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  • The Labyrinth Index

  • By: Charles Stross
  • Narrated by: Bianca Amato
  • Length: 13 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 208
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 195
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 194

The arrival of vast, alien, inhuman intelligences reshaped the landscape for human affairs across the world, and the United Kingdom is no exception. Things have changed in Britain since the dread elder god Nyarlathotep ascended to the rank of prime minister. In America, a thousand-mile-wide storm system has blanketed the Midwest, and the president is nowhere to be found. The government has been infiltrated by the shadowy Black Chamber, and the Pentagon and NASA have been refocused on the problem of summoning Cthulhu.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great entertainment — funny and thoughtful

  • By William B Baker on 11-04-18

Godzilla vs. Mothra

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

Reviewed: 11-13-18

As a huge fan of the Laundry books, I found the novel welcome and entertaining. The audio book didn't quite work for me, however, and I've been trying to work out why.

One reason is perhaps that the non-Bob books in the series don't seem to be quite as much fun. He's the perfect viewpoint character for the Laundry universe, wry, technically competent, bemused, and often completely out of his depth. He'll explain things to you because he can, and because, being Bob, he can't keep his mouth shut. Sometimes you admire him, and sometimes you cringe at his choices. He's askew in just the right way for this environment. It's the role Arthur Darvill was born to play, though Martin Freeman wouldn't be a terrible choice..

Cassie and Alex worked, too, in The Nightmare Stacks. Somehow, though, Mhari and Mo seem a little too straight for this. That isn't to say that they're not perfectly good characters, or that all of the books need to have the same tone, but you don't get the kind of counterpoint that you got with Bob, or the same sense of absurdity and sardonic humor. It doesn't spark the same way. Since both Mhari and Mo are both pretty PTSD, it wouldn't.

And I miss Gideon Emery, who is just very solid. He's got more of a golden voice than Bob would, but that's hardly a bad thing. He sounds fine when he gets to the technical bits, and his style is so transparent the words seem to pour directly into your head, with nothing between you and the story. He's actually good at reading female characters. And most of all, he seems to be enjoying himself reading the book. As George C. Scott said, you can spot the really good actors because they're having fun.

Bianca Amato does a fine job with this. It isn't the way I'd pictured Mhari's voice prior to this book, but it is Mhari as Stross describes her here. Mhari's language is the kind of mixture you'd expect from someone with a relatively privileged background who found herself working in a technical field. At times she sounds Bob-like, and has a habit of saying "And don't get me started on ..." when she gets on a technical subject. And she's amazingly good at reading lines like "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

It isn't a perfect performance. She mispronounces a number of words. Sometimes it's okay; misplacing the accent on "Medici" is perfectly justifiable as something Mhari might do. Mispronouncing "von Neumann" isn't, though. I've never encountered anyone who used his name who didn't get it basically right -- it's one of those pieces of information that has somehow gotten passed down among scientists, while physicists, in contrast, seem to be confused about how to say "de Broglie." Possibly it's because his name occurs in so many terms -- von Neumann machines, von Neumann entropy, and so on.

There is a part that sounds odd, where a PowerPoint presentation speaks of sacrificing 109 people, which is said to be beyond genocide. The actual figure is 10 to the 9th power, that is, a billion. This is probably not Amato's fault, since early galleys of the book contained a formatting error..

Amato's American accents are a mixed bag. You can tell that she's actually listened to how Americans speak, which is not true of all British voice actors, though her range is a bit limited. She's sort of okay with female Americans and kind of awful with male Americans, though she's not bad with British males. But that's better odds than many voice actors give you.

Overall, the book doesn't seem to work quite as well as an audio book. I'd often listen to passages several times over and finally give up and look up the text later on, since there were details that I knew I wasn't catching. Actually, the book seemed oddly hard to hear; listening to it in a car, I kept on turning it up, until it finally got to the point where the treble was hurting my ears. Possibly a technical issue.

In any case, the Laundry books are full of sharp ideas and clever world building, and this book is no exception. (So Cthulhu wants to transition the false vacuum to a lower state? Yeah, he would, wouldn't he?) If you like the Laundry series, the book is highly recommended.

  • First War of Physics

  • The Secret History of the Atom Bomb 1939-1949
  • By: Jim Baggott
  • Narrated by: Mark Ashby
  • Length: 17 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 69
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 63
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 60

An epic story of science and technology at the very limits of human understanding: the monumental race to build the first atomic weapons.

