ZF5 contains several flashbacks of IMMENSE length, showing Michael & his Good Buddy Joel and the Good Times they had. Maybe it's just me, but I found these interludes excruciating: long, long, lonnnggg tales of drunk, stoner pranks and partying. I found myself wondering how good friends they'd be if they actually remembered half of what they did.
Most of what goes for the rest of the Zombie Fallout series goes for #5 as well: 2-D characters, repetitious occurrences, supposedly experienced (by book 5) survivors making stupid mistakes, going off alone (AFTER having a discussion about how stupid horror movie characters are to get separated)...As the series went along, I got the distinct impression that Tufo was taking one or two books & s-s-t-r-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g them out to maximise his bucks for [lack of] our bang. With me, that strategy boomeranged; I won't be wasting my money on him again. Whatever he's gotten from me is already too much.
Michael, the wise-cracking, snarky hero. But, he's considerably over the top with the snarky cracks and deficient in the wise.
Tracy, the wife, who mainly is Mondo Witch (she seems serious when, in ZF1, she's ticked off at Michael because he's ruining the resale value of their house as he's trying to zombie-proof it). Occasionally she slips into icky-sweet "Oh darling, I love you forever and ever and ever and I'm always behind you etc etc etc" gag.
BT: the Big Black Dude Sidekick. I actually liked BT, and really, really wished he was given something interesting to do in addition to just being the BBDS. (Interestingly, he seems to be the only African American to survive the apocalypse in any of the books. Hispanics do only slightly better, with one small family. Asians & other groups apparently are right out). BT had no existence & evidently no interests whatsoever outside Michael & his little group.
Henry the dog: He farts. He sleeps. That's basically it. We get lots of paeans to bulldogs & how wonderful they are but no evidence to support this claim. (Hey, now I'm just DYING to get a dog who does nothing but release toxic farts & sleep!!). On more than one occasion Michael has to carry the dog -not up ladders, but just across flat terrain. I wondered if the dog was ancient, but nothing about that was said. Bulldogs are too lazy to walk?! This is news to me.
Basically, I can see someone who really gets off on say, Adam Sandler movies or TV shows like "Workaholics" really liking this series. Unfortunately, I loathe both and wish I'd stopped at ZF1. Why did I keep listening to them? Partly because good zombie/horror books are fairly thin upon the ground & some tiny hopeful part of me kept hoping Tufo would improve (plus, there was a sort of horrified fascination in seeing what words he'd mangle next -see below), partly because I'm laid up a lot & even irritating boredom gives some distraction from pain at times.
I can't decide whether I'm more depressed or alarmed by all the 5 star, frothingly enthusiastic reviews here.
And now, a side issue with writing style/vocabulary: what IS it with Tufo & words?! And has an editor ever looked at his manuscripts, an editor with a good vocabulary that is; as in someone who not only knows big words, but knows the actual MEANINGS of the big words? Tufo or whomever (both?) continually, repeatedly, come up with words that sound close to what they actually mean but really aren't at all correct. This drives me crazy enough in an audiobook; in print my head would explode.
Bizarrely enough, Tufo actually used "clowder" correctly in ZF5 (the actual term for a group of cats, like "murder" is the delightful term for a group of crows. But almost nobody knows "clowder"). Yet Tufo comes out with "sometimes fate "intercedes" (mediates, or interposes on behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble) instead of "intervenes" (gets in the way) -fate intervenes, it never, ever intercedes...that's what novenas are for.
As always, people nod their heads "in ascension" ("climb, soar, or rise") instead of (presumably) "in assent" (agreement). This nodding in ascension business goes on repeatedly in every ZF book. Maybe when Tufo's people nod, their heads go down, then up, up, and away.
In ZF3.5 the scientist speaks of identifying something to "species and genome" (genus). In another (I lost track of book #s) someone takes a "controlling" breath before they shoot a gun...perhaps if they took a powerful enough controlling breath they wouldn't have to take a controlled breath in order to accurately shoot. Elsewhere more party crashers arrive than are "interested," not "anticipated." (In my experience people who throw parties --whether pleasant ones, or when the term is used ironically, they aren't interested in any crashers.)
I have many other examples, but unfortunately jotted them down while listening to the books at night by the light of my ipod, & I can't suss them out. However, there are a very many examples of this kind of demi-illiteracy in all 6 of the Zombie Fallout books, and it is maddening. I have no delusions of being omniscient when it comes to vocabulary but that's why God made dictionaries: LOOK IT UP, for zombie's sake!!
