Audiobook Review: The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

30 11 2012

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

Read by Ben Rameaka

Audible Frontiers

Length: 8 Hrs 27 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Long Tomorrow is a novel that will make you think, without ever forcing what you should think onto you. It’s an interesting blending of neo-luddite science fiction and a coming of age tale that fans of Post Apocalyptic novels should definitely have in their library. While it can be dated at times, it contains many issues that are relevant to our era, which are still being explored in modern Apocalyptic fiction.

Grade: B+

As the temperature begins to drop, and jolly fat men with bells replace Cheerleaders and Girls Scouts standing outside of retail establishments asking for your money, you know the year is coming to an end. 2012 was a great year for fans of classic post apocalyptic audiobooks. We saw the release of one of the all time classics, Stephen King’s The Stand released in its fully unabridged glory, as well as some of my all time favorites, like When Planets Collide, and MK Wren’s beautiful and heart wrenching post nuclear classic, A Gift Upon the Shore. While I was quite aware of the impending release of The Stand, many of Audible Frontier’s Post Apocalyptic novels came as a pleasant surprise to me. A few weeks ago, another surprise Post Apocalyptic favorite of mine appeared on the digital Audiobook shelves of Audible, Leigh Bracket’s The Long Tomorrow. The Long Tomorrow was first released in print in 1956, just as the Cold War, and the politics of mutually assured destruction were beginning to cement itself in our culture. I read The Long Tomorrow about 20 years ago and it was the first novel I remember that explored a post nuclear neo-luddite society. In Brackett’s vision, the cities are destroyed by Nuclear War, changing the balance of society to one favoring rural groups used to supporting themselves. Religions form, many based on Mennonite philosophies, which teach that God destroyed the cities and any attempts to revive technology was an affront to god. The government passed laws limiting technology, the size of settlements and regulating trade to prevent central hubs which eventually morph into population centers. People who embrace technology are banished or worst.  Then, Brackett places within this society, two young boys, fascinated by stories of the past, with natural curiosities that could get them killed.

Len and Esau Coulter, two young boys being raised in the New Mennonite Church, just wanted a bit of excitement. They slip away one night to see the radical preacher and his congregation, who have been known to speak in tongues and roll around on the ground. Yet, when a man is accused of being from the mysterious Barterstown, a supposed city of technology, he is stoned in front of the two boys. Rescued by a kindly trader, the boys find a small box, they believe to be the radio their grandmother had spoken of. When caught with the technology, and some hidden books, and severely beaten by their fathers, the two boys run away, in search of Barterstown and knowledge. When I first read The Long Tomorrow, I was fascinated by the world Brackett had created. The Long Tomorrow was one of the first Post Apocalyptic novels I had read, and since then, I have read hundreds more. So, I was pleased that many aspects of the novel still stood out. While definitely dated, many of the issues Brackett tackled are still relevant to today, and are still being explored in Post Apocalyptic fiction. The story itself has a very cyclical nature. The progression of Len and Essau often reflect the progression of the world they inhabit. Although they are in a search for knowledge, they are also products of their environment, with the ingrained mistrust of technology. This leads to some interesting situations as the two boys attempt to find a place within two divergent worldviews, neither of which they are comfortable with. Brackett did a wonderful job with these characters, providing an outsiders view to key moments in the world’s development. It’s definitely a coming of age tale, particularly for the main perspective character, Len. I think if The Long Tomorrow was written today, it could easily be marketed as a young adult novel. The novel itself never attempts to force feed you any sort of ideology. It handles many interesting ideas, like Xenophobia, religious intolerance, blind acceptance of the status quo, understanding your history so as not to repeat it, and nuclear paranoia, in a manner that leaves it up to the reader to figure out where their morality and ideology fits in a vast spectrum. My only real issue with the novels is it’s technology, particularly in regards to computers and processing is almost laughably dated, but for a novel written in the mid-1950’s this is no surprise. The Long Tomorrow is a novel that will make you think, without ever forcing what you should think onto you. It’s an interesting blending of neo-luddite science fiction and a coming of age tale that fans of Post Apocalyptic novels should definitely have in their library. While it can be dated at times, it contains many issues that are relevant to our era, which are still being explored in modern Apocalyptic fiction.

