LISTENER

Michael Hicks

Michigan
  • 34
  • reviews
  • 68
  • helpful votes
  • 36
  • ratings
  • Kill Creek

  • By: Scott Thomas
  • Narrated by: Bernard Setaro Clark
  • Length: 15 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,912
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,786
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,783

When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country's most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won't be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • UNUSUAL PREMISE, COULDN'T STOP LISTENING

  • By Linda Likes to Learn on 12-02-17

An Impressive Haunted House Debut!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-16-18

Scott Thomas makes one hell of a horror debut with his Stoker Award-nominated haunted house novel, Kill Creek - so strong a debut that I found it hard to believe he's a first-time author. Turns out, Thomas has a bit of a pedigree in television and was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the R.L. Stine TV series, The Haunting Hour. While Kill Creek is his first novel, Thomas definitely knows his way around a horror story, and his work here carries a nicely cinematic style with more than a few movie-ready scenes and set pieces.

After being duped into agreeing to an interview by an Internet website mogul, four authors find themselves unwittingly gathered together for an overnight stay at the abandoned and decrepit Finch House. For the wealthy Wainwright, this is a chance to speak to his idols, the modern masters of horror, and rake in lots of lucrative web-clicks. For the authors, it's a gimmicky way to promote their work, score some quick cash, and waste a night in a supposedly haunted house before returning to their lives, check in hand. If you know your way around a haunted house story, I don't have to tell you that things don't go quite according to plan...

Thankfully, Thomas throws in a few juicy curveballs here and there, slowly inching his narrative toward a finale of all-consuming madness that chills in all the best and brutal ways. Thomas, however, knows that he has to earn the premise's payoff, and he spends a lot of time building up his central cast. While the focus is on Sam McGarver, the most Everyman horror author of the bunch, characters like TC Moore, Sebastian Cole, and Daniel Slaughter - a horror-ready name if ever there was one - carry enough personality and intrigue to keep this slow-burn narrative hustling along. Moore, in fact, was my favorite character in this story - a brash, take-no-prisoners attitude, whiskey swilling, tough gal are always right up my alley narratively-speaking, and her introduction immediately captivated me.

Although it's become rather cliche to have a horror author as the protagonist of a horror novel, it works surprisingly well here. Usually the protag's occupation is ancillary, but in Kill Creek it's a primary focus and a linchpin for the work itself. Thomas is clearly well-versed in horror and genre tropes, as well as the career of writing and some of its more self-depreciating aspects. At one point, McGarver jokes that he's a writer, which means he spends most of his time procrastinating on the Internet. But it's his introduction as a college lecturer, wherein he delivers a presentation on gothic literature to his students, that makes a solid argument toward the credibility of not only McGarver's skill as an author, but Thomas's as well. The fact that Thomas creates this band of authors is one thing; the fact that he created them with such attention toward their pedigree and bibliographies is another. It's common to see horror authors experiencing a real-life horror event in fiction, but this is probably the first time I've wanted to actually read these fictional author's works. I wish I could buy a TC Moore book for my Kindle right now, or dig into a Sebastian Cole book next, and that alone should speak volumes to how much I appreciated Thomas's character work here.

Narrating Kill Creek is Bernard Setaro Clark, and hot damn, he's a fine reader. While much of his delivery is direct, Clark has a few aural tricks up his sleeve that really impressed me. Clark knows when to act up the material a bit, changing tones and pitch, and sometimes flat-out shouting, when needed. He also pulls this nifty trick of creating spatial distance between characters by turning away from the microphone at certain points. Say a character is shouting from across the room - rather than speaking directly into the mike as he would for our POV character, Clark turns away slightly, giving a sense of depth to sell the impression that there really is a character yelling from across the rom. It's such a simple thing, but so well executed, and not something I've often heard in other audiobooks. Of course, it's also possible I'm easily impressed, but I appreciated these moments a heck of a lot when they occurred. Clark's narrative skills certainly get a workout in the book's climax, as McGarver and company are forced to contend with the threats lurking within the Finch House once and for all.

Kill Creek isn't just a mighty fine haunted house novel, but a wickedly impressive debut for its author, who manages to wring the story for all its worth and deliver some pleasantly shocking twists along the way. This sucker builds like a roller coaster, slowly ratcheting its way to the top, and then violently dropping readers down a twisting thrill-ride that pulls their stomach up their throats. To put it mildly and succinctly, Kill Creek freaking rocks.

