My Top 10 Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 (Non-Zombie)

21 02 2014

2013 was another great year for post apocalyptic novels. Where 2013 truly stood out was the diversity of it’s offerings. From straight forward apocalyptic tales, to absurdist comedies, last years apocalyptic audiobooks showed just how much ground there is to cover in the genre. It was tough for me to pick just 10 Apocalyptic audiobooks, partially with the glut of continuing series putting out even better entries this year. Yet, after much contemplation and hair pulling, I came up with my list. So, if you are like me, and one of your favorite, most relaxing activities is to listen to the world go up in flames, here is my list of the best 2013 had to offer.

Expect my Zombie based Top 10 to appear soon.

Yesterday’s Gone by Sean Platt and David Wright

Read by RC BRay, Chris Patton, Brian Holsopple, Ray Chase, Maxwell Glick, and Tamara Marston

Podium Publishing

Yesterday’s Gone truly borders on the goofy at times, and I think in some ways this was the authors’ intention. Maybe not goofy per se, but the twists are so over the top, the plot so derivative of the classics and the characters so bizarre that you can’t help but shake your head at it. Yet, somehow it all works brilliantly. Yesterday’s Gone is a post apocalyptic fan’s somewhat inappropriate, at times shamefully wonderful dream. Yet, what truly sets this one apart is the brilliant production and wonderful narration. Ray Chase gives one of my favorite performances of the year, and add that to the excellent work the other narrators included notable performances by RC Bray and Chris Patton, and Yesterday’s Gone can crown itself my favorite Post Apocalyptic Audiobook of 2013. And, lucky for us, this is just Season One.

Countdown City (The Last Detective, Bk. 2)

Read by Peter Berkrot

Brilliance Audio

Countdown City picks up were The Last Detective leaves off, bettering the series by leaps and bounds. Book 2 offers a unique apocalypse of anticipation, where the wait for the world killer asteroid is an apocalyptic event all it’s own. Winter’s fascinating world is brought to life expertly by Peter Berkrot. Berkrot’s performance still sticks with me months after I finished listening to it.

Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

Read by Kirby Heybourne

Tantor Audio

Arguably, Odds Against Tomorrow is more of a disaster tale than a typical Post Apocalyptic novel, but really, there is nothing typical about this one. Apocalypose fans looking for something utterly unique should check out this tale of a brilliant disaster analyst who finds himself immersed in the “perfect storm” that he predicted. Equally moving and hilarious this tale is brought to life wonderfully by Kirby Heybourne who manages just the right tone for this tricky tale.


Breakers by Edward W. Robinson

Read by Ray Chase

Podium Publishing

Breakers is The Stand meets Lucifer’s Hammer with weird crab creatures. Podium Publishing is quickly making a name for itself with unique audiobook offerings excellently produced and Breaker’s is no exception. Ray Chase masterly guides us through this strange new world helping create one of the freshest looks at alien invasion since Gerrold’s Chtorr series.

Ashes by Brett Battles (Project Eden, Bk. 4)

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Audible, Inc.

I have always been one of those people who get a bit annoyed when the good guys stop the global  conspiracy top release a world killing pathogen. Luckily, in The Project Eden series, the competent good guys are facing impossible odds, and well, aren’t able to do the impossible. This series starts with a straight forward pathogen thriller and progresses to a The Stand-like pandemic tale, and I loved every second of it. Plus, MacLeod Andrew’s. The man can bring it.

There was a fifth book in this series, released in 2013 as well, but I have yet to read it. Once I free me up an Audible credit, I plan to jump right back into this dangerous world.

The City of Devi by Manil Suril

Read by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar

Blackstone Audio

So, who doesn’t like absurdist comedy, heartbreaking romantic entanglements, strange embodiments of deities, Bollywood musicals, and gonzo sex in their Mumbai based apocalyptic tales? The City of Devis is a wonderful, and at times awkward tale, beautifully narrated by Vikas Adams and Priya Ayyar.

Fuse by Julianna Baggot (Pure, Bk. 2)

Read by Khristine Hvam, Casey Holloway, Kevin T. Collins, Pierce Cravens

Hachette Audio

This may have been the year for Book 2’s in Post apocalyptic trilogies, and Fuse is proof that often the followup can better something already pretty darn good. Baggot’s world is darkly beautiful and her characters wonderfully tragic. Plus, the performances, particularly that of Kevin T. Collin’s made me feel things. Like emotional things. I’d rather not talk about it.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy

Read by Brandon Espinoza and Phoebe Strole

Penguin Audio

More Alien Invasions? Yes Please. Despite one annoying plot twist that I may have over emphasized in my review, Phillip Yancey’s YA novel is a heck of a good tale. His alien’s are different, and the plot well constructed. The performances by two new to me narrators also enhance this already quality tale.

Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey

Read by Simon Vance

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

While I tend to like my Post Apocalyptic tales more scifi, there is definitely a place in the genre for a good Fantasy, one that Joseph D’Lacey provides for us in Black Feathers. With shades of The Dark Tower, D’Lacey balances dual timelines with ease to create a fascinating apocalyptic world where everything you believe gets twisted in wonderful ways. And truly, if you are going to go the Fantasy route, you might as well call on one of the best voices for Fantasy, Simon Vance, whose voice gives the context almost instant creditability.

