Audiobook Review: Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection by Don Roff

7 09 2012

Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection by Don Roff

Read by Stephen R. Thorne


Length: 1 Hr 41 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection is a production that is definitely worth a listen. It’s a quick and dirty slice of the Zombie apocalypse that fans of the genre should have a whole lot of fun with.

Grade: B

I really don’t know the history behind the whole "found footage" style of storytelling. I know my first real experience with this style was The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch came out when I was in college. I remember heading down to The Ritz in Philadelphia during its initial limited run not really knowing what to expect. Now, remember, I was young and impressionable back than, and easily manipulated by the machinations of the big screen. Basically, what I am saying is this movie scared the crap out of me. While intellectually I knew this was just a movie, it felt real to me. Now, I am much older and wiser now, and have experienced the dog crap that is known as Blair Witch 2, so, no longer can the "found footage" style manipulate me so blatantly.   Sure, I saw and loved Chronicle but, I never had any problem keeping my sense of reality. I am beginning to think the whole Diary/Blog style of novels is the literary counterpoint to "found footage." Diary style novels take a step beyond the traditional first person POW, stripping away another level of reality so it seems that we are reading the actual words written by our main character. It’s a fun style when done right, but sort of obnoxious when done poorly. Yet, I think there is a reason why these types of stories sometimes don’t translate to audio very well. I think it’s because narrators are often too good. Sometimes, it seems the audiobook is too flawless, like they hired a professional studio with a trained actor to bring their diary to life. This is because, well, that exactly what is happening. Yet, in Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection by Don Roff, AudioGo attempts to truly bring the found footage style to Audiobooks.

Caught in the midst of an outbreak of a necrotic infection, Dr. Robert Twonbly, a hematologist from Seattle, records his flight from his laboratory to a community in North Canada and his attempts to avoid the zombies that now pestered the land. His recordings, made on a hand held recorder, and his journal are eventually discovered by Canadian officials and are one of the few first person accounts of survival amidst the chaos of the initial zombie outbreak. I found Zombies to be fascinating on many levels. The story itself will not break much new ground. It is a basic Zombie Apocalypse survival tale told in a first person stream of consciousness style. The story itself is notable for two things. First, I found the probably cause of the outbreak, a food additive that made foodstuff more desirable, an interesting twist. Second, the author does a good job showing the mental deterioration of the main character due to the high stress situation.  This is the second found footage, false document style Zombie novel I have listened to recently, and while I enjoyed the scientific slant of The Zombie Autopsies, Zombies had a much more human story. There is definitely a real sense of dread and despair to this story. It emotional manipulations are often obvious, but affective. In essence, if you are looking for some groundbreaking spin on Zombie literature, you won’t find that here. What you will get is a quick fix of zombie mayhem, told in an intriguing style. It’s basically, just enough zombie fun to keep the hardcore fan sated. 

The true payoff of the experience is the style of the audiobook. Adapted from a graphic novel, the production has a lot of obstacles to overcome. The biggest negative to the whole production is that you don’t have the illustrations. I highly recommend that you obtain a copy of the original work as a supplement to the audio production. What AudioGo does here is impressive. They create a true "found footage" feel with this production. The audiobook is not pristine, there is often background noise, low res hissing, and clunking sounds, like you would expect to hear when listening to something taped by a crappy little recorded. Narrator Steven R. Thorne does a good job giving the production a real feel as well, stumbling over his words, sighing and sometimes cutting off his own recording. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it is authentic enough to be worth the distractions. It really is one of the first effective translations of this style to the audiobook format. Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection is a production that is definitely worth a listen. It’s a quick and dirty slice of the Zombie apocalypse that fans of the genre should have a whole lot of fun with.

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

This review is part of my weekly “Welcome to the Apocalypse” Theme. Click on the image below for more information.

Audiobook Review: John Dies at the End by David Wong

21 04 2011

John Dies at the End by David Wong

Read by Stephen R. Thorne


Genre: Horror Comedy

Quick Thoughts: An highly entertaining, often adolescent mashup of science fiction and fantasy tropes with a solid performance by the narrator.

Grade: A-

David Wong’s horror comedy John Dies at the End is one of those novels that has taken an untraditional road in publishing, yet with the internet being such a powerful tool for aspiring writers we are seeing more and more of. John Dies at the End began as an internet serial, before being published by Permuted Press, an independent publisher whose main focus is on apocalyptic fiction. Eventually in 2009, 8 years after its initial serial founding, it was published as a Hardcover, and a year later, in audiobook form. As big fan of Apocalyptic fiction, I often heard about titles being produced by Permuted, but would turn my nose up at them, considering them barely a step up from self-published. Yet, when JL Bournes Day by Day Armageddon and ZA Recht’s Morningstar Strain novels were given greater exposure, I checked them out, and was impressed. John Dies at the End was one of those novels I had heard buzz about, and although it was not “post apocalyptic” like the majority of Permuted’s offerings, there was something intriguing about it. When I saw it was released in audiobook, I though, heck, it’s time to check this bad boy out.

John Dies at the End is a twisted, adolescent romp through a multitude of science fiction and fantasy tropes, which author David Wong has bitten into, chewed thoroughly and rewarded his readers by having them repeat on him over and over, like bad chili. That is to say, this novel isn’t for everyone, but, if it is for you, you’re in for one hell of a unique trip. How can you tell if it’s for you, well, if you like you sci-fi horror buddy comedies laden with dick and fart jokes, a surprising number of puns using the word “chair”, wig wearing beaked spider creatures and an extremely unreliable first person POV, well, congrats, someone wrote the perfect book for you. Now, if you were offended that I used the word dick in the last sentence, then you can continue reading about romantic sparkly vampires. John Dies at the End reads like if Douglas Adams wrote the novelization of a Bill and Ted movie while stoned. What impresses me the most about this novel was it wasn’t afraid to take on any standard genre plotline, magical portals to other worlds, time travel, genetic engineering, paranormal occurrences and so much more and just utterly destroy it and make it its own. John Dies at the End isn’t the perfect novel, even for us who love dick and fart jokes, at times it can be a bit scattershot, but for pure entertainment value, it’s a winner.

One word of warning on the audiobook, this isn’t one you should listen when doing complicated work. The author uses some tricks that work well on paper, but are tougher to pull off in audio form. There were times I needed to rewind my mp3 player to make sure I hadn’t missed something important. Narrator Stephen R. Thorne gives a solid reading. He’s not going to blow you away, as some narrators do, but he has a crisp pure voice with a low key delivery that works well with the outlandish style of the book. So if you’re sick of traditional fantasy, tired of Euro-trash vampires and frustrated with science fiction novels that read more like a physic textbook, then give John Dies at the End a try.