Review of Skin Game by Jim Butcher

June 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Skin Game by Jim ButcherSkin Game (Dresden Files #15)
By Jim Butcher; Performed by James MarstersPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 27 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 15 hours, 49 minutes

Themes: / Dresden Files / urban fantasy / parkour / magic / winter queen / mab / faerie /

Publisher summary:

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

It’s been 18 months give or take since Cold Days came out and I’ve been in withdrawal. While not quite as good as that book, Jim Butcher once again shows why he’s the king of Urban Fantasy and one of the best fantasy writers out there.

I tried to hold myself over with an Iron Druid and a Libriomancer. They just didn’t do the trick. In fact, I’ve decided that apart from Dresden Files, Urban Fantasy just really isn’t for me. Nothing else compares. Not even close.

I barely made it halfway through the first track and I was already laughing out loud. I had to spend an extra ten minutes deciding which one-liner was best to use for my status update, and just opted for one of the shorter ones because I had already stayed up too late listening.

We see a return of the Nicodemus and Order of the Blackened Denarius. By far one of the best villains of the series, if not all of fantasy. I was yelling at my book and Jim Butcher a few times.  My only real complaint is that many of the questions and issues created by Cold Days go largely unanswered. It almost feels like things were put on hold for a side story. That said, the book once again combines great characters, great dialogue and great action in a way that makes it nearly impossible to put down. I always hate waiting between books, but I can’t help myself from spending every free minute reading until I finish. It’s just that good.

James Marsters once again makes this series a must listen. It’s not even the fact that he does voices for the characters that makes it great. It’s the WAY he does the voices. The emotion when Harry casts a spell. Or him actually yelling PARKOUR! instead of simply reading it. He may not be the voice I originally expected for Harry, but he sure is now.

Anyone who reads the first few books and wonders what all the fuss is about, or balks at having to read a few books before the series “gets really good” is just missing out. If for some reason you still haven’t caught up on this series after Cold Days, consider this another recommendation to get on it.

Maybe I’ll take up Parkour!

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Cold Days by Jim Butcher

November 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Cold Days by Jim ButcherCold Days: A Novel of the Dresden Files
By Jim Butcher; Read by James Marsters
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Release Date: November 27, 2012
ISBN: 9781611761603
Playing time: 19 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / fairy / wizard / urban fantasy / near-death /

Publisher summary:
After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard. He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill. Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…His soul.

After a slight departure from normal Dresden Files form in the preceding Ghost Story–owing to Harry’s (near) death and all–Dresden returns to corporeal form in Cold Days. But he can’t expect a warm welcome, even from his closest friends, because he’s now fulfilling his service as Winter Knight to Mab, the fairy Winter Queen. And this novel manages to raise the stakes again, for Harry, for Chicago, for the world. There have been so many Dresden Files novels now they actually fall into categories: there are vampire novels, fairy novels, wizard council novels, undead novels, and so forth. As the series grows there is more and more crossover, but Cold Days easily qualifies as a fairy novel.

I have two equal and opposite reviews in mind for Cold Days, and instead of choosing which to write, I’ll write both.

The first review argues that Cold Days, the fourteenth installment in the Dresden Files, suffers from serious series fatigue. With a few exceptions, it features largely the same cast of characters, the same locales, and the same themes that readers have grown accustomed to. Despite some glimpses of growth, development, and transformation, Harry Dresden is largely the same smart-mouthed, down-on-the-heel practicing wizard he was in Storm Front. His all-too-frequent pop culture references that once seemed amusing now strike a chord of annoyance. The frenetic action sequences that a few novels ago felt exhilarating now come off as trite and paint-by-numbers. In short, the novel makes me feel as if my once solid relationship with The Dresden Files has fallen a bit flat.

Some of the problems present in Cold Days are inherent in the stagnant conventions of urban fantasy as a whole. Except for a few quick jaunts to Edinburgh or Mexico, the entire series has largely taken place in Chicago. While Aristotle’s unity of place might be best practice for a play or even a novel, it certainly doesn’t work for a series of this length. This reader, at any rate, longs to see the heroes face other challenges in far-off lands. Worse, the single, small, isolated locale undermines the severity of the universal threats posed by the series’ villains. It’s difficult to take seriously a dangerous entity bent on world destruction when the only destruction in evidence takes place within a few city blocks.

With all the storylines introduced over the course of thirteen previous novels, it’s inevitable that not all of them can be picked up or carried along in a sequel, nor should they be. However, a pretty major development took place in book 12, Changes, prior to Harry’s apparent death, that is surprisingly absent from Cold Days, even in Harry’s continuous flow of internal monologue. He makes oblique references to it a few times, but I’d hoped that particular surprise would herald a shift in the series rather than merely the plot for a single novel. It is to be hoped that Jim Butcher will pick up this important thread in future novels.

