Audiobook Review: Hungry Tales by Jonathan Maberry

5 11 2012

Hungry Tales by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 3 Hrs 53 Min

Genre: Zombie Short Stories

Quick Thoughts:  Hungry Tales is the perfect treat for those looking for a quick fix of the undead. While some zombies shamble, or dig or make their way through the waters, they are all hungry for a chance to disturb you sleep. Maberry is a master of the genre, and in Hungry Tales he offers a smorgasbord of horrors for fans of the undead.

Grade: B

One thing that Sandy has taught me is that I am totally unprepared for the Zombie Apocalypse. In fact, I was one of those idiots out on Sunday night who realized that if he did lose power, his frozen microwave meals and turkey burgers weren’t the best choice to sustain him for an extended period. Sure, I had some canned soup and beans and some English muffins that taste like crap without a toaster, and supplies to make a decent salad, but beyond that, I was pretty much screwed. Hell, I wasn’t even sure I had a non-electric can opener. I was actually quite lucky during the hurricane, my apartments complex never lost power, despite the fact my sisters who lives less than a mile away from me was without power until Saturday, My work place was hit very hard, with downed trees, power lines and a fire in the generator house which kept the majority of the campus without power for most of the week. Now, due to the nature of my job all employees are considered essential and exempt from travel restrictions and required to show for work during inclement weather. Due to this fact, I was out on the roads during the heart of the storm, and it had a truly apocalyptic feel. While the devastation we suffered during the storm was minor compared to the Jersey shore and Staten Island, I think I got a unique look due to my job working at a home for people with disabilities. We rely so much on things being stable. Adaptive equipment, medical devices, powered wheelchairs, proper storage, and simple routines are essential when dealing with this community, and this taste of the chaos that is possible. This is one of the reasons I don’t think I would survive the first day of a Zombie Apocalypse. While the smart thing would be to run for the hills away from the dense population area that I live in, I don’t think I could leave behind the residents where I work.

So, if Romero is the master of the Zombie Movie, than it’s quite possible the Maberry may be his literary brother. I have read lots and lots of Zombie novels, and while there are Zomlit books I likes more that some of Maberry’s work, no one author has explored the genre with the scope and expertise as Maberry has. Hungry Tales, a collection of Zombie short stories written by this master, is proof of this. Maberry offers 5 varied and comprehensive looks at the possibilities we can explore with zombies, Maberry gives new twists and turns to the staple zombie tropes breathing fun and excitement into the walking dead. There are five strong zombie tales spanning the genre including a comic look at an isolated case of a zombie caused by green comet, an atmospheric and creepy tale set in the Appalachians and a look at the zombie apocalypse from the unique perspective of Samaria culture. Maberry also offers two short stories set within the established worlds of his zombie novels.  The Wind through the Fence is a nuanced story set before the events of Rot & Ruin as the survivors are attempting to reclaim land and establish a safe zone for humanity. In probably my favorite story Chokepoint, set in the world of Dead of Night, a small squad of misfit soldiers tries defend a bridge against the encroachment of the zombie hordes. It’s full of Maberry’s trademark action along with one of the more unique and fully fleshed group of characters to appear in a short story. Hungry Tales is the perfect treat for those looking for a quick fix of the undead. While some zombies shamble, or dig or make their way through the waters, they are all hungry for a chance to disturb you sleep. Maberry is a master of the genre, and in Hungry Tales he offers a smorgasbord of horrors for fans of the undead.

I am always surprised at the range that narrator Tom Weiner offers in his narrations. His natural voice is so deep and at times, booming, you forget that he can do many things with it you just won’t expect. From the start, in his reading of Calling Death, Weiner proves that he isn’t just a one trick pony. He reads the tale of an older Appalachian matron, and the soft spoke Samurai Sensei Otoro with just as much authenticity as he does hardcore soldiers and backwoods yokels. It’s a challenging job for a narrator to take on an anthology a varied as Hungry Tales, and pull it off with ease. Hungry Tales is another winning short story collection by Jonathan Maberry from Blackstone Audio. 

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





Audiobook Review: Tales From the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry

3 10 2012

Tales From the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 3 Hrs 39  Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: This is a great series of stories for those cold autumn nights. Maberry has a good mix of outright horror and subtle psychology terror and with his penchant for visual action and vivid imagery, this collection is a sure hit. So, welcome to Maberry’s Fire Zone, but be warned, you may just get a little singed in the process.

Grade: B

It’s October, and that means it’s time to turn our listening experiences over to the spooky side. OK, not much of a stretch for me. Personally, I believe that monster stories, intense thrillers and the paranormal are a year long delight, but that little bit of chill in the air and the early onslaught of darkness give these stories just a bit more bite. Also, since misery loves company, I’ll be joining up in the fun over at Jenn’s Bookshelves Murder, Monsters and Mayhem event. For my first October audiobook review I decided to take on one of the modern masters of horror, Jonathan Maberry and his audio short story collection, Tales from the Fire Zone. In all truthfulness, outside of the horror genre, I have never been a huge short story fan. I always enjoy sitting down with a good novel, and letting the plot swim over me. Yet, I think horror tales are specifically suited for the short story format. Over the years, I have enjoyed the shorter works of authors like Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Brian Keene and Dead Koontz. The shocks and horrors come quick and fast in these tales, and the final moments rarely give you closure, but instead hover over you like a permeating sense of dread. A good horror short is the literary version of yelling BOO! in a dark room. It is an instant scare that lingers even after you realize there really isn’t anything to be scared of. A horror short story will make you uncomfortable in the most comfy of bedrooms, and uneasy in the places you usually feel safe.