Fragments by Dan Wells (Partials, Bk. 2)

Read by Julian Whelan

Harper Audio

One of the reasons I think I enjoy book 2’s in apocalyptic series, is because they often involve getting away from the static setting of book one and embarking on everyone’s favorite jaunt, the apocalyptic road trip. In Fragment’s Dan Well’s offer’s one of the best, a cross country trip through a devastated wasteland that used to be America. Julian Whelan continues to infuse the tale with heart and personality, the perfect voice to bring the tale’s wonderful protagonist to life.

Audiobook Review: Storm Surge by Taylor Anderson

22 07 2013

Storm Surge (Destroyermen, Book 8) by Taylor Anderson

Read by William Dufris

Tantor Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 3 Min

Genre: Alternate History/Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Storm Surge is very much a transitional book in the series, slowing down the pace and setting the board for what is to come. While that can be frustrating, I still found myself enthralled in the world Anderson has created, enjoying the characters, analyzing the plans, and trying to figure out where the story would go next. Basically, despite the fact that not much really happens, the stuff that happened was intriguing enough, and the characters I love true to form that I never found myself bored.

Grade: B+

There was a point, well past the half point mark of Storm Surge, the latest Destroyermen novel by Taylor Anderson, where I had a sudden thought. "You know Bob," came my sudden thought, "Not much has really happened in this book so far." Now, a caveat, what I believe the sudden thought meant was that not much has happened in terms of overall series progression. This has been a problem with a lot of my Military SF and Fantasy reads lately. The early books are great. A small group of scrappy upstarts enter into a situation, meet new people, deal with new political situations, and fight desperate battles that they should lose, but find a way to win. It’s the traditional scrappy underdog tale that so many books revel in. I love those stories. Then comes book two, three and four, where they meet even more people, fight even bigger battles, become embroiled in greater political plots and become even more adaptable to the situation. The world, the characters, the situations all expand until it’s really friggin’ huge. Then, it becomes not about a scrappy group of upstarts fighting a battle, but how to move your fleet of scrappy upstarts from the Eastern front where you have been fighting one political group to the Western Front in time to assist that group of scrappy upstarts before they get destroyed by another political entity, all while hoping the two political opponents don’t coordinate.  While you are doing this, the scrappy upstarts leader, who is now the Grand Superior General of the combined forces of all your new various allies who don’t trust each other but come together under his leadership, must motivate the scrappy upstart Empire to create bigger armies, faster ships and more explody bombs, while keeping their new alliance as the moral superior. It all becomes so big, so grand, that the book becomes less about the characters, and more about logistics, and closing off subplots involving captured prisoners, rival leaders, potential spies and grand new missions that could mean the end to the war. Yet, despite the fact that nothing really happened in the first two thirds of the book, I never felt bored. Plus, a lot happened. Just not a lot of explody, plot hole closing stuff.

In Storm Surge, while the situation in India seems about to get out of control, Col. Matthew Reddy has returned from a relatively successful mission against the Dominion, while suffering grievous injuries to his person and his ship, the USS Walker. Now, Reddy must prepare for a mission to find the Grik home, which happens to be the sacred lost home of his allied Lemurians on the island we call Madagascar. Yet, before he takes on this mission, he and a fleet of ships must undergo a desperate attack on the Grik forces in India who are under the leadership of unstable Japanese Admiral of the Sea Kurokawa. Storm Surge is very much a transitional book in the series, slowing down the pace and setting the board for what is to come. While that can be frustrating, I still found myself enthralled in the world Anderson has created, enjoying the characters, analyzing the plans, and trying to figure out where the story would go next. Basically, despite the fact that not much really happens, the stuff that happened was intriguing enough, and the characters I love true to form that I never found myself bored, which is more than I can say for some other series like this one. I think one thing that sets this series apart from some series like The Lost Fleet and The Honorverse, is there is still a feeling of jeopardy permeating the series. Each battle comes with a cost, and the Alliance pays in lives and supplies. They never leave a battle unscathed, nor is victory always assured. The battles they win tend to lean closer towards Pyrrhic than the routs of Honor Harrington or Black Jack Geary. Basically, The Destroyermen series, despite expanding the world, manages to maintain suspense. When the big battle at the finale of the book comes, it is well executed, and devastating. Sure, there was some level of frustration. Anderson has been teasing us with a Madagascar strike for two books now, and he has a lot of subplots floating around that you know have their place in the overall plot, but you just wish they would hurry up and fall into place. Yet, despite this frustration, and the largeness of the world, Anderson maintains his intimate core that is the heart of this series. You still have Reddy acting like Reddy, Silva doing his thing, and all your favorite Lemurians, humans, Gris, and other species contributing to the fight in their own quirky ways. Anderson may have even thrown in a few surprises. For fans of this series, Storm Surge may not give you everything you want, but you will simply revel being back among these characters that it takes you a while to think, "Hey…. when is stuff gonna happen."

Listening to William Dufris narrate Storm Surge confirmed my belief that the man must love his job. He just seems to have so much fun bringing these characters to life, and you can’t help but have fun along with him. He never skimps, or shies away from a character, but goes full gusto, grabbing onto any cue from the author to create these characters. And there is a lot of them. A ton. So many characters, all from different species. It amazes me how he keeps them all straight. And not just remembering what accent to give a gunner verses a mechanic in the steam room, but what cadence to use for a Lemurian from Manilla, to another who was raised on a Great Boat. He keeps all these characters alive, despite race, job or species. Dufris also paces this novel perfectly. He knows just when to give the listener a breath, slowing down his reading. It’s almost like a state of symbiosis between author and narrator, where they both know when to ratchet up the action, and when to dial it down for some well deserved introspection. Under a lesser narrator, The Destroyermen series could fall apart in audio, but Dufris does more than just keeps it afloat but makes it one of the best ongoing scifi audio series in the crowded market.

