Audiobook Review: City of the Dead: Author’s Preferred Edition by Brian Keene

12 02 2018

City of the Dead

City of the Dead: Author’s Preferred Edition by Brian Keene

Narrated by Joe Hempel

Crossroad Press

Grade: B+

It’s really hard to review the audio version of a book you read originally over 10 years ago. When I first read The Rising and City of the Dead, the current wave of Zombie fic was in it’s infancy. Over a decade later, and I can now truly appreciate how truly cutting edge and influential this novel has become. Also, as I followed Brian Keene’s career, one thing that truly stuck out to me in City of the Dead was how personal this novel must have been for him. City of the Dead isn’t just a novel about inter dimensional “demons” inhabiting the bodies of the dead to eliminate life on this earth, it’s also an often heartbreaking look at a man reconnecting with his child and understanding what it means to be a father. Like most of Keenes’s book, while grounded in traditional tropes, it’s far from a traditional zombie novel. Fans of Keene will rejoice at having these new versions of The Rising and City of the Dead to embrace, and be slightly jealous of the new fans getting to experience these stories for the first time.

Joe Hempel has to take on the task of bring a world alive that is already alive in my brain. Like in most cases, Hempel’s interpretations don’t really match up with how I originally imagined them. Yet, often times, his choices were probably better. His voices for the Siqqusim were more human sounding then I imagined them, but that makes sense and actually makes the “zombies” even more creepy. Where he really excels is driving the pace of the action and building the tension, along with truly bringing to life the relationships between the characters. He has a smooth, crisp delivery style and never falls into the “deep dark horror voice” trap that is overused in this genre. While those new to the series should fully embrace Hempel’s performance, the toughest critics, those fans reliving the book, will be more than satisfied with his performance.

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Audiobook Review: The Burning World (Warm Bodies Series) by Isaac Marion

8 03 2017

The Burning World by Isaac Marion

Read by Jacques Roy

Simon & Schuster Audio

Grade: B+

When Isaac Marion published Warm Bodies authors were just beginning to truly explore what they can do with the Zombie genre beyond the typical Romero style outbreak scenario. Warm Bodies was a game changing novel that threw out all the rules. Marion blended dark comedy with classic themes right out of Shakespeare and Austin to spin the genre into a whole new direction. Over 6 years later Marion picks up the story where he left off, in a genre saturated with classic examinations and new twists and continues the story of R and Julia. Yet, now Marion doesn’t try to flip the genre on its head but instead takes on the classic Post Apocalytic road trip and resistance story using that to examine  the priorities of humanness and community. Marions writing fluctuates seemlessky between crisp and breezy, and his dark humor takes center stage. Throughout the novel he pokes fun at his own book and the “Love will conquer all” theme. The story it self is clever and full of intriguing possibilities. His slow reveal on R’s past is effective but almost anticlimactic. The Burning World doesn’t break the zombie sub genre or ever pervert it all that much but Marion tells a damn good story that left me wanting more.

Part of me wanted not to like Jacques Roy because he wasn’t Kevin Kenerly but my old curmudgeonly ways were won over in the end. He was less stylistic than Kenerly but this suited Marion’s broader scope and more traditional storytelling. I loved Roy’s portrayal of the creepy antagonists. He had a strong grasp of the humor of the tale knowing when not to take it too seriously. His pacing was strong, particularly in the rapid fire dialogue that took place during the crew’s cross county adventure. The Burning World is simply a good apocalyptic tale told in a unique style with characters you’ve grown to love, performed well. 





