Audiobook Review: 21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology edited by Christopher Golden

6 05 2013

Zombob2ZAM

2013 Zombie Awareness Month

21st Century Dead edited by Christopher Golden (Check out the Full Story Listing After the Review)

Read by Scott Brick, Cassandra Campbell, Bernadette Dunne, Paul Michael Garcia, Kirby Heyborne, Malcolm Hillgartner, Chris Patton, John Pruden, Renée Raudman, Stefan Rudnicki, Sean Runnette, Simon Vance, and Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 40 Min

Genre: Zombie Anthology

Quick Thoughts: 21st Century Dead is a zombie anthology full of wonderful, bizarre and diverse stories involving zombies and other iterations of the undead in such variety it would make both Baskin and Robbins jealous. Some of the top tales come from new to me authors like Mark Morris and Amber Benson with a special shout out to Chelsea Cain. If you are looking for a wide variety of unique tales about zombies of all shapes, colors and tastes, 21st Century Dead is a worthwhile buffet of zombie shorts

Grade: B+

So, I was thinking about a good way to explain an excellent and diverse Zombie anthology, because I know the concept is so complex that it needs explaining, and the phrase that popped into my head was “Zombie Smorgasbord.” Oh, boy. When I was in high school, back in what some people refer to as “the 90’s” or what many of my fellow bloggers may call “before I was born” I worked for a now defunct Buffet restaurant. I started as a dishwasher, worked my way up to pots and eventually became a skilled line cook. I never made it out of the kitchen of course because, as my boss at the time explained it, “You have a face for back of the kitchen work.” Back then, I really wasn’t that into Zombie lit. It would be about another 12 years until I read Brian Keene’s The Rising and became a huge Zombie fan. Yet, it was about the time I was working my way through The Stand, and Swan Song for like the third time each, and I totally thought that working at this Buffet would give me a leg up when it came time to load up on supplies for that cross country apocalyptic road trip. So, where was I… oh yeah…? Zombie Smorgasbord. So, when this phrase popped into my mind, so too did wonderful variety of images. I pictured a bunch of Zombies shuffling past a serving table full of entrails, brains and a variety of limbs. I see a plainly decorated establishment where a zombie works the carving station, carving [insert grotesque image here]. I see stalls full of zombies available for the choosing, carefully managed by the FIFO system where the nastiest maggot infested zombies are at the front and the fresher, nearly human looking zombies are in the back. You see, this illustrates my point, a good Zombie anthology is full of a variety of awesome and disturbing, but mostly awesomely disturbing stories for our twisted flavorful brains.

21st Century Dead is a zombie anthology edited by Christopher Golden full of wonderful, bizarre and diverse stories involving zombies and other iterations of the undead in such variety it would make both Baskin and Robbins jealous. This anthology is packed full of some of my favorite authors including Brian Keene, Jonathon Maberry and Thomas E. Sniegoski, some authors I have always wanted to read including SG Browne, Amber Benson and Duane Swierczynski and new to me authors that I must now check out like Ken Bruen, Mark Morris and Stephen Susco. So, now onto the stories. The anthology started out with an intriguing tale of a society adapting to a world with zombies called Biters by Mark Morris. It was a wonderful start to the anthology and put me in the right mind. Then it hit me in the head with a creepy and a bit sardonic poem by Chelsea Cain which, along with the performance of the narrator Cassandra Campbell was one of the highlights of this audiobook. Since there were about 20 tales in all, I won’t mention them all, but for there’s something here from all zombie fans. There are more traditional Zombie Outbreak tales like Jack and Jill by Jonathan Maberry, Couch Potato by Brian Keene and The Dead of Dromore by Ken Bruen, some interesting twists on the undead like Devil Dust by Caitlin Kittredge, Ghost Dog & Pup: Stay by Thomas E. Sniegoski and Tender as Teeth by Stephanie Crawford and Duane Swierczynsk, and some really bizarre tales like The Drop by Stephen Susco, Antiparallelogram by Amber Benson and Carousel by Orson Scott Card.  Sadly, not all the tales were winners. Two of bigger draws for this anthology, Kirt Sutter and Daniel H. Wilson were a bit of a disappointment. I thought Sutter’s tale was simply bizarre, and not in a good way, and while Wilson’s tale, which takes place in the world he created in Robopocalypse, started off well, it lost its way. Yet, most of these tales were a lot of fun. If you are looking for a wide variety of unique tales about zombies of all shapes, colors and tastes, 21st Century Dead is a worthwhile buffet of zombie shorts.

