Review of Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

April 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Code Zero by Jonathan MaberryCode Zero (Joe Ledger #6)
By Jonathan Maberry; Read by Ray Porter
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: 25 March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 16 hours

Themes:  / Horror / Zombies / Terrorists / Covert Intelligence /

Publisher summary:

For years the Department of Military Sciences has fought to stop terrorists from using radical bioweapons—designer plagues, weaponized pathogens, genetically modified viruses, and even the zombie plague that first brought Ledger into the DMS. These terrible weapons have been locked away in the world’s most secure facility. Until now. Joe Ledger and Echo Team are scrambled when a highly elite team of killers breaks the unbreakable security and steals the world’s most dangerous weapons. Within days there are outbreaks of mass slaughter and murderous insanity across the American heartland. Can Joe Ledger stop a brilliant and devious master criminal from turning the Land of the Free into a land of the dead? 

Code Zero, a Joe Ledger novel from Jonathan Maberry, is the exciting direct sequel to Patient Zero.

This is the worthy sequel to Patient Zero.

At one point, Rudy Sanchez says that “this has done something fundamental to the American people.”

I’ll tell you this. It did something fundamental to me.

It was exciting, suspenseful, terrifying, and haunted me in my dreams and at random moments in my day.

And it was satisfying. Very satisfying.

I’m not sure Maberry can top this. Though I’m already looking forward to his next attempt to try.

It’s been six years since Joe Ledger was secretly recruited by the government to lead a combat team for the DMS,  a taskforce created to deal with problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. That story was told in Patient Zero. This was where we met a group of terrorists who had developed a bio-weapon that turned people into zombies.

Every year since then, like clockwork, Joe and Echo Team have returned to battle a variety of seemingly supernatural foes, all developed by villains who are somehow going to make boatloads of cash off of the terror.

The action-packed stories are full of evil super-villains, noble heroes, smart mouthed quips, a smattering of philosophy about “good guys and bad guys” and heart. Lots of heart. All this is told at a roller coaster pace that barely allows you to breathe until you get to the end.

I love them.

In many ways, this book is similar to the rest of the series. Mother Night, a villain you love to hate, is a super-genius anarchist who’s strewing chaos throughout the country over Labor Day weekend. She’s got the DMS’s computer tied up in knots and old evils that were defeated in previous books are now popping their heads up all over the country. Losses are high and the odds are very much against Ledger and his team. We know Joe will win. It’s watching it happen that makes it fun.

It is superior to the other books, I think, because the pacing is more measured and there is more character development. I also enjoyed the flashbacks into the DMS’s years before Joe joined them.

But in one very important way Code Zero was very different for me.

I felt a level of anxiety that was all out of proportion. Maberry is an expert at ratcheting up the stakes until you just can’t see how anyone decent is going to survive the maelstrom. I was used to that. But somehow this felt different. I got a bit jumpy. I couldn’t quit thinking about the horrific chaos during the day when I had to put the book down. Maberry has his finger on the pulse of the evil that Americans today know all too well … that lurks below the conscious level of our lives … violent chaos that can strike without a moment’s notice. Shootings at Fort Hood, restaurants, schools, and more have changed the mood of our country and made Mother Night’s chaos resonate more deeply than usual.

Along the way, he looks at why people choose good or evil. Code Zero is full of people choosing to save the world or burn it down. In most of the cases, the motivation comes down to something that Maberry does not name, but which I will make bold to label: love. We want to know we matter, that we make a difference, that someone “knows” us. Not for our accomplishments but simply because our “selves” matter.

Mother Night gives it a different name, and she may not tidily fall into this definition but, let’s face it, she’s super-villain crazy. I believe that her ultimate fate bears me out. It shows most in Maberry’s final scenario at the end of the book as the answer to Rudy’s statement that the chaos ”has done something fundamental to the American people.

Truly this is a great book, especially for the shoot-em-up genre. It is also probably one that can be read as a stand alone without reading the others that came before.

I listened to the audiobook read by Ray Porter who was superb, as usual, at portraying Joe and every other character along the way. In this book Porter dialed his urgent, driving, delivery down some and thank goodness for that. The action was intense enough without being shoved over the edge of the cliff by a continually urgent tone. Porter also was more nuanced and thoughtful in his reading than I recall in previous Joe Ledger books. If this sounds odd when considering our heroes are fighting off zombies, it actually worked to make me consider the full horror being faced. Once again, kudos to Ray Porter. He’s the reason I always choose audio for the Joe Ledger books.