I really enjoyed Ben Rameaka’s reading of The Long Tomorrow. Nothing he did really blew me away, he just gave a straight forward reading, with strong characterization. He did a good job giving Len and Essau young voices, without making them sound like annoying petulant teenagers, even when they were acting like annoying petulant teenagers. Rameaka reads the story with a nice, modern tone, that smoothed over the dated feel of some of the parts of the novel. At first I struggled with some of his female characterizations, but as the novel progressed these definitely improved.  I don’t think he reading will stand out as one of the great performances of the year, but it was solid, and he did his job. The Long Tomorrow plays out nicely in audio form, and I highly recommend it to people who love classic Post Apocalyptic science fiction.

Note: This review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse series. Click on the banner below for more posts.





Audiobook Review: The Reanimation of Edward Schuett by Derek J. Goodman

23 11 2012

The Reanimation of Edward Schuett by Derek J. Goodman

Read by David Letwin

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Zombie Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Reanimation of Edward Schuett is a novel that blends the unique zombie perspective of a novel like Zombie Ohio, with the recovered society motif of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, mixing in a liberal dose of the quirkiness of Raining Stony Mayhall, then adds it’s own secret blend of herbs and spices making it the most unique, and perhaps, rewarding zombie experience of the year.

Grade: A

I have a bit of a reputation as a zombie enthusiast. Maybe it’s because I listen to and review a lot of zombie audiobooks. In 2012, so far, I have listened to or read over 35 zombie audiobooks and print books. I assume that most people don’t really read that many, while I am also sure there are many who eclipse me. Yet, my listening and reading of the undead is only a drip in the bucket of what’s available, and my wish list of filled with Zombie titles. Now, I would love to get to them all, and spend hours and hours dedicating myself to the best in zombie fiction, but, honestly, I often suffer from Zombie fatigue. When you read or listen to a lot of zombie novels, it all starts to bleed together. I love tales of the zombie apocalypse, where a ragtag band of survivors come together to try to find safety from the hordes, and these authors try to throw lots of twists, fast zombies, slow zombies, zombie perspectives and even sentient too using zombies, but really, the cores of most zombie apocalypse tales remains remarkably similar. How many different ways can you discuss gaining supplies, finding weapons, and creating a safe haven before it all begins to sound the some. That is, until something special comes along.  Occasionally I find a Zombie title that rips me out of my fatigue and surprises me. Two years ago it was Alden Bell’s The Reapers are the Angels, and last year it was Daryl Gregory’s brilliant Raising Stony Mayhall. So far, in 2012 I have experienced a lot of great zombie novels, some quite unique, but none really gave me the reenergizing experience. Then I listened to The Reanimation of Edward Schuett.

I really went into The Reanimation of Edward Schuett pretty cold, only knowing it was about a man who wakes up after years living the life of one of the shambling hordes of undead. The premise itself seemed unique enough where I was initially intrigued. What I discovered is a novel that blends the unique zombie perspective of a novel like Zombie Ohio, with the recovered society motif of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, mixing in a liberal dose of the quirkiness of Raining Stony Mayhall, then adds it’s own secret blend of herbs and spices making it the most unique, and perhaps, rewarding zombie experience of the year. From the moments I pressed play, with Edward attempting to wake up and scream, I was enthralled with this story. Edward Schuett was simply an amazing character, no longer really a zombie, and not quite human, plagued with the knowledge of what he was, but not exactly sure what he was becoming. As a simple character study, Edward Schuett would be a brilliant piece of fiction, but add into it a bunch of quirky characters, some intrigue, and a fascinating action filled plot, and it was also a heck of a ripping good yarn. I really loved the world Goodman had created, a post apocalypse world that has moved from a terrorized populace attempting to survive the onslaught of flesh eating humans, to a society full of people either indifferent to, bitter against, or almost sickly amused by their zombiefied brethren. It was interesting to view this world through the eyes of a character who is a bridge between both the old world and new, as well as a bridge between zombies and humans. There is an almost loving tenderness in Edward Schuett’s actions towards zombies, something you rarely see in zombie fiction. Many books remind you often that zombies are your brothers, parents and friends, as a way to emotionally terrorize you, yet at times, Edward Schuett humanizes its zombies to create empathy for them. And don’t worry zombie lit fans, there is plenty of zombie gore, post apocalyptic action and mayhem to keep you moving through those troublesome touching moments. I have listened to a lot of great zombie novels this year, but I think, in the future, when I look back at this year, The Reanimation of Edward Schuett will be the one that sticks out the most to me.