Like the author list, 21st Century Dead was a mix of narrators, many of whom I am familiar with, while others I have wanted to experience for a while. As I said earlier, Cassandra Campbell’s reading of “Why Mothers Let Their Babies Watch Television: A Just-So Horror Story” was delightful and my favorite moment along the way. Scott Brick’s reading of The Drop creeped me out, making a strange story just a bit stranger. It was nice to once again listen to Tom Weiner read a Jonathan Maberry tale. Really, this anthology was just full of excellent performances, including tales read by Chris Patton, Bernadette Dunne, Simon Vance and Paul Michael Garcia. It was a little interesting to hear Sean Runnette reading a non-Tufo Zombie tale, but the story was perfect for his sense of humor. The biggest kudos for this production must go to whoever cast the audiobook. Blackstone did an excellent job placing just the right narrator with the right story.

FULL STORY LISTING

Zombies are good for you: an introduction by Christopher Golden
Biters by Mark Morris
Why mothers let their babies watch television : a just-so horror story by Chelsea Cain
Carousel by Orson Scott Card
Reality bites by S.G. Browne
Drop by Stephen Susco
Antiparallelogram by Amber Benson
How we escaped our certain fate by Dan Chaon
Mother’s love by John McIlveen
Down and out in dead town by Simon R. Green
Devil dust by Caitlin Kittredge
Dead of Dromore by Ken Bruen
All the comforts of home : a beacon story by John Skipp, Cody Goodfellow
Ghost dog & pup : stay by Thomas E. Sniegoski
Tic boom : a slice of love by Kurt Sutter
Jack and Jill by Jonathan Maberry
Tender as teeth by Stephanie Crawford, Duane Swierczynski
Couch potato by Brian Keene
Happy bird and other tales by Rio Youers
Parasite by Daniel H. Wilson

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





Audiobook Review: Hungry Tales by Jonathan Maberry

5 11 2012

Hungry Tales by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 3 Hrs 53 Min

Genre: Zombie Short Stories

Quick Thoughts:  Hungry Tales is the perfect treat for those looking for a quick fix of the undead. While some zombies shamble, or dig or make their way through the waters, they are all hungry for a chance to disturb you sleep. Maberry is a master of the genre, and in Hungry Tales he offers a smorgasbord of horrors for fans of the undead.

Grade: B

One thing that Sandy has taught me is that I am totally unprepared for the Zombie Apocalypse. In fact, I was one of those idiots out on Sunday night who realized that if he did lose power, his frozen microwave meals and turkey burgers weren’t the best choice to sustain him for an extended period. Sure, I had some canned soup and beans and some English muffins that taste like crap without a toaster, and supplies to make a decent salad, but beyond that, I was pretty much screwed. Hell, I wasn’t even sure I had a non-electric can opener. I was actually quite lucky during the hurricane, my apartments complex never lost power, despite the fact my sisters who lives less than a mile away from me was without power until Saturday, My work place was hit very hard, with downed trees, power lines and a fire in the generator house which kept the majority of the campus without power for most of the week. Now, due to the nature of my job all employees are considered essential and exempt from travel restrictions and required to show for work during inclement weather. Due to this fact, I was out on the roads during the heart of the storm, and it had a truly apocalyptic feel. While the devastation we suffered during the storm was minor compared to the Jersey shore and Staten Island, I think I got a unique look due to my job working at a home for people with disabilities. We rely so much on things being stable. Adaptive equipment, medical devices, powered wheelchairs, proper storage, and simple routines are essential when dealing with this community, and this taste of the chaos that is possible. This is one of the reasons I don’t think I would survive the first day of a Zombie Apocalypse. While the smart thing would be to run for the hills away from the dense population area that I live in, I don’t think I could leave behind the residents where I work.