  • The Bog

  • By: Michael Talbot
  • Narrated by: Matt Godfrey
  • Length: 11 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 229
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 212
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 211

Hovern Bog. People live in terror of it - especially the residents of Fenchurch St. Jude, the little village located at its edge. They think of it as a living being. When 2,000-year-old bodies are recovered from the bog, perfectly preserved, it is the discovery of a lifetime for archaeologist David Macauley. But close examination of the corpses reveals a curious fact: all were cruelly, mysteriously murdered, gnawed to death by some unimaginable creature.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Compelling first half, excellent narration

  • By Christine Newton on 01-31-18

High-End 1980s Horror

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-11-18

The Bog is an old-school work of 1980s quiet horror. Michael Talbot slowly sets the stage, introducing archaeologist David Macauley and his family living abroad in the UK on a research grant. David specializes in studying bogs, particularly the corpses found preserved within. In a small English village, David uncovers not just a spate of bog bodies, but colorful legends – legends that point toward the true nature of an ancient evil responsible for the death of the bodies he is now unearthing. As readers slowly settle in for what first appears to be a creature feature, Talbot serves up a few interesting twists alongside a couple doses of personal tragedy and plenty of foreboding dread.

One of the things I most appreciated about The Bog was Talbot’s plotting. Even the most seemingly insignificant plot points and character beats play into the larger narrative and receive certain payoffs as the story resolves. A character’s veganism, a child’s fascination with the word ‘moxie’, a tavern’s clienteles apprehension over the appearance of a moth all lead to larger elements within the story, and the introduction of these minor points help to, in various ways, bring The Bog full-circle by book’s end. Throughout the story, Talbot introduces a number of concepts that I enjoyed quite a bit, particularly in regards to the nature of the evil infecting the small hamlet Macauley and his family find themselves inhabiting, which dovetails nicely with David’s work as a historian and scholar.

Reissued by Valancourt, The Bog is narrated by Matt Godfrey. I’ve only recently become familiar with Godfrey’s work, but he’s quickly earned with me the reputation of being a solid reader. I can expect a natural delivery complemented by subtle performances and distinct voice-work for each of the characters. In that regard, The Bog meets expectations. Each of the male and female characters presented here is clearly delineated and unmistakably unique. Listening to this book through my car’s audio system during my daily commute, I could not detect any flaws in the audio production, and the sound is crisp, clean, and well-modulated.

Readers looking for some high-end 80s horror should find a lot to enjoy in Talbot’s work. While The Bog is a bit of a slow-burn, it is ultimately quite enjoyable. Patient readers will be greatly rewarded by the way certain puzzle pieces of the plot align and snap into place as the story progresses.

  • Alien: Sea of Sorrows

  • An Audible Original Drama
  • By: James A. Moore, Dirk Maggs
  • Narrated by: John Chancer, Stockard Channing, Walles Hamonde, and others
  • Length: 5 hrs and 7 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 570
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 534
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 529

Set 300 years after the events of Alien: Out of the Shadows and Alien: River of Pain, Alien: Sea of Sorrows deals with the rediscovery of dormant Xenomorphs (Aliens) in the abandoned mines of LV-178, the planetoid from Alien: Out of the Shadows, which has now been terraformed and renamed New Galveston. The Weyland-Yutani Corporation, reformed after the collapse of the United Systems Military, continue their unceasing efforts to weaponise the creatures.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • another great performance

  • By Anonymous User on 04-26-18

Keep These ALIEN Audible Original Drama's Coming!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-03-18

This Dirk Maggs production is, in my opinion, a significant improvement over the James A. Moore prose novel it is based off. As with the prior two Alien Audible Originals, Sea of Sorrows is performed by a full cast of actors, including Stockard Channing, complemented by sound effects and musical score. And like the prior two entries, it sounds freaking incredible and makes for an intense listen that will make you feel like your surrounded by Xenomorphs, worried that a facehugger might try to leap out of your speakers.

Story-wise, I appreciated the changes and shift of focus that this audio drama brought to the table. Much of the original prose novel was centered around the empathic Decker, and it would surely be difficult to sustain an audio drama built around stuff that occurs so much inside one guy's head. Maggs has slightly shifted the focus a bit more toward the mercenaries that have abducted and pressed Decker into service on behalf of Weyland-Yutani. While I felt the prose edition of Sea of Sorrows was rather derivative of the Aliens film, I found it easier to digest during this second go-round in audio. I'll chalk that up being more familiar with the story beats and the movie-like (minus the visuals) presentation Audible has afforded it.

Although it's been a couple months since I read Moore's book, I feel like Maggs made some pretty big changes in the story itself, trimming a lot of fat, shifting scenes around slightly and giving us a stronger ending than what had been written originally, in addition to tying this story a bit more fully into the narrative begun in Alien: Out of the Shadows. Maggs also wastes no time getting us right into the action, starting immediately with Decker's abduction, which occurred in the prose work after an extended introduction to Decker, his abilities, and his history with Weyland-Yutani and LV-178. This audio presentation of Sea of Sorrows, in my opinion, is the definitive version of this story.