Audiobook Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part 2 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

7 04 2014

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part 2 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Read by Fred Berman

Macmillan Audio

9 Hrs 35 Min

Grade: B

I’ll admit it, I was a little grumpy when I reviewed The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor PART FRIGGIN’ ONE. Maybe some of that grumpiness rubbed off or maybe it was the expected Ledger Lag that I experience after listening to the latest Joe Ledger novel, but The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor PART FRIGGIN’ TWO failed to captivate me as completely as the past entries in the series, in particular The Road to Woodbury. Not that it was bad, it wasn’t. For the most part, especially in it’s further development of the Lilly character and it’s intense battle at the jail, this was good stuff. Yet, it took a long time to develop. The bridge scenes between Part 1 and Part 2 seemed unnecessary. The early parts of the novel was full of unnecessary in your face foreshadowing that felt almost as insulting to the readers as television mood music. There was also a level of frustration that I think came from being more aware of the over all Walking Dead story arch. The authors do a good job at giving many of the Woodbury folk a heroic bent, and gave logical reasons for their hatred of Rick and Michone’s group, but I couldn’t help be feel a growing sense of frustration as these good people made obviously bad choices. At some point, you wanted someone to have an “Ah Ha” moment, but you knew it wasn’t happening. There is much unevenness to the Governor’s character in a storytelling sense. I felt his mounting instability should have been more evident to those around him, and being the brutal post apocalyptic world I struggles to see why some people would have continued following him. Heck, a simple ice pick through the other eye socket could have save a whole mess of people. On the positive side, the epic prison battle truly came alive, and the final moments of the Woodbury crew had true emotional impact. Bonansinga does the world justice, and despite some flaws delivers a solid exciting tale that should thrill fans of the series.

In this series, it has been the tale of two narrators with Fred Berman. I was less than delighted with his almost emotionless performance in The Rise of the Governor, complete with some annoying mispronunciations, but I thought he really stepped it up in The Road to Woodbury. In the overall Fall of the Governor arch, Berman does a solid job. Not as good as the second book, with a few weird pronunciations and small pacing issues, but when the book gets ramped up, Berman take in full force. His reading is worthy of the tale, and he gives the finale a much needed emotional boost. While I still don’t understand the decision to split the last book into two parts, The Walking Dead fans will definitely be pleased with the ending of the book series.





Audiobook Review: Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

31 03 2014

Code Zero (Joe Ledger, Bk. 6) by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Ray Porter

Macmillan Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 3 Min

Genre: SF/Horror Thriller

Grade: A+

In the latest Joe Ledger thriller by Jonathan Maberry…. well, awesomeness happens, Horrible, tragic and often fatal awesomeness, but still… you get the picture. It’s very hard for me to actually review a Joe Ledger novel and this is why I don’t really try. In the last novel, Extinction Machine Maberry took the X-Files to the next extreme, and in the series debut Patient Zero Maberry reminded us why zombies are goddam fucking scary. Really, if god created an author solely for the purpose of putting my worse fears and fanatical likes to paper, Maberry is a robot uprising away from divine perfection. This is why you have to take my review with a grain of salt… an awesome grain of salt. In the latest, Code Zero Maberry has topped himself by returning to some of his previously traveled paths and amping them up with blue meth. One of the standout aspects of Code Zero is that Maberry gives us an alternate view of past events at the Department of Military Sciences through a new set of eyes. Because of this, we got a chance to revisit, if briefly, some beloved fallen comrades. Maberry also manages to create a new kind of bad guy, maniacal in her own way, yet quite different from what we have seen in the series. As with every other book in the series, Maberry doesn’t cut his hero any breaks. Joe is again called on to literally save the world while the potential of tragic personal sacrifice lingers over his head. As a reader, I don’t know how much more I can take, and I am surprised the Joe’s fragile psyche has held up as long as it has. Again, Maberry’s intense action is cinematic in scope. The scenes come alive in your head. Each scene is huge, but Maberry keeps it contained and intimate guiding us through the chaos like a master director. My only negative is that I still haven’t bought in to Joe’s latest love interest. Maybe it’s a residue from the loss of a past love, or perhaps the incongruousness of the relationship. While the relationship is conflicted, it lacks conflict and part of my brain agrees with Violin when she says he needs a women more in his world. Yet, Maberry does use the relationship effectively, adding levels to the story. My other quibbling complain is that, despite his move to the West Coast, Maberry once again releases potentially apocalyptic danger onto the Philly area, but since it’s Willow Grove, I’ll forgive him. (Suggestion: Croydon could use a nice dose of Captain Trips.) The release of a Joe Ledger novels is my Christmas and Code Zero is a gift that doesn’t disappoint.

