Swan Song

Narrated by: Tom Stechschulte
Length: 34 hrs and 19 mins
Categories: Fiction, Horror
4.5 out of 5 stars (9,414 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"We're about to cross the point of no return. God help us; we're flying in the dark, and we don't know where the hell we're going."

Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen - from the president of the United States to the homeless on the streets of New York City - will fight for survival.

Swan Song is Robert McCammon's prescient and shocking vision of a post-apocalyptic nation, a grand epic of terror and, ultimately, renewal.

In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth's last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity. They include Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets... Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station... and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan's gifts. But the ancient force behind earth's devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself.

Please note: Two chapters were originally missing from Part 2 of this book. We were alerted to the problem on 11/21/11 and have corrected it. We're very sorry for any inconvenience. If you had already downloaded the book, don’t worry - your library has automatically updated with the corrected version. Simply re-download from your library, at no additional cost, to get the complete book.

©2009 Robert McCammon (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

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Simply an Amazing Story

Where does Swan Song rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I was hesitant on buying this book because of the mixed reviews and the length of the book. After the first part of of the book I was sucked into Swan and Sister's apocalyptic nightmare. The book is simply amazing, frightening, funny, sad, brutal, and inspirational. I am for once at a loss of words to describe this book of fear I might not do it justice. If you like The Stand by Stephen King you will IN FACT LOVE Swan Song.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Sister and Swan

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

Listening to the tone of voice in certain conversations allowed me to experience the characters emotional distress, love, and sadness.

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

Both.....I laughed and cried...and sometimes yelled!

154 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Just wanted it to end...

I've listened to many audio books of this length or even longer with no problems, but I just wanted this one to end. Many other reviewers have compared this story to King's "The Stand," but this comes nowhere close IMO. The characters weren't very well developed and even the "good" characters weren't particularly likable. I was annoyed by how un-resourceful many were, especially in the beginning. The "evil" characters also weren't very intelligent or cunning. McCammon relied on graphic violence to make scenes scary, whereas King's evil characters were often intelligent and relied on psychological manipulation vs. senseless violence. I don't avoid violent books or am particularly squeamish, but I found the violence in this story was more for shock value than story enhancement.

No spoilers, but I also felt like the "evil" characters became less interesting and almost laughable as the story progressed. I also felt like this story just wasn't very believable / realistic, and not because of the supernatural aspect. One of the things I've always admired about King's stories, which ALL involve some degree of supernatural elements, is that his characters are believable - ordinary humans like me thrust into bizarre circumstances with realistic reactions. I know McCammon is not King, but if you loved The Stand for the reasons I mention, you might not enjoy this one nearly as much.

For another long-haul, post apocalyptic story, I thoroughly enjoyed Justin Cronin's The Passage Trilogy. It's about 80 hours across 3 books, but I found it far more interesting - better character development & fascinating story.

36 people found this helpful

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Superb apocalyptic fantasy

Wow--how could I have never come across this book before? A big thank you to Audible for drawing this one to my attention. This is a massive, epic book about the end of the world (as it existed in 1987). Instantly reminiscent of Stephen King's The Stand, Swan Song draws readers into a post-apocalyptic landscape where only the strong survive. With a massive cast of characters to navigate, narrator Tom Stechschulte does a masterful job of presenting each one with his/her own personality and voice. Amazing job! This is a long book, and it's not always fun to listen to; the world of Swan Song is pretty dark. But in the end, the message of hope comes through, and the interplay of fast-paced action scenes with slower, more contemplative interludes provides a nice pacing to the story. Robert McCammon rides a perfect balance between realism and fantasy in this amazing book. Highly recommended!

49 people found this helpful

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I would do it again

Good story, a touch of magic but not too much. It's rated R so kids should stay clear probably. It kept me listening without much of a break. That's a good book to me. Top 100

70 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good vs Evil in a post nuclear holocaust world

At the start of the book you will be introduced to a number of characters as they go about their lives in various parts of the United States. However, before you can even get to know them the nukes are flying and the world around them is destroyed. This sets the stage for a tale of good vs evil amidst a holocaust that develops a fantasy twist to it. Special powers and magical items are not abundant, but they are central to the confrontation as it unfolds.