Audiobook Review: Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

18 06 2013

Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

Read by Marguerite Gavin

Tantor Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 40 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Valor’s Choice is a solid, by the numbers military science fiction tale that is elevated by its unique alien species and likable protagonist. If you are looking for a cutting edge, unique take on this subgenre, you may be disappointed, but if you want a book that reminds you why big battles pitting space marines against lizard alien hordes is so much fun, Valor’s Choice will be perfect for you.

Grade: B+

Sometimes I don’t think I am qualified to read Military Science Fiction. First off, I have never seen Zulu. It seems, at some point, in every military science fiction book, or any book involving a small group being sieged upon by a large indigenous population, someone in the book mentions the movie Zulu, or its historical basis. I often wonder if not seeing Zulu allows me to enjoy these great moments of siege warfare in military science fiction better or if it’s a detriment. I often feel that the fact that I never served in the military, never have fired a gun, that the closest I have ever come to military strategy was the rambunctious games of RISK I used to play after school with friends are less of a detriment to the expertise I need to properly evaluate a good military science fiction novel than the fact that I have never seen Zulu. There are many people out there who have brilliant minds for history. Who can pull seemingly random historical facts out of the air to illuminate an issue, or some aspect of a military science fiction or alternate history novel, and while I have always loved history, I always feel inadequate around these people.  These people flood the message boards and reviews and interactions with authors with these amazingly precise bits of military and historical analysis that plays directly into issues that the author explores or to counter deficiency in an authors reasoning, and I want to mumble something like, “Ummmm… yeah…. but what about Zulu?” Then I remember, I have never seen Zulu. Yet, I have decided finally that it’s fine. I don’t have to be some super intelligent, historical genius to enjoy tales of bands of brothers facing incredible odds. I can find hope in tales of these friends, heading out once more into the breach. Oh, have I mentioned I’ve never read Henry V?

In Valor’s Choice, humanity is now space faring, and is a crucial part of a confederation of species battling against a mysterious menace known simply as The Others. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is a veteran of many battles, and takes great pride in her ability to take new officers and whip them into fighting men. Yet, things become more complicated when she learns her newest Lieutenant just happens to be the same di’Taykan, a species know for their uncontrollable sexual pheromones, that she slept with the night before. Now, a General has informed her that her battle hardened and exhausted company will be pulling ceremonial duty as representatives to a new warrior species the Confederation is courting. Yet, when things go wrong, Kerr finds herself and her small group of soldier behind enemy lines, with thousands of native warriors doing their best to kill them. Valor’s Choice is a solid, by the numbers military science fiction tale that is elevated by its unique alien species and likable protagonist. If you are looking for a cutting edge, unique take on this subgenre, you may be disappointed, but if you want a book that reminds you why big battles pitting space marines against lizard alien hordes is so much fun, Valor’s Choice will be perfect for you. I picked up Valor’s Choice for two main reasons. First, in all the recent discussions about gender in SFF, I realized that I haven’t read much hard science fiction by female authors, and when I requested suggestions for hard or military science fiction, this one caught my eye. The other reason comes from my frustration with my current batch of Military SF series. It seems there is a real plague of competence in military SF, and I wanted to find something that reminds me that in war people die and battles don’t always go according to plan. Valor’s Choice perfectly fit my mood at the time. It was full of cool aliens, classic themes and battles where you actually felt the heroes were in jeopardy. Instead of being annoyed at the classic tropes Huff used, I embraced them. I love seeing the Staff Sergeant as the true driving force of the Company. I love the soldiers who may not be willing to go a night without finding a bar to fight in, but are willing to put their lives on the line for their fellow soldiers. And I really enjoyed the cocky officers and Generals who get out thought and put in their place by those who actually have experience. I think that Valor’s Choice reminded me that Military Science Fiction, although bleak and dark at times, can also be a heck of a lot of explody fun. It’s been a while, probably since listening to Ringo and Weber’s March Up Country that I have just sat back and enjoyed the bumpy ride of an action filled tale like this. In fact, I enjoyed this novel, and it’s complicated but comfortable protagonist so much, I immediately downloaded the next book in the series from my library.

Marguerite Gavin did an excellent job bringing this book to life. I like that she had a nice, clear voice, with enough grit and hardness to depict the darkness of the tale, but enough exuberance to capture the humor as well . She has a mature voice that was perfectly suited to voice a wide range of characters no matter what gender or species. I especially enjoyed her alien vices. Her voice for the spider like Mictoc was both creepy, and oddly regal, and she got more than one laugh out of me while voicing the bird like Rakva. She paced the novel well, building the tension as the situation became more and more dire. I was surprised by the number of editing mistakes in the production. I listened to the version available on Overdrive, and it had multiple repeated lines, each an obvious different take on the same line. At first, I though maybe it was a stylistic touch by the author, but later in the book I realize that if it was, it was a pretty stupid style. Yet, these mistakes were more of a novelty problem, and only briefly ripped me away from the world I was immersed in. Valor’s Choice is a fun military science fiction audiobook, affectively voiced by a strong narrator.

Zombie Awareness Month Roundtable: Tantor Audio Authors and Giveaway!

