Whittier, CA | Member Since 2010
If you're looking for a breezy, punch-a-monster-in-the-face urban fantasy, step right up to the Marla Mason series and "Dead Reign."
This time out, Marla has to go head-to-head with Death. This creates all kinds of problems for her (naturally!) and one of the great pleasures of this outing is that Marla really gets pushed out of her comfort zone, both figuratively and literally. (And...into hell.) It's also feels like the most ensemble pieces of the story this far out. Rondeau, in particular, really gets to step into the limelight, and it's a lot of fun to watch.
Jessica Almasy's reading is such a blast. Her reading of the characters is superb and consistent, and her delivery can be both nail-biting and laugh out loud hysterical. Her mummified zombie John Wilkes Booth is a nice spin on Southern Charm, Rondeau is tough yet heartbreaking, and - as usual - she's pitch perfect as Marla. I've enjoyed her readings so much, I'm tempted to go back and listen to the books in this series that I'd already read.
I don't think you really need to have listened to the other books prior to this one, though it certainly wouldn't hurt (and really: Bone Shop is soooooooooo much fun).
All around, a great way to spend a couple of days listening.
The priests have spiders in their blood.
They worship a goddess that has spend centuries in hiding, “a spider” who blesses them with the power to divine whether or not someone is lying, as well as the ability to speak truth. When you hear them, you believe – despite the circumstances, or whether you have evidence to the contrary, you believe. And so what the priests say comes to pass. They are prophets, and they’re creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Probably.
“Probably” is what’s important. Because what the priests are speaking isn’t actually the truth. It’s a belief made of sincerity, certainty, and absolute conviction. Even if it’s wrong.
If you haven’t checked out Daniel Abraham’s The Dagger and the Coin series, you need to do that ASAP, starting with The Dragon’s Path. It’s epic fantasy, and it does what it says on the tin – it’s full of all the stuff we love about epic fantasy – an incredible cast of characters, magic (albeit a very subtle magic), fantastical creatures, adventure, romance, and most surprisingly – banking. And yet, it grapples with big ideas like forced belief and fundamentalism.
If you’re looking for B&B (Battles & Badasses), there’s some of that but the books are generally more subtle, and instead focus on what’s really special about this series: the characters. Whether it’s ex-soldiers Marcus and Yardem waxing philosophical and theological while collecting a debt (like shades of Jules and Vincent from Pulp Fiction) or banking ingenue Cithrin meeting up with her old friends from an acting troupe, the characters feel like friends you haven’t seen in years, but when you reunite with them, it’s like no times gone by.
Not all of them are heroic – some are monstrous, whether in actions or philosophy, but Abraham doesn’t let us forget they’re humans too, and gets us to empathize with them far easier than we should. Dawson Kalliam’s class-warfare attitudes are despicable, yet the genuine affection he showers on his wife and children is endearing. Geder Palliako was bullied before his unpredictable rise to power, and so when he uses his newly gained positions to keep people from lying ot his face and taking advantage of him, we understand, despite his awful and barbaric actions.
The Dagger and the Coin is one of the best kept secrets in epic fantasy. Unfortunately, the audiobooks aren’t released until about 9 months or so after the print and eBooks come out (which seems to happen as often as not for Recorded Books)…or maybe that’s a good thing? Like The Dragon’s Path, I ended up reading this book, and then listening to it once the audio came out, right in time for The Tyrant’s Law (3 of this 5 book series). There are two reasons for this: 1) Daniel Abraham’s series is just that good (I expect to revisit these books and characters many, many more times, and 2) Pete Bradbury’s narration gives an added gravity to the story that’s phenomenal. Daniel Abraham was born to write SF/F, and Pete Bradbury was born to narrate it.
Let the countdown to The Tyrant’s Law audiobook commence!
Have you ever felt like the best parts of your life might get left on the cutting room floor?