Although they have different causes for the fall of civilization, the similarities between this book and The Stand by Stephen King are all too obvious, especially during the first half of the book. Both novels are well done and Swan Song does eventually develop its own personality and stands on its own merit. The two books are similar enough to say that if you didn’t like The Stand then you aren’t likely to enjoy Swan Song either.

Things get pretty dark as the tale goes on, and in predictable fashion, the various threads of the story eventually come together in a final confrontation. The characters are not that complex but the reading is well done and the story moves along well. If you are in the mood for a classic good vs evil story in a post-apocalyptic setting then you have come to the right place. If you are looking for a complex story with multi-layered characters then you should spend your credit elsewhere.

38 people found this helpful

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Very compelling post-apocalyptic tale

Although written in 1987, this book really hasn't dated all that badly. It's a well thought out post-apocalyptic saga with a pleasing amount of paranormal added in to set it apart from the other post-nuclear novels of the time. In all fairness, it could have been about 5 hours shorter, but it is full of excellently characterized bad guys. If I had to find something to criticize, perhaps the Swan character could have been just a little less perfect, but nonetheless, I did enjoy the listen. It wasn't easy to turn it off come bedtime.

The narration is good. Tom Stechschulte does certain characters exceptionally well. I do wish, though, that he toned down his emotive reading a little. I prefer it when narrators let the emotion come through the words instead of using their tone of voice so much. But if you enjoy emotive readers, then you will really enjoy him. And for the most part, the slightly over-dramatic reading doesn't detract from the listening experience.

I certainly thought it was worth the credit!

87 people found this helpful

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You'll be up all night listening to this classic

Swan Song has been my all-time favorite book, since I first read it in the 1980's, even when compared to other post-apocalypse dramas, like The Stand, or Lucifer's Hammer.

I still have my old dog-eared paperback copy on my book shelf after all these years!

I'm excited to purchase the audiobook and re-experience the edge-of-your seat thrills, and ultimately the hope for humanity that Swan Song delivers.

105 people found this helpful

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I Don't Think We're In Kansas Anymore

HIS EYES GLAZED OVER LIKE POND ICE
RM has divided this into 14 parts. Part one follows the President of the United States, who is a former astronaut who can't make a decision. Then goes to Professional Wrestler to a Bag Lady to a Trailer Park. I thought the characters were going to be cliche and that the writing was going to be very simple.

YOU AIN'T GOT THE SENSE GOD GAVE A PISS ANT.
Part 2, 3 and 4 got better, but I was thinking this was a cheap copy of "The Stand". Is there really an insect called a piss ant?

AS COLD AS A VIRGIN'S BED
Around part 5 or 6 they get to Matheson, Kansas. Holley crap the story really picks up then. From chapter 37 to 52 it is intense, it is scary, you will not be able to stop listening during these chapters. These chapters are some of the best written and scariest stuff I have ever read or listened to.

LET'S QUIT SHIRKIN AND GET TO WORKEN.
Chapter 54 till the finish is not as scary or intense, but is still a great listen. I am very impatient with most long books, but I found myself every morning, excited about getting to continue the story. Parts of this book will remind you of Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Robin Hobb, and or Road Warrior.

HOPE IS A DISEASE
This was my first McCammon book, but I see one of his books is on sale in a 3 for two sale, and I will be getting it.

FORGIVENESS CRIPPLES EVIL
I will give the narrator a 95%, he did really well on all the voices and he was easy to listen to. i did think he used the clenched teeth mad a little too often, when a different response was called for, but that could just be my opinion. I have no problem listening to him again.






134 people found this helpful

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Someone has to point out this books weaknesses.

What disappointed you about Swan Song?

Where to start? I think it would be easier to say what is good about this book. If you liked The Stand, despite all it's wordiness and boring characters (I did), then you will probably enjoy Swan Song. It has a few unique ideas but I began to suspect, about five hours in, that I could tell where this story was going.

What was most disappointing about Robert McCammon’s story?

1) There was ultimately no price paid by humanity for destroying the Earth. Nuclear winter was over in 7 years? Everyone good got a new face? Complete tripe.
2) The crown was introduced as protection for Swan and then never used. Did the author forget about it?
3) Everyone is backwards. Like the world had reverted to the Dark Ages in just seven years. Someone smart must have survived.

How could the performance have been better?

The narrator did not help raise the seemingly low IQ of the characters. He performed them all as sniveling dullards.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Swan Song?

Every other sentence.

Any additional comments?