Maggs and his cast put the pedal to the metal early and often, giving us another strong entry in Audible's adaptations of these Titan books. I'm hoping we get plenty more of these suckers in the years ahead, and if I may be so bold, I'd recommend Alex White's recent Alien: The Cold Forge for next year's Alien Day release.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Last Shot

  • Star Wars
  • By: Daniel José Older
  • Narrated by: Marc Thompson, Daniel José Older, January LaVoy
  • Length: 11 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,491
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,413
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,407

It's one of the galaxy's most dangerous secrets: a mysterious transmitter with unknown power and a reward for its discovery that most could only dream of claiming. But those who fly the Millennium Falcon throughout its infamous history aren't your average scoundrels. Not once, but twice, the crew of the Falcon tries to claim the elusive prize - first, Lando Calrissian and the droid L3-37 at the dawn of an ambitious career, and later, a young and hungry Han Solo with the help of his copilot, Chewbacca.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • It's a letdown and boring

  • By Amazon Customer on 04-19-18

Lots To Enjoy In LAST SHOT

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-27-18

Set in the month's following Chuck Wendig's Aftermath trilogy, Daniel José Older explores the rise of a singular threat in a post-Imperial galaxy. In the book's opening moments, Lando Calrissian is attacked in his home on Cloud City by a mysterious hooded figure demanding the Phylanx Redux Transmitter, a mouthful of a galaxy-changing MacGuffin if ever there was one. While Lando doesn't possess this transmitter, he learns that its last known whereabouts were aboard the Millennium Falcon, leading him straight to his ol' buddy Han. Soon enough, the two scoundrels have assembled a new team to help them as they rocket across the galaxy in search of this mysterious device and a rouge evil scientist, Fyzen Gor, who Han encountered ten years previously.

The big draw behind Star Wars: Last Shot, of course, is Han and Lando themselves. Older does a remarkable job bringing Lando to life here, capturing the sleek, cool style of Billy Dee Williams, with a particular eye towards the character's penchant for fashion. Knowing that the clothes make the man, Lando's always been the best-dressed smuggler in the galaxy, and Older pays particular attention to that, as well, describing the man's careful deliberation when it comes to selecting his clothing for events and encounters, as well as a closet full of stylish and colorful capes.

Lando, of course, is off-set by his partner in crime, and Han is as rumpled and grumpy as ever as he tries to cope with fatherhood. With the Imperial Empire run off to the Outer Rim, Han is struggling with his place in life and the oftentimes stationary requirements of being a husband and father. He wants to roam free among the stars, and instead finds himself dealing with a screaming two-year-old whose sleep has been interrupted by noisome droids and urgent late-night calls for Leia. Of course, once free of familial commitments, Han longs to return. As a father of a two-year-old myself, I could sympathize with Han and his emotional and psychological state pretty well here, particularly as he attempts to soothe his distraught son and steps on a bunch of Lucasfilm's Lego-equivalent blocks.

While Older gives us plenty of insight into Han and Lando, and injects a handful of new diverse characters into the Star Wars universe (an Ewok hacker, an agender pilot [as with Wendig's Aftermath trilogy, you can expect lots and lots and lots of pearl-clutching from the anti-diversity, cultural homogeneity-only crowd for this book, too!], a Twi'lek love interest for Lando), he's also sure to pack in plenty of action that help wrinkle the plot and stymie the search for the transmitter. There's also some intriguing looks at the results of Gor's Frankensteinian experiments and the cult that has formed around them. The story itself is unraveled across three time-lines, with the events of the present-day story informed by Lando's and Han's individual, and unwitting, encounters with Fyzen Gor and Phylanx Redux Transmitter in the previous decades.

For the audio edition, Random House has brought in three narrators to tackle the various story threads. Marc Thompson handles the bulk of the novel, with Older narrating Han's story from ten years ago, and January LaVoy reading Lando's segments set twenty years prior. While Last Story probably didn't need three narrators to get the job done, the various performances help shake things up a bit. Thompson, a Star Wars audiobook staple, does a fantastic job as expected. His performances are consistently excellent, and Last Shot is no exception. His performance of Lando is exceptional, and he does a solidly gruff Han Solo, too. If I have any quibble at all, it's in his performance as Taka Jamoreesa, a twenty-something hotshot pilot, who Thompson reads with an annoyingly Jack Black-esque inflection. LaVoy taps into Lando's vocal mannerisms with a cool, entertaining reading. Older does a solid job, although his presentation is not as professionally refined as his co-narrators. Rounding it all out is the usual high-level production quality of a Star Wars audiobook, with the narration enhanced with sound effects, music, and voice digitization for droid characters. All in all, Last Shot makes for an easy, captivating listen that's a heck of a lot of fun.