Tales from the Fire Zone is a collection of five spooky stories from the mind of Jonathan Maberry, one of which has written exclusively for Blackstone Audio. The first story, Like Part of the Family, may have been my favorite, since it’s a simple noir styled Detective tale with a paranormal edge. A women contacts former policeman and current Private Investigator to scare off her abusive ex husband. The husband, the operator of a Goth themed bar had recently undergone some drastic changes that led him to turn physically and emotionally abusive towards his wife. This tale offers a few twists and an enjoyable edgy protagonist with a secret. Maberry turns up the creepy with Doctor Nine. Doctor Nine takes us into the mind of a burgeoning serial killer. While my least favorite of the collection, it is one that provided for some real psychological suspense. The collection has an added treat, in "Property Condemned." It takes us back to Pine Deep and reintroduces us to the characters from the Pine Deep Trilogy back when they were kids. It’s a genre bending tale that mixes a haunted house with weird physics and gives us an insight into these characters that you will eventually see play out in the trilogy. In his Blackstone Exclusive tale, Cooked, Maberry tells us a tale of drugs and revenge with a mix of Haitian mysticism. Cooked is full of the stunning imagery that Maberry is known for in his longer works, and has one of the best endings in the collection. The true real gem of the production though is Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost. This tale is based on a true story about a trial where the testimony of a ghost is admitted into evidence. To add to the fun, Maberry brings legendary detective Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson across the pond to get mixed up in the proceedings. It’s a lot of fun and sure to please fans of ghost stories and the gruff troubled detective. All together, this is a great series of stories for those cold autumn nights. Maberry has a good mix of outright horror and subtle psychology terror and with his penchant for visual action and vivid imagery, this collection is a sure hit. So, welcome to Maberry’s Fire Zone, but be warned, you may just get a little singed in the process.

This collection is ably narrated by Pine Deep Veteran Tom Weiner. Weiner does a great job on all the stories, although Doctor Nine may have been a little out of his wheelhouse, making it the hardest tale to engage with. Elsewhere he shines. He does a great job with Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost, effortlessly jumping between the detectives British accents and the local West Virginian drawls. His depiction of a Haitian spiritual man is chilling, and his return to Pine Deep is pulled off flawlessly. His deep voice is perfect for the noir styling of Like Part of the Family, and all the tales are told in a moody pace that adds to the chills. Tales From the Fire Zone is a great audio short story collection, a quick but scary jaunt into a modern master’s twisted mind.

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





Audiobook Review: Suicide Run/Angle of Investigation by Michael Connelly

30 12 2011

Suicide Run/Angle of Investigation by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch Short Stories)

Read by Len Cariou

Hachette Audio

Length:

Suicide Run: 3 Hrs 17 Min

Angle of Investigation: 2 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Crime Fiction

Quick Thoughts: These short stories are the perfect fix for Harry Bosch fans waiting between full length releases.

Grade: B

I’m not really sure why I like Harry Bosch so much. Typically, he’s not the type of character I really like. He is an aging police detective who is outwardly and inwardly gruff, loves jazz, doesn’t really play well with people, and has a lot of integrity. On paper, he seems almost like a caricature of modern fictions view of a Police Detective. Yet, somehow he is one of my favorite literary characters. Having to wait for my library copy of the newest Harry Bosch thriller by Michael Connelly, I decided to give the recent short story collections a listen.

Hachette Audio released two, three story short story collects, called Suicide Run and Angle of Investigation. As you should expect, being unconnected short stories, these tales don’t have the depth of character and complex plotting typical of Connelly’s work. Yet, in my opinion, Connelly is one of the best procedural writers in the business, and these short stories are proof of that. We get to see young Bosch on his first Dead Body call, follow Bosh as he grills suspects in the interrogation room, and see his thought process as he investigates what at first glance looks like a suicide. My favorite stories of the collections where "Cielo Azul" where Bosch reflects on the crimes of a brutal serial killer who is on Death Row and "Angle of Investigation” where Bosch revives the cold case of a call he took as a boot (a trainee patrol officer). These short stories are the perfect fix for Harry Bosch fans waiting between full length releases.

For many people, Len Cariou is the definitive voice of Bosch. I’ll admit, I am not a huge fan of Len Cariou’s narration. I personally prefer when Dick Hill narrated the Harry Bosch series, or even Adam Grupper and Peter Giles narration in the Mickey Haller series. Cariou does a great job voicing Harry, I just find he narrative delivery to be too deliberate and his voicing of peripheral characters especially female characters, to be shaky. Yet, these short stories fall well into Cariou’s wheelhouse, focusing on Bosch without a lot of female characters. So, despite any general issues with the narration, these audiobooks short stories work well.