For what it's worth, I did listen to the whole book.

17 people found this helpful

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don't miss out on this book!!!

I have been waiting for this book to come out in audio for years. I thought about waiting until I finished listening to the entire book before writing a review, but didn't have the willpower. Anyone who likes sci-fi will love this book. Although is is an older book it is so well worth the listen. It has everything a good book needs; it pits the forces of good and evil against one anther and is superbly written. I can comfortably and with confidence highly recommend this book. Thank you audible for bringing it to me!!!

76 people found this helpful

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  • Simon
  • 09-07-15

More of an Opera than a Song!

When I got this book in a special offer I didn't expect too much from it despite the positive reviews. However, when I got round to listening to it my expectations were far exceeded. Sadly for me several of the existing reviews make many of the points that I would like to make. It is indeed very much like Stephen King's The Stand in many ways. The post-apocalypse setting, the fight between good and evil. It's also similar in the large cast of characters and the depth which the author gives to them. They stand out because they are drawn from all levels of achievement within our existing society. They carry the burdens of how current society treated them into this post-apocalyptic world and some discover the merits and strengths that were buried under its negative judgement.

It's a harsh book set in a harsh world but it carries messages of hope both on a personal and global level. You'll have to listen to it though to find out whether those slender seedlings of hope triumph over the brutal evil of a lawless world.

The narration is very impressive, particularly for a book of this length. As a result of the fine writing and the fitting rendition from Tom Stechschulte the length of the book is a positive without doubt.

Try this one, it has real quality.

42 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rob
  • 11-19-12

Long but worth the effort

This is my second Audible book, and the first time I have been driven to write a review (of any kind). I have to say that this would not be my choice of book to read. Too big and not my normal genre. I have far too many books and not enough time to read them all ( oh woe is me!). I joined Audible to broaden my tastes with something different whilst walking the dogs, and I found that this lengthy (30 hours) story became an evening obsession for a month or so.

Yes, it is a dark tale of a post nuclear apocalyptic America and is sometimes difficult to hear of the destruction and long term suffering...but that really is the point. How can you explore the possibility of redemption and survival without the descent into evil and chaos in the first place?. And it is like The Stand in that it is an exploration of good verses evil, with groups of characters on each side.

But... the similarity ends there.

The author has created a compelling story where each of the 90 or so chapters follows the POV of groups of people on either side of the moral divide. The main characters soon become familiar, and their individual stories inexorably and sometimes painfully progress to a satisfying and exciting series of confrontations at the climax of the book. I liked the ending.

The big thing for me though was the experience of having this book, that I never would have read normally, delivered as a professional spoken performance through my earphones in the Ashdown Forest every day for a month. Really quite surreal!

I was not convinced at the start, but was soon drawn into the timbre of Tom Stechshulte's voice. His vocal interpretation of each of the characters became to be "just right". This is not simply someone reading aloud. (erm Librivox anyone?) This is a proper job! I could not wait for my next daily instalment!

Great stuff....

Now...what to listen to next?

56 people found this helpful

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  • W. Taylor
  • 10-13-13

A thoroughly unexpected pleasure

When I bought this book I thought I knew what to expect having seen many reviews which mentioned The Stand and having had a recent binge of post-apocalyptic reading myself. It managed, though, to deliver much more than I expected and something very different from what I expected.

The beginning was, I think I can say without being too unkind, pretty much run-of-the-mill and conventional. There was a brief pencil sketch depiction of the main characters we were going to follow in their lives before the outbreak of Nuclear War and I have to say at this point the novel felt like the start of any disaster "B" movie and I worried that I had made a big mistake in buying this one, but very soon the author began to bring in some discordant and original notes.

Without risking too much of a spoiler I think that I can safely reveal that as this novel continues it soon leaves behind gritty realism and approaches something closer to gritty magical realism. The themes of Good and Evil become embodied in certain characters and the nature of reality warps around them and the reader in an original and challenging way. I think herein may lie a challenge for some readers: if you buy a fantasy novel with an elf and a wizard on the front you know the extent to which you are going to be expected to suspend your disbelief but you may not be braced for a similar extent of suspension when you buy a novel about the survivors in an American landscaped ravaged by nuclear war. However, once you make this compromise this becomes an incredible journey in which you become deeply involved - I have to confess there was one point I didn't want continue because what little good had been reclaimed from this destroyed world was all about to be destroyed and I couldn't see any way for it to be avoided: that is how involved I had become in the story.