Rich in personality, action, confrontation, and deception, The First War of Physics is the first fully realized popular account of the race to build humankind's most destructive weapon. The book draws on declassified material, such as MI6's Farm Hall transcripts, coded Soviet messages cracked by American cryptographers in the Venona project, and interpretations by Russian scholars of documents from the Soviet archives.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • For all atom bomb and physics nerds

  • By Jodie Swafford on 11-30-18

Very good account

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

Reviewed: 08-06-18

"First War of Physics" is relatively dry, compared to a writer like Richard Rhodes, and it doesn't add much original research. But it is thorough and well written, and, personally, I find it a virtue that Jim Baggott does present the facts without a great deal of interpretation.

What does Baggott does have to offer is that he's a science writer with a strong background on physics (and one who has written some excellent semi-popular books on the subject). He is much more direct with technical details than someone outside the field would be, which I find a relief. And his perspective brings out human aspects of atom bomb development in a lived in way. Any researcher knows the feeling of going a little feral when working on a problem, of simply being on the hunt, at the risk of ignoring consequences. This was an area in which the consequences were enormous. Fermi worked on the bomb because he felt it was necessary to, but he was dismayed at finding that some physicists (certainly not all) simply wanted to develop a bomb.

Baggott is also very good at discussing the Nazi bomb efforts, Soviet espionage, Allied efforts to destroy German heavy water production, and so on. He brings wonderful clarity to the longstanding puzzle of Heisenberg's involvement.

Quibbles: The first half of the book is tough going, since it's largely a detailed account of how decisions got made. This is unavoidable in any serious history, however. Baggott's view of Stalin is a little naive, though it doesn't affect the book very much.

I confess to preferring British readers for British writers, but Mark Ashby does an excellent job, and he's a good fit for this material (and a much better choice than most other readers of non-fiction). He makes an effort to find out how to pronounce non-English words correctly, which is greatly appreciated. Inevitably when you have to speak words in a language you haven't lived with they won't always come out quite right. For example, Ashby gets the individual sounds of "Malmoe" basically right, but doesn't quite get the intonation pattern. But full points for taking the trouble to learn what Scandinavian languages sound like.

  • Starship Grifters

  • Rex Nihilo, Book 1
  • By: Robert Kroese
  • Narrated by: Kate Rudd
  • Length: 7 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,029
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,903
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,894

A space-faring ne'er-do-well with more bravado than brains, Rex Nihilo plies the known universe in a tireless quest for his own personal gain. But when he fleeces a wealthy weapons dealer in a high-stakes poker game, he ends up winning a worthless planet - and owing an outstanding debt more vast than space itself! The only way for Rex to escape a lifetime of torture on the prison world Gulagatraz is to score a big payday by pulling off his biggest scam.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Sometimes you just gotta give a book a chance!

  • By Sad Carlos on 07-08-14

Narrator wonderful, book not so much

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

Reviewed: 07-02-18

As a book, Starship Grifters doesn't make much impact. More Douglas Adams than Red Dwarf, a little PG Wodehouse in its central relationship, big recontextualizing exposition dump at the end. A few parts are very funny, but mostly it's a plod. Maybe it will work better for you than it did for me.

But Kate Rudd made it all worthwhile. I loved her voice so much that I listened all the way through the credits at the end. I would have stuck with the series if she'd narrated the rest.

  • Frankenstein: Prodigal Son

  • By: Dean Koontz
  • Narrated by: Christopher Lane
  • Length: 9 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,355
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,263
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,260

He is Deucalion, a tattooed man of mysterious origin, a sleight-of-reality artist who has traveled the centuries with a secret worse than death. He arrives in New Orleans as a serial killer stalks the streets, a killer who carefully selects his victims for the humanity that is missing in himself. Deucalion's path will lead him to cool, tough police detective Carson O'Connor and her devoted partner, Michael Maddison, who are tracking the slayer but will soon discover signs of something far more terrifying: an entire race of killers who are much more - and less - than human.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A modern masterpiece

  • By AmeliaD on 06-08-18

Vamp until ready

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

Reviewed: 06-24-18

This is my first book by Dean Koontz, and he's an excellent writer -- articulate, well read, and with a very good sense of character. Christopher Lane is an excellent narrator who is very well suited to this material.

I found the book itself very hard to get through. Publishing economics currently favors thick books with bigger prices per unit, so I imagine Koontz's publisher wanted a long novel. This kills Prodigal Son, which is really just setup. There's no dramatic tension, since it becomes clear early on that nothing will ever get resolved, that being the job of the rest of a fairly long series.