One final note on ZF5
*SPOILER ALERT!**SPOILER ALERT!**SPOILER ALERT!**SPOILER ALERT!**SPOILER ALERT!**SPOILER ALERT!**SPOILER ALERT!**SPOILER ALERT!*
I mean it, I'm about to reveal something about the end. Stop reading NOW if you don't want to know about an end part.
And then there's Joel. I think I was supposed to feel fond of the schlub, particularly since Tufo kept him around a while despite his being woefully incapable....I mean, it's sort of surprising he managed to make it to the grocery store & back even before the apocalypse. The way the guy is taken out is just gratuitously horrible even for someone in a zombie apocalypse. I found it a bit startling, as if Tufo was nursing some deep personal hatred for the mope (and for cats) & was as vicious as possible to them. That was actually the most disturbing part of the whole series for me. I mean, gruesome killings are all very fine in a zombie book --heck, they're required-- but sheesh....
This is my first time with both Alexiades & Holland, so I tried to keep an open mind. My first reaction to the reader was that he was somewhat amateurish, either over- or under-doing emphasis & characterization, but I got used to him within the first hour or so & after that he didn't really improve or detract from the story.
As for the book itself....it's got some good points; some of the characters are fairly 3-D, with enough complexity & backstory to seem realistic. Luckily, the main character is one of those. I found the evil bad guy to be a bit flat....I never did really 'get into' him or grow to hate or like him. Why he did the horrible things he did (not going to go into it in detail lest I spoil things) wasn't terribly believable for me. I'm extremely flexible as far as suspending disbelief goes, and will ride along with all sorts of wild, supernatural/unnatural/extrasensory/alien stuff if the author provides any sort of quasi-realistic framework for it. This didn't really fly for me, though I'm not certain whether that was a fault in the book or because I had trouble keeping my attention focused...which could indicate a different type of problem with the book. I never did get a sense of how/where he lived, & again I'm not sure whether it was a lack in writing or just failure to keep my attention.
The way the book is structured --jumping between different characters-- occasionally was confusing until I managed to keep them all straight.
The worst part of the book was how many of the women & sexual relationships were presented. I'm the last person to be called a feminist & am tough to offend, but most of the females were portrayed as if written by a hormonally hopped-up 14-year-old boy. Must be something in the water in that hospital; the women are nearly all nymphomaniacs. It got tedious & ludicrous, like the author was practicing his submissions to Penthouse Forum.
Other than that ridiculousness, the book was an okay thriller/scary book. Sort of. I'd be happier if it'd been one of those 4.95 books, though.
I suppose it could be said that I'm biased....I've been a Stephen King fan for decades, and as for Grover Gardner, I have a hard time listening to audiobooks by other readers, because his combination of terrific voice, excellent pacing, and outstanding characterization make him hard to equal. I didn't know, before this outing, that GG had a truly goosebump-inducing evil chuckle tucked behind his larynx, but he sho' does! When Flagg gave an evil chuckle, the sun seemed to dim.
So I'm inclined to say it doesn't get much better than this; one of King's finest books read by one of the world's best readers. Audiobook producers so often screw up good books by having them performed by incredibly lousy readers; I'm SO glad they got this one 100% right!!
i seem to be in the minority here, but I thought this book was so stupid I couldn't stand to finish it, despite the fact that Grover Gardner is one of my all-time fave readers (& he did his usual outstanding job).
Perhaps some of the problem is from translation; I cannot 'stay in' a book set in the 1600s where a character uses "Whatever" in the sense that modern-day teens use it --as in, indicating indifference to anther's statement, for example. There were a few other examples of modern idiom, and a lot of just really hideous dialogue.
Another problem, not translational: the enormous contrast between the anachronistically enlightened/aware hangman & the other superstitious/ignorant villagers was just ridiculous; the hangman not only recognizes that need for cleaning wounds several centuries before anyone else, he realizes all this witch (& much other) stuff is mere ignorant superstition, & to round it out he beats Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock by centuries in his sleuthing. He's way too over the top brilliant & aware.
btw, for those who have trouble reconciling how the kindly healer can also be hangman & torturer, we see in the very first paragraph that the protagonist is himself 'tortured' by what he has to do; we see him getting drunk & generally having a nervous breakdown when it comes time for him to do his thing, especially when he thinks the torturee/executionee is undeserving...he also slips the innocent really groovy drugs before going to work on 'em, so they hardly feel a thing. (that's another thing; I could only wish my current medications were 1/10th as effective as some of his herbal remedies...they just ain't that good).