It must be a great feeling as an author knowing you have a narrator that doesn’t just get what you’re doing but manages to deliver every line with authenticity and emotional impact. Ray Porter, with a simple pause, or a stumbled line, milks every moment of this book to make you truly feel it. His reading raced my heart, gave me chills down my back and had me hiding in the bathroom so people at work didn’t think I had a pet related tragedy. If there is one series to point to and shout “This is how audiobooks should be done” (which admitted I would absolutely do given the right motivation and perhaps one too many Yuengling lagers,) than it’s Ray Porter’s reading of the Joe Ledger series. Take it from this fanboy, I would totally recommend getting a full physical before listening to Code Zero to make sure your heart can take it.





Audiobook Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

12 11 2013

Parasite (Parasitology, Bk. 1) by Mira Grant

Read by Christine Lakin

Hachette Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 11 Min

Genre: Science Fiction/Horror

Quick Thoughts: In Parasite, Mira Grant takes a bizarre concept and makes it horrifically realistic through well researched science. Full of fascinating concepts, wonderful characters and plenty of dark humor, Parasite is a truly compelling listen.

Grade: A-

In the start of a new series, Mira Grant once again blends genres, taking a concept that seems almost bizarre on its face, grounding it well researched and surprisingly realistic science creating a scenario that is more horrific than traditional supernatural horror. While the story is utterly unique, Grant revisits many themes that made her Newsflesh series stand out, skewed family dynamics, untraditional romantic bonds, a society that adapts to drastic scientific change and characters that break away from norms in delightful ways. In PARASITE, a revolutionary change in health management, developed as a responsive to the Hygiene Hypothesis, has genetically engineered Tapeworms controlling and monitoring the health of individuals. Sally Mitchell received one of the top of the line, early prototypes of the SymboGen Intestinal Bodyguard, due to her father’s high level position as a Government Scientist. After an accident that leaves her seemingly brain dead, Sally miraculously recovers, despite a nearly total loss of memory. Now, Sally must undergo regular testing by SymboGen, as well as her parent’s obsessive protective care, while she attempts to live a normal life. When a strange sickness begins to affect some with the SymboGen Intestinal Bodyguard, Sally finds herself pulled between her family, the man she loves, and the shady company that may have saved her life.

It’s no surprise that based on the concepts of potentially sentient tapeworms that I would absolutely love this book. Well, I did, for many reasons. Mira Grant has become the closest thing to the modern day Stephen King for me, and author who manages to thrill and horrify me on a consistent basis. What surprised me most about Parasite wasn’t the well written action, the fascinating science, or the mind numbing high concept plot, it was the humor that Grant infused throughout the novel. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Grant’s novel managed to elicit several inappropriate laugh out loud public moments for me. Sally Mitchell as a character was fascinating, but also managed to be a bit awkward and frustrating at points. Unlike Georgia from the Newsflesh series, while Sally was impressive and strong in her own way, she was quite naive, and even at times whiny. Yet, Grant filled out her cast with characters that balanced Sally out. Grants characterizations are superb, and the number of memorable, crazy, yet fully fleshed out characters was impressive. I love how every relationship in this book is pushed in interesting ways. Sally’s unique relationships with her family, boyfriend, coworkers and even the scientists at SymboGen are not just peripherals of the series, but informed the story in wonderful ways. While I loved Parasite, it wasn’t the perfect novel. It suffered a bit from being the obvious first book in a series. While many questions are answered, the story didn’t have the feeling of being a self contained story that Feed, the first Newsflesh book, managed to have. The big reveal at the end of Parasite was only truly a surprise to the main character. Yet, despite this lack of closure and the telegraphed twist, Grant does a lot with this story and does it well. I’m quite excited to see where this story goes. Again, Grant has created a wonderful world, which offers her plenty of places to play in, and I for one really enjoy watching Mira Grant play.