The end of the novel might strike some as a little too neat and maybe a touch glib but I think that having travelled so far with the author and these characters we have all earned some kind of closure and not a cheap opening for book two. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will come back to it again (and again, quite possibly). I will recommend it whole-heartedly to certain of my friends and if you want to know whether I would recommend it to you I would say that if you enjoyed The Stand and or The Passage then this book is probably for you or if you enjoy a little fantasy in your reading but don't like it too feel too childish then this is the book for you too.

I can not leave without a little word about the narration. Tom Stechschulte manages to portray a wonderful array of characters, accents and emotions with consistency and flair. He is a truly talented gentleman and who made a tour-de-force performance with this novel.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • monica
  • 04-11-13

Swan Song

I was disappointed at first, extremely slow to start but about 5 hours in I got hooked and had to finish it. Have only read one other book by R McCammon the Wolf Hour and loved it so was hoping this would be as good.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Joanne
  • 01-09-12

Loved it

I've read most of Robert McCammons books and loved them. This is no exception. Tom does a really good job of the narration as well so double bonus. Not sure why the previous reviewer put what they did it's a post-apocalyptic tale - what did they expect!! Love that the characters are all so different and each have their own story to tell

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-09-12

Loved it.

Great story which is superbly read. I found myself building a relationship with every main character - good and bad - and thoroughly enjoying every moment of the book. As previous reviewer posted, I would expect a certain amount of "nastiness" in a post-apocalyptic environment and thus it didn't bother me. In fact, I think it helped creating the right atmosphere. Definitely a keeper!

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • @Scattered_Laura
  • 07-09-12

A brilliant, post-apocalyptic adventure tale!

How is it that this book has been off my radar for so long!? Seriously. I love epic, post-apocalyptic tales of survival and so this book should have been on my list from the moment of its release. Okay... maybe not that far back as I was two years old when it was originally released. No. This book was so good that even then I should have had it on my wishlist.

This book is a must read if you are a fan of Stephen King's The Stand or Justin Cronin's The Passage. I happen to be a huge fan of both and Swan Song is a bit like the love-child of these works.

It has a whole bunch in common with The Stand. The survivors of the apocalypse (which takes the form of a nuclear strike instead of a government-engineered plague) fall into two camps of Good vs Evil. There's a "dark man" figure who is decidedly evocative of King's Randall Flagg, and there are many religious undercurrents to the narrative.

King's work was first published in '78 so it pre-dates Swan Song. Even though the argument could be made that McCammon's work is derivative, I actually don't care. I see it more as one great piece of fiction inspiring another. While King's work is definitely superior, McCammon's story is still a wonderful read. Whole bunches of books have been inspired by great predecessors, and just because they don't measure up to them, doesn't mean they can't be great in their own right.

I guess there was a lot about this book which reminded me of other books, and I know that's not necessarily a good thing. However, in this case I honestly enjoyed every aspect of the book. The situation was gripping, the characters were realistic and the premise was epic. This is one of those books that I'd recommend to people after they'd read and loved The Stand. It's not as good as that, but it's damned decent as a follow-up read! A fab not-so-little read!

15 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Robyn
  • 02-26-18

Post apocalyptic misery and hope

This is a well-conceived tale of what could happen when the world's leaders finally lose the plot.

As much as I shudder at the brutality of it all, it's probably exactly what would happen after the bombs when it comes to survival, ie: "he who has the biggest gun wins". A return to the wild west, but with modern left-overs and absolutely no boundaries to morality. Hope is a mere seedling, which is regularly uprooted....but somehow it does endure, and this is ultimately what this book leaves us with.

There is a slight supernatural theme running through this tale, which is never fully explained, but just like a good Stephen King novel, the lack of explanation is just part and parcel of the whole.

It's long, atmospheric and brutal, but at the same time the story of friendship and loyalty is also quite lovely.

The narration is fully in keeping with the emotion and tone of it all. A well spent credit.

6 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Perfect Rice
  • 03-17-17

A gripping story, let down by a few poor elements

It was tough to give this a 3/5 rating as more of the book than not was excellent. The opening, as it built up to nuclear war, was immediately gripping. Then the war itself was brutal but fascinating. The aftermath let us know the characters better and got their individual stories in motion. I found myself growing genuinely attached to the main characters, even the ones who were clearly evil. It's mainly a genuinely thrilling story of survival in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war, and then in the nuclear winter some years later.