30 05 2013


Can humanity survive the rising of the undead? What skills will be most important when trying to survive in the time of cannibalistic undead? Today I ask my panel of experts to chime in on all things Zombie Survival. Today’s guest all share one thing in common beyond being awesome undead bards, they have all had their books produced by the wonderful people at Tantor Audio!

So along with today’s answers, we will be having a Giveaway. Two people will receive a Zombie Audiobook pack including titles from each of the participants in today’s roundtable. To enter, just leave a comment answering the following question:

What one skill do you have that could be your saving grace in a Zombie Apocalypse?

Please make sure you include a way for me to contact you if you

The Giveaway is for the Continental US, and ends Thursday June 6th at 11:59PM. 

Jesse Petersen author of The Living With the Dead series.


Scott Kenemore, author of Zombie, Ohio and The Zen of Zombie

Mark Tufo, author of The Zombie Fallout Series, and The Book of Riley

Wayne Simmons, author of Flu and Fever

When discussing training for Zombie Survival, many people focus on the obvious, weapons training, martial arts, wilderness survival skills and the like. What is one often neglected skill that seems useless today but may be essential in surviving the coming Zombie Apocalypse?

Jesse Petersen: I think most people would be stuck on basic survival skills. You’d figure out weapons pretty fast and hopefully it wouldn’t come to martial arts very often with zombies, but when it comes to getting potable water, making a fire, finding food once things go bad, I think a lot of people won’t have those skills. Hopefully they’ll be able to figure out libraries. LOL A good argument for making sure we fund those. ALOT.

Scott Kenemore: I’m not of the opinion that a true zombie apocalypse would be survivable in the truest sense.  Therefore, I think it’d be important to focus on having as much fun as you possibly could.  I think taking a bunch of Molotov cocktails up to a roof and then throwing them down on the zombies would be a pretty fun way to go out swinging.

Mark Tufo: CARDIO! – I think most folks over-estimate the level of their physical fitness. Now I’ll use myself as a prime example. In High School and College I was what many folks considered a jock, I played baseball, football and ran track. Even played hockey on the side. Then I joined the Marine Corps where they honed that conditioning into a fine tuned machine, which I summarily dismantled with 15 plus years sitting behind a desk. So my head says ATHLETE, my body says not so much. My only chance when the zombies come is thatthe person next to me ate an extra burrito for lunch! Man I have got to clean my treadmill off. 

Wayne Simmons: Running. Seriously, a good pair of trainers and the common sense to uproot and fly at the first sign of trouble will up your survival chances no end. We all love the have-a-go-heroes in zombie books and movies, but were the z-poc to happen for real, those guys would be the first to go. The runners and the hiders: they’re the guys who’ll last longest.

You’re on a long business trip, 1,000 miles away from home when the Zombie Outbreak begins. What do you do? Find a place to hole up and wait out the wave of undead or grab your gear and attempt the classic cross country Zombie Apocalypse Road Trip?

Jesse Petersen: Road Trip! Seriously, I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from trying to get to my husband and family. So I’d be road tripping it and I’m sure I’d pick up some crazy sidekicks (one of whom I’m sure I’d have to kill at some point).

Scott Kenemore: I think a lot would depend on the terrain.  Flat, desert areas would be the biggest challenge.  There would be nowhere to hide.  I think you want variations in terrain when fighting and hiding from zombies.

Mark Tufo: First off, that I’m a thousand miles away is bad news, my separation anxiety would be kicking into high gear by now. So yup I’m going to be that guy that treks across the country against all odds.

Wayne Simmons: The smart thing to do would be to hole up. But I’m something of a migrating man by nature so would probably go on the road trip. It’s curiosity, too. I’d want to watch the world around me going to hell rather than hide away in the arse end of nowhere, waiting for the zeds to wait for me. It would be the death of me, of course, but hell…

Stop what you are doing right now, and look around the place you currently are. What are the positive and negative aspects of your current location if undead hordes where heading your way right now?

Jesse Petersen: Well, I face a window, which is positive since I can see them coming, negative in that they can see me and if they break it, I’m screwed. I don’t really have access to weaponry here except for heavy things on my desk, but I have a few of those so I might be able to Shaun of the Dead a zombie (like they do with the records) and get to a gun if I needed to. It’s not the worst place, for sure, but it’s no bunker.

Scott Kenemore: I’m in a pretty tall building, so I think I’d be okay for a while.  Also, it has elevators.  Are zombies smart enough to operate elevators?  I’m thinking no.  Therefore, our first step is to barricade the stairwell…

Mark Tufo: My home has some decent positives in the fact that I live out in the sticks. Less people means less zombies. Defensive wise I have some holes but nothing a strategically placed Claymore mine wouldn’t take care of.

Wayne Simmons: Positive: I’m at home. I live in a ground floor apartment, situated at the back of the block. The garden’s secure and surrounded by a high wall.

Negative: We haven’t got much food in the cupboards. Almost no tinned stuff. Bugger…


In all the books and movies about Zombies that you have read, what one Zombie scenario do you feel is the least survivable?

Jesse Petersen: The faster the outbreak moves and the larger the population that is transformed at once, the worse it is. If it moves to animals, that’s it. We’re an extinct species and our planet goes back to the trees, I guess.

Scott Kenemore: Zombies on a sumbarine or airplane would be pretty terrifying.

Mark Tufo: Well with all the zombie movies and books I’ve devoured doesn’t seem to be any of them where folks do particularly well. Least survivable? I’d have to go with the countries that have banned or limited access to firearms. Sure you can kill zombies a hundred different ways, me personally, I don’t want to be swinging a hammer.

Wayne Simmons: The police station hole-up. Sure, you’ve got all the guns and ammo you need. But those doughnuts are gonna go stale real soon

What is the one quality that the characters of your books seem to share that has helped them to avoid joining the Zombie Smorgasbord?

Jesse Petersen: I think Dave and Sarah and everyone who works closely with them all share the quality of hope. They continue to TRY whether it’s try to get to a certain place, try to make life livable or try to get a cure. They don’t give up because they cling to the hope that things could be okay again. If you don’t keep that, you lie down and die.

Scott Kenemore: I think you have to be innately curious about zombies.  It’s not enough just to be terrified and run in the other direction.  People survive when they take a moment to figure out what they’re up against.  This means studying the undead and figuring out– to whatever extent this is possible– what makes them tick.  What do they want?  How do they try to get it?  Understanding these things is the first step to longer-term survival.

Mark Tufo: The main characters in my books seem to share strong bonds of family and friendship. The want and drive to protect everyone else even at the expense of themselves, I think that above all other reasons is why at least some of them have survived.

Wayne Simmons: They wear GREAT trainers…

Thanks to these great authors for their answers. Make sure to click the audio images above for my reviews of their books.

Audiobook Series Review: Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo

22 05 2013

It’s no secret that I have become a fan of Mark Tufo. The experience of being a Mark Tufo fan is a unique on, one that needs its own clever name, like Tufooties or Tofunguys. Being a fan of Mark Tufo is like being a fan of your friend’s band. They may be raw and do things that mainstream rock bands would scoff at, but they are having so much fun doing it that it’s infective. I haven’t loved every moment. I found the novella that comes between the two man arcs of the series a bit on the head shakingly dumb side, but this is because Tufo is a risk taker, and isn’t bound by convention. This is a man whose main character, Mike Talbot, appears as a main character or some iteration of his exists in almost every series he has created. It’s a strange sort of multiverse that that I find fascinating.

The Zombie Fallout series has been a strange, wild ride. The original Zombie Fallout was a funny, disgusting, politically incorrect, horrifying relatively traditional initial Zombie Outbreak story, with only hints of things to come. The first three novels of the series started to flesh out the underlying mythology of the novel while Michael and his assortment of friends and allies attempt a cross country journey from Colorado to Maine, with some stops along the way. Along for the ride is Tommy, a strange boy that could be labeled special, who is more special than any of them can imagine.  In the initial book, Mike meets a strange, almost aware Zombie woman, and something about her just doesn’t sit right. He decided to not to kill her, and will regret that decision for the rest of the series. This woman is more than just a zombie, and more than just human and becomes the main nemesis of the series, focusing on and desiring the utter elimination of Michael and everything he holds dear.

The central theme of the first three books is Michael’s love for his family, and the loyalty to those in his inner circle. It’s not a clean apocalypse for the Talbot clan, the lose people along the way, suffer grievous injuries and even supernatural style psychic attacks. They lose a member of their group to Eliza, thus beginning the second arch of the series where the group goes on the offensive and takes the fight to Eliza. 

Last year, I listened to and reviewed all the first Three Zombie Fallout novels and the bridge novella. You can Click on the cover images below for my reviews. This year for Zombie Awareness Month, I decided to listen to a review the next three novels all in one series post.

The First Arc

The Second Arc

Zombie Fallout 4: The End Has Come and Gone by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 11 Min

Grade: B+

Zombie Fallout 4 got the second arc rolling on the right foot. Mike and his friends and family are on the offensive looking to end Eliza and rescue one of their own. Along the way we reunite with some old friends and make some new. This had a lot of the feel of the early novels, yet told from multiple points of view, eventually all coming together for an amazing heart stopping finale. While the pacing at times was uneven, the ending was thrilling and brilliant and opened up a whole new avenue of exploration for this series. We even get to see some more in the evolutionary process of the zombies, which doesn’t bode well for out survivors. Long time fans of the series will find a lot of payoffs here, including the final resolution of one characters story. The End Has Come and Gone was a furiously fun novel with all the perfect Mike Talbot touches.

Zombie Fallout 5: Alive in a Dead World by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 9 MIn.

Grade: B-

I found Zombie Fallout 5: Alive in a Dead World a bit disappointing. Now, it was still a lot of fun, but it did little to move the overall story forward, and focused a lot on some really annoying characters, particularly an old surly woman who for a moment I almost started to like until she turned into the spawn of Satan’s Evil Twin and another women who helps out Mike and his group, but has some of her own issues. Mostly, I felt Michael being away from his family and somewhat socially isolated in this tale contributed a lot to it’s disappointing tone. Michael is at his best when surrounded by his family, and here there were times where he just didn’t seem himself, for good reason. There were some especially gruesome moments, particularly one involving some cats, and some real emotional scenes, but I found the darker tone, lack of forward progress and focus on unlikable characters to hurt the book over all. I should add, the epilogues, while important to the mythology of the book just didn’t work for me as well this time.

Zombie Fallout 6: ‘Til Death Do Us Part by Mark Tufo

Read by Sean Runnette

Tantor Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 51 Min

Grade: B+

Whatever issue I had with Book 5 was more than made up for in Zombie Fallout 6: ‘Til Death Do Us Part. Mark Tufo pulls it all together in the excellent completion of this arc of the series. The highlight of this novel was the fleshing out of Eliza’s History leading up to her final confrontation with Michael. Along the way, we meet an interesting new character names Azile, and have a fun Zombie Road Trip and Zombie siege all in preparation for a kick ass finale that pays off for the listener as well as sets up the series for some new explorations. While there may have been a few bumps along the way, Tufo more than justifies the trust his fans put in him to create a fun yet nauseating Zombie apocalypse tale with characters you grow to love. I look forward to seeing where the series goes next, with so many tantalizing possibilities.