What fills the space is not so much horror as unpleasantness. Listening to the audiobook on CDs in a car, I kept trying to skip over yet another wallow in the head of one psychopath or another, hoping I wouldn't miss it if the plot finally advanced at some point, or the book spent time with someone who wasn't actively creepy. In the end all you're left with it that Doctor Frankenstein is really nasty and corrupts everything he touches, and he's extending his reach, but a few good people meet at the end and decide to oppose him in later books. Is that worth nine hours of your time?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Red Knight Falling

  • Harmony Black, Book 2
  • By: Craig Schaefer
  • Narrated by: Christina Traister
  • Length: 10 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 340
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 306
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 306

FBI agent Harmony Black and her team, Vigilant Lock, face a new type of threat: one from beyond the stars. They'd always heard the Red Knight was an urban legend: in 1954, three years before Sputnik launched, a mysterious satellite was sighted circling Earth, though no power on the planet had such technology.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Another good story marred by poor narrative choices

  • By Rob on 10-15-17

Overbearing narration

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

Reviewed: 10-19-17

The premise of this book is a riff on the Black Knight satellite conspiracy theory. It's the occult version of a technothriller, and observes the usual cliches, such as untrustworthy WASPs in high places talking funny; the phrase "terminate with extreme prejudice" does in fact occur in the book.

Couldn't tell you much more than that, since the book takes a long time to get moving, and I bailed on it before it did. The issue was the narration. Christina Traister's women aren't afraid to occupy space, and she gets a nice 1940s sass and swing, like Caity Lotz. This is a very punchy style, and unfortunately she doesn't modulate her performance very much. Most of the text gets attacked hard, even lines like "We set up camp at dusk," which is at odds with actually telling a story. Everything is emphasized, so nothing is emphasized.

I tried four or five times to get through the book, and the punchiness defeated me. It made it too hard to follow what was going on, like a kid running around and honking a horn while you're trying to have a conversation. After a while my ears started to hurt.

  • The Long Way Down

  • Daniel Faust, Book 1
  • By: Craig Schaefer
  • Narrated by: Adam Verner
  • Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,259
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,177
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,177

Nobody knows the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas like Daniel Faust, a sorcerer for hire and ex-gangster who uses black magic and bullets to solve his clients' problems. When an old man comes seeking vengeance for his murdered granddaughter, what looks like a simple job quickly spirals out of control. Soon Daniel stands in the crossfire between a murderous porn director; a corrupt cop with a quick trigger finger; and his own former employer, a racket boss who isn't entirely human.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Overall pretty good

  • By Brian Allen on 02-04-15

Weakly written, but the series does get better

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

Reviewed: 10-13-17

A lot of the reviews on this page find this book mediocre, and there's something to that. It's flatly written, and Schaefer seems never to have met a cliche he didn't like. But he does get a lot better with practice, and he does have an imagination, and if you're looking for this kind of series, you might get a better picture if you skipped ahead a couple of books.

You might also be better off with an actual book. Adam Verner's narration is bizarre, as if he learned how to perform by listening to Saturday morning cartoons. He's all right with Daniel Faust, but most of the male non-Faust characters sound theatrical and bloated, like an overly broad caricature of a ham actor. Anyone over 60 is given a creaky voice.

He gets into real trouble when he tries to do accents. For example, a character named Caitlin is supposed to have a Scottish accent. In Verner's hands it comes out as a muddled kind of stage Irish, which is so poorly defined that when I came across it out of context I thought it was supposed to be West Indian. A cockney character (who Schaefer shouldn't have introduced anyway, since he has no idea how Londoners talk) mostly sounds like a child's idea of an Australian. It isn't as if he couldn't have found references to work from, after all.

That's bad enough, but the narration doesn't seem to have much to do with actual human feelings. For example, there's a bit where Faust reflects that sometimes you have to risk dying because you couldn't live with the alternative. For Schaefer that was probably one more cliche. On the other hand, if does describe a real experience, and anyone who's been in that position will recall it as a time when things got real. Verner plays it for sentimentality, slipping into a pious, achingly sensitive tone that makes you picture him with the back of his hand on his forehead while he looks at the heavens. In a less fallen world the Three Stooges would have nailed him with a custard pie.

  • Sleeping Dogs

  • By: Thomas Perry
  • Narrated by: Michael Kramer
  • Length: 12 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 904
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 711
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 713

He came to England to rest. He calls himself Michael Shaeffer, says he's a retired American businessman. He goes to the races, dates a kinky aristocrat, and sleeps with dozens of weapons. Ten years ago it was different. Then, he was the Butcher's Boy, the highly skilled mob hit man who pulled a slaughter job on some double-crossing clients and started a mob war. Ever since, there's been a price on his head. Now, after a decade, they've found him.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Or... How I Fell in Love With a Hit Man

  • By Charles Atkinson on 03-21-12

A dark comedy of errors

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

Reviewed: 09-30-15

This is what thrillers look like when they grow up. Dark, sardonic, very funny; full of well-grounded movement; a solid idea of how the world works; wonderful characters, some of whom you end up caring about a great deal. To see just how well Thomas Perry does all this, compare it with one of the cheap knock offs, say Tom Woods' The Killer.