Sometimes when a novel utterly enthralls you, a strong narration can actually enhance the experience. Yet, sometimes, a smart narrator knows that they just need to stay out of the way of the story, and let it do its own sort of magic. To be perfectly honest, nothing about David Letwin’s performance stands out to me. I can’t remember a particular characterization or moment of stylistic pacing and cadence that made this book better. Nor, can I think of a distracting voice, awkwardly paced action segment, or poor narrative decision.  Letwin just did his job, read the story, and let the characters and situations pull the reader in. I think this is exactly what this novel needed. I’m sure there is another narrator out there that could have given a better reading, yet, I don’t think it was needed here. Letwin’s reading was solid and straightforward. He added no bells or whistles to the production and none where needed. It’s hard to evaluate a performance like this. This is my first time listening to a novel narrated by Letwin, and I know I will have no problem giving another one of his titles a go.

This Review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse series. For more post click on the Banner below.





Audiobook Review: The Kill Order by James Dashner

16 11 2012

The Kill Order by James Dashner (The Maze Runner Prequel)

Read by Mark Deakins

Listening Library

Length: 9 Hrs 59 Minutes

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Kill Order wasn’t a bad book, just unfocused and full of uninteresting apocalyptic clichés while neglecting the interesting themes. I’m sure fans of the series will find value in learning a bit about how the world of The Maze Runner series came to be, but for me, the few interesting moments kept me drudging through this tale. I was expecting a novel dealing with cool things like sun flares, and instead I got another apocalyptic road trip where only our heroes can save the world.

Grade: C

Sometimes I make weird book reading decisions. Sometimes I think it would be better if someone just asked me my likes and dislikes and just chose my books for me, as long as the person choosing is a flesh and blood person and not some antonymous artificial intelligence bent on world domination like Skynet or Amazon’s recommendation engine.  About a year ago I attempted to listen to the first boom in James Dashner’s Maze Runner series, based on recommendations of many people. I only lasted an about an hour. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps, it just didn’t fit my mood. I know part of the reason I didn’t engage with it was I found the narration a bit flat and too old sounding for a novel featuring young adults. Usually I give flat and boring narration a little while, since often a narrator will grow into the story but, this one I cut short pretty early and moved on quickly. So, advance a good year later, and I start hearing things about a novel called The Kill Order. I read the description and it sounded like an interesting, post apocalyptic novel dealing with sun flares, plague and general apocalyptic mayhem. Since I’m a big fan of apocalyptic mayhem of all sorts, this piqued my interest. Then I discovered the novel is a prequel to The Maze Runner series. This of course, concerned me. There are two types of prequels, ones that are dependent on the source material, and ones that aren’t. So, I checked with someone who read the novel, who assured me that outside of the prologue, I really didn’t need to know anything about the series. Then, I read some reviews, most of which wee complaining that the book didn’t give them any information on what happened to certain series characters. While this was probably frustrating for fans of the series, for me this was good news. So, I said, what the hell, let’s go for it. What’s the worse that could happen?

So, I’m just going to straight out and say it, I didn’t really like The Kill Order all that much. Not that it was a bad book, just one that I never really engaged with. The annoying thing was, it had flashes of really cool moments, and these flashes kept me interested enough to keep listening. Yet, they just never seemed to play out in a way that would save the book for me. The Kill Order is a strange mix of apocalyptic fiction and young adult science fiction that never really gives enough focus to either aspect. The story is about two teenagers Mark and Trina, whose village is attacked by strange flying machines, and men in strange Hazmat style suits, who shoot strange darts at the village’s denizens. Mark and Trina, along with an aging soldier, escape the attack, and decide to travel to find the source of these attacks. Of course, they discover the darts contain a strange virus, turning those infected violent and unpredictable. Along the way, they discover a young girl who may hold the key to combating the virus. As you can see by the description I give, there are a lot of oft used apocalyptic themes in The Kill Order. It’s an apocalyptic road trip, full of deep governmental conspiracies, with our heroes gaining access to top secret information, and discovering a potential source of immunity. Add to this weird tech, plague riddled not quite zombies but sort of weird ragey, attacky humans and the discovery of immunity, this was like many other apocalyptic novels I have read. Except it wasn’t. It was weird, unfocused and sort of meh. Then, there were Mark’s dreams. Through a series of dream sequences, we get to experience Mark and Trina’s journey from the start of the Apocalyptic even that started it all. These parts I actually liked. While using some similar themes, this part was unique and actually offered some new ground in the apocalyptic subgenre. I liked the use of sun flares and melting ice caps, as opposed to the typical man made sources of the apocalypse. Yet, these moments were never fully explores, and Dashner would send us right back to the heart of the tale, a heart that barely offered an interesting murmur. The Kill Order wasn’t a bad book, just unfocused and full of uninteresting apocalyptic clichés while neglecting the interesting themes. I’m sure fans of the series will find value in learning a bit about how the world of The Maze Runner series came to be, but for me, the few interesting moments kept me drudging through this tale. I was expecting a novel dealing with cool things like sun flares, and instead I got another apocalyptic road trip where only our heroes can save the world.

