Most of us have come to know Mike Talbot and his extended family through the infamous "Zombie Fallout" series. We learn to love his wit, his sarcasm and his amazing strength of character. We also come to understand that Mike Talbot, his family and friends exist across a few parallel universes and time-lines where events happen a little bit differently with each adventure. Mike has grown up in numerous mirror-worlds with terrors and monsters that live under every child's bed or in the back of a closet.
Here's Mike Talbot, read brilliantly by Sean Runnette as a late adolescent living through an insane survival from a tragic accident, growing up, falling in love and discovering a deeper than ever understanding of the kindness of others. It's a full and beautiful life, wonderfully defined by Mark Tufo with all of Mike's fearless and phobic bravado, many of the characters we've come to know and some of the same villains.
Is it scary? Oh yes, absolutely. Is it the same Mike from the Zombie Fallout books? It's always the same Mike but maybe not the EXACT same Mike. Mike Talbot is a traveler across vast ribbons of time and space, but for the fans, Sean Runette IS Mike Talbot. What can you expect? Oh, the usual: ghosts, death, mayhem, life and death battles, amazing feats of bravery with the great tongue-in-cheek suburban humor that we've come to enjoy so much.
It would seem that the "Indian Hill" series and "The Spirit Clearing" adventure are preambles to the fully-formed ex-Marine that Mike Talbot becomes in the Zombie Fallout stories. It's almost a growing-up process in these various incarnations. Either way, it's a must-read. It's sad, fun, terrifying and hilarious and that's why I keep coming back.
Stephen King appears to have mellowed respectably into gentleman's horror fiction writer. That is, as an ardent and steadfast fan, we have seen him apply his demons into his writing from the earliest work. But drugs and alcohol aside, in recent years we've come to know a kinder, gentler and less gruesome Stephen King, and who knows if it was the accident or maybe it's just what happens as we grow older, but the true horror and unbridled terror has been replaced by very respectable time-travel, heartfelt romance and contemporary Americana. Want to read one of the greatest love stories ever written? See: 11-22-63. I'm talking about my favorite writer here. But as others have noted, the hype for REVIVAL as a return to the horror genre was overblown for this book. It just wasn't there. Not really, until the final few chapters. The rest is a chronicle of a young man growing up in the looming shadow of a very sinister and broken pastor. Great build-up, outstanding character development but the real hijinks only happen at the end when the pay-off is mild at best.
I have given this book three stars for an average story by one of America's most brilliant fiction writers. I have given the narration five-stars because I could not give it ten. David Morse is an outstanding actor and King has been amazingly fortunate to have scored this level of talent for REVIVAL. David Morse carries this story with an easy but versatile gift for voices and if you're familiar with his film work, he's the embodiment of cool coded into his DNA. Without Morse, this book may have failed for me. But here's the thing; it was a good, solid story and you just wish for a taste of the old rock and roll. It was weak coffee, Budweiser beer and cold pizza. The tiger is loveable now, his bite may be gone but you still respect the animal because you just never know. Not as bad as listening to Paul McCartney if you used to love his work. But I would love to see this tiger tear me to pieces at least one more time. This is the guy who wrote "The Stand", The Gunslinger Series", "The Shining" and most recently "Full Dark No Stars" which I had to set aside because it was far too scary to read at once.
With deepest affection and regard for Stephen King and his body of work, this was an okay book at best.
I've written a review for each volume in this series and found myself wanting it to be over in the last book. (Volume 4). I've completely changed my mind and say "keep them coming".
Zombie Falllout 5: Alive in a Dead World finds us deep into an ever-evolving story of the Talbot family in a desperately dead landscape of what is only remotely the United States. Go into this book with the understanding that it is, in all respects, the darkest journey to date. Without giving up any spoilers, expect to lose some of the good travelers that have survived with Mike Talbot to date, and some that should have died long ago manage to stick around.
Huge praise again to Sean Runnette for "becoming" Michael Talbot, for bring this alternately bumbling, alternately super-cool father, friend, ex-Marine to life. Mike has endured and survived the most unimaginable horrors and against all odds, remains standing.
