Audiobook Review: Flip This Zombie by Jesse Petersen

7 05 2013

 

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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.





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: Mutated by Joe McKinney

19 12 2012

Mutated by Joe McKinney (Dead World, Bk. 4)

Read by Todd McLaren

Tantor Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 56 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Mutated is a great example of how a series can come together. For fans of this series, it’s like each previous novel was the wrappings and Mutated is the reward. A fun, furious Zombie tale with hidden depths and wonderfully flawed characters that Zombie and Apocalyptic fans shouldn’t miss.

Grade: A-

As we all know, the world is ending. You see, years ago, the Mayans had a crack team of astrophysicists, and experts on all sorts of sciencey whosumwhatsit, and used their vast stores of knowledge, with plenty of help from other worldly or extraterrestrial temporal drifters to make a calendar. Now, the Mayan’s were a frugal bunch, and didn’t believe in wasting anything from stone tablets to the entrails and marrow of their fallen enemies, and knowing through their calculations and hints from inter-dimensional Lizard Men exactly when the earth would be destroyed they saw no point in expanding the calendar past this date, Also, being stingy with their information, they decided not to actually write down how the world would end, knowing that exiled Nordic gods from Ragnarok would use that information to tip the balance between order and chaos. Now, we can only speculate to how the world will be thrown into chaos. Perhaps a global shifting of tectonic plates causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Maybe a freakish alignment of bodies within our solar system will force the shifting of our polar axis leading to a reversal of gravity briefly flushing humanity into space. Or, just maybe, the Lizard Men will open a portal to an alternate dimension, allowing Cthulhu and the Great Old One into our dimension to snack on our souls. The only thing I am sure of is that it won’t be Zombies. That would just be ridiculous. Zombies are made up creatures, and authors have full license to do with them as they please, whether they walk or run, moan or speak, shamble or even drive a car, Zombies basically just need to be sort of deadish and it’s all good. Because, Zombie, unlike Lizard Men, only exist in fiction and won’t be responsible for the Mayan Apocalypse.

Mutated is the latest entry in Joe McKinney’s Dead World series, which, in my book, is one of the more comprehensive and unique look at a Zombie Apocalypse. McKinney examines his changed world through a series of interconnected Zombie novels and novellas, that, while each entry in the series stands well on it’s own, all come together to create McKinney’s true vision. In Mutated, McKinney takes us past the initial breakout, and the collapse of society, to give us the first true Post Apocalyptic look at his world. While some communities have managed to create strongholds, an army lead by a mysterious Red Man is ravaging the landscape, using the undead as weapons against the living. Ben Richardson has spent the years since the initial outbreak traveling the country collecting stories for the definitive book on the Zombie outbreak, acting as a passive observer. Yet, when he comes upon an old acquaintance in jeopardy, he gets involved. He discovers that this group, along with an immature young man they meet along the way, may hold the key to finding a solution to the zombie scourge. While Mutated works well on its own, it pulls together many tangents from the past books in a way that really pays off for readers of the series. The Dead World really stands out with it’s depiction of the evolution of zombies. Many books have tackled this angle, but few have explored it with such depth as McKinney. McKinney creates a brilliant parallel between the devastated land, with its abandoned buildings and empty cities and the very nature of the Zombies themselves. Also, the characters in Mutated are better fleshed out than in his other entries to the series. McKinney gets us right into the head of his characters, exploring their motivations and base natures of these people. His group of unlikely heroes are flawed and frustrating, yet together as a group, become greater than themselves. McKinney does a great job here with his action scenes, including a finale that will leave you breathless. McKinney pulls back for these scenes, giving us multiple perspectives, intricately choreographed so that these scenes aren’t just a record of what happened, but an experience you share with the characters. It’s wonderfully done, and a whole lot of fun. Mutated is a great example of how a series can come together. For fans of this series, it’s like each previous novel was the wrappings and Mutated is the reward. A fun, furious Zombie tale with hidden depths and wonderfully flawed characters that Zombie and Apocalyptic fans shouldn’t miss.

Todd McLaren continues his solid work on this series. He brings the right amount of saltiness to a wide range of characters, from militia members and older smugglers to the undead themselves. His performance of the Red Man is spot on, with a slurred mumbling voice that still manages to drip with venom. Yet, the best part of McLaren’s performance is his handling the grand choreographed scenes of battle against both human and zombie hordes. McLaren careful pacing and cadence brings the right amount of tension to the scenes, while still keeping them from getting muddled. McLaren shifts focus like McKinney, capturing the kinetic pace within the hordes, while describing the scenes from the outsider perspective with deliberate pace. Mutated and The Dead World series stands out in the crowded sea of Zombie Audiobooks, and the pairing of McLaren and McKinney once again proves to be an excellent team.