Posted by Julie D.

New Release: Eldritch Tales – A Miscellany Of The Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft

March 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases 

New Releases

Available via Downpour.com (and Audible.com) this massive collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories, poems and essays is absolutely MUST GET listening.

Eldritch Tales by H.P. Lovecraft

Eldritch Tales – A Miscellany Of The Macabre
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Tom Weiner, Simon Vance, Simon Prebble, Bronson Pinchot, Elijah Alexander, Malcolm Hillgartner, Sean Runnette, Stefan Rudnicki, Gildart Jackson, Robertson Dean, Pamela Garelick, and Armando Durán
Download – Approx. 20.1 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio / Downpour.com
Published: 2014

Table of contents:
History of the NECRONOMICON
The Alchemist
A Reminiscence of Dr Samuel Johnson
The Beast in the Cave
Memory
Despair
The Picture in the House
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
Psychopompous: A Tale in Rhyme
The White Ship
The House
The Nightmare Lake
Poetry and the Gods (with Anna Helen Crofts)
Nyarlathotep
Polaris
The Street
Ex Oblivione
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
The Crawling Chaos (with Winifred Virginia Jackson)
The Terrible Old Man
The Tree
The Tomb
Celephais
Hypnos
What the Moon Brings
The Horror at Martin’s Beach (with Sonia H. Greene)
The Festival
The Temple
Hallowe’en in a Suburb
The Moon-Bog
He
Festival
The Green Meadow (with Winifred Virginia Jackson)
Nathicana
Two Black Bottles (with Wilfred Blanch Talman)
The Last Test (with Adolphe de Castro)
The Wood
The Ancient Track
The Electric Executioner (with Adolphe de Castro)
Fungi From Yuggoth
The Trap (with Henry S. Whitehead)
The Other Gods
The Quest of Iranon
The Challenge from Beyond
In a Sequester’d Providence Churchyard Where Once Poe Walked
Ibid
Azathoth
The Descendant
The Book
The Messenger
The Evil Clergyman
The Very Old Folk
The Thing in the Moonlight
The Transition of Juan Romero
Supernatural Horror in Literature [unabridged essay]
Afterword: Lovecraft in Britain by Stephen Jones

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Lockdown: Star Wars (Maul) by Joe Schreiber

February 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Maul Lockdown Star WarsLockdown: Star Wars (Maul)
By Joe Schreiber; Read by Jonathan Davis
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 24 minutes

Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / Star Wars/ Sith Lords / horror /

Publisher summary:

Set before the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, this new novel is a thrilling follow-up to Star Wars: Darth Plagueis.

It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object that will enable the Sith to conquer the galaxy.

Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.

Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown is a Science Fiction/Horror prominently featuring Darth Maul that shows some of the darkest sides of prison life and organized crime the Star Wars universe has to offer. The story and characters are interesting but the sheer violence really seems to be the main point behind this novel. Don’t discount that “horror” part either – this book features some serious violence, gore, and other things that will make many cringe…especially with some of the sound effects that accompany the audiobook version.

The premise of the novel is that Darth Maul goes to a prison undercover for Darth Sidious to find an arms dealer running out of that prison. The prison makes money by running a gambling racket pitting inmates against each other in fight to the death. The twist is that Sidious has forbidden Maul from using the Force so that observers don’t know he is really a sith lord in disguise.

When you were a kid, did you ever sit around with friends talking about who would win in a fight between two of your favorite comic book characters? Batman vs. Superman, Wolverine vs. Cyclops, etc? Those would sometimes devolve into arguments like, “well what if Batman didn’t have kryptonite while fighting Superman” or something like that. Well this novel is the Star Wars equivalent of that in which Darth Maul is pitted against a gamut of different creatures from the Star Wars universe that get more and more difficult. While the danger of these fights is definitely recognizable, this becomes more of a question of how Darth Maul defeats his foe than if he will survive since we all know when his character really dies.

