ANAHEIM, CA, United States | Member Since 2008
(Continuing my running editorial from Eps 1-5.)
I'm still hanging on. But I do still miss the character development that a novel has more "room" to do than in a short story serial. This one continues the plot line ("the plot is thickening," as they say) but I find myself not caring as much for some of the characters introduced in this series than I did for those I "grew up" with in the Old Man's War series.
Anyway, I'm invested: On to Episode 7.
Don't hate me, but despite the positive reviews this story seems to have already received from others, for me: it felt like "another" vampire-/witchy-/supernatural-beings infused plot line.
Characters "shift" in/out of dimensions even as they share a common reality with regular folks. And then there's this thing with a stuffed owl, and "the boss"... no spoilers here, but suffice to say: it wasn't working for me.
Had the author given a little backstory that attempted an explanatory spin about how it is these beings/dimensions came to be -- or even how they came to be discovered and accepted by folks living in the regular world (the government licenses supernaturals in this world) -- then m'be it would've gel'd a little better with me. Instead, these issues are treated as a "given" in the storyline. Perhaps it's addressed later in the story, but it wasn't happenin' in the critical first hour... so it lost me.
Okay, so that was one thing.
The other thing that kept taking me out of the story was the narrator's choice to use different voices for the first-person narrative and the protagonist's dialog with others in the story. I mean, imagine the protagonist carrying on a Russian-accented dialog as he converses with others in the story, but then using a U.S. Western accent while narrating his account of that scene to you and me. WTH?
I quickly found myself working too hard to keep track of where the guy was that I was supposed to be following... so I just let him go. :(
The only downside this audio book had for me was the feeling I got on the commute that other drivers were probably looking at me and wondering what it was that had me grinning like an idiot.
The protagonist's sarcastic narrative -- and narrator Dina Pearlman's performance -- were a perfect combo.
Fast paced, great sequences with plausible predicaments and the right spice of biker-chick crassness kept this story moving -- with me alternatingly engrossed and cracking up the whole time.
Okay, let me hit the downside first, then I'll end on the up-
DOWNSIDE: It's yet another zombie apocalypse story. If you've watched, read or listened to "Night of the Living Dead," "Return of the Living Dead," "The Walking Dead," Blah-Blah-of the Dead, then you know the plot here.
At this point it's time for a confession: I'm TIRED of zombie stories. So, why'd I pick this one up? I mean, besides the fact it was promo-ing the first in the series for free? Because, even with a tired old theme as zomb-ocalypse certainly is for me, I still hold out hope for an interesting new twist on the genre. If you even remotely enjoyed "28 Days Later" or "World War Z," then you can appreciate what I mean.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the new twist on the plot that I was looking for... The little twist on the character perspective from book 1 to book 2 was, I thought, a creative angle, but at the end of the day, the larger plot itself was really being driven by more of the same underlying stuff. I guess that's all I have to say about that.
UPSIDE: A.R. Wise's writing style and tone gel'd with me. Narrator Brian Sutherland was great. I'll keep an eye out for new stories from Mr. Wise; given a different genre, I think he could be another fave.
"And that's all I have to say about that."
LOL! I'm writing this immediately after completing the last chapter in this audiobook. What a GREAT ending that promises to create some very compellingly juicy subplots in future episodes. Outstanding!
This has been a consistently great series. Now at Book 8 and the formula that made Books 1 through 7 so compelling continues... it does NOT disappoint. The combination of history, character development, and traditions that consistently evolve on the shoulders of actions in earlier books -- AND a great narrator with broad voice diversity -- makes this series a "must listen."
I tried... It's too bad, really. The story seems compelling. So, I may have to actually READ the Kindle version of this book. Either way, the audio version just wasn't doing it for me. More than the inconsistent audio levels (I had to keep turning the volume up b/c I could barely hear the narrator in parts... then down again when the narrator got loud... then up again when he trailed off...) the fact is, he reminded me too much like Captain James T. Kirk's sing-song lilt. 'Just kept pulling me out of the story. 'Had to return it. :(
I'll let the previous reviews about the narrator's failure to maintain character consistency stand unchallenged; they're right. And, I thank them all because their reviews benefitted me. Since I had read those reviews before downloading Book 4, I was prepared. So the voice changes weren't as jarring for me. In fact, since I was aware they were coming, I waited for them with a bit of comic anticipation.
