Audiobook Review: I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells

22 04 2011

I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells (John Cleaver series, Book 3)

Read by Kirby Heyborne

Tantor Media

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: The best audiobook I have listened to this year.

Grade: A+

I hate Dan Wells. For all of you out there who think I must have made a typo, perhaps meaning to write I ate damp whales or my hat digs wells, I will repeat myself, I Hate Dan Wells. I mean, let’s talk about this jack-ass. He’s like that harmless looking youth that stands on the corner that everyone is always stopping to ask for directions. Then, one day it dawns on you, he’s actually an independent business man who is pushing his product grass roots style. So, always wanting to support the local economy, you try his product. It makes you feel good, so, of course, you want some more. This time, it’s even better. Heck, the use of this product may actually become a life style choice. So it all comes down to that third time, you know, the charm, as they say. If that third time is as good as your first two experiences, you’ll be a fan forever, and this entrepreneur can probably sell you any rot gut, bottom barrel product he has on inventory and you’d kiss him for it. Open mouth, perhaps, even with tongue.  Yet, this urban auteur takes pride in his product, and constantly refines it, makes it better, more mind bending… Sorry, I have digressed, back on track. Oh, I remember, I hate Dan Wells. You see, he could go and write his third book, and give me a pleasant experience like he did with the first two, but no, he has to go and get all “I’m gonna write the shit out of this thing and blow peoples minds.” A**hole.

I enjoyed I Am Not a Serial Killer, despite some issues with the narration. I loved Mr. Monster. Yet, despite my admiration for the first two novels, I was not prepared for how devastatingly affected I would be by I Don’t Want to Kill You, the third and final novel in the John Wayne Cleaver series. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for me to write a true review of this novel, convincingly expressing just how good it is. John Cleaver is not the type of character you would typically expect to become emotionally invested in, a sociopath, who lives almost entirely within his inner dialogue, hiding his true self and projecting a seemingly autistic exterior. Yet, invested you become. And there are no cheap tricks to your attachment, it slowly builds, as the character shifts, and grows, as his world rotates and his risks increase, and before you realize it, you’re hooked into the net. John Cleaver is not the person who we met in the first novel, and throughout this novel, he forces you through his ordeal of self discovery. From his moments of nearly catatonic acceptance to his awkward emotional outbursts, you are there, feeling his instability, living in his crashing world. It’s a hell of a trip, but it doesn’t even begin to prepare you for the end. I cannot even talk about the end. You must experience it yourself. I have listened to 60 books so far this year, including some truly great works of fiction, this was the best. Simply put, the best.

Earlier in the review, I talked about how John Cleaver lived almost entirely within his inner dialogue, well, because of this, the narration of this novel was extremely important for it to work as an audiobook. The narrator had to be able to let the reader know what John was thinking, as opposed to verbalizing, without handy tricks like line breaks or italics. Kirby Heyborne, as the narrator, did an excellent job with this. His use of tone changes and fluxuation in volume allowed us listeners not to get to confused. Heyborne also did a good job modulating his cadence and finding the perfect rhythm for John’s dialogue depending on his mood. Calm John had an almost robotic tone, yet upset John was borderline frantic. If you are willing to take advice from some guy who started a free blog on the internet to post his reviews about audiobooks, well, here it is. Read this series. Before the aliens come. Or the plague. Or economic collapse. Or Glen Beck. Or whatever apocalypse floats your boat. Read/Listen to, e-mind meld with, this series of books.





Audiobook Review: Mr. Monster by Dan Wells

6 04 2011

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells (John Cleaver, Book 2)

Read by Kirby Heyborne

Tantor Media

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: Mr. Monster is so full of unique twists and turns, both in the inner dialogue of the main character, and the plot itself, that it is easily one of more surprising novels I have listened to this year.

Grade: A

Personally, I believe there are significant stylistic differences between young adult novels, and adult novels. Young adult novels are not just novels about young adults, without too much cursing, sex or viscera, but almost a stylistic genre in itself. That being said, I think it is very hard, bordering on impossible, to write an Adult novel about a teenager in a typical modern high school setting as the main character, that has an adult feel to it. There have been plenty of Adult novels where a teenager is the main character, yet most of them are period pieces, or place our teenage main character in an utterly different social setting, from war, to a zombie apocalypse. Last year, I listened to I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells, and was shocked to see my theory blown out of the water. Here was a story about a teenager, who went to a small town high school, had a crush on the prettiest girl around, had a geeky best friend and problems with the school bully, yet, this book read, stylistically as an Adult novel. Unlike books like The Hunger Games, or even Harry Potter, this was not young adult fiction that adults can enjoy, but thematically and stylistically Adult Fiction, which a teenager can enjoy, if they are mature, and intelligent enough to grasp the nuisances of the novel.

Now, with Mr. Monster, the second book in the John Cleaver series, Dan Wells has decided to destroy another of my theories. That theory is that the second book in a series, because it is responsible for both expanding the first, and setting up the third, will inherently be the poorest book in the trilogy. Mr. Monster utterly annihilates that idea. Mr. Monster definitely takes a step beyond the first book. It both ups the action, and the risk, and moves teenage sociopath John Cleaver’s character places I haven’t expected. Mr. Monster explores an idea that has fascinated me for years, on what scale should people be similarly judged and labeled by their desires as they are by their actions. Does having evil impulses make you evil or does that line not get crossed until you actually act on those impulses? Yet, Mr. Monster isn’t just a fascinating thought experiment, but a hell of a good story as well. Full of as many moments that will touch you as will make you cringe, Wells has truly turned genre fiction on its head. Mr. Monster is so full of unique twists and turns, both in the inner dialogue of the main character, and the plot itself, that it is easily one of more surprising novels I have listened to this year.

While I am usually annoyed when producers change narrators in the midst of the series, having Kirby Heyborne take over as narrator probably saved this series for me. The narrator of the first novel was a glaringly bad choice, being that he sounded like a 50 year old man. Heyborne is a perfect replacement bringing youthfulness and skill to the reading. He handles the characters of the novel brilliantly, from teenage girls, to grizzled FBI agents to John’s twin mother/aunt. Each character was dead on appropriate. Yet, what really makes this audiobook superb was his reading of John. Heyborne pulled off the perfect balance of confused teenage innocence with sociopath creepiness. In fact, even after the novel was finished and Heyborne was reading the Tantor taglines and catalogue advert, his voice was still creeping me out. Luckily the combination of Wells and Heyborne will have, at least one more go, with the final novel of the series, recently released by Tantor. I for one am looking forward to the experience.





Audiobook Review: Rising Tides by Taylor Anderson

9 02 2011

Rising Tides (Destroyermen, Book 5) by Taylor Anderson

Read by William Dufris

Tantor Media

Quick Thoughts: Fans of the series will not be disappointed with this edition, nor with the excellent narration of William Dufris.

Grade: B+

The Destroyermen series by Taylor Anderson isn’t the most original concept. There have been many science fiction series about people displaced from one time, or dimension, to another. You have John Birmingham’s Axis of Time series, William R. Forstchen’s Lost Regiment series, SM Stirling’s Nantucket series, heck, you back in 1918 we have Burroughs’s The Land that Time Forgot. Yet, within this subgenre of science fiction, Taylor Anderson has created an increasingly interesting alternate Earth. Unlike some of the other’s mentioned before, Anderson’s displaced Destroyermen, must not only fight the evil Grik, reptilian-like sentient creatures that use total war to destroy or subjugate other sentient species, but the must face an earth with a drastically different evolutionary and geological history.  These differences lead to a vast array of obstacles, from killer mountain fish, to plants that implant themselves in your wounds to an increasingly active volcano, that our heroes must to overcome. Within this setting, with the help of the Lemur like allies, called the Lemurians, the displaced WWII sailors must fight for their survival, and make a home.

In Rising Tides, the fifth book in the series, we move away from the intense fight with the Grik and focus on the relations with other humans who were brought into this world centuries before. Like a calm before the storm this respite from the brutal Grik war allows The Alliance to gain new friends, but also make new enemies. Rising Tides starts off a bit slow, reintroducing us to the multiple cliffhanging threads left over from Distant Thunders. Yet, once the perils of our multiple parties are reestablished, the pace takes off. Anderson breaks a lot of the formulas he established in the first four books, giving the series a breath of fresh air. While the massive total war battles of the earlier novels are not as prevalent, the action, when it comes, is well done and suspenseful.

William Dufris has a tough job here, with multiple human and not so human characters he could easily get lost in the material. Yet, he pulls it off wonderfully. He doesn’t have just one voice for Lemurians, and one for humans, but truly finds the right variant of speech patterns and accent for every character.  Listening to the productions, I sometimes wonder if the author takes some sort of sick glee in trying to throw the narrator for a loop with a tricky new character voices. So far Dufris is handling whatever Anderson throws at him.  Fans of the series will not be disappointed in this latest edition.