The other review in my head praises Cold Days as a worthy installment to the Dresden Files series. This is largely on account of Jim Butcher’s vigorous writing style and strong characterization. Pop culture reference overload notwithstanding, Butcher’s writing, like a fine oak-aged whiskey, has only improved with age. Though the action sequences as a plot device are overused, there’s no denying they’re well-written. There’s a knock-down drag-out bar fight early in the novel, and you really can feel every shotgun blast and flying bar stool. The witty, flippant language that jaunts through the novel makes the few moments of gravity or pathos all the more powerful. There’s an exchange between Harry and his friend/love interest (to quote Facebook, “it’s complicated”) Karin Murphy that’s poignant and dramatic enough you’d expect to find it in a Scorsese flick.

And while Harry Dresden himself might wear thin at times, the host of supporting characters still haven’t lost their charm and complexity. Harry’s half-brother Thomas, his apprentice Molly, and polka-infused Medical Examiner Butters all make welcome and notable experiences. These characters crackle with life, personality, and possibility. For me, fantasy and science fiction novels, however wonderful their locales and however revolutionary their ideas, are only as strong as their characters. In a series of this length, the importance of characters increases exponentially. And even if some, including the protagonist, rub me the wrong way at times, they’re still characters I know and care about.

So, two equal and opposing reviews–how to break the tie? Simple: will I read the next Dresden Files novel? The answer is a definite yes. I don’t say this lightly. It takes a lot to keep me, and probably most readers, invested in a long-running series, especially in a sub-genre I don’t usually read. (Incidentally, the fact that I don’t often enjoy urban fantasy means you should take my first, negative review with a pinch of salt.) I bowed out of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after book seven, and I put down Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels after the third installment. Blasphemous as it sounds, I’m even losing patience with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet through thick and thin I’ve stuck with The Dresden Files for fourteen novels filled with great characters and complex supernatural elements. And I’m eager for a fifteenth.

The audio edition marks the return of James Marsters, best known as Spike from the Buffy the Vampire Series TV series, as narrator. Ghost Story, the previous novel, was narrated by John Glover. I feel sorry for narrators who have to pick up a series mid-stream, like John Lee who stood in for Roy Dotrice in narrating George R. R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows. John Glover performed admirably in his reading of Ghost Story, and if he had read the series from the beginning there would have probably been no cause for complaint. But for the previous twelve novels, James Marsters was Harry Dresden. His dry, sometimes deadpan style perfectly fits the Chicago detective noir tone of the novels. So his return to the series is a welcome breath of fresh air. Also, major props to Marsters for hitting the sustained high notes in the dialogue of the minuscule fairy underlings.

Posted by Seth

The SFFaudio Podcast #184 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

October 29, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #184 – Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny, talk about the RECENT ARRIVALS in audiobooks.

Talked about on today’s show:
Is it new releases or recent arrivals?, Jenny’s pretty color-coded list, The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 2 edited by Allan Kaster, Angel of Europa by Allen M. Steele (is one of them), ”it’s basic science fiction”, how to pronounce Mary Robinette KowalThe Twelve (Passage #2) by Justin Cronin is literary vampire fiction, Cloud AtlasThe Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, “I’m not going to end this story”, “our Scott?”, In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill, read by Stephen Lang, more manly than Stephan Rudnicki?, |READ OUR REVIEW|, “Stephen King has more pull”, Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle is epic science fiction (24 hours), one of Luke’s favorites, (it’s post The Mote in God’s Eye actually), it was a best-seller, Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher, “I follow writers”, Kirkman’s Invincible comic, Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna, sounds like Death of Grass, which has a new BBC audiodrama, Embedded by Dan Abnett, he writes Warhammer 40K books, The Diamond Age and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, “I have both those feelings”, “Luke didn’t like it but everyone else did”, many Mongoliad disks, Jonathan Davis likes us, Tales From the Fire Zone by Jonathan Maberry, Julie’s review of Maberry’s first Joe Ledger bookDownpour.com audiobooks, “she liked them against her will”, Cold Days by Jim Butcher, James Marsters is back narrating, When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett, very Australian accent, “vampires for Christians”, Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig, a female Stephen King character, An Apple for the Creature is monsters in school, Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire, performed by Mary Robinette Kowal, Jesse sees the future, Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko, it’s not in Russian, (Luke wasn’t thrilled), Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson, zombie p.i., a big stack of Philip K. Dick, The Man Who Japed, The Simulacra, The Crack In Space, Total Recall (We Can Remember It For You Wholesale), We Can Build You, Solar Lottery, The World Jones Made, minimalist covers, Gone by Randy Wayne White, chick that kicks ass, A Murder of Quality and Call For The Dead by John Le Carre, Jesse likes the narrator Michael Jayston, This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, |READ OUR REVIEW|, Jenny liked his podcast appearance, Jenny loved Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young, read by Keith Carradine who was in the movie Southern ComfortDream More by Dolly Parton, aphorisms at the end, Total Recall (autobiography) by Arnold Schwarzenegger, “how many pushups did he get for that?”, Pumping Iron documentary, Conan The Barbarian movie

lucufer's hammer cover

Posted by Tamahome

Recent Arrivals: Brilliance Audio and Penguin Audio

October 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recent Arrivals 

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Posted by Jenny Colvin

The SFFaudio Podcast #123

August 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #123 – Scott, Jesse, Tamahome, Matthew Sanborn Smith (Hairy Mango), and Jenny (Reading Envy) talk about audiobooks, recent arrivals and new releases.