Some have indicated disdain for long winded back-stories about Paul and Mike but they are brilliant. The beauty of this series is that it's never been anyone else's vision of zombie genre. It's uniquely different and getting to spend time with Mike Talbot as college prankster extraordinaire or hanging out with him stoned of his mind at a rock concert with his best friends, these are great stories. It pulls you out of the darkness for a while, gives the reader (listener) and chance to breathe and laugh out loud before plunging us back into the gruesome darkness.
Mike Talbot is every man. He's you and I at the shopping mall just days before Christmas. He's germophoboic., he's sarcastic, funny, insecure and deadly courageous. He remains consistent throughout this brilliant series and he's as kind and hilarious to the very end. But at Volume 5, it's still a white-knuckle ride and if Mark Tufo keeps it going at this level of inventiveness, that's fine with me.
I've stayed with the Talbot family and their friends throughout this extraordinary and unique take on the global zombie epidemic. It's nothing short of brilliant and while I thought I'd had enough with this fourth installment, that I could not manage one more family member vomiting, or the family dog farting in a car, or any of Mike Talbot's introspective observations, Mark Tufo delivers yet again. He hits it out of the park one more time. This author sinks his teeth into you and doesn't let go until HE decides that the ride is over. You want to stay, you want to fight and more than anything, you just really want to hang out with this heavily-armed middle-class family. Even so, at book 4, I'm thinking it's time to wrap it up. On the one hand, where else are you going to find a zombie epic as satisfying? But on the other hand, how many books until Dorothy finds her way out of Oz, metaphorically speaking?
A standing ovation to Sean Runnette for being Mike Talbot, and for embodying every quirky family member from wives, to kids, to redneck strangers to the coolest, biggest, black man to ever carry a gun. I recommend this series to the purists and to those willing to travel this authors equivalent to Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series (and by the way, this is a brilliant homage to King all along the way).
Nicely done, brilliantly read.
The Talbot Family continues against all odds and it's full-on war. There's a sinister and unrelenting cruelty that follows this family, as if surviving in a post-apocalyptic zombie driven world were not enough. Mark Tufo retains all the key elements of this nuclear middle-class family on the run with some vital tag-along's armed to the teeth who comprise this inner-circle of survivors. Mike Talbot is holding on as our reluctant wise-cracking hero, the sometimes amazing, sometimes flawed father and ex-Marie war veteran and the chances of living is probably zero. The death, the gore, the guns and absolute horror of it all is turned up all the way. The listener does not get a break because this ride is far from over. The best we can hope for in this saga is brief moments of rest before the shooting starts, the zombies advance and escape is impossible. Sean Runnette continues in a excellent performance and delivers Mike Talbot's humor in the most extreme of circumstances. Were it not for this performance, the books may not have held up through the intensity of three volumes. Be warned: The title is "The End" but it's not by a long-shot. If you like the traditional zombie genre, this is possibly the "Lord of the Rings" epic version across the vastness of the US landscape. I've read numerous, very good zombie genre series but this one is a cut above the rest.
Mark Tuffo advances the misadventures of the Talbot family in the bleakest of worlds, on the run and held together by pure determination. A significant plot-twist with a well-considered paranormal component propels these good people across the heartland of the United States with slow and fast zombies right at their heels. The chase is on with all the gore, the guns and a rag-tag collection of survivors trying to make it to the next day. And once again, it's Mike Talbot who combines the elements of suburban middle-class dad who's greatest concern before the zombies was taking out the trash to reverting to his extraordinary skills as a trained Marine war veteran. Again, great character development for all passengers on this ride. Good people in the darkest sitcom you can ever imagine. It's still very scary, the horror is as real as it gets and Mike Talbot's cynical humor is pure brilliance. Sean Runnette is Mike Talbot and you don't get much better than that in a reader. Stay with the series, it will not let you down.
This book sets the tone for an amazing adventure, something completely new and different in this genre. What's brilliant is that while you get all the prerequisites for a post-apocalyptic world where the dead not-only walk but they are extremely dangerous, you get the guns, the ammo, the desperation and an amazing twist on your average middle-class American family trying to stay alive against all odds. The genius is in the character development of our protagonist as an everyman, an average Joe with a wonderfully cynical sense of humor but with an absolutely unwavering sense of duty to his family. All the characters are well-defined, including the family dog. Mark Tuffo combines the bleak and horrific reality of a hopeless future with a gun-toting ex-Marine dad who can't help being funny when situations are at their most dire. This is the first book of a long, addictive, brilliantly written and masterfully well-read presentation. Sean Runnette reads this like the star of a nightmare sitcom and you just want to hang out with him because he's that cool. Here's the warning: it's going to cost you several books, you won't be able to wait for next month's allocation and you won't stop until they're done. It's one hell of a scary ride and you won't be disappointed.
From a die-hard Stephen King fan, it's a little tricky to call this novel his best work in years. But really, it is. It represents an evolution and maturity for this amazing writer and, while not a complete retreat from the horror genre, it's a scary enough. But if ever there was a chance to really live the fantasy of time-travel into the past, this is the book that will take you there. In the back cupboard of a burger-joint in New England, there's an invisible portal to a summer day in 1958. King takes you there and you live in that time until 1963 and your mission is to stop Oswald in his tracks. But while that's the primary thread, it's hardly the story line. 11-22-63 is one of the most beautiful and affectionate love stories that I have ever read. It is a story of soul-mates in different time lines. It is a tale that suggests an kinder, gentler America where a steak dinner can be bought for a dollar. But the world was always a dark and scary place with madness and evil in the hearts of neighbors and the average man. There is enough murder and terror to satisfy the most ardent Stephen King aficionado but this novel is Stephen King grown-up and telling a deeper, richer story than ever before. The icing on the cake is an amazing, masterful narration by Craig Wasson. Stephen King has had the good fortune of some brilliant readers of his books and Wasson returns in this novel as a talented actor and a wonderful companion for one of King's greatest adventures. (One word to those concerned about Stephen King's politics, and it's a shame that I even feel the need to mention it but we live in complicated and polarized times. While I agree with his political views and believe that politics is a lousy reason to avoid a book, there's absolutely no agenda in 11-22-63, there's no political point-of-view, it's just a darned good book).
Even if Neil Gaiman had not brilliantly narrated yet-another of his stories, Neverwhere would stand as a brilliant, spooky, funny, terrifying and haunting tale of love and adventure in another world within our own. But Gaiman is one author that reads his characters into life with amazing theatrical talent. On any given page, he will deliver a dozen voices in a dozen different English or Scottish regional accents, male and female and he does it flawlessly. As a Gaiman fan, I would rather hear him read his own interpretation of his work to me than read it myself on the printed page. This is where the Audible advantage comes in. For anyone seeking a wild ride in an alternate parallel universe, a fourth-dimension that exists underneath the world we live in with the undead, hired killers with a twisted sense of humor and monsters and heroes and kingdoms and valiant princesses, Neverwhere will not let you down. This is a truly human story, a touching story and a drop-dead brilliant work of writing.
I had approached this book with considerable skepticism given the penchant of ex-mobsters for fabrication and somehow including themselves in numerous historical events. However, as written by a former prosecuter, homicide investigator and Chief Deputy Attorney General, this book provides not only the most plausible version and well-researched facts surrounding the disappearance of James R. Hoffa but also a substantive degree of evidence to support the mob's participation in the assassination of JFK. We are provided a carefully studied historical background into Frank Sheeran's association with the mob, his initiation into becoming a mafia hit-man, his close friendship with Hoffa and ultimately the most reliable evidence today of Hoffa's execution and disposal. The book effectively portrays the near-impossible decision by Frank Sheeran to tell his story, to "clear his conscience" at age 83 about matters that are simply never discussed. And this decision was made only after all other significant participants were dead. Sheeran has no advantage in fabrication. There's nothing in it for him to lie and other famous mob-hits in which he participated are corroborated by FBI evidence or by witnesses. This book only confirms the FBI's most-likely suspicions and it closes the book on wild stories about Giant Stadium and other implausible eventualities for Hoffa. Make no mistake, Frank Sheeran was a cold-blooded murderer but it was always seen as a part of the business of organized crime. He is neither glorified nor vilified. As for the performance, you can't lose with Scott Brick. He is masterful and gripping, one of best readers around.
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