This is my first experience with Christine Lakin as narrator, and she did an excellent job with the story. Lakin found the right balance between strength and self doubt that peppers Sally’s personality. She read Sally with a quiet strength that was almost stoic at times, allowing the moments of emotional flair to have more impact on the listener. You could just feel Lakin having fun as she voiced Tansy, one of the more colorful characters of the series. She captured the comic absurdity of the character without turning her into a cartoon character. He pacing was brisk yet smooth, allowing the action to push the narrative without being forced. At times some of the lesser characters came of a bit cardboard, but the more colorful standout characters in the book truly came alive in Lakin’s hands. Mira Grant continues to impress me, and I will be waiting trepidatiously yet with growing childish glee for the next entry in this series,





Audiobook Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part 1 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonasinga

9 10 2013

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor Part 1 by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

Read by Fred Berman

Macmillan Audio

Length: 7 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Through surprising deceptive marketing, this is only the first half of the promise finale of what magically is now being called “A Four Book series” instead of the original label of a trilogy. What follows is a ranty rant rant.

Grade: Incomplete

Note: This review is less of a review, and more of a rant. Of course, everybody likes a good rant, so enjoy.

There has been a lot of talk about blogger responsibilities, and how in reviews we need to “Review the book, not the author.” Well, I’m going to call bullshit on this. We, as bloggers, have a little slice of the internet in which to talk about our experiences with books, and there, we should have the right to do just that, review the experience. If something about an author affects your ability to enjoy the experience of the book, feel free to review it. It’s you slice of the internet, and I think bloggers need to be honest. I would implore people to be respectful and, well, not act like raging dicks, but again, your house, your house rules.  Yet, there is more than just the content of a book the affects your experience. Whether it be your own expectations, the cover, any interaction with the author or publisher, or even your own ignorant beliefs, if it affects your enjoyment, it does a disservice to the book not to mention it. For example, if I hate a book, because I have a strong dislike of the fact that the author once marched in the mummers parade, it’s actually benefits the book if I mention that is what affected my negative experience. Your readers will learn your peccadilloes, and adjust their expectations based on them if you are honest.

All of that is to say that despite the fact the story was pretty good, and the narration was decent, my experience with The Walking Dead: Fall of the Governor Part One, was one that was akin to watching a drunk man kick a puppy, while screaming invectives at school children. The dude may be, in reality, a nice guy, but in that situation, he is an utter douchenoodle.  My experience began, when I was thinking about how the cover of this latest walking dead novel was kind lame compared to the last two. It’s all good, Lame covers rarely affect my enjoyment of a book. Yet, I flicked my finger over the audible app to get a closer look, and there, under the words “Fall of the Governor” in dark lettering on a dark background, it says “Part 1.” WHAT IS THIS PART ONE SHIT? I thought. Maybe I only downloaded half the book on audible, and needed to download Part 2? Nope. Listening to the book intro, Mr. Fred Berman, our audio guide through the series, also said, PART 1. So, my anger began to grow. I was already surprised that the finale was significantly shorter than the first two novels. With what Kirkman said we should expect in the final novel, it’s length surprised me. i expected it to be longer than the first two, not shorter. So, I reread the product description. No where on the Audible page, beyond the cover image did it say Part One. In fact, the product description contained this sentence:

“…readers will experience a terrifying finale befitting the cultural phenomenon that this great series has become.”

LIES! MOTHER FUCKING LIES!

Readers will experience the first half of a terrifying finale because…

THESE ASSHATS SPLIT THIS BOOK IN TWO.

