THE MARTIAN was the best book I've read in several years, and I read a LOT. I've continued to check Audible.com for new works by Andy Weir, and decided to cough up $2 for this short-short, even after listening to 50% of it as a sample, and thinking, YAWN.
It failed to get any better. The "God" narrator (presented with an odd, folksy drawl for some reason) explains to a dead man that he -- the dead guy -- is a god-in-the-making, that he has and will continue to live myriad lives, in non-linear time, as singular individuals, but also that he - the dead guy again - is also "everyone", that every time he offends another, he's offending himself, and every time his does a kindness, he's benefiting himself. But also, the dead guy's wife is "a little relieved" that he's dead, since their marriage was on the rocks. But his kids will be fine, and idolize him. But wait: isn't he already THEM? He's not only The Buddha and Jesus and a Chinese slave, he's EVERYBODY. At least, he's every DUDE.
So, the presentation of this tidy philosophy (which mirrors the awkward mythology of Mormonism, in some respects) is sloppy, and you'd expect it to be, in 8 minutes. But it doesn't deserve any more of your time.
I was reading a book a day back in 1986, so I have no idea how I missed this novel. I'm so glad that it was featured in a recent Audible sale and that the write-up sounded promising. Grimwood's story is meticulously well-researched and nicely told. It is a romantic tale, in the end, and a lilting fantasy which focuses neither on hard-science nor heavenly influence, and in that it offers somethiing for everyone. The age of the novel and the passing (in 2003) of the author excuse (barely) its vague misogyny; shallow, idiotic women were the norm in science fiction for generations. But all of the characters in Replay are heavily-sentimental, so maybe that's just me, overreacting. William Dufris does a fine job voicing the characters.
Anyway, if anyone ever wonders where Stephen King get ideas like the one he had for 11.22.63, I have a good idea!
When I learned that Greg Iles had a new novel, Natchez Burning, I eagerly purchased it, but then saw that there was a companion novella, "Penn Cage Book 3.5", and felt I would be missing out on continuity if I didn't purchase that, first. I wasted an entire credit on it, and now I have asked Audible to return that credit to me.
The narrator is blah (JUST shy of offensive), the story sad and meandering and doesn't GO ANYWHERE. As a teaser for the next novel, maybe it helps, but as another reviewer wrote, he enjoyed "Natchez Burning" just fine without it. I wasted a precious credit (waiting for that to be returned) and 3 hours that I can't get back.
The first book, Zombie, Ohio was a hugely enjoyable story - fun and different. Kenemore was able to combine a witty, first-person mystery with a gory zombie tale, and I recommended it to everyone I knew. I've now bought the Audible version and look forward to listening to it.
The second entry in the series, Zombie, Illinois (not yet on Audible), was a grimmer, grittier story and a more standard entry into the genre, with a few fun characters. I like the independence of the series, with no shared characters, and even the Zombie Apocalypses may be unconnected.
But as the USA Zombies series drifts back east to Indiana, this episode is kind of tired and sordid. The character of the governor can be delightfully reimagined as Toronto's infamous mayor Rob Ford, and that's about as entertaining as it gets. The story follows a few interconnected groups of people; everyone else is nothing but zombie fodder. Each of our "friends" is a tired stereotype, but never a consistent one.
Keisha, the Only Black Girl in The School is "poor", but her father is a newspaper publisher and her mother a city councilwoman. I was mildly uncomfortable with the heavy "black" accent narrator Fleet Cooper provided for Keisha; this is common problem in modern novels (although Cooper did a fine job otherwise). James Nolan has to be the stupidest right-hand-man in the history of henchmen, and the governor is preposterous.
I actually created a better ending for the story as I was listening to it, and hoped I was right about the clever twist I created. Unfortunately, the "hook" revealed at the end is very disappointing, and the climactic scene as the primary characters finally come together is embarrassingly ludicrous and dull.
This is a pretty lame "thriller" about Wall Street during its recent boom, with a young MBA buck fresh out of school hired by investment bankers to help manage their fervent business. The character is boringly-likable -- a Horatio Alger archetype with a vague, hurt past. He's thrown into a deal, way over his head, and has on one side, a sociopathic boss who is Out To Get Him for reason even this boss finds mysterious ("He wondered again what it was about the kid that rubbed him the wrong way") , and on the other, a Millionaire Client With a Heart of Gold who takes him under his wing for reasons NO ONE can fathom. I kept waiting for the old man to make a pass at him! It would have added some needed depth to both characters.
Add to this the absolute dearth of female characters. In the opening scene, a plump girl from grad school has it made clear that she is too ugly for anything but friendship. In the big city, our lad meets the "Geishas" - the on-salary whores of the Investment Banking Firm - who are flawlessly gorgeous, stand around the office as set dressing and have sex with the corporate officers and clients as ordered. Naturally, one falls instantly in love with Our Hero, despite his lack of money and status. Cause, yeah.