Talked about on today’s show:
Scott’s recent arrivals, The Magician King by Lev Grossman, a gritty Harry Potter?, Ghost Story by Jim Butcher has a new narrator John Glover (not Crispin Glover), Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs, the Crossroads film, We’re Alive — A Story Of Survival zombie audiodrama, originally a podcast, The Walking Dead comic, Terry Goodkind’s The Omen Machine, long sentences on the cover, Mango version?, The Keeper Of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen, The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo, the scandanavian thriller genre, Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbø, we make an exception for noir, straight science fiction, Poul Anderson’s Genesis, singularity?, the cover, several Joe Ledger stories (like Patient Zero) by Jonathan Maberry, it’s like evil corporations and terrorism, he adapted The Wolfman (2010) movie, Ghost Road Blues, something for October, Blackstone interview with Maberry and Gardner, two by Abaton Radio Theater, Cat Wife, Baby, radio scripter Arch Oboler, Tam could use a radiodrama, L. Ron Hubbard’s Greed, yellow peril, dramatized kind of like Graphicaudio, Dianetics, Kevin Hearne’s Hexed, they begin with ‘H’, Witchy Woman (song), an adult The Lightning Thief, Lost Voices by Sarah Porter, mermaids, where’s the older mermaids?, sirens, werewolves, Out Of The Waters by David Drake is not military science fiction, the periodic table series, Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos, read by the author, it’s YA, (41:38) Matt tells us about Grant Morrison’s Supergods, it’s a autobiography/comic book history, All-Star Superman comic, narrator John Lee swears well, Grant experimented with everything, Voltaire, does the audio need pictures?, We3, artist Frank Quitely, New X-Men, Dan DiDio on the DC Comics relaunch, Jenny doesn’t read comics (but she reads graphic novels), superheroes don’t stay dead, Criminal comic, the George R.R. Martin effect, The Boys comic satirizes superheroes, (52:18) Jenny is listening to James Joyce’s Ulysses (wow), The Testament Of Jesse Lamb by Jane Rogers, kind of a prequel to Children Of Men, not on audio yet, the Man Booker prize longlist, Ulysses radiodrama, listening for 24 hours in a row, Beyond This Horizon by Robert Heinlein (our next readalong), The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi exclusively on Audible, (one of narrator Scott Brick’s favorites) glossary of terms in The Quantum Thief, made-up terms, The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, fictional thief character Arsène Lupin (oh yeah, Lupin III is an anime), differentiating the voices of characters, how to win a Hugo, Blackstone new releases, The Holloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, animated movie version, Bronson Pinchot is the narrator, Balky, Beverly Hills Cop, Robert Heinlein’s The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, reddish substance, Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams, it’s the old legit cyberpunk, Nancy Kress’s Beggars In Spain, Ghost In The Wires (non-fiction) by super hacker Kevin Mitnick, Mitnick on Triangulation, (1:09:00) Audible new releases,The Moon Maze Game: A Dream Park Novel by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, it’s about the 80′s, Return To 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Barlow and Skidmore, Jules Verne, John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar, it’s new-wave-y, paranormal romance filter, Downward To Earth by Robert Silverberg, sounds like John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation, T. C. McCarthy’s Germline, McCarthy’s Big Idea on Scalzi, The Mandel Files by Peter F. Hamilton (when’s the audiobook coming?), Noir by Richard Matheson, the upcoming film Real Steel, fighting robots, The Twilight Zone, it’s heart wrenching like the last Harry Potter movie, Wheat Belly (diet book), Jenny’s gluten-free brownies, self-help audiobooks, Eckhart Tolle books, the word “healthy”.


Posted by Tamahome

Recent Arrivals from Penguin Audio

July 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recent Arrivals 

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Fantasy Audiobook - Ghost Story by Jim ButcherGhost Story
By Jim Butcher; Read by John Glover
15 CDs – 18 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 2011

The eagerly awaited new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series.

When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn’t doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn’t stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic…
 
 
Fantasy Audiobook - The Magician King by Lev GrossmanThe Magician King
By Lev Grossman; Read by Mark Bramhall
13 CDs – 16 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 2011

Return to Fillory in the riveting sequel to The New York Times bestseller and literary phenomenon of 2009–The Magicians.

The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges.

Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent’s house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.

The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the modern heir to C.S. Lewis, and the cutting edge of literary fantasy.
 

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