Owen King's Double Feature is a modern-day coming of age story - one win which the characters only figure out how to redeem the errors of their youth as adults. It's the funniest thing I've listened to in a long time, and while it might attempt answering some of life's harder questions a little too pat at times, I still found it genuinely moving.
Sam Dolan, estranged son of B-movie maestro Booth Dolan, is a student filmmaker intent on making a great movie, and is willing to do whatever it takes to create the best art he can. That might sound like the beginning of a great horror movie itself, but this is not that book. He's egotistical and full of youthful arrogance, but you kind of can't help love him. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't quite turn out the way Sam hoped it would, and he's left disillusioned. Fast forward several years into the future, and Sam's disillusionment has earned him a career as a wedding videographer, a job he loathes. He doesn't dream of being a filmmaker anymore - he doesn't really dream of being anything - and his film has become a cult hit that's the 21st century cross between an Ed Wood and David Lynch mash-up. But circumstances occur, and this second act of Sm's life, he is given the chance to repair the relationships and dreams he sacrificed as a young man, and maybe, just maybe - come out of it changed, and better. It's not a huge set-up, but I give King a lot of credit - this could've very easily have been one of those books where a father and son finally reunite at the end of one of their lives...but this isn't that book, either. The relationship between Sam's dad Booth and Sam is at the center of this story, and it's not only hysterical, but full of heart.
Booth, for his part, is something of a failure as a father. He lied to his son and wasn't there for him, cheated on his wife and sacrificed his marriage. He's a cult actor and director who believes character can be defined by the simple addition of a prosthetic nose. And by the end of the book, he just might convince us of the same thing.
There were some small issues I had with the book. Many of the supporting characters don't feel as complete or as interesting as the leads. I'm never quite sure why one of the characters falls for Sam, and is so accepting and understanding of some of his foolishness. (Though to be fair, it's startling how accepting I was of him too.) Additionally, Sam's best friend is absent for half the book, and his goofy Assistant Director is absent for the other. There characters fulfill their roles in Sam's story, but if they have their own stories, they seem less aware of them. Still, it's easy to forgive for a book that is generally so endearing and entertaining.
Holter Graham's reading is part of why this is all so much fun. He gives the characters a sense of humanity, which is a big accomplishment because when we meet a lot of them, they seem like really awful, petty people. But the way he acharacterizes both Booth and veteran character actor Rick Savini are so much fun, you want to grab a bucket of buttery popcorn and just listen ot him read them over and over again. Graham can go from funny to sexy to touching all in the space of a few sentences, much like King's story itself.
All in all, this is a very welcome debut from Owen King. It made me laugh lots, it got me choked up, and then it made me laugh again. It made me want to make sure that the best parts of my life aren't left on the cutting room floor, and that I make them count. All in all, that's a pretty good book.
Originally published at the AudioBookaneers
This one has almost everything you can hope for with regards to a finale. Bar fight! Ambushes! Escapes! Flirtations! Old friends! First Cousins! Unitards! Sacrifices! I enjoyed it, but half way through things get as intense as you could hope for.
Don't be fooled by the Final Episode tags - this is really more like a season finale, and there will be more. That said, I am disappointed with some of the revelations - or more accurately, the lack thereof. There's one Scalzi's been stringing along since the very first episode, and it's a bit frustrating to still know very little about it.
Dufris's narration, as usual, was excellent. He provided levity when necessary, and expertly helped ratchet up the tension.
All-in-all, it was a fun way to spend Tuesdays, so I'm glad the ride doesn't quite end here, and look forward to more adventures with the B-Team.
If you've been keeping an eye on this series, but haven't been sure whether to give it a shot or not, this is the episode for you. It's under an hour long, filled with fun SF stuff, humor, dog-eating alien plants (relax, it's totally fine), and completely self-contained, and as entertaining as you'd expect from Scalzi.
I personally found it to be the right balance of ridiculous SF fun at the ideal length. For less than a dollar, it's hard to beat.