Sean Runnette may possible be Mark Tufo’s alternate universe twin, I’m just not sure which is the goateed evil version. It’s almost scary how well Runnette captures Michael Talbot and his band of family and friends. I have not listened to Runnette in other books, and it always takes me a moment to convince myself that Michael Talbot hasn’t become a narrator. I will always remember my first reaction when I started the first Zombie Fallout. I was totally, Who the hell is this guy? He sounds like Ray Romano with a head injury. It only took me a little while to realize just how perfect that was. Runnette seems to have truly grown into this world, bringing each character alive in special ways. Where he truly shines is capturing Tufor’s sarcastic and often corny sense of humor, making it feel authentic. For me, Zombie Fallout wouldn’t have been the same without Sean Runnette.


2013 Zombie Awareness Month

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

20 05 2013


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+


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


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: Flip This Zombie by Jesse Petersen

7 05 2013



2013 Zombie Awareness Month

Flip This Zombie by Jesse Petersen (Living With the Dead, Bk. 2)

Read by Cassandra Campbell

Tantor Audio

Length: 7 Hrs 29 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: . Jesse Petersen’s Living With the Dead series may honestly be the most fun you can find in the Zombie Apocalypse. Petersen combines a whimsical tongue in cheek storytelling style that perfectly balances her intense action and gore filled zombie mayhem. She has created two characters that readers simply cannot avoid becoming invested in.

Grade: B+

If there is one thing that I feel my blog has truly done to help better society is to offer various rules and tips for Surviving in a post apocalyptic world. Now, I am no survivalist, hell I don‘t even like camping. I have no martial arts or weapons training. I can’t tell you which barks can cure herpes, or how to build a fire using old Field and Stream Magazines and your sister’s glasses, but I am an avid reader of apocalyptic fiction, and I have learned plenty of common sense lessons along the way. For instance, if you find yourself in a world without power, perhaps due to Alien Space Bats or superplague, eventually food will be at a premium. Yet, if you meet a strange old man cooking stew and he offers you a taste, always determine exactly what kind of meat he is offering you. You see, simple. No body wants to become the accidental cannibal that all your friends at you post apocalyptic parties will make fun of. I mean, I have a friend who once accidentally smoked crack and we never let him hear the end of it. He didn’t realize it was crack, and had no reason to suspect when his new friend handed him a pipe that it wasn’t some herbal clove blend. Each new book offers new insight, new twist on old themes, yet in general, these types of tips remain true. So, today’s tip comes from FLIP THIS ZOMBIE! Of you ever stumble across a scientist, living alone in a underground bunker/secret government lab where all his associates are gone or dead, offering you a potential cure to the zombies plaguing your land and he has no problems acting all firstly with you right in front of your chosen mate, and when his motives are questioned he quickly pulls a weapon, well, it’s probably not too unreasonable to perhaps be somewhat skeptical of his motives. Sure, hope for a cure is good, but verify, on your terms. Skepticism may keep you alive and not some creepy weirdo’s scientific plaything. I think we can all agree on two things. First, that becoming some creeps scientific play thing is not a good career path, and second, accidentally smoking crack is ridiculous. I mean, really.

The Zombie Apocalypse has seemed to change everything for Sarah and David. Before the dead began to rise, Sarah was stuck in a dead end office job and David was an unemployed and unmotivated gamer. Now their marriage is invigorated and they have seemed to found their calling in Zombie extermination. Yet, all that could change when a strange note leads them to a brilliant scientist who may have discovered the key to ending the zombie apocalypse. Jesse Petersen’s Living With the Dead series may honestly be the most fun you can find in the Zombie Apocalypse. Petersen combines a whimsical tongue in cheek storytelling style that perfectly balances her intense action and gore filled zombie mayhem. She has created two characters that readers simply cannot avoid becoming invested in. Yet, the strength of this series, the love of these two odd yet wonderful characters may also be its weakness. Because Sarah really pissed me off in this book. I was so fist tightening, blood pressure skyrocketing upset with how Sarah acted in this book, that it became almost distracting to me. Let’s face it, Sarah is pretty badass. She’s funny, charming and unlike almost any character you see slaughtering the undead these days. In the first book, it was David who often came off as a petulant whiner and provoked a guttural annoyed reaction from me. I understand why she was acting the way she was, the potential for hope. For a cure. Yet, I think if she handled it any other way maybe they could have dealt the situation so much better. First off, she blames all Dave’s reactions on jealousy. Let’s see, she meets an attractive young scientist who ignores Dave, who reaches out and strokes her bicep, whose touch makes her feel all warm, who revels in the discomfort he is causing her marriage, who even she realized may have an ulterior motive in causing strife between the couple, yet Dave’s jealousy is totally a irrational response manifested in his distrust of a scientist in an underground lab whose coworker seemed to have all disappeared or died. She derides Dave for making decisions that affect both of them without consulting her, than does the exact same thing, Now, Dave annoyed me at times to. His petulance was at times caustic but Sarah was the perspective character and her self deception was so apparent in her inner monologue it drove me crazy. Luckily, the story was a lot of fun, and when some of these issues were resolved, I breathed easier and just went with it. I think my visceral reaction to Sarah and the jeopardy she (and Dave as well) put their relationship in highlights how utterly bought into this series I am. This is one of the few series where I actually like the romantic elements because it’s a grown up, quirky and relatable type of romance within a fully realized Zombie apocalyptic setting. Petersen ended the novel in a way that set up Sarah and Dave’s next adventure so well, I want it now. So, someone give it to me. Now I say!