After my attempt to listen to The Maze Runner series fell flat, I became hesitant to listen to any audio narrated by Mark Deakins. Then, I listened to The Dog Stars which I though Deakins performed wonderfully. In The Kill Order, Deakins continued in his low key, evenly paced style, that made me want to pull up my blanket and go nappy nap. I really like Deakin’s voice, even if I don’t think it quite fits a young adult novel. Yet, his pacing is so slow, so deliberate, that is sucked some of the life out of the story. With an introspective novel like The Dog Stars, his style can be effective, but in an action filled science fiction novel, it just didn’t work for me. I think, with a different narrator I may have liked the novel more, and with a different novel, I may have enjoyed Deakin’s narration, but then, I’m sort of strange.

This Review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse Series. For more post, click on the banner below.





Audiobook Review: Pray by John Prescott

9 11 2012

Pray by John Prescott (The Revelation Chronicles, Bk. 1)

Read by Wayne June

John Prescott

Length: 16 Hrs 4 Min

Genre: Biblical Post Apocalyptic Horror

Quick Thoughts: Pray is a heavy metal look at Revelations, what Left Behind could have been if it had been written by Brian Keene. Prescott grabs the reader from the opening trumpet blast, and rockets them through a gore filled vision of the End Times. It’s a fast paced Apocalyptic Thriller with some engaging characters, and while there are definitely snark worthy, roll your eye moments, it’s a hell of a fun ride.

Grade: B+

Long before I had a Zombie Survival Plan (run, don’t get eaten) I had a Tribulation Plan. As a kid growing up in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church, I had the unique opportunity to view the "Thief In the Night" series of Post Rapture Tribulation movies many, many times. In fact, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in Ambler, there used to be an old theatre called The Christian Cinema that we would often go to, where they played free Christian movies and Tribulation movies were regular films in their staple. Many people who are avid Post Apocalyptic fans will point to a book like The Stand, or perhaps Z is for Zachariah, as what turned them into fans of apocalyptic fiction. I searched out books like The Stand and Z is fort Zachariah because of the Thief in the Night movies. As a child, knowing my sinful childhood heart, I just new I was destined to be Left Behind when the trumpet blasts and the born again are called up to heaven. So, of course, I made a plan. On the day that I get home to discover that my family was now just a rumpled pile of clothes, I planned on grabbing whatever supplies I could, and head to New Life Island, a Christian campground that was a small island in the Delaware River. There I would hide from the minions of the antichrist, try to survive the earthquakes and Wormwood, and avoid getting the mark of the beast on my right hand or forehead. From this point on, I was always fascinated by Christian Eschatology. As a teenager, I read many books about things that were happening that were signs and portends of the coming of the Beast. I heard of chip implants, and scanner codes based on the repeating number 6. I heard of moves getting us closer to a one world government, ripe to be taken over by a charismatic figure. As I became less and less involved in the church, my interest in Biblical Apocalypse waned, but still lingered. I read some of the Left Behind but got frustrated with the authors stringing the series along, and with all the preachiness. What I really wanted was a secular take on the Biblical Apocalypse. Then, one night, I was scanning the new releases on Audible, and I discovered Pray by John Prescott. Oh, what a discovery!