Another episode away from the B-Team, but by the end, I was okay with it. This story focuses on Hafte Sorvalh of the Conclave, and it was fun to see her shine - particularly when she heads to the racist wildcat colony and explodes goats. I'd buy her a churro too.
William Dufris must've had fun with this one, reading aliens and doing crazy racist bits. I think this episode was one I wouldn't have enjoyed as much if I had read, so hat's off again to Dufris!
This week's episode of the Human Division is pretty standard. We get into Captain Colonna's head, which is nice, and we catch back up with Harry Wilson (who apparently is no longer a hostage). There's possible sabotage, and a set-up, and funny baseball stuff. It felt pretty standard to me this time...the way sometimes TV shows can when they're in the middle of the season. It was a fun little ride, but it couldn't really compete with the last two episodes.
I know Scalzi can bring the funny, but wasn't really expecting it in an Old Man's War book. He certainly delivered it with this episode of the Human Division, though, and William Dufris channeled it perfectly. It was nice to see Dufris get to read something darkly comical this time out. I was cracking up on my commute, and it was a very nice way to start my day.
Not sure it's my favorite of the Human Division episodes thus far (that might be We Only Need the Heads), but it was a great performance, and a refreshing change of pace for this very good series.
Imagine if J.K. Rowling had decided to do a Ministry of Magic novel and you’ve basically got the set-up for The Rook.
The Rook has a little bit of everything in it: It’s as if O’Malley took some of the best (and worst) tropes from the last 20 years of genre fiction, tossed them into a blender with his own special ingredients, and served up a tasty little cocktail with fruit and an umbrella. It starts off a bit like the Bourne Identity, with Myfanwy – an amnesiac protagonist – who can do brutal, dangerous, and mysterious things. But instead of going on the run, she goes into the office to figure out who set her up. I don’t know if I completely buy that either, but it leads to dangers like possessed houses, sexy vampires, monsters, dragons, and office Christmas parties that O’Malley would’ve been hard-pressed to write about any other way. In general, the results are a lot of fun, and best of all, it’s actually funny.
I didn’t completely love it – the sudden additions of New Cool Magical Thing from chapter to chapter made it feel as if O’Malley was making it up as he was going along – not that there’s anything wrong with that; it just didn’t feel completely united or streamlined in the final analysis. The reveal of who wiped out Myfanwy’s memories, for example, doesn’t feel as planned out as it could as it could’ve been. Additionally, the Checquy, the secret covert organization Myfanwy works for, felt far more morally questionable than either Myfanwy or O’Malley acknowledge.
These are minor quibbles in what was a generally pleasant listen, though. And something O’Malley does really well is use the dual narratives to worldbuild and infodump in a glorious way – the Rook formerly known as Myfanwy has written a notebook to her future amnesiac self about the world she’ll soon be immersed in. It’s a neat trick, and the way the story alternates between the two narratives is a lot of fun.
What I can’t nitpick is Susan Duerden’s fantastic reading. The banter between the characters is delivered with so much fun, I could listen to a whole book featuring Myfanwy and her American counterpart.
I hope O’Malley writes more books in this series, and that some of them involve the POV of non-magical characters connected to the Checquy.
Robert Jackson Bennett's the Troupe is my favorite new audiobook of the year. It called to mind Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, along with Ray Bradbury, and a dash of Stephen King.
Bennett recreates Vaudeville, and imbues it with a sense of magic that feels both historical and fantastical. Here’s some more about the plot: George, a teenage pianist, has been on the Vaudeville circuit for six months searching for his father’s troupe. All he wants is his father’s acceptance, but when he tracks down the players and begins to unravel the secrets Silenus and his companions carry, he’s plunged into a world of danger and magic beyond his wildest dreams. Because Silenus’s shows seem to have an effect on the very world itself, and there are other entities who’d like to bring down the curtain on it once and for all.