Readers looking for a solid bit of entertainment fueled by two of the most popular characters in Star Wars should find a lot to enjoy in Last Shot. I'm always game for more Han and Lando adventures, though, so I'm hoping Older is able to return to this galaxy far, far away for at least one more outing. It'd be a shame if this were his last and only shot with these characters.

  • The Listener

  • By: Robert McCammon
  • Narrated by: Marc Vietor
  • Length: 10 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 297
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 280
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 278

It's 1934. Businesses went under by the hundreds, debt and foreclosures boomed, and breadlines grew in many American cities. In the midst of this misery, some folks explored unscrupulous ways to make money. Angel-faced John Partlow and carnival huckster Ginger LaFrance are among the worst of this lot. Joining together they leave their small-time confidence scams behind to attempt an elaborate kidnapping-for-ransom scheme in New Orleans.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Southern Fried Horror Done Right

  • By Ila in Maine on 03-05-18

Well Worth Listening To

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-13-18

You ever finish a wonderful book, but aren't quite sure how to encapsulate your thoughts on it in a review, or what may be left to say after so many others have eloquently tread this same ground and said all the things already? This is the place I find myself in now, having just this morning finished listening to The Listener. This sucker's gotten a lot of positive press and plenty of wonderful reviews already, and I feel like I don't have much else to add. Still, I suppose I must try.

Simply put, Robert McCammon knocks it out of the park with this one. Set in post-Depression Louisiana, The Listener revolves around a kidnapping plot hatched by a pair of grifters who fancy themselves a Bonnie & Clyde duo. Their plan is to abduct the two children of a wealthy industrialist and hold them for ransom. Caught up in it all is Curtis Mayhew, a young black man with a supernatural gift. Curtis is a listener, and can communicate telepathically with others who share this special gift. He's been communicating with a ten-year-old girl, Nilla, and when she sends an urgent cry for help about a man with a gun, Curtis knows he has to help, damn the consequences.

The Listener is a slow-burn potboiler that places particular emphasis on its characters first and foremost. McCammon is meticulous and deliberate in his pacing, introducing us to each of the major players and their places in the world as they work to either scheme or merely eek out a living before becoming embroiled in this kidnapping. Each of these character's stories are paid off in beautiful and sometimes surprising ways as The Listener reaches it final denouement. This historical narrative is so perfectly constructed that nothing ever feels unnatural or out of place. Readers are eased into Curtis's life and his gift in such a way that, once his telepathy is used to full effect, it's every bit a natural part of the character as the air he breathes.

McCammon's writing is equally effective, his prose rife with lingo of the era, and he captures moments of human drama perfectly. There's humor and moments of sadness, as well as turns of violence that are both shocking and cinematic, and sequences of abuse that will have you ready to lunge out of your seat to restrain the psychopathic Donnie before he can inflict more harm on whoever dares to step near him.

Marc Vietor's voice captures the proceedings perfectly, hitting all the right pitches and tones of McCammon's literary style. His talents as a narrator are well-suited to the 1930s era of The Listener, with its hard-edged con-men and crazed women, as well as the softer, more rounded subtleties of gentle men like Curtis, who prize their brains far more than their fists. Vietor and McCammon make for a perfect pair here, and the audio edition of The Listener is a wonderful, and engrossing, production all around.

McCammon delivers a story that feels wholly authentic from start to finish, and The Listener just might be on the best books of the year. Highly recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Happy Man

  • A Tale of Horror
  • By: Eric C. Higgs
  • Narrated by: Matt Godfrey
  • Length: 5 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 18
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 18

Charles Ripley has a good job as an engineer, a pretty wife, and an expensive house in a fashionable San Diego suburb. But it isn't until Ruskin Marsh moves in next door that Ripley realizes how passionless his life really is. Marsh, a connoisseur of the arts, high-powered lawyer, model husband and father, and effortless seducer of women, is so supremely alive that Ripley finds himself irresistibly drawn to him. But after Marsh's arrival, local girls begin to vanish, marriages end violently, and horribly mutilated corpses are found.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • a neighborhood friend telling you a crazy story

  • By AudioBook Reviewer on 04-15-18

1980s Horror That Still Resonates Today

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-11-18

In the opening moments of Eric C. Higgs’s The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror, we learn of a murder – the Marsh family has been shot dead next door. We’re told this by Charles Ripley, whose first-person account gives us insight into the San Diego neighborhood he inhabits. The victims next door are not the only murders this neighborhood has seen recently, and Ripley recounts the events leading up to this penultimate act of violence. In fact, strange things have been brewing ever since the Marshes moved in…

Outside of his marriage, Ripley doesn’t have a lot of friends and few men he can connect with. He quickly bonds with the newly arrived Ruskin Marsh, and their wives form a fast friendship. As Ripley and Marsh become better acquainted with each other, Charles is introduced to a very rare work of writing from the sexual libertine Marquis de Sade. Entranced by Marsh’s own sexual exploits and lack of inhibitions, Ripley soon finds his own constraints diminishing and begins straying into extramarital affairs and, soon enough, darker exploits encouraged in de Sade’s writings.

