Morrisville, PA, United States
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.
Six days into their mission on Mars, the crew of Ares 3 encounters a storm, forcing them to evacuate the planet, and leaving one astronaut behind, dead when a piece of equipment impales his suit. Except, unbeknownst to his crewmates, Mark Watney isn’t dead… just royally fucked. Left behind on Mars, with no hope to escape, little air, food or supplies, Mark Watney must find a way to survive, reestablish communication with NASA, and not go crazy when his only entertainment is bad 70′s TV, Hercule Poirot novels and Disco. Yep… disco. The Martian was a fantastic read. I mean, really. It was good. I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this gem of a little novel. Told mostly from the first person, it was equal parts hilarious and tense, with Watney’s very survival depending on his ingenuity. Watney is a wonderful character. He balances between sarcastically hilarious, and almost delusional, but very, very engaging. He’s a character you can’t help cheer for. Weir’s humor bordered on heavy handed at times, in a good way. The book has a style like the best comedians, you can see the set up coming from a mile away, yet still glow in the execution of the punch line. Weir also makes science fun. I love that this book is science fiction in the way that it is fiction about science. There’s no aliens or FTL travel, or the like, it’s one man, with limited equipment and plenty of duct tape trying to survive on a planet’s that is dangerous enough without the crimson court trying to kill him. If Weir’s creation of Mark Watney wasn’t enough, he fills in the story with some pretty cool and realistic secondary characters. I also like that nothing in this book goes smoothly. Both Watney and NASA screw things up royally on multiple occasions making them have to adapt, and this adaptation is the driving force of the novel. The plot was filled with creative problem solving that often went like “Your rover only goes 20mph with a 3 hour battery charge, and you need to travel 3000 miles across the face of Mars, well, let’s try this crazy plan. Oops, almost killed myself.” Of course, all the plans culminate is a well orchestrated, death defying, everything going wrong at the same time rescue that if this was a movie would have me jumping out of my chair cheering like a friggin’ moron who things the actors can actually hear him. The Martian is probably my biggest surprise awesome audiobook this year. If you like realistic space travel tales, with cursing, 70′s pop culture references, laugh out loud one lines and plenty of fascinating creative science and engineering problem solving, download this sucker now. It’s really good.
This is my first time listening to RC Bray narrate, and he does one hell of a good job. Bray does what you want from a first person narrator, he totally becomes the character. Bray channels Mark Watney, bringing him alive with all his faults and foibles, delivering his lines with a killer wit and impeccable timing. Bray had me laughing out loud with his delivery of some of Watney’s many one liners, nitpicking Aquaman’s skills or praising the miracle that is duct tape. Except for one strange pronunciation of the acronym “ASCII” he delivered the use of technobabble wonderfully, giving it a rhythmic feel that integrated Watney’s personal dictionary with established technical terms. Bray also handled a diverse cast well, giving them just enough of a little spin to keep them interested. The Martian is an audiobook you should totally listen to. I mean, really. Listen to it. Since the book has been picked up by Random House there is no print version available right now, but the audio is very, very good. If you are in anyway interested in NASA and space travel, and if you are not, I don’t want to know, then really, give this one a go. You are guaranteed 10 hours of good listening.
When a mysterious plague hit the earth, spreading like wildfire through the populace, Walt Lawson is devastated by the loss of his girlfriend. Now, on the verge of suicide, Walt decides to walk from New York City to Los Angeles, the city his actress girlfriend Vanessa dreamed of moving to, fully expecting to die along the way. Meanwhile, in California, Raymond James and his wife Mia, find their financial struggles are over when the majority of the world dies. They set up a haven in an idyllic home on the coast, finding happiness in their simple life. Yet, when the alien mothership appears in the horizon, and the crab like occupants begin killing or rounding up humans, the survivors find a new purpose, fighting the menace that has devastated their planet. Edward W. Robertson’s Breakers is a mish mash of classic Post Apocalyptic tales, blending a world ending pandemic and an alien invasion together to make a novel that fans of the subgenre will delight in. Instead of avoiding seeming like a retread of novels like The Stand and Footfall, Robertson embraces this, as he very well should. The Stand is a great novel which has helped create a generation of Post Apocalyptic fans, and I am often flabbergasted how some authors go out of their way to avoid looking like a copycat of it. I found Robertson’s characterizations very interesting. I started off pretty much hating both Walt and Ray. To me, they seem like two sides of the same loser coin. In many ways they were like mirror images of the other, with Ray being kind but stupid loser and Walt being a manipulative and brash loser. Yet both characters, especially Walt, grew on me. Walt’s slide into self hate may have made him the perfect survivor for the times, and by the time the book hit the alien invasion part, he was responsible for some of the most laugh out loud funny moments, despite his dark personality. The plot and action was fun, bordering on cheesy. While the guerilla tactics to fight the aliens often lacked descriptive depth, the plot moved along quickly and never left you bored. My only major complaint was I would have liked to seen a bit more diversity in the character types and greater depth in the peripheral characters, and since this is the first in a series I expect my wish will come true. The novel built up to a finale that was equal parts “that’s the corniest thing ever” and “holy hell, this is awesome.” If you’re looking for some hoity toity new exploration that defies apocalyptic tropes to create a new approach to the genre, keep looking. But, if you love books that embrace their comparison to The Stand, and love watching humans with nothing left to lose kill alien invaders with laser guns, well, get yourself a copy of Breakers post haste.
In the early part of the novel, I struggled a bit differentiating Walt from Ray. While I liked Ray Chase’s voice, the voices between these two characters were very similar, and caused some early dissonance. Luckily, once things got rolling and the author began to flesh out these characters, and they began to transform into what they would become by the end of the book, this no longer became an issue. Once this issue was resolved I was more than happy to fall into the capable voice of Ray Chase. He has a deep voice, bordering on gruff, but softens it with a rhythmic style that is reminiscent of Scott Brick. His reading style added levels to the prose that I feel elevated it, giving Walt’s journey across a devastated America an almost stream of consciences feel, and Ray and Mia’s time in their dream home an overwhelming sense of contentment. This was my first time listening to Ray Chase, and I really liked him. I think some of the struggles he had with some of the characterizations came more from the fact that some of the characters were a bit cardboard, but he did what he could to bring them to life. When the author gave a character depth, you could feel it in the narrator’s performance. Based on this performance, Ray Chase is a narrator to be on the lookout for. Hopefully, we will see more audio versions of this series, with Chase acting as our guide in the fight against the alien crab things.
If you look closely, on the cover, under the title, is a little hard to see section that says "PART ONE"
So, despite what you may read in the product description, this is not the finale, but half of the finale. I have no idea when part 2 will come out.
The story was good, and the narration solid, but overall I felt the packaging was deceptive and the story incomplete.
On the surface, Bitterwood is a typical fantasy revenge thriller. Bitterwood, the main character, is on a mission to kill all the dragons in the world. The dragons rule the earth, and keep humans as slaves or pets. Plus, they killed his family, so what kind of fantasy character would he be if he didn’t vow to wipe them off the face of the earth. So, for years he carried out his revenge, until, the rumors say, he died with a band of rebels in the Southern Rebellion. Then, years later, during a competition to determine the next heir to the throne, the King’s son is slaughtered, his dead body found riddled with Bitterwood’s signature dragon feathered arrows. That of course, pisses the King off. So, he decides the best way to deal with Bitterwood, and those who harbor him, is to wipe humanity off the map. While many dragons find his genocidal policy abhorrent, few are willing to stand up to the King.
Maxey piles layers and layers on top what seems like a typical fantasy story. He builds one of the most intriguing Post Apocalyptic worlds I have seen in a while, yet, doesn’t dump it all on your head in one big scoop, but doses it out expertly, changing the story both subtly and drastically. By the time you reach the satisfying ending, you aren’t reading the book that you thought you were. One thing that I found intriguing in this book is the dragon’s portrayal. Not being a huge dragon fan, I had no biases or expectations on how dragons should act, yet, if I had to guess, it wouldn’t have been like this. What struck me early was the Anthropomorphism. These dragons displayed some shockingly human traits and emotions that I wasn’t sure how to react. Was this just bad writing? I highly doubted it, being the book was so well written. The dragon characters, no matter how human like, were well developed personas. If fact, their complexity, and political savvy rivaled many of the human characters that show up in the Big Fat Fantasies like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet, as the world became more and more revealed, the dragons become more and more understandable, and by the end, these dragons were exactly what they should be in this tale. Don’t make the mistake of comparing these dragons to what dragons should be. Their character is what is important, not being able to fit them into comfortable stereotypes. Fans of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, and David Gemmell’s Jerusalem man series should cheer this offering by James Maxey. He fills a much needed void in the world of Action Sci/Fi Fantasy.
So, did I love Dave Thompson’s narration with the heartfelt joy of angels and comfy pillows? Well….No. But, I liked it… I swear, I did. There is definitely a rawness to this production, just a touch of a hiss in the background that isn’t super noticeable except for during breaks when it falls away. Yet, I feel this rawness served the story well. What Bitterwood may lack in the polish of a big time studio production, Thompson makes up for his grasp on the story and these characters. He brings all the vast wonderful dragon characters to life in ways I didn’t expect. One of the reasons I feel I enjoyed this story more was Thompson had a gruffness to his voice that gave these dragons a quality that separated them from the human characters, When I read it in print, I sometimes had trouble remembering that these characters were not in fact human, and this was an issue I never had in the audiobook. I liked that Thompson also knew his limitations and stayed true to a minimalistic style. He didn’t try to go all girlish and falsetto for the kids and female characters. In fact, I thought he did an excellent job with Jandra, just softening his voice, allowing us to know it was a women speaking. This method gave her a soft confidence that worked well with her character. Thompson definitely knows how to tell a story, and the finale of this book came alive in all its gruesome detail. Again, I was mesmerized by the ending, both sickened and surprised by what was occurring, often frustrated with the characters while fearing for their safety. All this came across well in the audio version, with nothing feeling rushed. As I said upon finishing this book, Dave didn’t give me ear herpes. Which is a good thing! I am glad to finally get a chance to revisit this novel in audio form, and am quite happy with the production as a whole.
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.
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