I continued listening to this story with a slight hope that eventually the Geisha (the author's designation, not mine), (described as "smart" by Our Hero, but evidence is lacking), would be the one to come up with the scheme that Saves The Day. She doesn't. She gets beaten up by one of the Bankers, but tells Hero "It's okay, it's happened before", so he doesn't do anything except screw the banker out of a deal. Oh, did I spoil something? Were you STILL planning to read this drivel?
This might be the darkest comedy of the decade. I won't spill more of the story than other reviewers have, but I will say that I am a white suburban Grandma with about as much in common with the characters in Shady Palms as I have with Nanook of the North, and I LOVED this book. Allen Dusk writes in a voice of utter solemnity, no smarminess at all, and the fluency with which his graphic horror unfolds is a beautiful and terrifying thing to hear. Topping off this gloriously gooey sundae is the mellifluous, motherly deadpan voice of Rose Caraway, who sounds like she ought to be voicing Mrs.Santa Claus or a kindergarten teacher from central casting, not shamelessly describing the sexual perversions and addictive self-destruction of the seamiest side of San Diego. Her very presence lends an hilarity to the proceedings not to be matched in audiofiction.
Quite a few years ago I paper-read a number of "cozy mysteries" by Margaret Maron, featuring North Carolina Judge Deborah Knott. They were okay, and I read 5 or 6. I recently downloaded "Christmas Mourning" on sale, read by a narrator I have heard (and found "meh"), a woman named C. J. Critt.
This time it's nearly torture. While Critt has a very excellent, rich voice, her reading style is PAINFUL! She inflects a ridiculous amount of inappropriate emotion, virtually baby-talking through simple narrative sentences, and takes pauses SO LONG that I have repeatedly unhooked my iPod from my belt, thinking the battery had died or the headphones detached! She also puts a little smirk into sentences which SHOULD HAVE reflected compassion and sorrow.
I'm nearly halfway through the book, and I think I'll go ahead and finish it, but it was a poor choice for me. The story concerns a teen girl killed in a car "accident" (I personally lost a daughter that way) and the characters' attitudes toward both the dead girl and her parents is dismissive, flippant and cruel. Considering these books are supposed to reflect a small rural community where everyone knows and supports one another, the first-person storytelling makes the Judge out to be a hard-hearted and lackadaisical bitch.
I've been devastated several times by this occurrence: a classic novel which I've always wanted to read begins with a boring BIOGRAPHY of the author and a SPOILER-FILLED summary of the book I'm preparing to begin! How frustrating!
This book is written in a pleasant, joshing tone; a self-deprecating ex-Marine survivalist trying to keep his family and friends alive, under siege in a gated suburban community during a standard zombie apocalypse. I enjoy zombie novels and horror in general, and I've read all the best. Tufo's writing is cutesy and his storytelling clear - he never reaches the literary genius of Jonathan Maberry or the originality of Scott Kenemore, but the character is solid and the narration above par. I *was* enjoying it.
Then I reached past the midpoint of the novel, and the few female characters began to be featured in more-detail. I had to check the publication date to be sure I was listening to a book written in 2010, and not 1940. Tufo's female characters come in two types - aggressive whores and mean, inept feebs. How has this Master Survivalist raised two teenaged sons who stand side-by-side in battle with him, can shoot like marksmen and reload with their eyes closed, yet his daughter - their *older* sister - doesn't know which end of the gun to put the ammunition into. His wife is equally useless, pouty and sullen, and isn't motivated to kill a zombie until she spots the dead slut who almost ruined their marriage years ago. The daughter has value ONLY because she brings a gun-toting boyfriend into the group.
ALL the women in this book are useless at best, and evil detriments at worst. The wife is a chain-smoking bitch who petulantly withholds sex and says things like "If you don't know what you did, I'm not going to tell you!" and cares more about damage to the carpet and the resale value of their house DURING THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. If this is meant for laughs, it's not even a little bit funny. The "other wives" -- and that phrase is used -- are a bunch of similar sniping harridans, more interested in stabbing each other in the back than doing anything remotely helpful.
Tough white guys are pretty standard in this variety of fiction and I'm accustomed to it. I read the Walking Dead series and have been very glad that the often-brutally sexist portrayal in the graphic novels has been largely corrected in the TV series. But even in the original format, women may have been victims, but they were also strong, smart and worth having around.
I understand that there are a half-dozen more books in the Zombie Fallout series, but I fear that Mark Tufo has too many personal issues he dumps into his novels. I won't be reading or recommending any more of them, and will warn half his audience to stay away or risk being greatly insulted.
The second book in the phenomenal Joe Ledger series is possibly even better than the first. I've purchased some of Jonathan Maberry's earlier works now to read on my Kindle, but Ray Porter is THE MOST WONDERFUL NARRATOR IN AUDIBLE HISTORY and handles Maberry's deft prose with compassion and style. I was so thrilled to find out there are 3 more books in the series as well as two scheduled for publication. I have left all other fandom behind. If you're a fan of fantasy fiction, scifi, military novels, martial arts, police procedurals, dystopian thrillers or plain old superb writing, start with PATIENT ZERO and carry on from there.
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