In a post-apocalyptic America that has shattered into 100 perpetually warring fiefdoms, anyone with a loud voice and a doomsday weapon can be king (and probably has been). Duncan Archer - con man, carpetbagger, survivor - has found a way to somehow successfully navigate the end of the world, with its giant killer robots, radioactive mutants, mad scientists, rampant nanotechnology, armed gangs, sea monsters, and 101 unpleasant ways to die.
But when he meets Captain James Barrow, a former OSS agent and the most wanted man in the world, Duncan finds himself a reluctant hero caught up in a whole new level of weird, rollicking adventure…
And the second most wanted man in the world.
Tales from the Radiation Age is a throwback to the pulp-origins of science fiction, painting a vision of the future that’s richly detailed, wildly imaginative - and altogether too easy to imagine.
©2013 Jason Sheehan (P)2014 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved
On the road, but I wanted to take a moment to give a review on this fun romp of an audiobook.
It's an enjoyable listen, because it takes unusual liberties to create a delicious take on Armageddon that reminds me of the lingo and larceny of Firefly, with the adventure ride of Indiana Jones.
This is an antihero's recollection of a hero's journey. Almost like a 1940's Saturday night serial movie. It has interesting character development, good story lines with interesting twists and turns, descriptive writing, witty and original dialogue.
Is it perfect? NO, but by it's very nature, it's not supposed to be, and it works.
If you've read my reviews, you'll note that I've often targeted strong classic scifi and fantasy works, as well as groundbreaking writers of note. This is a bit different. It's lighthearted, smart, and unique. And FUN. If you're like me, once in a while, you need a break from the highbrow literature of note.
Think of this as a martini for your mind. And this particular martini is shaken AND stirred!
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
The Wild West is resurrected -- in the future, after a technological apocalypse has shattered the nation. And a posse of Cold War era retro-spies is all that stands between a dystopian society and total disintegration. Except it's not that simple -- narrating in a voice borrowed from Little Big Man, our multi-named hero shows us a multiverse in turmoil through the lens a multi-genre kaleidoscope, his focus on a shady hero/anti-hero/mentor, The Captain.
Never mind the plot. That's not the point. The star here is Jason Sheehan, weaving a world that is a tapestry of mid-century pulp fiction, starting with 50s era sci-fi and encompassing the western, the spy novel, Edgar Rice Burroughs adventures, pirate stories -- the only thing missing is the gumshoe mystery. Maybe, being younger than me, his touchstones are not pulp fiction, more likely comic books, graphic novels, 70s era sci-fi and action films (the book references Mad Max, Star Wars, James Bond, even Pirates of the Caribbean (the Captain's name is James Barrow) and Brazil (his favorite movie)) (using nested parens on purpose).
Most importantly, Sheehan upholds the twin pillars of contemporary comic science fiction -- his book is fun, and it's funny. On a grand scale. Nick Podehl does a stellar job of bringing the characters to life. This is one of those novels that works best in audio, the narrative voice so idiosyncratic. Podehl nails it, maintains it across nearly 20 hours. That's a hefty chunk of listening time, but within the first hour, I already started wishing it was longer. My favorite line (out of dozens of eminently quotable lines): "The best thing about idiots is that you can count on them acting like idiots."
Sheehan is an interesting character in his own right. He is primarily a food critic and book reviewer. In one recent book review, he says, "For five minutes, I thought this was it — the novel that was going to kill the novel." He goes on to explain in his kitchen sink manner (too long and complex to quote in its entirety) that what he means by killing the novel is creating a new transcendent form of storytelling. He soon changes his mind -- no, it will not render Moby Dick obsolete (something to do with nested parentheses).
Tales of the Radiation Age felt like that to me for more than five minutes -- more like twelve hours. Along with Ready Player One, Mr. Penumbra, and the books of John Scalzi, Chris Moore, Lee Martinez, et.al., this is not just a sub-genre, this is a whole new movement of highbrow literary comic sc-fi and fantasy. I didn't see how Tales could falter like the book Sheehan reviewed.
Alas, Sheehan's tales do start to drag in the final hours -- the law of diminishing returns, going back to the well once too often (to mix metaphors). The reveals that tie it together, which I had been avidly anticipating, expecting a harmonic convergence of the otherwise disparate episodes, felt contrived, rushed, absent the wildly inventive quality of the preceding stories, mind numbing rather than mind blowing. I deducted a star under Story for the ending. Otherwise, a five star audiobook, instantly entering my all-time favorites list.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
Loved, loved, loved this book, and a big reason is the world building. The action is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the government is mostly absent and technology consists of what you can gather from junk heaps and duct-tape together. The descriptions were so vivid I could picture every lopsided, Frankenstein machine in all its glory.
