Hard Duty is a great book, and makes for an excellent audiobook version as well. Mikael Narramore is perfectly cast as the narrator for this series' main character. The performance draws you in immediately, and holds your attention hard and fast. In regards to the story itself, it's choked full of intricate and colorful detail that never feels boring or overwhelming, as well as action and intrigue to spare. Overall I would absolutely recommend this version of Hard Duty, and I myself will be looking forward to enjoying the rest of the series.
The Dead Soul is a novel about a serial killer, and it had what I would consider to be a very interesting premise, and was written by an author who is at least somewhat well known. However...
This audiobook suffers from two crippling problems.
The first problem is the speed of narration. At first, I felt that the narrator was trying to sound very serious and intense, and at first that fit what was happening. As the story progressed into the second half of the first hour, and onwards, I realized that this tone and more importantly, pace, does not and will not ever change. The place is absolutely "plodding", and the spacing between sentences in mind numbing. I often found myself needing to rewind the recording and re-listen to passages because I realized that I had simply tuned out.
The second problem is the lack of believable character voicing. In a scene where a woman is being murdered somewhat slowly and she is supposed to be screaming at the top of her lungs in terrible pain and fear, what we hear is a half hearted, throaty "Oh, please help me. Oh no somebody help." stated as if the narrator were reading the list of ingredients off of a box of cereal. I certainly don't expect a middle aged male to sound exactly like a screaming woman, but I did expect more than this.
I wasn't able to get past the second hour, and have since decided to move on. I am giving the story a full five stars because reviewers of the print version seemed to love the story, so I am choosing to believe them and not penalize this version.
The plot follows a path that is common in other portal fantasy type novels, wherein a rich kid gets knocked out and wakes up in a fantasy world with a wise cracking animal hybrid side kick, a beautiful warrior princess, dragons, and so on. In this regard, it's a very by the numbers portal fantasy. The concept of 'the wielder' was however pretty unique, and for that bit of creativity I would say well done.
The writing was fine, and I noticed no repetitive sentences, nor did I ever feel like I was completely lost due to the structure. Overall, good writing.
I feel conflicted here, but overall the narrator is clearly a skilled professional. The story is narrated in a "story teller" type voice, in that it sounds like the narrator is sitting next to you holding the book and reading it to you, as opposed to really doing a performance, as most other modern audiobooks are like. As a consequence, most of the characters sound the same or similar, but this again only adds to the 'story teller' charm. I personally prefer a more performance style book, but I felt that the story teller style did not in any way take away from the listening experience.
The only problem I noticed, and it is jarring and recurrent, is that there is literally less than half a second pause between the last sentence of a chapter ending, and then the next chapter heading beginning. It sounds almost like: "He looked up in the clouds and smiled chapter three they were walking into the forest when...". I thought this should have been adjusted so that there is a more natural break between chapters.
It's a solid portal fantasy with decent narration.
Kozeniewski's Brian Eater Jones is an excellent take on the noir genre. While I came into this somewhat expecting yet another "me too" zombie apocalypse novel, what I found was something that was completely different than anything else I've read (or listened to) before. Instead the story takes place in a world were dead people sometimes come back to life and continue "living".
Brain Eater Jones is a good mix of comedy, period accurate slang and characters, and a good dose of mystery and intrigue as well.
Specifically referring to Steve Rimpici's performance, I found that his character voices, especially for that of the main character, were spot on perfect. I really felt like I was listening to someone from the 1930's. The other characters were often cartoonish, but this was clearly intentional, and adds to the silliness of the story in a very positive and clearly intentional way.
The only thing that holds this back from being full 5 stars were some editing issues that occurred throughout the book. Specifically, there seems to be almost no break at all between sentences and paragraphs. I don't know if this was done intentionally or not, but it often forced me to go back and repeat sections because details just flew by faster than I could really process them in my brain. At other points, the characters might all move to a different place and time and all without even half a second of pause. That, and I did notice a few times where a lines repeats itself.
Editing issues aside, this book is definitely a good listen, and I found once I got used to the pacing, I was able to follow along better through the second half of the book.
Black is an incredible listen, and is voiced perfectly by the talented RC Bray. The dialogue is sharp, the plot moves swiftly and unpredictably, and the jokes are timed perfectly. This is an excellent story and I look forward to listening to the rest of the Black series.
Disclosure: I was given a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
I found it very difficult to get involved in, or even understand what was happening in the story, because I found the narration itself to be very distracting. The narrator frequently shifts his pitch up and then quickly down again, making it sound like everything is a joke to him, or perhaps that he is an inexperienced salesman or waiter in a restaurant trying to convince you to buy an overpriced dessert.
I felt that the tone of the general narration was inappropriate for a number of scenes. For instance, there were court room scenes discussing murder, an aging rock star talking about his drug abuse, and all through it, the narration is again that pitch shifting, salesman voice.
From a purely technical perspective, this title does not suffer from any significant technical issues (i.e. mouth noise, too much compression, etc), and the narrators pacing was not rushed or too slow. I'm giving the story four stars because it seems like an interesting premise, but I was honestly not able to follow along well because of the narration.
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