I’ll have to admit, I was expecting this review to be a snark filled look at the many corny aspects of this novel. The problem was, despite some snark worthy moments, and a really strange premise, I enjoyed the hell out of this novel. It’s really hard to write a review, because I’m not sure exactly who the right market is for this novel, beyond my own special mix of dysfunction. Pray is a Biblical Apocalyptic Thriller that covers much of the same stuff that The Left Behind series does, yet, author John Prescott utilizes a sort of Biblical loophole in Revelation where John is told not to share something he envisioned, to give the whole story a new spin. Oh, and what a spin it is. Prescott gives us all the natural disasters, rising evil, government suppression, wars and plagues, that we find in the end times prophesies of the Bible, yet, for fun, throws in some werewolves and vampires. Oh, and these are not you teenage heartthrob vampires and werewolves, these are bad assed killing machines. These are rip your guts out and feast upon your entrails horror monsters in their purest form. It’s a great little twist, yet gives the novel and almost schizophrenic feel. There are moments where people are talking to god, finding salvation, and the next moments werewolves are ripping a person apart, and providing a profanity fueled narration while they do it. As a horror fan, and someone who grew up in the church, I enjoyed the heck out of it, but I feel many Christians will be turned off by the gore and language, while many horror fans will be bothered by many of the Christian moments. I think, with people who grew up in Fundamentalist Churches, there is a sort of language that develops when taking about certain beliefs and reasoning’s, and some of these appear in Pray. While it’s tailored to a secular market, I think some moments wouldn’t translate as well to people with out that sort of background. Beyond that, while many of the characters both good and evil we quite well developed and engaging, I found a few to be very stereotypical and frustratingly clichéd, enough so that it sort of bothered me. Overall, outside of the issues I have talked about, the story was pretty darn good. If you are incapable of getting past the use of horror creatures or the occasional naughty word in a book based on Biblical Prophesy, than perhaps, you should stick to the latest Left Behind spinoff novel. Otherwise, Pray is a heavy metal look at Revelations, what Left Behind could have been if it had been written by Brian Keene. Prescott grabs the reader from the opening trumpet blast, and rockets them through a gore filled vision of the End Times. It’s a fast paced Apocalyptic Thriller with some engaging characters, and while there are definitely snark worthy, roll your eye moments, it’s a hell of a fun ride.

I am always a bit hesitant with independently produced audiobooks. I had heard of Wayne June before, and knew he had worked on novels by writers like Brian Keene. I had listened to a few samples, and thought that he had a deep voice that was perfect for setting the mood of a horror novel, I worried that his voice may not have enough range for a multi-character novel. First, the negatives on the audiobook production. I felt there was a bit of tininess to the production. at some points, the sound didn’t seem as crisp as I am used to in some productions. Also, there are special effect and music used occasionally in the production. Some of the effects work, yet for I felt the music was used inconsistently, and only ended up distracting from the narrative. Now, the positive. I was quite impressed with Junes overall performance. He really put a lot of emotion into his reading, working well to pull the reader into the story. His voice, while somewhat limiting, offered much more range than I initially imagined. He really excelled at capturing the often frantic, kinetic pacing of some of the more horrific moments of the novel, enhancing these rather chilling moments. For a 16 hour production, the time just flew by. I was sucked into the tale completely, and much of this was due to June’s reading. I always say that a listener can tell when a narrator is just totally sold into the book he is reading, and I think June’s performance in Pray is a fine example of this. I have a hard time recommending Pray to a wide audience, but if you are like me, and fascinated by Biblical Prophesy and enjoy a good gory horror novel, you totally should give this one a listen. For me, I will now sit patiently hoping the next book in the series is released as an audiobook.

For those interested, I did make live tweet some of the more snarky moments of my listening experience with Pray under the hashtag #praypocalypse

This Review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse Series. For more post, click on the banned below.





Shadows Blog Tour: Guest Post by Ilsa J. Bick

26 10 2012

As the followers of my blog probably realize, I don’t participate in many blog tours. In Fact, this is my first. Last year, Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick was one of my top Zombish audiobooks of the year and I have looked to the release of Shadows with great anticipation. When I got invited to join the tour and found out that Ilsa would be willing to talk audiobooks, I jumped at the chance. So, here we go:

SHADOWS by Ilsa J. Bick

Publisher Summary

The Apocalypse does not end. The Changed will grow in numbers. The Spared may not survive.