Narrated by Matt Godfrey, The Happy Man is a slow-burn work of suburban horror that finely balances placidity with hair-raising, horrifying drama. This is a well-crafted work of psychosexual drama, and Godfrey’s reading of the material captures the feel of a neighborhood friend telling you a crazy story. At only a bit over 5 hours long, Godfrey keeps the narrative moving along nicely. Higgs, meanwhile, keeps the work grounded, and the moments of horror are never implausible or outlandish. Higgs earns each of his twists and turns by giving us believable characters and a pot-boiler narrative that slowly builds toward the inevitable.

Written in 1985, and recently reissued by Valancourt Books, The Happy Man taps into the anxiety of The Other with its themes of sexual promiscuity, casual drug use, fear of immigrants, and the rise of the Christian Right and their idea of what constitutes family values. While this latter is never overtly mentioned, given the period Higgs was writing in I can’t help but feel like much of this book is a response to the political climate surrounding it. Marsh is very much a hedonistic figure, the kind of guy Nancy Reagan would encourage you to Just Say No! to, and his arrival to this suburban neighborhood threatens to destroy everything his fellow yuppies hold dear, upsetting the balance of their perfectly coiffed all-American lifestyles. With its themes of racism and the sexual objectification of women, The Happy Man is very much a product of the 1980s, yet much of horrors its reacting to, and certainly expounding upon, still feel topical today. Higgs takes all the fears of 80s Evangelicalism and runs with them toward their worst-case finale – the destruction of families at the hands of an outsider. It’s telling, though, that while Mexican immigrants are often blamed for some of the seedier aspects of this white collar, upper-crust San Diego subdivision, the root cause of their problems lie much, much closer to home. Perhaps, in between the moments of eroticism and shocking violence, Higgs was trying to tell us something after all.

[Note: the review was originally published at audiobookreviewer dot com]

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • City of the Dead: Author's Preferred Edition

  • By: Brian Keene
  • Narrated by: Joe Hempel
  • Length: 9 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 57
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 57
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 57

In this sequel to The Rising, cities are overrun with legions of the undead, intent on destroying what's left of the living. Trapped inside a fortified skyscraper, a handful of survivors prepare to make their last stand against an unstoppable, merciless enemy. With every hour their chances diminish and their numbers dwindle, while the ranks of the dead continue to rise. Because sooner or later, everything dies. And then it comes back, ready to kill.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • More Than Infinity

  • By Spooky Mike on 01-23-18

City of the Dead Is Well Worth The Visit!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-04-18

[Note: this review was originally published at audiobookreviewer dot com]

Set immediately following the final moments of Brian Keene’s Bram Stoker Award-winning The Rising, a small band of survivors manage to flee the zombie-infested suburbs of New Jersey. Their escape is not exactly scot-free, however, and Jim, Frankie, Martin, and Danny are hounded by a pursuing band of the undead who quite nearly finish them off. They’re rescued, though, and spirited away to Ramsey Tower, an impenetrable New York City skyscraper at the heart of the city where scores of survivors have found shelter and a chance at survival. Unfortunately for them, this rescue puts the survivors out of the frying pan and straight into the fire. Ramsey, an old, perverted, wealthy old tycoon with a reality TV show and dementia (hmmm…I wonder what other old, perverted, wealthy real estate tycoon with a crappy TV show and dementia Keene could have based Ramsey on?) will do anything to survive. Anything. And Ob, the undead leader of the zombie hordes, has set its eyes on Ramsey Tower and the death of everyone hiding within.

With the ground-rules of Keene’s zombie apocalypse well-established in The Rising, this Author’s Preferred Edition of City of the Dead ups the ante a fair deal and provides a wealth of gore, dismemberment, and mayhem. New York has become a necropolis, and in between all the flesh-chomping and headshots, Keene expounds on the goals of Ob and the demonic Siquissim. One of the things I’ve grown to appreciate about Keene’s The Rising series is the way the author infuses traditional zombie apocalypse tropes with a welcome dose of cosmic horror. Anybody looking for solid, edgy Romero-esque carnage will feel right at home with these two novels, and will likely appreciate the spark of originality Keene injects.

The Rising‘s narrator, Joe Hempel, returns to the microphone for City of the Dead to deliver a lively reading. Having narrated more than 150 books, Hempel has a comfortable, familiar reading style that makes for a companionable listen, one that’s smooth all the way through. His production skills are top-notch, as well, and you won’t find any blips or aberrations in the recording to yank you out of the story.