In contrast to the uber-genius hangman, other characters do such incredibly moronic things that I found myself hoping they'd get killed off before they got a chance to breed (or annoy me further). Things like (this is not a spoiler, it's not something that actually happens, but exactly parallel things do). Stuff like:
--characters X & Y are being chased by others, down a box canyon at night. X & Y are sneaking along, then stop in bushes to listen for sounds of pursuit. Suddenly X stands up & yells "HELLOOO!" Y grabs X & hisses "What are you doing?!" X answers, "I wanted to see if the echo works at night."
--X & Y are being pursued another time (still night). X comes up behind Y, puts hand over Y's mouth so Y doesn't scream, whispers in Y's ear "Shh, it's me, don't scream." Y nods. X lets go. Y shouts "Don't put your hand over my mouth, I hate that!!
Like that. Too dumb to live. I got so annoyed by things that that, & by how over-the-top stupid many characters were all around that I managed to stick with the book about 3/4 of the way through, at which time I decided I'd only bother finishing if I thought every character was going to die a horrible death. But since there are further books in the series, clearly some live on. Needless to say, the hangman, his daughter, & the rest of the gang are going to have to do it without me.
I've read a bunch of DP's books, both solo & with L Childs, but this is definitely not one of the winners. I agree with a number of reviewers who said it seems like a YA novel, at least in many parts. None of the characters (including Dorothy, and her little dog [?!] too) seemed particularly believable, & the kiss request was just idiotic & creepy. I found the kid so incredibly obnoxious that I kept fervently hoping he'd get killed off; yes, I know teenagers can be a trial, and he did have tough things to deal with (like the foot thing*), but it is possible to write a problematic character without having him be so loathsome that the reader prays for his death. Of course, the fact that his parents were also utterly intolerable caused me to cut him a teeny bit of slack, but they were another problem. I must say, Preston has a knack for creating characters which I absolutely cannot stand; some of the jerks in this book make me think that he's responsible for certain characters in the books he wrote with Childs...the reporter Smithback in many of the Pendergast books springs to mind...the kid in this one could be his clone in obnoxiousness.
Preston showed a serious lack of imagination with having two different characters bring somebody out of hiding with the exact same trick-- pretending to abuse something the target cared about. I kept waiting for Ford to mention that he'd learned the trick from the first instance, but it was presented like "what a great idea!" --twice.
Overall, the plot was beyond my ability to suspend disbelief. Could a computer program really hide the way Dorothy did at the end? Perhaps I just don't understand the physics of computing well enough, but I didn't buy it, along with quite a few other things. The dialogue was rather doubtful at times, also.
Sowers did a decent job with what he had to work with. At least he didn't do what the guy who read the Dresden Files did on the first book, which was give vent to these humongous sighs at intervals, like reading the book was the worst thing he'd ever had to trudge through (he either got more interested as the books went along, or learned to suffer in silence).
*granted, I know nothing about surfing, but I had real problems with him never being able to surf again because one leg was shorter than the other. What a weenie! People surf without arms, with 1 1/2 legs, with no legs... there's a picture of a guy without arms OR legs riding a board with a girl with one arm, fa cryin' out loud! Okay, they're not shooting the pipe (or whatever it's called) on a monster 40 foot wave, but sheesh!
I've been re-listening to this series of DP & LC's every now & then for several years; they're great brain candy, take my mind off of the trials of life while I'm driving, gardening, whatever. I'd give this 3.5 stars for the story itself, if I could. It's not, IMO, the best of the series. The reasons I downgrade this particular book (all the judgement on this book --& the series-- is based on them being the aforementioned literary equivalent of cerebral gummy bears, not deathless literature):
1. The perfection of both Pendergast & his bro in all their endeavors stretches even my ability & willingness to suspend disbelief past the breaking point. These guys can do anything, be anything, & they know everything. They're masters of everything from hand-to-hand fighting to great literature (papyrus through Romantic poets to modern day), to gourmet food & wine, every science, computer programming, neurosurgery without a scalpel, morse & all other codes....these guys are incredibly proficient at absolutely everything. They can masquerade as someone else so successfully that people who've had close & extended contact with both characters remain totally clueless (despite the fact that another character notices that one of the brothers has an extremely unique 'personal scent', which goes unnoticed by other people who work with him for years & years).
The Superman-like abilities they have with absolutely everything just goes beyond absurd & reaches annoying this time out..
2. Some of the 2nd tier characters are simply loathsome, when (I think) they're supposed to be sympathetic characters. I'm thinking particularly of Bill Smithback here; he's arrogant, egotistical, devious, obnoxious, ethics-free, and a dreadful snob. Every time he appears in the books, since about 1/3 of the way through "Relic," I've been hoping somebody would kill him off & put him out of my misery. Several of the lesser characters, especially the cops/FBI guys, are so revolting & just so utterly, purely, total jerks that it even goes beyond my ability to believe (Capt Waxey [sp?] in the other book, Agt Coffey in this one).