Even before the EMPs brought down the world, Alex was on the run from the demons of her past and the monster living in her head. After the world was gone, she believed Rule could be a sanctuary for her and those she’d come to love.

But she was wrong.

Now Alex is in the fight of her life against the adults, who would use her, the survivors, who don’t trust her, and the Changed, who would eat her alive. Welcome to Shadows, the second book in the haunting, apocalyptic Ashes Trilogy: Where no one is safe and humans may be the worst of the monsters.

For a refresher before listening Shadows, check out this refresher for Ashes.

With that, let’s welcome Ilsa J. Bick to The Guilded Earlobe:

 

I am a huge audiobook fan and so have listened to many stories over the years.  There’s something about a very good narrator that can make even an only so-so read a spectacular listen just as the reverse is true: a crummy narrator can kill a book.

What I’ve really enjoyed with my audiobooks has been the degree to which producing them becomes a real collaboration.  The Audible folks have been fabulous, and because I’ve been a member for so long, listened to tons of books, I know which narrators I think serve my story well.  To that end, the Audible folks routinely ask for my preferences, or they come up with their own list on the basis of what I ask for.  In fact, for my very first book with them, DRAW THE DARK, I asked for and got Joshua Swanson right off the bat (and he’s a very sweet guy, too).

My job to listen to try and figure out which voice best captures what I want to convey.  For the ASHES series, Katy was an easy choice.  She’s not only gifted and experienced, she’s such a pro.  Before ASHES and, just recently SHADOWS, she and I talked about what my visions were for how people should sound; how to pronounce certain words; all that. She’s a very gracious, tremendously giving performer, and she really wants to get it right. Katy’s stories of what goes into a performance are real eye openers, and kind of funny, too.  (Like how do you deal with shouting?  You know, when people are screaming in books . . . how do you do that without blowing eardrums or destroying the sound?  It turns out there are tricks.)  

Now, having said all this and enthused over my narrators (and they are all super), I have never listened to my own work other than a little snippet, just as I try to stay away from audiobooks while I’m actively writing something.  There are two reasons.  In terms of my own work, I already know the story; I’ve read it more times than you can imagine; and I only have so much time in the day to discover and listen to new work.  Plus, to be really honest, I don’t actually enjoy listening to my own stuff.  (Maybe that’s why actors don’t like watching their own films, I dunno.)  Just makes me feel . . . funny.  Maybe I need to be a tad vainer, or something.

But far more serious is this tendency I have to assimilate and mimic voices like a parrot-magpie.  I’m completely serious.  My husband HATES going to foreign countries with me because I pick up intonations and accents and cadences very quickly, and then you run the risk of offending someone who thinks you’re making fun.  (No, I’ve just got you in my head; I can’t help it.  Language is like music that way.)  Voices and the tone of a story can easily take up residence in my head, and that can be a problem.  Yes, it helps a lot in terms of characterization; if I can “hear” my character’s voice, then I keep cadence, tone, and all of that straight, and the character’s voice remains distinctive.  In fact, one of the exercises I actually practiced when I was doing STAR TREK was taking a key speech done by, say, Captain Kirk and then recasting the same lines in the voice of the different captains.  I know that sounds funky, but all these actors had different ways of delivering their lines just as the captains had their distinctive personalities.  So the way Kirk might say something, the language and gestures he’d use, is fundamentally different than how Picard would deal with the language, or Janeway.  Getting a character that rooted in your head helps you maintain a consistent and authentic voice for your folks.

So—being a bit of a mimic, and I’ve also done a ton of stage work—I worry that I would hear Katy, for example, and not the Alex I imagine.  I know how I think Alex would say something, but Katy is her own person, with her unique interpretation.  What I wouldn’t want to do is write Katy.  I’m Alex’s mouthpiece, the only one she’s truly got, and Tom’s and Ellie’s, etc.  The work is to keep them straight as authentic individuals, with their unique voices.

I want to thank Ilsa for taking the time to talk about audiobooks. Make sure you check out my reviews of Ashes and Shadows and head over to Brilliance Audio or Audible to grab your copy read by the wonderful Katherine Kellgren.

 

This post is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse series. You can find more post by clicking on the banner below.