So that left me to focus on the story… which I have to say was sadly disappointing--perhaps even wasteful--given such little plot progression over the course of 34…slow…hours…of…setting up…new…characters…and…more…of…the…same…heroes quest…stuff.
Over the course of 4 books now, I feel I've been baited with the anticipation of dragons; a looming war with Whites, Wargs, giants and "The Others"; meticulously developed characters sent off on compelling heroes quests; and the promise of pauper-to-king revolutions.
Instead, all we got in this book were more NEW characters to painstakingly develop and set off on yet other quests while previous protagonists are implicitly killed off, allowed to whither away with quests unfulfilled -- or unceremoniously (and I daresay lazily?) dropped from the storyline. Worse, at least one protagonist is clumsily hung over the proverbial cliff in what seemed a weak attempt to build anticipation for Book 5; an ironically pedestrian approach in what has otherwise been an imaginative story.
Add to all this the sense that the author seems biased towards having only the "bad guys" show any consistent progress and you begin to get a feeling that he must be having a hard time figuring out where to take the story from here.
Brainstorm with supporting authors if you must, but It's time to move this story along already.
Unfortunately, as I read ahead to the reviews of Book 5, it seems like there're 49 more hours of what has become the same pedantic slogging.
So, sad to say, I'm done with this series for the time being until I sense a willingness to change the scenery in Book 6 to move this story along already.
Sorta like Sigma Force (ala James Rollins) meets "Walking Dead." I got through it okay but thought that there really wasn't anything new in this storyline.
Though there was lots of dialog, which I like, a lot of it seemed to ooze a bit much with testosterone. It drones a bit much with the "warriors like us" and "nobody who isn't a warrior can understand us..." schtick.
That could've been toned down a bit, or at least balanced with a bit more flippant humor. As it was I think the characters just took themselves too seriously.
The narrator though was excellent. Though a bit lacking in the female voice, he otherwise effectively managed a diverse range of character voices, accents and inflections. Narration was definitely a bright spot.
I stuck with this to the end. Mainly because many other reviews cautioned about needing to do so. I'm glad I did; you should too if you buy this book.
The story was good enough. However, I think my main issue is that I had been first exposed to John Scalzi's work via the Old Man's War series. THAT was a great sci-fi gig with lots of creative science to back up the creative fiction I was asked to consume. And, it was a fun ride.
In Red Shirts, however, I came in expecting one thing, but ended up getting another and felt a bit like all the supporting rationale was conveniently ignored. Add to that the fact that I struggled with narrator Wil Wheaton's performance. No character voice diversity whatsoever: ALL the characters -- male, female, elder, youngers, -- everybody! sounded like Wil Wheaton. So I really felt like I had to work to keep up with whom was saying what in the dialog.
An unfortunate byproduct of having to really work hard to keep up with the shifting characters, is that I consequently zero'd-in on the "he said," "John said," "she said," "...said...said...said" interjections in the narrative that I didn't notice before until after I read other reviews -- and listening to the narration in this book.
Bottom line: Not my favorite. But it WASN'T a wasted credit. Buy it if you've liked Scalzi's other works. But, go in expecting a creative writing experiment by the author, while not expecting a lot of diversity in character voices.
(Continuing my on-going editorial from Eps 1-6.)
Harry is indeed one of my favs. But, then again, I grew up with him in the Old Man's War series.
But, as I alluded in my previous review (Ep 6) I'm struggling with not really finding myself caring as much for other characters who were newly introduced in this series. But that's not because they're not colorful and animated in their own right, rather I think the disjointedness of the serial format keeps me at arms length because our "revisit" time with these characters isn't as frequent a touchpoint as a novel would afford.
Harry, on the other hand... well, we know Harry already from his quirks as one of the original "Old Farts" in Old Man's War. Long live Harry. :)
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