Readers who bemoaned the ending to The Rising can rest assured that Keene delivers a definitive finale to City of the Dead. Personally, I found the ending to The Rising to be very well-done, but I know there’s also a surprising number of readers out there who need every single thing spelled out for them and who are unable to infer details unless they’re beat over the head with them. Well, fear not – City of the Dead has an ending and nobody need fear the mistaken appearance of a cliffhanger!

City of the Dead takes all the best aspects of The Rising and plumbs its cosmic mythological depths a bit more. In some ways, it’s a nastier, darker, dirtier work than the prior story, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Ramsey in particular is a real piece of work, and Keene gives his living characters enough warmth and humanity to stab you in the heart when you least expect it. Thankfully, Keene softens some of the considerable tension and long, violent action set-pieces with moments of dark humor, usually thanks to a cat named God, as well as a few scenes of heartwarming familial repartee. City of the Dead is definitely worth a visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Rising

  • By: Brian Keene
  • Narrated by: Joe Hempel
  • Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 105
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 103
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 103

The Rising is the story of Jim Thurmond, a determined father battling his way across a post-apocalyptic zombie landscape, to find his young son. Accompanied by Martin, a preacher still holding to his faith, and Frankie, a recovering heroin addict with an indomitable will to survive, Jim travels from state to state and town to town facing an endless onslaught of undead hordes and the evils perpetrated by his fellow man.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Rising Part I

  • By Spooky Mike on 08-11-17

Dark, Occasionally Silly, Pulpy Fun

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-08-18

When I first read The Rising five years ago, I didn't much care for it. Here's why: early on in Brian Keene's zombie adventure, we discover that it's not just humans that can become reanimated. Animals are fair game for zombification, too, and the demonic Siquissim that possess Earth's corpses give all these zombies the ability to talk. This means that in addition to talking zombie humans, we also get talking zombie fish and talking zombie lions. My first encounter with these creatures seriously disrupted my suspension of disbelief. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a talking fish was enough to take me right out of this zombie novel.

Over the last few years, though, as the book marinated in my psyche and I've become a regular listener of Keene's podcast and privy to the stories and behind-the-scenes discussions he's given us about his books and influences, I grew tempted to give The Rising another shot. Joe Hempel's narration of the audiobook edition sealed the deal.

Boy am I glad I did! In fact, knowing what to expect out of this book helped me enjoy it a heck of a lot more. My prior reading gave me the inside track on what's what here, and without any jarring surprises, like a talking fish, to snap me out of the reading I was able to really sink into the narrative and accept it for what it is. And what it is is a heck of a lot of dark, occasionally silly, pulpy fun.

Keene's conceit for the zombie apocalypse is a nifty one. A Large Hadron Collider-like bit of science opens up a portal between this world and The Void, allowing the evil Siquissim entry into our dimension where they take up residence in our recently dearly departed. When a person shuffles off their mortal coil and their soul escapes the confines of the flesh and blood, a Siquissim takes its place. This is a zombie apocalypse by way of demonic possession and cosmic horror, and it's an interesting, original take on the end of the world as we know it.

At the core of all this is our every-man hero, Jim, who just wants to make it to New Jersey to save his son. He's joined along the way by other survivors, but when a rogue platoon of National Guardsmen begin rounding up and enslaving folks, it's only a matter of time before everybody is set on a collision course. There's an urgency to Jim's situation, and the perils he faces on his road-trip serve to heighten the tension. Keene makes you feel his desperation as the clock ticks down, right from the opening chapter. I was surprised at just how emotionally resonant and earnest our introduction to Jim was, and Keene is sure to pull on our heartstrings every now and then, reminding us of the humanity of our small band of survivors even as he grips us in moments of true despair and shocking violence.

Joe Hempel's narration is strong throughout, and I particularly liked the affectations he gave to the zombies, particularly Ob, the malevolent leader of the Siquissim. He voices each character well, providing enough subtle distinction and occasional accents or tones that each line of dialogue is unique to each speaker. Hempel's narration is top-notch, and his reading makes for a truly compelling listen. He's a great fit to Keene's sensibilities, and I'm looking forward to listening to his reading of City of the Dead next.

While the text is the Author's Preferred Edition, I think it's safe to say the audiobook is my own preferred edition. Listening to Joe Hempel's reading of Brian Keene's Bram Stoker Award-winning debut horror novel was a terrific amount of fun, and it gave me a new appreciation for the work as a whole.

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  • The Truth Is out There

  • The X-Files Series, Book 2
  • By: Jonathan Maberry
  • Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot, Hillary Huber
  • Length: 13 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 331
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 306
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 308

Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are back in a chilling collection of all-new tales of dark secrets, alien agendas, terrifying monsters, and murderous madmen. Edited by New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry, The Truth Is out There features original stories by best-selling authors Rachel Caine, David Wolverton, Hank Philippi Ryan, Kelley Armstrong, Kami Garcia, Greg Cox, and many others.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Not as good as first one but still worth a listen

  • By mosnow on 09-23-16

The Truth Is In Here

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-02-18

The X-Files: The Truth Is Out There is the second prose anthology in IDW Publishing’s series edited by bestselling author Jonathan Maberry.

As a long-time fan of The X-Files, going back to the pilot episode in 1993, I’m delighted by the resurgence and interest in the on-going investigations led by FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (aka, The FBI’s Most Unwanted), and the anthology format provides readers and audiobook listeners with plenty of interesting new cases from various writers. However, while I mostly enjoyed my time with The Truth Is Out There, I can’t help but feel that it is a weaker anthology than its predecessor, Trust No One. There are several stories that stand out as being incredibly strong, but there are also a number of mediocre entries, and one, “We Should Listen To Some Shostakovich,” that is downright awful.

Kelley Armstrong and Jon McGoran get the book off to a strong start, the latter presenting a really interesting story of time travel. Bev Vincent’s “Phase Shift,” was easily the highlight of the anthology for me, and centers around a house and its inhabitants confronted by a strange anomaly. This is a really good story with a strong, and strongly executed, premise, the ending of which highlights the particular darkness one may confront in such an odd situation. Sorry for being vague, but this is a good one to go into blindly.

Hank Schwaeble brings a welcome dose of ludicrousness to the table with “Male Privilege,” where the men of a small town have suddenly grown breasts. Over the years, The X-Files has shown considerable elasticity in the nature of its premise, ranging from ultra-serious to straight-up goofball comedy, and “Male Privilege” runs to the latter end of this continuum, feeling a bit like a Darin Morgan tribute. On the other end of the continuum then, is Sara Stegall’s “Snowman,” a terrific conspiracy and monster caper involving a search for missing Marine’s in the wintry woods of Washington, and reunites Mulder and John Doggett. Props to Stegall for bringing Doggett, an X-Files alum who has been underserved in the latest renaissance of The X-Files, back into the fold for a brief time.

Glenn Greenberg’s “XXX” revolves around murder on a porn set, which sounds like Mulder’s dream case but is nicely understated and provides some solid twists. As somebody who has read several titles by Tim Waggoner in the past, I was excited to note his inclusion in this anthology and expected a solid effort from him. Thankfully, “Foundling,” did not disappoint and revolves around Mulder and Scully discovering an abandoned baby in an eerily, and suddenly, empty town.

Of the fifteen stories comprising this anthology, the above-mentioned are the ones that really stood out to me. Unfortunately, “We Should Listen To Some Shostakovich,” by Hank Phillipi Ryan, stood out as well, but for entirely different reasons. Set in 2017, the story is far out of continuity with the series and its recent reboot and features a married Mulder and Scully who are expecting a child. I could have given this premise a pass, but Ryan’s characterizations are so out of synch with the character, and the central mystery surrounding numerology and a painting of the composer Shostakovich making its way to their apartment door, is so lackluster it barely feels like an X-File at all. Not much happens aside from the intrepid FBI agents staring at the painting and Googling stuff.

Those who listened to the previous anthology will know what to expect in terms of narration. Bronson Pinchot and Hillary Huber return, and take turns narrating individual stories depending on who the central point of view character is. If it’s primarily a Mulder story, Pinchot delivers a fairly flat voiceover, which turns even more monotone during Mulder’s dialogue in an effort to capture actor David Duchovny’s performance. Overall, though, Pinchot seems flatter in this anthology than he did with the previous one. Huber does solid work, which struck me as an improvement over her prior turn with these characters and their stories. Unfortunately, neither know how to pronounce the name of Frohike – long-time fans will know the Lone Gunman’s name is said “fro-hickey” and not “fro-hike” as it appears in print.

On the production side of things, there’s little to complain about. The sound quality is fine and the narrator’s maintain consistent tones and levels in their work. For whatever reason, the introduction by Lone Gunman actor Dean Haglund, which appears in the print volume, was not recorded (which is a shame, as I would have liked to have heard it).

The X-Files: The Truth Is Out There provides some solid entertainment over the course of 13 hours, even if it doesn’t quite hit the mark as well as Trust No One did. Still, it’s worth a listen and die-hard fans will find plenty of stories, the majority set during the series initial nine-year run, enjoyable and familiar enough to satisfy their itch for fresh cases of alien abductions, haunted houses, weird science, physics gone awry, and the occasional exploding head or two.