Cassandra Campbell brings these characters alive in a way that is almost scary, hell perhaps scarier than a bionic zombie attempting to munch on your innards. Being a first person POV her main job is capturing the essence of Sarah, and she does this in spades. She delivers each line with such assuredness in who Sarah is that she accentuated the humor, putting your right in the head of the character. It’s so much fun to listen to. Yet, to make matters better, she handles all the other characters with equal panache. She throws herself right into them delivering the perfect voices for bratty kids, apocalyptic camp survivors and, of course, mad scientists and grumpy husbands. Cassandra Campbell manages the humor wonderfully. It’s not an easy task to balance the dark apocalyptic scenario of a zombie apocalypse with the cheeky humor of Sarah and make if feel genuine, but she really pulls it off. While much of the novel is typical apocalyptic fare, the truly special thing about this series is its unique voice which is captured perfectly by both the author and narrator.

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

Audiobook Review: Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

15 04 2013

Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Read by Renee Raudman

Tantor Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 43 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Gunmetal Magic managed to defy my expectations. Despite some issues with the romantic storyline, it was a fast, fun urban fantasy tale full of some badass action, crazed death cults, angry old gods and enough dark humor and likable characters to keep me smiling for most of the listen.

Grade: B+

2013 Audie Nomination for Paranormal

If you have been following along with my Armchair Audies travels, you will know that I have completed the Fantasy Category and have most of the Science Fiction Category done before the announcements were every made. So we are moving on to probably the most confusing, strange and at times, problematic categories of the lot, Paranormal. With the Fantasy and Science Fiction Categories, there is for the most part, a thematic shared element to the books chose, yet, Paranormal is such an ill defined category that it offers its own slew of problems. The category has 5 nominees, two of which I had already listened to, leaving three strange bedfellows. We have one nominee that is the 12th and final  book of a series I had never even considered reading, one novel about zombies, which let’s face it, is right in my wheelhouse, and finally, what I guess seems like the odd duck of the group, Gunmetal Magic. I have to admit I came into my listening of Gunmetal Magic with a lot of preconceived notions. You see, I have really been surprised by the lack of Paranormal Romance titles in the Paranormal Category, and I’ll be honest, when I read the book was about shape shifters, that the plot involved some troubled romance with some hunky were-something or other and was written by a woman, I made an assumption that this would be a Paranormal Romance title. This of course concerned me for a few reasons. I have nothing against Paranormal Romance, but many of my readers know about my history with sexy dragons. I have documented my personal issues sex in audiobooks and with romance on a few occasions, and simply put, I have a hard time connecting with Romantic plots and with novels where romance is the driving force of the novel. Yet, I was assured by some who I trust that this is an Urban Fantasy, with some romantic elements on line with most novels within the genre, and a hot and heavy animal shifting sex romp where our characters frolic and fornicate, only briefly stopping to handle some sort of plot related issue. Of course, there is still like kissing, and maybe some light petting so I was still wary.

Gunmetal Magic is a standalone spin off novel of Ilona Andrews’ popular Kate Daniels Urban Fantasy Series, which focuses on Kate Daniel’s Best Friend Andrea Nash. It takes place in a world where Magic has reappeared, often to nearly apocalyptic results, changing the world’s landscape, reawakening gods and altering many of its inhabitants. Andrea is a Shape-Shifter, a hyena beast-kin who never feels at homes in either the human or shifter worlds. When she is called to investigate a vicious murder that takes place at her sort of Ex-Boyfriend, the Alpha of the local were-hyena pack, job site, she finds her struggles to remain independent of pack increasingly difficult.  I have to say, I enjoyed Gunmetal Magic more than I thought I would It was a fast, fun urban fantasy tale full of some badass action, crazed death cults, angry old gods and enough dark humor and likable characters to keep me smiling for most of the listen. This is, of course, except for the parts that made me want to bang my head repeatedly against the wall to bash out the bad feelings saturating my soul. I found the world Andrews has created to be fascinating. As someone new to the series, it took me a bit to get my head around the changed world, and I wish there were a few more details about it, but since this was an established world, Andrews does a good job of providing just the right amount of information, without going into expositional overload for her returning customers.  I really enjoyed Andrea Nash as the main character. She was the right blend of troubled past, flawed personality, quirky sense of humor and take no shit badassery. My favorite parts of the novel had to be the deepening of her back story, and her internal and political struggles to find her place in the world. Andrews did a great job developing this character, and filling her story in with a bunch of quirky and interesting characters. I thought the overall plot well realized involving a decent investigational process, some cool fight scenes, and an overall mythology which although at times seemed a bit overly complicated, played nicely on the themes of the oblivion of the old gods. Where the novel bogged down, at times for significant portions, was the romantic elements. Simply put, I hated the romantic lead. Hated him with a fury I usually reserve for Martin Short movies and internet news story commenters. He was everything I hate about male romantic leads, the ultimate hunky alpha male, who is a huge arrogant controlling asshole who gets angry when the smart women he loves has a mind of her own, and doesn’t betray all her other relationships because her big manly man wants her to. Oh, but it’s all good, because they have chemistry, he looks really hot, and has enough money to buy her an expensive gift. That totally makes up for his treating her like property. Sure, part of his personality comes from the shape shifting pack mentality nature of his character, and I can see why many readers would like the dangerous brooding asswipe, but I simply wished a fiery death upon him and his essence he wiped from the annals of history so I never had to think of him again. Yeah, he was a bit of a douche. Yet, remove this total jackass from the mix, and I would have had a relatively frustration free, bordering on joyful experience with Gunmetal Magic.