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





Audiobook Review: Fever by Wayne Simmons

23 10 2012

Fever by Wayne Simmons (Flu Series, Bk. 2)

Read by Michael Kramer

Tantor Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse/Pandemic

Quick Thoughts: Fever is a brutal, frightening, kinetically paced apocalyptic thriller that takes it cues from some of the greatest works of the genre, yet Simmons keeps it feeling fresh and new. Combined with Flu, Fever is one of the notable entries of Zombie literature of 2012, and very well may find itself achieving classic status among fans of the genre. If Flu left you unsure of Simmon’s world, Fever will eradicate any doubts.

Grade: A-

I have to admit, I was a little unsure about Fever by Wayne Simmons. I enjoyed Flu, the first book of the series but I also said that my overall impression and its place in the pantheon of great zombie literature was highly dependent on where Simmons moves the series. Then, of course, I made the rookie mistake of browsing some reviews and summaries of the book before listening. Nothing specific in the critical analysis of the novels had me worried, in fact most were positive. What concerned me was that people were calling Fever a prequel to Flu. Now, I have nothing against prequels, but my concern was that I was interested in seeing where Simmons was taking the tale, and not how it began. Sure, I love a good zombie outbreak and pandemic novel, but Simmons already had me pretty well sold on the characters and left us with a significant cliffhanger. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Second novels in series are already problematic to begin with. Typically, it involves the expansion of the world, and is often a bridge novel to further entries in the series or setting up a conclusion. It is rare for a second novel to be better than the first. It has a role to play, but either some of the shine is stripped from the original, or it is so preoccupied with its role that it neglects any sort of congruent story telling. Yet, when people were calling Fever a prequel, it really did have me concerned. Luckily, I discovered that Fever isn’t a prequel novel, in the strictest sense, but an all encompassing tale that bookends the occurrences of Flu, giving us more back story on the world, introducing us to new characters all while picking up the ends of Flu tying all the pieces together seamlessly.

Fever is a novel told in three main parts. The first story gives us a glimpse at the original outbreak within a shadowy government lab in Ireland. This part is a claustrophobic, yet moody psychological zombie thriller full of danger and betrayal. On its own devices, the opening works as a short story, while creating more depth to the world Simmons is building. Then Simmons moves is into a pandemic tale reminiscent of the opening sequences of Stephen King’s The Stand. Here Simmons introduces us to a bunch of new players, struggling in a world or paranoia and obligation. The strength of this part of the story is the relationships between the characters. Simmons relationships are always complicated, creating tension that only explodes within the high stress environment of an apocalyptic event. While many of these relationships are untraditional, like a deaf man dealing with his unfaithful wife and her overbearing father, and a homosexual man trying to find safety for himself and his ex-wife who still feels betrayed by his coming out, there is at essence a recognizable humanity to all these characters that isn’t always easy to watch. As we move into the thirds part of the novel, where Simmons begins to blend the new characters in with the retuning players from Flu, we are thrust into a violent zombie apocalypse that bears a likeness to Brian Keene’s The Rising, one of the classics of the genre. It’s fast and furious, and no characters is safe as the one group tries to keep themselves safe from zombies and a corrupt government agency, all while trying to untangle the secrets to the outbreak. Simmons offers a lot of game changing revelations in this part, yet never allows the pace to slow in order for you to contemplate the implications until the novel comes to its brutal conclusion. What Simmons does is highly impressive. He not only expands his world, but takes the potential of Flu and increases it exponentially. Fever is a brutal, frightening, kinetically paced apocalyptic thriller that takes it cues from some of the greatest works of the genre, yet Simmons keeps it feeling fresh and new. Combined with Flu, Fever is one of the notable entries of Zombie literature of 2012, and very well may find itself achieving classic status among fans of the genre. If Flu left you unsure of Simmon’s world, Fever will eradicate any doubts.

Like Flu, I am still not 100% sold on Michael Kramer’s narration, but it is professional, well paced reading and his signature voice adds a tone of creepiness to the overall tale. While Kramer doesn’t really enhance the experience of the novel, neither does he distract, which is saying a lot because Fever definitely has its challenges for a narrator. One of the biggest challenges is bringing Shaun’s voice to life. Shaun is a deaf Irish man whose voice often was something others either ridiculed or used as an excuse to diminish or simply dismiss the character. At first, I found Kramer’s interpretation a bit robotic. While I struggled with the chosen voice for Shaun early, I thing as the character began to crack under the pressure, Kramer did a great job presenting the emotional turmoil of the character while staying true to his chosen voice. While I still feel I would have liked an Irish narrator, or at least one who could give the prose an Irish lilt, Kramer did a good job with the challenges presented.

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