  • Alien: Out of the Shadows

  • An Audible Original Drama
  • By: Tim Lebbon, Dirk Maggs
  • Narrated by: Rutger Hauer, Corey Johnson, Matthew Lewis, and others
  • Length: 4 hrs and 31 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10,181
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,553
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,540

As a child, Chris Hooper dreamed of monsters. But in deep space, he found only darkness and isolation. Then, on planet LV178, he and his fellow miners discovered a storm-scoured, sand-blasted hell - and trimonite, the hardest material known to man. When a shuttle crashes into the mining ship Marion, the miners learn that there was more than trimonite deep in the caverns. There was evil, hibernating and waiting for suitable prey.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • a work that I highly recommend

  • By AudioBook Reviewer on 05-02-16

Out Of The Shadows And Into Your Ears!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-02-18

In 2014, Titan Books released the first in a new series of books set in the Alien film franchise under the supervision of the movie studio 20th Century Fox. These novels are considered part of the film canon and help expand and flesh out the movie universe, and they launched with Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows, set between the first two movies and featuring the series’ heroine, Lt. Ellen Ripley.

Following the destruction of the Nostromo in the first Alien movie, Ripley put herself into hypersleep and drifted through space. Movie buffs know that 57 years passed between Alien and Aliens, but Lebbon has crafted a nicely fitting story that slots itself directly into the middle of this time gap. In Out of the Shadows, the damaged mining vessel Marion picks up a distress call from Ripley’s lifeboat, while the crew contends with the discovery of a vicious life-form on the planet LV-178. It’s not long before Ripley is pressed back into action, haunted by the events aboard the Nostromo, and hellbent on saving the crew of the Marion.

Rather than taking Lebbon’s novel and producing a straight-up audiobook, Audible Studios and director Dirk Maggs have turned Out of the Shadows into a brilliant audio drama, crafting a production that may well be the best Alien production since James Cameron’s own Aliens. Using an ensemble cast of voice actors, including actor Rutger Hauer in his first audio performance as the now-disembodied ghost in the machine of the android Ash, and an array of sound effects and musical score, the production quality on display here is downright phenomenal.Actor Corey Johnson brings to life Chief Engineering Hooper, while Laurel Lefkow voices Ripley. The chemistry between these two is terrific and you get a great sense of camaraderie as they form a fast friendship under the threat of the alien menace. Lefkow in particular wowed the heck out of me, and a few times I could have positively sworn that Maggs had gotten Sigourney Weaver to reprise her role. Lefkow absolutely nails the tone, inflection, and speech patterns of Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and it’s mighty damn impressive to listen to.
Rounding out the voice talent is the full-fledged sonic experience of the work itself. From the familiar not-quite dot matrix noises of the computers as they display text, to the ferocious grunts, hisses, and screams of the aliens, and the attendant instrumental score, Out of the Shadows is a frighteningly immersive experience, and one that is very audibly an Alien story. Dirk Maggs has been credited with turning the audio drama into an audio movie for his BBC productions, and that particular knack is on full display here. Lebbon’s prose work has been stripped away, although the story and dialogue, with a bit of finessing for this dramatization, remain intact and is lovingly crafted in a highly cinematic experience for the mind. With the accompanying audio you can really let your imagination run wild and set the scene in your mind’s eye on this one. This is as much an audio movie as it as a movie of the mind, and it’s scarily effective. Be sure to listen to this one with a good set of headphones to fully appreciate the layers and depth that went into constructing this audio drama, but be careful not to fall off the edge of your seat.

Some may argue that by placing this story between the first two Alien films that it’s not an entirely necessary work. To this, and with a shoulder shrug, I can only say, “meh.” I, for one, don’t care a whit about this works “necessity” because it’s just too damn good to ignore. This is a fun listening experience, and one of the best Alien productions we’ve gotten in a long, long while. It’s great to see, or rather, hear, Ellen Ripley back in action and kicking butt on land and in space.

If I have to post one complaint, it’s that the inclusion of Ash serves mostly as story recaps. While Hauer is a great choice to voice this iconic character, a lot of the information Ash relays, in the form of status update reports to the Weyland-Yutani corporation, is redundant to the unfolding plot, and given the frequency at which this is done over the course of the production’s 4 hours and 28 minutes it often times feel highly repetitive. If you’re spreading this listen out over multiple days or longer, these updates may serve as helpful story recaps, but if you’re digesting the story in large chunks they ultimately add little. Like a television show’s “previously on” segment, these recaps don’t eat up a lot of time, so this is ultimately a very minor complaint in the grander scheme of things.

As they did with last year’s adaptation of Joe Hill’s Locke & Key, Audible Studios has delivered a knock-out win of an audio drama – and for a work set in one of my favorite film series, no less! I had read and enjoyed Lebbon’s novel of this work when it came out a few years ago, but I absolutely loved listening to this adaptation. Dirk Maggs and his cast and crew have created a very special production for Alien fans with this dramatization, released on Alien Day (4-26, as in LV-426), and it’s a work that I highly recommend. Now go give it a listen!