All the different members of the troupe are fully fleshed out, and all deliciously complicated. We meet Franny, the strongwoman; Collette, the beautiful singer and dancer; Kingsley, a bizarre puppeteer; and Stanley – Silenus’s mute right hand-man. Finally, there’s Silenus himself – a master showman who claims he’s been alive for centuries. They all have secrets of their own, as well as ambitions, and it’s a delight to spend time with them on the road, and to be surprised by their startling revelations. Knowing what I know now, I can’t wait to go back to it and watch their secrets and twists unfold all over again.
Luis Moreno does a magnificent job of bringing Bennett’s characters to life. I hadn’t heard him read before, and he delivers a subtle reading that manages to give Silenus’s voice a sense of charismatic showmanship, while making George’s a naive, sometimes arrogant teenager, and hits the right notes for all the characters in between. There were a few times in the production where odd pauses fell unexpectedly into the story, which was a little jarring – I’d occasionally look at my iPod to see if it had stopped playing. But all in all, Moreno’s reading is a real treat, and only adds more charm to this already fantastic and riveting story.
The Troupe is a must-listen, a book that will charm, thrill, and give you chills and once it wraps up, you’ll want to do the whole thing all over again.
Originally posted at the AudioBookaneers
There’s an argument these days that the “punk” in steampunk is really superfluous – that generally, the genre isn’t punk at all. It's not attempting to rebel against anything. Instead, we get comfortable (often fun) stories dressed up in Victorian clothes. As Cherie Priest succinctly put it, “Steampunk is fun with hats.”
For those of us looking for steampunk with a little more edge and cynicism, steampunk that doesn’t just glorify the fashions or monarchies of the past, we have Robert Jackson Bennett’s The Company Man. Granted, its set a bit later than steampunk usually is, but its façade contains that shiny, retro golden age of science fiction - only with sensibilities and characters that would be at home in Gibson’s Neuromancer.
In the early 1900s, the city of Evesden, Washington has almost become a small country. Thanks to the McNaughton Corporation, electrical cars zip across the street, airships line the sky, and World War I was averted (or at least, with little American casualties and involvement). Of course, other world powers are eager to see what makes McNaughton's inventions tick, and so company security agents are hired with the explicit purpose of keeping the company’s assets and investments secrets, at home and abroad. But when a trolley car pulls into the station filled with dead union workers, the tensions between the union and the company bosses becomes more fraught and dangerous than ever.
Cyril Hayes, the titular company man, hears voices in his head. He’s not quite telepathic, in that people’s minds are not an open book to him, but given the right proximity, he’s granted certain insights into their thoughts. As a result, he doesn't like other people in general, and avoids crowds. Due to some sabotage, McNaughton assigns Samantha Fairbanks to keep Hayes off the booze and drugs that help him get by, and assist him in a number of investigations. As the mysteries pile up, we follow Hayes and Fairbanks through the slums of this supposedly golden city, down into the mysterious, vast tunnels that connect to underground factories, and possibly elsewhere, in a timely noir of corporations and the working man.
In the end, The Company Man really earned my admiration, which was difficult, because it took me a lot longer to get invested in the story and characters than I would’ve liked (at least 3 hours). Hayes is not the most sympathetic character (which is definitely not a crime in my book), but initially I didn't find him all that interesting. That the mysteries he’s investigating at the beginning – a murder and possible union saboteurs – seemed to drag on without much tension probably didn't help. But around the time the grisly trolley car is discovered, it became incredibly compelling. Bennett kept me guessing like a happy X-Files fan about who was conspiring with who, and even what the conspiracy was. Best of all, the revelation of what happened on that macabre trolley ride surprised me, and I found the humanity Bennett gave those events and characters, as well as the closing of the story, genuinely moving.
Richard Poe gives the book a solid, straightforward narration. There’s not a lot of theatrics here, and I think given the tone of the story, it works well. Though it's took me a little while to get into, I think The Company Man is a book that's going to linger with me for some time.
Originally posted at the AudioBookaneers
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