Morrisville, PA, United States | Member Since 2010
Countdown is the story of the events leading up to The Rising, and acts as a prequel to the series. It tracks the scientists working on cures for cancer and the common cold, and the events that lead to these two seemingly wonder cures being released into the world, merging and becoming the Kellis-Amberlee virus, which upon full amplification, revives the dead into zombies. Countdown is full of characters only briefly mentioned in Feed and Deadline, and fills in much of the back story that sets the stage for these novels. You also see a few peripheral characters from the series, and get a glimpse of what they were like before the tragic day that changed the world forever. Yet, none of these characters are the true stars of this tale. The true star is the science of the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Unlike much hard science fiction that presents the science as hard theorem and datum, Mira Grant does what she does best by presenting the science in a beautiful, almost poetic way that allows the reader to do more than simply understand, but to experience it. Grant turns the actual viruses into characters, allowing us to see the transformation from helpful to world destructive in a vivid fashion. Yet, despite being a cautionary tale, Grant never demonizes the science or those involved in the development of the viruses. Instead she just allows us to see them for who they are and what they were hoping to accomplish. Countdown is Mira Grant’s gift to the fans of The Newsflesh World, a prequel that isn’t wooden or forced, but gives us a new perspective to look at the world she created.
This was my first experience listening to Brian Bascle and thought he did a good job. For the most part, he just allowed me to enter into the story and stay there, presenting Grant’s words as they lead me where I needed to go. He has a nice narrative voice, and handled most of the characterizations well. The only characters he struggled with were adolescent girls, which is not strange for male narrators. My only real complaint about the audio production was that the transitions were presented with no real pause letting us know we were moving to another point of view. This would pull me out of the story a bit, when I realized we had switched characters or story arcs. This small complaint wasn’t enough to really detract from a wonderful listening experience.
This review originally appeared in my blog The Guilded Earlobe
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 Originally Appeared In My Blog The Guilded Earlobe
“I will call it the Chronicle of Rachel”
Mary Hope is an old woman living on the farm on the Coast of Oregon. She lives in an uneasy relationship with a religious community that she allowed to move onto the property, under the condition that she be allowed to teach the children. One woman fears her influence, and finds her teachings to be sacrilegious and believes Mary to be a witch. Fearing her time is growing shorter, Mary takes on an apprentice, a young boy, who she shares the story of her survival of the nuclear war that ravaged the earth. She tells the story of Rachel Morrow, a strong woman who believed her purpose in life was to protect the record of the past, by preserving and protecting books. Yet, as the conflict within the community grows, Mary begins to fear that Rachel’s legacy, and the minds of the future are in serious jeopardy.
A Gift Upon the Shore is an achingly beautiful, emotional ride through a nuclear Apocalypse. Wren creates an almost dark beauty as she describes the blight that is done to the earth. From scorched landscapes to nuclear winter, Wren’s vision is horrific in its reality, yet stunningly beautiful in its detail. Wren writes with a lavish, almost poetic style, yet manages to keep the story quite accessible. There is no conflict between style and substance in the novel, the both blend together in a sort of dance that manages to delight the mind while telling a good story. The novel twists between Mary’s present and her past, slowly building in tension and scope. There is an ominous mood that grows throughout the novel, a feeling that something horrible is coming, some devastating moment that will alter everything. Yet, when that moment does come, it is unexpected, and tragic.
This was my third experience with A Gift Upon the Shore and the first in audio form. I always expect to be disappointed when I reread a novel. I expect that some of the beauty will have washed off, or the excitement lessened in the retelling. Yet, I’m not sure if it’s because of it being an audiobook, or just that I am older, but I left this experience loving the novel even more. There were moments that I was simply devastated by the actions of characters, even though I knew it was coming. There is one moment in this novel that truly just broke my heart… again. It’s such a moment of weakness, an inexcusable moment of inaction, that I raged against it, hoping that this time, it might be different. I think, there can be no greater praise for a novel than this. That it affects you in such a way that the emotional impact grows with each experience.
Writing this review is actually quite hard for me. My initial reaction is that I want to grab everybody by the throat and shake them until the promise me they will read this. I want people to experience this with me. This novel is one of my all time favorite reads. It is a literary Post Apocalyptic novel written before such things were vogue. I would easily put it up against the giants of the genre, from The Road. to even A Canticle for Leibowitz, as the ultimate Literary Post Apocalyptic novel. Maybe you scoff at this, but, you can’t really argue with me on the subject until you read the book. And, that’s all I want. Read this book.