So, when will there be a part two. Who the hell knows? Yet, I know when it comes out, they sure as hell won’t be charging me half price for the book. I just spent a full credit to buy a half of a book. I would be OK with this if they let me know this beyond a small little tag on the cover. I would have been happy telling fans of The Walking Dead that this was a pretty cool story, about Rick, Glenn and Michonne’s first disastrous meeting with the Governor, which is just different enough from the TV show to be enjoyable. I liked the story. Not as much as The Rise of the Governor. There was less zombie action, and more person on person cruelty, not to mention a brutal off camera rape scene. Yet, the grit was what you expect from The Walking Dead. Yet, I can’t in good conscious give this book a good rating, not based on content, but on the deceptive marketing. It affected my ability to enjoy it. As I got close to the ending, with my fears being realized, I kept getting angrier and angrier.

So, yeah. this isn’t much of a review. More like a Bob rant with cussing and mean faces. Let’s call this my review: PART ONE! Part two will come when the bastards give me the rest of the book I paid for.

So, for shit and giggles, here’s the initial imagery of the book.

Yet, the released version looks like this:

Anyone notice the difference?

EDIT: I found a statement about this from Kirkman’s editor, Brendon Deenan:

“When the draft for the third and final book of the Governor series, THE FALL OF THE GOVERNOR, came in, it was much too long to be published as one book, but we knew (Robert, Jay and I), that fans of the series would want the whole story, the Governor’s story in full, as raw as possible and as true to Robert’s vision as we could get it. And that’s the book Robert and Jay handed in, the Governor in all his glory ‘til the bitter end. So we made the tough but ultimately necessary decision to split the conclusion into two parts—the first available now, and the second picking back up in March with the terrifying, concluding pages of this series.”

I call Bullshit. If you had enough time to know that the book needed to be split in two, you had enough time to let the marketing material obviously reflect that. Sneaking a Part One onto the cover in easily overlooked lettering was not enough. This book came in under 8 hours. Even if you double it the book would have been around 15 hours, not “too long to be published.” My guess was that the book was long enough that they realized THEY COULD split it in two, not they HAD TO split it in two. So, yeah… bullshit.





Audiobook Review: Ex-Communication by Peter Clines

21 08 2013

Ex-Communication (Ex-Heroes, Bk. 3) by Peter Clines

Read by Jay Snyder, Khristine Hvam, & Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 10 Hrs 32 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse with Superheroes

Quick Thoughts: With a strange new arrival, a shocking return and an epic, action filled finale, Ex-Communication is about as much fun as you can have surrounded by dead people who want to eat your face. Ex-Communication is a blockbuster movie shot into your brain through your earholes. A fun filled action packed zombie and superhero extravaganza that comes alive in your tastiest brain parts and rattles around in there until the brilliant finale makes it explode out of your skull.

Grade: B+

If you’re anything like me, you have probably had plenty of those late night, half drunk conversations with friends about some pop culture geeky subject like who is hotter Han Solo or Chewbacca (Chewie) or how every time Kirk beams down to the surface to bed green women and fight aliens the transporter is actually killing him and feeding his soul to the great old squid gods. Of course, on those nights were you are just a bit less drunk, you have more normal conversations like who you would most like to headshot in a zombie apocalypse or what superpower you would want most. For me, the headshot conversation is pretty easy (Hitler’s Venezuelan Clone) but I always struggle with the super powers thing. Whenever someone asks me what super power I would want, I usually freeze up, then sputter out something stupid (Ummm… teledynmanics, I mean thermokinesis) because I really don’t know. I mean, sure, it obvious that there are lots of cool superpowers that seem to defy the laws of physics, like flying, or shooting beams out of your eyes or the ability to eat 500 hotdogs when you weigh 120 lbs, but honestly, the characters that often have these powers seem like prats. Sure, Superman has all these awesome powers, but what I’d really want is his camouflage glasses that makes everyone around him too stupid to realize that he’s Clark Kent, and somehow manages to fool even the CIA’s facial recognition software (I assume, or they’d be using him to assassinate the leader of the Illuminati or Justin Beiber.)  Honestly, my favorite superhero characters have always been those who suffered some personal tragedy leading them to become highly skilled at a multitude of human tasks, but have no actual enhanced skills, Of course, when people ask you what superpower you want and you answer "I want someone I love to be brutally murdered by a corrupt politician leading me to devote my life to learning a uniquely special skill set from an old master in order to hunt them down in the darkest shadows of night" even my closest friends look at me funny. So, I just usually end up answering Anti-entropy, because, it makes me seem smart even though I have no idea what it would do but when they ask me what I mean, I just tell them it’s too complex to explain.