“Our ride looked like an end-of-year welding project at a school for drunken malcontents and multiple amputees.”
“Of course I had a phone. Had three of them, actually, of varying vintages and levels of functionality, because, seriously, what was this, Nepal? The West was having itself a nice, civilized, apocalypse, thank you very much!”
Another big plus was the narrator. I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Nick Podehl and he was fantastic. Of course, it helped that the source material is crazily imaginative, extremely funny and wickedly complicated. But Mr. Podehl, channeling Captain Reynolds--and a little John Wayne--gave the whole piece a Firefly aura. Dangerous territory, trying to walk in the huge footsteps of Joss Whedon, but Sheehan does it and succeeds spectacularly. Here’s a great example of the Firefly-esque dialog:
“It occurs to me that a man is having a certain kind of a conversation when he intimates that a man with no gun needs one. But a very different kind when he tells a man with one gun that he needs more.”
But behind all the fun and games—and there are a lot of those—lies a very serious plot that runs straight through from beginning to end. Watching the author spin his tale was, at many points, like watching an incredibly skilled juggler. There are so many balls up in the air that at times I wondered if the author had lost track of what he was doing, but then the plot would reappear, and all the craziness would be revealed as having an actual purpose in furthering the plot.
We never do completely understand how the world got the way it is—the protagonist insists that civilization “jumped the shark” when Siri started talking to us and we talked back—but we are treated to one of the most insane battles ever imagined as the heroes try to make the world right again. The description of the battle is masterful and reminded me strongly of early Neal Stephenson. The Neal Stephenson of “Cryptonomicon” who actually knew when to go into full on detail mode and when “the rest is just a car chase.”
It’s hard to find out much about Jason Sheehan, but apparently he was a restaurant critic and food editor at Philadelphia Magazine. I, for one, hope this book gets enough attention so that Jason is able to keep on writing. I can’t wait to see the next idea that comes out of his fertile imagination.
This story takes you for a wild and crazy ride into the possible future. This book may be long but it is worth all your time. I must say tho i did have to press repeat as you can get lost if you don't listen carefully to some of the chapters.
As has been said, I did hear some Firefly in the main characters voice. Nick Podehl did an awesome job with all the voices.
I found myself laughing and encouraging even the bad guys sometimes.
I'm gonna play it again Sam (Jason), cause I loved the ride that much.
The first 30-45 minutes were difficult for me, as the main character came in guns blazing, and the story was an immediate shock to the system. The story stays in overdrive and the characters roll in and out of the book like boulders down a mountain. The writing is very quick and witty, but Nick Podehl owns it with a superb narration. The ending is a little too long, but damn if it's not a cool ride getting there.
... in short order it hooked me... Its not so much an Apocalyptic story as an adventure story told by a rascally con artist... The the characters are hilarious, the central character's style of speaking is fascinating, and the reader's execution of the story was perfectly matched to the flavor and mood of the book... My only criticism was the random and unnecessary forays into off-the-wall philosophical theories about "life, the universe, and everything" - Aside from that, I highly recommend the book.
Within the first 30 minutes I was telling people Tales from the Radiation Age was going to be in my top 10. After I finished, it's easily in my top 5.
All of them. Duncan certainly has to be at the top of the list, but it would be insulting to exclude any of the others in this story. They're all perfect.
I've never listened to anything Podehl's done, but I couldn't have chosen a more appropriate narrator for this book. He is spot on with Duncan's and the rest of the cast's voices. I can honestly say, that he IS Duncan to me. I will definitely be finding more narrated by Podehl.
I typically only listen to books while I'm at work, but this one made a habit of following me home at night.
The combination of Sheehan's dialogue and Podehl's narration is truly an enjoyable experience. I can't imagine a better narrator for this than Podehl by the way. The dialogue is clever, the story is interesting and smart. For those that found this difficult to listen to, I imagine it is because a lot of the background is not explained until the last quarter of the book. Hang in there, just go with a suspension of disbelief until things are revealed.
Each character that Podehl acted was memorable. He is gifted for sure.
In the narrative of the main character, there is humor and wonder, punctuated by sadness and well earned cynicism. I loved both sides of it.
Some people don't seem to like the way the narrator rambles at times, going off on some side stories, but for me this really helped to fill in and illustrate the world Sheehan creates. And, it is not dissimilar to how Homer narrated his epics. If you stick with it, the story is enjoyable and memorable. Oh, and did I mention that Podehl is just fantastic?
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