About a year ago I wrote a post on my all time favorite Post Nuclear Apocalypse novels, in which A Gift Upon the Shore is number two. In that post, I attempted to cast the narrators for novels with no audiobook version. For this novel, my choice was pretty easy. I had chosen XE Sands, a narrator with a perfect style for this novel. She has a mature but poetic style of narration that just fit, and it didn’t hurt that she is actually from the Pacific Northwest.
Now, when I actually found out that A Gift Upon the Shore was made into an audiobook, I was a bit scared. I just had a really bad experience with an Audible Frontiers production of a classic Post Apocalyptic novel, which was cast with a male narrator despite it being from a female point of view. My first reaction, and you all can check twitter if you don’t believe me, was that if I discovered a male narrator for this novel, I was heading straight to Newark. Yes, I was willing to brave Newark to declare my ire for poor casting decisions. Luckily, I discovered that the novel was being read by new to me narrator Gabra Zackman.
Gabra Zackman was simply wonderful. I can’t tell you, as a lover of this novel, how blown away I was by her performance. Zackman’s vice managed to accentuate the poetry of the prose, wring out each drop of emotion with every well spoken word. She never rushed her reading but allowed the story to come alive in a measured pace. Her tones were rich and mature, vividly displaying the world, highlighting both its beauty and ugliness. Her characters were perfectly done. She captured Mary’s naiveté, Rachel’s strength, Luke’s uncertainness, and Miriam’s spite, yet did it in a natural authentic way. Simply put, I loved every moment of it. A Gift Upon the Shore is an example of how good an audiobook can be when the right narrator is matched with the text. Zackman managed to take a novel I have come to love, and opened it up in new and unexpected ways.
It’s been a year since the Michaluk Virus changed the world, and Evan, Cade and their small group have found a way to survive despite the constant threat of the undead. Yet, when a mysterious woman shows up, and asks for their help to travel to Atlanta, to the CDC headquarters where the virus began, some see the opportunity as a chance for purpose, while others see it simply as a Suicide mission. And for Brandt Evans, the stoic former marine who barely escaped Atlanta after the initial outbreak, it’s a trip back into his greatest nightmare. The Becoming: Ground Zero is the sequel to Meigs excellent debut novel The Becoming, yet, instead of sticking with the tried and true it makes a big change in tone and focus. While The Becoming was a fast paced Zombie Outbreak novel that focused on surviving and adaptation, Meigs slows down the pace and focuses more on the interplay between the characters in Ground Zero. Now, I am never one who gets excited by romance in Zombie novels, usually it seems forced and uncomfortable. While there is a touch of heavy handed romanticism in Ground Zero, for the most part it comes off organically, and actually serves the plot. Meigs has a knack for straight forward characterization that never glamorizes, but portrays realistic reactions to a devastating world. Almost every one of the main characters frustrated me at some point, but in a way that only proved how engaged I was in their struggle. Plus, I like that Meigs characters actually make mistakes, often stupid ones, but manage to learn from them. Unlike many sequels which are just ramped up versions of the original, Meigs actually ramps down the violence through most of the book, yet made it feel somewhat more ominous. And all the character development, mysterious situations, and mood creation pays off in a killer ending that had me wanting the next edition right now. The Becoming: Ground Zero succeeds where many follow ups fail, by changing the tone and slowing down the pace, Meigs actually manages to create even more tension than the original. It’s not an easy ride, with devastating emotion and heartbreak as we become more and more attach to these characters in an extremely unpredictable world. Full of mystery, intrigue and even some romance, The Becoming is a series I want to devour like a lone weaponless survivor in a horde of the undead.
Christian Rummel again brings his talents for characterizations and plotting to the world of The Becoming. One thing that Rummel really managed to do well in his performance of The Becoming: Ground Zero was to really find the dark humor that Meigs has infused this tale with. Meigs snappy dialogue and clever turns of phrase are really brought to life by Rummel’s reading, evoking plenty of audible laughs from me. Rummel also masterfully handles some really devastatingly emotional moments that I can’t go deeper into without spoiling some key moments in this tale. I will say though, I didn’t cry. I am a big, manly man, who doesn’t cry, especially as he’s driving home late at nigh on a particularly curvy road that follows Neshaminy Creek. Tears would have been far too reckless. I did have one small quibbling complaint, and that was in the opening of the book. Meigs used a diary entry by a new character to remind us of the world she created, Rummel read this in his narrative voice, and not in the character’s voice. It really doesn’t change much for the performance, just a little personal quibble of mine that most readers probably wouldn’t even notice. The Becoming: Ground Zero is a wonderful expansion of Meigs world, expertly delivered by Christian Rummel.
I am really, really upset with Audible for what they did with this audiobook. There really isn’t any excuse for it. For a company who is the leading distributor of audiobooks, and one of the major producers of audiobooks, a mistake in casting this bad should never be made. The book is told from the perspective of a woman, with many strong female characters, and the main antagonist are also female, yet, the narrator is a male. Not just a male, but a male with a pretty deep baritone voice. I can not tell you how many times in this 6 hour production that I had to remind myself that the narrative voice should be female. The funny thing is, when the book originally started, I thought that perhaps the Hardeman’s were a homosexual couple, until I found out that our perspective character’s name was Lucinda. Now, Dennis Holland isn’t a bad narrator. He did a great job giving the book a Texas feel, but it was a male Texas feel. Having a male narrator was simply asinine. There are so many great female narrators that could have taken on this role, Xe Sands, Cassandra Campbell, Khristine Hvam… Hell, Tai Sammons would have been brilliant here. It angers me to no end how simply wrong and lazy this casting was. It would have been like casting Tom Arnold to star in Pretty Women, or to have Carrot Top star in a Malcolm X biopic, or cast Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher… oh, wait… So, yes. WRONG. I just wonder if anyone at Audible actually read the novel. Harrumph…
Find the full review at my blog, The Guilded Earlobe:
It’s no secret that I am a fan of MacLeod Andrew’s work as a narrator. One thing I love about his work is his voice isn’t the typical narrator voice. It’s not a deep, booming testosterone rich bass voice, nor is it a silky smooth tenor. Andrew’s voice is full of gravel and grit, and he manages to take his voice and make it suit the text he is reading just right. Here, Andrews brings the story alive, able to take on a cast full of international accents as well and otherworldly beings. Andrews manages to bring a true authenticity to his characters whether they are a Slavic priest, or a denizen of the deepest pits of hell. Andrews moves the plot along well with his crisp pacing that smoothed out any of the roughness of the story. His pacing is fast enough to create tension, while not so fast that it muddles the action. The true highlight for me was Andrews handling of heaven and hell, managing to make Angels sound Angelic while making the demons totally creepy. Really, it was a lot of fun taking a journey like this with a talented narrator.
Read the full review at my blog The Guilded Earlobe:
I have become quite a big fan of Ray Porter’s narration style, and his rich voice. Porter is one of my favorite first person narrators. He understands that speech isn’t always fluid and flawless, but includes affectations, and inconstant pacing. Porter can do more with a pause and a sigh, than many narrators can do with poetry. Yet, this was the first time I have listened to Porter read a novel written in the third person. I wondered if his style would be as good of a fit with this type of tale as it is with his first person narration. Thankfully, I can report that it totally was. Porter perfectly captures all of Clines strange collection of characters. It was interesting to see Porter, who I know best as the voice of Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger, bring to life a character that is basically soft spoken and unsure of himself. Yet, Porter does more than capture the main character Nate well, but allows the soft voice he creates for him to grow stronger as the book moves on, highlighting the transformation of the character. One of Porter’s other strong suits is voicing exotic women, and that serves him well with the lead female character Veek. In fact, each character is given a voice that highlights their personalities and place in this story, which was very helpful with such a large cast of important characters. And I can’t talk about the ending. Really, what Porter does with the final third of the book is just nightmare inducing. It seriously freaked me out, people. Peter Clines novels are always highly visual, with intricately detailed action that comes across splendidly in audio. 14 is one of those books where even if you already read the print version, experiencing the audio version will bring it own rewards.
Find the full review of this title at my blog: The Guilded Earlobe.
Then Came War is one of the first independently produced audiobooks I have listened to. Honestly, as someone who listens as much as I do, I can be quite demanding of a narrator. While narrator Andrew B. Wehrlen’s performance wasn’t great, it also wasn’t bad. I had a few technical issues overall. While his pacing was often quite good, sometimes he seemed to get a bit rushed, leading to some awkward pauses and rough transitions. His characterizations weren’t as sharp and defined as they could be, particularly early in the novel, but as the novel progressed he got a hold of most of the characters and started to do some pretty strong work. I would have liked him to provide a bit more flavor to some of the characters, giving them stronger accents and more distinctive vocal styles. About halfway through this novel, I feel he really began to get into the flow of things. His pacing definitely improved, and he gave some strong performances, especially with Judith, the older Jewish women. Wehrlen has a strong, pleasant voice, and does a good job keeping the listener in the story. In the end, I feel Wehrlen does the story justice, bringing Druga’s world to life, and introducing the world to some wonderful characters. I will have no qualms about listening to another audiobook performed by Wehrlen, and definitely plan on checking out more of Druga’s work in audio.
Since the dead began to rise, not much has changed in Cyrus V. Sinclair’s life beyond the fact that he doesn’t have to go to work anymore. Cyrus was expecting some sort of apocalypse to come in his lifetime and was prepared for it. Now he sits in his fortified apartment, watching the undead take over his city as if it was some sort of movie. Yet, when forced to save the life of a young girl, Cyrus must reevaluate his decision to ride out the apocalypse in his apartment, and heads out into a changed and brutal world. The Undead Situation really doesn’t add much new to the zombie apocalypse genre. Knapp’s zombies are basically Romero style, and the assortment of Survivors that pepper the land fall into your typical apocalyptic types. Yet, where Knapp excels is her ability to filter stereotypical apocalyptic scenarios through the eyes of a couple of incredibly unique characters. Her characters are not especially likable, and only heroic if it serves their purpose, but they are immensely compelling. Cyrus reminded me a lot of the Heather’s character JD in the early stages of the novel, but just when you feel you are truly beginning to understand him, something changes. As a narrator, Cyrus is highly unreliable, his inner dialogues capable of suddenly revealing a side of himself that even he hadn’t realized was there. Yet, The Undead Situation isn’t just a character study, it’s full of a lot of fun action that any zombie fiction fan will enjoy. The Undead Situation will please fans of classic zombie tales with familiar apocalyptic situations, but will also offer something for those looking for a twist to their zombie lore by allowing the reader to view those situations through the skewed eyes of her main character.
I think a big reason I associated Cyrus with JD from Heathers was based on the narration of Kevin T. Collins. It almost seemed as if his was channeling the voice and cadence of Christian Slater, giving it a bit of a twist, and presenting it as the voice of Cyrus and for me this tactic, if intentional, was brilliantly done. Collins does what first person narrators should do by creating a voice appropriate for his character and maintaining it throughout the reading. Collins also handled the many peripheral characters well, both male and female. The Undead Situation works very well as an audiobook, and was one of the bigger surprises for me in Audible’s zombie celebration. Luckily, Knapp has set up the novel for an obvious sequel, and I will be looking for it with great anticipation.
In the small town of Pastor’s Bay, a 14 year old girl has gone missing. Randall Haight, an unassuming local accountant, has a secret. A secret that may lead to him becoming not only a suspect, but a pariah in the small community. To make matters worst, someone knows Haight has a secret, and through a series of anonymous letters, may be willing to use that information to harm him. So, Haight’s lawyer brings in Private Investigator Charlie Parkers, to discover the identity of the would-be blackmailers. Thus begins another complex mystery, the kind that Connolly does so well. Connolly’s Charlie Parker series is a brilliant mix of modern detective tale with a simmering undercurrent of the supernatural. In The Burning Soul, Connolly again finds the right balance, allowing Parker to work the mystery in a straight manner, yet still feel the added levels that the case brings. I have always loved the balance Connolly brings. He never uses the supernatural elements as an easy out. Parker never solves his mysteries by tapping into the spirit world, but through his own bullheaded, straightforward detective work. The central mystery, the disappearance of 14 year old girl, brings with it a wild mix of local Police, FBI, mobsters and lowlifes, and Connolly deftly maneuvers the reader through the intricate plot full of twists, without ever leaving the readers behind. If I had any complaints about The Burning Soul it would be that the peripheral characters of the series, like Louis and Angel, and the Fulci brothers only have minor roles here. Yet, aside from that small complaint, Connolly latest Charlie Parker novel is a winner, with a solid contained plot that will please new readers, yet with enough nods to Parker’s past to keep fans of the series happy.
The audio production was another story. The Burning Soul was read by two narrators, George Guidall who handles the third person POV’s and Tony Ward, who read Charlie Parker’s first person perspective. I found this handling of the story strange, but tolerable. I have never been a huge fan of George Guidall’s voice. I find it too old sounding and gruff, but he’s a professional and handles his material fine. He really doesn’t do much to bring the story to life, just reads it in a workman-like manner. Tony Ward’s reading was rough. There was just something off about it. It sort of reminded me of when the audio is just slightly off on a DVD, and it just feels wrong. Ward’s reading seemed to have strange slurred quality, as if you were talking to a person with a bit of a beer buzz. He rarely changed tones when reading dialogue, having Haight’s female attorney sound quite similar Charlie Parker himself. Despite the fact that the action takes place in New England, not a single authentic New England accent could be found in the production. If it wasn’t for the fact that Connolly’s story was so engaging and that I had to know the outcome of the mystery, I may have given up on this production based on the strange, uneven narration. Yet, Connolly’s story did suck me in, enough so that I was able to put my issues with the audio production aside and just enjoy the tale I was being told.
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