reviewer talked about her discomfort with the cheering of the audience when children, even though they weren’t Katniss, were killed. She wondered how closely the audience of the movie matched that of those cheering in the capital, all as pawns of the game. This made me think. Does the fact that I enjoy books where characters are forced to kill each other mean I lack some sort of empathy, or are on some level a hypocrite? I am also big fans of the TV show Survivor, where people lie, cheat and betray their closest allies all in the name of a big check and an arbitrary title. So, does this make me like one of the screaming fans, cheering for the young men walking to their death in The Long Walk? I don’t know if, in a future dystopia, I would be one of the brainless hordes, and I’m glad that it’s not a decision I have to make. Yet.

I really wasn’t sure what to think of Indian Hill, Mark Tufo’s Gladiatorial style science fiction tale featuring one of the alternate world versions of his stock character Michael Talbot. I am familiar with Michael Talbot through Tufo’s Zombie Fallout series and wasn’t sure if this Michael Talbot was supposed to be the same character from that series. Well, it wasn’t. I assume Tufo has created this character, and placed versions of him in many parallel worlds, often becoming the centerpiece in a fight for humanity. In Indian Hill Michael Talbot is just a typical, every day beer drinking, skirt chasing college student, in a stormy relationship with the girl of his dreams. One day, on a "just friends" date to Red Rocks, he and the entire audience are taken aboard an alien space ship where the men are forced to battle each other in gruesome gladiatorial style fights to the death. While Indian Hill is often uneven, scattershot, full of disturbing situations, immature writing and cardboard action, Tufo’s engaging story telling style ultimately saves the day. As I said in my less than glowing review of his Zombie Fallout novella Dr. Hugh Mann, Tufo is a no hold barred writer, who tells stories he believes fans want to read, without worrying about arbitrary things like editorial acceptance and literary value. So, for each book, he has just as much opportunity to write a fan pleasing winner as writing a head shaker. I had a lot of problems with Indian Hill. The novel is told in two parts, and the beginning was a solid, Stephen King style coming of age story with the latter part the science fiction, alien story. While both parts were interesting, it created an uneven feeling to the book in whole. I found the actions scenes to lack Tufo’s typically detailed choreography giving them a muddy, depthless feel. Some of the big fights came off rushed, leaving me under whelmed. I also was a bit disturbed by both the sexual violence towards women, although for the most part off camera, as well as the reward system harems. I understand what Tufo was doing, but it still left me uncomfortable. I felt like he was trying to use these situations to create strong women characters, yet it never was fully realized, missing an opportunity. Yet, despite these many issues, I ended up enjoying the raw style of the tale. Tufo is a storyteller, and this aspect of his writing never fails, just can often be muted by other issues. As a fan, you can’t help but to be drawn into this version of Michael Talbot. I like that here, Talbot wasn’t some badass former marine, but just some dumb ass kid who discovered a sort of cunning he never expected. I am quite interested to see where Tufo takes this tale, and how his evolution as a writer will progress. No matter what issues I may have had, I’m a fan of Mark Tufo and his twisted alter ego Michael Talbot.

Sean Runnette is the voice of Mark Tufo and Michael Talbot. In Indian Hill Runnette gives another strong performance delivering the quirky characters that jump off of Tufo’s page. Now, I have to admit, it’s a little strange at times, remembering that this isn’t the Michael Talbot from Zombie Fallout and having Sean Runnette makes that struggle all the more hard. Yet, Runnette really shines in the early part of the novel, with a younger, more naive Michael, and capturing the complex emotions hiding behind all the snark and bluster. Runnette helps smooth out some of the pacing issues, delivering a solid science fiction tale, with lots of humor. Fans of Mark Tufo’s previous audiobooks will know they are in the solid hands of a gifted reader.

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





Audiobook Review: Zombie Fallout 3.5: Dr. Hugh Mann by Mark Tufo

20 12 2012

Zombie Fallout 3.5: Dr Hugh Man by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 2 Hrs 42 Min

Genre: Zombie/Plague

Quick Thoughts: I really didn’t like Zombie 3.5, but luckily it is more of a background piece, creating a frame of reference for the history of the virus in the Zombie Fallout series. Plus, it’s short. So, even though I didn’t really like it, I say, if you are a fan of the series, go ahead and give it a listen. You may like it more than me and it does provide some interesting backstory on the virus and some of the characters.

Grade: C

So, I’m about to take a risk with my life, but, I have to be honest, I don’t think of Mark Tufo as a great writer. I think Mark is a great storyteller with an enthusiasm that bleeds into every word. I also believe that Mark is willing to take more risks than many other writers. One of the reasons Mark’s fans love him so much is that he writes for them, to tell them stories that he as a fan of the genres he works would love to read. He doesn’t hold back at all. If he decides that a brain sucking alien would simply just be awesome at this point in the story, then, some slimy green thing with brain sucking appendages will show up, damn the critics. This is something I like about Mark Tufo, but I also knew that it’s something that would eventually lead me to writing a less than stellar review of one of his works, because, in many ways, I like to think I’m a little like Tufo, and willing to write what I want despite knowing that it could lead to his legion of fans hunting me down and dismembering me. I think there is a great freedom with independent authors to simply write what they want to write. Those that do it well, and truly embrace their fans, dealing with them honestly and not just shilling at them, will find that genre fans are some of the most loyal people in the world. Yet, most writers will also tell you that not all ideas work, and more specifically, not all ideas work with all people. Sadly, this was the case for me with Mark Tufo’s Zombie Fallout Novella, Dr. Hugh Mann.

Zombie Fallout 3.5 tells the story of an early 20th century obsessive research scientist, who makes a discovery that captures the imagination of the public as well are the interest of shadowy governmental figures. Yet, when Dr. Hugh Mann realizes this this discovery could lead to tragic consequences, he must break out of his social awkwardness and figure away to keep a new deadly new weapon out of the hands of those who may use it. I totally appreciate what Mark Tufo was attempting to do with this story, but for me, it just came off kind of silly. Tufo’s patented humor and gift for the absurd is pushed to the extreme here, and some may enjoy it, but for some reason I was just unable to keep my head from shaking and my eyes from rolling. Listening to Dr. Hugh Mann reminded me of when your best friend finally meets your new friends and attempts to tell a really corny joke that just falls flats. You want to laugh to make it seem better than it was, but what you really want to do is hide in the bathroom and curl up like a baby. I also think that while the novella is positioned between Zombie Fallout 3 and 4, that people who have read book 4 probably would enjoy it more. I have yet to listen to Zombie Fallout 4, and some of the things that happen in this novella seems to play into a new plot thread that should be starting in that book. On the positive side, the middle of the novella, where the focus moves from Dr. Hugh Mann to his daughter, is much better and definitely provides a little more heart to the tale. Then, it sort of falls apart in the end with a segment at Area 51, but, that’s OK. Luckily, Dr, Hugh Mann is more of a background piece, creating a frame of reference for the history of the virus in the Zombie Fallout series. Plus, it’s short. So, even though I didn’t really like it, I say, if you are a fan of the series, go ahead and give it a listen. You may like it more than me and it does provide some interesting backstory on the virus and some of the characters.

So, Sean Runnette. He’s this guy that I know almost solely as the voice of Mark Tufo’s work. I see Runnette a bit like Michael Talbot, a bit goofy, a bit awkward, but he seems to get the job done. Runnette is best when he is bringing Michael Talbot to life, and since Michael isn’t a character in this isn’t the best way to experience Runnette’s work. Yet, he still manages to do a pretty good job with it. It’s obvious that Runnette knows and appreciates the world created by Tufo, and is able to consistently portray the characters, reminding you of their history. This is important for a background piece like this. Runnette manages to keep it feeling like a novel within this world, despite some of the overall weirdness of the story.





Audiobook Review: Zombie Fallout 3: The End

31 05 2012

Zombie Fallout 3: The End by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Zombie Fallout 3: The End is definitely a transitional book, developing the mythology of the series and moving the characters into place for upcoming conflict. Yet, unlike most transitional books, Zombie Fallout 3 has its own voice, and is a fun, compelling story within the arc of the series. Tufo balances a tightrope between dark hopelessness, and laugh out loud humor and reaches the other side with only a few scratches.

Grade: B

Endings are often bittersweet, but as we close out Zombie Awareness Month this ending isn’t just bittersweet, it’s also sort of strange. For a month dedicated to increasing awareness of Zombies and undead related issues, it seems almost prescient that for the past week the news has been full of stories about biohazards, chemical spills, mystery rashes, uncontrollable plane passengers, and attacks featuring biting and seemingly high tolerances to physical injury. Despite my love of the genre, I have never felt that a Zombie Apocalypse was anything more than a clever plot devise. Oh, I believe in the possibilities of a lot of potential apocalyptic cataclysms, but Zombies would have been quite low on my list. Sure, we hear the occasional reports from Africa about a disease causing children to fly into uncontrollable rages, but we chalk this up as over exaggerations of diseases with dementia like side affects. Yet, with all these stories, it’s hard not to symbolically hold your breath, waiting for the next blood drenched shoe to drop. I started Zombie Awareness Month with a road trip, oddly listening to Zombie Fallout 2, which is basically a Zombie roadtrip novel. I ended the month, listening to Zombie Fallout 3: The End, as more and more I begin to question whether or not The End will be upon us soon. It seems that the Zombie Fallout novels are the literary version of an ear wig, whispering to me words of doom and the impending end of all things.

Zombie Fallout 3: The End picks up right after the cliffhanger ending of Zombie Fallout 2. Michael Talbot family has again barely escaped another massive zombie attack orchestrated by Eliza, their chief zombie vamp antagonist. Now, Michael and company are recouping in what may be the last bastion of human controlled safety, an island base under control of the military. Yet, despite their feeling of safety, they know it’s only a matter of time before Eliza and her hordes show up again. Zombie Fallout 3 is another fun edition to the Zombie Fallout series, and does a good job establishing what to expect for the rest of the series. It continues to build its mythology, adding more supernatural details to the established Zombie Apocalypse scenario and revealing some key pieces of information about some of the characters. As usual, Mark Tufo infuses his desolate and viscerally putrid scenarios with an almost inappropriate humor that only underscores the desperate situations the characters find them in. There are definitely some plot holes in this edition, yet they are holes that have a potential for being filled in in interesting ways. Tufo also picks up some threads that he left dangling with the first two books, yet, they serve more as a tease for things to come then an answer to the lingering questions the series has invoked. Zombie Fallout 3: The End is definitely a transitional book, developing the mythology of the series and moving the characters into place for upcoming conflict. Yet, unlike most transitional books, Zombie Fallout 3 has its own voice, and is a fun, compelling story within the arc of the series. Tufo balances a tightrope between dark hopelessness, and laugh out loud humor and reaches the other side with only a few scratches.

I’m pretty sure that Sean Runnette would not want to meet me in person, because if I ever heard his voice, I would run over to him and start giving him suggestions on how to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. You see, in my world, Sean Runnette is Michael Talbot. He has totally become this character to me. Runnette brings this series to life for me in ways that only a narrator who has totally embraced his character can. He really has done such a good job capturing the tone and pacing of this series, bringing each character to life in interesting ways. I have even begun to accept his female voices, which I struggled with in the earlier novels. I have really come to enjoy this series, and the narration of Runnette and the overall quality production of the audio version have a lot to do with it.