Audiobook Review: Run by Blake Crouch

12 10 2012

Run by Blake Crouch

Read by Phil Gigante

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 36 Min

Genre: Apocalyptic Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Run in very many ways is popcorn fiction, yet very effective popcorn fiction. I actually grew to like these characters and long for their safety. Crouch creates some vivid scenes of utter brutality that messed with my head, and left me disturbed and uncomfortable. Yet, overall I found Run to be a very engaging thriller with an apocalyptic edge.

Grade: B

One of the reasons I think that apocalyptic fiction, particularly human based apocalypses resonate so well is the fact that humanity is its own worse enemy. Humanity has been brutalizing itself, committing atrocities on its brothers, since that first squabble between Cain and Able over the proper godly sacrifice. Our histories are full of holocausts and genocide that the idea of a mass slaughter of humans by other humans is hauntingly realistic. Yet, there is also a tendency to create some uncontrollable force to explain such atrocities. We create monsters of ourselves in the forms of zombie and vampires, predators that hunt humanity, and while they still look like us, are not really us. We even go so far as to call the essence of a person that keeps them from hurting others, their humanity. Yet, Wars have been waged, peoples have been slaughtered by those who are very much human. In most apocalyptic fiction, the first wave of destruction, usually by an outside force, is only the catalyst that gets the ball rolling. The true death blow to society comes in the form of human survivors who are either doing whatever it takes to guarantee their own survival, or using the situation to give into the basest desires. As a fan of horror fiction, I enjoy ghosts, goblins, ghouls and other monsters of mythology. Yet, rarely do they scare me. Yet, realistic portrayals of the evils that man can do to their neighbors will often keep me up at night.

In Blake Crouch’s Run, a strange atmospheric light display is witnessed by thousands under the skies of Continental America. It’s beautiful, and haunting, and it changes people. The people who witness this phenomenon are so moved by the experience, they believe it may have been sent by God, and that those who didn’t witness it must die… horrifically. College professor Jake Colclough didn’t witness the phenomena, and now he has only one choice to keep him and his family safe by the roving gangs of the affected, he must run. As I have often said, I am no literary critic tasked to keep literature thriving in this culture where everyone with a computer can spout their opinion. In fact, I may very well be part of the problem. From a straight up critical perspective, there is a lot not to like in Blake Crouch’s Run. Crouch writes in a bare bones style that I felt left some characters underdeveloped and his world basically surface level. At points the writing came off a bit clunky, with some real groaners along the way. Yet, from the very start of the book, I was totally into it. The book starts with a bang, and just keeps moving forward, never giving you a chance to breathe. It was sort of funny, the first third of the book was basically, "people are trying to kill us" and "we’re almost out of gas" but in Crouch’s hands it was more like, "OMG! PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO KILL US AND WE"RE ALMOST OUT OF GAS!!!!!!" Despite its repetitiousness, it actually created genuine tension. Crouch also created a realistic family dynamic with his characters that while at times frustrating, could also be heartfelt and touching. The story itself was as much a journey of a father rebuilding his relationships as it was a family trying to survive. Run also did what very few novels are able to pull off anymore, it disturbed the shit out of me. There are scenes of such human depravity, performed by callous affected men, which lingered in my head long after I stopped listening. The idea that on some level these people were not totally responsible for their action did very little to diminish the affects it had on me. Run in very many ways is popcorn fiction, yet very effective popcorn fiction. I actually grew to like these characters and long for their safety. Crouch creates some vivid scenes of utter brutality that messed with my head, and left me disturbed and uncomfortable. Yet, overall I found Run to be a very engaging thriller with an apocalyptic edge.

You know, I almost feel bad that my praise of Phil Gigante as a narrator is always so effusive. Sometimes I wish he would just totally screw the pooch one day, so I can just bash him around a bit, you know, for a change of pace. So, I will try to temper my praise today by saying that Run is not my favorite performance by Phil Gigante. If this was the only audiobook by him I had ever listened to, I would probably say, "You know, this guy is a damn good narrator" and not my typical, "I fall down and worship at the feet of narrating god Phil Gigante." Here, in Run, Phil gives a damn good performance. The key to Run is in the pacing, Gigante keeps the story moving, allowing the listeners to just get absorbed in the story. Since most of the characters are standard American, Gigante uses his stock characters voices, which are all pretty strong. He gives the children the right amount of petulance, but also allowed the traumatic elements of the situation to come through in his reading. I think in the end, it came down to Gigante just allowing the story to take over. There was no need for clever voices or vocal gymnastics, just a fast and furious pace that never lets up.