Truth be told, I did not realize this novel was horror when I first started it. Joe Schreiber also wrote Death Troopers and Red Harvest but I didn’t realize this until I was a bit into the book. Star Wars is not a universe in which you’d expect to encounter horror but I have to say that Schreiber pulls it off well in this book with a fairly believable premise. It didn’t feel like a horror novel shoe horned into the Star Wars universe. My only gripe would just be that some things mentioned are more from our world and felt like anachronisms in a Star Wars novel. They didn’t detract much from the story but nagged me a bit at times.

Jonathan Davis did a great job as usual with his work in the Star Wars universe. There weren’t really any impersonations for him to work with here except for Maul and Sidious so voices were mainly left up to him to make up. The sound effects and music were up to par with any Star Wars novel but I have to say, they really went big on the squelching, breaking, smashing sounds that accompany many of the violent/gore filled scenes in the book…to the point that I think I may have cringed a few times.

Posted by Tom Schreck

The Weird Circle: The Werewolf (aka The White Wolf Of The Hartz Mountains)

February 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

“Capt. Marryat, besides writing such short tales as The Werewolf [aka The White Wolf Of The Hartz Mountains], made a memorable contribution in The Phantom Ship (1839), founded on the legend of the Flying Dutchman, whose spectral and accursed vessel sails for ever near the Cape of Good Hope.”

-H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror In Literature

Normally I wouldn’t contradict H.P. Lovecraft, but he didn’t have the internet to do his research. The Werewolf he is referring to, we think, is actually Chapter 39 of The Phantom Ship – that chapter is a story within the greater narrative and has often been reprinted without the surrounding novel.

This 1944 radio drama adaptation is very tame compared with the savageness of the original (for more on that see the PDF below).

The Weird CircleThe Weird Circle – The Werewolf
Adapted from the novelette by Captain Frederick Marryat; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 29 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: MBS, NBC, ABC
Broadcast: May 7, 1944
Provider: Archive.org
A widower, living in the Hartz Mountains, takes a new wife to help raise his children, but the strange wedding vows he makes will come back to haunt him.

Here’s a |PDF| of The White Wolf Of The Hartz Mountains.

The White Wolf Of The Hartz Mountains - illustration by H.R. Millar

The White Wolf Of The Hartz Mountains -illustration by H.R. Millar

Posted by Jesse Willis

The WEIRD FICTION roots of TRUE DETECTIVE

February 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Online Audio 

Aural Noir: Online Audio

True Detective

A couple lines from episode 2 of HBO’s new show, True Detective, made made me gasp in shock and pleasure. The stylish debut episode, though beautifully filmed, didn’t quite explicitly state the weird undercurrent that may be behind the mystery of this novel for television.

The King In Yellow

Det. Rustin Cohle (reading the diary) “I closed my eyes and saw the King in Yellow moving through the forest.”

And then “The Yellow King … Carcosa”

In Carcosa

I really began to get excited when, near the end of episode 2, birds flock into a recognizable shape, a tattoo found on the victim in episode 1.

The Yellow Sign?

a Yellow Sign?

Here are two short stories, listed chronologically, for those lines:

LibriVoxAn Inhabitant Of Carcosa
By Ambrose Bierce; Read by rasputin
1 |MP3| – Approx. [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox
Published: 2009
First published in the San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser, Dec 25, 1886.

And here’s a |PDF| version.

LibriVoxThe Yellow Sign
By Robert W. Chambers; Read by CrowGirl
1 |MP3| – Approx. 39 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: November 30, 2011
The King In Yellow is a monstrous and suppressed book whose perusal brings, fright, madness, and spectral tragedy. Have you seen the Yellow Sign? First published in 1895.

And here’s a |PDF| version.

The Yellow Sign - unsigned illustration From Famous Fantastic Mysteries

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #251 – READALONG: Up Against It by M.J. Locke

February 10, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #251 – Jesse, Scott, and Tamahome discuss Up Against It by M.J. Locke.