I've read the novel several times, and if the narrator wasn't right, I wouldn't have touched the audiobook. Michael Kramer gives the kind of reading that works so well you can't imagine doing it any other way.

  • Hammered

  • The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 3
  • By: Kevin Hearne
  • Narrated by: Luke Daniels
  • Length: 9 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15,231
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 13,958
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13,936

Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully - he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus’s home base of Tempe, Arizona....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Love this series!

  • By Hallie on 02-28-12

Morally disconnected

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

Reviewed: 09-24-15

The first two books in the series were sort of middle of the road fun, a little bland, a little too cute sometimes, though not fatally so. This book put me off completely.

Here Atticus is meddling where he shouldn't be. He ends up killing Thor, and causing a huge amount of harm to people who have nothing to do with whatever Thor has done, because he owes someone a favor. He kills gods because they're in the way, and nearly brings down Asgard. In fact, he nearly gets Freyja raped because it's convenient for his his plan.

And how is this ruthlessness justified? Well, Thor killed a family for sport a thousand years ago. Otherwise, pretty much, he commited a crime against diversity and one against beauty, also a thousand years ago. This is described in awful, smarmy, thriller-speak prose, as if instructing high school students. None of it is written in a convincing way, and it comes off as unfelt and as a transparent pretext for declaring total war.

Does Atticus hesitate to go along with this, or does he have second thoughts about it? No, he does the planning. He doesn't think about anything but how to do the job, whatever the cost, in an unconflicted, matter of fact way, and he doesn't regret a thing he's done. Since when has he been a psychopath?



  • The Fuller Memorandum

  • A Laundry Files Novel
  • By: Charles Stross
  • Narrated by: Gideon Emery
  • Length: 10 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,010
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 900
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 904

Hugo Award-winning author Charles Stross is renowned for his cutting-edge science fiction. This third entry in his “edgy … spoof of Cold War spy thrillers” ( Booklist) finds covert agent Bob Howard learning about a top-secret dossier that vanishes with his boss. Determined to discover the contents of this memorandum, Howard runs afoul of Russian spies, ancient demons, and apostles of a hideous cult planning to raise the Eater of Souls from the undead.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top notch!

  • By Maggie on 06-12-11

The Fuller Memorandum

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

Reviewed: 09-24-15

It's always a treat when a new Laundry novel comes out, and this is my own favorite of the series so far. Murky, Anthony Price-ish, satirical. Things happen.

Gideon Emery is just very good at what he does in general, and in the Laundry books in particular. He puts himself at the service of the story, and reads the technical stuff in an entirely natural way, as if he understands it, and he understands the humor as well. It's a good transparent style, which takes some art, and you think that yes, that's Bob Howard, all right, though a slightly golden-voiced version of him. You also think that about Mo. Emery is good at women's voices, without straining at it, and doesn't seem to think of women as a different species.

  • The Wrath of Angels

  • A Charlie Parker Mystery, Book 11
  • By: John Connolly
  • Narrated by: Jay Snyder
  • Length: 13 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 169
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 157
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 155

In the depths of the Maine woods, the wreckage of a plane is discovered. There are no bodies, and no such plane has ever been reported missing, but men both good and evil have been seeking it for a long, long time. What the wreckage conceals is more important than money. It is power: a list of names, a record of those who have struck a deal with the devil. Now a battle is about to commence between those who want the list to remain secret and those for whom it represents a crucial weapon in the struggle against the forces of darkness.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Demons, missing airplanes and hauntings oh my

  • By dee on 12-20-13

Read the book instead

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

Reviewed: 09-24-15

I won't comment on the story, since I don't have the context to evaluate it. This is the 11th in a series I'm not familiar with, and I tried it anyway because the premise looked intriguing. That didn't work out, but fair enough.

It might have gone differently with another narrator. Jay Snyder has the same bombast as Kevin Pariseau and Marc Vietor -- theatrical, inclined to thrilling voices and phony drama, squeezing every phrase for things to express; not much concerned with the overall shape of a passage, or in fact with anything past the sentence level. What you actually want in a narrator, in contrast, is someone who puts his ego aside and tells the story.

For example, there are sections in The Wrath of Angels that have a specifically Irish voice. Snyder imposes himself on the material so heavily that you really need to use your imagination to reconstruct it.