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

This review is part of my weekly, “Welcome to the Apocalypse” Theme.





Audiobook Review: Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna

5 10 2012

Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna

Read by Ralph Lister

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 5 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Breakdown is a novel I highly recommend to fans of post apocalyptic fiction. While it may frustrate you at times, it is a realistic look at the psychological effects that the choices a survivor may need to make will have long term. Full of wonderful characters and a well drawn world, Breakdown is a good change of pace novel for apocalyptic fans looking for something slower and more introspective.

Grade: B

While so many Post Apocalyptic novels have focused on the brutality and adventure of surviving the Apocalypse, few have taken on the traumatic psychological effects that an apocalyptic survivor may suffer from. So often in the apocalyptic novels, the main goal is to find safety, a defensible place where you and your group are able to thrive. Yet, what happens when you find that place, when you finally can spend moments in safety reflecting on just what you did to survive this harsh new reality. When I first started Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna, I expected it to be your typical post plague apocalypse, but it wasn’t. I think fans of the subgenre often forget how much of a toll having so much stripped away, having loved ones die, and seeing everything that kept your society secure disappear. Just these aspects can be trying enough for a survivor. I’m sure that for many people, living without the niceties they have grown accustomed to in itself would have harsh psychological consequences. Add to this loss of life, and the actions you may need to take, and such a burden could become unbearable. How would this change you as a person? Would you be more open to others, realizing that the single loner is at a disadvantage in such a world, or would you close yourself off to new people, knowing they may be torn away from you at any moment?

Chris Price is a British ex-pat living in New York when the pandemic struck. With all that he holds dear to him torn away, Chris must find a way to travel back to England in search of what family he may have left. Six years later, he is psychologically ravaged, but home. With the brutality of his choices a constant burden, Chris tries to see if he can put it all behind him and perhaps find a life once again. I really have a lot of mixed feelings about Breakdown. I was fully engaged with the story, enjoying what it was. I liked the characters, and found the world that Hanna created to be interesting, if not just a bit pat. Yet, for me, what was left out of this tale affected me more than what made it in. Hanna created a detailed back story to Chris’s journey that included roving gangs, time at a monastery, a brutal see voyage, and dark days in London, yet all these stories were mere mentions as background and not explored with any sort of depth. Breakdown had the feel of a sequel to a novel never written, and sadly a lesser one. There were many interesting aspects of the novel, yet its focus was in repairing a broken man, and not about exactly what broke him. As a lover of good characters this was well done, as a fan of apocalyptic survival tales, this was frustrating. It seemed as if Hanna was balancing a much better tale in front of us, but making us settle down with the simply good one. Now, my frustration shouldn’t keep you away from Breakdown. It is an interesting look at the impact people in horrible situation have to endure. If this was a sequel, I would be unquestionably raving about the follow up. Hanna definitely has valuable insights into the human mind, and, for those of you who like this sort of thing, throws in a bit of realistic romance to boot. Hopefully some day we may see a prequel to Breakdown, outlining Chris’s journey in more detail. She already has it pretty well outlined in Breakdown. Breakdown is a novel I highly recommend to fans of post apocalyptic fiction. While it may frustrate you at times, it is a realistic look at the psychological effects that the choices a survivor may need to make will have long term. Full of wonderful characters and a well drawn world, Breakdown is a good change of pace novel for apocalyptic fans looking for something slower and more introspective.

I was quite interested to give Ralph Lister a listen in this audiobook. I have experienced Lister’s narration a few times before, but mostly in Fantasy tales. He seems to have a penchant for over the top sarcastic hero types but Breakdown would require another skill all together. Luckily, this is a skill that Lister seems to have also mastered. Lister brings Chris Price to life in vivid detail. His subtle voicing of the main character brought forth the pain and frustration with excellent results. You could feel, at times, Chris hovering over the edge with Lister’s nuanced performance. Lister also handles the other characters well, including female and children characters.  Breakdown is a less action oriented tale than I have experienced in the past with Lister, and he brings that to bear in his pacing. Lister allows the characters to develop in a solemn pace, dealing out the insights in bits and chucks. It’s a wonderfully fitting performance that enhances the experience of this novel.

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

This review is part of my weekly “Welcome to the Apocalypse” theme. Click on the image below for more: