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.

Advertisements




Audiobook Review: Iron Gray Sea by Taylor Anderson

16 07 2012

Iron Gray Sea by Taylor Anderson (Destroyermen, Bk. 7)

Read by William Dufris

Tantor Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 23 Min

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: While Iron Gray Sea doesn’t provide a ton of forward progression in the overall tale, it serves well as a set up for the world, placing the pieces and moving them in the right directions. Fans of the series will find this a little frustrating, but should love the latest series of battles which are expertly crafted, and truly the bread and butter of Anderson’s work.

Grade: B

For me, some of the hardest reviews to write are those of the latest edition of multivolume SFF epics. First off, because I probably have reviews of some of the past entries written and I need to consider a fresh angle to the latest review. Yet, mostly because as a reviewer my ultimate goal is to try to tease people just enough to get them interested in checking out a book. This isn’t so hard with a fun 8 hour audiobook. People are willing to take chances on a quick fun read. Yet, for a series like Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen, it’s a much greater commitment. So far, the seven volume series translates roughly to around 120 hours of audiobook listening. So, when I write these reviews, where do I focus? Do I try and sell the book as a series, recapping from the beginning and showing people the overall grand scope of things? Or do I just try and focus on the latest edition, knowing I am limiting the interest of this post to those who already have started the series and are wondering whether to continue? It’s tough for a book like Iron Gray Sea. Iron Gray Sea is not in any way a standalone novel, and would never hold up as a standalone read. Often within a series of books there are arcs, subsets of the overall narrative that play out in a few volumes within the overall story. Iron Gray Sea finds itself not just within the overall Destroyermen world, but solely within one of its internal arcs. It is definitely a transitional novel, and I would never consider telling anyone new to the series to pick it up from this point. So, if you are new to the Destroyermen world, I highly recommend you head over to Fantasy Literature. Kat Hooper has recently started this series and has reviewed the first few novels. If you then become lured into this world, come back here as you move onto the latter novels, and feel free to share your thoughts on the series.

In Iron Grey Sea Matthew Ready and his mixed crew of Lemurian and human sailors on the USS Walker are fresh off the battle to suppress the Dominion attempts to overthrow the Alliance newest ally, The New British Isles. While getting repaired and preparing for a huge wedding, Ready gets word that the latest threat from our world, a modern Japanese vessel has been wreaking havoc. While in the east, the Alliance begins offensive operations in Indiaa, against the Grik, where they find that their assumptions about the enemy may lead to disaster. With each volume of The Destroyermen Saga the world seems to grow and grow. Iron gray Sea is definitely a transitional piece. It continues the arc of the movement from a defensive position with the Grik to offensive operations against them, and the furthering of the storyline of their struggles against the Domination and their twisted version of Catholicism. There is still the focus of developing new technology and the developing political situations both with their Lemurian Allies and the New British Isles. Anderson manages to throw some nicely formed wrenches into the proceedings, giving a new murkiness to what many would believe to be established facts in the world. Yet, much of the political and logistical machinations of the series are put on the backburner. Iron Gray Sea at its core is about the battles. Anderson’s battles are always well drawn, massive in scale, and realistic and in Iron Gray Sea, he brings about a series of tragic defeats and Pyrrhic victories for the Alliance. This is what I loved about this book. With so many series of late, the good guys have done so many things right that all their victories are massive one sided affairs. Here, the military leadership are fallible, and make crucial mistakes, while still managing to pull off some clever tricks. There are a few subplots that Anderson has placed on the backburner, particularly the direct dealings with the Dominion and a journey to South Africa, yet, he doesn’t forget them, moving them forward just enough that you know there will be more of a focus on these later. While Iron Gray Sea doesn’t provide a ton of forward progression in the overall tale, it serves well as a set up for the world, placing the pieces and moving them in the right directions. Fans of the series will find this a little frustrating, but should love the latest series of battles which are expertly crafted, and truly the bread and butter of Anderson’s work.

William Dufris continues his narration of this series. One of the reasons that I think this series works well in audio is that there are so many characters of multiple ethnicities and even species, and Dufris has an excellent range of voices that it helps the reader by giving them the vocal cues to keep them all straight. While Dufris typically has impeccable pacing, there were a few moments where he was almost speed reading this book. Luckily, this was mostly done during some of the set up and logistical passages, so by the time you got to the battles, Dufris regained his sense of pacing and delivered the highly complex details in an even pace allowing the listeners to follow along without getting confused. The Destroyermen Series is truly one of my favorite continuing military science fiction series, and it’s made even better in audio.

Check out my reviews of past editions of this series:

Book 5: Rising Tides

Book 6: Firestorm

Check out Kat Hooper’s Reviews of Books 1 to 3 (so Far) at:

Fantasy Literature





Audiobook Review: Firestorm by Taylor Anderson

10 11 2011

Firestorm by Taylor Anderson (Destroyermen, Book 6)

Read by William Dufris

Tantor Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 2 Mins

Genre: Military Fantasy

Quick Thoughts:There is a lot going on in Firestorm, yet Anderson never lets the various plots of the series slip away from him. Firestorm offers us new perspectives on old enemies, new tactics and weapons while also providing the characters, situations and feel that made us fans of the series in the first place.

Grade: B+

With many good science fiction/fantasy series there is an obvious progression of scope. The first book in a series is usually the most intimate tale, dealing with an individual of small group of people as they experience the author’s world. Yet, as a series progresses, and the author continues to build upon the world he has created, the issue grow, more people become affected and the world expands, and with this we often lose a lot of that intimate feeling. Often times character’s that are major players in the early part of the series, get moved to peripheral roles, or disappear completely. The action becomes spread out, and so much of the book get’s taken up in exploring the expanded world, and the logistics of the universe. Sometimes, an author can lose focus of the book, letting the world he created dictate the pace, and leaves the reader with the feel that the books are just padding to keep the series going. This is were readers can become frustrated, feeling as if nothing really moves forward in a book, and the series begins to stagnate. Yet, sometimes authors embrace the grandeur of their larger world, introducing new twists and building on characters and relationships and keeping true to their original concept. Firestorm is Taylor Anderson’s sixth novel in his Destroyermen series, about a group of WWII soldier sucked into an alternate version of earth full of dangerous creature and warring species. Luckily for fans of the series, Anderson’s focus remains strong, giving us another exciting edition of his series.

If there was a theme to Firestorm, it would have to be adaptation. While the Human and Lemurian Alliance’s war against the Grik has changed from a defensive battle to offensive, in the east, the shaky new alliance between Matthew Reddy’s force and New Britain begin to take on the twisted forces of the Dominion. While improvement in technology has again given the alliance an edge on the Grik, new Grik leadership has began to develop actually military tactics. Anderson has created a carefully plotted game of one-upmanship between the Allies, and their changing enemy. It’s fascinating to actually begin to see the Grik as more than a mindless horde as individuality and innovation become more prized traits. With the changes n the Grik philosophy Anderson has added a new element that allows what could have become a tiresome formulaic plot to remain interesting. Taylor also continues to impress with his use of the strange fauna of this new world. These creatures are not just curiosities, but have direct and often drastic effects on the movements and battles taking place among the various sentient species. Another element that has contributed to keeping the series fresh is the new enemy, the Dominion. It’s interesting to see an enemy as viscous and single minded as the Grik, yet being human. There is a lot going on in Firestorm, yet Anderson never lets the various plots of the series slip away from him. Firestorm offers us new perspectives on old enemies, new tactics and weapons while also providing the characters, situations and feel that made us fans of the series in the first place.

The audiobook opens with a memorandum of sorts, outlining the locations and logistics of various Alliance Forces. William Dufris reading of this memorandum is a perfect example of what I love about the way he narrates this series. Dufris reads it in an almost poetic manner with the Lemurian emphasis to the words, giving old place names a new ring. Dufris has to take on tons of characters in this series, and he does it so very well. From the reptilian Lawrence, to Silva’s bravado each voice hit all the right notes. Dufris brings so much to the series, and really makes it a joy to listen to. If you have yet to experience this series or Dufris narration, I highly recommend checking out Into the Storm, the initial entry into this world. If you already are a fan, then Firestorm will not disappoint.





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.