Talked about on today’s show:
Hardcover, paperback, audiobook, who to blame?, it’s Jo Walton’s doing we chose this book (at the bottom), still a lot of juice in the genre, the ultimate cause, drawing in vs. pushing in, Corner Gas, a new wine bracket, the Radium Age of Science Fiction, Scott’s Goodreads review, Tam’s Goodreads review24, the characters, less torture, its more fun if you count the tropes, every trope is in there, including immortality, mimetic fiction (literary realism), Henry James, mimetic fiction in a science fiction universe, tiny infodumps, not one brand new idea, waveface virtual reality, Tonal_Z AI language (Chris Crawford’s Solvesol-interface concept?), in dialogue, Cory Doctorow (Whuffies), Bruce Sterling, Chris Crawford, Bruce Sterling’s Veridians (wow, it’s a whole big thing, design philosophy? manifesto), asteroid miner stories, Heinlein and later, The Island Worlds by John Maddox Roberts and Eric Kotani, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, there’s no newcomer, a generally agreed upon direction our future will be, John Scalzi’s brainpal, more than one kind of SF, rocket ships, the Charles Stross direction, Iain M. Banks, Souvenir by Philip K. Dick, Amish tech, their tech is subservient to their culture, it seems inevitable in our world, the received future, Earth in Up Against It in bad shape, Vancouver shantytowns, Edmonton, this isn’t a utopian book, dystopia, dystopic Earth, why are they in the Asteroid Belt, good world-building, good but not new, nothing new but the idea, incredibly self-aware people is weird (and cool), gene tampering, Oblivion is a good introduction to SF tropes (for people born in the year 2000), the level of SF tropes in movies is very low compared to those in SF books, Darwin Elevator, bad physics vs. excellent physics, sugar rocks, there’s no intro character (other than the A.I. pov), Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, collaborative teens, a visual adaptation, Ender’s Game, Planetes, Gravity, Babylon 5 had nothing new, I don’t go to TV SF for new ideas, books are where great ideas, what great ideas haven’t been explored, the news coming out of Eve Online, Steen Hansen, political machinations, gold farming, a simulated universe, a libertarian alliance was trojaned or something, happening to real people, World Of Warcraft, our real future is in leisure, Tam liked it more, nose-piercings, tattooing, the gender neutral pronouns, why would you want a purple nose?, Jesse doesn’t understand trans-humanism, normal readalongs, why didn’t I like this more, Tam liked it fine, hands for feet, chromes and mutes, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, not too bright in the brain area, The Integral Trees by Larry Niven, a planetless solar system, a mashup of Doctorow and Heinlein, smile -> erection, Chekhov’s Gun, Heinleinian sex vs. Doctorowian sex, there’s too much going on, an immature writer, Elmore Leonard, “she pillowed her cheek”, nobody pillows their cheeks in Jack London stories, Jane as an older Ripley, an artificial spiritual awakening, too many compromises too much bullshit, an authentically political book according to Staffer’s Book Review, double dealings, the thriller plot, exploring space, what does Scott prefer?, does Scott have a right to review Up Against It?, is it maturity?, 2312, Tobias Buckell’s blog essay about mature reviewers, caveats, “and get off my lawn”, idea fiction, competent but unstimulating, why is The Lord Of The Rings more interesting than Up Against It?, the themes, the next episode of A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Luke Burrage re-reviews A Canticle For Liebowitz, what we do when we do READALONGS (we unpack books), The Odyssey, Community, currently airing TV series have podcasts?, books with allegories, Scott wants it to mean something to him, The Zimmerman Telegram by Barbara Tuchman, WWI, the German ambassador in Mexico, Woodrow Wilson, Tom Clancy, mimetic fiction from the future, a history from the future, history, in some ways Eve Online is much more real than any fiction book, Scott finds value in general fiction, Mario Puzo, Tom Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, meaning vs. ideas, horror, Snowblind by Christopher Golden for some alternative horror, The House Of The Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, gothic fiction, witchcraft, Supernatural Horror In Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, there’s still potential for Science Fiction, a sequel?, an unneeded sequel, every subsequent milk of a book undercuts it, Dune has been worsened by every Dune that’s come since, Dune Messiah (Scott liked it), the fall of a charismatic leader, a backward casting shadow, Brian Herbert has done what his father wanted by ruining Dune?, why was Up Against It so long?, YA/adult book, George R.R. Martin doesn’t think Scott’s a fan of Hard SF, The Martian by Andy Weir, Phoecea, why are they mining?, there’s no economic reason to do so, was there an economic reason to go to the moon, we need to build a space fleet, no martian resources are unavailable on Earth, the Moon has Helium-3, Tam read Frank Schatzing’s Limit and his eyes are tired, what the frack, (was it ‘Simon pure science fiction like A Darkling Sea‘?  we didn’t talk about it but I thought I’d note it)

Up Against It by M.J. Locke

Posted by Jesse Willis

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