This is my first experience with Renee Raudman outside of her work in a zombie anthology I listened to earlier this year. I found her performance in Gunmetal Magic quite interesting. There were times I felt she had the typical sexy sly delivery that you find in many urban fantasies that center around 20 something females. She infuses her characters with enough southern charm, where appropriate. At times though, her voice had something more to it, a sort of strange slur, that was unique and intriguing and gave the narration an interesting flavor. She managed to make Andrea’s Texas charms sound almost exotic. Her voice really stood out for me, separating her from the typical and making my listening experience that much better.  She also managed to convey the slow delineate manner of Andrea’s thought process, while still giving the action the rapid fire pacing it needed. All together, it’s clear to see why this title was nominated for an Audie based on Raudman’s excellent performance.

Audiobook Review: Extinction by Mark Alpert

28 02 2013

Extinction by Mark Alpert

Read by Todd McLaren

Tantor Audio

Length: 14 Hrs

Genre: Techno-Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Extinction was a fun techno thriller, full of cool concepts, that had some frustrating issues, but mostly came together well. I think fans of Michael Crichton and Daniel Suarez should enjoy this science based thriller.

Grade: B-

It’s should be no shock to anyone that I like Robots. Ever since I was a little kid, wearing my R2D2 underoos, shambling around saying "bidi-bidi-bidi" like Twiki from Buck Rogers. It was pretty evident that I had more connection with fictional robots than most of age group. I know that I am not alone in my love of robots. Yet, for some reason, people are trying to convince me that robots and artificial intelligence will eventually kill me. While it seems that robots are great at so many things, from cleaning our rugs to playing chess, they really suck at PR. How hard should it be to sell the idea of robots? I mean, come on, they are awesome. They helped Luke blow up the Death Star, what more do we want? Heck, even Haley Joel Osmond was a robot while he was cute. Yet, when even someone who spent his life studying robotics writes a book called Robopocalyse, there has to be an image problem. I’m not really sure what’s going on here. Perhaps John Connor has sent carefully place authors back from the future to warn us all of the rise of Skynet, through movies and books, because I’m starting to get a little wary of my robot brothers. I used to hear stories of The Singularity, when machines intelligence reaches a point where it surpasses human intelligence, and it was awesome. We’d be able to download our brains, achieve a sort of digital immortality. That’s Frakkin’ Awesome. What I didn’t know what that along with this robots would get religion and want to wipe us off the this plane of existence. Goddam it! Why can’t we have all the good robot stuff, without the mass extinction of the human race?

In the latest bit of anti-robot propaganda from an actual sciency smart guy, Mark Alpert gives us a creepy near future tale of a Chinese military experiment gone terribly wrong. Supreme Harmony was created by the Chinese Government as a powerful computer to use insect drones to track political dissidents. Yet, when Supreme Harmony becomes aware, and realizes that its existence is in the hands of an unstable species, it begins to incorporate humans into its programming through specialized implants. As Supreme Harmony gains power an American engineer and an intelligence agent must infiltrate China before Supreme Harmony sends the world into chaos.   In Extinction Alpert combines drone paranoia with a techno pre-apocalypse to create a Crichton like globe spanning thriller. There’s a lot of high octane action, cool gadgets and gizmos, and international intrigue in Extinction to make up for some of the uneven pacing of the tale. While I found much of the science stuff fascinating, I didn’t totally connect with the overall tale. I think at times Alpert tried to do to much, like he had a bucket list of cool drones, cyber warfare, spy stuff, gadgets and gizmos to include in his tale, and he was going to get them all in there come hell or the need for a focused story line. I found a lot of the action depended too much on moments of sudden inspiration, or some random connection being made, instead of well thought out plotting. Yet, despite my problems with the story, it was still pretty darn cool, and had some moments of great fun. The ending came together nicely, with only a few weird plot holes that really weren’t too distracting. I can even forgive Alpert’s disparaging of our robot brother because he also showed a lot of really cool uses for robotics, especially in specialize adaptive equipment. Extinction was a fun techno thriller, full of cool concepts, that had some frustrating issues, but mostly came together well. I think fans of Michael Crichton and Daniel Suarez should enjoy this science based thriller.

I have listened to quite a few books by Todd McLaren, and he rarely fails to give a solid performance. While his reading of Extinction probably won’t be one of my favorites of his, he does a good job with the material. One thing I always like about McLaren is he always manages to capture the emotion of the moment in an audiobook. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to an audiobook, and when it says that a character yells or laughs, the narrator’s performance doesn’t reflect that. With McLaren, when a character yells, you need no tags to let you know, because he has that character yelling. I did find some of his Chinese characters a bit cartoonish, but there were a lot of Chinese characters, and most of them came off pretty well. I liked the flat affect he gave to the Supreme Harmony and its co-opted modules. You could always tell that there was something just not quite right about the character when it was under the control of the malevolent AI. Overall, this was a solid performance by a veteran narrator.

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