3 This isn't the writers' fault, but this production has these really annoying, random moments of "mood music" that pops up at idiotic times. In several places they'll run up the music & stop the reader for a few moments, then let him continue, with the music playing under the narration. These gaps come right smack in the middle of scenes, not at natural break points. Far from enhancing the scary or thrilling mood, they totally kill it & aggravate the heck out of the listener. The director should quit audiobooks & go work in radio or movies, if what they really want to do is play with music. When they're working with audiobooks they should stick to audiobooks.
Scott Brick does an excellent job with this one. I wasn't wild about him the first time I heard him, but either he's gotten better or I've learned to appreciate him more. I just listened to his reading of "The Passage" (Justin Cronin), & thought he did an outstanding job, even better than any of his renditions of Preston & Child's books.
This is one of those books I'd really like to give 3 1/2 stars. I mostly enjoyed it but while listening, the thought occurred many times that it was a good thing that I'm really "into" the space program, because otherwise I'd probably be bored. The premise is fascinating --guy gets accidentally stranded on Mars, how can he possibly survive until they can come rescue him (IF they can rescue him at all)? But aficionados of Thrillers or Action/Adventure books are likely to be disappointed; there is no "Big Thing" to thrill or provide action. Everything is pretty much within the realm of reality --no aliens, no killer asteroids, no wild action. The thrills & action lie within the realm of the mundane; he puts in an enormous amount of work to survive, have food & oxygen sufficient to last.
So if the basic realities of the space program arent' interesting enough for you, you'll probably be rather bored. If the problems & difficulties inherent in traveling to & surviving in non-Earth & outer space environments fascinate you, you're golden.
The reader did a decent, workmanlike job; not inspired or amazing, but solidly competent.
Overall, I give the book itself a "Meh" & the reading a raspberry for somebody ruining a good reader's performance.
I haven't read anything by Sigler before. I decided to give him a try while reading through a listing of books narrated by one of my fave readers, Phil Gigante. I first heard him reading Joe R Lansdale's Hap & Leonard books, with which he does an absolutely fantastic job. I figured no matter what the book was like, at least the reading would be excellent. HA! I did not count on it being directed by someone who apparently dreams of being a major Foley artist in Hollywood; this reading is utterly ruined (for me at least) by tons of "special effects" which are totally unnecessary; leave Gigante alone & you'll have a great reading. But no. When the 2 main characters use the "2-way" function of their cell phones, you get these ear-splitting beeps & electric tones. When someone is thinking/talking to himself, Gigante sounds like he's being recorded while reading inside one of those old concrete-and-steel, Interstate highway rest stop bathrooms...most of these inner thoughts were so echo-ey & muddled I couldn't understand them at all. Instead of letting the very talented Gigante do different voices for the monsters, they used electronic idiocy which rendered those voices somewhere from annoying to incomprehensible.
And speaking of annoying, there were many aspects of the book itself which I found worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. Worst of all was the protagonist's sidekick/partner, "Pookie," who has to be one of the most irritating characters in modern fiction (& I don't mean just his idiotic nickname). He always talks like some kind of gangsta-wannabe, just overflowing with moronic jokes, sexist & racist remarks, and tons of juvenile humor.
It was not at all clear to me why the beautiful young pathologist (o course) so fervently loves the main character, Brian (even though they've split up, she's still gaga over him). The guy has all the emotional range of a mollusk...no, actually octopi have more. I guess it's supposed to be sort of a Spock/Data thing, where supposedly the woman has a burning desire to "wake up" the emotional stone. Although, both the Vulcan & the android are (to me) more believable love interests.
The main character does gain some emotional activity as the book progresses, but very little of it is positive. I found him fairly unlikeable as a protagonist. I suppose I should put in a *Spoiler ALERT*, as I'm about to say something which occurs late in the book, his feelings upon learning something about his background. Stop here if you don't want to learn something early. *Spoiler ALERT**Spoiler ALERT* I don't understand Brain's reaction to finding out he was adopted, & liked him even less after). He didn't even wait to get the details; even before he talked to his "father" or knew anything at all about the circumstances, he was completely enraged. Why? I realize that learning you're adopted could be a shock, but he's furious to his Dad for "lying" to him even before he learns that he's genetically one of the bad guys. He went from mourning his beloved mother & living & respecting his dear father to despising them before learning anything. Then his putative father explains things & Brian hates them more & disowns them. He never gives either parent the benefit of a doubt even for an instant, which to me is not a sign of a likable or sympathetic character.
