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The Haunted Forest Tour audiobook cover art

Good premise, hurt by meh writing

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

Reviewed: 01-16-19

The story starts off good, really good in fact. Trees suddenly sprout from the ground, consuming a town, killing a couple hundred people and creating a strange forest, filled with ghosts and monsters. The owner of the land decides to turn the forest into a Jurassic Park style theme park, complete with tours around the forest. When we start the story, it's the first annual Halloween tour, which goes directly into the forest, rather than around. All good so far. Then everything goes wrong and it's all downhill from there, not just for the characters, but for the audience. Don't get me wrong, there's some fun in the premise, blood, gore, creepy slimy monsters of all shapes, sizes and varieties, but, it just gets old fast. There's a new monster like every couple pages and each has little lasting impact. There's also a demon and magic and interdimensional wackiness, involving rituals and sacrifices. It gets complicated and there's some interesting stuff, but the resolution feels rushed, like the writers realized they'd written themselves into a corner, so they just jammed in a quick fix and were done with it. It's practically a deus ex machina.

What really hurts the story though, more than the quick fix conclusion or the overuse of monsters, is the lack of any decently developed or likable characters. While gore and such is fun, there's gotta be decent characters in the story, who I either love to see killed or who I hope will survive. This doesn't have characters I hate or characters I like, they're just bland things. There's a little effort here and there, but no one is really fleshed out or made all that interesting. We spend the most time in the heads of our male characters, but majority of their thoughts are built around how hot the women around them are, even when it doesn't fit. Oh, there's bats trying to knock us off a rope ladder on a helicopter, the girl above me is about to fall. Quick, let's focus our attention to how great her butt would look on the way down. Yeah, the story gets a little sexist at times. I'm no feminist, but the novel spends about as much time sexualizing the females, as it does describing gore. It's worst with the characters Mark and Hannah. Whenever there's any focus on these two, you can bet Mark is going to be thinking about how much he totally wants to bang his co-worker. Hannah herself, barely gets any personality given to her and exists solely so her physical traits can be adulated by Mark and so *spoiler* her eventual death can motivate Mark. Yeah, Hannah dies, not because we needed more gore, but so Mark can get angry and gain the courage to do what needs to be done to save the world. It's called "fridging" and it's a lazy way to motivate a character to action. *end spoilers*

All in all, it's not a horrible listen, Joe Hempel is a fantastic narrator, and there are some fun, interesting bits here and there. It's just letdown by lazy writing, tedious sexism and poor characterization.

The Woman in Cabin 10 audiobook cover art

Spontaneous purchase, surprisingly not too bad

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

Reviewed: 10-21-16

If you've skimmed through these reviews, you probably know by now that people kind of find the lead character, Lo, rather grating. While I do agree that Lo is kind of annoying, I do, at the same time, find her a pretty well rounded and easy to relate to. Her panic attacks get a little old, but knowing a few who go through them, Lo's actions are pretty spot on when she's going through an episode. I was actually okay with her constantly worrying and acting like a neurotic, because it was just kind of different to get a lead character who spends just as much time battling herself as she does everything else. Plus, I can relate to a few of her issues, such as the depression and claustrophobia, so those little bits helped make her a character I could easily identify with.

Her mental disorders aside, Lo is kind of an idiot and quite the jerk. While I didn't mind spending 11-hours with her (this is mostly thanks to the narrator's charm than the character herself) there were moments where I just wished I could take her aside and scream some sense into her. For starters, she's got something of a victim complex, like a major one. Despite being an alcoholic on medication, despite having some serious PTSD after a home robbery and despite the lack of evidence for her claims, she just can't see why people don't take her claims seriously. She feels that she's owed them believing in her, and while I can definitely support a character who stands by her convictions, I cannot support a character who irrationally flips out on people for daring to use Occam's Razor when examining her claims. She also has a habit of mistreating other characters, with little to no reason. She's easily agitated and small things tend to set her off. It's moments like these, when she's interacting with people, that Lo is really hard to stand or root for. She's quick to anger, lacks social skills and makes some pretty big assumptions about people based on the most negligible and inoffensive things. So, yeah, be warned, if you pick this up, you may find yourself siding with the characters Lo interacts with, more than you find yourself siding with her. Unless you have a victim complex, in which case, you'll probably get along with her just fine.

As for the narrative itself, it's pretty well told and there's quite a deal of some sharp writing throughout the story. For a young novelist, Ruth Ware's grasp of her character is top notch and she's more than capable of putting you right there with Lo in some of the novel's most tense situations. Sharp writing aside, the story does fall apart a bit towards the end and the motivations of the lead antagonist just seems rather unrealistic and impractical. It's well told to that point, but, like seems to happen with several mystery authors and stories, the answers don't compare to the mystery itself.

It's still a solid little story that I'd highly recommend and the narrator's performance is top notch. If you do find yourself wanting to get into this story, I'd recommend you listen to it rather than actually read it. I suspect Lo is much easier to hate when you read the book than when you listen to a charismatic performer narrate it for you.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Dune audiobook cover art

Let down by flip flopped performances

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

Reviewed: 10-17-16

I'm not even going to bother going into detail on why Dune is such a fantastic novel that demands attention. Its legacy as a complex sci-fi epic speaks for itself. Instead, I mostly just want to discuss my displeasure at the odd way the performances are mixed up in this edition.

There's a single narrator throughout the piece, which is the most consistent aspect of this audio book. When it comes to characters though, on some occasions the narrator performs all the parts on other occasions, the characters all have their own performers. There's no rhyme or reason for this and, on occasion, single scenes in the book will go from a cast performing the parts, back to the narrator performing the parts. To be honest, it's not too bad and doesn't hurt the overall story or experience, but it is an odd and very noticeable quirk of this audio book. It's most off putting when it comes to the Baron Harkonnen. When his VA is doing the parts, he has distinct, deep and commanding voice that recalls James Earle Jones. On the other hand, when the narrator does the parts, he has a different accent and makes the Baron sound more spineless and less commanding.

It really seems like they meshed two different readings together, rather than the full cast production as I was lead to believe this would be. It's indeed an issue that might put people off more than it did me, especially since it's distracting and jarring. The performances are all excellent and when it's just the narrator, he does a great job giving a distinct voice to each character on his own. Still, I'd have preferred this recording either stick with just the narrator as the performer or the narrator with a cast. Flip flopping between the two is just weird.

Alien: Out of the Shadows audiobook cover art

A pointless entry in the franchise

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-17-16

Were it not for the strong production values and the stellar performances from the voice cast, I wouldn't recommend this at all. It's not that the story or characters are inherently bad, it's actually quite good in some parts and could serve as a strong addition to the franchise, but the problem isn't so much the story or characters, but the overall premise. The issues start when we learn that Ripley is going to be a major player in this story, despite taking place between Alien and Aliens, about twenty-years prior to the latter film. In essence, this kills any possible tension the story could have had, because we know the eventual outcome before the story even gets us there. We know these characters have to die and Ripley has to have her mind conveniently wiped, so as to avoid contradicting the sequel films.

To add to that, Ripley's inclusion also means that the events of the story are rendered meaningless. The story ultimately has no bearing on Ripley's story or the mythos itself. We can't invest ourselves in the characters or Ripley's plight, because it's all conveniently closed off from the major franchise, perfectly sitting as its own little standalone "what if" story and less of a mythology expanding entry. The saddest part about this fact, is that there is a great deal here that could potentially add to the lore. The bits in the organic structure and the dog aliens is actually pretty unique stuff that could warrant potential exploration in further EU material. Had the author not felt the need to include Ripley, there might have actually been something going and character deaths might have felt more natural to the plot, rather than the forced malarkey we got.

Every problem in this story comes back to Ripley's inclusion. We often feel the author dictating the events of the narrative, killing off characters, not because the plot demands it or because it creates drama or tension, but because we have to get to the end of the book with no survivors. *MILD SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT* The character Kasyanov for instance, (who is voiced by the same actress who played Amanda Ripley funny enough) remains alive to the very end in convenience of the plot. She needs to stay alive to ensure Ripley is in tip top condition when she gets back into her stasis pod. However, once she's no longer useful to the plot, she's immediately killed off a few seconds later by Ash. This further reminds us that this narrative is entirely artificial and at the dictates of the writer, which is exactly the last thing a writer should do. We're supposed to believe the developments and follow the story, when the writer exposes themselves as the god of the story, it ruins suspension of disbelief, we see the linear narrative for what it is. It's not that I care about the death of her character or any other, it's that it feels cheap and artificial.

On that note, yes, Ash is also back. While there are interesting bits to his character, in his monologues to Weyland and his apparent evolution from synthetic to a potential being with a consciousness, it, like Ripley's inclusion, feels forced and unnecessary. The problem is, he's relegated to nothing but a system AI now and mostly just plays a very literal deus ex machina. Ash pretty much ensures that everything goes his way and can manipulate the narrative and characters on a whim, which again, just reminds us that we're listening to a story written by someone else.

In short, it's not a bad story, I'd still recommend it, because it's got great production, a strong cast and some intense moments. But beyond that, it's practically fanfiction.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Atlas Shrugged audiobook cover art

Couldn't even finish it

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

Reviewed: 03-29-16

Would you try another book from Ayn Rand and/or Christopher Hurt?

I've already read Fountainhead (which I enjoyed far more than this) so I'd probably give Rand another chance. As for Hurt, definitely, his performances and narration is a big reason I even stuck with the book as long as I did.

Has Atlas Shrugged turned you off from other books in this genre?

I don't even know what genre to put Atlas Shrugged in. It's got romance and political intrigue, but it's also about business and hard work. More than anything, it's trying to lay out Rand's philosophy, though it barely qualifies as a philosophy book either, especially because she just borrows a great deal of her own from Nietzche. Whatever genre it is, it definitely puts me off from it, at least in this kind of presentation.

What about Christopher Hurt’s performance did you like?

Great subtle changes in voice for characters, a deep understanding of how each character should act and sound according to the personalities Rand gives them and an excellent pacing and reading that lends Rand's basic prose a little more weight.

What character would you cut from Atlas Shrugged?

Dunno about which character I'd cut, but I do know that there are entire sections I would cut out. There's too much fluff and too many redundant points and monologues that make their. I get her points on individualism, the virtues of selfishness and hard work, but they're so redundant and the characters serving as her mouthpieces are so unlikable that part of me wonders if she presents a better argument for communism than she does for individualism and laissez-faire capitalism.

Any additional comments?

If you're interested in Rand's philosophy I'd suggest Fountainhead, as it's more concise and not quite as filled to brim with redundant points. That or listen to her essays, which elaborate her beliefs with zero fluff.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Koko Takes a Holiday audiobook cover art

Solid premise, might work better as a movie

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

Reviewed: 03-18-16

What did you love best about Koko Takes a Holiday?

The premise and lead character more than anything else. The cyberpunk setting is quite nice and I quite enjoy the more satirical elements that seem pulled straight from a Paul Verhoeven flick. Honestly, I'd think it would work better as a film, not just from the random commercials throughout that help build the world, but because the present tense narration reads more like a screenplay than a novel.

Would you recommend Koko Takes a Holiday to your friends? Why or why not?

Depends on the friends. Know a few who would be put off by the gratuitous violence and sexuality on display, but others who would be sold on it. Definitely the kind of book I'd recommend to any friends who enjoy a good old action romp.

Which scene was your favorite?

The poker scene. The banter between Koko and Flynn is great and sharp. Definitely the high point.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I'm horrible with taglines. Seriously, don't ask me this kind of thing.

Any additional comments?

Great listen if you're looking for something a little less serious to spend your time with.

Metro 2033 audiobook cover art

Great story, escalated by superb narration

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

Reviewed: 03-18-16

What did you love best about Metro 2033?

While the story sort of meanders about, it's uplifted by the philosophical underpinnings and the strong world building. What really gets me into the book was just how detailed the world is. It's so consistent and so well developed that it seems entirely plausible. More than that though, the novels heavier philosophical elements is what really makes up for the weaker storytelling. It's more a book of ideas and an examination of humanity and less so a book that tells a cohesive or even satisfying story.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Metro 2033?

Everything that has to do with Khan. The entire section with that character is not only the deepest the novel gets with its philosophical points, it's also the most compelling, all thanks to the character. He's not in it for a great deal of time, but he leaves a lasting impact, not just on the character, but on the listener.

What does Rupert Degas bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His stellar pronunciation, his accent for the characters and the distinct and instantly identifiable voices he uses for each character. He continued to impress me throughout the novel with his wide range of voices, with no two sounding exactly alike. I'm not sure how good his Russian really is, but to my ears it sounds spot on. His accent really helps to sell the setting more than if I just read the book myself.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No extreme reactions. It was thought provoking, but no emotions like laughing or crying.

Any additional comments?

If you're a fan of the game or post-apocalypse stories I highly suggest this. It's a strong and very thought provoking novel with a perfect narrator to guide you through the story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful