Review of The Legend of Drizzt

December 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Legend of DrizztThe Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories
By R. A. Salvatore
Publisher: Audible Studios
Publication Date: 12 August 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours, 27 minutes

Themes: / Forgotten Realms / dark elf / fantasy / short stories /

Publisher summary:

The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories expands upon the epic legend of the dark elf with 12 tales performed by the all-star cast of Felicia Day, Dan Harmon, Greg Grunberg, Tom Felton, Danny Pudi, Sean Astin, Melissa Rauch, Ice-T, Wil Wheaton, Al Yankovic, Michael Chiklis, and David Duchovny!

For years, the Legend of Drizzt has included short stories published in Forgotten Realms anthologies and Dragon magazine. Available here for the first time in audio are all the classic stories by the New York Times best-selling author R. A. Salvatore!

From the startling origin of Drizzt’s panther companion, to the tale of Jarlaxle and Entreri’s first encounter with the dragon sisters, the tales in The Collected Stories enrich this vividly-imagined series by building the world around Drizzt through exploring the backstories of side characters and magical locations.

Wizards of the Coast outdid themselves on this one and brought in a cast that’s actually hard to believe unless you start listening.
I thought the stories were excellent and for the most part the readings were well done. Ice-T was decent, but extremely slow and kept pronouncing the “w” in “sword” and that word is used a ton in his story. It drove me nuts.

Weird Al did a good job, especially with the voices, but his voice is a little too … bubbly … silly … there’s got to be a better word … for this type of serious story.

Usually Wil Wheaton does a good job, but I don’t rate him super high as a narrator because he never does different voices for the characters, at least not well. This one he did an excellent job with the voices. He’s another, however, that might have too much sarcasm in his voice for this type of story. Which is why he is the perfect narrator for anything from John Scalzi.

Last one and I’m done talking, biggest surprise was Michael Chiklis, who did an insanely good job with EVERYTHING. I hope he does tons more audiobooks and quits acting for the real money … in audiobook narration! We all know Scott Brick is rollin’ in it, amiright?

Overall, it’s more than worth the price I paid and then some and pretty cool to have these celebrities reading names like Drizzt and Zaknafein and Menzoberranzan and I’m not even touching the dwarf names of the top of my head that us geeks love oh so much.

4 out of 5 stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Ilium by Dan Simmons

December 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Ilium by Dan SimmonsIlium (Ilium #1)
By Dan Simmons; Narrated by Kevin Pariseau
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 25 Discs; 30 hours
Themes: / Mars / gods / ancient Greece / scholars / Shakespeare / fantasy /
Publisher summary:
From the towering heights of Olympos Mons on Mars, the mighty Zeus and his immortal family of gods, goddesses, and demigods look down upon a momentous battle, observing—and often influencing—the legendary exploits of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and the clashing armies of Greece and Troy.Thomas Hockenberry, former 21st-century professor and Iliad scholar, watches as well. It is Hockenberry’s duty to observe and report on the Trojan War’s progress to the so-called deities who saw fit to return him from the dead. But the muse he serves has a new assignment for the wary scholic, one dictated by Aphrodite herself.With the help of 40th-century technology, Hockenberry is to infiltrate Olympos, spy on its divine inhabitants…and ultimately destroy Aphrodite’s sister and rival, the goddess Pallas Athena. On an Earth profoundly changed since the departure of the Post-Humans centuries earlier, the great events on the bloody plains of Ilium serve as mere entertainment.Its scenes of unrivaled heroics and unequaled carnage add excitement to human lives devoid of courage, strife, labor, and purpose. But this eloi-like existence is not enough for Harman, a man in the last year of his last 20. That rarest of post-postmodern men—an ‘adventurer’—he intends to explore far beyond the boundaries of his world before his allotted time expires, in search of a lost past, a devastating truth, and an escape from his own inevitable ‘final fax.’ Meanwhile, from the radiation-swept reaches of Jovian space, four sentient machines race to investigate—and, perhaps, terminate—the potentially catastrophic emissions of unexplained quantum-flux emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of Mars.

If someone were to describe this book to me (if they even could), I don’t know if I would believe how much I absolutely enjoyed it. Dan Simmons is a mad genius.

Shakespeare-quoting humanoid robots, Greek Gods, post-humans, and old-style humans somehow make the craziest awesome story imaginable.

Ilium is a story told through essentially three unrelated viewpoints. First, there’s Hockenberry. This is told in first person. Hockenberry is called a “Scholic,” a human from our the 20th century (our time) who was rebirthed in a future where Homer’s Trojan War is being fought. His job is to report on the war … to the Greek Gods.

At first, this is completely confusing. Why? is a question I asked myself over and over, but it begins to make sense with time. Plus, it’s hard not to be fascinated with the events of the Iliad. It’s also impressive how much research went into it, though that’s only an assumption since my knowledge of the Trojan War is essentially from the movie, Troy (but I have read the Odyssey!).

The second viewpoint is the humans, mainly Daemon. Daemon is a self-involved fool who is unlikeable to say the least. But who wouldn’t be when you have everything handed to you on a silver platter by robots called servitors (sp – I did listen to the audio so forgive me), like all humans everywhere. Pleasure is their life, knowledge … is lacking.

The third viewpoint is that of a sonnet-loving humanoid robot called a “moravec” and named Mahnmut. Specifically, and only, Shakespeare’s sonnets. It’s work consists of exploring the moon of Jupiter called Europa. Mahnmut is called in on a mission with a group of moravecs to explore some occurrences on the planet mars.

At first, I was highly entertained, though confused, with the events of the Trojan war and the other parts were just above boring. Slowly, the story takes hold and it had me hook, line, and sinker.

Listening to the audiobook, I was looking forward to my morning and evening drives and not too sad to do errands on my lunch hour either. Somehow, it ALL makes sense even though it sounds like the oddest collection of classics to make up a cohesive story all its own. What does Shakespeare have to do with the Iliad or Proust (his work makes appearances too) for that matter, all set in the future with technology that gives humans everything they ever want or need?

It’s crazy I tell ya. Crazy! How did I like this book this much? I’m telling you, Simmons is a mad genius. I will just sit back and let him take me on his journey. It’s amazing. I question not.

Kevin Pariseau is the narrator of this audiobook and while at first I thought he over-acted the part of Hockenberry, though somehow not the other parts, I really grew to like him and found out that it was literally just the character of Hockenberry that he was playing. And it’s impressive given how many Greek words and names he’s got to …erm… name.

The only problem is that Ilium is only half the story. It stops at a huge cliffhanger and I’m already heading to Olympos to see how this ends.

5 out of 5 Stars (Mind … blown)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb

November 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Fools FateFool’s Fate (Tawny Man Trilogy #3)
By Robin Hobb; Performed by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 35 hours
Themes:  / fantasy / Farseer / assassin / dragon /
Publisher summary:

FitzChivalry Farseer has become firmly ensconced in the queen’s court. Along with his mentor, Chade, and the simpleminded yet strongly Skilled Thick, Fitz strives to aid Prince Dutiful on a quest that could secure peace with the Outislands—and win Dutiful the hand of the Narcheska Elliania.The Narcheska has set the prince an unfathomable task: to behead a dragon trapped in ice on the isle of Aslevjal. Yet not all the clans of the Outislands support their effort. Are there darker forces at work behind Elliana’s demand? Knowing that the Fool has foretold he will die on the island of ice, Fitz plots to leave his dearest friend behind. But fate cannot so easily be defied.

Disclaimer: This is a review of the third book in a trilogy and the review will likely include spoilers from preceding books. I’d strongly recommend starting with the first book in the trilogy (Fool’s Errand) or better yet, Assassin’s Apprentice since the Farseer trilogy is very good and all these books are related.

Fool’s Fate is the last book of the Tawny Man trilogy. The story picks up immediately where Golden Fool left off as the Farseers are preparing to travel to the island Aslevjal to kill the dragon Icefire. The Fool has also told FitzChivalry that they must save Icefire to put the world on a better path. Which will Fitz decide: his oath of loyalty and allegiance to the Farseer throne or his role as the Catalyst of the White Prophet? I’ve really enjoyed all of the books in this trilogy leading but this book stands out as something special.

The whole premise of the book is based on a challenge Prince Dutiful was goaded into and that the adults don’t particularly want to do. It’s pretty obvious that something else is at play with the Outislanders in making this challenge and the result is a fantastic conclusion to the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. As already stated, FitzChivalry’s struggle with his role as the Catalyst while also serving his realm have you wondering what will happen all the way up to the climax.

As I listened to this story, I really felt like a full story was being told in which I couldn’t see the seams. I normally can’t help my mind picking a story apart into its elements to determine what’s going to be important later in the story but things weren’t so obvious here. There are so many things going on that it just feels like an active world as opposed to having just a few conveniently introduced devices to be used later (for instance, you know when Harry Potter learns a new spell that it will almost certainly be the sole thing that gets him out of trouble later. Expecto Patronum!). What will be important here? New understandings of the Wit from Webb? The newly forming Skill coterie? Chade’s blasting powder? Something old Elderling tools? Hobb does a great job working everything together into a good ride.

If there is one weakness in this book, it’s that it wraps things up too well. When I say too well, I mean that the falling action and conclusion of the book feel like the resolution to both the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogy as so much of what happens even concludes questions you may not even realize you had. The falling action and conclusion also take up about 1/3 of the book which kind of threw me. I was avidly consuming the story through the climax but then felt like things dragged out a bit afterward. Don’t get me wrong – I loved all of it, I just thought it was worth mentioning.

As with the previous installments of this trilogy, James Langton does a fantastic job with his narration of this book. There were times I forgot I was even listening to an audio book because I was just so into it. If I had one gripe it would be that some voices sound quite similar but those that do rarely have scenes together (Hap, Dutiful, Swift). I would definitely look for Langton reading other books.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Heraclix and Pomp by Forrest Aguirre

November 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Hereclix and PompHeraclix and Pomp: A Novel of the Fabricated and the Fey
By Forrest Aguirre; Narrated by Brandon Massey
Publisher: Audible Studios via Resurrection House
Publication Date: 14 October 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 7 minutes

Themes: / reanimation / golem / necromancer / fantasy /

Publisher summary:

Heraclix was dead and Pomp was immortal. That was before Heraclix’s reanimation (along with the sewn-together pieces and parts of many other dead people) and Pomp’s near murder at the hands of an evil necromancer. As they travel from Vienna to Prague to Istanbul and back again (with a side-trip to Hell), they struggle to understand who and what they are: Heraclix seeks to know the life he had before his death and rebirth, and Pomp wrestles with the language and meaning of mortality. As they journey across a land rife with revolution and unrest, they discover that the evil necromancer they thought dead might not be so dead after all. In fact, he might be making a pact to ensure his own immortality….

Heraclix and Pomp: A Novel of the Fabricated and the Fey is a story about mortality, at the end of the day. It has horror and fantasy trappings, but at its core, it deals with finding oneself and dealing with mortal matters. The story is told through the guise of Heraclix, a golem, pieced together from many beings, and Pomp, a fairy faced with mortality. I think this book is probably a 2.5-star book…on the one hand, I liked the characters and the world and the idea. But on the other, I was bored a lot of the time when listening, and the book felt repetitive.

The book seems to do a lot of moral speaking, all from the frame of Heraclix or Pomp. Brought together when a sorcerer’s attempt at a spell goes haywire, Heraclix suffers a re-birth of sorts, while Pomp is nearly killed in the doing of the magic. Bound by their shared experience, they set off to first escape the sorcerer and then to learn more about Heraclix’s past. As he travels Europe and The Middle East, Heraclix learns whose parts literally make up his whole–he is a golem of patched together parts from people, most of whom he learns about in his travels. Pomp, meanwhile, is from the land of the Fey, used to being a prankster and not having to worry about a thing. However, the sorcerer almost killed her, brining her face to face with her on mortality, so she learns more of what it is to be human (or at least, human-like) while helping Heraclix learn about himself.

I enjoyed the world that Aguirre developed, and I enjoyed the characters. The book takes place in the time shortly after The Crusades, in parts of the world I don’t often see come up in books. Heraclix and Pomp run into vagabonds, sorcerers, gypsies, kings, nomads, and a host of other characters as they search between Vienna and Instanbul–and a variety of places in between, including a trip to Hell. The telling of the various stories of the lives that Heraclix was a part of was charming and not like most things I’ve read.

But…somehow, it wasn’t enough. I repeatedly found my mind wandering during the narration, found myself having to go back to the beginnings of chapters to see what I’d missed. The book seemed to work very well one chapter at a time…at first, but even then, I was finding other things to read. Some of the language used seemed purposefully obscure, and a lot of the scenes felt like repeats–Heraclix and Pomp enter a setting, they find some part of Heraclix’s past, they are chased out into another setting, rinse, repeat. I think if the book had been shorter, it might have helped. It’s not that it was bad (it certainly wasn’t), but I think more might have been left on the editor’s desk.

The narration, performed by Brandon Massey, was decent. His voice is strong, good for an audiobook, if a little droning at times. The biggest “problem” with the narration might be more due to the story itself. It was sometimes hard to keep track of characters, of who was who. This was especially problematic when characters from the early parts of the book would be re-introduced at the end of the book. Audiobooks are much harder to flip back through to refresh your memory, after all. Massey’s voice sounded familiar to me, though looking through my library, he hasn’t narrated anything else that I’ve read. His voice would be good in a mystery or other novel when there are only a few characters.

All in all, I liked this book, but wished that it had been a little less obscure and a little less repetitive. That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t give it a try if it sounds interesting. But maybe try it out in a print format.

Posted by terpkristin.

 

 

Review of Golden Fool by Robin Hobb

November 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Golden FoolGolden Fool (The Tawny Man, Book 2)
By Robin Hobb, Narrated by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 25 July 2014[UNABRIDGED] – 25 hours, 56 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / Farseer / assassin /

Publisher Summary:

Prince Dutiful has been rescued from his Piebald kidnappers and the court has resumed its normal rhythms. There FitzChivalry Farseer, gutted by the loss of his wolf bondmate, must take up residence at Buckkeep as a journeyman assassin.

Posing as a bodyguard, Fitz becomes the eyes and ears behind the walls, guiding a kingdom straying closer to civil strife each day. Amid a multitude of problems, Fitz must ensure that no one betrays the Prince’s secret – one that could topple the throne: that he, like Fitz, possesses the dread “beast magic.” Only Fitz’s friendship with the Fool brings him solace. But even that is shattered when devastating revelations from the Fool’s past are exposed. Bereft of support and adrift in intrigue, Fitz finds that his biggest challenge may be simply to survive.

Golden Fool picks up directly where Fool’s Errand leaves off. Dutiful needs someone to teach him how to use his magics and Fitz (aka Tom) gets caught up further in the intrigues of the court at Buckkeep. Dutiful’s betrothal ceremony with his future bride from the OutIslands is set to go off and there are also Piebalds somewhere out in the Six Dutchies…what could possibly go wrong? Fitz needs to figure out what is going on by any means possible to prevent problems for the farseer reign.

Golden Fool‘s plot didn’t really feel like a normal plot to me – it feels like a middle book in a trilogy that covers the events after the initial setup but before the epic conclusion of the trilogy. That doesn’t mean the book is any less enjoyable, just that it doesn’t have as many peaks and valleys with tension and the climax of the book. The book ends in such a way that you have to go on to the third book afterwards.

Hobb’s ability to write compelling prose continues on in this novel and her characters are great. FitzChivalry really gets to be at odds with just about everyone in this book and there were times I felt like I was listening to a fantasy version of the Jerry Springer show. It’s kind of amazing how the best of intentions and misunderstandings can extend gulfs between people and Hobb does a great job exploring there.

Hobb also brings up questions of prejudices and how “normal” is defined. The main overarching prejudice is of course the hate people have for the “Old Blood” people who have beast magic but there are also other instances involving intellectual disabilities and sexual identity too. It’s interesting to see how characters from outside those groups relate but especially interesting to see how those within the same group relate to each other and how some prejudices are overcome while other are….well you’ll see.

As for the audio side of things, James Langton continues to do a great job in Golden Fool. His voices are still great except I don’t understand why it sounds like the queen (from the mountain kingdom) has what sounds like a French accent while the people from the out islands also have what sounds like a French accent. The Bingtown traders sound Italian so I’m not sure why the out islanders wouldn’t have some other accent. Some word pronunciations also bother me but overall, Langton’s performance drew me in so well that all of these were minor gripes by comparison.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Macrieve by Kresley Cole

October 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

MacRieveMacrieve (Immortals After Dark #13)
By Kresley Cole; Narrated by Robert Petkoff
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: July 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours, 51 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / werewolves / romance /

Publisher summary:

Uilleam MacRieve, a centuries-old Lykae warrior, was captured, caged, and experimented on by a shadowy human order, along with other immortals. During a prison break that devolved into one of the bloodiest massacres in recent history, he escapes. But the aftermath of his unspeakable torture preys on his damaged mind, while the wolf inside him roars for vengeance and carnage. In the days leading up to the full moon, can MacRieve rein in his beast, even when he encounters his mate – a vexingly impossible female unlike anything he’d ever dreamed for himself?

MacRieve is quite a bit different than the other Immortals After Dark series. Uilleam MacRieve is a Lykae, a werewolf with a twin brother, Munroe. He finds his eternal Mate in the form of Chloe Todd, daughter of Preston Webb. Webb is the Commander of the Order, a group of humans striving to contain and study those creatures know as the Lore. It doesn’t feel as essential to the overarching story as the other books, but if you enjoy the series, it was an OK entry, although Chloe is pretty great.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

What makes this different from the other books in the series is a focus on sexual violence and abuse. Uilleam was raped repeatedly by a Succubus for years, and the book actually starts during one of these later sexual encounters. The Succubus had claimed to be his Mate, and started molesting him when he was nine, grooming the child so that he didn’t recognize it as abuse. His mother found out and went to confront her, only to be slain by one of the Succubus’ other lover, a Vampire. His father soon followed, leaving Uilleam and Munroe alone.

Chloe is an Olympic-level soccer player, focused on her career path. Her father is busy as a military consultant but supportive until she begins to notice some changes in her body, like super-hearing and sensitivity to touch. He abandons her with only a book on the Lore as a clue to the changes she’s experiencing. Chloe is captured by a group of Witches and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Most of the Lore shows up, eager to use and abuse her as a lure for her father, whom she discovers is not the retired consultant she thought, but the mastermind behind the Order.

Rape is brought up repeatedly to Chloe, as everyone points out that the Pravus army would gang-rape her as revenge for her father’s crusade against the Lore. She discovers she’s half-Succubus after a sexual encounter with Uilleam, and he repeatedly verbally abuses her about her sexual hunger. Uilleam struggles with the scars of his childhood abuse, but the Beast inside him loves Chloe. He even vomits after the first time they have sex, as it dredges up memories of the Succubus who raped him. Overall, this book tackles child abuse, rape, and emotional abuse more than the other books, but it can be pretty uncomfortable to have those episodes interspersed with some rather complicated sexual scenes. Cole does address childhood sexual abuse with an understanding hand, however, so if you can handle it, the book can be rewarding. Chloe is one of her best female characters, strong and brave with amazing attitude. She might be worth wading through the unsavory parts, even if there is a heavy dose of “I’m not like those dumb girly-girls” in both her thoughts and how she’s described.

The narrator does an amazing job, slipping between a neutral and Scottish accents for the werewolves. His voice goes up slightly for Chloe, but otherwise he has a warm, enthusiastic tone throughout.

Posted by Sarah R.

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