I first read "Riverworld" in the 70s, & I remember enjoying it. I didn't enjoy it enough to get all 3 books, though...& after listening to this dog, I wish I'd kept it that way.
We do get (sort of) the main characters from the first 2 books together, which was nice; I missed Burton & his bunch in #2. But for some reason, Farmer decided to intro a brand new main character & couldn't have come up with a more annoying person if he'd studied for years. Jill is one of the more obnoxious characters to appear in fiction in a long time. She's constantly, aggressively on the defensive, knows everybody is out to get her & deny her genius & incredible capabilities, & --best of all-- she has the amazing ability to take ONE LOOK at anyone, determine their gender, race, & time of origin, & immediately she knows EXACTLY what that person thinks about her, about women, & precisely how badly they're going to treat her. And then she condemns them for their egregious bigotry. Um, hypocrite much? She even periodically tells herself that she should quit this, but does she ever actually improve? Take a guess.
Other than the loathsome Jill, & bouncing back & forth between Sam & Burton's groups, with quite a few LOONNNNNG & incredibly boring side lectures on religion, the plot can be summed up fairly briefly:
1. someone wants to build a great big something to get to the source.
2. They toil mightily, get into intrigues & war with the neighbors for the raw materials,
3. They spend all their time in wild angst over who gets to run the thing when it's done.
4. Then they usually lose it.
Repeat, with different or the same people, different or the same great big something.
Unless I dozed off at the end (possible; I had to keep backing up b/c I'd gotten so tired of building, bickering, & bi*ching) we never really get a satisfactory idea of who or what is behind the Riverworld, or why. And by then, I didn't care.
The reader does an okay job; he's not too good with voices, so it wasn't always easy to figure out who was talking if there weren't adequate cues in the text, and I'm not wild about his voice, but he was...acceptable. At least as good as the book itself, which is sorta damning with faint praise. I gave him 1 more star than the book itself because his performance didn't inspire me to want to commit actual violence, unlike the book.
I've been a fan (weak term, actually) of Robert Heinlein for decades. I discovered the readings of Grover Gardner several years ago, & he's tops on my readers list. Put 'em together, what a treat!
I feel somewhat guilty about not giving RAH 5 stars across the board, but truthfully, CotG isn't my favorite Heinlein book. It's just not up there with Stranger in a Strange Land or Time Enough for Love, or even some of the "boys" books (but it's definitely better than some of his last clunkers, like "Friday" which I felt sorta stunk...forgive me, RAH).
Anyway, this is the story of Thorby's sequential life disruptions --from child slave bought by the kindly (& mysterious) "Pop" Baslam the Beggar, to part of the Sisu Trader family, to the brief stint in the galactic military to his final (surprise) return to his "real" identity. Heinlein uses Thorby & his adventures to discourse (at times somewhat excessively) on one of his favorite themes, freedom & its inverse, the loathsome slavery. It's because of the sometimes pedantic tone that I give this 4 stars instead of 5, because the book bogs down a bit occasionally.
But I thought after rereading it for the first time in decades, that it's held up well; Heinlein's visions of star travel seem as likely & vivd now as they did then, & big business & people are every bit as sleazy now as portrayed then...with a few good folks here & there, still trying to fight the good fight. Like a lot of Heinlein, it contains grains of hope toward humanity without ever (ever!) being overly optimistic.
Rich characters and interesting situations --Heinlein gives free rein to his anthropological ideas in this one-- make this a diverting read/listen. And of course, Grover Gardner does it right!
I was quite surprised when I heard, at the end of the book, that the copyright date was 1950. I certainly noticed that some modern tech was lacking --cell phones, for one-- but the book didn't really seem too terribly dated beyond that.
Other than that, I found it a pretty good listen. Though not exactly an 'edge of your seat' page turner, it was nonetheless quite interesting. The characters were well fleshed out & the developing relationship between Bob & the Detective was well portrayed, with Bob being neither too terrified nor too easily accepting of his unexpected internal partner, The Detective was an interesting character as well, also complex enough to seem a real character --despite being considerably advanced in physics & as a symbiote, he (it?) nevertheless makes some mistakes with Bob, thus escaping the "omniscient alien" type that too often appears in SF.
I did get tired of the somewhat pompous tone that appears at times, most notably the various characters who refer to assorted antagonistic entities as "our friend the [whatever]". If the doctor had used the phrase "our friend the plasmodium" one more time I'd have had to do something dire to somebody.
The reader did a solid if unspectacular job.
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