The author paints a very vivid picture through his descriptions and Tom Stechschulte is probably the best person I've heard read an audio book. I never had any trouble differentiating the characters, even those that could have sound similar, and there are a lot of characters. He also sounded a bit like Charlton Heston at times, which can't be a bad thing.

So why 3/5? Because, unfortunately, there are also some fantasy elements in here and they really don't work. The 'strange and transformative glass artifact' mentioned in the description is easily the worst part of the entire book. The story gets dragged down to a crawl every single time it puts in an appearance with endless descriptions of how pretty it is. It's basically a McGuffin that brings together the main characters, thought that's something I feel could have been done differently anyway.

It sets up two human characters as the villains of the piece and then introduces a more fantasy villain. The trouble is that the two human characters, who are much more interesting, are sidelined by this fantasy villain, who is just evil and therefore actually rather dull.

To make it even worse, both of these elements don't really amount to anything in the end. The other elements of the story do build up to a fantastic conclusion and, although I felt satisfied at the end, it really could have been better.

6 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • C
  • 12-04-14

overlong, overwraught...just over it

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

not unless they thought Stephen King's characters were just too subtle and nuanced.

If you like your good and evil laid out very clearly, and sledgehammered home at every opportunity, this is the book for you.

Also, where on earth was the editor?! there are errors in this book, eg one character saying to another they've definitely decided to go somewhere then a few chapters later, claiming not to know where to go and all of a sudden, the distance to said place has shifted by about 5 to 10 miles.

Maybe the editor / proof-reader lost all will to plough on at that stage. I don't really blame them.

Has Swan Song put you off other books in this genre?

Apocalyptic novels are not really my chosen genre, I only bought this one as I'd liked McGammon's Matthew Corbett novel (1st one), so I'm not sure I can be put off something I never really went for in the first place

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Quite a good performance but sometimes he voiced the characters with a very low voice that was difficult to pick up on headphones

Was Swan Song worth the listening time?

If you want hours and hours of mindless, meandering, vaguely interesting chat, then by all means. It's not brilliant, kind of the literary equivalent of chewing gum...starts off fine then is very same-y then very bland then you keep chewing (not knowing why) and in the end, you don't mind if you spit it out and never think about it again.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Ricky
  • 08-27-15

A brilliant listen!

A slightly slow start but persistence definitely pays off. Swan Song is an excellent story and the narration was absolutely first class. For a single male narrator to pull off such a variety of differing voice tones for male and female characters was a top effort - I truly felt like I was feeling each characters different personalities the way Tom bought them to life.

This was definitely a story for mature listeners as it touches some adult topics, but I enjoyed the inclusion and the handling of those topics. Its refreshing to see a novel include real-world, gritty plot points instead of treating your book like a cartoon for kids.

I still find myself wondering 1 or 2 things from the supernatural portion of the plot - what exactly was the ring/crown? What was Sister's mirror? How did they come to be? But, for me, these questions have not detracted from the enjoyment of the story as a whole.

2 people found this helpful

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  • darkestred
  • 08-22-17

Nowhere near as good as The Stand by SK....

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes - it is a good listen however the Stand by SK is sooo much better if you're looking for apocalyptic supernatural thrillers. Some of the plot points are not explained at all and you're itching for the author to take it that bit further to conclusion. The supernatural components of the story are not explained or really explored at all - they just occur in the background. The whole book seems to lead up to *spoilers* Sister getting the crown to Swan and then when she has it... she doesn't use it! What is the point! Does the crown have healing powers? How could she use it as a weapon to defend herself? The end seems very much of a fizzle (unlike The Stand which is just epic). Also the cold war plot point is a little dated now in 2017. I love the *idea* of this novel but the execution left me wanting a bit more. Still, a good listen overall.

If you’ve listened to books by Robert McCammon before, how does this one compare?

No

What does Tom Stechschulte bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He is a very talented reader - you forget one person is doing all of the different voices of the characters!

If this book were a film would you go see it?

yes

  • Overall
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  • Michael
  • 10-09-16

great post apocalypse audiobook

i loved the book, but found towards the end even though i knew it was coming the supernatural side of it took over a bit to much