So, if Romero is the master of the Zombie Movie, than it’s quite possible the Maberry may be his literary brother. I have read lots and lots of Zombie novels, and while there are Zomlit books I likes more that some of Maberry’s work, no one author has explored the genre with the scope and expertise as Maberry has. Hungry Tales, a collection of Zombie short stories written by this master, is proof of this. Maberry offers 5 varied and comprehensive looks at the possibilities we can explore with zombies, Maberry gives new twists and turns to the staple zombie tropes breathing fun and excitement into the walking dead. There are five strong zombie tales spanning the genre including a comic look at an isolated case of a zombie caused by green comet, an atmospheric and creepy tale set in the Appalachians and a look at the zombie apocalypse from the unique perspective of Samaria culture. Maberry also offers two short stories set within the established worlds of his zombie novels.  The Wind through the Fence is a nuanced story set before the events of Rot & Ruin as the survivors are attempting to reclaim land and establish a safe zone for humanity. In probably my favorite story Chokepoint, set in the world of Dead of Night, a small squad of misfit soldiers tries defend a bridge against the encroachment of the zombie hordes. It’s full of Maberry’s trademark action along with one of the more unique and fully fleshed group of characters to appear in a short story. Hungry Tales is the perfect treat for those looking for a quick fix of the undead. While some zombies shamble, or dig or make their way through the waters, they are all hungry for a chance to disturb you sleep. Maberry is a master of the genre, and in Hungry Tales he offers a smorgasbord of horrors for fans of the undead.

I am always surprised at the range that narrator Tom Weiner offers in his narrations. His natural voice is so deep and at times, booming, you forget that he can do many things with it you just won’t expect. From the start, in his reading of Calling Death, Weiner proves that he isn’t just a one trick pony. He reads the tale of an older Appalachian matron, and the soft spoke Samurai Sensei Otoro with just as much authenticity as he does hardcore soldiers and backwoods yokels. It’s a challenging job for a narrator to take on an anthology a varied as Hungry Tales, and pull it off with ease. Hungry Tales is another winning short story collection by Jonathan Maberry from Blackstone Audio. 

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





Audiobook Review: Tales From the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry

3 10 2012

Tales From the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 3 Hrs 39  Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: This is a great series of stories for those cold autumn nights. Maberry has a good mix of outright horror and subtle psychology terror and with his penchant for visual action and vivid imagery, this collection is a sure hit. So, welcome to Maberry’s Fire Zone, but be warned, you may just get a little singed in the process.

Grade: B

It’s October, and that means it’s time to turn our listening experiences over to the spooky side. OK, not much of a stretch for me. Personally, I believe that monster stories, intense thrillers and the paranormal are a year long delight, but that little bit of chill in the air and the early onslaught of darkness give these stories just a bit more bite. Also, since misery loves company, I’ll be joining up in the fun over at Jenn’s Bookshelves Murder, Monsters and Mayhem event. For my first October audiobook review I decided to take on one of the modern masters of horror, Jonathan Maberry and his audio short story collection, Tales from the Fire Zone. In all truthfulness, outside of the horror genre, I have never been a huge short story fan. I always enjoy sitting down with a good novel, and letting the plot swim over me. Yet, I think horror tales are specifically suited for the short story format. Over the years, I have enjoyed the shorter works of authors like Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Brian Keene and Dead Koontz. The shocks and horrors come quick and fast in these tales, and the final moments rarely give you closure, but instead hover over you like a permeating sense of dread. A good horror short is the literary version of yelling BOO! in a dark room. It is an instant scare that lingers even after you realize there really isn’t anything to be scared of. A horror short story will make you uncomfortable in the most comfy of bedrooms, and uneasy in the places you usually feel safe.

Tales from the Fire Zone is a collection of five spooky stories from the mind of Jonathan Maberry, one of which has written exclusively for Blackstone Audio. The first story, Like Part of the Family, may have been my favorite, since it’s a simple noir styled Detective tale with a paranormal edge. A women contacts former policeman and current Private Investigator to scare off her abusive ex husband. The husband, the operator of a Goth themed bar had recently undergone some drastic changes that led him to turn physically and emotionally abusive towards his wife. This tale offers a few twists and an enjoyable edgy protagonist with a secret. Maberry turns up the creepy with Doctor Nine. Doctor Nine takes us into the mind of a burgeoning serial killer. While my least favorite of the collection, it is one that provided for some real psychological suspense. The collection has an added treat, in "Property Condemned." It takes us back to Pine Deep and reintroduces us to the characters from the Pine Deep Trilogy back when they were kids. It’s a genre bending tale that mixes a haunted house with weird physics and gives us an insight into these characters that you will eventually see play out in the trilogy. In his Blackstone Exclusive tale, Cooked, Maberry tells us a tale of drugs and revenge with a mix of Haitian mysticism. Cooked is full of the stunning imagery that Maberry is known for in his longer works, and has one of the best endings in the collection. The true real gem of the production though is Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost. This tale is based on a true story about a trial where the testimony of a ghost is admitted into evidence. To add to the fun, Maberry brings legendary detective Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson across the pond to get mixed up in the proceedings. It’s a lot of fun and sure to please fans of ghost stories and the gruff troubled detective. All together, this is a great series of stories for those cold autumn nights. Maberry has a good mix of outright horror and subtle psychology terror and with his penchant for visual action and vivid imagery, this collection is a sure hit. So, welcome to Maberry’s Fire Zone, but be warned, you may just get a little singed in the process.