Ex-Communication is the third novel in the series that pits superheroes against ravaging hordes of the undead. The last bastion of humanity is holed up in Los Angeles, fighting a constant battle against the encroaching hordes that have fallen under the control of a powerful super villain named Legion. If dealing with the zombies isn’t bad enough, within the compound, elections are coming, tension between the superheroes and the regular folk are increasing and one hero who could wipe them off the face of the map is beginning to act a bit unstable. Peter Clines manages to top himself once again in this series that just seems to get better and better. With a strange new arrival, a shocking return and an epic, action filled finale, Ex-Communication is about as much fun as you can have surrounded by dead people who want to eat your face. Honestly, I have enjoyed this series. Both Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots were fun but with both novels, it took me a while to adjust to the story. With Ex-Communication I was instantly engaged, and Clines kept me hooked for the entire ride.  I think that Clines had a bit more flexibility in this tale, since he has already competently built his world and told the majority of the origin stories of his heroes. This allowed him to play with his THEN… NOW… format a little more, with much better affect.  All his characters seem to have taken on more depth, moving beyond just being pretty cool superheroes, to actually seeming like real people. He introduces one new charac6er through a series of THEN segments that actually have the reader a bit disoriented and confused, until the click comes, and it’s like, HOLY SHIT I GET IT NOW! THIS IS AWESOME! Even better this character goes on to be one of the best of the novel, and the most fun to watch develop. I also like that Clines took the time to add some more fantasy oriented mythological spins to his story. He balances the growing religious adaptations of the survivors between bizarre cherry picking of Biblical references to a more open and inclusive religious experience, then throws in some surprising bits of religious historical mythology to make things even more intriguing. Part of me was sad when one of those threads was nothing more than a brief side trip in the ultimate plot, but it was still pretty cool. The final battle was pretty epically awesome. Clines writes cinematic blockbuster fight scenes, and continues to put together some of the best finales that simply come alive in your brain. Ex-Communication has all your favorite characters, with some new ones, doing all your favorite things in delightfully awesome ways while battling an enemy that could very well kick all their asses. Clines even manages to throw in some open ended twists that make the reader reevaluate a lot of what they assumed earlier. It was all well done, and the most fun I have had in this series yet. Ex-Communication is a complete tale, yet leaves enough threads to make me very excited to see where this series goes next.

From what I understand, based on comments and reviews, Audible has some production issues with Ex-Communication, particularly editing errors dealing with the multi-narrator style but they were fixed. This is something I want to mention first, because there were still some errors. Now, I’m not sure if I just got the older version, or if there was one that was worse, but along the way there were few occasions when a male voice read a female character’s dialogue (unlike the rest of the novel) and at least one repeated line.  Yet, these little blemished were the only scars on an otherwise excellent production with three talented narrators. Jay Snyder has the voice of a blockbuster movie. This doesn’t always fit when he is voicing a regular Joe character, but he is simply perfect for this series. He is the anchor that holds the production together. Boyett balances him with a gruffer, older voice that manages to shove a little humanity into the production. Khristine Hvam is always wonderful to listen to, and her grasp on these characters is great. Her work on the new character was so fun it reinforced my wish that Clines provide more chapters from female POVs just so I we can get to hear more Khristine Hvam. Ex-Communication is a blockbuster movie shot into your brain through your earholes. A fun filled action packed zombie and superhero extravaganza that comes alive in your tastiest brain parts and rattles around in there until the brilliant finale makes it explode out of your skull.