This collection is ably narrated by Pine Deep Veteran Tom Weiner. Weiner does a great job on all the stories, although Doctor Nine may have been a little out of his wheelhouse, making it the hardest tale to engage with. Elsewhere he shines. He does a great job with Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost, effortlessly jumping between the detectives British accents and the local West Virginian drawls. His depiction of a Haitian spiritual man is chilling, and his return to Pine Deep is pulled off flawlessly. His deep voice is perfect for the noir styling of Like Part of the Family, and all the tales are told in a moody pace that adds to the chills. Tales From the Fire Zone is a great audio short story collection, a quick but scary jaunt into a modern master’s twisted mind.

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





Audiobook Review: Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham

1 06 2012

Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham (The Disappearance Trilogy, Bk. 3)

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 17 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Angels of Vengeance is an excellent finale to the trilogy, satisfactorily closing the majority of the threads started in the initial volume, and leaving enough there for future trips into this world. Full of action, personal vendettas and world changing conflict, Birmingham once again proves his ability take fascinating scenarios and turn them into entertaining reads.

Grade: B+

Sometimes a books concept just grabs me from the first moment I hear about it. Readers of this blog know I have a not to hidden obsession with Post Apocalyptic literature. I have read all sorts of novels in this vein, with all sorts of scenarios. Everything from man eating plants, asteroid strikes, neutrinos from the sun, evil zombie making cell phones and Elephantoid Alien invaders has brought about the destruction of the world as we know it. Yet, to be honest, one of my favorite culprits are those “Alien Space Bats.” If you are unfamiliar with the term, it began as a criticism, mainly for poorly plotted alternate history. Basically, the idea was that something, a key battle or other historical instance, could not have come out differently unless it was through the intercession of Alien Space Bats. Eventually, this has morphed into a term for an unexplainable phenomenon that changes the course of history.  S.M. Stirling used it in his Nantucket and Dies The Fire series to explain the circumstances that altered the history of those worlds. In John Birmingham’s Without Warning, those theoretical Alien Space Bats strike again, this time with a mysterious energy wave that settles over the bulk of the continental United States killing everyone inside the it, right at the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I had been a fan of Birmingham’s Axis of Time series, but the concept of Without Warning just blew me away. How different would the world be, in the majority of The United States was wiped off the map in an instance?

Angels of Vengeance is the final installment of Birmingham’s Disappearance trilogy that started with Without Warning. In many ways it is different in scope and vision from the first two installments of the series. While the still struggling United States Government, located in a spared Seattle, is battling for control of its territory, and trying to regain some of the prestige it had before the Wave, Birmingham finale is a much more intimate tale of revenge, and settling personal scores. While much of international importance is happening in the tale, the weapons are not masses of armies, or destructive hardware, but the individual characters you have grown to love. Birmingham has managed to create one of the most badass characters in alternate history, on par with the likes of Jack Reacher, and Jack Bauer, yet, no one would ever mistaken Caitlain Monroe for a guy named Jack. What I like most about Caitlin, is she isn’t some male character they saddle with a female name. She a fully realized, unmistakable female character, who just happens to kick some ass. Another positive is Birmingham gives us more visions into how the rest of the planet is adapting to the altered politics Post Wave, which was something I thought was lacking in the second novel of the trilogy. Lovers of Alternate History who like to nit pick authors and question all their political and historical extrapolations will probably find plenty of fodder here, yet, for those of us who like a good action tale, with likeable yet complex characters, Birmingham’s vision is believable enough to satisfy the casual skeptic.  Angels of Vengeance is an excellent finale to the trilogy, satisfactorily closing the majority of the threads started in the initial volume, and leaving enough there for future trips into this world. Full of action, personal vendettas and world changing conflict, Birmingham once again proves his ability take fascinating scenarios and turn them into entertaining reads.

I have listened to quite a few of Tom Weiner’s narrations, and while he’s not my favorite all time narrator, he’s in many ways like that character actor on TV shows who you don’t really know their name, but always like when they show up with a guest spot on your favorite show. Weiner narrated the first book in this series, and did a good job bringing the characters and world to life. I found the change of narrators to Kevin Foley in the second book a bit harder to take, particularly his voicing of President Kipper, so I was happy to have Weiner return for book 3. While his narration was solid again, and his characterizations pretty spot on, I wish they would have gone with a female narrator instead this time. Of the Four main threads of the novel, three were from a female perspective. I think a narrator like Hilary Huber, with her mature vocal style and ability to handle an international cast may have brought more to the reading then Weiner did. This in no way is a criticism of Weiner, whose performance is top notch. Angels of Vengeance is a fitting end to this trilogy, and I am anxiously waiting for whatever Birmingham has in store for us in the future.

Note: A special thanks to the good people of Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: Sixth Column by Robert A. Heinlein

21 02 2012

Sixth Column by Robert A. Heinlein

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 5 Hrs 57 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: While there is some pulpy fun to be had in this early Heinlein work, overall its language and cultural concepts are quite dated and its use of race as a plot device pushed close enough to the racist line to make modern listeners uncomfortable. Fans of classic science fiction and hardcore Heinlein fans may enjoy the opportunity to listen to this novel, if for no other reason than to see how the author progressed as a writer.

Grade: C

One of the cinematic scenes that has always stuck in my head is the opening of Red Dawn, with the kids sitting in the school room as the invading Communist forces Parachute all around them. It is a sight that will never really sit right with me, the idea of America being invaded and occupied by enemy forces. We are a young, petulant country who has spent so long as king of the roost, the idea of having an outside force controlling us is almost unimaginable. Yet, this is why we have fiction. I read speculative fiction largely because it presents and answers the question “what if” better than any other genre, at least the questions that interest me. About 10 years ago I read a novel by author Eric L. Harry called Invasion, about China occupying the United States. It is a total war, all out military thriller, and while it was never destined for any level of greatness, it was a novel whose concept fascinated me. I really don’t know of very many Occupied America books, although there are probably a few out there I have missed. Looking for some older science fiction to take on, I discovered Blackstone had put out an audiobook version of Sixth Column by Robert Heinlein, which was also titled The Day After Tomorrow. Heinlein wrote The Sixth Column not to long after World War 2. The story begins after the successful invasion and occupation of The United States by a Pan Asian alliance, and centers on the last bastion of the American Arm Forces, a small scientific compound set deep in the mountains.

I have recently read quite a few classic science fiction tales that have come off quite fresh despite their age. The Sixth Column isn’t one of them. The Sixth Column has this weird combination of dated and futuristic technology that gives it a strange disconcerting feel. While they developed a strange new weapon technology that used electric spectra-graphic waves to target people by specific traits including ethnicity they did this with the help of a punch card computer. There was also a strange use of language that came off uneven. There is one scene that got a chuckle out of me when someone said another person used to be a tramp, but that person corrected him by explaining he wasn’t a tramp, he was a hobo. This and the constant references to women as babes, and other dated vernacular kept forcing me out of the story. You expect some of this from a novel over 60 years old, but here it was more glaring than most. Many people have also called this novel racist. In my opinion, it isn’t. Just because a novel has racism in it, doesn’t make it racist. Yet, there were enough racial epithets thrown around by the characters to make me uncomfortable and it included an overly simplified dated concept of Asian culture which was highly influenced by the Japanese Kamikazes of WWII. Now, grant it, when this novel was written Japan was a member of the Axis of Evil, and, honestly, people being occupied by another racial group will throw around such slurs, but it doesn’t make it easy to listen to. Yet, I was more annoyed by the presentation of this being Caucasians vs. Asiatics without even making mention of people of other ethnic and racial descents than the slurs thrown around by the characters. For some reason, people of African descent were never even mentioned in this novel and because of that the presentation came off more as “White Good Guys” versus “The Bad Asians,” then America versus an invading force. The aspect I did enjoy, and probably what kept me interested enough to keep listening was the “Sixth Column” using a faux religion to build a base for revolution. I think if there had been more focus on this aspect then the weird Asian killing Dues Ex Machina weapons I would have enjoyed this novel more. While there is some pulpy fun to be had in this early Heinlein work, overall its language and cultural concepts are quite dated and its use of race as a plot device pushed close enough to the racist line to make modern listeners uncomfortable.

As usual, Tom Weiner does well with the material he has to work with. Weiner has a deep, strong voice, and sometimes his delivery of some of the more dated language invoked an inappropriately placed laugh from me. My only real complaint about Weiner’s narration was his voice for the main scientist, which came off a bit effeminate that I thought the character was female at first. Yet, for the most part Weiner’s narration kept me engaged enough in a story that I found equal parts uncomfortable, and dated. Despite this poor early novel, Heinlein went on to write many novels that I enjoyed, as well as a few I consider classics, including Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers. Fans of classic science fiction and hardcore Heinlein fans may enjoy the opportunity to listen to this novel, if for no other reason than to see how the author progressed as a writer.

Note: A special thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: The Exterminators by Bill Fitzhugh

2 02 2012

The Exterminators: An Assassin Bug Thriller by Bill Fitzhugh

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 9 Hrs and 36 Min

Genre: Satirical Thriller

Quick Thoughts:Fans of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey will definitely find a lot to like in The Exterminators, in fact, anyone who enjoys a good laugh, a well plotted thriller and a book that will make you think should add The Exterminators to their reading lists.

Grade: A-

Bill Fitzhugh used to be one of my favorite writers. OK, that probably sounds a bit harsh, so I will elaborate. I love Bill Fitzhugh’s books, but in a way he fell off my radar for a bit. The last Bill Fitzhugh book I read was about 6 years ago, called Highway 61 Resurfaced. It wasn’t my favorite book of his, but I still enjoyed the heck out of it. It was actually one of the last books I read before I transitioned from an exclusively print reader to someone who consumed most of his books through audiobook form. Since then, Fitzhugh has only released one novel, which he co-wrote with the county musicians Brooks and Dunne, and for some reason, I just never picked it up.  Yet, when I heard Fitzhugh was releasing a new novel, it put a nice big smile on my face. When I discover that the new book was going to be a follow up to his wonderful novel Pest Control, I let out a girlish squeal. When I heard it would also be released in audiobook form from one of my favorite audiobook production companies, Blackstone Audio, my squeal was accompanied by a dance of joy that scared the neighbors and sent my dog to his favorite hiding place under the bed. Now, if you are a fan of well plotted thrillers with a satirical edge that will make you laugh as it makes you think, you should give Pest Control a try, oh, and don’t forget Cross Dressing (which may be my favorite Fitzhugh novel) and Heart Seizures, oh, and Fender Benders, … oh heck, check them all out, because there really isn’t a clunker in the mix. Yet, this is a review of The Exterminators, so, does it live up to my personal high expectations? Yes. (I guess you’ll want more than that, so here we go.)

Bob Dillon (no, not that one) has been training assassins for most of his life. Training them to be the perfect killers. Of course, these assassins are actually insects, and Bob is using them to perfect his totally green eco-friendly Pest Control system. Yet, years ago he was mistaken for an actually assassin, and a 10 million dollar bounty was placed on his head. With the help of former Killer-for-hire Klaus, Bob faked his death, and now he and his family are living a quiet existence in rural Oregon. Yet, when DARPA decides that Bob’s killer bugs may just be the next generation weapon in the war on Terror, The Dillon family and Klaus are again pulled into a life threatening situation. Fitzhugh hasn’t lost his touch with The Exterminators, a laugh out loud satirical skewering of our modern culture. Fitzhugh sets his sights on some easy targets, extreme fundamentalist Christians, Hollywood, audacious quasi-news Talk Show hosts, and, of course, government bureaucracy. Yet, despite the easiness of the targets, Fitzhugh takes them on in clever yet outrageous ways.  Fitzhugh has assembled a wonderful cast of characters, including a rouge CIA agent, a disgruntled Priest, a government bureaucrat who is also a member of a millennial religious faction, an assassin turned screenwriter and Bob’s 16 year old daughter who provided a plethora of laugh out loud moments. Yet, as all good satirical novels do, there are serious questions asked in The Exterminators dealing with bioethics, religious extremism, and Post 9/11 America.  While Fitzhugh provides enough back story to make The Exterminators work as a standalone, I highly recommend you check out Pest Control as well as this novel. Fans of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey will definitely find a lot to like in The Exterminators, in fact, anyone who enjoys a good laugh, a well plotted thriller and a book that will make you think should add The Exterminators to their reading lists.

I have listened to quite a few audiobooks narrated by Tom Weiner, and this is probably my favorite of his performances. Weiner is a veteran, and always gives a solid performance, but here, his deep tones are accompanied with a sardonic wit that brings the story to life. You can just imagine Weiner with a bit of a devilish grin on his face as he slowly details each increasingly crazy scenario that Fitzhugh has created. As someone who read Pest Control in print, I found his voices for the characters, particularly Bob and Klaus, to be dead on. I really enjoyed the fact that he never rushed the narrative, Fitzhugh has set up these elaborate scenarios and Weiner reads them in a deliberate pace that comes off natural, and allows the listener to visualize precisely what Fitzhugh has set up. With The Exterminators, Bill Fitzhugh has regained his rightful place as one of my favorite writers and I hope I don’t have too wait to long for his next novel. .

Note: A special thanks to the good people of Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title to review.





Audiobook Review: Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry

27 10 2011

Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry (Pine Deep, Book 3)

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 17 Hrs 42 Mins

Gerne: Horror

Quick Thoughts: Bad Moon Rising is the finale of the Pine Deep Trilogy, bring together the events of the first two book in an action packed bloodbath which serves as a pay off that should bring joy to horror fans. Maberry’s tale of evil and the good people fighting it taps into that section of our psyche that still wants to be scared, with wonderful results.

Grade: B+

Bad Moon Rising is the final book in Jonathan Maberry’s Pine Deep Trilogy, about the Most Haunted Town in America. If you need to know why I decided to listen to Bad Moon Rising, it’s pretty obvious, Jonathan Mayberry is an awesome writer, the first two books in The Pine Deep Trilogy were awesome, and, really how can anyone resist that coming together of factors of awesomeness? The Pine Deep Trilogy is one of those old school horror tales that reminds you of those early days of Stephen King, full of great characters, small town secrets and ancient evils. It’s been a while since I found a truly old school epic horror tale that reminded me of why I fell in love with the genre to begin with. In fact, the last great horror trilogy I enjoyed was James A. Moore’s Serenity Falls trilogy back in 2005. The best horror tales always find a way to combine modern day fears with the mythological archetypes of our past. These tales work, when done right, because, while our outer intellectual sides reject vampires, werewolves and other mythological creatures. that part of us that prays when we’re scared, that sees that monster in the shadows from the corner of our eyes, still influences us. Maberry’s tale of evil and the good people fighting it, taps into that section of our psyche that still wants to be scared, with wonderful results.

One of the things that most impresses me about Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is that he provides a real world science basis for the monsters that we fear. In Bad Moon Rising, instead of science, Maberry wields a different tool, mythology, with the same excellent results. The mythology that Maberry uses isn’t your typical Hollywood pop mythology, where Vampires run screaming from your necklace, but a well researched mythology that feels authentic. Maberry takes everything you think you know about vampires, werewolves and ghosts and annihilates it, in turn offering a mythos that is truly frightening, and steeped in cultural history. Bad Moon Rising is definitely the most ambitions novel of the trilogy, and the most effective. Not only does Maberry reunite us with the characters we have grown to care about, Crowe, Mike Sweeny, Val, Saul Weinstock and Newt, but introduces some new significant characters that become vital to the story. One of the more fun aspects of Bad Moon Rising was the use of real life horror icons who aren’t just making cameo appearances but actually get mixed up in the action. Everything that Maberry set up in the first two books comes together in action packed bloodbath as our heroes attempt to turn back the apocalyptic plans of true evil. Bad Moon Rising is a great finale which doesn’t fail to give the pay off that you want in a great horror epic.

Tom Weiner narrates this third installment in the series, with the same creepy flare as the first two. Weiner captures the truly horrific feel that the book offered, and carefully guided us through hectic finale. There is a lot happening in Bad Moon Rising and Weiner narration helps keep the listener focused on the events, never leaving us behind. As always, his voices were spot on, capturing even the characters that you would expect a narrator with such a deep voice to struggle with, particularly women and children. It’s sad to come to the end of any good series, but a great ending always eases the pain a bit, and having the right narrator to guide us through that ending doesn’t hurt at all.

 

Note: A special thanks to the good people at Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.